Consonant-Level Links

March 10, 2007

See the above post (soon) for an explanation of the motivation of this roundup’s theme. But for now, suffice is to say that people with 500 hits a day need links more than people with 5,000.

Kristjan Wager delves into John Hawkins’ dishonest column in greater detail than I did; he not only looks at the study in question and shows how the numbers compare with Hawkins’ point, but also proposes a hypothesis explaining the observation.

Jessica Dreadul links to two reproductive rights-themed news pieces, one about Chile’s lowering of the age barrier to parental consent to emergency contraception and another about an attempt to prevent pharmacists from arbitrarily denying women in Georgia EC.

On The Politburo Diktat, there’s a long, engaging thread about the war on Iraq and whether the US is irrevocably doomed and has nothing better to do than cut and run.

Shelley reports a breakthrough in research into curing hearing loss. While her lab is trying to cure deafness by infecting ear cells with benign viruses, another lab has achieved results by directly compensating for a deficient protein.

Bean notes that one group of people in the US who are especially impacted by the nastiness of the prison system are the mentally ill, who are often tortured with solitary confinement.


The Most Important War You’ve Never Heard About

March 7, 2007

For a conflict that killed around 3.5 million civilians, give or take, the Second Congo War is remarkably unknown to the world. Chris Clarke has a good post about the coltan angle of the conflict, which is basically Johann Hari’s report with less fluff; it’s riddled with standard issue guilt-based arguments, but there are enough gems in the post that any sane person should be able to focus on its important parts.

The Second Congo War is basically what happens when you have an area whose political stability matches the geological stability of San Francisco. That Congo has ample supplies of coltan, which is used to produce tantalum, which is important in electronics, certainly didn’t help. It transformed an already brewing civil war into a painful resource extraction exercise. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that Congo wouldn’t have been much better off without coltan.

Congo-Kinshasa had never been blessed with good leadership. It used to be a colony of Belgium, possibly the worst colonial ruler any country could have in the imperial age; the King who at one point owned it personally, Leopold II, was especially ruthless. When it became independent, a Cold War conflict in southern Africa involving Angola’s communist government, Che Guevara, and CIA-backed Cuban exiles caused the US to unconditionally back an authoritarian Congolese ruler named Mobutu.

Fast forward to 1996, when Mobutu had ruled for 31 years without holding a single free election and failed to engage in any kind of economic development. Mobutu’s grip on power was finally weakening, after running out of money to pay salaries to public officials. A rebel leader named Kabila who had the army and the backing of several surrounding African countries managed to overthrow Mobutu and establish himself as the President of Zaire, renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

By 1998, Kabila found himself in opposition to the countries that had put him in power. Rwanda’s Tutsi-dominated government had persistent troubles with the fact that the Interhamwe, the Hutu group that committed the Rwandan genocide back in 1994, was now based in the Congo. When Kabila replaced his Rwandan chief of staff with a Congolese one and booted Rwandan and Ugandan advisors from the country, things started deteriorating.

Ethnic Tutsis living in eastern Congo were alarmed, and Rwanda and Uganda used a mutiny as a pretext for an invasion. It was supposed to be a blitzkrieg, but turned into a protracted war. Kabila had his own backers: the Angolan government believed Kabila would be better for its own internal power struggles with rebels than a new President, while Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and Namibia’s Nujoma had personal stakes in Congolese mining operations. The US supported him for various business-related reasons, most of which boil down to diamonds.

What followed was five years of war that quickly became all-against-all. The factions’ interests ranged from cracking down on some rebel group (Kabile) to natural resources (Rwanda) to genocide (Interhamwe). Due to both the factions’ control of coltan mining operations and the government’s abject weakness, militia groups were and still are able to pay workers far better than any legitimate group.

Officially, the war is over. People are certainly not being killed or raped at the same rate they were six years ago. But the Transitional Government established in 2003 is closer to a darker version of the Palestinian government, complete with violent clashes between parties, than to a stable government. As late as 9/2004, a thousand civilians were killed in clashes every day. And the rapes still continue, though the main problem has become what to do about the hundreds of thousands of rape victims, whose families shun them.


Oh, Crap

March 2, 2007

Hat-tip to SLC in the comments: Obama is discovering his hawkish side when it comes to Iran. He’s slightly less militant in rhetoric than Clinton and Edwards, but he more than makes up for that in inexperience, which may lead him to foreign policy blunders (to be honest, that also holds for Edwards, though less so for Clinton).

The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Here goes another candidate who’s practically begging for Ahmadinejad to stay in power. 6 down, 0 to go. I don’t mind much that Obama says Bush’s Iraq policy is bad for Israel; that’s true, and completely relevant given that he was speaking to AIPAC. In fact, it’s possible he’s just lying to Asher Levy et al to get their money and will screw them once in office. But, you know, he had the opportunity to talk about the potential for a democratic Iran without military action, and still chose to not only use the words “take no option off the table” but also especially mention “military action.”

SLC likes to ask me why I don’t support Hagel, who’s not into any of those stupidities. That’s because he’s decidedly conservative on all other issues, including civil liberties. In addition, Hagel is very pro-life, with a 0% rating from NARAL. I don’t know what kind of justice Giuliani will replace Stevens with – I’m guessing Gonzales, who’s suitably authoritarian – but I know Hagel will nominate a Scalia.


My Take on the Latest Anti-War Bill

March 1, 2007

I’m not sure whether the Democrats’ latest attempt to remind Bush they won the election will do any good.

House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn’t cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military.

(…)

In the Senate, a group of senior Democrats wants to repeal the 2002 measure authorizing the war and write a new resolution restricting the mission and ordering troop withdrawals to begin by this summer. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Iraq would have to wait until the Senate finishes work to improve homeland security.

The latter resolution looks like something real, but the idea of requiring Bush to “acknowledge problems” sounds more like noise than like real action. It’s not something totally new to politics; the Republicans are only pro-life on election years, having a federal abortion law more liberal than Roe requires even though they have nearly veto-proof majorities for at least restricting it to what Anthony Kennedy will accept.

The Commissar is a lot less ambivalent than I am. He says, “I propose a nonbinding resolution suggesting that President Bush admit he has been a bad boy, and (per John the Marine) he should be politely requested to write on the blackboard 500 times, ‘I will not invade Middle Eastern countries based on weak intelligence ever again!’”

I still think it’s a buildup for a real bill, but, honestly, it’s more an issue of cowardice now than of political capital. The Democrats have proven that they possess the political capital for real action. Dragging the issue further just to be sure it’s safe makes no sense except when the party is as spineless as a flatworm. The Republicans have been reduced to using shoddy polls to get even small majorities on Iraq; there’s no need to delay action any further.


Iran Has Secret Plans to Take Over the World

February 23, 2007

Michele Bachmann said that Iran has a plan in the works to split Iraq with another entity, in which it will take over the northern half of Iraq and turn it into a terrorist breeding ground. She refused to source that statement; my guess is that she knows that if she tells people God whispered it in her ear, people will realize how batshit insane she is.

Of course, there’s a broader principle here. Even a lunatic like Bachmann doesn’t make things up unless they’re part of radical right-wing dogma. She’s hardly the only creationist in Minnesota. There is a real Iran, and there’s the Iran various ideologues want there to be. For the extreme left, it’s thriving and governed by a popular regime. For the extreme right, it’s an omnipotent terrorist state preoccupied with nothing but killing Americans and spreading Jihadism.

For people like Bachmann, it’s self-evident that Iran is and has always been this sinister enemy. In the real world, Iran was part of the USA’s war on terror until Bush wrote it off as a member of the Axis of Evil; but in American right-wing fantasies, it’s always supported every Jihadist organization, even Sunni ones like Al Qaida. In the real world, Iran is plagued by a looming oil peak and rock-bottom regime support; in American right-wing fantasies, it’s capable of taking control of the northern and western half of Iraq – i.e. the Sunni and Kurdish parts, where it’s even more hated than the US.


More Fascism

February 20, 2007

Two important pieces of news, one about civil liberties in the US and one about the impending war on Iran, juxtapose nicely with one I said earlier about the two characteristics of fascism.

First, the DC Court of Appeals ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees are not allowed to challenge their detention, and that in general the right to challenge any detention doesn’t extend to anyone who’s not a US citizen. If I stop posting for a few days straight, you know where to find me.

The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismisses hundreds of cases filed by foreign-born detainees in federal court and also threatens to strip away court access to millions of lawful permanent residents currently in the United States.

It upholds a key provision of the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a Defense Department system to prosecute terrorism suspects. Now, detainees must prove to three-officer military panels that they don’t pose a terror threat.

And second, the US is expanding the circumstances in which it will bomb Iran. In principle, the circumstances are very limited – if Iran is proven to produce a nuclear weapon, or if it is proven to directly cause a massive attack on US troops in Iraq. In practice, the circumstances for the war on Iraq were proof that Saddam had WMD…

[Link] The BBC’s Tehran correspondent France Harrison said the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack was a concern to Iranians. She added that authorities insisted there was no cause for alarm but ordinary people were now becoming a little worried.

Earlier this month, US officials said they had evidence Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi Shia militias. At the time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the accusations were “excuses to prolong the stay” of US forces in Iraq, the BBC reported.


A Reminder About Radicals

February 20, 2007

I keep procrastinating my post about extremism, so in lieu of sitting down and writing about how radicals make an effort to be more extreme than their already off-center peer group, I’ll just quote a practical example of parallels between radicals in from The Politburo Diktat:

The parallels between neoconservative arguments, either in the form The Commissar is rebutting or in the form David is advancing, and annoying left-wing radicalisms, are glaring. Consider the following:

1. Both disdain traditional politics. A realist interested in democracy promotion in the Middle East would focus on building local democratic movements, which would defeat the Islamists politically rather than inflame them militarily. Likewise, a realist interested in civil rights would focus on building a longlasting political movement using legal and political action, and only occasionally nonviolent direct action. In contrast, both neoconservatives and radical leftists prefer the methods that don’t involve dirty politics.

2. Both view blatancy as a good in itself. Radical leftists judge people by how much they piss people off rather than by how much they achieve. Neoconservatives judge leaders by how many people they’re willing to kill rather than by how much positive influence they yield. In both cases, the emphasis is on trashing the Winter Palace rather than on administering Russia.

3. Both use the same old historical analogy even when it fails to work in other circumstances. Radical leftists point to the success of Martin Luther King, failing to mention that he had a huge amount of moderate infrastructure behind him, and that even then he couldn’t expand his tactics to anti-war and anti-poverty activism. Neoconservatives analogize every struggle to World War Two, even when it’s a war of choice against a population that hasn’t undergone German-style discombobulation and even when they don’t offer anything approaching the Marshall Plan.

4. Both tend to draw from the same pool of people. The leading intellectual neoconservatives used to be radical leftists holed in City College. David Horowitz’s politics were once left of Noam Chomsky’s. The focus is not so much on a specific cause as on general platitudes – freedom, democracy, equality, peace – combined with horrific methods of achieving them.

David is a commenter who complained that the Commissar’s “The war only creates more terrorists” argument was not sufficiently neoconservative; David responded to the above comment by denying that he’s a neoconservative, but even if that’s true, the argument he advanced was very pro-neocon.


The US has Already Lost

February 17, 2007

I shouldn’t have to say it, but there’s still a large number of people in the US who fail to understand that the US has already lost in Iraq. Now that I’m back commenting on The Politburo Diktat, I’m realizing that shutting myself in a bubble of people who realize that the US is in for defeat isn’t productive.

So now that Yorkshire is calling the Democrats terrorists on Common Sense Political Thought, let me make a few things clear.

1. The US won the war almost four years ago; what this is about is winning the peace. And at that, it has had a consistently bad track record.

2. When Scott Ritter and Molly Ivins predicted what would happen almost to a t while Thomas Friedman has been reduced to perpetually claiming that victory is six months away and even the Bush administration is looking for another country to bomb, maybe it’s time to listen to the Ritters more and to the Friedmans less.

3. Bush said “You did not vote for failure.” He was right; the people who voted Democratic didn’t vote for failure, but for the recognition of failure.

4. You can spin the House resolution as giving aid to the terrorists. Equally well, you can spin it as telling the terrorists, “For four years, you enjoyed fighting an incompetent enemy that didn’t know when to quit. Now there’s a new sheriff in town, one that knows exactly where to hit you.”

5. Going by the 2006 Lancet study, 4/7 of violent deaths in post-invasion Iraq for which the perpetrator is known are caused by the coalition. Going by the figure of 600,000 excess deaths, this means 340,000 coalition-caused deaths in the first 40 months of occupation, or 8,500 Iraqis killed every month the US stays. Restricting to data from the last 13 months of the survey, we get 11,500 killed by the coalition every month. Even when ignoring deaths for which the perpetrator is unknown, we get an occupation-wide average of 4,500 and a last-year average of 6,500 per month. If you need to kill the entire civilian population off, you’re not winning the peace.


Iran War Links

February 16, 2007

6:29 am isn’t the most fruitful time for another lengthy post about the war on Iran, so instead, I’m doing a link post.

First, the Commissar has a beautiful piece of snark about the American allegations that Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents. “Bush to Bomb Washington,” his mock headline exclaims. Stephen has the courage to say what I didn’t dare: the US is supplying the insurgents via its criminal incompetence, so why not bomb Washington?

On top of that, Saudi Arabia is promising to arm the Sunni insurgents if the US withdraws. Ostensibly it wants to “prevent them being massacred by Shia militias,” but as always, “prevent us from being massacred by group Y” is code for “massacre group Y.”

Brock of Battlepanda notes that the standoff is increasing oil prices, which funnels money into the coffers of the Iranian government. Since much of Ahmadinejad’s weakness comes from his inability to make good on any of his economic promises, it follows that the saber-rattling alone strengthens the regime.

Publius of Obsidian Wings, which I should really start reading and add to my blogroll, writes about how procedure isn’t enough. Clinton’s response to Bush’s latest attempt to bomb a random third-world country is to demand that he submit to Congressional authorization. Publius reminds everyone that the Democrats said the same thing in 2002, and then rubber-stamped the Iraq attack.

If Publius plays good cop with Clinton, Avedon plays bad cop. Blunt and hard-hitting as always, she says,

The reason Clinton is getting the emphasis wrong is that she’s trying to be really macho about Iran and doesn’t dare say that there are worse things than Iran getting nuclear power, and one of those things would be using military force against Iran. And she apparently does not understand that nothing makes Iran want nuclear power like the constant belligerence from the United States against Iran. So just shut up about Iran and tell Bush flat out that he can’t go there.

Kenneth Baer says on TPMCafe that Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are right to engage in waffling rhetoric about keeping all options on the table because that’s what the experts recommend. Ezra retorts by showing that Baer is just wrong. While Baer’s article is filled with his own speculations, Ezra sticks to quoting the experts, who are far less pro-war than Baer says they are.

Dan Froomkin shows how in the absence of concrete evidence Iran is supplying Shi’a extremists, Bush is resorting to florid demagogy.


Delegitimizing Peacemakers

February 16, 2007

Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post writes a wonderful article that aims to delegitimize every Palestinian political group, no matter how prepared it is for peace. The standard is always the same: nothing short of total acceptance is okay, and nothing short of total obsequity is peaceful. I see it among pro-Palestinian extremists who portray Israelis as uniformly oppressive, and among pro-Israeli extremists who portrays Palestinians as uniformly pro-terror.

Glick’s first contention is that Fatah is just a kinder, gentler terrorist organization than Hamas. Presumably, that Fatah is prepared to recognize Israel and focuses on nonviolent resistance to the Occupation is not enough; as long as it doesn’t tell Olmert, “Sir, you’re allowed to arrest and kill any of our citizens at will without due process,” it’s a terrorist organization.

And, of course, there’s the ridiculous attempt to delegitimize half of the debate on the I/P conflict. The gamut of views ranges from wanting to wipe out Israel and wanting to keep Palestinians subjugated indefinitely. It’s possible in principle to exclude people who advocate violence against civilians, but that will leave maybe 20% of people in, which is of course futile. But it’s never sensible to exclude people whoadvocate violence only on one side.

Israelis like to believe that the first approach to the debate must be recognizing the validity of basic pro-Israeli promises: Israeli life is inviolable (while Palestinian life isn’t necessarily), Zionism is good, non-obsequious criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, and so on. So Glick makes the incredible assertion that calling Israel an apartheid state is somehow anti-Semitic because it denies Jewish self-determination.

Look, if you want to argue that every nation deserves self-determination, go ahead. Even the most extreme pro-Palestinian intellectuals in the West – Chomsky, Judt, Said – are officially left of Fatah, to say nothing of Hamas. The people who criticized South African apartheid didn’t ever advocate killing off white South Africans, even when they supported the African National Congress’s violent activities.

If you think the debate on abortion is marked by preaching to the choir, read some magazines that deal with the I/P conflict. On that issue preaching to the choir is not only normal but also seen as the mark of good citizenship. An Israeli who doesn’t refuse a priori to talk to anyone who’s more pro-Palestinian than Peace Now is seen as a traitor; a Palestinian who doesn’t refuse a priori to talk to anyone who’s more pro-Israeli than Rachel Corrie is seen as a collaborator.

Of course, different sides have different premises. Fortunately, the world tends to offer enough facts that anyone who’s sufficiently intelligent, sufficiently familiar with the other side’s contentions, and sufficiently right can make headway. Retreating to shrill papers like Z, the Jerusalem Post, Counterpunch, and National Review, and insisting on ridiculous ground rules is the mark of the intellectual coward.

The real danger here is of course not about relatively insignificant writers on partisan papers. Rather, it’s that governments will heed those writers’ requirements and stop negotiating. As Rabin and Peres emphasized time and time again in the wake of the Oslo Accords, peace is something you make with enemies. At the time, the Hamas bombings seemed to belie that saying; now that Palestinians are ready to move on and Fatah is no longer pro-terror, it makes perfect sense.

A pro-Palestinian purist would see Rabin as an oppressor. Why wouldn’t he? During the first Intifada, Rabin didn’t pledge support for the Palestinians, but rather said that the IDF should “Break their arms and legs” (variant quote: “break their bones”). He made peace not because of humanitarian concern with Palestinian suffering but because he realized it was in Israel’s best geopolitical interest. Fortunately, Arafat had other concerns, so he negotiated.

It’s attractive for the purist to look for like-minded idealists on the other side, but it’s not happening. There are no Zionists anywhere in mainstream Palestinian politics. Likewise, there are no heavyweight pro-Palestinians in Israeli politics, or any anti-Americans in American politics, or British patriots in French politics. In realist politics, each side’s politicians are concerned with their own country’s well-being no matter what side they’re on; those on the left just see peace as more beneficial than war.

But for negotiations to go anywhere, the governments need to make sure these purists who legitimize the peacemakers have no power. Palestine is trying to do that by ensuring that the people Israel negotiates with are Fatah members; but in Israel, where the nationalist parties are more popular, it’s impossible at this stage.

The only serious solution within Israel is to delude the Likudniks into thinking they have any power while shafting them in practice. Unfortunately, there are no sufficiently skilled politicians in Israel who can do that. Sharon could and for the most part did, but he’s incapacitated now.

To paraphrase Churchill, Fatah is the worst government the Palestinians have had and the worst negotiating partner Israel has had, except for all the other alternatives. Delegitimizing that party for no good reason is not something any responsible columnist who favors peace would do.


The Commissar May Get His Wish

February 13, 2007

The Commissar has just complained that the Democrats don’t do enough to stop the war on Iraq. Pelosi listened and made it clear that there would be “No more blank checks.” The resolution that’s about to pass Congress is non-binding, but Pelosi’s hinting that more substantial resolutions will follow.

“A vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation, which will be coming to the House floor,” said Speaker Pelosi of California, who underscored the significance of the debate by delivering the first speech.

“In a few weeks, the war in Iraq will enter its fifth year, causing thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of casualties, costing hundreds of billions of dollars and damaging the standing of the United States in the international community. And there is no end in sight,” she said.

The Republican response is the standard “Support the troops” trope, which holds that exercising any kind of dissenting speech in wartime is hurtful. Four years ago, the Republicans could at least boldly accuse people of treason; today, the best they can do is have a Vietnam vet cry in front of a camera when talking about how he first learned of anti-war protests while in captivity.

The Feingold resolution cutting off funding for the war is not gaining any traction yet, but it may once the Democrats pass their non-binding resolution and start looking for real action. This resolution is very much like the Portuguese abortion referendum: while not legally binding, it will provide the Democrats with the political capital necessary to block the surge more vigorously.

Meanwhile, the occupation of Iraq is becoming increasingly desperate. The latest gambit is a 72-hour border closure with Syria and Iran, whose primary purpose is probably letting Bush segue to an attack on Syria and Iran. Ostensibly it’s supposed to provide the extra 20,000 troops with breathing room, but if the US were serious about it, it would close the border indefinitely.


Tuesday Small Hours Links

February 13, 2007

There are so many good links from the last day or two.

Jessica Dreadful breaks another abortion ban story from South Dakota, this time with exceptions for rape and incest in order to make the bill more palatable. But even then, the rape and incest exceptions are created with the most draconian restrictions possible.

[Link] The bill would allow rape victims to get abortions if they report the rapes to police within 50 days. Doctors would have to confirm those reports with police; doctors also would have to give blood from aborted fetuses to police for DNA testing in rape and incest cases.

The Commissar explains exactly what is wrong with the Bush administration’s accusations of Iranian support for Iraqi militants. Instead of trying to doubt the intelligence that was used to gather the conclusions, he shows why the conclusions themselves are implausible.

At the recent US military briefing about the Iranian mortar shells given to Iraqi Shiite militias, it was reported that these super-bombs have killed 170 US troops since June, 2004. I’m sure that Shiite IED’s have killed American troops in Iraq. How many overall? If the Iranian EFP’s have killed 170 Americans, what fraction is that of the total.

(…)

Of the 553 (82+471) where the sect of the attacker can be reliably inferred, 15% of these deadly IED attacks were committed by Shiites. Extrapolated to the full set, that would be 144 overall. That’s right. Only 144 Shiite-IED related deaths since June 2004.

Ezra has a three part series on the horrors of prison rape. While he doesn’t use the wonky style we all know and love, his posts still come off as very strong. He notes,

According to the Justice Department, “[in] 2005 there were 3,145 black male sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,244 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 471 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.” This is important. The relative infrequency with which white Americans enter prison, particularly for extended periods of time, surely effects the political urgency of prison reform. Indeed, it’s likely the reason overall legislation pushes in the other direction — towards overcrowding and longer sentences and less rehabilitation.

Brent reproduces a letter about the invisibility of atheists in the US. Since atheists are impossible to immediately discern from theists, bigoted Christians can get away with assuming that everyone in their lives who is a good person shares their religion. Based on that, he urges atheists to come out publicly.

First, misconceptions about us abound because of this invisibility. People don’t realize that we are their doctor, their teacher, their spouse or the nice guy that just held the door for them. The only face of naturalism a person is likely to see is a militant one. Is there any doubt that the image of naturalists would improve overnight if politicians, stars and athletes would come out?

d of Lawyers, Guns and Money comments on a statement by Bill Kristol about Obama that makes Joe Biden look like the second coming of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, W. E. B. DuBois, and Frederick Douglass all rolled into one. Kristol says Obama would’ve supported pro-slavery politicians in the 1850s. d notes,

When Kristol suggests — wearing his arrogant smirk like a badge of honor — that Barack Obama “would have been for Douglas in 1858,” he seems not to know one important historical fact. According to the laws of Illinois in 1858, Barack Obama would not only have been incapable of voting for Stephen Douglas, but he also would not have been allowed to enter the state in the first place. In 1853, Illinois passed one of the most restrictive black codes in the so-called “free north.” Blacks from other states were permitted to remain in the state for ten days; if they did not leave, they were subject to arrest and temporary enslavement — they would be sold to bidders who would be entitled to their labor until the mandatory $50 fine had been worked off. If the offending individual remained in Illinois after his or her release, the fines increased by $50 increments for each subsequent offense.

In her latest basic concepts post, Shelley turns to prions, the proteins that cause mad cow disease. Although they are proteins rather than organisms, they have the capability to mess with existing proteins in a way that makes them infectious in a way.

The protein that prions are made of is found throughout the body normally(called PrPc), although what their non-disease function is is not yet known. These proteins are encoded by the PRNP gene, and mutations in this gene are responsibly for inherited prion diseases. The disease-state prion protein is called (PrPSc) and is resistant to proteases which would normally denature a protein and render it harmless. The theory of how prions become infectious to other proteins is detailed below.

Abbas reproduces a letter by Waleed Hazbun, a visiting professor at the American University of Beirut. Hazbun describes the city,

Walking down the streets of the Hamra district of Beirut I think to myself that more cities across the Arab world should feel this way. Even as the city is re-dividing itself politically and police and security forces stand watch over public spaces, key buildings, and the residences of leading politicians, Beirut remains a urban, cosmopolitan environment. By invoking this term I do not refer to the fancy shopping districts with Euro-American name brand shops, the haut-hipsters hanging out a Starbucks (or even the much cooler De Prague), or the late night dancing parties going on at the trendy clubs. Beirut is a costal Levantine city that has never been cut off from other Mediterranean cities and trade routes nor fully isolated from its Arab/Islamic hinterland. It is not a show case ‘modern’ city built next to a museumfied medieval era ‘madina,’ like Tunis nor an artificial metropolis emerging out of a desert landscape due to royal patronage or the flows of petrodollars. It is more like Istanbul and how cities on coast of Mandate Palestine might have developed in some alterative reality.

Also on 3QD, Dhiraj Nayyar writes about the parallels between India and the US. India is aspiring to global superpower status, complete with economic domination and massive exportation of culture. But the social problems of the US pale in comparison with those of India.

Can India possibly claim to be superpower, the new emperor, just because some of it’s corporates are taking over firms abroad. Corporate might hasn’t turned into well-being for the majority of the people who still languish in poverty, illiteracy, hunger: basically dismal human conditions. Even possessing a few nuclear weapons doesn’t change this fact. And if half a country’s population cannot read, feed or cloth itself, what does that say about the empire? Even the American empire seems hollow when it is estimated that one in six people in the US is functionally illiterate, a large number of them live in poverty, where poverty is often a function of race, and where hurricanes like Katrina leave the mighty government fumbling for solutions.

Tyler expresses skepticism of much-hyped developments in quantum computing. In principle, quantum computers can factor integers in polynomial time, compared with exponential time for normal computers. In practice, constructing a quantum computer is about as feasible as fusion power at this stage. Tyler explains,

An actual working 16-qubit quantum superconductor that can overcome decoherence and the ubiquitous errors that plague any effort to build a computing device on quantum principles would be quite an achievement. It would indeed be interesting to do a full scale quantum computation, perhaps actually executing the Shor factoring algorithm. But A.) 16-qubits isn’t going to cut it and B.) they’ve been ominously reserved about releasing any results for professionals and academics to evaluate. And needless to say, with the grandiose proclamations the folks at the company have made, I’m skeptical.

Zuzu rips into the third chapter of Dawn Eden’s book, The Thrill of the Chaste (the parts Zuzu quotes sound as unintelligent as the title).

The chapter opens with a description of a continuing education course on “Living Single.” Dawn reads the description — which is all about helping people confidently navigate the single world, whether they’ve never left it or are re-entering it — and all she sees is “lack.”

She would, wouldn’t she?

I mean, her whole life, she’s felt lacking, and though she’s changed her strategy, her goal is the same: get married. Thing is, as she does so many times, she breezes right by the point. The course is designed to alleviate some of the social pressure that single adults feel to be in a couple, that they are in fact lacking something. It’s designed to help people understand that they don’t need to be in a couple to have fulfilling lives. But Dawn just sees the course as evidence that women are mired in a pathetic, pop-culturally-dictated “single lifestyle” that is all about lack — that lack being, of course, lack of a man and lack of God.

Finally, Bora collects all Darwin Day posts in one big link post. I haven’t had time to look at them yet, but you should.


Bush is Trying to Make the Contenders’ Positions on Iran Irrelevant

February 12, 2007

More and more it seems as if February 2007 to Iran is like September 2002 to Iraq. Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post is talking about the Bush administration’s attempt to convince people Iran’s a grave threat to American interests (hat-tip to Lindsay).

For a long time now, Bush admininstration officials have been promising reporters proof that the Iranian government is supplying deadly weaponry to Iraqi militants.

The administration finally unveiled its case this weekend, first in coordinated and anonymous leaks to a trusting New York Times reporter, then in an extraordinarily secretive military briefing at which no one would speak on the record, journalists weren’t allowed to photograph the so-called evidence, and nothing even remotely like proof of direct Iranian government involvement was presented.

To be honest, I’m not sure how the administration is planning to go to war based on that. Most Americans don’t even want the troops in Iraq anymore; they don’t tolerate attacks on them, of course, but to me, “Iran is supplying weapons to Shi’a militias” sounds awfully weak compared to “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud over New York.”

On the other hand, it’s possible the administration is trying to get around its unpopularity by phasing in the lies. In Iraq, it started from an imminent nuclear threats and then went down to “WMD-related activities.” It’s possible that now it’s doing the opposite: first introduce Iran as a possibly hostile force, then accuse it of orchestrating the entire civil war, and then talk about its nuclear program…

Krugman’s apparently saying that there’s no way Congress will approve another war resolution. I disagree: no serious Presidential candidate has made any statement opposing a war on Iran, and all but one either have made pro-war statements or have a general pro-war disposition. The Democrats are less spineless than they were in 2002, but not by much.


Generic Issues

February 7, 2007

1. I intended to dedicate this day to Giuliani, not McCain. So here it goes: Giuliani had nothing to do with the drop in crime in New York. The blue dot is when Giuliani’s predecessor, Dinkins, assumed office. The red dot is when Giuliani assumed office.

new-york-murder-rate-1.GIF

(The data comes from here)

2. Tyler blogs about a right-wing nut who complains that Israel is recognizing gay marriages performed in other countries: “The pro-family official’s concern, he explains, is that Israel’s acceptance of same-sex marriage will give ammunition to its Islamic enemies and fuel their propaganda.” Tyler notes that this is just the Dinesh D’Souza strategy of saying that conservative values are good because the terrorists hate liberal values.

My own comment on that is that the greatest number of Palestinian terrorist attacks is on settlers, who are fairly religious, and on targets in Jerusalem, a conservative city. Attacks on liberal Tel Aviv are the most spectacular, but while half of Israel’s Jewish population lives in Tel Aviv metro, far fewer than half of Palestinian attacks are on Tel Aviv metro.

3. Hat-tip to JD2718: Ray of Education and Technology rips into the Wall Street Journal, which decided to resurrect the meme that public school teachers work 7 hours a week. Based on calculating the number of hours they spend teaching, it arrived at an hourly pay figure of $34/hour. Based on calculating the actual number of hours they work, including teaching, staff meetings, and grading, $15/hour is closer to reality.

Also due to JD2718, the NYC Department of Education’s fetish for small schools combines the worst features of small schools and large schools. Ordinary small schools have their own buildings and are self-contained enough to teach 400-500 students independently. New York’s small schools share the same building with other schools, so they have to coordinate things like bells; a better way to describe them would be large schools supervised by committee.

4. Wal-Mart’s dreadful history of discriminating against women is finally resulting in a trial. Wal-Mart isn’t even denying that the discrimination exists, but instead tries weaseling out of a class action lawsuit and says individual women should sue individual stores.

In a way this is significant beyond Wal-Mart, because the company’s ridiculous claim that it “did not have a policy of discriminating against women” can help underscore a strict liability doctrine in civil rights cases. A corporation is responsible for making sure it’s an equal opportunity employer; if it isn’t aggressively punishing managers who discriminate, it’s exposed to class action lawsuits. It’s just how states are responsible for making sure their militaries don’t murder civilians when occupying a foreign country.

5. Hamas and Fatah are negotiating in Mecca. They’ve been negotiating for a while; while their leaders are talking to each other about how to forge a unity government, their foot soldiers are killing each other as well as any civilians who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.


News or Links, Take Your Pick

February 4, 2007

Guestblogging on Ezra Klein, Ankush notes that Edwards is even more of a waffler than he comes off in Ezra’s interview. He notes that Edwards blames the war on intelligence failure, and rebuts,

Today, I’d like to see a presidential candidate grapple with the questions that should be raised about why so many politicians — including, if you supported the war on the basis of WMDs, you – were so wrong when it was far from inevitable. What do you plan to do about promoting and reconciling dissent within the intelligence agencies? How should a President seek out conflicting viewpoints and process the contradictions? What should be the default presumptions when, as is often the case, you have very little intelligence to work off of? Are you concerned that Washington is dominated by a fairly homogeneous, vaguely hawkish group of foreign policy types, many of whom aren’t particularly good at what they do? In essence, why were you wrong in interpreting the evidence about Iraq and what do you plan to do in order not to be wrong the next time?

Edwards’s claims that the intelligence was irretrievably tainted and that everyone was wrong about the wisdom of war — claims which, to be fair, are frequently made by many, many other politicians and pundits — are so demonstrably false as to be borderline offensive. I appreciate his sincerity about his regret over the tragic costs of this war, but, so far as evaluating one’s participation in bringing this disaster about, expressing such regret is quite literally the least you can do.

A few days ago, Hamas and Fatah set a record by holding their fire for a whole day. But as the second day of quitting smoking chocolate coffee indiscriminate violence is always harder than the first, it didn’t work out very well, and Palestinian civilians are living in fear again.

Gazans have long been accustomed to violence. But until recently, the fighting was between local militants and Israeli forces, and the lines of battle were clear.

The last few weeks of fighting between Hamas and Fatah gunmen have taken on a different feel. Gunfire can erupt at any time, poorly trained fighters shoot at random, and the target isn’t always known.

Rudy Giuliani is still not “in it to win,” but is saying there’s a “good chance he’ll run.”

He has emphasized his steady hand dealing with the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. However, his moderate stances on gun control, abortion, gay rights and other social issues could be liabilities for him in a GOP presidential primary that includes hard-core conservatives as a central voting group.

For instance, in November, South Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex unions.

“The fact is I appeal to conservative Christians the way I appeal to everyone else,” Giuliani said at a news conference. “I don’t think you have separate appeals to people.”

Giuliani is right. A very big constituency in the South includes people who think it was a mistake to give black people civil rights; Giuliani has a lot to sell them. Another big constituency hates it when non-conformists have free speech; Giuliani can placate them, too. Before Southern conservatives had God, guns, and gays, they had blacks.

Foodconsumer.org has a compilation of information about the HPV vaccine, which Texas Governor Rick Perry has just made mandatory for all girls aged 11-12.

Tony Blair is not only a lame duck Prime Minister, but also under immense pressure to quit now rather than in the summer. It’s not the brown-nosing of Bush or the religious fanaticism that turned the people off, but a corruption scandal involving cash for honors.

The ICM survey for the Sunday Express found that 56 per cent of the public want him to go now rather than wait for his planned summer departure.

The poll found that 43 per cent of Labour supporters feel it is now time for him to step down.

The survey also reveals a loss of trust in the Blair regime with some 66 per cent believing that evidence relating to cash-for-honours allegations has been covered up by people in Downing Street.

Victoria Brittain notes that there is such a thing as Islamic feminism, and that it has achieved several successes in rolling back discriminatory laws in Muslim-majority countries.

Embattled Muslim women, suffering the burdens of the worst cultural attitudes to rape and adultery enshrined in medieval laws in Pakistan and Northern Nigeria; or the sexual violence and rolling back of their rights, unleashed by the war in Iraq; or the targeted killings of women activists in Afghanistan, are turning for help to Muslim women’s groups. From those in Morocco and Malaysia, in particular, the skills of self-help training, experience of long legal battles, linking scholars and activists, are in great demand.

At government policy levels some, Islamic women activists’ campaigns are having successes large and small in some surprising places: Morocco’s Moudawana (religious personal statute laws differing from civil law) have recently been revised after 30 years of struggle; in Turkey’s Ministry of Religion there is a cautious beginning by some scholars to work on the highly sensitive area of questioning the historical basis of the hadith (sayings and deeds attributed to the Prophet) which seem misogynist; and in Indonesia’s rural areas teaching materials are being revised.

The Democratic Party is waffling about abortion, as its candidates deemphasize it more and more in order to appeal to Dominionist voters.

Day believes it is the beginning of getting some voters back into the fold. “If I had a nickel for every person who came up to me and said ‘I used to be a Democrat and I’d come back if they changed their stance on abortion,’ we’d be back to a 290 majority like we had in the 1970s.”

Day’s analogy is correct but incomplete. If the Democrats appeal to Dominionists, they’ll be back to a 290 majority in the House like in the 1970s; and like in the 1970s, they’ll have Southern conservatives hold key committee chairmanships that they’ll use to push the entire party to the right.

Skatje writes about homosexuality and the religious nuts who have a problem with it.

You let your bible tell you to shun gays, but you don’t pay attention when it tells you to shun women on their period? The bible says a lot of ridiculous things. You shouldn’t take the “unnatural affections” being a sin bits any more serious than the parts where it says to dash your enemy’s children against rocks or stone disobedient women to death. The reason I figure for including the part about homosexuality in the bible is the same reason they include various sorts of washing, staying away from dead bodies, etc. At the time these things were written, they didn’t know about bacteria and how disease works. They just knew that if you did such and such, you’re less likely to become ill. Anal sex can be unsanitary without the proper precautions. Back then, it was probably a good idea not to stick that there. I’m also undoubtedly sure that homosexuality is mentioned because the bible is notorious for disapproving of things that are different or unusual. Not very good justification though. Don’t let the bible tell you to hate stuff, ‘kay? Use your own head.

The best quote comes from commenter Azkyroth, who mocks a theistic commenter who confuses “canon” with “cannon,”

Also, “canon” is the official Christian doctrine; “cannon” are what they’ve been using to spread the canon since the cannon was invented.

Hat-tip to Robin: Timothy Garton Ash responds to Pascal Bruckner, who accused him of being an Islamist apologist after he criticized Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Pascal Bruckner is the intellectual equivalent of a drunk meandering down the road, arguing loudly with some imaginary enemies. He calls these enemies “Timothy Garton Ash” and “Ian Buruma” but they have very little to do with the real writers of those names. I list below some of his misrepresentations and inaccuracies, with a few weblinks for the curious.

Pascal Bruckner speaks in the name of the Enlightenment, but he betrays its essential spirit. The Enlightenment believed in free expression, without taboos. Because I disagree – courteously, precisely and giving clear reasons – with the views of a woman of Somalian origin, Bruckner does not hesitate to imply that I am a racist (he calls me “an apostle of multiculturalism,” then describes multiculturalism as a “racism of the anti-racists”) and a sexist (“outmoded machismo”, “the spirit of the inquisitors who saw devil-possessed witches in every woman too flamboyant for their tastes”). This is exactly the kind of blanket disqualification that he himself criticised in an article in Le Figaro entitled “Le chantage a l’Islamophobie,” (reprinted from Figaro here) deploring the way any critic of Islam is (dis)qualified as an Islamophobe racist. Except that here he is the blackmailer. Voltaire would be ashamed of him.


Edwards is an Untrustworthy Opportunist, Redux

February 3, 2007

Bora thinks that Ezra Klein’s interview with Edwards means he’s actually pro-peace. I think it means he’s an opportunist who tells people what they want to hear. To the Herzliya conference, which is all about supporting the Israeli right’s foreign policy, Edwards said that Iran is a global threat. To Ezra Klein, a liberal writing for the liberal American Prospect, he said he was mostly for peace.

However, even there, he can’t help it but waffle on some questions. Ezra asks, “Can we live with a nuclear Iran?” Edwards’ best route here is to dodge – one answer is factually wrong while the other is politically wrong – but he does it really badly.

I’m not ready to cross that bridge yet. I think that we have lots of opportunities that we’ve … We’re not negotiating with them directly, what I just proposed has not been done. We’re not being smart about how we engage with them. But I’m not ready to cross that bridge yet. And I think the reason people react the way they do — I understand it, because, when George Bush uses this kind of language, it means something very different for most people. I mean when he uses this kind of language “options are on the table,” he does it in a very threatening kind of way — with a country that he’s not engaging with or making any serious diplomatic proposals to. I mean I think that he’s just dead wrong about that.

A while later, when Ezra pressed him about his comments to the Herzliya conference, he said,

You know when you’re president of the United States you carry an enormous responsibility and there are consequences to what you do. And I just, I would never ever prejudge something that serious in advance. I don’t think we’re anywhere remotely close to having exhausted diplomatic avenues. I don’t think we’ve done anything close to what we should be doing, and there are devastating consequences to a military strike. So, that’s my judgment about where we are today and where we ought to proceed.

One of the things, one of the realities, I think, of the responsibilities of the president, are that, is that, the criteria for ever using American force is pretty clear. You know when there’s an imminent threat to America, or our allies, when we have a treaty obligation, or when there’s some huge humanitarian crisis. But those are very broad, obviously, and so the kind of human being you have in the White House is enormously important — I would argue more important than trying to have somebody predict, off in the future, what you’ll do when confronted with it, because I think its unknowable. I think what’s more important is to know that you have a good and decent human being who, who really wants to do the right thing and understands what the consequences are.

To be perfectly honest, I’d rather Edwards had pulled a Lieberman in the interview and said he thought Iran was indeed a global threat and that he stood by his earlier comments. That way, I’d have categorized him as a war hawk who’s no worse than Obama or Clinton on foreign policy, but is better on economic issues.

Instead, this interview paints him as an untrustworthy opportunist, which lowers his credibility on all issues. I no longer trust him to really do something to reduce poverty anymore. Given his comments on deficit reduction, it’s now likelier that he’s just looking for a way to avoid being fiscally responsible. Throwing a $30-billion bone to the poor is nothing compared to not having to eliminate a $250-billion deficit.

As an added bonus, he’s also the only one of the three Democratic contenders who does not support civil unions. The Washington Blade says gay activists like the fact that he and Obama are upfront about their opposition to gay marriage while Clinton hides it, but its candidate factsheet says only Clinton and Obama support civil unions.

Given that, I’m switching my support in the Democratic primary back to Obama, on the following grounds:

a) It’s not entirely clear he’s pro-war.

b) He’s far more honest than Clinton and Edwards.

c) He opposed the Iraq war in 2002.

Against these grounds there are the following negatives, which I still don’t think outweigh those of Clinton, Edwards, and Giuliani, to say nothing of those of Romney, McCain, and Brownback:

a) He’s inviting the Dominionists into the Democratic Party. He suggests that they won’t move it right on abortion or gay rights or freedom of and from religion. I’m more pessimistic.

b) McCain looked honest in 2000, too.

c) He never had to vote on the Iraq war.

I might revise my support later on.


And Now Clinton…

February 2, 2007

Not to be outdone by Obama and Edwards, Hillary Clinton has just endorsed the Bush line on Iran. This was of course expected; Clinton leads the pack when it comes to not taking a principled stand on any progressive issue that polls under 60%, and is especially weak on Israel. Says Haaretz,

Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel’s greatest threats, U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday no option can be taken off the table when dealing with that nation.

“U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons,” the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. “In dealing with this threat … no option can be taken off the table.”

Clinton spoke at a Manhattan dinner held by the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Paraphrasing Clinton, let me say this: Iran isn’t, and won’t be a threat. Its real leader is Ali Khamenei, a conservative cleric who’s been in power for almost 20 years and has no interest in launching a first strike against a nuclear power. A few months ago, the approval rates of its radical mouthpiece, Ahmadinejad, hit rock bottom; since then, they’ve started digging. His approval rate could well be higher in Israel than in Iran.

Edwards and Obama have excuses for their statements, based mainly on their total lack of experience with foreign policy. Clinton has no such excuse; she only has six years of experience in elected office, but she’s likely discussed her positions with her husband, who has somewhat better experience.

For sure, Clinton makes the obligatory remark about negotiation and diplomacy. That doesn’t distinguish her from the pack; Obama made some vague statement about “clarity and transparency” only a few days ago. She’s still a warmonger who voted for the war on Iraq because she was against second-guessing the President. That makes her even worse than Edwards and Obama, since someone who sympathized with unitary executives when out of power will probably goven based on the unitary executive theory when in power.


Jacques Chirac is an Idiot

February 1, 2007

Chirac said it wouldn’t be very dangerous for Iran to have nuclear weapons, reminding everyone why it is very dangerous for world leaders to say things they didn’t think out. The main question about Iran isn’t whether it’s appropriate for it to have nuclear weapons; it’s whether there’s an urgent issue at stake, and whether war is the right solution.

French President Jacques Chirac has said it would not be very dangerous for Iran to have a nuclear bomb, but later retracted the remark, according to an interview with two U.S. newspapers and a French magazine published on Thursday.

Chirac spoke to reporters from the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and Le Nouvel Observateur earlier this week, and in initial comments said Tehran would be razed to the ground if Iran launched a nuclear attack against Israel.

I presume Chirac doesn’t want any war involving Iran. In that case, it’s in his interest not to start talking about Iranian nukes as if they’re right around the corner. The most salient feature of the Iran situation is that Iran is years away from a nuclear bomb, which means it’s beneficial to ignore the issue until the two warmongering saber-rattlers, Bush and Ahmadinejad, are out of office.

Whenever someone goes on about the consequences of a nuclear Iran, he plays to the misconception that political calculus from 2007 is at all relevant to it. In 2007, the situation is that Iran has a conservative government with a radical loudmouth who thinks he’s in charge, Israel has a Prime Minister who’s under fire for being a pansy, Iraq is in a civil war situation in which the Iranian-backed Shi’as are winning, and the US has a lame duck President and seven politicians vying to replace him. The only one of the four that has any chance of remaining the same by 2012 is Iraq.

Chirac is trying to fight the last war, i.e. the political battle to prevent the War on Iraq. And he’s failing miserably, because there is no analog of the argument that Saddam had no WMD. Given that all three players – Bush, Ahmadinejad, and Olmert – are extremely unpopular in their respective countries, the best argument is that it’s safe to delay acting on the situation.

Chances are the situation will resolve itself by 2010, with a democratic revolution in Iran. In that case Israel will still complain about Iranian nukes, but nobody will take it seriously. If the situation doesn’t resolve itself, then it will warrant attention, based on parameters from 2010 rather than 2007 (for example, Iran’s either hit or about to hit its oil peak).


Just so you don’t think all Democrats are hawks:

January 31, 2007

Senate Democrats, joined by Arlen Specter, are exploring ways to block Bush’s surge. Feingold went further and introduced a bill to cut off funding to the entire Iraq occupation within six months, except for a few limited counterterrorism and training operations.

Mr. Specter read the results of a survey of service members conducted by The Military Times, which found that only 35 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war. The senator suggested that in that light, the military might be “appreciative of questions being raised by Congress.”

Mr. Feingold insisted that his resolution would “not hurt our troops in any way” because they would all continue to be paid, supplied, equipped and trained as usual — just not in Iraq.

Of course, the New York Times tries to be a balanced newspaper regardless of the facts, so it quotes someone who says that,

Congress had made itself responsible for the deaths of the 1.7 million Cambodians estimated to have been slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge, by denying funds for President Nixon to wage war inside Cambodia.

What actually happened is that the US helped Prince Lon Nol overthrow the government in 1970 and establish an American puppet regime. The regime was unpopular enough that many people thought the Khmer Rouge would be a positive change; of course it wasn’t, but Pol Pot would’ve never come to power had the US left Norodom Sihanouk in power.

Then, in 1978, the communist government of Vietnam invaded Cambodia, deposed the Khmer Rouge, and installed a non-genocidal regime in its stead. Meanwhile, the US kept recognizing the Khmer Rouge, which was still terrorizing the country, as the legitimate government of Cambodia.

So blaming Congress for that is positively weird. It’s like blaming Congress for the ills of the Iraq War because it voted to approve it. Those members who voted for the war bear some responsibility, but the people who actually instigated the war and then butchered the occupation are primarily Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, rather than anyone in Congress.

It’s entirely possible that if the US withdraws, the Shi’as will commit genocide against the Sunnis. On the other hand, it’s equally likely that they will if the US doesn’t withdraw. A conclaved group of 150,000 or even 200,000 troops can’t do much in Iraq. At this stage even the 300,000 that the military recommended will probably be unable to stop the inevitable.


Oh Well

January 30, 2007

Amanda has just joined the Edwards bandwagon in the most blatant way possible: by running his campaign blog. I noted in the comments that Edwards supported a military strike against Iran. As Lindsay notes, he’s just rehashing the conventional wisdom about Iraq that was proven so devastatingly wrong after the American invasion.

On Pandagon, I made a comment about Obama’s being possibly the only anti-war candidate in the race. It wasn’t long before Drew set me straight: Obama is in fact only against the Iraq war, like the rest of the field. Back in 2004, he came out in support of attacking Iran:

Obama said the United States must first address Iran’s attempt to gain nuclear capabilities by going before the United Nations Security Council and lobbying the international community to apply more pressure on Iran to cease nuclear activities. That pressure should come in the form of economic sanctions, he said.

But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, Obama said.

In the comments to my post about Edwards’ pro-war statements, SLC snarked, “There can be no doubt that Edwards is a conscious Zionist conspirator, and a tool of the international Zionist conspiracy.” Actually, what Obama did is worse than what Edwards did. Edwards spoke to a pro-Israeli group, which makes it possible that in fact he’s just lying to it to get its people’s money and votes. Obama has no such excuse.

This, of course, leaves Hillary Clinton as the one serious Democratic contender who hasn’t explicitly backed an attack on Iran that I know of. However, it’s extremely unlikely she’ll be anything but a war hawk; given her vote for the Iraq war and her record on American-Israeli relations, she is to be assumed pro-war until proven otherwise.

Oh well. In a comment on her own top-notch post about Edwards and Iran, Lindsay laments,

It’s the conventional wisdom factor that I’m scared of. In the run-up to the Iraq war, I began to wonder whether I was crazy because no one was asking really basic questions like “Is war the best solution to this problem?” and “Are we sure that there’s a problem?” and “You know there’s a difference between a potential threat and an imminent threat, right?” and “How is deposing Saddam Hussein supposed to reduce terrorism?”

At the time, I didn’t speak out. I mean, I went to anti-war protests and wrote to my elected officials and signed a lot of petitions. But I didn’t publicly voice the basic questions that were reverberating in my head because even so called liberals were playing along with the Saddam Threat script, even if they didn’t want to authorize the president to use force just yet.

The right wing managed to marginalize anyone who spoke out too strongly against the war. “Serious” liberals couldn’t say “This war is just a crazy idea, I don’t understand what this is supposed to accomplish.”

I keep joking with myself that liberal bloggers would do a far better job at governing than the current crop of politicians. It’s really too bad Lindsay’s too young to run (not that she could win if she did – atheists don’t generally win elections in the US – but still). Drafting a more established politician of the same nominal religion as Lindsay and was a possible candidate at one point would have a better chance, but I honestly don’t see such a politician pull an upset victory at this stage.

Amanda says,

Why John Edwards?  Well, look again at that list of political obsessions and you have your answer.  John Edwards is the only Democrat in the field of potential nominees who is interested in pursuing the right policies in all these areas.  Especially important to me is that he is interested in fighting poverty in America and putting that middle class dream in the hands of all Americans.

I don’t want to snark too much at someone who opposes wars of aggression, but Amanda’s focusing on the wrong people. Yes, if you want two or three million Americans to be lifted out of poverty, you should support Edwards. But if you want two or three hundred thousand Iranians not to be bombed to death, and Iranian women to have a decent chance at achieving legal equality, you should do whatever you can to derail his candidacy, as well as these of all other war hawks.


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