Friday, September 28, 2007

10 answers

Columbia's Lee Bollinger harshly criticized Iran's president at a recent speech he made at Columbia University. You can see his speech here:

Comments of Mr. Bollinger

Iranian academics have ignored the points raised by Mr. Bollinger and posed 10 questions for him.

Here are my answers to their questions, which incidentally do not count 10:

1.a Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech at Columbia University?

Rather than call for his murder, as in the case of Iranians expressing their displeasure with Salmon Rushdie for a work of fiction, many felt compelled to call for Mr. Ahmadinejad's censorship.

However, Americans have generally found censorship a childish response and those people failed to have their way.

Vilifying someone seems to me to raise their esteem and stature and strikes me as ultimately counter-productive. I am therefore glad of Columbia's defense of democratic principles.

1.b And why have American TV networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond?

Why did the Iranian TV networks not broadcast hours of news reports insulting your president? Why was the popular website of Mr. Ahmadinejad's most forceful political opponent shut down during his speech?

1.c Is this not against the principle of freedom of speech?

Freedom of speech is not equivalent to freedom from criticism. How can one claim freedom of speech without the ability to speak freely?

2. Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran’s national government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah’s dictatorship?

The enemy of our enemy is our friend.

3. Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own people?

The enemy of our enemy's friend is our friend too.

4a. Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it?

Do you mean to imply that a democracy should not be held responsible for it's actions?

If so, I wish to invoke that to absolve the US from your complaints.

4b. And why does it oppose Iran ’s proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a general referendum?

Getting both sides to give up their age-old religious reasons for fighting seems unlikely. Without a genuine desire for mutual coexistence, democracy devolves into a tyranny of the majority. Here I cite as evidence the explosive situation in Iraq. Is that your model for peace in Palestine?

5a. Why has the US military failed to find Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even with all its advanced equipment?

To the best of our knowledge it is because the killer of 3,000 Americans finds succor amongst Islamic apologists for his behavior.

5b. How do you justify the old friendship between the Bush and Bin Laden families and their cooperation on oil deals?

The sins of the father are not the sins of the child, and vice versa.

5c. How can you justify the Bush administration’s efforts to disrupt investigations concerning the September 11 attacks?

President Bush is a bad representative for American values, as evidenced by his unpopularity amongst Americans. I speculate he does not wish to draw attention to Osama's clean getaway.

6a. Why does the US administration support the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) despite the fact that the group has officially and openly accepted the responsibility for numerous deadly bombings and massacres in Iran and Iraq?

For the opposite reason that Iran supports Hezbollah.
For the opposite reason that Iran supports Hamas.

6b. Why does the US refuse to allow Iran ’s current government to act against the MKO’s main base in Iraq?

The enemy of our enemy...

7a. Was the US invasion of Iraq based on international consensus and did international institutions support it?

As I recall Saddam Hussein had very few public defenders, even amongst his closest neighbors. It is true that there was moderate theatrical protest to the invasion, but in the end the UN participated enough to get its' envoy bombed.

7b. What was the real purpose behind the invasion which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives?

To quote presidential candidate John Edwads, "Saddam was the threat he [president Bush] knew, so Iraq is the war we got."

7c. Where are the weapons of mass destruction that the US claimed were being stockpiled in Iraq?

If I were to say that we found them I would look as big a fool as your Holocaust-denying leader. In order to avoid such disgrace, I will instead say that they are embarrassingly absent.

8. Why do America’s closest allies in the Middle East come from extremely undemocratic governments with absolutist monarchical regimes?

Why would a young man seeking a bride in a brothel wind up marrying a whore?

9. Why did the US oppose the plan for a Middle East free of unconventional weapons in the recent session of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors despite the fact the move won the support of all members other than Israel?

The use of nuclear weapons in close quarters is a good way to poison your own well, and since radioactive contamination does not respect international boundaries, this seems like a tragedy.

10. Why is the US displeased with Iran’s agreement with the IAEA and why does it openly oppose any progress in talks between Iran and the agency to resolve the nuclear issue under international law?

My president calls your nation "evil doers" and yours calls mine "The Great Satan". Do you expect trust in that environment?

Given this level of mistrust, it is sensible to expect strict assurances that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb for rather obvious security reasons. A reliable framework for this assurance exists and Iran's talks are viewed as a delaying tactic.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Judas in context

Of Christ's twelve Apostles Judas alone proved to be a traitor. But if he had acquired power, he would have represented the other eleven Apostles as traitors, and also the lesser Apostles whom Luke numbers as seventy

- Leon Trotsky -

Service members who support U.S. withdrawal are "phony soldiers"

- Rush Limbaugh -

Pow! Right in the kisser.

Iran's president Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University recently. Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia, used the opportunity to publicly challenge him for his mad positions:

Video Here

The best way to make an ass of a fool is usually to let him speak. In Mr. Ahmadinejad's case, the ability to reminisce comes a close second.


The Kyl-Lieberman amendment is, I believe, the first step towards starting a war with Iran. It would be a way to start a war without Congressional approval. It would be a way to start a war without Congressional debate. It is, to use Senator Jim Webb's phrase, "Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream".

Jim Webb's Senate commentary

"Surely", you sez, "the democratically controlled Senate and House will not allow such a back-door war to proceed!"

"Surely", you sez, "the Congress won't fall for the same song and dance that got us into Iraq!"

"Surely?", I sez, "Like, not!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who's in the mood for Dominoes?

Since president Bush himself compares Iraq to Vietnam it seems worth reexamining the Iraq war in that context, doesn't it?

As an experiment I took an analysis of our experience in Vietnam and reexpressed it in terms of Iraq. Bush replaced Johnson, Al Qaeda replaced Communists. Here is the result:

President Bush and his allies see Iraqis as instruments of Al Qaeda expansionism which must be controlled before all the Arab "dominoes" fall to Islamic Jihadists. Our policy is therefore to prop-up a weak client-state government which does not command the loyalty of all the Iraqi people (because it is tribal in nature).

That sounds about right for the current situation.

Bill Clinton admired senator Fulbright's foreign affairs experience (Source: "My Life", by Bill Clinton). What happens if we now apply senator Fulbright's recipe for withdrawal to the current situation?

We would make American withdrawal from Iraq conditional on agreement by all parties to self-determination for Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites and a referendum on reunification.

I wonder if Hillary will lean in this direction?

Is it already too late to expect an agreement about anything?

And the winners are...

Who are the 22 most corrupt members of Congress?

According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)'s third annual list the winners are...

Details here

If your senator or Congressional representative is on the list keep it in mind next election cycle won't you?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Conflagration erupting?

Things look tense in Israel right now and I don't see much momentum to avoid a conflict in any direction.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agrees with Israel that Hamas is a hostile group: Story here

Israel has declared Gaza hostile: Story here

An anti-Syrian Lebanese MP was killed in a bombing: Story here

Iran says it has plans for airstrikes on Israel: Story here

Israel's incursion on September 6th into Syrian airspace seems to have made the US neocons happy: Story here

It has also generated a threat of "serious consequences" from Syria: Story here

The good news is that threats flowed freely last year at about this time and may be an annual tactic instead of a policy: Story here

It worries me that wars are like avalanches. Easy to start but not so easy to stop.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Human nature?

Rather than confront an ugly truth about oneself often a person will lash out in anger. There was a recent display of that behavior in our nations capital.

A gold-star dad built a memorial to his son and towed it in a march protesting the war.

This, obviously, confronts war supporters with the truth of their cheerleading which is, "You are partly responsible for the death of this young man".

Given what we know it would not be unexpected for such people to respond to a confrontation with this Truth by lashing out in anger.

Details here

I sez gold-star parents gave more than the rest of us and have earned the right to a little dignity. That is not the same as saying I believe we have a responsibility to pander to them, but it seems fair to uphold an ounce of respect for their loss.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The trouble with torture

When the government tortures it normalizes evil, which conditions everyone to think it is acceptable. It sets a very low price on human worth.

By making excuses for patently evil practices like the torture of human beings, one invites others to follow suit. Should it come as a surprise, then, that evil trickles down?

West Virginia Monsters

Perhaps Rush Limbaugh would claim that these sadistic animals were just, "Having a little fun, these people...just blowing off a little steam"?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Edwards continues leadership

John Edwards is showing leadership at a time when America desperately needs some. His latest speech condemns the muddled approach of the Bush administration to the "War on Terror":

Speech here

My favorite lines are these:

"Saddam Hussein was the threat he knew, so Iraq was the war he waged."


"We need a counterterrorism policy that will actually counter terrorism."

Edwards is now on my short list. While Hillary and Barak spend all their energy avoiding serious discussion Edwards is highlighting his strategy. That's leadership when it matters, which is the only kind that matters.

Here is a short video clip of Edwards talking about the surge and whether it is successful:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Worth noticing

This fact seems worth noticing. General Petraeus was not sworn in when he spoke before Congress. It is therefore an error to say "testified" before Congress:

Story here


In his latest video message to Americans, a relaxed, Osama taunts:

"The subject of the mujahedeen has become an inseparable part of the speech of your leader and the effects and signs are not hidden. Since the 11th, many of America's policies have come under the influence of the mujahedeen."


Is he talking about Patriot Acts?
Is he talking about Guantanamo and CIA black sites?
Is he talking about suspension of habeus corpus?
Is he talking about signing statements?
Is he talking about a unitary executive?
Is he talking about suppression of the minority vote?
Is he talking about freedom zones?
Is he talking about loyalty oaths?
Is he talking about martial law in New Orleans?

It sounds as if he is bragging about using only 19 people to scare America into abandoning the Constitution.

"If Osama can't stand freedom, then let freedom ring.", I sez, and sez, and sez.

NOTE: The full transcript and video can be read/seen here: Osama Says

Monday, September 10, 2007

Preempting Petraeus

Before general Petraeus goes before Congress and testifies on the happy times in the land of sunshine and lollipops, I advise you to keep these words in mind:

"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule, is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist."

- Hannah Arendt -

Fallen heroes?

I often wonder what soldiers returning from Iraq must think of us, particularly when I see a thing like news of 7 more GIs killed in Iraq buried in the back pages of our newspapers.

The president doesn't attend funerals and Donald Rumsfeld had to be forced to sign official letters of condolence with his own hand. I suppose they tell themselves they are busy, important people with many important things to do, when everyone knows they lack the courage to face the consequences of their own decisions.

I know that it helps the president's P.R. if everybody pretends not to see the bodies and the wounded as they are flown back to the US under cover of darkness and under a media blackout, but should we all participate in this P.R. effort?

Should we make it easy for those who lead to take the lives of our young?

Should soldier's families see a nation ignore their sacrifice the way we ignored Cindy Sheehan when she travelled to Crawford?

Are we guilty of recoiling in shame from their sacrifice? Is that why we hide them, bury their loss on our back pages, and fail to honor their sacrifice publicly?

Are we shielding ourselves from funeral fatigue?

If the war is worth it then the sacrifice is something to be proud of, is it not?

Shouldn't we treat returning soldiers cadavers better than the homeless among us? Shouldn't we at least see them, notice them, acknowledge them?

Haven't they become like inconvenient truths to us?

Friday, September 07, 2007

The decider

President Bush told big lies, and lots of 'em, to start this nefarious war in Iraq. His lies were so big and so bold that Americans would rather believe them than believe their president capable of telling such atrocities of deceit. This is what big liars exploit.

Here is a story that points out that George W. Bush knew, because the CIA briefed him, that Saddam Husein did not have weapons of mass destruction:

Big ol' lie told grinnin' in your face

It is important to remember that our president is an embarrassment to Honesty as he flits around generating new big lies about progress in Iraq or the Iranian menace.

The president's word is no good and he sold you a lemon last time, so smarten up.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Hopefully these dots do not connect logically:

Dot 1: the Pentagon suffered a major breach by hackers reportedly working for the Chinese military earlier this year.

Dot 2: At least 5 nuclear warheads were mistakenly flown on a B-52 from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

Larry Johnson suggests the more likely explanation that the nukes flown to Barksdale, which happens to be a "jumping off point for Middle East operations", have more to do with Iran than China.

I know the president is incompetent, stubborn, spoiled, petulant, petty, greedy, self-centered, small-minded, arrogant, and a graceless face-landing klutz, but can a man with children be truly a monster?

How could a child come to this?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Roll up!

With September here president Bush wishes to change his F in Iraq to an A in the hearts and minds of the people, or at least the Congress anyway.

The magical mystery tour is dying to take you away,
Dying to take you away, take you away.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Power to the People

I think that since government taxes everyone that it should serve common needs as much as possible and private needs as little as possible.

When government builds roads which benefit everyone I think that is a good public use of public tax money.

When government maintains a military that is used for the common defense then I think that is a good public use of public tax money.

When government maintains the legal code which governs civil society, and by which all are afforded equal treatment and protection, then I think that is a good public use of public money.

Should government decide to use the inherent economies of scale to provide a universal single-payer healthcare system, then I think that would be a good public use of public tax money.

The underlying principle in all these cases is that we all pay and we all benefit. It is not only fair, but it makes economic sense as well.

I think that the founding fathers hoped to secure this type of good governance by giving the common man a participatory role.

It seems to make intuitive sense that a government of the People, by the People, and for the People will exercise the will of the People.

Somehow that seems no longer the case. There seems to be an institutional arrogance in Washington these days, which Condi Rice might call systemic, that politicians know best.

No longer do they hear us, for instance, when we say in a loud clear voice, "Get out of Iraq!", or "Our healthcare system is killing us!", or increasingly "Canada is not an enemy and we don't need a fence".

What happened?

Why does a man of George Bush's limitations feel he can mandate to the rest of us?

It seems like arrogance to me.

Democracy is built upon the premise that the People may not always be right, but they don't forever maintain incorrect or immoral positions. Further, when everyone participates in good faith it is government which reflects the will of the majority, while maintaining the right of any minority to peacefully petition their government for redress. It is fair and balanced just like Fox News.

Slavery was terrible, but didn't it take democracy to break those chains? Didn't it take authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe writing freely to those who could freely choose to read her words, and whose minds were open enough to adopt them?

I think we are abandoning the central tenants of our society at a time during which they will be sorely needed. As surely as oil and water don't mix free society and dogmatic religious dogma don't mix.

These country bumpkins that want to turn America into a Christian theocracy are doing Al Qaeda's work for it, or at least the hardest part, since trading one dogma for another is as easy as changing shoes. People do it all the time. The hard part is building up habits of subservience to over-bearing ideological masters.

Dogmatic faith is mental slavery and shackles the minds of many with one dark chain that binds.

I am glad to see Americans recoil in disgust from America's biggest bumpkin, but wonder what lesson was learned when I see Republicans nutty for Romney.

How about we try someone more scientifically grounded and secular this time, more committed to democracy, and more committed to the laws of the land, and more committed to the right of the people to rule?

Neither Jimmy Carter nor George W. Bush were able to govern well because of their self-righteous certainty. They were too sure they were right because their religious training made them tyrannical towards other views.

That is not to say that either man is a bad person. I am saying they are too closed-minded and reactionary to govern well.

I think anyone belonging to a fundamentalist religion ought to be disqualified as a presidential candidate on the grounds that they are sure to be incapable leaders. It would be best if this were enforced via cultural voting practice.

We need free and open minds in America if we are to repel the Islamic theocrats coming for us. Let us stand together and reject any tyrannical assault upon our freedoms.

Let us choose to worship as we may, or in my case not at all. Let us choose to read what we wish, or in the president's case not at all. Let us take "In God we Trust" off our money and replace it with something we can all support, "Liberty and Justice for all".

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin