Last night’s debates

Clearly, Kerry did much better. I was surprised at how honestly bad Bush was. As soon as it was over, the media machine pumped up Bush’s performance. Unsurprising.

Kerry / Edwards on 60 minutes

Did anyone else see John Kerry and John Edwards on “60 Minutes” last night? I thought they did a great job together, and showed a lot of good team work when handling some of the pointed questions Leslie Stahl threw out them. When asking about a criticism levelled by Bush toward Kerry, John Edwards jumped out to his defense allowing John Kerry to appear to take the high ground.

I think maintaining the approach of optimism and reserve will help them with the Republicans. Judging from last night, I think they will do a good job of fighting in the election.

Allawi and martial law

There has been increasing talk of Allawi declaring martial law in parts of Iraq. In the following Christian Science Monitor article it states that: “the Iraqi government has repeatedly postponed its unveiling, because of US concerns that it grants Mr. Allawi too much power.”

On the contrary, It seems rather obvious that the US would have liked to have declared martial law itself and only refrained from doing so to prevent any negative consequences with regards to its already battered image as Iraq’s occupier. The hand-wringing over giving Allawi too much power is disingenuous. The US simply did not want to impose martial law themselves.

But other Iraqis reject the idea of martial law, seeing it as an extension of the US-led occupation and a reprise of Saddam Hussein’s regime. “If there is martial law, there will be arbitrary searches and arrests,” says Abu Ghayeb al-Kubaisi, a chicken farmer. “They will use the excuse of fighting terrorism or national security. If someone has an enemy, he will use that as a pretext for getting this person arrested.”

Mr. Kubaisi had just spent three hours at a checkpoint on Baghdad’s outskirts. A resident of Ramadi – a prime candidate for martial law – he described baking in the 120-degree sun while Iraqi troops held him at the checkpoint. “I think they took them to Egypt and Israel to teach them Israeli methods,” he says with disgust. (Egypt has been under emergency law since 1981).

Indeed, in many Arab countries, emergency laws, once declared, have dragged on for years or decades. “Emergency rule is often the Achilles heel of Arab constitutional systems,” says Nathan Brown, an expert on Arab legal systems at George Washington University in Washington. “In many countries, emergency rule becomes a permanent state that allows rulers to bypass the constitutional order completely.”

Editorial on journalism and Hitchens

NYPress: SHOVELING COAL FOR SATAN: Christopher Hitchens collects check from Microsoft, calls Moore a coward:

I’ve been around journalists my entire life, since I was a little kid, and I haven’t met more than five in three-plus decades who wouldn’t literally shit from shame before daring to say that their job had anything to do with truth or informing the public. Everyone in the commercial media, and that includes Hitchens, knows what his real job is: feeding the monkey. We are professional space-fillers, frivolously tossing content-pebbles in an ever-widening canyon of demand, cranking out one silly pack-mule after another for toothpaste and sneaker ads to ride on straight into the brains of the stupefied public.

One friend I know describes working in the media as shoveling coal for Satan. That’s about right. A worker in a tampon factory has dignity: He just uses his sweat to make a product, a useful product at that, and doesn’t lie to himself about what he does. In this business we make commodities for sale and, for the benefit of our consciences and our egos, we call them ideas and truth. And then we go on the lecture circuit. But in 99 cases out of 100, the public has more to learn about humanity from the guy who makes tampons.

Fahrenheit 9-11

You need to see this movie. There are scenes that will grip you, not because of anything said, written, or done by Michael Moore, but because of the unadulterated and undeniable reality of what you are seeing. In one scene an older Iraqi woman walks amidst the rubble of her uncle’s home pleading with God to save them from the Americans, and asking where is He in their moment of need? When she cries out in anguish that “God is great” “Allahu Ackbar!” because she is scared and powerless to do anything else to protect her family and herself, you understand in an instant what the Iraqi people are going through. Exhorting God is the only way to keep your head up and your spirit from collapsing. It is powerful stuff and that’s just one small taste of it. Much of the rest of the film is the typical Moore ambush clueless politicians with a camera stuff, or talking to the average joe. Undeniably, Fahrenheit 9-11 will have a considerable impact on the election, especially if just half the people who see this movie vote in Novemeber.
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Sadr situation

Despite my black and white interpretation events in Iraq, there is a lot more nuance here, and it makes it difficult to really understand what exactly is happening. Here is some additional context to what is happening from people who spend their time studying the complexities of the situation there. Juan Cole * Informed Comment * blog

Gibson and the Holocaust

I personally don’t see what all the controversy is about with the Mel Gibson film, The Passion. Apparently, there is a line from the bible that Jewish ‘leaders’ object to since it insinuates blame for the death of Jesus on his fellow Jews as collaborators with the Romans:

Mel Gibson has cut a line from his new film The Passion of Christ, in an apparent concession to Jewish lobby groups who have accused him of stoking anti-Semitism and reviving the old accusation that Jews bear collective responsibility for killing the Son of God.

A friend of the actor-director said the final version will not include a line from St Matthew’s gospel in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas says of the crucifixion: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

Gibson has apparently inflicted further damage with an interview in Reader’s Digest, in which he was challenged to acknowledge the Holocaust happened. Gibson responded: “I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives.”

Gibson’s choice of words has incensed Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who wrote in a letter to the actor-director: “To describe Jewish suffering during the Holocaust as ‘some of them were Jews in concentration camps’ is an afterthought that feeds into the hands of Holocaust deniers and revisionists.”

I don’t think any one group reserves special status for the atrocity of World War Two. After all, 15-20 million Chinese were killed, 15-20 Soviet Russians, millions of Japanese, and untold other Europeans, Americans, and Japanese, etc. This in addition to the six million Jews, six million Slavs, and the countless other Gypsies, homosexuals, and those others found unsuitable to the Nazi government. I do think that the Jewish Holocaust receives the most attention at the expense of the other victims. I understand that the Jews were targetted for extermination by the Nazis and I am sensitive to that, but to me, being so vigilant against perceived threats to the Jewish community betrays a type of cultural nationalism. It calls into question fundamental questions of race, ethnicity, and identity.

UT Bidding for Los Alamos government dollars

Looks like UT is set to bid to run Los Alamos laboratories. That should be interesting.

Iraq bits

  1. The Pentagon’s Bungled Psyops Strategy: “Lt-Col Russell’s superior, Colonel James Hickey, told AP that “enemy tactics are ‘miss and run’. They’re almost running when they pull the trigger. I have yet to see any degree of military competence. They are not experienced fighters. They fire a mortar, then pick up and run . . . ” Colonel Hickey has described, obviously without realising it, the classic tactics of the guerrilla. The sequence of identifying a target, siting a weapon, firing it, then getting out quickly is precisely what guerrilla warfare is all about. Of course the enemy are not “experienced fighters”. And they don’t have “any degree of military competence”. Most are amateurs, ordinary citizens, who hate Hickey and Russell and all they stand for because their soldiers show no respect for their families and especially women in their irreligious, ferocious and intimidating door-crashing house raids in the middle of the night. ”
  2. US-led occupation brings frontline against al-Qaeda to Iraq: analysts: “The United States struggled before the war to convince the world there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda network, but five months of US-led occupation of Iraq may have created precisely such an unholy alliance.

    Stripped of their privileged positions under the ousted dictator’s brutal regime, Saddam’s henchmen may finally have thrown in their lot with their ideological adversaries in Osama bin Laden’s terror network to wage war on their common foe two years after the suicide hijackings in the United States, analysts say.”

  3. The Battle of Algiers and Its Lessons: “The name of Jean-Paul Sartre occurs only once in Pontecorvo’s film, but he played a major role in changing French public opinion. In his introduction to Algerian newspaper editor Henri Alleg’s The Question, Alleg’s account of his own torture at the hands of the Paras, Sartre points to the real issue at stake:

    “This rebellion is not merely challenging the power of the settlers, but their very being. For most Europeans in Algeria, there are two complementary and inseparable truths: the colonists are backed by divine right, the natives are sub-human. This is a mythical interpretation of reality, since the riches of the one are built on the poverty of the other. In this way exploitation puts the exploiter at the mercy of his victim, and the dependence itself begets racialism. It is a bitter and tragic fact that, for the Europeans in Algeria, being a man means first and foremost superiority to the Moslems. But what if the Moslem finds in his turn that his manhood depends on equality with the settler? It is then that the European begins to feel his very existence diminished and cheapened.”

    If one changes the words ‘settlers’ and ‘colonists’ to ‘American occupiers’ and ‘Algeria’ to ‘Iraq,’ this is not a bad assessment of where the U.S. now finds itself — or may soon find itself. Watching current TV news footage coming out of Iraq — say, of American soldiers patting down Iraqi men at check-points (and putting hoods and plastic handcuffs on some of them) or ransacking private homes — one cannot help but wince at the racial and religious hatreds being sown right before our eyes.”

Odds and ends

  • Missing RIAA figures shoot down ‘piracy’ canard:
      Research by George Zieman gives the true reason for falling CD sales: the major labels have slashed production by 25 per cent in the past two years, he argues.

      After keeping the figure rather quiet for two years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says the industry released around 27,000 titles in 2001, down from a peak of 38,900 in 1999. Since year-on-year unit sales have dropped a mere 10.3 per cent, it’s clear that demand has held up extremely well: despite higher prices, consumers retain the CD buying habit.

  • Secret networks protect music swappers:
      Some message boards help users find each other and set up networks. Others turn to chat rooms or recruit friends on college campuses to form a network. And even when a user finally charms his way into getting an encryption key, giving him access to a network such as Waste, other members’ identities are not revealed until they also decide they trust the newcomer, Kalanick explained. “You essentially will have to ‘socialize’ your way into a network,” Kalanick said. Kalanick said the extreme focus on security is meant to keep outsiders — and copyright lawyers — out. “RIAA may be better off penetrating al Qaeda,” he said.