At the end of her post on the new horror story from the war on terror, Unfogged's new blogger Alameida highlights the following assessment of guilt:
"He was probably associated with people who were associated with al Qaeda," one U.S. government official said.
Guilt by association -- that works, right?

I'm glad to know that our national security establishment has discovered that most useful of tools, the Bacon number.
A few entirely random thoughts:
  • Libertarian-standing-tall Jim Henley calls "libertarian"-on-his-knees Eugene Volokh out for his complaint that the Supreme Court has created the possibility that "our enemies may use our freedoms against us." At the end of his post, Henley refers his readers for more to presumptive neoliberal Brad DeLong, the Social Democrats and academic Marxists over at Crooked Timber, and that extradimensional crustacean with plans for world domination, Fafblog's Medium Lobster. Politics really does make for strange blogfellows.

  • While driving down a rural highway in Michigan today, I saw a rickety shed made of saplings strung together with a hand-painted sign attached to it. I only read the top part of the sign, which must have read in full "Hunting blind for sale," but my urban/suburban conditioning led me to expect from the first lines that the complete message would be "Hunting blind can cost lives. Be sure to hunt only with a properly trained guide dog." I suppose, though, that the sign would be effective only if it were in braille.

  • The top story in the Arts section of Wednesday's New York Times treats the new bevy of skyscrapers going up over London. In my last couple of trips to London I've been flabbergasted by the new arrivals on the skyline -- I had thought that there was a municipal regulation preventing buildings from standing taller than the city's most famous and revered landmark. The article is accompanied by a spectacular computer rendering of the Thames behind Tower Bridge, surrounded by all the proposed new skyscrapers (though the Vortex, my favorite of the batch of unrealized buildings, is not to be found, the Times taking a more skeptical view than the Guardian on this issue at least).

    Walking between [ profile] rahael's house and her local supermarket, one must take a pedestrian bridge over one of the major motorways. This bridge affords a great view of the Gherkin, London's most recent hot skyscraper; on a clear day I could see even St. Paul's and the Millennium Eye. Rah and I got into an unintentional habit of timing our return from grocery shopping to coincide with sunset, though our last shopping expedition had us leaving the store just as the summer rainstorm ended and the sky was filled with a gigantic double rainbow, arching clear and completely across the eastern sky.
This, if true, is disgusting:
Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.

The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.
(Bill Hill, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, May 15, 2004. Stolen from a commenter in [ profile] marykaykare's journal.)

I attended a high school so liberal that I believe one could have been disciplined for praising President Bush. (Admittedly, times were different then, as were Bushes.) The concept of a school having a military liaison is so foreign to my experience that were the idea to be included in a nostaligic, corny film looking back at the 1950s it would would strain my credulity. Yet the idea that high schools contain martinets whose first impulse is to censor seems as natural as apple pie. Even my touch-feely principal, dedicated to letting his students learn in their own ways, once seriously suggested that he preapprove stories for my school newspaper. Of course, we had spent a fair amount of time in journalism class going over the relevant Supreme Court decisions, and weren't that happy with either Hazelwood or prior restraint. (Of course, the large majority of the newspaper staff had lawyers in their families.)

I still wouldn't describe my high school as censorious, though. This was in the days before the world wide web, when if someone had something he wanted to say but no one particularly interested in hearing it, he could still type up four or five pages of blather and masking-tape them up in inappropriate locations. They'd usually stay put until the janitor got around to cleaning the walls, and occasionally they'd even garner comments. It truly was the poor man's LiveJournal, at least for rich kids with an unbounded sense of privilege.

I had been occasionally expressing myself in this way as early as Junior High School, where I do remember running into one actual martinet who decided that my anarchist placards for the "Lunacratic Army for Penultimate Societal Emancipation" (always proceed from acronym to nym) was an incitement to communism, although I was a fetal capito-anarchist and my exemplar at that point was Thomas Jefferson (and the whole thing was a complicated jape at my Latin teacher anyway). Much of my eighth grade year was spent in shouting matches and this was no exception; I engaged this self-appointed bulwark against the forces of anarchism in a loud discussion of free expression and the First Amendment. I was for them. He taught social studies, too. Oh well, I have been led to believe of late that a few bad apples do not indict the entire institution.
As I mull over a possible autumn trip to Iran, I have been much consoled by Nicholas Kristof's recent columns (1, 2) reporting that its inhabitants are strikingly pro-American. This doesn't surprise me in particular, because when I'm travelling international I rarely run into anyone who even expresses resentment towards the US government, much less holds me responsible. In fact, I spent my first few days in Egypt, when the administration was at the height of its sabre-rattling about Iraq (but a few months before the actual invasion), dissembling my nationality whenever asked. I soon stopped this, partially because I realized no one was so ungracious as to conflate me with President Bush, and partially because I grew tired of hearing "Canada Dry!" every time I mentioned my adopted homeland.

In any case, Kristof speaks of a great warmth felt by Iranians towards America, and even towards our current administration. It is notable that he writes these columns during the midst of the Abu Ghraib revelations. That they seem to have had no effect might be explicated by this post by Ogged at Unfogged:
At Least They're Consistent

My mom finally got a hold of one of our relatives in Iran to ask him what he thought about the Abu Ghraib business. Turns out, he had only seen the picture of the guy hooked up to the electrodes because Iranian TV won't show nudity. She pointed him to the Internet; I'll report back when I hear from him.
Ogged also points out that the clerics are developing a sense of purposeful irony:
Iran's hardline Guardian Council has approved a law banning police from using torture to extract confessions from criminal suspects.

The council, a 12-member cleric-dominated panel that approves or rejects Iranian legislation, had in the past quashed similar legislative attempts to protect prisoners from custodial abuse.
Speaking of the Department of Defense taking steps to control the free flow of information, Mark A. R. Kleiman points out that the Pentagon has forbidden employees from reading the Taguba Report.

Basic math

May. 8th, 2004 07:30 pm
I might be getting transferred within the next week to anotehr post. At the very least, KBR is not allowing any private computers on their system for the next ninety days. There might be one other option, but if you don't hear from me for a while...God, I don't know what I'll do about the kitty.
Many of the incriminating photographs appear to have been taken on a digital camera by a soldier in the 372nd Military Police Company who is now facing a court-martial. From there, they appear to have circulated among military personnel in Iraq via e-mail and computer disks, and some may have found their way to family members in the United States.

[ . . . ]Digital cameras have become so ubiquitous in the military that many relatives of personnel in the 372nd and other units in Iraq said they routinely received photographs by e-mail.

Update: This may be overblown. [ profile] ginmar explains.

Abu Ghraib

Apr. 30th, 2004 06:06 pm
I am saddened and sickened by the news from Abu Ghraib (scroll down to "Appalling" if the permalink isn't working). I realize that between the news from Virginia, Sinclair Broadcasting Group's craven show of disrespect for our troops, and some singularly awful news from one of the brightest and funniest people on my friends list, this has been lost in a tumult of crappiness over the last twenty-four hours. (I am slightly heartened that the comments threads at some stalwart warblogs have been universally condemnatory of the actions of our troops -- even to the point of awakening some sympathy within me for those young men and women who find themselves in a situation they are ill-prepared for.) It comes as no surprise to me (or to Henley and Silber) that the first casuality of war is the belief in a unitary humanity, but I crumble at the sight of it so clearly demonstrated.

My typical reaction to anything overwhelming is a quip, a humorous distraction, a mollifying jape. This really deserves better, but I am not capable of better, so I'm just going to take some really cheap shots at Glenn Reynolds. (Who does express a suitable outrage at the story.)

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #1

PHOTOBLOGGING: Here's a gallery of beautiful photos from Vietnam.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #2

RYAN BOOTS has his weekly roundup of the Iraqi blogs, which he's calling the Carnival of the Liberated. It's a must-read.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #3

ARE WE GOING TOO SOFT IN IRAQ? Some people think so. It seems that way to me, too, though I'm reluctant to make a judgment at this distance. But in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.
If you read only one blog entry today, and if and only if you have access to powerful antidepressants, read this post by Jim Henley.
If you're not reading Fafblog, you're missing some of the most insightful commentary and perspicacious policy analysis on the internet. To wit:
Imagine you are a country who has been ruled by brutal dictators for centuries and invaded and occupied by a foreign power. You are tired and angry and hostile. You possibly still do not have good food or clean water or a job. What do you want? Ice cream.

Who does not love ice cream? No one that is who! Children and mullahs and Baathists of all ages all love the sweet creamy taste of a fresh ice cream cone! Now imagine that you are the angry tired hostile unemployed waterless foodless Iraqi - and Americans are giving you ice cream, for free! How do you complain, you do not you are so happy with delicious ice cream! Your emotional landscape changes from angry hostile killing to delicious. Ice cream delicious.

For just 37 billion dollars a year we could pay for one pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream a day for the 22 million men woman and children in Iraq. And if we buy in bulk it's even cheaper! We could be feeding them ice cream three meals a day! We could feed them ice cream at all state functions and constitutional drafting meetings! Our troops will no longer ride in humvees, they will ride in ice cream trucks. No one will launch grenades at the ice cream man!

"But Fafnir" you are saying "won't this make the Iraqis very fat." Maybe but remember the ancient proverb: a fat Iraqi insurgent is a happy Iraqi insurgent - especially a fat Iraqi insurgent filled with ice cream. "But how will you pay for all this ice cream Fafnir" you say. The ice cream will pay for itself. As the love grows we will be able to phase out the military operation and thus afford the ice cream, and once we have normal relations with Iraq our ice cream exports there will be incredible. My only hesitation is that the wrong powers will launch other wars to open more markets. There must be no blood for ice cream.
(Zoidberg icon in tribute to the Medium Lobster, I suppose.)
I'm capable of believing most anything about the current administration that doesn't require me to don a tin-foil hat, so I have little problem with Richard Clarke's accusations of indifference to terrorism on the part of Bush. Indeed, it squares with the understanding I've had since The New Yorker profiled the late John O'Neill back in January, 2002. But what is most important to my credulity is that I've never seen all of season two of Alias. For, when I catch Clarke on TV and close my eyes, I hear Victor Garber. The vocal resemblance is remarkable; in fact, noting a facial resemblance requires as little squinting at Clarke as does the Mask of Agamemnon. Because I've only really watched season one of Alias, this resemblance brings to mind ruthless efficiency, cold calculation, and a resistance to emotion, but not a willingness to endanger national security to screw over one's ex-wife.
Uncle Walter speaks:
"Our arrogant stand in nearly all our diplomatic approaches to the rest of the world with this administration has been such as to deeply embarrass the United States," declared Cronkite. His sarcasm was quietly withering. "Of course it's nice to know that Hussein is in jail," he noted. "I sit there and nod agreement when the president frequently mentions that. ... And then of course when poor Secretary of State Powell had to go before the U.N. and make that plea with intelligence we now know, at the most generous, as inaccurate - - that doesn't help at all."

Cronkite can be trusted to say things like this all the time now. After declaring himself a "registered independent" in the first of his newspaper columns in August, Cronkite has consistently derided what he calls "the Bush administration's facade of self-righteous certainty." He says he feels liberated to speak his mind, to "vent my rage and let the chips fall where they will." Cronkite doesn't hesitate to crank up his Moses-like rhetoric, in speech and in print, drawing on his deep well of journalistic gravitas. But he's just as likely to caper now as to thunder.

Just before railing against the Christian right's objection to gay marriage -- "That's about as obnoxious a thing as has ever happened" -- Cronkite was asked at the Ritz to what he attributed the longevity of his own marriage to Betsy.

"I do think one of the factors was we were of different sexes." He looked delighted as the laughter billowed around the room. "That doesn't mean I wouldn't have been happy to be married to several friends I had of the same sex," he followed. "It just never came up in our particular relations."
"Facade of self-righteous certainty." I think this is what I find most alienating about the current administration, and, in fact the public, political face of the religious right in general. It's also what drives me nuts about neoconservatives like Perle and Frum. Of course, it also bothers me when I see it in paleoconservatives, neoliberals, the pro-war right, the anti-war left, the Green Party, Randians, Spike-fans, Spike-haters, people who are pro-Israel, people who are pro-Palestinian, Heinleinian libertarians, Nation readers, the Ohio Republican Party, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, the authors of Issue 31, and myself.

A facade of self-righteous certainty is bad. This I am sure of. Don't like that? Bite me.
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