Thursday, June 30, 2005

Truth Extraction: Be Kind to Your Captives

Via Buzzflash, I came upon this article in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, I'm not a subscriber, but I was intrigued by Buzzflash's blurb on the article:

Truth Extraction: A classic text on interrogating enemy captives offers a counterintuitive lesson on the best way to get information. Read this if you can. Find it in print. Basically, it says that "being nice" is a much more effective interrogation technique, something experienced interrogators have always known and the Bush admin ignored. 6/29

Now, fortunately, I did find a blog- the Booman Tribune- with some nice quotes in it too. The money quote:

The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them.

That led me to the US Marines Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association, who probably know a thing or 2 more about this than armchair torture apologists. From their website:

In addition to being illegal, these acts [of torture] are frequently ineffective and counter-productive. The Romans threatened the early Christians with crucifixion, being burned at the stake, or being fed to wild animals in the Coliseum if they did not reject their new religion and embrace the many gods of Roman: Thousands chose death. Joan of Arc was tried before an ecclesiastical tribunal accused of witchcraft and heresy because she claimed to be guided by divine voices. She was told to admit that she heard no such voices or be burned at the stake: She was not dissuaded by death. William Wallace, of Braveheart popularity, was hanged, drawn and quartered because he refused to swear allegiance to King Edward I. The threat of certain and excruciating death was ineffective in dissuading these and their deaths had opposite effects: the slaughter of Christians contributed to the conversion of Rome; Joan of Arc is widely remembered today while few remember the name of the French king she served and who contributed to her demise; and, the death of William Wallace invigorated the Scots to successively eject the English from Scotland.

This is not to say that coercive techniques always fail to influence or prompt some action. These techniques have caused men to do as their abusers wanted them to do or say, and, at times, caused the unintended death of the detainee; for example,

1) "The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."

Napoleon Bonepart (5)

2) Four days after the war started and two days after he was captured, an American lieutenant was heard broadcasting over Seoul radio on behalf of the Democratic People's Republic of [North] Korea. He was followed by others making similar statements and even confessions of using germ warfare weapons. It wasn't long before a journalist explained what was happening to them: "Americans are being brainwashed in Korea." Although these men were not "tortured"--as defined at the time by the U.S. Army: "the application of pain so extreme that it causes a man to faint or lose control of his will"--they were coerced and abused into saying what the Koreans/Chinese wanted them to say. (6)

3) During the Vietnam War, Americans were, in the most profound sense of the word, tortured into making confessions of using bacteriological weapons against the North Vietnamese and other acts considered to be criminal by the world community: statements the Americans knew were false.

4) According to the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, duress, coercion, and violence (threatened or performed) have led innocent Americans to confess to crimes they did not perpetrate. The Project reports that, "33 of the first 123 postconviction DNA exonerations involve false confessions or admissions." (7)

5) On 27 May 2004, The New York Times reported that on 30 August 2003, LTC Alvin B. West, an artillery battalion commander, detained an Iraqi police officer named Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi for interrogation because West believed the officer knew about a "plot to ambush him and his men." West "made a calculated decision to intimidate the Iraqi officer with a show of force . . . [even though he previously] had never conducted or witnessed an interrogation." The Interrogation of Hamoodi, that included hitting him and threatening his life, failed to produce the desired answers. West then fired his pistol next to his head. Hamoodi gave West the names of several men who were purportedly involved in an effort to kill him. One man was picked up and shortly thereafter released; none of the named men were determined to be involved in the so-called plot. Later, "Mr. Hamoodi said that he was not sure what he told the Americans, but that it was meaningless information induced by fear and pain."

6) According to a 12 June 2004 Navy Times story, two Marines, during "motion hearings" held on 28 & 29 June 2004, faced charges in connection with the death of Nagem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old Baath party member who was being held in a makeshift detention center outside Nasiriya. Allegedly, Hatab had been struck and kicked on 4 June 2003 and the following day was lethargic and had defecated on himself. On 6 June, he was found dead...

... I do feel obliged to shine a little light on some alternatives to torturing and/or abusing detainees. For the curious, I invite you to read the basic reference for trained U.S. military intelligence interrogators, FM 2-22.3 (FM 34-52) HUMAN INTELLIGENCE COLLECTOR OPERATIONS. You would also find illuminating the book: The Interrogator: The Story of Hanns Joachim Scharff Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe. This German interrogator purportedly gleaned information from every one of the American and British fighter pilots he interrogated without ever resorting to violence. This is not surprising when you consider: FM 2-22.3 states that direct questioning "works 90 to 95 percent of the time." Even Gen Aussaresses admits in his book, "most of the time I didn't need to resort to torture, but only talk to people." Trained interrogators, of course, know this--the operant words here are, "trained interrogators."

Another precept that is foremost in the mind of a trained interrogator is that: the interrogator does not know what the source knows. Think about it! Isn't that the reason the interrogation is being conducted in the first place? This point has profound implications for those who are untrained and/or inclined to use coercion.

There's more, much more there.

I suspect this is a good policy in general. It helps, of course, if you have the guy in custody from whom you want to get the truth, so I suspect it won't work on Bush or Rumsfeld, until, at least, they have to meet with a prosecutor over something, which doesn't seem likely today.

Here's another link on suggestions on how to interrogate Japanese POWs.

It is fascinating to me just how this differs from what we've seen from the torture cheerleaders.

This is not only common sense, it's ethical, and effective.

How bad can it get?

This diary on Kos is one answer...

Meanwhile...while you're not thinking about Iraq

Salon had a nice piece yesterday on how Fox News is ignoring the Iraq war; random looks at CNN & MSNBC seem to yield similar things: MSNBC seems to have gotten smitten with celebrities, and CNN's gone crime obsessed. Meanwhile:

In a stark message for world leaders who meet in Gleneagles next week to discuss global warming, Wulf Killman, chairman of the UN food and agriculture organisation's climate change group, said the droughts that have devastated crops across Africa, central America and south-east Asia in the past year are part of an emerging pattern.

"Africa is our greatest worry," he said. "Many countries are already in difficulties ... and we see a pattern emerging. Southern Africa is definitely becoming drier and everyone agrees that the climate there is changing. We would expect areas which are already prone to drought to become drier with climate change."

The food and agriculture organisation and the US government, both of which monitor global food shortages, agree that 34 countries are now experiencing droughts and food shortages and others could join them. Up to 30 million people will need assistance because of the droughts and other natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami.

The worst affected countries include Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Eritrea and Zambia, a group of countries where at least 15 million people will go hungry without aid. The situation in Niger, Djibouti and Sudan is reported to be deteriorating rapidly. Many countries have had their worst harvests in more than 10 years and are experiencing their third or fourth severe drought in a few years, the UN said.

Climate change could also trigger the growth of deserts in southern Africa. A report published in Nature today predicts that as greenhouse gases fuel global warming, the dunes of the Kalahari could begin to spread. By 2099, shifting sands could be blowing across huge tracts of Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe and western Zambia. Much of the region was covered by shifting dunes more than 4,000 years ago.

This is a potential catastrophe that makes Iraq under Saddam Hussein look like a purse-snatching by comparison.

Frankly, if you want to talk "genocide" this looks a lot like one brewing.

It's one we can do something about.

I wonder what our response will or won't be.

Jenna Bush: Uncle Sam Wants You!

USA Today reports:

Last fall, Charles Moskos of Northwestern University, a prominent expert on military manpower, asked a group of recruiters what would most help them: tripling bonuses or enlisting presidential daughter Jenna Bush.

The recruiters' choice was unanimous: Jenna Bush.

Seems that the guys on the frontline of the recruitment problems in the military won't use the word itself, but it seems they think the chickenhawks are an impediment to military readiness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Prison ships?


Last Thursday Nowak and three other UN human rights experts said they were opening an inquiry into the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Washington has been holding more than 500 people without trial, and into other such locations.

The United States has neither refused nor granted requests by Nowak's group to visit Guantanamo.

"We have accepted, upon the request of the State Department and
Pentagon, to limit our investigation for now to Guantanamo, but even in accepting this we have not had a positive response" to the request for a visit, Nowak said.

He said that if the "investigation into Guantanamo leads us to other things, we will follow them. We will bring up all these matters to the US government and expect Washington to say officially where these camps are."

The use of prison ships would allow investigators to interrogate people secretly and in international waters out of the reach of US law, British security expert Francis Tusa said.

"This opens the door to very tough interrogations on key prisoners before it even has been revealed that they have been captured," said Tusa, an editor for the British magazine Jane's Intelligence Review.

Nowak said the prison ships would not be "floating Guantanamos" since "they are much smaller, holding less than a dozen detainees."

Tusa said the Americans may also be using their island base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as a site for prisoners.

Now how come they need all this secrecy? Where's Osama bin Laden?


One of the problems of Zen blogging is that - especially when considering political issues- one is often tempted to want to hold strongly opinions, which, if held strongly can keep us from just seeing what is there.

I no doubt have done that a great deal in the creation of this blog, and it's not particularly useful.

Especially in the blogosphere, I suspect it's often better to let those who would profer a belief that is not grounded in reality let their comments speak for themselves- noting of course that there's no reason to let trolls attempt to disrupt discourse.

But that's something I'll try more of in the future.

Though I will admit this: As an example, even if it's inflamatory it is still factually true that some people are being labelled "chickenhawks."
There's reasons for that.

It may be an unpleasant term, but compared to the situation in Iraq, it's not really comparable.

This is what "democracy" in Iraq looks like


Not pretty.

More on the chickenhawks

Despite the lame attempts at defenses against the chickenhawk charge, it's clearly an issue that is sticky for conservatives, and those brave, brave 101st keyboarders.

Max Blumenthal's take-down of the "Young Republicans" is quite stingy:

I chatted for a while with Collin Kelley, a senior at Washington State with a vague resemblance to the studly actor Orlando Bloom. Kelley told me he's "sick and tired of people saying our troops are dying in vain" and added, "This isn't an invasion of Iraq, it's a liberation--as David Horowitz said." When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn't want him to go. "They're old hippies," Kelley said.

Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. "Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality," Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there?

"I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words." ...

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. "We're the big guys," he said. "We're the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit."

Lots of World Newspapers...and how to build a hedge fund with ETFs

No particular reason I'm connecting them. None, really.

The Newseum has it. It is cool (HT: Yeah, Kos).

Bush's speech didn't make the front page of the Asian WSJ, but below the fold is an interesting article on oil supply bottlenecks.

Create your own hedge fund by starting here and here.

Point/Counterpoint on the Real Estate Bubble

This is a relatively old post, but has nice, juicy data on the money supply.

Some interesting factoids:

  • The money supply grew by about 50% in the 1990's, but more than doubled in the 1980s, after tripling in the 70s.

  • But, as the author of that blog notes:

    But between Jan. 2000 and April 2005 (5 years 4 months) the Federal Reserve increased the money supply by a like amount: $3,011 billion.

Clearly the Fed is goosing the money supply but it appears to be an attempt to forestall a huge crash.

Meanwhile, evidently Charles Schwab, as of Q2, was still in denial over the existence of a real estate bubble.

The reasoning in that article is beautifully circular: household net worth is going up because the value of houses are going up, and therefore justify the higher prices of homes people are paying.

And, price/income levels aren't as bad as that in countries where the bubble has already burst.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Airbrushing the truth on Gitmo

Reader cheesehead wanted to know my comments on this article a "first person" account of what somebody witnessed at Gitmo.

Now I saw last night on "Fox News" [sic] another one of these "I was there at Gitmo and look at all the food they got and look at their comfy digs" puff pieces.

Reader cheesehead has pointed to what used to be an exclusively right wing affair: a story would be published in a dubious outlet like "Frontpagemag" and then gets echoed in something like the Washington Times (Moonies), and then echoed in Fox News.

Or the Chicago Sun Times. Bill O'Reilly did the same meme yesterday, too.

Clearly the right has been actively pushing the "Gitmo isn't only not bad, it's cushy for those who cooperate" meme.

My radar always goes off when I see things like this; it's not like there isn't anything there that is overtly false, but what is left out? What does Fox News want in the memory hole? What do conservatives want airbrushed out of our consciousness? What, in the struggle of memory against forgetting needs to be remembered?

Well, let me get to that in a second, so I can issue a disclaimer: look, there are bad guys at Gitmo. This is obvious. Some are al Qaeda. And increasingly, it seems that the military has improved its treatment of even the worst prisoners- away from the idiotic, sadistic, and counterproductive "torture-lite" techniques (geez- these guys want to be martyrs what was Rumsfeld not thinking?) to "cognitive dissonance" - building a relationship. That's good, and will ultimately be far more effective.

BUT there have also been manifestly innocent people at Guantanamo, such as Mamdouh Habib. There have been 13 year old kids at Guantanamo. There has been multiple allegations of torture. Here's the latest.

That's one aspect of the dirt behind the daydream Fox and Horowtiz don't want you to see.

Want more?

How about this: Law enforcement officials say the idiocy of Guantanamo, and the "enemy combatant status" and "rendition" have pretty much screwed up any possiblity of giving any of these really bad terrorists enough due process to ensure that innocent people don't get abused, and that means, of course, that this idiocy is only creating more terrorists.

And all the rosy stories about how "they don't all wear orange jumpsuits" isn't going to change that.

I have one last comment on this spate of articles: I don’t think it’s useful to dispute that at least as of recently, inmates at Guantanamo are being treated better. Why would that be?

Could it be for the same reason that China eases up on dissidents in response to an international outcry?
Could it be that Amnesty International works?
I'd say, yeah, it does.

Wall Street Journal: Lying liars on global warming.

I read the original editorial on June 21, it was quite forceful...but I knew something was wrong. There has to be a reason all those scientists were at odds with them.

And so it is.

(See also the American Prospect's article on this.)

Finally (via Atrios), this act of intimidation against a scientist by a Congressman is simply stunning, and shows why all reasonable people oppose the Bush regime and the Republicans.

As if you needed further evidence.

But Atrios? If you want people to read stuff like that, putting "Bite me" in the title actually doesn't get click throughs, giving a brief explanation does.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Supremes' Rulings....and other news...

  • First, the 10 Commandments: generally OK:

    In a pair of 5-to-4 rulings, the court said the display of the Ten Commandments in a 22-acre park at the Texas State Capitol was proper, but that the displays of the Commandments in two county courthouses in Kentucky were so overtly religious as to be impermissible.

    The rulings, the first by the court in a quarter-century on the emotional issue of the proper place of the Commandments in American life, conveyed the message that disputes over such religious displays must be decided case by case, and that the specific facts are all important.

    Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that at the Texas Capitol in Austin, a six-foot monolith displaying the Commandments was just one of 17 sculptures. "The inclusion of the Commandments monument in this group has a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government, that cannot be said to violate the Establishment Clause," the chief justice wrote.

    Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer sided with the chief justice, with Justice Breyer calling the Texas dispute a difficult borderline case. The dissenters were Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Stevens said there should be "a strong presumption against" displaying religious symbols on public property, and that the Texas display embodied a message that was "quite plain: This state endorses the divine code of the 'Judeo-Christian' God."

    Who can argue with that? Oh, yeah, Rehnquist and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy, on the Kentucky case.

    It's disingenuous to claim a "religious heritage" if that heritage is associated with slavery, the near slavery of coal miners, the impoverishment of widows and orphans, etc. It's basically advocating either the government lie about its past, or simply to glom all this onto a religion whose main focus favors charity, compassion, and kindness.

    And James Dobson: tone it down.

    "The court has failed to decide whether it will stand up for religious freedom of expression, or if it will allow liberal special interests to banish God from the public square," Dr. Dobson said.

    The idea that people would have such power over his deity!

  • Now onto the Grokster case- which I think is quite dangerous.

    "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the court in Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios v. Grokster.

    This is the whole problem with copyright law: it infringes on the free speech of Grokster. Content sharing is the biggest threat to the large content providers, and not simply becaue they can copy such fine works of art as "Ocean's 12" or "Mission Impossible 2."

    No, it's becaue people can make networks that simply disrupt MGM, Time Warner, and other organiztions.

  • Short Google. It's another damned bubble. It's worth more than Time Warner at this valuation, which, despite what I just wrote above, is alwfully silly.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Last Word on Karl Rove for Now

In case you were still wondering yet again about how "liberals" responded to 9/11:

I’ve been working over the last few weeks with family members as they make a memorial visit to Ground Zero. The trips begin at the Family Assistance Center on Dock 94, where death certificates are being issued and other support services can be arranged. The Center is very big and very busy. From there we get on a ferry that goes down river to the World Trade Center site. On the water there are gunboats everywhere you look, and on board there is significant security. The wind blows brisk and the river incongruously glistens, and on the way the clergy and mental health workers make what connections they can with the families, offering support or space as needed. When we arrive at the site, we walk up into the area, and basically bear witness. It smells very bad there. The buildings that are still standing seem normal until you look up and see how parts near the top or on a side have been ripped off. Their jagged edges seem to be gesturing as if caught in mute pain, like a woman raped, walking away trying to look ordinary but with her dress torn, bruises rising. The clergy’s work is to attend to the families, so I turn my attention from the site to them, and we spend fifteen or twenty minutes being there together, offering flowers at the temporary memorial alcove. When it is time for them to take the next step, the next breath, we take it together.

The metaphor of the site visit is so bare it strips words down to the most simple talk, the most primary matter. From the world of business at the dock, where everyone is involved in taking care of the paperwork and assembling the resources to survive, we make this raw journey down the river to the charnel grounds. Arriving, all business stands still. Conversation withers. Placing a hand on the small of a crying woman’s back, it feels like her bones dissolve for a moment, she leans in, slowly her bones reform. I remember the words of Master Hongzhi, “Only silence is the supreme speech. Only illumination is the universal response.” When someone is ready for talk, talk comes. Since there is so obviously nothing to do that is adequate to the pain, all that seems possible is love. We just are that, loving those whose bodies are buried here, each other, the moments when eyes meet, hands touch. Some construct a palpable, fragile crust of solitude around themselves, and though we keep an eye out to make sure they are safe, there is a tacit agreement to let them be alone. (Actually, some of the clergy had to be reminded to let folks alone. At one morning meeting we were told, “Someone overheard one family member saying to another, ‘Whatever you do don’t cry, or the clergy will come…’ So those who don’t know when to back off, learn!”) The flowers and teddy bears left by mourners are piled high and thick, kid-scrawled notes on some, photos and poems on others.

As we leave, there’s a subtle shift in the energy, a change in how the grief is happening. During each return trip, the work of being clergy shifts to protecting the spiritual process of each person on board. Kirstin Bacchus, in her brilliant novel Lives of the Monster Dogs, talks about “the unspoken thing; the space between desire and despair.” In the work on this boat, like the work in the zendo, I find that there’s a chance to enter that space. As each of us in the sangha find our way through practicing this grief and the other emotions that will emerge in some measure in the coming months, it can help to acknowledge and protect that space. I’m talking about the space that doesn’t know, doesn’t know why, doesn’t know what’s next. It doesn’t know bad or good. It is that space relieved of needing something other than what is: relieved of desire. It is the moment that is relieved of the sad predictions: relieved of despair. It just is, and in that, is the only real refuge. Call it “the moment,” yet even that doesn’t clearly indicate its strength and spaciousness. Unspoken, unnamable. Without securing ourselves in any way, we are intimate. Being at zero, if you will. Walking from zero.

More than ever, in past weeks I’ve come to appreciate the basis of zazen, the only refuge among so many false or temporary refuges. Over the last weeks, we’ve had so many false refuges sold to us, and we sell them to one another. We take temporary refuge in probability: it is unlikely statistically that any individual one of us will be harmed or killed. We take temporary refuge in power: we have one of the best-funded, best-trained military in the world, and economic influence that is unparalleled in its capacity to put pressure where pressure is deemed needed. We take refuge in medicine: if we are exposed to a chemical or biological agent, it is likely that we will get treatment, and the survival rates are in our favor. But all these false refuges ultimately fail to reach the bottom of our anxiety, because they don’t sufficiently deal with the issue. The issue, in one sense, is that though we can do our best to secure an outcome, we can’t guarantee it. We can’t know that we will live, or that those we love will live. We can’t know whether we will be well, or whether others will be well. We can’t know: we can medicate ourselves with probabilities, but we can’t cure the disease that way. The only real refuge, the only cure, is “the unspoken thing.” Being this moment. Just that. Zazen is the training to realize that, and Zen practice is the life that it creates. It is the ability to take the step that is here. The bell rings, we bow and practice.

But why go consciously, literally, to where death is? Why end each night of practice with the Evening Gatha? The clear and raw symbolic movement, the intrinsic liturgy of zazen should really be appreciated. The journey of it, to the ground of being, to the expression of being, is the visit to ground zero every moment we enter zazen utterly. The bell rings to signal kinhin, the boat comes into the dock and we unload at the pier. How will we step forward from ourselves? This is the loneliest and most important work of any of our lives, in that no one can really tell us anything but that it is possible. To do it is to live it, and to live it may require feeling things that we’d like to avoid. We can’t predict; we can only practice. Someone asked, “But when I don’t know who I am, where I’m going, what it means, how can I trust enough to breathe, to move one foot forward and begin?” This is so much the heart of any religious inquiry, any awakened human heart. It’s a delicate journey, and it’s difficult to do honestly and in a way that doesn’t add anything extra. In order to do this work, it is helpful to agree ahead of time to forgive ourselves and one another, and to be forgiven for the missteps that we’ll inevitably make. We’ll discern when our clarity fails, when we become in any way compulsively protective of that which can’t be protected. We’ll err, the word will go tin, the connection will go cloudy, and the only thing that saves that is the capacity to take the next breath together, to not let it break the process that we’re in the midst of.

It seems no one can skip grief. One of the problems religious institutions are prone to, according to grief studies, is that when they experience a loss within their congregation, they turn so quickly to the religious teachings of their tradition to secure themselves emotionally, that they may lose the wisdom and honesty of what they’ve experienced together. A pastoral care instructor told the story of a church where someone came in the back door during a service and shot the minister in the head, killing him. After burying the minister, the congregation rallied together and became very fervent in their prayer and song, committed to not being brought down in any way by this tragedy. By the time a replacement minister was assigned and began working with them, they had such repressed fear and anger that it took enormous work to open them up and let them really do what they needed to do: grieve. They were singing loud and steady, but they were fighting among themselves about all sorts of basically trivial things. They needed to trust that their tears and their doubts, the anxiety and anger, could all be part of their prayer. That way it would be honest and real, and they could love each other and their tradition more fully. As Zen students individually and as a sangha, we have our own variations on this desire to skip the grief. We need to be careful not to judge each other’s practice, now particularly. We can respect the wholeness of our practice by letting the tears come when it is their time to come, and the fear, and the anger, and the love. Nothing breaks real practice, if we let everything be practiced. Please take care of your own practice and this community’s by being honest, and respecting one another...

Often I wake in the morning in intense pain. My body makes charley horses, and my nerves and muscles get inflamed easily. I work with what can be worked with, having studied healing and medicine for many years, and can often ease things through chi kung, stretching, diet, warm water, etc. Sometimes, though, nothing relieves the hurting, and there may be times when my coordination and other capacities are less available. Practicing just letting that be has been my greatest teacher. The desire to have it be otherwise can be strong if I let it get going, and creates more pain. The despair over what it means or indicates about my future can get fierce if I let it have much energy. To place my practice in the “space between” and live there saves my life. It is life. To walk from there is to just walk, even if sometimes that walk is a bit gimpy. The confidence I have about the truth of practice comes from having studied with this “teacher” for almost twenty years. Practice is the only refuge. All the rest is just aspirin, and aspirin fades after a couple hours, and never really reaches the pain anyway. Everyone I’ve met in practice has some natural “teacher” like this, whether it’s a crummy childhood, a physical illness, or emotional variability. Many have much more difficult teachers than I do, and some people ignore their teacher altogether for long years.

That lady - with whom I had the good fortune to meet and study Buddhism in my final months in New York- rebuts Karl Rove's demagoguery far more eloquently than I can ever fulminate, with far more beauty and substance.

She was there- the 101st keyboarders are still AWOL.

REAL war crimes?

The Sunday Times not only broke the story of Bush negotiating with terrorists, but also, apparently, a "double super secret air war."

THE American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began.

Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started.

The nine months of allied raids “laid the foundations” for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.

Moseley’s remarks have emerged after reports in The Sunday Times that showed an increase in allied bombing in southern Iraq was described in leaked minutes of a meeting of the war cabinet as “spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime”.

Moseley told the briefing at Nellis airbase in Nebraska on July 17, 2003, that the raids took place under cover of patrols of the southern no-fly zone; their purpose was ostensibly to protect the ethnic minorities.

A leaked memo previously disclosed by The Sunday Times, detailing a meeting chaired by the prime minister and attended by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Geoff Hoon, the then defence secretary, and Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of defence staff, indicated that the US was carrying out the bombing.

But Moseley’s remarks, and figures for the amount of bombs dropped in southern Iraq during 2002, indicate that the RAF was taking as large a part in the bombing as American aircraft.

Well, that's an interesting kettle of fish, ain't it?

Apparently, - I wonder how many people we killed in stunts like that- the insurgents might, just might, have a just cause for their insurgency: they may be defending their country against an aggressor.

Bush of course, in his negotiations with the terrorists, ar, um, err...isn't he giving aid and comfort to the enemy? Isn't he just encouraging them to hold on?

And why should the insurgents not hold out for bringing Bush to justice?

I would.

Articles that should be read together:

The feel good editorial from the NY Times on China's bid for Unocal..."No matter how big and powerful China becomes, it is no match for the United States when this country is at its best."

And, this series of articles on the coming trade war from Asia Times...

Republicans and conservatives are not going to be looked on appreciatively by history.

Bush's Vietnam

In trying to appear reasonable and "balanced" the NY Times Week in Reivew surreptitiously slips in a few facts:

If democracy plants itself in Iraq and spreads throughout the Middle East, Bush will be remembered as a plain-speaking visionary. If Iraq fails, it will be his Vietnam, and nothing else will matter much about his time in office. For any president, it must be daunting to know already that his reputation depends on what Jefferson once called ''so inscrutable [an] arrangement of causes and consequences in this world.''

The consequences are more likely to be positive if the president begins to show some concern about the gap between his words and his administration's performance. For he runs an administration with the least care for consistency between what it says and does of any administration in modern times. The real money committed to the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is trifling. The president may have doubled the National Endowment for Democracy's budget, but it is still only $80 million a year. But even if there were more money, there is such doubt in the Middle East that the president actually means what he says -- in the wake of 60 years of American presidents cozying up to tyrants in the region -- that every dollar spent on democracy in the Middle East runs the risk of undermining the cause it supports. Actual Arab democrats recoil from the embrace of American good intentions. Just ask a community-affairs officer trying to give American dollars away for the promotion of democracy in Mosul, in northern Iraq, how easy it is to get anyone to even take the money, let alone spend it honestly.

And then there are the prisoners, the hooded man with the wires hanging from his body, the universal icon of the gap between the ideals of American freedom and the sordid -- and criminal -- realities of American detention and interrogation practice. The fetid example of these abuses makes American talk of democracy sound hollow. It will not be possible to encourage the rule of law in Egypt if America is sending Hosni Mubarak shackled prisoners to torture. It will be impossible to secure democratic change in Morocco or Afghanistan or anywhere else if Muslims believe that American guards desecrated the Koran. The failure to convict anybody higher than a sergeant for these crimes leaves many Americans and a lot of the world wondering whether Jefferson's vision of America hasn't degenerated into an ideology of self-congratulation, whose function is no longer to inspire but to lie.

Yeah, you can either kill 'em all, or you need other folks to win their hearts and minds, but if you want the former option, you really are nothing other than another Saddam, and if you want the latter, you've got to be opposed to Bush, Rumsfeld et al.

There are no other ways about it.

Update: Via Atrios, evidently we're now negotiating with the terrorists.

That's Bush for you.

And Now for Something Completely Different

"South Park Conservatives"

A careful, attentive reading of the NY Times review today illustrates that this idea is pretty half-baked:

  • Where does Rush Limbaugh get off pretending he's not a member of an elite? The guy comes from serious money.

  • If there is indeed a "new generation of Americans who refuse to accept public censure for their scornful attitudes toward gay men and lesbians, Native Americans, environmentalism and abortion rights," well, guess what? They're going to get the censure anyway. Why not? Because they're proud to avoid actually thinking bout issues? Did anyone in that august group of South Park conservatives ever - for a millisecond- stop to consider just who might benefit from their not thinking deeply about an issue?

  • One part merits a quote & response:

    What are the concrete abuses Anderson believes the left has perpetrated on the country's dittoheads -- given that a Republican president in his second term, backed by a Republican Congress, continues to prosecute a war that few on the left support? During the last election, somebody keyed Anderson's car because his wife had put a Bush sticker on it. Also, he writes, liberals call the conservative majority names: '' 'Racist,' 'homophobe,' 'sexist,' 'mean-spirited,' 'insensitive' -- it has become an ugly habit of left-liberal political argument to dismiss conservative ideas as if they don't deserve a hearing.'' As if that weren't bad enough, network television portrays businessmen unflatteringly, doesn't show enough black criminals on prime time and is overly tolerant of extramarital sex and homosexuality.

    I don't like people keying cars. I think it's stupid and juvenile, and hateful to attack others' property, just as I think it's stupid and juevenile and heteful for Bush- but about 12 orders of magnitude worse- to have invaded Iraq. To have tried to turn CPB into agovernment funded Fox network (although FAIR for years has shown that CPB is simply corpratist- there was the Firing Line long, long, long before there was Now.)

  • Liesl Schillinger, ends the review by quoting the argument sketch from Monty Python:

    Obviously, Anderson knows his audience: this book isn't intended for readers of The Times and The Economist and watchers of CNN. It's for the people who are sick and tired of mainstream media and are fans of the blogs and right-wing commentators he cites so abundantly. Still, like Rodney King, he professes to want us all to ''get along,'' reminding us that ''democracy requires a willingness to engage the arguments of those you disagree with, recognizing their equality as citizens.'' Is this a process that reasonable liberals and reasonable conservatives can acknowledge? Perhaps the argument clinic of the Monty Python Tories can light the way. First speaker: ''Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.'' Second speaker: ''No it isn't.'' Exactly.

    Now we all know - we all know - the the whole idea behind "Foxification" of the news, at Fox, at CPB, at Bush rallies, and so forth- was the avoidance of being held accountable to critics of the Bush regime, "conservativsm" and so forth.

    Schillinger doesn't come right out and say it, but quite simply South Park conservatives use the technique of faux umbrage at being "called names" as an attempt to avoid accountability for the very real flaws in their arguments, positions and so forth.

    You can see this in the blogosphere: the major liberal blogs allow comments, most of the conservative ones don't.

    They can't stand not to control the message, and where they can't control the message, they have to use thug techniques. Hence a book on the celebration of thuggishness.

    But folks who willingly shill out money to get flattering pictures of themselves qua thugs probably belong in the same class as those who get exercise and diet books that tell them how to stay fat and be a couch potato.

    On the other hand, there's the folks who buy the self-help books- if they didn't think they needed a self help book, they wouldn't buy one in the first place, and so if they thought they were OK, they wouldn't buy a book that would tell them they were OK, or could become OK if only they thought about themselves like this...

    Ah, so, it all becomes so clear now: South Park conservatives are simply folks who got bilked by shoddy New Age bilge, turned conservative, and swallowed some more New Age bilge dressed up in the garb of conservatism.

    P.T. Barnum was right.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Why does Byron York hate our troops?

Byron York attempted a lame defense of presumed traitor Karl Rove over at the Huffington Post.

York's evidence? A "money quote" from a site called "," according to York, attributed to one Eli Pariser of

We implore the powers that be to use, wherever possible, international judicial institutions and international human rights law to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, rather than the instruments of war, violence or destruction. Furthermore, we assert that the government of a nation must be presumed separate and distinct from any terrorist group that may operate within its borders, and therefore cannot be held unduly accountable for the latter's crimes...

Well, I have a money quote too. It comes from somebody who knew something about war: Sun Tzu:

1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best
thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact;
to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is
better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it,
to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire
than to destroy them.

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles
is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists
in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to
balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent
the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in
order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;
and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it
can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets,
movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take
up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over
against the walls will take three months more.

5. The general, unable to control his irritation,
will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants,
with the result that one-third of his men are slain,
while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous
effects of a siege.

6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's
troops without any fighting; he captures their cities
without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom
without lengthy operations in the field.

Well, looks like Parsier was just advocating wise military strategy.

Whereas Bush, and Rumsfeld, have actually tried to lay siege to an entire country, according to Sun Tzu, the worst strategem!

So, York, put a lid on it- your regime's been an unmitigated disaster.

Since all the Republicans are chickenhawks


And the Democrats are well known to support the troops more, it only stands to reason that Karl Rove, in addition to resigning, and being subpoenaed, should apologize to our kids in the Armed Services, for his recent outbursts insulting liberals.

No chickenhawk should write anything about Iraq unless he's gets either his butt or his kids' butts down to a recruiting center.

In the future, I'd suggest meeting the needs of our armed services by drafting registered Republicans.

"Taking the fight to the enemy?" More like "Taking the fight to innocent people who've already been screwed by a Republican regime..."

The latest "explanation" of Karl Rove's treasonous remarks by White House "communications director Dan Bartlett" is iteself false, defamatory, divisive, and therefore also treasonous, since it gives aid and comfort to the enemy:

Congressional Republicans earlier joined the White House in standing solidly behind Rove, saying he shouldn't apologize and that he was outlining a philosophical divide between a president who sought to win the war on terrorism by taking the fight to the enemy and some Democrats who questioned that approach...

Bartlett, appearing on morning news shows Friday, said that Rove was referring in his talk to, a liberal group that has raised millions to campaign against the Iraq war and oppose President Bush's re-election.

''It's somewhat puzzling why all these Democrats ... who responded forcefully after 9/11, who voted to support President Bush's pursuit of the war on terror, are now rallying to the defense of, this liberal organization who put out a petition in the days after 9/11 and said that we ought not use military force in responding to 9/11,'' Bartlett said on NBC's ''Today'' show. ''That is who Karl Rove cited in that speech ... There is no need to apologize.''

But Eli Pariser, executive director of the MoveOn political action committee, said the online group didn't oppose U.S. military action in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The fact is, we took the fight away from Osama bin Laden.

Bush invaded Iraq, a sideshow, and let al Qaeda get away and got us stuck in a quagmire, and dragged the name of the United States through the mud with condoning Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and other concentration camps.

Americans will not forget that, and they will not forget 9/11, and they will not forget Bush's inaction leading up to that calamitous day.

Rove must go. And the longer he stays, the more he is an embarassment to Americans who actually care about what happened on 9/11, and actually wanted to take the fight to the enemy, and prevail as opposed to those who simply wanted to use other people's reflexive bigotry and hatred as an excuse to wrest control of the oil of the number 2 source of oil and the world.

Republicans are soft on the war on terrorism. Proof: where's bin Laden?

It's time to demand the whole lot of them resign.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The city council of the city that really knows terrorism wants Rove out.


The City Council is weighing in on the controversial comments made by President George W. Bush's top adviser about the 9/11 attacks.

Democratic Speaker Gifford Miller says the Council will introduce a resolution next week that calls on the president to fire White House Senior Adviser Karl Rove.

The resolution reads: "Rove's rhetoric and cynical strategy of dividing Americans against each other for partisan gain has no place in our nation's public discourse."

And who could blame them? It was Bush, of course, who was asleep at the wheel on 9/11.

But we were all Americans- even the French, for Voidsakes- after 9/11.

But Rove has given aid and comfort to the enemy by trying to divide us for his own political purposes.

The fact that he did it within a few miles of Ground Zero was equivalent to spitting in the face of every New Yorker who isn't a conservative- and that's the overwhelming majority of them. It is grossly offensive to a group of people who've really known terrorism- and who really lived through it.

It's time for Rove to go. He's an embarassment to freedom loving Americans, and to New Yorkers, the folks who died and lived through 9/11 especially.

David Reinhard lowers the bar and Karl Rove must resign or be fired.

Although Joe Carter wants to make a bit of fairly good natured fun of the recent events on Durbin and Rove, I think a bit more serious word is still called for here.

In particular, David Reinhard's column yesterday was pretty despicable.

Reinhard spends most of his effort trying to argue, that hey, we're better than Stalin and Pol Pot, even if there was abuse at Guantanamo. Our standard used to be, as Americans, that we had rights, and that we gave people rights. (Unless of course they were of African American or indigenous peoples, in which case, well, you didn't quite have as many rights).

Now, as a child of the 60's that's what I grew up with: that human rights extended to everyone.

That was our standard.

Now, just being better than Stalin seems to be good enough.

Talk about defining deviancy (in this case from accepted norms on human rights) downard.

Reinhard's America is not my America.

And Rove? He should resign of course. But he won't, until we get like Argentina- when the peso collapsed.

Update: If anyone has the slightest doubt about the cynicism of this regime, they have to listen to the call made to Rove's office at Crooks and Liars.

Really, it's time for the whole lot of them to resign, and to let the grown-ups run things.

Up, up and away...


Crude oil prices hit a record $60 a barrel for the second day on Friday, amid concerns that strong demand will continue over the coming months.

US light sweet crude briefly touched the $60 mark, before dipping back to trade 39 cents higher at $59.81.

A report showing that China imported 8.2% more oil in May than in the same month a year ago underpinned prices...

hat has got oil analysts worried is that there seems to be no slacking off in demand, despite an almost 40% increase in the price of crude oil since the start of 2005.

If anything, the global thirst for crude has increased as more and more drivers take to the road, some of the world's largest economies emerge from a slowdown and others look to stoke rapid expansion.

Really, with a trend like this does anybody doubt that Iraq=oil?

For the longest time the delusion-based community has been decrying global warming, but although there's much evidence of a correlation of fossil fuel use with global warming, that might be somewhat moot if we're all (except for the very wealthiest) priced out of oil.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Today's more or less random thoughts...

  • I got back from Sophia Antipolis (France) yesterday. At the airport in Nice, there is a plaque commemorating 6 American paratroopers who gave their lives liberating the airport from the Nazis.

    That was when people understood that war meant sacrifice, that you don't get on soapboxes and holler for "liberating" countries unless you, personally, were prepared to sacrifice.

  • The war in Iraq is more than a little problem. On the plane back, I read articles in the Economist and Harper's on Iraq. The wholly odd thing about the debate now is an almost complete absence of honest discussion in the media as to why we're there: we're there to have control over a supply of oil. One can make a case that control over the vast amounts of Iraqi oil should not "fall into the wrong hands," but I think a better case can be made that it's better to be independent of such a massive amount of oil in the first place. Blumenthal's right, though, the propaganda's not working, and that's because the petroleum elephant in the dining room is really the reason why we're there, only the Bushies can't admit it. It sounds too much like "blood for oil."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Billy Jack versus Bush?


SANTA ROSA VALLEY, Calif. - It has been more than 30 years, but Billy Jack is still plenty ticked off.

Back then, it was bigotry against Native Americans, trouble with the nuclear power industry and big bad government that made this screen hero explode in karate-fueled rage. At the time, the unlikely combination of rugged-loner heroics - all in defense of society's downtrodden and forgotten - and rough-edged filmmaking sparked a pop culture and box-office phenomenon

Now the man who created and personified Billy Jack, Tom Laughlin - the writer, director, producer and actor - is determined to take on the establishment again, and his concerns are not so terribly different. Mr. Laughlin (and therefore Billy Jack) is angry about the war in Iraq and about the influence of big business in politics. And he still has a thing for the nuclear power industry....

[T}hree decades ago Mr. Laughlin defied the odds and made his mark on movie history with his homegrown tale "Billy Jack" and the sequel "The Trial of Billy Jack." The films unexpectedly connected with audiences during the social miasma of Vietnam and Watergate, but also had an impact on Hollywood marketing and distribution techniques.

"He was the model for Rambo, for 'Walking Tall,' " said Robert Sklar, professor of cinema studies at New York University. "When you think of what 'Rocky' meant for the culture - Laughlin was ahead of all that. He represented the indomitable outsider, and he was the first one in that era. It was also true in the sense in which he fought to make the film, and fought to get it distributed with this terrific idea of self-releasing."

Billy Jack
and its prequel and sequels are classics of le bad cinema, which proves that even lefties can make bad films, and people will go to see them, as long as they have good portion of revenge in it.

It turns out that "Billy Jack" has a website, and even a blog.

I think, personally, his idea about convening a "People's Investigative Committee" to build support to impeach Bush and his "foolproof exit plan" are a bit crackpot, but then again, if anyone had thought that the original Billy Jack films would have spawned Rambo and Walking Tall, I'd have thought that would be a bit crackpot, too.

Laughlin probably is right in terms of Bush's original intentions: having the US control the supply of Iraqi oil was undoubtedly the real goal of the Iraq war.

That said, "giving the oil back" to the Iraqis ought to be part and parcel of our policy, but I think that it is naieve to think htat "the Iraqis" are one monolithic group of people; that oil sitting under Iraq is the real reason why al Qaeda's such a threat. It wouldn't be out of the range of possibility to consider that maybe, just maybe, when you add up the Iraqi bodies and the US bodies and the weakened position of the US in the world, and the increased vulnerability to terrorism, and the erosion of Americans' liberties, that the Iraq adventure will prove to be a huge mistake, which is another way of saying maybe we'd have been better off with a murderer like Saddam Hussein than with whoever may ultimately prevail in Iraq.

But at this point, we ought to worry more about what we can do today. If "giving the Iraqis back their oil" is the same as letting the Iraqis decide themselves democratically and peacefully what to do with their oil, well, probably the sooner the Iraqis benefit from their oil wealth the sooner we'll all be safer. Who could argue with that besides Bush and his cronies?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sohia Antipolis, R.F., rootlessness, and what we miss

Sophia Antipolis, France: There is no place like the Cote d'Azur in the United States- that much is true. The terrain is rocky, mountainous, the colors bright, but the feeling you get is a sense of history that, to the visitor, eludes him.

You know this place is millenia old; there were ancient peoples making olive oil and feasting on fine wine while most people's ancestors were living in the mud. You wonder where the ruins are, but cannot find them. One can see the attraction for the Hemingways, Millers and Fitzgeralds for this place; even the junk food is a festival of genuine flavor.

So it is with Portland, OR. On the way over, when I was not fitfully attempting blessed rest in a stress position called economy class, I was reading "Portland Confidential," a trashy tale of prostitution and gambling rackets back before Portland became a European city. Many people moving in to the area do not know if its past, who Ron Tonkin knew who was connected, how much employees of the Oregonian were payed off to keep things quiet, that Sammy Davis Jr. played Portland just before he became famous, and things of the like. There is an untold story everywhere, and if you are rootless and moving about you may be fortunate enough to become aware that there is an untold story, but the absence of knowledge of its full scope will gnaw somewhere in a part of your brain that was long ago lost to the supporteres of "Terri," as well as Terri herself.

Still, there are the things of real work with which to attend.

Friday, June 17, 2005

An overlooked bit of right wing nonsense: Jim Cramer and his ilk...

Well, when they realized at CNBC that nobody'd watch 'em because they went from John McEnroe to Tina Brown to Denis Miller- they decided to go back to their "roots" and put on ...a loud, pro-wrestling WWF reincarnation of their regular financial guy Jim Cramer to do a call-in show!

I caught Cramer last night and he was going off against Krugman and Roach of Morgan Stanley about the housing bubble, which he did not believe existed - because housing prices still had not appreciated in places such as where I live to the stratospheric heights of the Bay Area in CA. You can't make this stuff up.

Now Cramer himself strikes me as a charlatan of the worst kind: he was one of those guys recommending "Buy! Buy! Buy!" through the last days of the internet bubble. Even today, in what is indisputably a long term bear market, he focuses on "Buy" orders, and his notion of a "diversified" portfolio deals with stocks, not those fancy mutual funds, let alone ETFs, CDs, etc.

However, there is one thing on which I agree with Cramer: if he had inside information, he'd be able to make more money albeit illegally.

However, when you see disclaimers such as:

Past performance is not indicative of future results. Neither Mr. Cramer nor CNBC guarantees any specific outcome or profit, and you should be aware of the real risk of loss in following any strategy or investments discussed on the show. The strategy or investments discussed may fluctuate in price or value. Investors may get back less than they invested.

Securities, financial instruments or strategies mentioned in this show may not be suitable for all investors. This material does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs and is not intended as recommendations of particular securities, financial instruments or strategies that are appropriate for you. You must make your own independent decisions regarding any securities, financial instruments or strategies mentioned on the show.

(Emphasis mine)...after having seen Cramer's producer's put animated bulls with moo-ing sounds (do bulls "moo?") I can only hope that some ambulance chaser's paying attention.

Elliot Spitzer, where are you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Stop using oil! Just say "No."


WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Senate Democrats are prepared to introduce a proposal on Wednesday that would set a goal of cutting U.S. oil imports by 40% from projected levels in 2025 and open a larger debate into how reliant the U.S. should be on foreign supplies of crude oil.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is prepared to offer the proposal, which would require the president to reduce imports by 7.64 million barrels of oil a day by 2025, as an amendment to a comprehensive energy bill being debated on the Senate floor.

Today, the U.S. imports roughly 58% of its oil supplies, and it is estimated that imports will reach 19.1 million barrels of oil a day in 2025 from about 13 million barrels a day today...

The bipartisan energy bill drafted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and pending before the Senate, however, would give the administration one year to enact a plan to lower U.S. oil demand by 1 million barrels a day, or 4%, from projected 2015 levels...

The Bush administration on Tuesday came out against the 1 million barrel reduction. The administration's apprehensive stems from conventional wisdom that suggests the only way to significantly reduce domestic oil consumption is through a steep increase in the fuel economy standards of automobiles sold in the U.S. since the majority of the oil consumed in the U.S. goes into the transportation sector and vehicle gas tanks.

Usually, I am quite fond of what Cantwell does, she did after all help cut our taxes. But this seems to be rather odd: how can the President make us use less oil?

We do have to reduce our consumption of oil, but I suspect that tax and investment policy, the area in which Congress can act will do more than by having George W. Bush saying "Stop using oil."

Meanwhile, IGE is going gangbusters:

Maybe we could learn from the Brazilians. Yep, even under Lula, they're still not sweating about imported oil.

Maybe we're just better looking than they are


Before reviewing the problem with the exit polls, let's look at how wrong they were. According to a report released by pollsters on Jan. 19 (click here for a PDF copy), the exit polls tended to predict Kerry doing better than he ultimately did, both nationally and in many states. In 26 states, the exit poll overstated Kerry's share of the vote by a significant amount, more than what statisticians call "one standard error." There were only four states in which the exit polls overstated Bush's share of the vote by more than one standard error.

Mitofsky [ a pollster, ] says it's impossible to say precisely why more Kerry voters than Bush voters participated in exit polls. Were Kerry voters simply more willing to speak to pollsters? Were pollsters more willing to speak to Kerry voters? Or, conversely, were Bush voters less willing to talk? Were pollsters less willing to seek out Bush voters? It's likely that some mix of such "motivational factors" contributed to the biased exit poll, Mitofsky says, but at this point it's not possible to determine why some voters were willing to be interviewed, why some were not, and what the interviewers were thinking at the time.

But Mitofsky has some clues. Exit polls are conducted by an army of interviewers -- usually people just looking for a good short-term job, including many college students; 35 percent of the interviewers were between the ages of 18 and 24, and most were women -- who fan out to more than 1,000 pre-selected precincts across the country. Because any poll depends on its respondents being selected randomly, the pollsters are each assigned a number, from 1 to 10, that represents the "rate" at which they're supposed to attempt to approach a voter. An interviewer given a rate of 1 should attempt to interview every single voter that leaves a voting precinct; an interviewer with a rate of 10, reserved for large precincts with many voters, must only approach every 10th voter for an interview.

What Mitofsky finds most striking about the polling data is that the precincts with the largest "error" tended to be those with the largest interviewing rate.

That would explain it; I mean, did you ever see what those Bush voters looked like?

"Terri" was blind and wasn't abused.


An autopsy on Terri Schiavo, the severely brain damaged woman whose death sparked an intense debate over a person's right-to-die, showed that her brain was severely "atrophied" and weighed less than half of what it should have, and that no treatment could have reversed the damage...

The autopsy also showed that physical abuse or poison did not lead to her collapse in 1990. Ms. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had accused their daughter's husband, Michael Schiavo, of abusing her, which he steadfastly denied. Mr. Thogmartin also said there was no evidence she had had an eating disorder before she collapsed.

The medical examiner said Ms. Schiavo was blind in her final days and that she would not have been able to eat or drink had she been fed by mouth, as her parents had requested. The autopsy found no evidence that she suffered a heart attack, or that she was given harmful drugs that may have accelerated her death.

I know there won't be an apology forthcoming from the folks who grandstanded on this, but they should give one.


You can read the autopsy report here. You can figure out what it says from this tutorial. That lady just wasn't there.

Oh, and the report said her breasts were "unremarkable."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Interesting Quasi-random Tidbits...

At least to moi...

The "Christian" Coalition [sic] is mad at Howard Dean.

The Mets are going to build a new stadium?

Evidently the 101st Keyboarders are a distinct minority at this point. (HT: Atrios)

Which also brings me to the sobering fact - not surprising, given the Iraq distraction- that the real "War on Terror" is being waged highly ineffectively.

An analysis of the Justice Department's own list of terrorism prosecutions by The Washington Post shows that 39 people — not 200, as officials have implied — were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security.

Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law — and had nothing to do with terrorism, the analysis shows. For the entire list, the median sentence was just 11 months.

Taken as a whole, the data indicate that the government's effort to identify terrorists in the United States has been less successful than authorities have often suggested. The statistics provide little support for the contention that authorities have discovered and prosecuted hundreds of terrorists here. Except for a small number of well-known cases — such as truck driver Iyman Faris, who sought to take down the Brooklyn Bridge — few of those arrested appear to have been involved in active plots inside the United States.

Among all the people charged as a result of terrorism probes in the three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Post found no demonstrated connection to terrorism or terrorist groups for 180 of them.

Just one in nine individuals on the list had an alleged connection to the al Qaeda terrorist network and only 14 people convicted of terrorism-related crimes — including Faris and convicted Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui — have clear links to the group. Many more cases involve Colombian drug cartels, supporters of the Palestinian cause, Rwandan war criminals or others with no apparent ties to al Qaeda or its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Chance arrests
But a large number of people appear to have been swept into U.S. counterterrorism investigations by chance — through anonymous tips, suspicious circumstances or bad luck — and have remained classified as terrorism defendants years after being cleared of connections to extremist groups.

For example, the prosecution of 20 men, most of them Iraqis, in a Pennsylvania truck-licensing scam accounts for about 10 percent of individuals convicted — even though the entire group was publicly absolved of ties to terrorism in 2001.

From the Baltimore Sun: why do some people have problems with the American flag that they have to make a new one?

Great Investment Blog

Seeking Alpha. This is a great advice, without all the nonsense you'd get at Larry Kudlow's blog. If you're not doing what he wrote here, and you do what he advises as a result of my plug here, I probably will have just helped you much.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Manufactured Excuses for the Iraq War...

The 101st keyboarders fall into 2 categories: those that knew that the Iraq war excuses were nonsense but pitched 'em anyway, and those who were totally, completely, and absolutely hoodwinked, taken, played, like rubes at a carnival, and even today can't bring themselves to admit that they were wrong.

I don't expect that the latest bombshell revelations that this war was explictly entered into with a concerted effort to "shape public opinion" - in effect to engage in the kind of propaganda effort redolent of the Yellow Journalism of the Spanish American War- to change their minds.

But really, their cheerleading then, and continued now is simply depraved indifference to human life.


1. The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.

3. We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the No Fly Zones. This is particularly important for the UK because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action. Otherwise we face the real danger that the US will commit themselves to a course of action which we would find very difficult to support.

4. In order to fulfil the conditions set out by the Prime Minister for UK support for military action against Iraq, certain preparations need to be made, and other considerations taken into account. This note sets them out in a form which can be adapted for use with the US Government. Depending on US intentions, a decision in principle may be needed soon on whether and in what form the UK takes part in military action

The Goal

5. Our objective should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or to international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD. It seems unlikely that this could be achieved while the current Iraqi regime remains in power. US military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, followed by elimination if Iraqi WMD. It is however, by no means certain, in the view of UK officials, that one would necessarily follow from the other. Even if regime change is a necessary condition for controlling Iraqi WMD, it is certainly not a sufficient one...

The Conditions Necessary for Military Action

10. Aside from the existence of a viable military plan we consider the following conditions necessary for military action and UK participation: justification/legal base; an international coalition; a quiescent Israel/Palestine; a positive risk/benefit assessment; and the preparation of domestic opinion.


11. US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law. But regime change could result from action that is otherwise lawful. We would regard the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defence, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or authorised by the UN Security Council. A detailed consideration of the legal issues, prepared earlier this year, is at Annex A. The legal position would depend on the precise circumstances at the time. Legal bases for an invasion of Iraq are in principle conceivable in both the first two instances but would be difficult to establish because of, for example, the tests of immediacy and proportionality. Further legal advice would be needed on this point.

12. This leaves the route under the UNSC resolutions on weapons inspectors. Kofi Annan has held three rounds of meetings with Iraq in an attempt to persuade them to admit the UN weapons inspectors. These have made no substantive progress; the Iraqis are deliberately obfuscating. Annan has downgraded the dialogue but more pointless talks are possible. We need to persuade the UN and the international community that this situation cannot be allowed to continue ad infinitum. We need to set a deadline, leading to an ultimatum. It would be preferable to obtain backing of a UNSCR for any ultimatum and early work would be necessary to explore with Kofi Annan and the Russians, in particular, the scope for achieving this...

Now remember, the weapons inspectors were readmitted... but they knew it'd take time if they were admitted, and that would spoil the fun of the US forced them to leave.

13. In practice, facing pressure of military action, Saddam is likely to admit weapons inspectors as a means of forestalling it. But once admitted, he would not allow them to operate freely. UNMOVIC (the successor to UNSCOM) will take at least six months after entering Iraq to establish the monitoring and verification system under Resolution 1284 necessary to assess whether Iraq is meeting its obligations. Hence, even if UN inspectors gained access today, by January 2003 they would at best only just be completing setting up. It is possible that they will encounter Iraqi obstruction during this period, but this more likely when they are fully operational...


19. Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. In particular, we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective as set out in paragraph 5 above. A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired endstate would be created, in particular what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the timescale within which it would be possible to identify a successor. We must also consider in greater detail the impact of military action on other UK interests in the region.

Domestic Opinion

20. Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein. There would also need to be a substantial effort to secure the support of Parliament. An information campaign will be needed which has to be closely related to an overseas information campaign designed to influence Saddam Hussein, the Islamic World and the wider international community. This will need to give full coverage to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, including his WMD, and the legal justification for action...

Ah, yes, they needed an "information campaign." They needed to not have the inspectors there. They needed those Israelis to not be so troublesome.

And they knew- the Brits knew- that there was no nation building plan. And the Bush junta knew that this was a risk, because the Brits told them. And they knew an objective of "regime change" in and of itself was an idiotic objective, because the Brits told them.

And that's why I protested the war, too.

Now of course, the Pottery Barn rule sort of applies, but, here we are in June, and still the UN hasn't taken over (remember that nonsense from Bush during the 2004 election campaign?), the partisans are still engaging in partisan activity, the body bags are still coming home, and nobody's signing up to be in the military.

Thanks for doing your little bit to us less safe, and less able to defend ourselves, 101st keyboarders.


There's a veritable flood of information here.

James Sensenbrenner: Enemy of Freedom


Or, better yet, watch and see for yourself. Really, this is evil stuff.

Of course al Qaeda is also an enemy of freedom.

Which means, if the "enemy of my enemy is my friend," Sensenbrenner must be buddies with bin Laden.

Of course, we know how close the Bush family is to them, so it's really not surprising.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Liberal Oasis added to blogroll

I am honored to be linked by them. What else can I say?

More on that quasi- Zen Blog

I will do this incrementally as I have time...



Keichi-oshoh's Street Preaching

野狐禅和尚の辻説法『梅雨入りしました』 №773

Shoko-oshoh's Street Preaching "Entering the Rainy Season" Number 773.

It's definitely the rainy season.


Because of that, for 4-50 days, plants will bear the summer heat and mercy's rain will fall.

無門関に『春有百花秋有月 夏有涼風冬有月』、春に百花あり秋に月あり、夏に涼風あり冬に雪あり、とあります。自然とは実に“風流”ですね。

In the Mumonkan "Spring has 100 flowers, fall has moon, summer has a cool breeze, winter has moon" It's naturally, truly refined, isn't it?

  人生にも自然と同様、雨の日も晴れの日もあるでしょう。それを自分の都合で“良い日、悪い日”というのは些か問題があります。まあ、正確な表現をすれば 『都合の良い日、都合の悪い日』ということでしょう。同様に、天気に良し悪しはなく、どんな日でも“一生に一度の一日”です。晴耕雨読。長雨なら勉強が捗 り、晴が続けば仕事が捗ります。降って良し晴れて良し。正に碧巌録に出典をもつ『日々是好日』。それを延長すれば無門関に出典を持つ『平常心是道』。更に 延長すれば信心銘に出展する『万法一如』・・・・宝蔵録にある『天地と我と同根、万物と我と一体』。
 今日は、梅雨に学べば本来の面目に到達する ということを坐りながら思ってください。勿論、言葉を使わずに思う、のは大前提です。コツは自分が“梅雨”に成り切るのです。できれば今日は外に出て、梅 雨の雨を全身に浴びながら坐ると良いでしょう。濡れるというのは何か先祖還りしたような気分となり実に良いものです。

Stay tuned for more...

Bibles (and other books) don't harm. Peole do.

I'd been meaning to write a critique of the "10 Most Harmful Books" meme, but hadn't had the time; real life does intrude on blogging much of the time.

One of the things that comes to my mind related to this was something that Nakagawa Roshi said, which is something to the effect of if you read even tabloid newspapers the right way, they can be seen as sutras.

I've always appreciated the NY Post for its encapsualtion of sordidness, and for the Haiku (俳句) nature of its headlines (one recent headline about the Koran flushing incident was titled "Holy Shiite," without apparent regard for the fact that it was Sunnis involved). But Nakagawa-roshi was right: The NY Post shows vividly the hell of anger and hatred and violence, and encourages us to be nonattached to it, and to feel compassion even for Rupert Murdoch if read correctly.

Which brings me to Joe Carter, who asserts that the bible is the "most hamful book in the world."

His reasons:

  • The bible "refutes every cherished idea we hold about humanity: We think people are 'basically good.' The Bible claims that no one is good.We think that corruption and injustice is caused by our situation or environment. The Bible says that it is our nature that is corrupt. We think we are deserving of peace and happiness. The Bible tells us that we are deserving of eternal damnation."

  • "We think we are alive. The Bible delivers the disturbing news that we are already dead. (It is hard to imagine what could be more harmful to our sense of identity than to hear that we are as good as dead.)"

  • The Bible talks of a war being waged throughout the universe, with humans being on the wrong side. Not only are we classified as the enemies of God, but we're called to surrender unconditionally.

To which I reply:

We appear to be and have awareness and do things that have effects, but "in principle or phenomena there is no hindrance," outside of the hindrance we make, where hindrance is understood as suffering. So neither good nor bad nor the absence of both. The mere phenomenon of us being aware a book saying we are good, bad, or what I just wrote is a mere phenomenon. What we do with any of these expressions - how we take them into our minds, how we live them- are our responsibility.

But if you call me an "enemy of God," well, I don't care as long as you don't try to burn me at the stake or draw and quarter me or others, or do other nasty things like that. But you will have consequences for your actions regardless of whether you claim to be a follower of an absolutely good god or not. Please choose what you do wisely.



US announces a case of mad-cow disease

A cow has tested positive for mad-cow disease in the United States, agriculture officials announced.

Further tests are planned to confirm the diagnosis because the animal had previously tested disease-free, Doctor John Clifford of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said...

A confirmation would bring to two the number of known cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States, where a diseased animal was discovered in the northwestern state of Washington in 2003.

That discovery prompted Japan, previously the top market for US beef, to halt imports of cattle products. The new case is likely to deepen woes for US cattlemen and fan fears that the deadly human form of the brain-wasting disease could spread in the United States.

The announcement came the same day that Portugal announced its first suspected case of the human form of mad cow disease while France said it had identified its 13th case of the degenerative brain ailment...

The animal that tested positive in the United States was unable to walk -- a so-called "downer" animal -- and thus banned from human consumption, Clifford said. There is no chance its meat entered the human food supply, he stressed.

The bovine died in Texas in November, according to The Washington Post.

Officials did not indicate the age of the animal or whether it was imported, the daily said.

If it was born after 1997, when the United States banned the use of cattle feed containing animal parts, that could call the effectiveness of the ban into question.

Well, that's Texas for and the land of little regulation for you.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Yep, it's a white Christian party


And ordinary Americans are not invited.

Krugman nails it...

Yeah, I bet he's all over the centrist and progressive blogs today, because he nicely encapsulates things that everyone should know.

But this still bears quoting and remembering:

he middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists.

Working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the median family doubled between 1947 and 1973. But it rose only 22 percent from 1973 to 2003, and much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages.

Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty.

But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled...

[M]iddle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power...

The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery. That claim ignores the fact of U.S. economic success after World War II. It also ignores the lesson we should have learned from recent corporate scandals: sometimes the prospect of great wealth for those who succeed provides an incentive not for high performance, but for fraud.

Above all, the partisans engage in name-calling. To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice "class warfare." To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the "politics of envy."

As far as that series on Class is concerned, it's pretty broad and deep, and well documented. Start here.

Don't forget to go here.

Chances are, readers of this blog are probably fairly well off. Though of course who feels like that? The interesting thing about the times class graphic is that the scales really don't measure the strata of class finely enough at its highest levels: the highest income levels are $200K and above, and the highest wealth levels are $50 million and above.

I don't come near the $200K figure yet, although I know quite a few people who do. I don't know anybody who's got $50 Million personally, except for one or two people whom I've met only once or twice.