Failed Revolutions

I posted this on big orange, but it is probably better suited for DD.

Having to travel this week, I picked up a Time magazine for some low impact mental aerobics.  Thumbing through the October 22 edition, I came across an article by Andrew Marshall, entitled “Anatomy of a Failed Revolution.”  The subhead was depressing:

A correspondent looks back on a week of hope and despair in Burma’s brief, shining – but ultimately doomed  – uprising

I could feel the despair rising in my own chest as I prepared to digest one man’s post-mortem of yet another attempt by repressed people to peacefully attempt regime change.  We know the Buddhist monks chanted the mantra:

vardenafil contrassegno senza ricetta online in italia Let everyone be free from harm
Let everyone be free from anger
Let everyone be free from hardship

We know the monks were gunned down in cold blood.

By any tangible measure, the protests failed.  The junta murdered innocent people.  The world mumbled a few platitudes that they shouldn’t oughta do that.  Here at the big orange tent of democracy, a valiant group of diarists tried to keep Burma on the recommended list and in the hearts and minds of Kossacks.  The shooting stopped.  The blood was washed from the streets.  Big orange returned to the arduous task of documenting the capitulations and betrayals of members of the Democratic Party to the Bush junta.  Burma faded from our lips.  Bush brushed up on his pronunciations of Myanmar, while trotting out platitudes about democracy and announcing meaningless sanctions.  Nothing left but the mental masturbations to bemoan the failure of peaceful protests to produce meaningful political changes.

In two paragraphs, Andrew Marshall summed up the depressing reality in Burma.

It was the Buddhist monks who first sang this mantra. For a week now, they have been marching through these streets, calling peacefully for change in a country that has been ruled for almost a half-century by a barbaric military junta. Burma’s monkhood and military are roughly the same size–each has 300,000 to 400,000 men–but there the similarities end. With the monks preaching tolerance and peace and the military demanding obedience at gunpoint, these protests pit Burma’s most beloved institution against its most reviled.

“Get closer,” the young woman urges. The troops are a hundred yards away, and I think that’s close enough. I’m mindful of reports that just last night the military raided more than a dozen monasteries, beating and arresting hundreds of monks. And I know that soldiers like these snuffed out Burma’s last great pro-democracy uprising in 1988, killing and injuring thousands. I know they will not hesitate to shoot, whether or not there’s a foreigner present. Sure enough, seconds later they open fire. From that moment on, the world’s most unlikely uprising–with its vivid images of marching monks and exuberant students, of golden pagodas and rain-drenched streets–feels doomed.

I put the magazine down at that point and stared at the scattered clouds and pathwork of greens and browns passing beneath the airliner.  In our success-obsessed culture, actions that do not immediately produce the desired outcome are labelled failures.  We admire the monks for their courage, but the game goes into the loss column.  On the streets of America, winning is everything in politics, business, sports, and even love.  There is no room in our heart for losers.

Our response to the Iraq war is the perfect case in point.  Before the war, most Democrats voted to give Bush and Cheney the money to commit war crimes in our name.  Protests were derided as worthless, if not counterproductive.  A majority of Americans supported the war and over 70% approved when it looked like we had won an easy victory against a paper tiger.  Howard Dean, one of the most vocal critics of the war, made Democrats nervous and a more electible candidate was found to oppose Bush. Years later, with Iraq becoming a bloody quagmire, members of the Democratic Party finally found the courage to criticize the war.  The American people had become disillusioned and voted for regime change in Congress and the Senate.  For a few shining months, it looked like a political revolution had occurred.

The success turned sour as Pelosi and Reid turned to Lieberman’s chiropractor for treatment of spinal pressure.  Before long, the leadership in the House and Senate were able to bend over backwards to accommodate Bush, lest he and Cheney unleash Freedom Watch, Swift Boats, and the propaganda hounds. Defeatocrats.  Soft on terrorism.  Comforting our enemies.  Mighty General Petraeus mowed down the opposition with the reflection off his medals.  Before long, resolutions were passed to condemn a newspaper ad and allow Bush to plan a new and improved “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign.  For good measure, the administration was given a pass on its FISA violations, rendition and torture policies, use of the Department of Justice for political advantage, election frauds, catering to corporation corruption, and abuse of power. After Blackwater murdered Iraqi citizens, Congress called Erik Prince to testify, allowed him to lie under oath, and failed to cancel his millions of dollars in government contracts.  The November 6 revolution seems much more of a failure than what happened in Burma during the past four weeks.

This is what true leadership looks like:

The monks form an unbroken, mile-long column–barefoot, chanting their haunting mantras, clutching pictures of the Buddha, their robes drenched with the late-monsoon rains. They walk briskly, stopping briefly to pray when they reach Sule Pagoda. Then they’re off again, coursing through the city streets in a solid stream of red and orange, like blood vessels giving life to an oxygen-starved body. Their effect on Rangoon’s residents is electrifying. At first, only a few brave onlookers applaud. Others clasp their hands together in respectful prayer or quietly weep. Then, as people grow bolder, the monks are joined by tens of thousands of Burmese, some chanting their own mantra, in English: “Democracy! Democracy!”

So I ask you, where are the crowds of Americans chanting “Democracy! Democracy!” in response to the blatant attempts of the Bush administration to undermine democracy in America?  Where are the crowds in opposition to the war crimes of the Bush administration?  Where are the crowds demanding health care for all?  Where are the marches to restore habeas corpus and judicial oversight over domestic surveillance? 

Andrew Marshall continued his post-mortem on the Burma protests.

The crackdown has worked. There are small, sporadic protests but no marches. The sacred rallying points, the Shwedagon and Sule pagodas, are locked and guarded. Everywhere there are troops arresting and beating people.

As I leave Rangoon for Bangkok, the 2007 democracy uprising feels over. Even the monsoon rains–such a feature of these once joyous protests, with the monks marching shin-deep through flooded streets–have petered out. The sun returns, and a cheerless rainbow arcs across the city. “Peace and stability restored, traveling and marketing back to normal in Yangon,” trumpets The New Light of Myanmar.

And yet, Marshall ends on a hopeful note.

But the Burmese aren’t giving up. Before leaving Rangoon, I met a former political prisoner who was delighted that so many young students had joined the protests. “Some were carrying fighting peacock flags, just like in ’88,” he said. “The message has clearly got through to the next generation.” The ’07 Generation–monks and laypeople alike–may yet rise again.

Time interviewed Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite Buddhist spiritual leaders, about the events in Burma.

He said the Burmese monks had “done their job. It is already a success because if monks are imprisoned or have died, they have offered their spiritual leadership. And it is up to the people in Burma and the world to continue.” Pressed on the question of martyrdom, he replied: “We nourish the awareness that monks are being persecuted and continue to suffer in order to support the people in Burma for the sake of democracy.”

I am left to wonder where are our political and spiritual leaders.  “We do not have the votes” is a pathetic mantra.

Howard Kurtz Has a Blog

Clive James once decribed a particular best-selling bodice-ripper as like “a long conversation between two not very bright drunks”.  Howard Kurtz’s blog, in which he promotes his promotional tour for his book Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War (don’t worry, he doesn’t mean Iraq), is like a short conversation between a especially dumb goldfish and a piece of fake seaweed. 

I would much, much rather read Redstate.  I would rather stare at a pile of sand.

At the Harper’s Magazine website, Scott Horton described Kurtz as “one of the dumbest figures in print or on the airwaves”.  After reading Kurtz’s blog, I’m inclined to add “or in an oxygon-rich aptmosphere” to the list.

This must be seen to be believed. 

Saturday, October 20, 2007:

Wet and Wild

One of my favorite radio interviews was last night’s hour long chat with Jim Bohannon, who’s been holding down Larry King’s old late-night radio spot for more than two decades. Unfortunately, getting there was another story. There was a driving rainstorm that, by the time I parked a few blocks away in downtown D.C., had become a monsoon. As the minutes ticked away, I had no choice but to make a break for it, armed only with a flimsy umbrella. I was utterly drenched — my jeans were soaked through — when I stumbled into the CBS bureau. Fortunately it was radio, so nobody noticed.

Posted by Howard at 8:32 PM 0 comments

Did you want to read that?

“Wet and Wild”.  “Fortunately it was radio, so nobody noticed.”  Kill me.  Just kill me. 

October 13, 2007, from a post titled “Film at 11”: “Thanks to the magic of the Internet, my Daily Show appearance is up. (Just click on my face.)”  October 9, 2007 (“Moving on Up”), “Okay, I admit I’m checking Amazon every few hours.”

I have been reading Kurtz’s prose for all of 2 minutes and I want to punch him.

Nothing like a live audience to get your adrenaline flowing (plus the hired hands whip up applause before each segment). Jon didn’t say whether he liked the little picture of him on the back cover.

After a while on the book tour, Kurtz, the long-time media critic for the Washington Post, discovered that conservatives tend to view TV coverage of the war in Iraq as too liberal, while liberals view it as too conservative. 

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Message

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=propecia-sale I’ve done so many book interviews that I can now anticipate every question. I know when they’res going to ask why Katie’s ratings have tanked. I know when they’re going to ask how Charlie got to be No. 1. I know when the question about Dan suing CBS is coming. Toward the end they always ask whether network news will survive. see When I talk about war coverage, the conservatives ask whether the anchors have an antiwar agenda, and the liberals ask why they didn’t stand up to the administration during the rush to war. I’ve got it down to a science.

Posted by Howard at 11:04 PM 4 comments

What was Kurtz doing as media critic for the Washington Post all this time, that he didn’t already know that?  Or is it that he is so afraid of saying something original that he’d rather make himself look like a fool on his own blog?  Or is he just a fool?

Curious, I clicked on Kurtz’s kind link to an excerpt of his book at the Washington Post.

For [Brian] Williams, it all went back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a citizen, he thought on that fateful day, thank God that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were on the team. How together we all seemed. There was something about the murderous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that, in the eyes of the White House press corps, gave Bush a stature that could not be violated. And that was no accident. The administration’s deft use of 9/11 against its critics had created an impenetrable shield. It was political magic.

“There was something about the murderous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon”.  Is Kurtz nuts?  Does Brian Williams appreciate having his thoughts and feelings filtered through the narration of this muppet?  More from the book:

Every day, Williams asked the question: Did Baghdad correspondent Richard Engel have any news other than another 20 Iraqi civilians killed when an IED detonated, leaving the same smoking carcasses and pathetic scenes of loved ones crying? That, Williams felt, was the problem: The horrible had become utterly commonplace. To most Americans, he believed, the war could not be more ephemeral. It was half a world away, and it required no sacrifice by those who did not have a family member in the armed forces.

It is not likely that Williams asked “the question” after the colon, the one about 20 civilians and Richard Engle,  “every day”.  What is likely: Kurtz needs an editor to take care of: colon overuse.

Recently, Digby posted a critique of Kurtz and Kurtz shot back.  Digby chronicles the event here and gets some backup from Glenn Greenwald here.  Good for Digby and Greenwald for keeping on Kurtz.  But Kurtz, it is clear, is a powder-puff, not fit to shine their shoes. 

The sad thing is that Digby and Greenwald are presences only on the internet, while Kurtz slums there, in between his vapid, brain-dead appearances on TV and radio.

October 10, 2007:

More Kurtz TV

The series hasn’t been canceled yet! I’ve been pumping REALITY SHOW around the clock. Survived GMA and Chris Cuomo, Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, and Bill O’Reilly’s No Spin Zone. On tap Thursday: CNN’s American Morning at 8:30, Keith Olbermann in the 8 pm hour, and at 11, I try to liven up the always-serious Jon Stewart. And I’m playing Hardball with Chris Matthews on Friday. Plus I have to talk to all these radio people and print reporters!

Sweet Jesus.

Everything but the Oceans’ Sinks

(We have only one planet! @ 2pm – promoted by buhdydharma )

Cross-posted from The Environmentalist

Amidst alarms raised about the loss of ice in the polar regions, the extreme droughts across the US, the floods in the UK earlier this year, the increasingly unstable nature of the weather worldwide, a new concern has been raised about the Southern Oceans’ inability to absorb and store CO2:

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is so loaded with carbon dioxide that it can barely absorb any more, so more of the gas will stay in the atmosphere to warm up the planet, scientists reported on Thursday.

Human activity is the main culprit, said researcher Corinne Le Quere, who called the finding very alarming. The phenomenon wasn’t expected to be apparent for decades, Le Quere said in a telephone interview from the University of East Anglia in Britain. “We thought we would be able to detect these only the second half of this century, say 2050 or so,” she said. But data from 1981 through 2004 show the sink is already full of carbon dioxide.

more below the jump…

This is very alarming. The southern ocean is the world’s strongest carbon sink, a “reservoir that absorbs and stores more carbon than they release, thereby offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.” If the sink has been filled, as seems to be the case, that carbon has no where to go but to the atmosphere, as our other sinks: the forests, the land, the rest of the oceans, are all stressed by loss of habitat, increased warming and their own carbon levels. Which means a speed-up of warming at a far faster rate than had been previously predicted.

This increase in the Southern Ocean has been attributed to a change in wind patterns caused by the following climate forcings:

1. viagra generico 200 mg prezzo a Venezia Ozone depletion. The reduction of ozone has changed the temperature and increased wind patterns in the Southern Hemisphere. As these winds flow across the oceans they pull natural CO2 to the surface. This is a problem because natural CO2 does not bind easily with human caused carbon. The balance had been maintained through past wind patterns, which had helped to combin the two types of carbon. With the increased winds and level of stored carbon, that natural mixture has been disrupted.

2. Hemispheric Temperature Differential. The increasing differential in temperature between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. The warming North pulls winds from the cooler South, thereby impacting CO2, as described in number 1 above.

“Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the world’s oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the 500 gigatons (500 billion tons) of carbon emitted into the atmosphere by humans,” Chris Rapley of the British Antarctic Survey said. “The possibility that in a warmer world the Southern Ocean — the strongest ocean sink — is weakening is a cause for concern.”

According to the measurements gathered by the University of East Anglia’s researchers, the concern is all too real.

Sully: Still Defending Racism

Whenever folks try to rehabilitate Andrew Sullivan, he is quick to remind us why he is so detestable.

As for the “science” of the Bell Curve, see this:

''The Bell Curve'' inflamed readers when it was published three years ago by arguing that economic and social success in America had become largely a matter of genes, not education, environment or other factors over which society might exert control. The chilling genes-are-destiny thesis, laced with racial overtones, was greeted with furious criticism. But much of the initial criticism was ill informed and driven by ideology.

It could hardly have been otherwise. The book's authors, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, did not release their statistical findings — the only important original contributions in the book — for formal review by scholars before publication. Their runaround obstructed response by other social scientists, who needed time to appraise hundreds of pages of statistical analysis. Now, three years later, scholars have caught up, shattering the book's core claims.

. . . [T]he book's evidence is riddled with mistakes. Two stand out.

The first error flows from biased statistics. The book tries to determine whether I.Q. or family background is a better predictor of success. I.Q. is easily measured. But family background is not. The authors' simplistic index incorporates parental income, education and job prestige, but leaves out numerous components of a child's upbringing.

That creates a statistical mirage, or bias, because statistical tests inevitably underestimate the impact of factors that are hard to measure. Mistakes in measuring family background obliterate the ability of statisticians to detect its impact on future success. Thus, as James Heckman of the University of Chicago has convincingly argued, the book's finding that family background is a weak precursor of success reflects its biased methods rather than the workings of American society.

Also compelling is evidence about the second notable error — that the authors' measure of intelligence is by no means immutable, as their thesis requires. Prof. Derek Neal of the University of Chicago and Prof. William Johnson of the University of Virginia have shown that scores on the measurement used by Mr. Herrnstein and Mr. Murray, the Armed Forces Qualification Test, depend on how much schooling individuals have completed. Put simply, the more students study in school, the better they do on the test. So what the authors call immutable intelligence turns out to be what others call skills — indeed, teachable skills.

This mistake turns the message of the book on its head. Instead of its sighing surrender to supposed genetic destiny for poor children, there's a corrected message: Teach them.

Andrew Sullivan remains a shameful figure in our public discourse.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

The Byrds


Turn, Turn, Turn

Yesterday I posted Creeque Alley to a Pony Party.  Today is expansion of the theme.  The Mamas and Papas, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and the Byrds…brothers and sisters, a loving band of birds of a feather.


Mr. Tambourine Man


Feel a Whole Lot Better


Eight Miles High

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Mamas and Papas


Dedicated to the One I Love

Yesterday I posted Creeque Alley to a Pony Party.  Today is expansion of the theme.


California Dreaming


Monday, Monday


I Saw Her Again

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

Docudharma Times Sunday Oct. 21

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Tighter Border Delays Re-entry by U.S. Citizens

By JULIA PRESTON

Published: October 21, 2007

The increased enforcement is in part a dress rehearsal for new rules, scheduled to take effect in January, that will require Americans to show a passport or other proof of citizenship to enter the United States. The requirements were approved by Congress as part of antiterrorism legislation in 2004.


Border officials said agents along the southern border were asking more returning United States citizens to show a photo identity document. At the same time, agents are increasing the frequency of what they call queries, where they check a traveler’s information against law enforcement, immigration and antiterror databases.

EL PASO – United States border agents have stepped up scrutiny of Americans returning home from Mexico, slowing commerce and creating delays at border crossings not seen since the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The increased enforcement is in part a dress rehearsal for new rules, scheduled to take effect in January, that will require Americans to show a passport or other proof of citizenship to enter the United States. The requirements were approved by Congress as part of antiterrorism legislation in 2004.


Border officials said agents along the southern border were asking more returning United States citizens to show a photo identity document. At the same time, agents are increasing the frequency of what they call queries, where they check a traveler’s information against law enforcement, immigration and antiterror databases.

Energy Traders Avoid Scrutiny

As Commodities Market Grows, Oversight Is Slight


By David Cho

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, October 21, 2007; Page A01


One year ago, a 32-year-old trader at a giant hedge fund named Amaranth held huge sway over the price the country paid for natural gas. Trading on unregulated commodity exchanges, he made risky bets that led to the fund’s collapse — and, according to a congressional investigation, higher gas bills for homeowners.


But as another winter approaches, lawmakers and federal regulators have yet to set up a system to prevent another big fund from cornering a vital commodity market. Called by some insiders the Wild West of Wall Street, commodity trading is a world where many goods that are key to national security or public consumption, such as oil, pork bellies or uranium, are traded with almost no oversight.

Republicans against war face uphill races

By Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 21, 2007

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. — The Crystal Coast Republican Men’s Club faithful were all smiles as they gathered at a restaurant to listen to their candidate for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.


But the warm reception wasn’t for the Republican who since 1995 has represented this stretch of coast from the Virginia state line to the sprawling Marine base at Camp Lejeune. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., a soft-spoken, deeply religious man who two years ago turned against the Iraq war, was not there.


The GOP activists dining on fried fish were cheering Joe McLaughlin, a county commissioner and retired Army major who has launched a hard-charging bid to dispatch Jones in next year’s primary by highlighting Jones’ votes against the war.


“His is a message of despair, a message of defeat,” McLaughlin told the appreciative crowd as he derided Jones, accusing him of abandoning the troops, President Bush, even talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

Sexual misconduct plagues U.S. schools

AP finds 2,500 teachers punished in 5 years


By MARTHA IRVINE AND ROBERT TANNER

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


(EDITOR’S NOTE — Sensational cases make headlines, but the scale of sexual misconduct by teachers in America’s schools gets little attention. The Associated Press has spent months digging through public records to document the problem in every state, revealing a disturbing national picture. This story is the first in a three-day series on an overlooked blight on our education system.)

The young teacher hung his head, avoiding eye contact. Yes, he had touched a fifth-grader’s breast during recess. “I guess it was just lust of the flesh,” he told his boss.


That got Gary C. Lindsey fired from his first teaching job in Oelwein, Iowa. But it didn’t end his career. He taught for decades in Illinois and Iowa, fending off at least a half-dozen more abuse accusations.


go here Asia

Zeng Qinghong Leaves China Communist Party Leadership


By Allen T. Cheng and Dune Lawrence


Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — Three top Chinese Communist Party officials including Vice President Zeng Qinghong stepped down, clearing the way for President Hu Jintao to install younger leaders on China’s ruling council.


Zeng, 68, wasn’t included in a list of the party’s 200-plus Central Committee, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, meaning he can’t be chosen for its ruling Politburo Standing Committee. Two other members of that group, Wu Guanzheng and Luo Gan also weren’t on the list.


Hu, 64, is reshuffling his team to tackle social unrest caused by corruption and pollution in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. While his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping opened up the country and powered growth, Hu has stressed creating a “harmonious society” to spread the benefits and maintain public support.

NKorea warns South over naval movements

SEOUL (AFP) – Pyongyang Sunday accused South Korea of “provocation”, claiming its neighbour’s navy had intentionally strayed into the North’s waters and warning against it happening again.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said South Korea sent 50 navy ships and boats deep into disputed Northern waters last week, with as many as 30 coming in on Thursday alone.


“The (North Korean) Navy will never remain an onlooker to the South Korean naval warships’ reckless military provocations as intruding into the inviolable territorial waters of the North side,” KCNA said.

Tokyo soccer robots don’t quite have Becks appeal

TOKYO (Reuters) – David Beckham doesn’t have anything to fear from robot players — for now.

ADVERTISEMENT


At an indoor field in Tokyo, dozens of robots played soccer while others danced to samba music to cheer them on.

For the contestants, most of the movements were, well, mechanical and even a little clumsy — far from the acrobatic grace of premier-league soccer stars.


Several small humanoid robots taking part in “Robot Athletic Meet 2007” toppled over as they collided on the indoor field, their every move buzzing with the sound of their motors.


follow url Middle East

Report: 9 Turkish soldiers killed

ANKARA, Turkey – Separatist Kurdish rebels attacked a military unit near Turkey’s border with Iraq and Iran on Sunday, killing nine Turkish soldiers, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

The attack came four days after Turkey’s Parliament passed a motion allowing its military to launch an offensive into neighboring northern Iraq to stamp out the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, hiding there.


The rebels attacked the military unit, based near the Turkish town of Yuksekova, in Hakkari province, with heavy machinery, Anatolia said. Several soldiers were also injured in the violence.

Guards ‘undermine’ US Iraq aims

The activities of security contractors are “in conflict” with the US military’s mission in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said.


But he acknowledged that the US could not manage without contractors, except by diverting thousands of troops.


On Thursday, three Iraqis were injured when guards from a UK company fired into a taxi in Kirkuk in northern Iraq.


Security firms are under scrutiny after 17 Iraqis died in a clash involving guards from the US firm Blackwater.


source Europe

Poles start voting in early parliamentary election

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poles began voting on Sunday in a snap parliamentary election that could cost the conservative ruling Kaczynski twins their full grip on government in the European Union’s biggest former communist country

Opinion polls suggest a centre-right opposition party might do best in the vote, with plans to speed up economic reform, pull troops out of Iraq and rebuild relations with EU allies that have suffered under the strongly nationalist brothers.


But the race could still be close.


Polls before campaigning ended on Friday put the opposition Civic Platform between 4 and 17 points ahead of the conservative ruling Law and Justice Party. They gave the opposition party up to 47 percent support.


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Ethiopian rebels claim killing 140 government troops

NAIROBI (AFP) – Ethiopian rebels on Sunday claimed they had killed at least 140 government troops in an attack in the Ogaden region, where the army is carrying out a crackdown.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said in a statement that almost 1,000 of its fighters attacked Ethiopian troops near Wardheer early Saturday, killing more than 140 troops, with “many more wounded”.


Wardheer is about 650 kilometers (400 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa.

Muslim pop stars unite for Darfur

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend a charity concert in London to raise money for war-torn Darfur.


The event on Sunday at Wembley Arena will highlight the crisis in the Sudanese region and feature some of the Muslim world’s biggest stars.


Among them is Sami Yusuf – dubbed the Islamic Bono – and Texan country and western singer Kareem Salama.

So, does this political document get me banned at DKos?

The full quote, sans links, from a current Presidential candidate goes (my formatting of text):

I am introducing a comprehensive piece of legislation to restore the American Constitution and to restore the liberties that have been sadly eroded over the past several years.

This legislation seeks to restore the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers to prevent abuse of Americans by their government. This proposed legislation would

• repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and
• re-establish the traditional practice that military commissions may be used to try war crimes in places of active hostility where a rapid trial is necessary to preserve evidence or prevent chaos.

It continues:

• The legislation clarifies that no information shall be admitted as evidence if it is obtained from the defendant through the use of torture or coercion.
• It codifies the FISA process as the means by which foreign intelligence may be obtained and
• it gives members of the Senate and the House of Representatives standing in court to challenge presidential signing statements that declares the president’s intent to disregard certain aspects of a law passed in the US Congress.
• It prohibits kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of prisoners to foreign countries on the president’s unilateral determination that the suspect is an enemy combatant.
• It defends the first amendment by clarifying that journalists are not to be prevented from publishing information received from the legislative or executive branch unless such publication would cause immediate, direct, and irreparable harm to the United States .

Finally,
• the legislation would prohibit the use of secret evidence to designate an individual or organization with a United States presence to be a foreign terrorist or foreign terrorist organization.

I invite my colleagues to join my efforts to restore the US Constitution by enacting the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007.

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114

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Iglesia …………Episode 3

Last weeks episode

She palmed the Bio-Scan at the entrance to her Burbclave (she had heard the term was invented by a sci-fi writer way back in the 20th) and they rolled through the gate. Half an hour ago they were in inner city Philadelphia, now they were in a whole other world. Sure it was the cheapest clave around, and built on land of questionable toxic lethality, but it was what she and Paul could afford. Even though she still found it mystifying how the designers thought that making a replica of a London neighborhood in the 1930’s…..just before it got bombed into smoking rubble by Hitler, was a good marketing idea. What with the current state of the world as it was. But it was nice, in  a sort of gruesome way. Plastic brick house fronts that looked almost real, with stoops and plastic street lamps, cobblestones and neatly trimmed green hedges behind black faux cast iron fences, window boxes and London mail boxes and piped in birdsong and all.

As she huled her bags out of the van in front of her house and waved goodbye to Frank, the recorded bird song set her off again and she remembered the last home owners meeting she had gone to a couple of years ago. The one where they had debated for two hours on exactly what sort of birds to have cloned to sing for them. Until someone pointed out that the birds would just fly away and they settled on a recording.

She sighed and palmed the lock on her plastic front door.

Heading down the hall to the wall safe, dragging her bags , she thought about dinner, what they would deem to show her on ‘the news,’ and tried to remember what time Paul’s schedule would bring him home from the research hospital tonight. As she packed her hand gun, her machine pistol, her stun grenades, her tazer, her lock shot, her baton, her hide-out gun, her hide-out knife, her pepper spray, her brass knucks and her handcuffs into the wall safe, she decided on ‘chicken’….and booze… for dinner.

She pulled the tab on her chicken product dinner to heat it and went to the living room to turn on the wall. And she made herself a very tall drink. She retrieved her dinner and the big bottle of Tabasco….thank God for Tabasco, even if it was made in Canada now….and settled in to watch the 25 minutes of celebrity gossip and the five minutes of ‘world events coverage’ that constituted the ‘news’ these days. She finished her drink and dinner …..and promptly fell asleep.

One of the things she hated about being a cop: when Paul wakened her as he opened the front door hours later, her hand was instinctively rooting on her hip for her gun. She let out her breath in a puff. She got up and hugged him, he smelled like hospital, and looked in his tired, tired eyes and realized she wasn’t going to get any tonight. So she just snuggled in hard and didn’t let go.

And then he grabbed her ass….

.


(To be continued on Tuesday!)

Plot? We Don’t Need No Stinking Plot…Or Do We? (Run Up to NaNoWriMo)

Aiseirigh is the Name of the Ship. One of its various meanings is Awakening.

According to the Iron Oak community, it is also “a dramatic and surrealistic portrayal of death and reincarnation. It is a statement that the cycle of life includes death and from death there is again life.

Dramatic? Cycle of life? Going from static space to dynamic space and on to static space?

Where’ve I heard that stuff before?

Oh right…plot, conflict, dramatic action. Those are yet more items that need to be included in our writer’s tool boxes as we continue to move day by day…step by step…slowly we turn whoops…shifted into Three Stooges mode for a second there.

Did someone say “Niagra Falls!!!”???? Okay…maybe not.

But anyhow…plot and conflict are two things that keep the novel hopping, the characters moving, the writer writing. Oftentimes we want to know how the story turns out as much as the future reader. It’s fascinating to watch the story unfold as to how the protagonist gets herself out of that sketchy situation the antagonist cunningly manipulated her into only to watch her turn the tables on the antagonist in a manner befitting some of the best ingénues to ever walk across that stage known as the Mind’s Eye.

If it weren’t for plot and conflict points (a.k.a. complications, more complications, and “oh my god…did you see what he just did?”) such as the Comte de Rochefort’s laughter and snark, d’Artagnan would just be riding that old yellow horse to Paris…and he’d never have gotten into that one sided fight with the good comte, which in turn caused him to lose the very letter that would gain him immediate entry into the Musketeers. Hell if it weren’t for the comte, d’Artagnan would never have run into Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, thereby guaranteeing three different duels for one afternoon…

And so the story goes…on and on…with regular plot points, conflict, and bits of dramatic action that make life very very interesting for the young man from Gascony.

If it weren’t for the plot points, you’d have a young man and his horse…meandering along…doing a whole lotta nothing instead of this.

And if it weren’t for the various and sundry plot points, complications, and bits of character movement in search of their particular desires, Mr. Smith would never have made it to the Senate where he stood and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked until the Kid Army piled in with their bags and bags of letters in support of Jefferson Smith and his goals thereby causing the Graft riddled bad guys to just plain give up in defeat.

Here are a few links that might help you when it comes to plot development and conflict:
Conflict in Fiction
Creating Conflict & Sustaining Suspense
What is Conflict?
The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot
On Plot
Plot: The Fiction Writer’s Itinerary

Here’s one that I thought covered a whole lot of really helpful stuff:
Elements of a Novel

Previous diaries are here:
Character
Setting

11 more days til the start of NaNoWriMo

X-Posted over yonder.

Did I just feed somebody?

How many grains of rice is a meal, does anyone know? Thanks to Crashing Vor in the Dkos OT for linking to this site,  FreeRice.com 

It is a vocabulary thing, multiple choice, and for every word you get right, they’ll donate 10 grains of rice to an international aid agency.  If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word. It is no gimme! I got five or six wrong on the way to donating 500 grains….is that a meal?

Fun stuff!

Free! Gratuitous but cool videos below!


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How We Should Understand the Relative Calm in Iraq

(LC, as good as always!…@10 – promoted by buhdydharma )

One of the saddest things about US political discourse is that both ends of the political spectrum have been afraid of Iraqis actually securing a peace for themselves in their country.  The right has been afraid — correctly — that the current outbreak of peace might merely show the American people that we are not needed there.  But the left has been afraid, too: afraid that calm in Iraq automatically equates to a victory for the Republicans; a technical knock-out for Bush and “the surge”.  But the left only thinks this because the left is convinced of the overpowering ability of the right to shape narrative. 

The truth is that the right-wing in the US doesn’t have a clue why Iraq has entered a period of relative calm.  They want to credit, in some vague way, “the surge”, but at the same time they are wary of doing so, for fear that Democrats will then start saying, “Hey, we succeeded, let’s go home.”

But none of that is correct.  In what follows I discuss the recent calm, the reasons for it, so far as they are understood, and what we on the left should be saying about it.

This essay has four parts.

(Part One) Violence is Down in Iraq.

Recent reports from unembedded, non-mouthpiece journalists in Iraq indicate the violence is significantly down.

(Part Two) The Reasons Violence is Down in Iraq.

An explanation of Muqtada al-Sadr’s reconciliation with the SIIC.  A reminder about the “Anbar Awakening”.

(Part Three) The Problem for the American Right Wing.

Should the Bush Administration take credit for developments they had nothing to do with and probably don’t want anyway?

(Part Four) What Democrats Should be Doing.

Pointing out that peace in Iraq happens, when it happens, however tenuously it happens, despite, not because of, our presence there.

________________________________

(Part One) Violence is Down in Iraq.

Iraq has seen a reduction in violence over the past couple of months.  This is evidenced, not by reports from U.S. generals, but by reports from non-mouthpiece journalists in Iraq.  On Oct. 7 Leila Fadel, Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy news service, filed a genuinely remarkable report about a journey of hers, by car, from Baghdad to the Jordanian border, to begin a month’s leave.  She was the first unembedded reporter to attempt the trip in years. 

Fadel wrote:

Not once in the seven hours that it took to travel the 360 miles or so was there a threatening moment. The concrete barriers that used to block traffic along the road at al Haswa and then later at al Rutba – so insurgents and bandits could assault cars more easily – had been shoved into the median. Traffic flowed quickly and smoothly.

Jay Price and Qasim Zein, also with McClatchy, reported on Oct. 16 that at Iraq’s largest cemetary, business has been slow for the gravediggers.  In a piece predictably and necessarily misconstrued by the American right (a point I’ll return to) Price and Zein wrote:

A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.

Few people have a better sense of the death rate in Iraq.

“I always think of the increasing and decreasing of the dead,” said Sameer Shaaban, 23, one of more than 100 workers who specialize in ceremonially washing the corpses. “People want more and more money, and I am one of them, but most of the workers in this field don’t talk frankly, because they wish for more coffins, to earn more and more.”

Dhurgham Majed al Malik, 48, whose family has arranged burial services for generations, said that this spring, private cars and taxis with caskets lashed to their roofs arrived at a rate of 6,500 a month. Now it’s 4,000 or less, he said.

And the Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung at Washington Post report that car bombings are down:

There is widespread agreement that AQI has suffered major blows over the past three months. Among the indicators cited is a sharp drop in suicide bombings, the group’s signature attack, from more than 60 in January to around 30 a month since July. Captures and interrogations of AQI leaders over the summer had what a senior military intelligence official called a “cascade effect,” leading to other killings and captures. The flow of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq has also diminished, although officials are unsure of the reason and are concerned that the broader al-Qaeda network may be diverting new recruits to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

So violence is down in Iraq.

_______________________________

(Part Two) The Reasons Violence is Down in Iraq.

There are, apparently, three.  First, Muqtada al-Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite leaders of the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, respectively, have agreed to stop shooting at each other.  Second, Sunnis in Anbar Province decided last year to stop shooting at the US occupation forces and start shooting at people who, for reasons of expediency, are collectively labeled “al Qaeda in Iraq”.  Third, fewer foreign fighters are pouring across the Syrian border, for reasons which leave US officals stumped.

(Notice anything in the above about the Iraqi Security Forces?  Me neither.  President Bush has forgotten about “as they stand up we will stand down”, causing Administration mouthpieces on the Tee Vee to forget about it, too.)

First, al-Sadr and al-Hakim.  In a recent, amazingly helpful, column in the Asia Times, Sami Moubayed explains why the two Shiite leaders have agreed to stop shooting at each other.  Four reasons:

1) . . . It seemed like tension was snowballing between both parties and would lead to a Shi’ite civil war – a war that Sadr would lose due to Hakim’s alliance with the Iraqi government, the United States, and Iran.

That is probably why Sadr decided to step out of the battle with maximum face-saving in front of his supporters. Rather than engage in war with Hakim – and lose – he now boasts of having taken a “wise decision” to prevent the shedding of Shi’ite blood. Instead of playing the victim, Sadr actually is now playing the victor. He claimed that his decision to reconcile with Hakim was done with one purpose: “Strengthening the nation”.

Despite great differences in outlook (Sadr wants the US out, Hakim wants them to stay for the time being; Sadr wants a unified Iraq, Hakim wants, or wanted, a federalized Iraq) the two leaders share a common fear of the Sunnis, newly funded and backed by the US.  If the Sunnis wipe out al Qaeda in Iraq while Sadr and Hakim are busy fighting each other, Sadr and Hakim get no credit.  Worse, a strengthened Sunni presence could start fighting Shiites and weaken Shiite control of Iraq.

The political ramifications of the above constitute the second reason:

2) If the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) that is headed by Hakim, collapses, then this spells trouble for the Shi’ites at large. Although Sadr has suspended his membership in the all-Shi’ite parliamentary group, withdrawing his 30 deputies, they remain a natural ally for him in a standoff with the Sunnis. The UIA has already suffered from walk-out of the Fadila Party. It ejected from power, they cannot guarantee a thundering victory, as was the case in 2005. If the UIA is out, then both Hakim and Sadr lose as their successors would be either independent, secular, Sunni, or a combination of all three, and would deny the religiously driven Shi’ites the chance to control government as they have done since 2005. The traditional Arab saying stands: “My brother and I stand against my cousin, while my cousin and I stand against the stranger.” In this case, clearly, the Sunnis are strangers to both Hakim and Sadr.

Next, Hakim, who is stronger than Sadr, is further motivated to join with Sadr because of a recent US Senate resolution, approving of Iraqi partition.  This is embarassingly close to Hakim’s own vision, and he can’t be seen to be in agreement with the hated occupiers.  By siding with Sadr, who is adamantly anti-partition, Hakim saves face.

3) SIIC and Badr have been embarrassed by the Biden-Gelb Plan (approved by the US Senate) for partitioning Iraq. It sounds identical to what they have been calling for since 2004; an autonomous 8-province district for the Shi’ites in southern Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament rejected outright the non-binding resolution on October 3. The UIA, headed by Hakim, immediately seconded the rebuttal. This was not enough, however, for Hakim’s opponents (especially among Sunnis) to come out against him, drawing connections between SIIC’s program and that of the Biden-Gelb Plan. . . .

By allying himself to Sadr – a man famed for his opposition to federalism – Hakim shakes off the nasty image given to him by the Biden-Gelb Plan – that of being a puppet for the United States. While many question Hakim’s relationship with Washington, Sadr is above suspicion in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. An alliance with Sadr at this stage helps polish Hakim’s image, especially on the issue of federalism.

Lastly, Sadr thought Prime Minister al-Maliki would be gone by now.  The US’s bewilderingly staunch, or at least wearily unending, support for the Prime Minister has forced Sadr to recalculate.

4)

Sadr never imagined that US support for Nuri al-Maliki would be this strong and that despite all the security problems Iraq was facing, the White House was refusing to let him go – fearing what alternative would replace him. Sadr expected Maliki to fall within weeks of the Sadrist walk-out. . .

The Mahdi Army has already sent a positive signal to the prime minister by declaring a 6-month truce under which it will refrain from fighting both other militias, Iraqi police, and US troops. Sadr has also personally cracked down on all armed men performing violence in his name. To date, Maliki’s comments on the Sadr-Hakim alliance have been positive and encouraging to the Mahdi Army. He has said that the reconciliation “came at the right time” and showed “a high sense of religious and national responsibility”. He did not single out Hakim to shower with praise, but rather, commended both Shi’ite leaders simultaneously.

Second: The Sunnis in Anbar Province decided last year to stop shooting at US forces and focus their bullets on the other people they want to be rid of, the AQI guys.  President Bush has done his best to take credit for this, but it began before he’d given any thought to it, and in fact his Administration rebuffed inital Sunni overtures and requests for assistance last year. 

The tribal rebellion against al Qaida in Iraq began in September 2006, well before the surge was even contemplated. That’s when tribal leaders, fed up with al Qaida in Iraq’s attacks on moderate Sunnis and its efforts to impose strict Islamic fundamentalism, formed the Anbar Salvation Council to battle the group.

Tribal sheik Fassal Gaoud, a former Anbar governor, told McClatchy Newspapers in June that the tribes previously had asked for U.S. help in attacking the group, but had been rebuffed. By the time U.S. troops began working with the tribes, the battle against al Qaida was well under way. Gaoud, however, was killed in a bombing at the Mansour Melia hotel in central Baghdad in July in the midst of the U.S. surge.

“We did in three months what they couldn’t do in four years,” Ali Hatam Ali al Suleiman, another tribal leader, told McClatchy in June.

The obvious interpretation of this development is to blame is late coming on the presence of US forces.  Sunnis in Anbar had to decide which group they hated least — AQI or the US — and to stop shooting at them, so the Sunnis could get rid of at least one of them.  The Sunnis decided to shoot at AQI.  Bush takes credit.  But he’s taking credit for a decision that his continued occupation quite obviously merely postponed.  If the Sunnis in Anbar had not had two targets, they would have focussed on AQI sooner.

The slowing of foreign fighters across the Syrian border seems not to be understood.  But it is worth pointing out that Abdul-Aziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, the Mufti (expounder of Islamic law) of Saudi Arabia, recently issued a fatwah for young Saudis to stop fighting in other people’s wars.

RIYADH, Oct 2: Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh has warned the Saudi youths against travelling abroad to take part in Jihad since ‘the situation there is troubled, ambiguous and not clear’. He was apparently pointing to increasing number of Saudis reportedly going to Iraq to participate in Jihad.

It’s also worth wondering whether, with oil at record high prices and looking to go higher, the Saudis are getting nervous that they’ve rather overdone it in terms of generating profitable tensions in the Middle East.

____________________________

(Part Three) The Problem for the American Right Wing.

The problem for the American right is two-fold.  First, none of the above has much of anything to do with the US, except that the US seems to have acted as a hinderance to a lot of it.  Nonetheless, some spin must be found that makes this all seem to be the work of General Petraeus and President Bush.  But, second, even that’s bad.  Declaring victory, or even celebrating a reduction in violence, is not something right-wing pundits want to be doing.

Even the US military are scratching their heads over whether they’re supposed to take credit for any of this.  In a by-now famous article in the Washington Post, Ricks and DeYoung describe the political and strategic quandry:

Al-Qaeda In Iraq Reported Crippled
Many Officials, However, Warn Of Its Resilience

By Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 15, 2007; Page A01

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.

But as the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past.

— snip —

Observe how they deal with this article over at FOX:

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: General Petraeus is not declaring victory over Al Qaeda and, I think, the CENTCOM commander is not either, and there are two good reasons why. First, Al Qaeda might stage some sort of catastrophic spectacular and discredit any claims of victory.

And the second thing is that Congress might say OK, if we have defeated Al Qaeda, let’s pull out. And we do not want to do that because there is still work to be done there, not least of which is the fact that the Iranians are still aiding Shiite militias that we still have to suppress.

They don’t know what’s happening, they’re not sure what to say about it, but they’re sure it’s probably bad, and probably Democrats will do something with it.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The idea of declaring victory is, I think, really a very bad one given our history with declarations of victory.

HUME: Or even seeming ones.  [Hume gamely comes to Bush’s defense.]

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the president saying mission accomplished.

HUME: But he didn’t say it. It was on a banner behind him. And, remember, it referred to the Navy and all that. But it seemed to be one.

KRAUTHAMMER [giving up]: It referred to the initial stage of the war, which we assumed at the time was the end of the war, which was deposing Saddam. That was a mission accomplished. But the problem was a second mission arose afterwards, and it was this insurgency.

Krauthammer tries to say that the article shows that the US can beat al Qaeda:

Apart from its influence inside Iraq, it means that Al Qaeda stake a lot on this war, and if they are defeated, it sends a message around the world that the Americans can actually defeat Al Qaeda on foreign territory, difficult to ground, in a sea of opposition, and succeed. And that is an amazing development.

Kristol, trying to be helpful, chimes in that it also shows that the Sunnis in Anbar have sided with us.  A point that would seem to negate Krauthammer’s:

KRISTOL: The other great story, which the administration has not fully exploited, it is that Sunni Arabs turned against Al Qaeda because there were brittle, because they were Taliban-like in their extremism.

But nevermind.  The right is sniffing the new relative calm in Iraq, they don’t like it; they’re afraid it might mean they’ll have to leave Iraq.  They’re trying out different explanations for it; getting pre-emptively hissy with Democrats for exploiting it; they probably just wish it would go away.

_____________________________

(Part Four) What Democrats Should be Doing.

Democrats should be pointing out that sticking around until Iraqis get sick of shooting at us is not “winning”.  Democrats should be pointing out that our troops are, at best, observers over there of events that have nothing much to do with them, and over which they have no control.  At worst, our troops are slowing things down by giving Iraqis too many targets to shoot at, thus delaying their decisions to fight their own internal bad guys.  To the extent that we understand what’s going on at all over there, that seems to be what is happening.

Above all, the left must not be afraid to acknowledge when things take a turn for the better in Iraq.  One of the saddest things about US political discourse is that both ends of the political spectrum have been afraid of Iraqis actually securing a peace for themselves in their country.  The right has been afraid — correctly — that this merely shows we are not needed there.  But the left has been afraid, too: afraid that calm in Iraq automatically means a victory for the Republicans.  But the left only thinks this because the left is convinced of the overpowering ability of the right to shape narrative. 

The truth is that the right-wing in the US doesn’t have a clue why Iraq has entered a period of relative calm.  They want to credit, in some vague way, “the surge”, but at the same time they are wary of doing so, for fear that Democrats will then start saying, “Hey, we succeeded, let’s go home.”

But that’s all wrong.  It’s not that “the surge” and General Petraeus succeeded; it’s that the US was not doing any good in the first place.  Properly understood, the outbreak of calm in Iraq shows that the reasons local people decide to stop shooting at each other is never going to be fully grasped by, or in the control of, an occupying power — of course not.  Local peace has little to do with whatever it is the occupiers are doing this week, except perhaps to give the local people a common, hated enemy. 

We were slowing the Iraqis down.  We still are.  That has not changed.

(Crossposted at The Big Orange.)

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