Wednesday noon... Stella has been in an auto accident; her car was rear-ended at an intersection. She is
standing up and talking coherently; her injuries seem minor, but the car is totaled. I am on the way to
the scene now. Blogging will be delayed. Hope for the best...
Standing Up Or Lying Down
Please read Juan Cole's
of the past day's events in Iraq, and also his
regarding SCIRI Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi's accusation that a high ministry official
attempted to murder him in a bomb blast:
The Bush administration keeps saying that the US will stand down as the Iraqis stand up. But if the
government officials are killing each other, they are more likely to lie down than stand up. This is
not a good scene.
No kidding. You know that when the Bushies are ready to talk at a table that includes Iran, things
have come to a desperate state.
Aquinas Ensemble, with special guests The Buxtehude Trio, performed an outstanding concert. They also
gave a pretty good account of themselves at the Mexican restaurant afterward...
Left to right: Cassandra Luckhardt (viola da gamba), Alan Austin (baroque violin), guest (?), Ann
Fairbanks (baroque flute), Mimi Mitchell (baroque violin) and of course Stella (enthusiastic audience,
as was the YDD himself). Not pictured: Barrett Sills (baroque cello), Christina Edelen (harpsichord).
Yes, I miss performing. Yes, I miss hearing this literature performed live on a regular basis, though
in Houston I could clearly hear it more often than I do. Yes, I am delighted to see old friends and
former colleagues, and meet new friends as well. In short: I needed that!
This seems to be the day for posts about military matters; I'm afraid we may have many more such days
in the near future.
When I first heard the name
Operation Enduring Freedom,
I thought it was particularly apt for a Bush administration effort: they're just enduring freedom
until they can put an end to it, here at home, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and every other place they
touch. My initial fear that an arguably justifiable action in Afghanistan could be turned into a
vehicle for a power grab at home and abroad has been vindicated: Bush and his cronies are no longer
enduring freedom; they're acting against it.
But if one believes the latest assessments from both the
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
(Congress's nonpartisan investigative agency)
and, of all people, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Gen. Peter Pace,
Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, together, may be the end of the Bush
administration's credible claim to effective power and any claim they could make to a positive legacy
in history... and not improbably the end of our nation, not just as a force for good in the world but
as a nation, period. The short version: our defense readiness in the face of any additional conflict
(Iran or an unexpected threat) is sorely compromised by the strain placed on our military by those two
A good summary, with analysis and reaction, is provided by
Christy Hardin Smith
of Firedoglake, from whose post I took the links above.
If you follow military technology research... and if you don't, you should, even if (perhaps especially if)
you frequently argue against war or specific wars... you know how valuable Noah Shachtman and his team
of bloggers have been in keeping you up to date on weapons systems in terms that even nonmilitary
people like me can understand. Until recently, Shachtman blogged at Defense Tech; now he has moved
(with much of his team) to Wired's defense blog,
I've adjusted my blogroll accordingly.
Afterthought: another site I find useful regarding defense policy (not so much technology) is
Center for Defense Information.
I've subscribed to the paper edition of their Defense Monitor (linked from their main site, at
long last in plain HTML instead of .pdf) for many years, and while I don't always agree with every
author's take on every issue, I find that CDI does tend to take a wider view, considering economic and
social impacts of defense policy in addition to specifically military issues. [Minor corrections
applied after initial publication.]
If I wasn't around the blogs much this weekend, it's because I was having too much fun. Stella and I
heard The Buxtehude Trio of Amsterdam last night. (Sorry, they have no web page of their own as
far as I know, but you can google for concert appearances. Apologies also for the photo quality; I
scanned it from a mailed publicity postcard.)
If the women on the left and right of this picture look familiar to Houston audiences, they should:
Mimi Mitchell (violin) and Christina Edelen (harpsichord) were Houstonians for many years; I had the
distinct honor of working with each of them for quite some time, many years ago. Cassandra Luckhardt
(viola da gamba) is also American.
The program concluded with a work by Buxtehude, a German composer of the generation before J.S. Bach
who wrote, among many other sacred and secular works, at least two sets (that I know of) of chamber
works for exactly this combination of instruments. Before that work, the Trio performed various works
of the same period by an assortment of astonishingly inventive German composers you have probably
never heard of, and some even I had never heard of. (Details on request.) The three musicians, each
virtuosic in her own right and very polished as an ensemble, brought a brilliance to the performance
guaranteed to dispel any preconceived notions you may have of "old music" ... there was nothing "old"
Houstonians have one more chance to hear at least Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Edelen (I don't know if Ms.
Luckhardt is involved) in a concert by the Aquinas Ensemble, the faculty early music ensemble of the
University of St. Thomas - Houston. (Yes, I performed with Aquinas Ensemble for a few years before I
retired.) That concert is in UST Cullen (note: the Cullen building at UST, NOT the one at UH)
tomorrow night at 7:30 PM.
I promise I'll get back to political blogging before long; there's plenty of bad news out there that
needs to be addressed. I trust you'll forgive me if I take a break for a bit of fun while my friends
living abroad are in town.
This cluster of signs, which I snapped in great haste while stopped at an intersection, was visually
interesting enough in itself, but when I noticed the final lettered sign, I remembered having exactly
one date with a woman who fit that description...
Ahhh, this is fun. Whackjob member of Congress Michelle Bachmann, it turns out, has discovered that
there's already a plan in place to divide Iraq. Iran will get half the country. And they'll set that
part up as a "terrorist safe haven zone."
Says Bachmann: "And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called…. the
Iraq State of Islam, something like that. And I’m sorry, I don’t have the official name, but it’s
meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There’s already an agreement made."
Shi'a Iran is going to run Sunni western Iraq as a terrorist safe haven. And the new terror country's
official name will be the Iraq State of Islam.
The following presentation is for Rep. Bachmann's edification:
A clue for the clueless: it's called "democracy," and it's noisy and chaotic and offensive at times,
and it's why some of us are members of the Democratic Party, because in general the DP is better at it
than the Republan Party.
No one can prevent the press and media from constructing and peddling their narratives for the
candidates, using whatever material the candidates' campaigns and opponents' campaigns provide them.
Absent all the potshots, the NYT would still have constructed a tale of Hillary's immorality (never
neglecting to mention Bill, of course), Obama's fresh-faced inexperience, John Edwards's uncontrolled
populism, etc., because that's their story and they're stickin' to it. Any candidate who adapts his
or her campaign to that aspect of press behavior is doomed to failure.
Like the late, great Molly Ivins, I enjoy the rough-and-tumble of politics. It's a long time until
November 2008, and I recommend that NYT writers just get over it... and get over themselves... and
enjoy the ride.
(Adapted from a comment I posted on the thread at BBWW.)
Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari was "a reasonably large contributor to Republican congressional
committees (more than $15,000 in the 2002 and 2004 campaign cycles)," according to
Talking Points Memo.
Alishtari, however, is alleged to have other generous impulses. As reported by Josh Marshall:
points my attention to [a] Friday
about Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, a reasonably large contributor to Republican congressional
committees (more than $15,000 in the 2002 and 2004 campaign cycles). Alishtari was arrested on
Thursday. And on Friday he was charged in federal court with attempting to secretly send $152,000 to
Pakistan and Afghanistan to purchase equipment for terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
George Washington, that is.
Scott Horton of the blog Balkinization
explores the real George W's attitude toward war and the treatment of prisoners of war. Horton quotes
the real George W as follows:
"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."
- George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775
A comparison with the morally weak George W who rules us today, and with his henchmen, is inevitable,
and Horton draws that comparison devastatingly:
Venting at the constraints of international law, which they deemed quaint and outmoded, and seemingly
ignorant of the proud American tradition behind that law, policymakers like Donald Rumsfeld and
Alberto Gonzales were determined to dabble in what Vice President Cheney called the "dark side." The
consequences of this gravely mistaken departure from America's foundational values have been exactly
what Washington foresaw in his charge of September 1775: shame, disgrace and ruin.
Forgive me if I long for the good old days of the real George W, as distasteful as some aspects of
those days may have been. For all the blind spots our founding fathers had... toward women, slaves and
Native Americans (see the previous post re blind spots)... they exhibited an intent to get it
right that one has to admire. Such benevolent intent seems completely lacking in today's George; to
him, it's not so much "whatever is right" as "whatever I want."
While you're at Balkinization, take a look at
Marty Lederman's evaluation
of the U.S. Court of Appeals' dismissal of GTMO detainees' habeas petitions. Lederman thinks
the decision, based on the MCA, will not stand Supreme Court scrutiny. I am not a lawyer, and cannot
follow his argument; I can only hope he is right. What is wrong with our government, that it is even
quibbling over details of the application of the clear principle of habeas corpus? Have
they gone mad?
UPDATE: shall we rename the Crawford Ranch "Mt. Vermin"?
I've had neither time nor inclination to blog for a couple of days, so things have piled up. Here are
three must-read posts, all of them, in one way or another, statements about violations of basic human
decency. Please assume no order in these; they are all of considerable significance:
Riverbend reacts to
by Iraqi security forces of a young woman taken from her home, and
Maliki's dismissive denial
of the young woman's charges. River points out that, in a culture in which rape is considered to
bring shame not on the rapist but on the woman raped, there is absolutely no motive for a woman to
bring a false accusation of rape in public. This is a moving post of a sort only Riverbend, by
virtue of her position in Baghdad and her expressive command of language, can write.
Lilith, in a post titled simply
balances her joy at University of Illinois' discontinuing of its "Indian" mascot, Chief Illiniwek,
with the dismay of a popular and supposedly progressive blogger that his alma mater bowed
to "political correctness" in ridding itself of an effectively racist symbol. Racism is racism,
whatever race is targeted.
Veterans... We should be ashamed!
of the unconscionable neglect of America's wounded veterans... "23,000 or so" from the Iraq war...
and of the very structure and facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Fallenmonk cites the very same popular progressive blogger Lilith faults above, as the best source of
information on the veterans' problems... proving, I suppose, that all of us have our insights and all
of us have our blind spots. Apologies in advance for my own blind spots; if I could see them, I'd
surely begin correcting them. Now if only our preznit and his henchmen would even admit to any
failures of perception and/or execution... nah. Never mind.
It's official now...
many Senate Republans love their preznit more than they love their country:
Senate Republicans for a second time blocked a symbolic attempt by Democrats to reject President
Bush's troop increase yesterday, but GOP defections were higher than before, suggesting Republican
cracks as the Iraq war dominates Congress's agenda.
With the 56 to 34 vote, Democrats fell shy of the 60 votes required to kick off debate on a nonbinding
resolution passed by the House last week that expresses support for the troops but criticizes Bush's
decision to expand combat ranks by more than 20,000 troops. Senate Democrats picked up five new
Republican allies in their effort to advance the resolution, bringing the GOP total to seven.
But the fate of the resolution is now very much in doubt. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-
Nev.) announced after the vote that he would not bring up the resolution again. Both sides instead are
girding for the next phase, a confrontation over war funding, with some Democrats determined to
exercise the power of the purse to influence Iraq strategy.
As Congress struggled to find its voice in the Iraq debate, the administration intensified its own
campaign to convince the American public that the conflict remains winnable. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice paid a surprise visit to Baghdad yesterday, announcing that the increase in troops
was bringing "new hope and a new optimism" to the besieged city. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
assured Bush on Friday that the buildup had already achieved "fabulous success."
That last paragraph is the best example of Reporter's Oh-Look-At-The-Kitty Disorder that I've seen
since... well, probably since the last time the WaPo or the NYT published Republan talking points as
if they were news, or hid something unpleasant on Page 16. But this article was headlined as if it
were about the Iraq vote in the Senate. In fairness to the reporter, I suppose she was obliged by the
editors to insert the administration ass-kissing paragraph somewhere. Onward:
Those optimistic pronouncements appeared to have little impact on the Senate floor yesterday, where a
rare Saturday session made for a dramatic political tableau. Presidential candidates jetted in from
various primary states, having canceled visits to popular diners and town-hall meetings to cast their
vote. They did not all show. One of the 10 absentees was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a
supporter of the Bush plan, who was campaigning in Iowa.
Ah, yes... the Straight Silence Express. If I were among the few fools who still actively
support the Iraq war and Bush's escalation, I wouldn't want to go on record about it either. McCain,
who long ago showed that he is not anything resembling a moderate, shows by this silence that he is
a manipulator of public opinion and arguably a coward. I liked the old, heroic John McCain much better.
Was this vote a defeat for Democrats? That's less clear than many Republans, including Minority Leader
McConnell (don't you love the sound of "minority" in that phrase?), would have it. Harry Reid did
pretty well with the material available to him, persuading seven Republans to vote with Democrats. In
a way, he succeeded in evoking at least some debate as Congress moves (one hopes) toward actual
budget-related legislation that could directly affect Bush's ability to escalate the war. The other
accomplishment in simply forcing this vote is that Senate Republans were required once again to go
on the record as favoring an action disapproved of by a large majority of the American people. This
will not, of course, save us from Bush's escalation juggernaut, but that's a lot to ask of an initial
nonbinding resolution. Of course I'd have liked to prevail in this Senate vote, but I am glad to see
Congress, including a surprising number of Republans, turning toward some version of the position we
sent them there to take when we voted Democrats into power in November.
It is, indeed, happening: congressional opposition to the war is mounting. That said...
congresscritters, could you please move more quickly? We eagerly await the budget battle, and a lot of
troops need to be brought home. At some point, you have to forget triangulation, political costs,
etc., and just do the right thing.
A note: my use of "Republan" for the opposition party will continue until I cease hearing "Democrat
Party" every few days in public speeches by GOP members. I call this editorial policy "an 'ic'
for an 'ic'." Personally, I'd rather go back to conventional usage, but until Bush quits riding
that horse he inherited from Joe McCarthy, you're stuck with the chopped usage, on this site at least.
(I noticed that Rep. Patrick Murphy used "Republic Party" a few times in his recent Iraq speech. That
makes the same point, but I like the idea of mangling the GOP's name in very nearly the same way they
As if the park's hours and thirteen (13) regulations were not enough, there's the concluding
instruction: "Enjoy the park." Enjoy the park? Can someone show me where in the state code, or
in a city ordinance, it requires me to enjoy the park? I'll enjoy the park if I damned well feel like
Actually, Stella and I sat on a bench not far from this sign, relaxed in the sun, in the perfect
temperature, and did indeed enjoy the park. A young toddler, on reaching the playground next to our
bench, ran straight toward me and wrapped his arms around my legs. I confess I was charmed, despite my
crusty old curmudgeon status and cranky demeanor after the first fall from my bike. The boy repeated
the performance with other people nearby, including his parents, who promptly sent him down a nearby
slide several times, thus proving something we all need to know: that one can indeed survive a
slippery slope. The sight of the kid improved my attitude toward humankind considerably.
My host was down for almost an hour this evening. Actually, it wasn't my host, but my host's upstream
network provider, that was at fault. New ones are being torn in that network provider's executives as
I type this, and I sincerely hope this is not an ongoing problem. Apologies to any of you who tried
to view this site and/or leave comments.
Today the weather was strikingly beautiful in Houston. Stella and I took the opportunity to ride our
newly reconditioned bicycles to a small city park a few blocks from here. I have not ridden my bike in
over a year, and while the bike itself is in pretty good condition right now... this is one of the few
times in my life that I've paid someone to do a tune-up rather than doing the work myself, and I have
to say the results are remarkably better than I have usually accomplished... I am in far worse shape
than the bike.
In fact, the whole business was rather discouraging: I actually fell off the bike twice, both times
while mounting or dismounting. You have to understand that, prior to today, I've fallen off my bike
only twice in my adult life; it's something that just doesn't happen to me. It's true that this bike,
purchased at a garage sale about 12 years ago, is about an inch too tall for me, but never before have
I been so stiff and weak that I've actually missed the leg-up-and-over of mounting, or in one case,
dismounting. Ouch. My left toe and toenail were slightly hurt, along with my pride. But as I'm told is
the case with horses, the only thing to do is to get right back on and ride. I certainly hope this
attempt at resuming my old normal cycling routine improves with practice.
Saturday Signs may appear a bit later. I have some signs in mind, but between bike wrecks and host
downtime, I just haven't gotten anything up yet. Thanks for your patience. Here ends the whine for the
UPDATE: actually, the whine doesn't end quite yet. On top of it all,
just as I had finished and saved this post, there was a brief power failure. No harm done; nothing
lost... just one more annoyance.
Parse the post subject any way you like. Scarecrow of Firedoglake gives us
Rogue States And The Axis Of Evil,
an excellent history of how we got to the Iraq war in part through Bush's, Condoleezza's, and Bush's
speechwriters' demagoguery, and how we're getting to a horribly ill-advised war with Iran... through
the efforts of the very same people, even if they now occupy different roles. You will curse me for
sending you to read this post, but you really, really need to do so. Be sure to have a soft surface
somewhere nearby on which you can bang your head afterward.
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