Archive for the 'politics' Category

I’m sure these things are not related…

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

I mean, why would Chavez be calling for FARC to end their armed struggle against Colombia… one day after the Colombians caught Venezuelan military personnel trying to smuggle 40,000 rounds of ammunition into Colombia? They couldn’t possibly be related…

Some backstory: Venezuela’s military recently converted from rifles that fire NATO 5.56x45mm ammunition to an updated, Russian-made version of the AK-47 that fires 7.62x39mm ammunition – making them the only nation in the Americas to standardize on this cartridge. At the time the purchase was announced (last year? two years ago? feeling too lazy to Google…), some analysts speculated that the primary reason for the conversion wasn’t to give the finger to the US – it was to make covertly arming FARC easier, since they primarily use AK-47 variants.

Quiz time…

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

That some of Clinton’s supporters would think that trying to link Obama to drugs, murder & gay sex is an argument for Clinton’s electibility is ___________.

  1. stupid
  2. fucking weird
  3. mendacious
  4. pathological
  5. depressing
  6. all of the above


Someone come get me when it’s all over…

In which I defend Hillary Clinton

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I never thought this would come to pass, yet here we are… I feel compelled to speak up in Hillary Clinton’s defense.

Let’s get a number of things clear: I hate the Clintons. I’ve hated them pretty much ever since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fiasco, and I’ve seen little in the intervening 16 years to do all that much to change my opinion of them. I’m a cautiously pessimistic supporter of Obama; I much preferred the way Edwards talked about issues of class, but hey – when the press massacres your preferred candidate early on, you adjust; you move on.

Still… I’ve been reading a lot of blogospheric bullshit lately about how sexism hasn’t played a role in shutting down Clinton’s campaign. And I gotta say – it’s pretty high-grade bullshit; but it’s still bullshit.

So – this bullshit – is it stupidity? Or willful ignorance? Or deliberate shit-stirring? Not that the three categories are mutually exclusive, of course…

Senator Clinton has been part of the national political scene since, well, Bill Clinton’s presidency. Since that time, Clinton’s name has been attached to insinuations of lesbianism; she’s been labeled a FemiNazi; she’s weathered a lot of attacks that use sexist language, imagery, and dogwhistles – and now, 15+ years later, she has extremely high negative ratings and an apparent ceiling of national support that has a hard time breaking out of the low 40s.

You can’t tell me that almost two decades of scurrilous attacks and insinuations haven’t had anything to do with that. The invective personally directed against her by Rush, North, Liddy, et. al., has been in remission since she seemed content to remain the junior Senator from NY – but once she declared her candidacy, that bile came spewing back out.

So, once and for all: to say that sexism played no role in hindering Clinton’s quest for the Democratic nomination is, well, foolish or ignorant. To say that this sexism was actively cultivated by the Obama campaign also strikes me as foolish or ignorant. It sets aside Clinton’s history, the very thing she’s promoting as an asset, and pretends that no one could possibly look at her and her qualifications and think, ‘you know… maybe we could do better.’ But to say that sexism played no role whatsoever in ending her campaign also misses an opportunity for us to do better.

I happen to believe that we can do better.

Why conflating ‘Islamic Terror’ with ‘Islam’ is stupid: Exhibit A

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

‘Exhibit A’ being, yet again, bin Laden’s own words:

CAIRO, Egypt — Osama bin Laden released a new message on Sunday denouncing Arab leaders for sacrificing the Palestinians and saying the head of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah did not really have the strength to take on Israel.

In his second audio message in three days focusing on the Palestinians, the al-Qaida leader said the only way to liberate Palestine is to fight the Arab regimes that are protecting Israel. And he called on Muslim militants in Egypt to help break the blockade of Gaza.

Bin Laden said Muslims should ignore the Islamic prohibition against raising arms against fellow Muslims, claiming it was legitimate to rise up against leaders who are not governing according to Islamic law. Those leaders, he said, came to power “either by a military coup or with backing from foreign forces.”

“Those (Arab) kings and leaders sacrificed Palestine and Al-Aqsa to keep their crowns,” bin Laden said, referring to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites. “But we will not be relieved of this responsibility.”

Got that? This is one radical sectarian faction (Sunni al-Qaida) trying to achieve strategic advantage over another radical sectarian faction (Shiite Hezbollah) as well as over vastly larger, more moderate entities – Jordan, Egypt, and, to a lesser degree, the Saudis.

Talking in broad sweeping statements about clashes of civilization makes a very similar mistake as was made during the Cold War – treating anything that smacks of a particular ideology (or in this case, a religion) as a monolithic enemy. In the Cold War, anything even vaguely associated with Communism was seen as Out To Destroy Mom, The Flag, And Apple Pie. This approach was simple-minded and counterproductive then; it is equally as simple-minded and counterproductive now.

If our enemy is Islam, who winds up in that category: Brunei? Stupid. Indonesia? Stupid. Jordan? Stupid. Turkey? Stupid. Albania? Stupid. Bahrain? Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. There are far more moderate Muslims out there than militant; declaring war on them all only creates adversaries from people who otherwise would be glad to be our global neighbors and partners.

Taking ‘low information voter’ to new lows…

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008


The recent controversy surrounding sermons by Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Wright, and Obama’s March 18 speech on race and politics have attracted more public attention than other recent campaign events, according to Pew’s weekly News Interest Index. Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) say they heard at least something about Wright’s sermons (51% a lot, 28% a little) and about half (49%) have seen video of the sermons.


While voters who heard “a lot” about Reverend Wright’s controversial sermons are more likely than those who have not to correctly identify Obama as a Christian, they are not substantially less likely to still believe that he is Muslim. Nearly one-in-ten (9%) of those who heard a lot about Wright still believe that Obama is Muslim.

[emphasis mine]

Thankfully, 9% of 51% almost falls within the realm of statistical noise. Still, it does give one pause…


The more things change…

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

…yadda yadda.


Since 2006, when the insurgency in Afghanistan sharply intensified, the Afghan government has been dependent on American logistics and military support in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But to arm the Afghan forces that it hopes will lead this fight, the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur.

With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces.

Since then, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging, according to an examination of the munitions by The New York Times and interviews with American and Afghan officials. Much of the ammunition comes from the aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed.

In purchasing munitions, the contractor has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking.


War Department, Washington, Feb. 9, 1899.
In accordance with the instructions of the President of Feb. 3, 1899, a court of inquiry, to consist of the following-named officers, is hereby appointed to meet in this city on Feb. 15, 1899[.]
The court is hereby directed to investigate certain allegations of the Major General Commanding the Army in respect to the unfitness for issue of certain articles of food furnished by the Subsistence Departmet to the troops inthe field during the recent operations in Cuba and Puerto Rico. In addition to its findings of fact the court will submiy an opinion upon the merits of the case together with such recommendations as to further proceedings as may seem to be warranted by the facts developed in the course of the inquiry.

Regardless of the era, war attracts vultures of all kinds…

(As a side note – how cool is it that you can search the NY Times’ archives from 1851 onward?)

[updated to change the tag from ‘random’ to ‘politics’]

Shallow thought for the day

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

John Derbyshire wouldn’t know a socialist if one rammed a red flag up his ass while bellowing “Arise, ye prisoners of starvation” at the top of their lungs…

(His summation of Obama’s speech? “Blame whitey, and raise high the red flag of socialism.” Whatever.)

Well no shit, Sherlock…

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

The title on this AP article reads “Popular View of King Ignores Complexity.”

What popular view, exactly, doesn’t ignore complexity?

“We’re living increasingly in a culture of top 10 lists, of celebrity biopics which simplify the past as entertainment or mythology,” [Richard Greenwald, professor of history at Drew University] said. “We lose a view on what real leadership is by compressing him down to one window.”

News flash, Doctor Greenwald – and, for that matter, the dumbasses at Comcast who chose the headline*: this is what ‘popular’ culture does. It simplifies and abstracts complexities down to consumable nuggets. Those stories about Washington and the cherry tree? Same deal; same process, different era.

*Typically, the AP is not responsible for the headlines under which their pieces run. Dunno who ran with this one, AP or Comcast, but it’s a friggin’ doozy on the “This is a job for Captain Obvious!” scale.

“Not service connected”

Monday, November 19th, 2007

How sick is this?

Garrett Anderson with the Illinois National Guard, for example, has been fighting the VA since October 15, 2005. Shrapnel tore through his head and body after a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was driving. He lost his right arm.

The VA initially rejected his claim, saying his severe shrapnel wounds were “not service connected.”

Because, you know, shrapnel happens pretty much everywhere. Boy, those IEDs, they’re going off everywhere these days…

(picture * n) = (word * 1000n)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

And a good animation must bump that ratio out at least another order of magnitude, right? Take a look at this chart produced by Gapminder:

Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations. Gapminder is a Foundation registered at Stockholm county administration board (Länstyrelsen) (reg. nr. 802424-7721). It was founded by Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Hans Rosling on 25 February 2005, in Stockholm. Gapminder Foundation will advance software development that have been done earlier by the non-profit company Gapminder Ltd. Funding has been and is mainly by grants from Sida for the Trendalyzer project. Being a producer of global public goods Gapminder benefit from free and creative inputs from pilot-testers and other end-users in many institutions and organisations.

(from their About page).

This is something Andrew Sullivan blogged about shortly before leaving for his wedding, and I didn’t see anyone else pick up on it. Sullivan was highlighting the most striking part of the graph: the impact of HIV/AIDS on Africa, a dramatic boomarang of regression. What I found fascinating about it was how the graph also shows the tragedies of individual nations.

After clicking “Play” a couple of times to let the visuals sink in, slow the animation down to its lowest level and you’ll see the impact of China’s Great Leap Forward, Cambodia’s , Rwanda’s civil war and genocide, and UN sanctions against Iraq. You can see the disintegration of the Soviet Union play itself out, and see the Chinese start to get their economic act together.

It’s interesting how you start off in 1960 with a more-or-less continuous curve of life expectancies and infant mortality; it isn’t until the mid 1990’s that you get this breakup of that curve into five clusters. It’s a fascinating tool…

Curious connections

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Firing up Google earlier this morning, I noticed a headline about a ‘semi-submarine’ carrying 5 tons of coke being seized by US Customs somewhere in the Eastern Pacific. The article above linked to another one about a similar seizure carried out last year, and it was in that article that something caught my eye – the ethnicity of the 4-man crew: “two Colombians, one Guatemalan, and one Sri Lankan.”

Sri Lankan? Yup. It actually makes some sense: the Tamil Tigers have a moderately effective navy (for an irregular force), and have made fairly extensive use of suicide boat attacks in their war for Tamil autonomy. I wonder if they’re selling their naval expertise to the drug cartels?

There was no word on the ethnicity of the most recently-seized crew. I may have to google it and see if I can find anything… Nope, still no news on the nationalities of the crew.

It’s a disease!

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

A sickness! Madness! LOLCATS, LOLCODE… Is nothing safe?

Methinks Roy is being quite prescient by calling this “the hamster dance of 2007.” I present to you… LOL President:



The real reason for Putin’s recent hostility?

Friday, June 8th, 2007

It isn’t about nuclear missiles. It’s about encirclement:

Since the Gulf War in 1990, […] base-creation has been on the rise. The Bush, Clinton, and younger Bush administrations have laid down a string of bases from the old Eastern European satellites of the Soviet Union (Romania, Bulgaria) and the former Yugoslavia through the Greater Middle East (Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates), to the Horn of Africa (Djibouti), into the Indian Ocean (the “British” island of Diego Garcia), and right through Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan, where we “share” Pakistani bases).

Bases have followed our little wars of recent decades. They were dropped into Saudi Arabia and the small Gulf emirates around the time of our first Gulf War in 1991; into the former Yugoslavia after the Kosovo air war of 1999; into Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the former Central Asian SSRs after the Afghan war of 2001; and into Iraq, of course, after the invasion of 2003 where they were to replace the Saudi bases being mothballed as a response to Osama bin Laden’s claims that Americans were defiling the holiest spots of Islam.

In effect, when it came to bases in the post-9/11 years, the emphasis was, on the one hand, encircling Russia from its former Eastern European satellites to its former Central Asian [Soviet Socialist Republics] and, on the other hand, securing a series of bases across the oil heartlands of the planet, a swath of territory known to the administration back in 2002-2003 as “the arc of instability.” [emphasis added]

Add up all those locations, and it basically leaves you with China being the only place without a US military presence – and we all know how Russia and China feel about sharing a border, don’t we?

It isn’t just Iran that’s feeling surrounded – it’s the Russian bear, too.

Question of the day:

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

The discovery of a second delivery of Iranian weapons to anti-American forces is proof that:

1. the Iranians are up to NO GOOD!!11!ZOMG!
2. the White House is determined TO BOMB IRAN!!!11!ZOMG!
3. Some from Column A, some from Column B
4. None of the above

Answer? I have no idea. The Iranians would be fools if they weren’t running their own black ops inside Iraq and Afghanistan, and whatever else they might be, they aren’t fools. On the other hand, given that there are lots of non-state and quasi-state actors who can operate semi-autonomously in the region, these discoveries don’t necessarily mean that Iran is directly involved. Also, it would be odd – but not impossible – for the Shiite Iranians to be supplying the Sunni Taliban and Iraqi resistance groups. (I personally find it more odd in Iraq, given that the Shiite and Sunni militias are trying to kill one another, but there are rational explanations. For instance, it could still be part of an overall policy to supply both sides in order to keep Iraq destabilized. Methinks that so far, this is the only example of W living up to his ‘uniter, not a divider’ promise.)

As a final point, it should also be noted that there is a lot of division within US policy-making circles about racheting up tensions with Iran. The timing on this story may be intended to counteract some of this negative press as well as keep the BOO! SCARY IRANIANS! narrative fresh.

So there you have it: it could be the Iranians escalating things, it could be us escalating things, it could be both, or it could be neither.

I ask you, where else can you get this kind of insight? A bargain at twice the price.

This is not speech

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

While Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has an excellent post up detailing why exactly hate crimes are not thought crimes, this morning’s news from Russia brought with it a picture that crystallizes things all-too perfectly:

This is not speech.

This is not thought.

This is a hate crime: Peter Tatchell is about to be assaulted because he is gay.

Remember this image the next time you hear someone complain that hate crimes are about criminalizing speech or thoughts. They aren’t. They’re about meting out additional punishment because of the motivations of the criminal – a concept already accepted by, nay, deeply embedded in Western law.

When they whine that all crimes are hate crimes, ask them how jaywalking or panhandling involves hate. When they backpedal and try to say that oh no, they only meant violent crimes, ask them why we then have the concept of involuntary homicide or of manslaughter, or accessory to commit, or any of those violent crimes that do not actually involve, well, intent.

And maybe you should ask that person what rights of theirs, exactly, they think are curtailed under hate crimes laws. Because the only ‘right’ that is being restricted is their ‘right’ to be that fascist in the photo with the cocked arm.