Author's posts

The Shock Doctrine — A Short Film by Cuaron and Klien

From the Harper’s Magazine website.

Alfosno Cuaron and Naomi Klein present a short film based on Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

At the end, options are presented for watching further video of Klein and her thesis.

Two Current Myths About Iraq — Blown Essay

This is a blown essay.  In the comments, Pico points out a rookie mistake I made in looking at the poll numbers.  It appears Iraqis, by a small but real majority, don’t want U.S. forces to withdraw immediately.  This is gonna require some more thought on my part.

Thanks to Pico for pointing it out.

I’m leaving it up for awhile.

Two claims about Iraq are getting pushed, and pushed hard, this week by the press and by politicians in Washington.  They are both wildly false. 

The first is that Iraqis, and especially Sunnis, are quietly in favor of a lasting U.S. security presense.  The second is that the “federalization of Iraq” ballyhooed by Anbar true-believers in the U.S. Congress and the Washington punditry is something Sunnis would actually want.

Saudi Arabia and Petraeus’s First Slide

At the outset I would like to note that this is my testimony. Although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by nor shared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress until it was just handed out.

General David Petraeus, 9/10/07

General Petraeus employed thirteen slides in his opening remarks to the joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, yesterday.  A PDF of them can be found here.

Many people have noted that the slides concerning the frequency of insurgent attacks and “ethno-sectarian violence” were misleading.  However, it seems to me that the very first slide, a map of the region labeled “Major Threats to Iraq”, is more revealing of the limits of General Petraeus’s independence, the decidely pragmatic nature of the hearings, and the meaning of the occupation of Iraq itself, than any other.

Easy Chess Problems

I found an online chess editor that lets you arrange the board and download a jpg of the position.  Too cool! 

Apronus chess editor.

This might be useful for open threads or general chess discussion posts.  When I’m really, really in practice, I’m maybe a 1500.  Still, I like to read about chess events, opening schemes, endgame theory, chess history, and blah blah blah.

The Myth About the Anbar Awakening

The obvious interpretation of the decision, made by Sunni leaders in Anbar province, to fight the most nihlistically violent factions of the insurgency, rather than fight the occupation forces, is that the presence of the occupation forces delayed the decision. 

Further, the fact that this “Anbar Awakening” (or “Sunni Awakening”) occured about six months before General Petraeus and “the Surge” arrived on the scene, shows that we really aren’t doing any good over there; not even by accident.

Republicans: Out Loud, in Front of Microphones

In the ongoing struggle to pretend that, despite long-standing poll results, there is some sort of debate in America as to whether we should leave Iraq, the Republican nominees for President are coming up with the most laughable rationales for staying. 

That no one is pointing out that these statements, made on the record, out loud and in front of microphones, virtually guarantee a rout for the Democratic nominee in the 2008 national debates, is curious.  The Democratic nominee merely needs to quote some of this stuff, and ask whether anyone wants the quoted Republican near the nuclear button, or, for that matter, near large boards with nails in them.

Democrats in Washington either haven’t realized this or don’t want to admit that they have, for fear that the admission would then require them to stop worrying about “tactics” and to move aggressively in the direction of their constituents.

Banner stuff

Here’s the old idea from Magnifico and myself:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I messed with this some.

Remarkable NY Times Analysis on Bush’s Iraq Trip

In a remarkable news analysis piece — not an editorial — David E. Sanger of the New York Times takes down President Bush’s Iraq visit with a series of haymakers.

Mr. Sanger begins by pointing out that Mr. Bush is trying to shift focus from the many failures of Iraq’s central government, to apparent shifts of allegeance among local leaders in Anbar province. 

From there:

News Analysis

Bush Shifts Terms for Measuring Progress in Iraq

Published: September 5, 2007

— snip —

By meeting with tribal leaders who just a year ago were considered the enemy, and who now are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a president who has unveiled four or five strategies for winning over Iraqis – depending on how one counts – may now be on the cusp of yet another.

— snip —

It was the White House and the Iraqi government, not Congress, that first proposed the benchmarks for Iraq that are now producing failing grades, a provenance that raises questions about why the administration is declaring now that the government’s performance is not the best measure of change.

The White House insists that Mr. Bush’s fresh embrace of Sunni leaders simply augments his consistent support of Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But some of Mr. Bush’s critics regard the change as something far more significant, saying they believe it amounts to a grudging acknowledgment by the White House of something these critics themselves have long asserted – that Iraq will never become the kind of cohesive, unified state that could be a democratic beacon for the Middle East.

— snip —

The scathing analysis continues for many paragraphs.  Mr. Sanger implies, by indirection, that Mr. Bush is cutting off Mr. Maliki.  By flying into Anbar province and not into Baghdad, Mr. Bush is as much as admitting that the central government is finished, and the American government gets to make that decision.

Mr. Sanger notes that Mr. Bush is quick to heap praise in superlatives upon the new favored Iraqi leaders.

Mr. Bush, of course, has had similar public praise for just about every Iraqi leader he has met, even a few leaders now disparaged by White House officials as unreliable, powerless or two-faced.


The End of the End of the World

According to one way of telling this story, the world began in 1641 with the following words, as translated from the Latin:

Some years ago now I observed the multitude of errors that I had accepted as true in my earliest years, and the dubiousness of the whole superstructure I had since then reared on them; and the consequent need of making a clean sweep for once in my life, and beginning again from the very foundations, if I would establish some secure and lasting result in science.

— Rene Descartes, 1641

The world ended — again, on one way of telling this story — as follows:

On or about December 1910, human nature changed.

— Virginia Woolf, 1924

In this essay I want to explore the meaning of those two passages, and to think about where we stand now in relation to them.  Let’s ask what we should do after the end of it all, here at the end of the end of the world.

(Pictures, too!  Below the fold.)

Why Are the Democrats Falling for It This Time?

This is an off-the-cuff essay, but it’s an easy question.  Why are the Democrats falling for it this time?

We can run a side-by-side comparison: April 2007, and now.  We can compare the weeks preceding the funding requests in May 2007 and September 2007.  The Republican propoganda is unsurpisingly identical in each case.  Each time, the Republicans ran a EVERYTHING IS GETTING BETTER YOU BETTER FUND THE OCCUPATION!!!! campaign against the public and the Democrats. 

Last time, in April, it was a bit ridiculous.  McCain humiliating himself on 60 Minutes.  Mike Spense and his Indiana marketplace. 

This time it’s a bit more dignified.  “Violence is Down in Baghdad”.  But relative levels of decorum aside, there is nothing complicated about this comparison.  It’s apples to apples.

The September Hearings and Cheney’s Minority Report

The upcoming hearings with General Petraeus might turn out to be interesting in ways no one expected.

Reading recent news stories, one feels one is back in the 80’s, listening to Reagan-era lighter-than-air justifications for the funding of “Freedom Fighters” in Nicaragua.

In an interview on Aug. 18, General Petraeus said that with ill-equipped Iraqi security forces confronting soaring violence across the country in 2004 and 2005, he made a decision not to wait for formal tracking systems to be put in place before distributing the weapons.

“We made a decision to arm guys who wanted to fight for their country,” General Petraeus said.

If General Petraeus really wants to portray himself as a latter-day Oliver North, he may have justification.  The de-facto man at the top of the current chain-of-command, after all, was a champion of the Congressional minority report on the Iran/Contra hearings.  This minority report rather creatively interpreted the Iran/Contra hearings themselves as an example of Congressional over-reach.

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