Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Forecast: Continued Poor Blog Productivity

It's been pretty thin here lately, and I expect that trend to continue. I seem to be suffering from a three-tined pitchfork. First, I seem to have a lot to do at the moment, much of which I'm physically overmatched by; secondly, the crappy weather is poisoning my already-poor attitude; and thirdly, there's the futility of it all: I've already written the few things I have to say too many times now, and it accomplishes little or nothing.

This, too, shall pass, I expect.

For Once, the Bush Administration is Correct

Sen. Carl Levin wants to do some modifyin':
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the Democratic leadership in Congress wants to force Bush to change "a course that is leading to defeat" in the nearly four-year-old war.

"If someone wants to call that tying the hands instead of changing the policy, yeah -- the president needs a check and a balance," said Levin, who voted against the 2002 resolution. "This president hasn't had one."

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said senators are working on a draft of a binding resolution that would replace the 2002 authorization. It would set a March 2008 goal for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops and limit the mission of remaining units to training and supporting Iraqi troops and hunting al Qaeda terrorists.
But former Faux NewsBoy and intellectual colossus of the Bush junta Tony Snow demurs:
The White House said it does not want Congress to micromanage U.S. commanders in Iraq by limiting the 2002 resolution that authorized President Bush to invade that country, as Democratic senators have proposed.

"I've not heard anybody say that they want to amend the resolution so nothing will change," White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday.

"Instead, amending that language seems to be a device by which members of Congress themselves would try to get involved in micromanaging the activities of military officials."
Supposing that a war were actually necessary (which this one isn't), I concede that it's clear that the "running" of such a war by a committee of elected legislators would be a very bad idea. But then, we'd be thinking of a constitutionally declared state of war against a particular nation-state -- such wars as are traditionally terminated by some form of surrender by one of the nation-states involved. We wouldn't be talking about the sort of jackass derby in which criminality and barbaric cruelty vie with stupidity to see who wins, such as the US is currently conducting in the Middle East. The Congress (and I mean both Major Brands, now that some elephants are making antiwar noises) should simply and cleanly and completely cut off all funding for the US military in any and all Mideastern locations on a definite (and close) date: say, 30 days from the date of passage of the cutoff. Instead, they're jockeying for position, against the Bushies and against each other, for favorable positioning in the final blamefest that will follow the US withdrawal (or, to be honest, defeat). Any concern that these people might have for the lives and limbs of either ordinary Iraqis, Afghans, and Iranians or American legionaries is dwarfed by their overriding concern about their own political futures.

May they all be visited by very bad dreams indeed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It Was Just a Mistake, That's All

I'm trying to work up a little sympathy for the Democratic leaders of the Congress. So far, I haven't had much success. They are in a tough corner, but it's a corner into which they painted themselves. Consider the oft-used (most recently by Mrs. Clinton) formulation, "If I had known then what I know now, I would never have voted to turned Bush loose on Iraq." On one level, I'm sure they're being honest. Most people expected Gulf War II to be the same sort of quick and cost-free glory-fest as Gulf War I was. Congressional Democrats certainly wanted to reserve their spots in the Glory Parade, and so -- with one or two honorable exceptions -- they signed on. Now that the thing has gone putridly bad, they're calling it a "mistake:"
After months of heated rhetoric slamming President Bush's Iraq policy, the Senate's top Democrat moved into new terrain by declaring the Iraq war a worse blunder than Vietnam.

"This war is a serious situation. It involves the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"So we should take everything seriously. We find ourselves in a very deep hole and we need to find a way to dig out of it."

Asked whether he considers it a worse blunder than Vietnam, Reid responded, "Yes."

Comparisons to Vietnam are nothing new, but a "worse than" designation from a top lawmaker is.
Ah, yes. A "blunder." A "mistake." Not a protracted war crime -- oh, no! Just a little boo-boo. Everybody makes mistakes, right?

Well, not so fast, says that Republican intellectual resource, Tony Snow:
White House spokesman Tony Snow told CNN he disagrees with Reid's characterization.

"In point of fact, it was important to get Saddam Hussein out of power," Snow told "Late Edition."

"Yeah, the war is tough. But the solution is not to get out. It is to provide the kinds of resources and reinforcements our forces need to get the job done, and at the same time say to the Iraqis, 'You guys gotta step up.'"
I suppose that whether you'd describe the war as "tough" or not would depend on whether you're being killed or maimed thereby, or whether you're a White House Spokesman.

Meanwhile, let's hear from another Democrat:
"I believe it's one of the worst blunders, certainly is," New Mexico's Democratic Governor Bill Richardson told "Late Edition." "And the focus now should be on how we can get our troops out and leave Iraq with a chance for sustainability in the future."

He then added, "But I do agree with that because our obsession with Iraq has cost us enormous amounts of prestige ... around the world. But also the fact that we haven't focused on the real challenges facing this country: international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian issue."

Richardson is considering a presidential run in 2008.
Oh, yes -- I'll bet he is.

Back Again

As you see, I survived another one. I've experienced substantially more post-operative pain this time. Perhaps this is because the surgeon says he did a lot of extra welding and riveting, installed high-strength bolts, etc. Anyway, I got through today without any Rush Limbaugh pills, and am hoping to do the same tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Checking Out Again For a While

Of course, if I don't post for a week, how would anyone know the difference? I fear I've averaged no better than a couple of posts per week for years now. Quality, I suppose, is more important than quantity, but that doesn't matter at this blog, where both are often lacking.

I didn't post about this when it happened, because I wanted to avoid -- for once -- the self-pity trap. However, it's a do-over on my avulsed quad tendon tomorrow. I had a freakishly-improbable accident while in a physical therapy session last week that re-avulsed it ... no remedy other than the same surgery again. In fact, nauseatingly enough, I believe the plan is to cut through the very same scar, the idea of which distresses me about as much as any other part of this -- I'm not sure why. I'm just glad I'll be deep in chemically-powered sleep while they're committing this particular atrocity.

Meanwhile, Mort Chien has left another lengthy comment on the post below, which is well beyond my ability to coherently comment on this evening ... I seem to be a bit preoccupied. Interested persons are invited to go read it. In a few days, I hope to be in a position to respond in some not-too-inadequate way. Mort, I should have let you know: I was originally supposed to get cut up Tuesday, but was rescheduled for tomorrow: game time currently set at 11:45 am. Any prayer you have time for will be appreciated. It's a low-risk procedure, and I'm quite prepared to dutifully cling to life with whatever will I have; however, I noticed last time that when the chemicals put you to sleep, they do so suddenly, completely, and authoritatively. I think a person could easily die in such sleep without being aware of it at all.

Everybody stay warm, now.

Ramblings Here and There

Mort Chien isn't his actual name, just as I'm not really Melville's scrivener. Mort's the nom de keyboard of a man whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for some years now. He left a comment a couple of posts down, which he modestly described as "rambling" but I would have been more inclined to describe as a thoughtful counterpoint to my habitual skepticism about international intervention. The "business" part of the comment:
No problem with "in principle" letting the rest of world go its own way. But where does one draw the line and use force? Not crazy about trusting the millenial nut case who runs Iran. Even less crazy about military engagement. Less still letting the Israelis and Persians go at it - but no way to prevent it if thats what they decide to do.

I guess the real question boils down to what kind of isolationism is best? Will it be better to watch the Japanese and SoKos and Taiwan build their nukes since we may not be regarded as a dependable ally rather than maintain some sort of credible military alliance with them?

Will it be better to let the Sunni and Shia escalate their tensions to nuclear orgasm or, in some as yet unknown way, to attempt to head that off.

Power cannot be made to disappear. Seems that the question should be what is the wisest use of that power. And just what source should be used to obtain that wisdom. Unfortunately that seems to be our lot at this point in history. Someone else will have their turn after us.
Well, it seems to me that the government of a nation-state may legitimately use force to preserve the territorial integrity of that nation-state ... I believe that is the legitimate line to be drawn. I think where the trouble usually starts is the use of military force in the furtherance of "the national interest." The national interest (TNI) seems to me to be an amorphous, ill-defined, slippery abstraction. In a nation-state of the size and diversity of the US, there are many ideas of TNI, some of which are in direct mutual conflict. People who are employed in what is left of the domestic auto industry, for example, would have an idea of TNI with respect to tariffs on imported cars that would not correspond to TNI as seen by people who want to buy cars from among the largest range of competing manufacturers possible. TNI in the Middle East is bound to be seen very differently by Americans who are supporters of CAIR and by Americans who support AIPAC. In many cases, there are potential moral problems associated with advancing TNI by force. If TNI is served by a stable supply of crude oil at $35/barrel, how much better would TNI prosper at $0.35/barrel? Is it morally acceptable to shed blood to make that happen? The domestic safety of Americans is presumably in TNI. What if we could kill every single Muslim? Would we not very substantially decrease the probability of terrorism in the U.S. and thus advance TNI? I pause here to note that I've seen that form of the Final Solution suggested, apparently seriously, online.

"Millennial nutcase" may well be an apt description of the current Iranian strongman. In all honesty, I'm not sure it isn't an equally-apt description of the current Washington, DC strongman. Concerning trusting other nation-states that are possess, or are seeking, nuclear arms: I don't know that "trust" is really the operative concept. For half a century, the US tolerated the possession of a very large arsenal of such weapons, with advanced delivery systems, by various strongmen in the old USSR. Were they "trustworthy?" I don't think so. What we did was to maintain a credible deterrent, and avoided gratuitous provocations, and we muddled through somehow. Not an optimal arrangement, to be sure; but as you say, power can't be made to disappear. It seems to me that the same general approach might serve us well vis a vis the Japanese and various flavors of Koreans and Chinese. I would also advocate that the US announce its decision to withdraw -- say, with six months' notice -- from the various entangling alliances which have US troops perpetually stationed in Japan and Korea and Germany et infinite cetera, in order that the lives of Americans might not be intentionally left hostage to whatever foreign strongmen happen to be the least stable (Korea being, currently, a particularly egregious example).

"Isolationism" is frequently used as a perjorative term -- a smear term, really. But I embrace a kind of isolationism: the isolationism preached (sadly, not always practiced) by Washington and Jefferson. It's the kind of isolationism that features honest commerce with all, and favoritism and alliances with none.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Little Summary Punishment on the Way

More local stuff, I'm afraid. Early this morning, as I pulled my socks on, some local TeeVeeNewsReaders were chirping happily away about this:
Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries is taking a closer look at taser guns.

The sheriff has volunteered to be tased later this month to find out for himself what a person goes through after being shot with the non-lethal alternative to stop a suspect.

According to a news release the sheriff is currently looking for funding options to offset the cost of the devices.
Now, the above is not a transcript from this morning's "news" story as read by our telegenic hair-product models, who made it clear that what Allen County's finest really need in their paws is unlimited doses of sub-lethal lightning bolts.

These things are a terrible, terrible idea. In principle, they might indeed enable a police officer to stop a miscreant who would otherwise be shot with a firearm. Much more likely, they will enable many badge-heavy goons to hand out summary punishment to any who annoy them, with little or nothing in the way of accountability or repercussions to the B-HGs. Instead, the best I can hope for is that Ryan "Jutting Jaw" Elijah, or Mary Collins the Fireproof Blonde, will be the ones who incur the wrath of some Electric Robocop who's having a bad day. It won't happen, but it's kind of a pleasant thought.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Houses Built on Sand

The beat goes on: Imperial supervision continues to prepare the ground for the upcoming assault on Iran. Of course, there are voices raised in opposition. Here is Michael Nolan, writing at the Lew Rockwell site:
The next country in the neocon gunsights is, of course, Iran. That Iran is somehow a nuclear threat to the American people surpasses in bunk and risibility the whopper that Saddam Hussein had something to do with bringing down the Twin Towers. The latter lie (with others) was good enough to start the war in Iraq and it’s a virtual certainty that the former lie will serve to start the war in Iran despite the fact that experts, including those at our own CIA, put Iran several years away from the development of a nuclear weapon. And, as former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski reminded Congress recently, "[t]o argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy." That America needs to attack Iran is a conceit seen sensible by few – save neocons, the White House and opportunists like former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Notice the bad argument that Mr. Nolan uses here: we don't have to attack Iran, because they won't have nukes for years yet, and because they aren't a credible threat to the U.S. Both of these are true, I'm sure. But if they weren't true, would Mr. Nolan then be urging an attack on Iran? His statements imply that America is legitimately entitled to absolute security, and that America (the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in war) has the moral authority to say what people may possess what weapons. Neither of these is true, and it may be that Mr. Nolan does not think them true. But their inclusion, even by implication, weakens his argument. It's as if he tells a child not to dig into Mother's wallet, because it's wrong ... and besides, there's not much money in there anyway.

Then there's the Guardian, leftish and generally antiwar. Timothy Garton Ash writes:
On the available evidence, the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to edge towards a technological position from which it could, should it choose, rapidly move towards 90% uranium enrichment and the production of nuclear weapons. The best analysis we have suggests that Ayatollah Khameini, the supreme leader of the revolutionary regime, has not made a decision to go for nuclear weapons, and it would take a number of years to get there even if he had. But Iran has been doing a number of things that are not explicable simply by a desire to have the civilian nuclear energy to which it is entitled under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The real question is therefore how, without the use of force, you can stop Iran going down this path. This requires pressure as well as incentives. In 2003, when the Islamic Republic felt itself weak, with a low oil price squeezing its budget and (yes) the unsettling spectacle of a US occupation of Iraq next door, it was more ready to negotiate on the nuclear issue. Last year, when it felt itself strong, with a high oil price gorging its budget, President Ahmadinejad riding high on a populist wave, and Iran rather than the US increasingly calling the shots in the politics of Iraq, it turned down the best offer it had received since the last year of the Clinton administration.
True, Mr. Ash's piece argues against the warfare that the War Party -- both its red and blue caucuses -- clearly contemplate. But notice the Western managerialism that oozes from the whole thing, start to finish. There's no question of the U.S. or the U.K. tending to their own affairs, and leaving Middle Easterners to tend to theirs. No, he says, we should make Iran do what we want; but not through bombs and missiles -- oh, no! We can do the same job through bribery and intimidation. Well, what he says may be true ... or maybe not. But where's the principle? Where is the philosophically consistent foundation? Without it, we'll simply repeat our folly, over and over again. We're building houses on sand.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

In Honor of "Super Sunday"

So, today is the day of the great contest. Allrighty, then ... even though George F. Will has been wrongheaded about some things, he does have a way with words, and he wrote something, a few years back, that's highly appropriate to today:
Football is a mistake. It combines the two worst elements of American life: violence and committee meetings.
OK, so much for our modern version of the gladiatorial contests of the arenas. And now, as they used to say on TV, a word from our alternate sponsor, Jesus:
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Same Words, Same Tune

Isn't this strongly reminiscent of 2002?
The US has issued the latest in a series of warnings to Iran, telling Tehran to stop helping Iraqi militants make lethal bombs to attack US troops.
The War Party isn't being particularly subtle about it: in recent weeks, the drumbeat has increased markedly in both tempo and loudness. Our ruling war criminals -- of both nominal parties -- may not be doing absolutely everything they can to produce a suitable "incident" with Iran, but they're doing a lot. Just give 'em a little time ... they'll get the deed done, just as they did five years ago.

... And the Home of the Brave

The guy is mystified:
Twenty-two-year-old Todd Venderlin, a design student at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, saw one of the devices two weeks ago as he left a lounge in south Boston, according to The Boston Globe. He said he was stunned when he saw bomb squads removing them.

"It's so not threatening -- it's a Lite-Brite," he told the newspaper, referring to the children's toy that allows its users to create pictures by placing translucent pegs into an opaque board. "I don't understand how they could be terrified. I would if it was a bunch of circuits blinking, but it wasn't."
I can help him understand it. Proverbs 28, verse 1:
The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
Many, if not most, of us know somewhere deep inside us that those who follow the ways of cruelty and conquest and hubris ultimately reach unpleasant ends. Maybe that's why many of us are so jumpy.