Monday, April 30, 2007

Marvelous Blog Discovery! Futility Closet.

David Seaton's News Links
By pure accident I have discovered this marvelously entertaining blog called, "Futility Closet". It is a must read if ever there was one. Certainly it provides welcome relief from the obscene slaughter and neo-fascist scum that clutter the news.

Futility Closet is a sort of "Ripley's Believe it or Not" for people that can read without moving their lips. Here is a little sample that goes with the photo at the top.
"Oh no! Not another fucking elf!"

Oxford English professor Hugo Dyson, interrupting J.R.R. Tolkien during an early reading from The Lord of the Rings
Enjoy! DS

Iraq: a crime unpunished, a death star born

"There is no alternative to getting out. Simply getting out as rapidly and efficiently as possible" - William Pfaff
David Seaton's News Links
I'm having trouble working up any enthusiasm for the "electable" Democrats running for president... Not one of them talks frankly about the criminal responsibility of destroying Iraq and setting the Middle East ablaze. Is everything supposed to go on as if nothing had happened? Is this to be treated as simply well intentioned incompetence and the page turned?

In fact, self-examination and accountability are essential if the United States is not to become a political black hole or death star. Germany had the great good fortune to be denazified by foreigners, but the USA is going to have to do it all by itself. DS

William Pfaff: Ending One War, Launching Another
Abstract: President George W. Bush’s reinforcement of American forces, announced at the start of the year in the guise of a final “surge” to “victory,” has merely displaced the sectarian attacks from one place to another, while doing nothing to solve the crisis that is destroying the Iraqi nation: inspiring sectarian murder on a huge scale, and sending its elites -- and others – into exile, or more likely, eventually, to refugee camps. If this goes on, when we Americans leave, there will be no Iraq, in any meaningful sense. We will have murdered the Iraqi nation, as nation (-- “to save it”). There is no alternative to getting out. Simply getting out as rapidly and efficiently as possible, with as much political help (or otherwise) as can be found from other governments in the region, who have an interest in containing the crisis. But getting out. No bases or troops left in Iraq. No new bases nearby. Hands off Iraq’s oil. Is that possible? Personally, I doubt it. It goes entirely against the interventionist mind-set and globalist strategy convictions that have dominated Washington for the last four decades. But without this, the region is left ablaze. Even the congressional opposition, which wants to get out of this war, proposes a beginning in October, a finish a year or so on, debating departure as if a perpetuated American presence of some kind is necessary to whatever solution may actually exist. If we leave now, or leave completely, there will be chaos! There is chaos now. The crucial factor in precipitating this terrible situation was the American invasion, and the principal factor in its continuation is the continued American presence in that country. When we leave, what follows will be the Iraqis’ responsibility. For any solution to be possible the United States must leave. For any solution to be possible the United States must leave. This certainly may be followed by intensified violence in the immediate term, but no long-term resolution of the civil struggle is imaginable with American forces still there. They haplessly stand by, witnesses to the conflagration George Bush and his colleagues have loosed. Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress cling to the belief that the American intervention was well-intentioned, and therefore American good intentions could still be a positive force in the country. READ IT ALL

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Treat - Laurel and Hardy


David Seaton's News Links
Pure charm.... Enjoy! DS
PS. Scroll down for the heavy stuff

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dharma is a hard row to hoe... just ask Wolfowitz

Shri Vishnu
David Seaton's News Links
If we study how Bush got "elected" and if we examine everything that he and his team have done since then and if we look at the financial scandals associated with his reign, from Enron to Wolfowitz and his girlfriend at the World Bank, they all hang together, don't they? If you were going to make a horrible little necklace of them. what single word would serve as a string to hang them all on? Sleaze? Corruption? War crimes? Words fail... or do they? How about "adharma"? What is adharma?

Adharma is the opposite of "dharma" which is a is very useful Sanskrit word, that Wikipedia defines as "the underlying order in nature and human life and behavior considered to be in accord with that order." Some would translate that as "right" as opposed to "wrong", or "duty" but those words might carry a little more "Judeo-Christian" freight of "sin" and "guilt" than dharma might feel comfortable carrying. "Appropriate", might be closer, but such a very powerful version of that word... so powerful that the word "dharma" in the original version would be more precise, so I'll try to explain dharma, as I understand it, through some examples.

Once a famous rishi, or Hindu holy man, was sitting in meditation next to a flowing river accompanied by his disciples. His reverie was interrupted by the sound of the death struggles of a scorpion that had fallen in the river. Filled with compassion the rishi reached out his hand and lifted the drowning creature out of the water, but no sooner did the scorpion feel himself safe, it stung the rishi's hand and the pain of the sting forced the rishi to drop it back into the water, where of course the scorpion began to drown again... and again the holy man reached down to pull the scorpion out and again he was stung for his pains, this was repeated several times till one of the disciples managed to get a leaf under the scorpion, lift it out of the water and set it on dry land,
whereupon the scorpion stalked off into the grass without so much as a backward look.

The disciple approached the rishi, who was nursing his swollen hand, and touching his guru's feet in homage asked, "Master, why did you continue to attempt to save the drowning scorpion, when each time you did so, he stung you for your pains?

The guru replied, "It is the scorpion's dharma to sting and it is my dharma to save."

Perhaps that example might be a little confusing because of the rishi's saintliness. The following story might clarify it.

Once upon a time in India there lived a king who was both a patron of the arts and of religion and a young actor resolved on getting a job at the court theater.

Disguising himself as a mendicant holy man with matted hair and smeared with ashes, the actor appeared before the palace gates, where the guards, knowing the king's penchant for conversing with saints, promptly ushered him into the royal presence. The king and the rishi/actor had a long conversation about spiritual matters and the king received some valuable pointers on his meditation techniques. At the end of the interview the king clapped his hands and a servant brought in a tray with a hundred gold coins upon it, which the king humbly offered to the rishi/actor, who with saintly modesty refused it, only accepting a bowl of rice before blessing the king and going on his way.

The next day the actor appeared before the palace dressed as a dancing girl and accompanied by a group of musicians. The guards knowing the king's love of music ushered the troupe promptly into the royal presence.

To the rhythm of the tabla and the whining of the sitar the actor/dancing girl whirled and stamped his/her bangled feet, striking coy poses, combined with lascivious undulations that drew enthusiastic applause from the king and the entire court. At the end of the performance, the king clapped his hands and again, as before, the servant appeared with the tray covered in gold coins... but this time the
actor/dancing girl shook his/her tresses, stamped his/her feet in indignation and pouted with offended displeasure and asked for more money in a rough, high pitched voice.

Now, the king was no dunce and something in the voice of the dancing girl rang a bell and he leaped from his throne and shouted, "I know you! You are the same person that came here yesterday posing as a rishi!" The actor whipped off his wig and threw himself at the king's feet saying, "Yes, your majesty, I was the rishi yesterday and I am the dancing girl today. In reality I am an actor who wants a job in the royal theater and this was the only way I could think of to show you my art."

"Well, said the king, "you are indeed a wonderful actor and not only am I going to give you a job in my theater, from today you are its director." The king paused and lifting the actor to his feet asked him, "But tell me one thing first: Why as rishi did you refuse a hundred gold coins and as a dancing girl protest that they were too few?"

The actor replied, "Your majesty, it is against the dharma of a rishi to accept money for spiritual advice and it is against the dharma of a dancing girl to ever be satisfied no matter how much money she gets... and, of course, it is the dharma of an actor to behave in the dharma of others" So the actor stayed on at court and as the years passed became one of the king most trusted advisors.

Living in dharma can be quite complex, however. Take this example: A judge can also be a grandfather. At home, in his grandfather dharma, his little grandson rides him around the living room like a pony, spurring him in the ribs. In court, in his judge dharma, the accused tremble in his presence. Each role has its dharma.

Colbert I. King published a very good column in today's Washington Post about Paul Wolfowitz where he says,
"Now we have the spectacle of a World Bank president careering from meeting to meeting with groups of subordinates, copping pleas, admitting that he's "lost a lot of trust" -- even going so far as to offer to bring in a "coach" to teach him how not to alienate the staff. And next week he goes before a committee of the executive board -- accompanied by his lawyer -- to try to convince those board members that he should keep his job. How low must he go? It's embarrassing to watch. It's even more infuriating to think about the opportunity that Wolfowitz has squandered and the jeopardy in which he has placed America's key role in the bank."
Certainly nothing in Wolfowitz's behavior fits either the dharma of a banker or of a diplomat or of any other public servant imaginable.

Institutions and organizations also have their dharmas. Take General Motors for instance. Toyota Motors has just passed GM as the world's biggest car maker. The dharma of a car maker is to make good cars. Toyota makes good cars, GM makes lousy cars. In the article I've clipped from the Los Angeles Times that you'll find below you can read how American journalism has strayed from its dharma: the search for the truth and the publishing of the truth, whatever the truth might be. Upon this dharma rest all the other dharmas of a healthy democracy.

The opposite of dharma is "adharma". The problem that faces the United States today is that while it postures as "dharma swarupa" (the embodiment of dharma) it is now perceived as adharmic and this could cause a catastrophic collapse in America's positions in a host of situations to come.

In Hindu mythology,
Vishnu, the god of preservation and nurturing, incarnates from age to age to restore and to foster dharma. In a secular democracy, however, I'm afraid we'll just have to do it ourselves. DS

U.S. media have lost the will to dig deep - Los Angeles Times

Abstract:
In an e-mail uncovered and released by the House Judiciary Committee last month, Tim Griffin, once Karl Rove's right-hand man, gloated that "no [U.S.] national press picked up" a BBC Television story reporting that the Rove team had developed an elaborate scheme to challenge the votes of thousands of African Americans in the 2004 election. Griffin wasn't exactly right. The Los Angeles Times did run a follow-up article a few days later in which it reported the findings. But he was essentially right. Most of the major U.S. newspapers and the vast majority of television news programs ignored the story even though it came at a critical moment just weeks before the election.(...) I'm not going to argue with Rove's minions about the validity of our reporting, which led the news in Britain. But I can tell you this: To the extent that it was ignored in the United States, it wasn't because the report was false. It was because it was complicated and murky and because it required a lot of time and reporting to get to the bottom of it. In fact, not one U.S. newsperson even bothered to ask me or the BBC for the data and research we had painstakingly done in our effort to demonstrate the existence of the scheme. The truth is, I knew that a story like this one would never be reported in my own country. Because investigative reporting — the kind Jack Anderson used to do regularly and which was carried in hundreds of papers across the country, the kind of muckraking, data-intensive work that takes time and money and ruffles feathers — is dying. I've been through this before, too many times. Take this investigative report, also buried in the U.S.: Back in December 2000, I received two computer disks from the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Analysis of the data, plus documents that fell my way, indicated that Harris' office had purged thousands of African Americans from Florida's voter rolls as "felons." Florida now admits that many of these voters were not in fact felons. Nevertheless, the blacklisting helped cost Al Gore the White House. I reported on the phony felon purge in Britain's Guardian and Observer and on the BBC while Gore was still in the race, while the count was still on. Yet the story of the Florida purge never appeared in the U.S. daily papers or on television. Until months later, that is, after the Supreme Court had decided the election, when it was picked up by the Washington Post and others. U.S. papers delayed the story until the U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued a report saying our Guardian/BBC story was correct: Innocents lost their vote. At that point, protected by the official imprimatur, American editors felt it safe enough to venture out with the story. But by then, George W. Bush could read it from his chair in the Oval Office. Again and again, I see this pattern repeated. Until there is some official investigation or allegation made by a politician, there is no story.(...) I know some of the reasons why investigative reporting is on the decline. To begin with, investigations take time and money. A producer from "60 Minutes," watching my team's work on another voter purge list, said: "My God! You'd have to make hundreds of calls to make this case." In America's cash-short, instant-deadline world, there's not much room for that. Are there still aggressive, talented investigative reporters in the U.S.? There are hundreds. I'll mention two: Seymour Hersh, formerly of the New York Times, and Robert Parry, formerly of the Associated Press, who uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal. The operative word here is "formerly." Parry tells me that he can no longer do this kind of investigative work within the confines of a U.S. daily newsroom. One of the biggest disincentives to doing investigative journalism is that it jeopardizes future access to politicians and corporate elite. During the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, the testimony of Judith Miller and other U.S. journalists about the confidences they were willing to keep in order to maintain access seemed to me sadly illuminating. Expose the critters and the door is slammed. That's not a price many American journalists are willing to pay. READ IT ALL

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wolfowitz: Up against the wall Paul

David Seaton's News Links
Paul Wolfowitz, whose every failure has been handsomely rewarded, is certainly the most visible, successful and symbolic of the neocons.

Over a half a million Iraqis have died, millions have been displaced. These are people who had never done any harm to the USA.

Their pain, their fear and their blood cry out for justice.

Thousands of Americans have been killed, maimed or crippled by this war, mistakenly believing in good faith that their sacrifice was in defense of their country and its flag when, in fact, they have been led to besmirch and desecrate them.


Their pain, their fear and their blood cry out for justice.


People are sent to prison everyday for stealing a car or a purse...

Until Wolfowitz and the others he represents are brought to trial for war crimes it will be impossible to begin to address the damage that has been done to America's central belief in the goodness of its own nature. DS

Andrew Cockburn: The puppet who cleared the way for Iraq's destruction - Guardian
Abstract: Among those relishing the exposure of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz's manoeuvres on behalf of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, in recent weeks was almost certainly the former US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was driven from public life thanks to the catastrophe of Iraq, and for the moment at least lurks in obscurity. Wolfowitz, his deputy until 2005, contributed in almost equal measure to the debacle, yet managed to slide from the Pentagon into the presidency of a leading international institution with every chance to redeem himself. Blame for torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, bungling over troop levels, chaos in Iraq's reconstruction, and the general meltdown in Pentagon management has all too often been laid at Rumsfeld's door alone. However, Wolfowitz was an energetic enabler of these outrages and many other notorious initiatives.(...) Before we conclude that Wolfowitz was the original author of the policies that destroyed Iraq, we should note that his entire career, at least up through his Pentagon service, has been in the service and at the direction of others. His early work in Washington promoting the dubious merits of an anti-ballistic missile programme, for example, was sponsored by Paul Nitze, a powerful insider who devoted a lifetime of intrigue to boosting east-west tensions and US defence spending. Nitze served as godfather to the neoconservative movement in the 70s, correctly calculating that a fusion of the pro-Israel lobby with the military-industrial lobby would create an alliance of unstoppable power. Among the early and most potent recruits was an old friend of Wolfowitz's, Richard Perle, known and feared in Washington as "the Prince of Darkness" for his ruthless bureaucratic skills and commanding position in the neoconservative forces. The relationship flourished into Wolfowitz's sojourn in the Pentagon. Officials who worked closely with him remarked to me on the amount of time Perle, then a close associate of Conrad Black, spent closeted with the deputy secretary. They remained in constant touch, as Wolfowitz's phone logs attest. Other regular recipients of Wolfowitz calls included Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then chief of staff to Vice-President Cheney and now a convicted felon, and Robin Cleveland. Cleveland was in charge of national security programmes at the White House office of management and budget. From that powerful position, according to a former close colleague of Wolfowitz's, she "was one of the most important people in the group that gave us the Iraq war". Late last year Perle and other leading neoconservatives lashed out publicly at Rumsfeld, deriding his mismanagement of the Iraqi enterprise they had worked so hard to set in train. "Interesting they are not going after the puppet," the former colleague emailed me in reference to Wolfowitz's absence from his old friends' denunciations. Given recent sordid revelations, his role in shredding the reputation of the World Bank and the morale of its employees may be harder to obscure. READ IT ALL

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sarko is France's answer to Sammy Glick

"La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid"
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782)- Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.
David Seaton's News Links
My theory of the French elections, which contains nothing original, is that the whole thing revolves around the personality of Nicolas Sarkozy.


Sarkozy is the French incarnation of "Sammy Glick" the hero of Budd Schulberg's classic "What Makes Sammy Run?", eaten by ambition, without any known scruples, someone who has left scores of 'dead bodies' and walking wounded behind him in his climb to the top. In short, France is full of the enemies of Nicolas Sarkozy. This is their big chance.

Now, in the second round of the presidential elections, these enemies, perhaps even Sarkozy's wife, will come crawling out of the very woodwork. These two week are the culmination of his entire existence. His heart's desire is within his grasp. This is the cruelest moment for his enemies to strike. They will show no mercy.
I have no trouble predicting that the next two weeks will probably be the worst of Sarkozy's life.

When you read this story from the Financial Times about Sarkozy's attempts to draw François Bayrou into a conspiracy against Jacques Chirac as far back as 2002, you will be struck by the timing of Bayrou's revelation. He didn't use it when it could have given him votes. He has waited till now, when the damage to Sarkozy will be the greatest.
His goal is to destroy Sarkozy and inherit the French right. Indeed, revenge is "a dish best served cold". DS

Sarkozy sought Bayrou’s help to attack Chirac - Financial Times
Abstract: France’s presidential election took another twist on Wednesday with the revelation that François Bayrou, the self-styled kingmaker of the contest, rebuffed an invite from Nicolas Sarkozy to join forces in “a war” against president Jacques Chirac three years ago. Mr Bayrou, the centrist who came third in Sunday’s first round, on Wednesday refused to endorse either of the two remaining contenders for the presidency. He has been wooed by Mr Sarkozy, the favourite, and Ségolène Royal, the Socialist, who both need his 6.8m first-round votes for victory. The surprise revelation that Mr Bayrou fell out with Mr Sarkozy over his abortive anti-Chirac proposal in 2004 may complicate attempts by the presidential frontrunner to coax his centrist rival into supporting his candidacy in return for an electoral alliance. The website of the local newspaper Sud-Ouest unveiled the scoop on Wednesday, after keeping it under wraps at Mr Bayrou’s request since interviewing him with its readers on March 16. It said it decided to publish his comments to “clarify the gulf that separates the two men”. In the interview, extracts of which are being broadcast on Sud-Ouest’s website, Mr Bayrou said: “You cannot meet more different (people) than Nicolas Sarkozy and me. I have not spoken with Nicolas Sarkozy for three years.” Mr Bayrou recounted how a journalist and friend invited him to a meeting with Mr Sarkozy, shortly after the latter had become head of the centre-right UMP party, founded by Mr Chirac in 2002. Mr Bayrou said that at the meeting: “Sarkozy said to me: ‘I propose an alliance against Chirac. We’ll act the young ones and make him look old-fashioned, the old man. We’ll fight a war with him.’” The centrist said he replied: “That doesn’t interest me. I don’t want to form an alliance with you. I don’t want to form an alliance against Chirac on the criteria of age. That is not like me. So, you do what you like, but me, I won’t do it.” He added: “Since then its been like a chill between us.” The revelation confirms rumours that Mr Sarkozy actively tried to destabilise Mr Chirac, his former mentor, even though he served as interior minister and finance minister in his government for most of his final five-year mandate.(...) Mr Bayrou ran a surprisingly successful campaign as an alternative to the discredited two-party system. He criticised both leading candidates, but was especially hostile towards Mr Sarkozy. READ IT ALL

Somalia: Islam meets the Cato Institute

David Seaton's News Links
It turns out that Somalia is an American libertarian's paradise: The same loathing of big government, the same reluctance to pay taxes, the same individualistic spirit... even down to the right (necessity) to bear arms.

Certainly whenever the Republicans wake up and instead of fighting Islam, embrace it, we are going to see some mighty interesting days indeed. DS

People Who Feed Off Anarchy in Somalia Are Quick to Fuel It - New York Times
Abstract:
Beyond clan rivalry and Islamic fervor, an entirely different motive is helping fuel the chaos in Somalia: profit. A whole class of opportunists — from squatter landlords to teenage gunmen for hire to vendors of out-of-date baby formula — have been feeding off the anarchy in Somalia for so long that they refuse to let go. They do not pay taxes, their businesses are totally unregulated, and they have skills that are not necessarily geared toward a peaceful society.(...) Omar Hussein Ahmed, an olive oil exporter in Mogadishu, the capital, said he and a group of fellow traders recently bought missiles to shoot at government soldiers. “Taxes are annoying,” he explained. Maxamuud Nuur Muradeeste, a squatter landlord who makes a few hundred dollars a year renting out rooms in the former Ministry of Minerals and Water, said he recently invited insurgents to stash weapons on “his” property. He will do whatever it takes, he said, to thwart the government’s plan to reclaim thousands of pieces of public property. “If this government survives, how will I?” Mr. Muradeeste said. Layer this problem on top of Somalia’s sticky clan issues, its poverty and its nomadic culture, and it is no wonder that the transitional government seems to be overwhelmed by the same raw antigovernment defiance that has torpedoed earlier attempts at stabilizing the country.(...) American diplomats had mostly shied away from Somalia since the infamous “Black Hawk Down” episode in 1993 when Somali militiamen shot down two American helicopters and killed 18 United States soldiers. But now the Americans are involved again, driven by a counterterrorism agenda and armed with a pledge of $100 million to rebuild the country.(...) Somalis are legendary individualists, and when the central government imploded in 1991, people quickly devised ways to fend for themselves. Businessmen opened their own hospitals, schools, telephone companies and even privatized mail services. Men who were able to muster private armies, often former military officers, seized the biggest prizes: abandoned government property, like ports and airfields, which could generate as much as $40,000 a day. They became the warlords. Many trafficked in guns and drugs and taxed their fellow Somalis. Beneath the warlords were clan-based networks of thousands of people — adolescent enforcers, stevedores, clerks, truck drivers and their families — all tied into the chaos economy. Ditto for the freelance landlords and duty-free importers(...) Not all opportunists had the same agenda. Many in the business community became fed up with paying protection fees to the warlords and their countless middle-men. Business leaders then backed a grass-roots Islamist movement that drove the warlords out of Mogadishu last summer and brought peace to the city for the first time in 15 years. The Islamists seemed to be the perfect solution for the businessmen. They delivered stability, which was good for most business, but they did not confiscate property or levy heavy taxes. They called themselves an administration, not a government. “Our best days were under them,” said Abdi Ali Jama, who owns an electrical supply shop in Mogadishu. READ IT ALL

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

PIPA/WorldPublicOpinion.org poll

David Seaton's News Links
The report excerpted below is a "must read", if ever there was one. It holds the keys to the future of relations with the 1.3 billion of the world's Muslims.

The majority of Muslims polled believe that their religion itself is under attack from the United States. They sympathize with many of Al Qaeda's goals, but feel that killing civilians is forbidden by Islam. They also are in favor of living under the Sharia (strict Muslim law), at the same time they are not against democracy or globalization.

My reading of this poll would be that the best way of defeating Islamic terrorism would be to stop fighting the idea of Islamic government in itself, but rather to strongly support that majority of orthodox Muslims that believe that harming civilians is forbidden by the Koran.

In short orthodox Islam is not our enemy, quite to the contrary, it is our essential ally. DS

Muslims Believe US Seeks to Undermine Islam - World Public Opinion org
Abstract: An in-depth poll of four major Muslim countries has found that in all of them large majorities believe that undermining Islam is a key goal of US foreign policy. Most want US military forces out of the Middle East and many approve of attacks on US troops there. Most respondents have mixed feelings about al Qaeda. Large majorities agree with many of its goals, but believe that terrorist attacks on civilians are contrary to Islam. There is strong support for enhancing the role of Islam in all of the countries polled, through such measures as the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). This does not mean that they want to isolate their societies from outside influences: Most view globalization positively and favor democracy and freedom of religion. These findings are from surveys in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Indonesia conducted from December 2006 to February, 2007 by WorldPublicOpinion.org with support from the START Consortium at the University of Maryland. Large majorities across all four countries believe the United States seeks to “weaken and divide the Islamic world.” On average 79 percent say they perceive this as a US goal, ranging from 73 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan to 92 percent in Egypt. Equally large numbers perceive that the United States is trying to maintain “control over the oil resources of the Middle East” (average 79%). Strong majorities (average 64%) even believe it is a US goal to “spread Christianity in the region.” “While US leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism, people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the US as being at war with Islam,” said Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org. READ IT ALL

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ségolène and "la mesure"

David Seaton's News Links
In trying to handicap the French presidential race I think we have to ask ourselves, why 18% of the voters cast their ballot for a moderate-conservative horse breeder like François Bayrou in the first place?

I would suggest that this was a deeply anti-"Sarkozy the man" vote, as the program differences between the two conservatives wouldn't justify it. The question is Sarkozy himself. His character, his personality.

Those who voted for him voted for that character and personality. I think everybody that really likes him has had a chance to vote for him already... That is all there is. I don't think we'll see a great mass of Bayrou's supporters rushing to vote for Sarkozy... they simply couldn't vote for a Socialist in the first round. Now comes the gathering together of those who fear Sarko and detest him. If Sarkozy tries to move toward the center the Le Pen vote probably will abstain and the moderates won't be convinced.

Remember when our beloved leader George W. Bush said that the problem of the French was that they didn't have a word for "entrepreneur"... He might have added that they don't have a word for "bourgeois" either. The French have, in fact, invented the universal word for "middle class" and they are famous for being the world's most bourgeois people. At the center of their values is "la mesure"... just the right amount of anything, not too much, not too little... balance. My feeling is that although Sarkozy is exciting he is too hot, too often angry. Not quite in control... not even at home. Madame Sarkozy is often quite openly seen to indulge in, to use a down home turn of phrase, "a slippin' and a slidin"... The French don't care much about what people do in bed, but they admire discretion, control... mesure.

Ségolène Royal, although without the benefit of clergy, has had four children with the same man and both of them have careers in the same organization without any tension or jealousy being evident... How balanced, reliable and steady can you get?

Like this article from the Financial Times suggests, I think the election will be a referendum about Sarkozy's character and I think that he will fail the test. I wouldn't be surprised if his wife, now that he is safely into the second round, chose this precise moment to humiliate him. Hell hath no fury... DS

Battleground moves to the centre - Financial Times
Abstract: The trauma of April 2002 weighed heavily on Sunday’s elections. Left wing voters were determined not to repeat the mistake of the last ballot when they spread their support among several candidates allowing Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, to sneak through to the second round. This time, the Socialist Party appealed for a ’vote utile’ (a useful vote) in the first round. They won it.(...) Support for the candidates of the extreme left fell sharply compared with 2002 as the left rallied around Ségolène Royal in spite of widespread misgivings about her campaign.(...) The question on everyone’s lips this morning is: can Ms Royal win? It is possible, but it will be difficult. A snap poll from Ipsos on Sunday night showed Nicolas Sarkozy would win the second round by a handy margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent. However, five of the 10 defeated candidates immediately rallied behind Royal to form an anti-Sarkozy front; the others refrained from endorsing anyone. Ms Royal has shown that she is a remarkably resilient campaigner. Her opponents have underestimated her at their peril. She may also find it easier than Mr Sarkozy to move towards the middle, the battleground of the second round. As a woman of the left, with values of the right, she may make a better “cross-over” candidate. As Jacques Séguéla, the veteran advertising guru, once put it in an interview with the FT, there is a lot of Sarko in Sego, but not a lot of Sego in Sarko. It will be critical how the voters of François Bayrou, the third-placed centrist candidate, now divide. But it would be a mistake to believe that he has a single transferable block of votes at his command. Earlier opinion polls have suggested his vote could split equally between Ms Royal and Mr Sarkozy.(...) The vote on May 6 could well turn out to be a referendum on Mr Sarkozy. It is his election to lose; but the headstrong Mr Sarkozy is certainly capable of a rush of blood to the head that could cost him victory. READ IT ALL

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sunday cartoon for News Linkers



David Seaton's News Links
When I first came to Spain they used to have these "Tom and Jerry" festivals, maybe 20 cartoons in a row. Wonderful fun! Here is News Links' Sunday treat. DS

Doomsday... is you is or is you ain't?

Climate change makes moot past environmental issues precisely because it isn't about an obscure species or remote place. It's about us, and our fate. It is about the real possibility of the unraveling of modern civilization. - Hal Clifford - Los Angeles Times
David Seaton's News Links
This global warming thing either is or it isn't: if it is true, then, if we are not very careful, and even then, we will probably all end up living under a regime as restrictive as the cold and corrupt German Democratic Republic portrayed in the Oscar winning, "Lives of Others" or, if we are lucky, the Cuba of Fidel Castro (where at least the music is good and you can get laid).

Certainly "freedom" as it is envisioned by American libertarians is not going to be on the menu; just as it wasn't during World War Two. The sooner people confront this logical conclusion of Global Warming and begin to debate it, the better. DS

Forget the whales -- save the Earth - Los Angeles Times

Abstract: Environmentalism is dead.(...) Traditional environmental concerns have been trumped by a single, overriding problem: global climate change. Henry David Thoreau asked, "What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?" Environmentalists today face a similar question. Why fight for a local or even national cause when a global change could erase any victory? Preserving a beach ecosystem becomes meaningless if the coast is obliterated by a rising sea. Putting polar bears on the endangered species list is risible if the Arctic ice cap melts away to nothing each summer. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool environmental activist, that funny feeling you have is the ground shifting beneath your feet. When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes building two new dams in the Sierra, as he did in January, and argues that if California is going to have enough water, they are necessary to compensate for an expected reduction in the state's winter snowpack, how is a good green to respond? Once upon a time, there was no target so quick to be challenged by the Sierra Club & Co. as another dam — and these dams certainly will be challenged. But Schwarzenegger is right; we should be doing what we can to prepare for climate change, and while I don't know if those dams are a good step, I do know that the governor's argument signals a new, brutal calculus for environmentalists. Already, old-school environmentalists Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, and Stewart Brand, who created the Whole Earth Catalog, have embraced nuclear power as a lesser evil than climate change. Are environmentalists entering an era of wrenching hand-wringing as they choose among evils? I hope not. Instead of triage, the right response is to accept the hard truth that the only thing that matters is controlling global warming and preventing catastrophic climate change — and then to fight like never before to do that. The dedicated, single-focus activists who make up so much of the environmental movement may, in the future, still be able to save the redwoods, or the Mexican gray wolf, or the whales — but only if we save ourselves first. It is ironic that what's killing old environmentalism — so long derided by its critics as elitist, fringe and special interest — is a problem that is, at last, both universal and personal for every human on the planet. Climate change makes moot past environmental issues precisely because it isn't about an obscure species or remote place. It's about us, and our fate. It is about the real possibility of the unraveling of modern civilization. When a cause becomes the central concern of a society, it ceases to be a cause. It becomes an organizing principle for an era and its people. Environmentalism may be dead, but we're all environmentalists now. READ IT ALL

Friday, April 20, 2007

Segolene and reading polls

David Seaton's News Links
I'm just including this fascinating snippet from the Guardian on the first round of the French presidential election for the record. On Monday we'll see if the defacing of posters or the university poll had given us a winner which the normal polls found impossible.

These offbeat things can often be uncannily accurate. Take, for example, the "Halloween mask poll", which always shows who is going to win US presidential elections. It appears that the candidate that sells the most masks for trick or treating is always elected.

The Halloween mask poll had Bush getting re-elected as early as September 2004. So if these French versions pick the winner we can continues this thread on Monday. DS

Floating voters the key as campaigning closes in France - Guardian
Abstract: Mr Sarkozy's election team is said to have been rattled by hints that his campaign posters were being destroyed more than those of other candidates - and worse, defaced with Hitler mustaches. Concerns about the reliability of polling figures were heightened last night when a survey at the respected Paris Institute for Political Studies predicted a first-round victory for Ms Royal. The 1,000 students who took part in the mock vote gave her 39.8 %, Mr Bayrou 26.6 %, Mr Sarkozy 18.7 % and Mr Le Pen 4.8 %. A college spokesman, Hervé Marro, denied that those at the university, a hothouse for many of France's future leaders, were traditionally leftwing. "Not at all. There are a lot of students at Sciences Po who normally support the right, which is why the result was such a surprise," he told the Guardian. "Additionally, a lot of the left-leaning students are not those who support Ségolène Royal." He added: "The big problem with all polls is that saying you are going to vote for a candidate and actually doing so are two very different things." READ IT ALL

Global Warming: new game, new rules

David Seaton's News Links
We are looking at the beginning of a new era, which we could call "post-everything". We have found our limits... beyond this point we cannot go.

If humanity, and a few other species, are to survive, there are going to have to be some very strict rules and they are going to have to be very strictly enforced. The question is how that is going to be done democratically... because it is going to be done one way or another. DS


Warming and Global Security - Editorial - New York Times

Abstract: On Monday, 11 retired admirals and generals released a detailed 68-page report arguing that climate change could be a “threat multiplier” in already fragile parts of the world. Rising sea levels could threaten the livelihoods of more than one billion people living within 45 miles of Asia’s coastlines. In Africa, recurring heat waves could cause widespread shortages of food and water, leading to large-scale migrations and escalating tensions. Anthony Zinni, the retired Marine general, made the point elegantly when he said that “we will pay for this one way or the other” — either now, to control the emission of greenhouse gases, or later, in military engagements and “human lives.” READ IT ALL

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Giving freedom a bad name

David Seaton's News Links
When you are confronted by events like the Virginia Tech massacre and the universal broadcasting of the killer's delirious "manifesto", followed by the massive conservative defense of the convenience of students carrying concealed firearms... and then you read this article from the McClatchy Newspapers about growing "severe" poverty in the world's wealthiest country, then, like a puppy having its nose rubbed in its mess, you are forced to confront Lenin's terrible question: "Freedom - yes, but for whom? To do what?"

Certainly if "freedom", as interpreted by America's conservatives and libertarian fundamentalists, finally comes to stand for insanity, violent death and poverty, more and more people all over the world, but eventually even in America itself, will be ready to "make other plans" and there will never be a lack of people to "help" them. We are witnessing the baby of liberty being thrown out with the bathwater of freedom. DS


U.S. economy leaving record numbers in severe poverty - McClatchy Newspapers

Abstract: The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen. A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year. The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas. The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years. These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975. The share of poor Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily over the last three decades. But since 2000, the number of severely poor has grown "more than any other segment of the population," according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.(...) Over the last two decades, America has had the highest or near-highest poverty rates for children, individual adults and families among 31 developed countries, according to the Luxembourg Income Study, a 23-year project that compares poverty and income data from 31 industrial nations. "It's shameful," said Timothy Smeeding, the former director of the study and the current head of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University. "We've been the worst performer every year since we've been doing this study." With the exception of Mexico and Russia, the U.S. devotes the smallest portion of its gross domestic product to federal anti-poverty programs, and those programs are among the least effective at reducing poverty, the study found. Again, only Russia and Mexico do worse jobs. One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to long-term research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the Washington University in St. Louis. An estimated 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty, Rank said. Two of three will use a public assistance program between ages 20 and 65, and 40 percent will do so for five years or more. These estimates apply only to non-immigrants. If illegal immigrants were factored in, the numbers would be worse, Rank said. "It would appear that for most Americans the question is no longer if, but rather when, they will experience poverty. In short, poverty has become a routine and unfortunate part of the American life course," Rank wrote in a recent study. "Whether these patterns will continue throughout the first decade of 2000 and beyond is difficult to say ... but there is little reason to think that this trend will reverse itself any time soon." READ IT ALL

The wolf's joke is on us folks

Oh grandma, what a big ego you've got!
David Seaton's News Links
German speakers tell me that if you remove the "O" from Wolfowitz, the resulting phrase in German, "wolf witz", would translate into English as "wolf joke". Neat, huh?

Some joke!

If you consider how many enemies Wolfowitz has made since the war in Iraq began, how unpopular he is with career civil servants, how politically weakened his patrons are and how many journalists in Washington are looking for scandals to publish, then Wolfowitz's behavior can only be described as reckless or even delusional.

His attitude is so dangerous
to the institution that he directs and to himself and his girlfriend as to be self-destructive. Without getting into psychobabble, I wonder if he is nuts. No joke. DS

Sidney Blumenthal: Wolfowitz's girlfriend problem - Salon
Abstract:(...) Superficially, Wolfowitz's arrangement for his girlfriend of a job with a hefty increase in pay in violation of the ethics clauses of his contract and without informing the World Bank board might seem like an all-too-familiar story of a man seeking special favors for a romantic partner.(...) But the fall of Wolfowitz is the final act of a long drama -- and love or even self-love may not be the whole subject. Wolfowitz's girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, is a Libyan, raised in Saudi Arabia, educated at Oxford, who now has British citizenship.(...) Back in 2003, Wolfowitz had taken care of Riza by directing his trusted Pentagon deputy, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith -- who had been in charge of the Office of Special Plans and had been Wolfowitz's partner in managing the CPA -- to arrange for a military contract for her from Science Applications International Corp. When the contract was exposed this week, SAIC issued a statement that it "had no role in the selection of the personnel." In other words, the firm with hundreds of millions in contracts at stake had been ordered to hire Riza. Riza was unhappy about leaving the sinecure at the World Bank. But in 2006 Wolfowitz made a series of calls to his friends that landed her a job at a new think tank called Foundation for the Future that is funded by the State Department. She was the sole employee, at least in the beginning. The World Bank continued to pay her salary, which was raised by $60,000 to $193,590 annually, more than the $183,500 paid to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and all of it tax-free. Moreover, Wolfowitz got the State Department to agree that the ratings of her performance would automatically be "outstanding." Wolfowitz insisted on these terms himself and then misled the World Bank board about what he had done. Exactly how this deal was made and with whom remains something of a mystery. The person who did work with Riza in her new position was Elizabeth Cheney, then the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. And Riza's assignment fell under the purview of Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. But these facts raise more questions than they answer. The documents released by the World Bank do not include any of the communications with the State Department. How did Elizabeth Cheney come to be involved? Did Wolfowitz speak with Vice President Dick Cheney, for whom he had been a deputy when Cheney was secretary of defense in the elder Bush's administration? Riza, who is not a U.S. citizen, had to receive a security clearance in order to work at the State Department. Who intervened? It is not unusual to have British or French midlevel officers at the department on exchange programs, but they receive security clearances based on the clearances they already have with their host governments. Granting a foreign national who is detailed from an international organization a security clearance, however, is extraordinary, even unprecedented. So how could this clearance have been granted? State Department officials familiar with the details of this matter confirmed to me that Shaha Ali Riza was detailed to the State Department and had unescorted access while working for Elizabeth Cheney. Access to the building requires a national security clearance or permanent escort by a person with such a clearance. But the State Department has no record of having issued a national security clearance to Riza. State Department officials believe that Riza was issued such a clearance by the Defense Department after SAIC was forced by Wolfowitz and Feith to hire her. Then her clearance would have been recognized by the State Department through a credentials transmittal letter and Riza would have accessed the State Department on Pentagon credentials, using her Pentagon clearance to get a State Department building pass with a letter issued under instructions from Liz Cheney. But State Department officials tell me that no such letter can be confirmed as received. And the officials stress that the department would never issue a clearance to a non-U.S. citizen as part of a contractual requisition. Issuing a national security clearance to a foreign national under instructions from a Pentagon official would constitute a violation of the executive orders governing clearances, they say. Given these circumstances, the inspector general of the Defense Department should be ordered to investigate how Shaha Ali Riza was issued a Pentagon security clearance. And the inspector general of the State Department should investigate who ordered Riza's building pass and whether there was a Pentagon credentials transmittal letter. READ IT ALL

Especially for News Links' accidental, new Bulgarian friends

David Seaton's News Links
Over the last few days my tracker tells me that I have had many new visitors from Bulgaria, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Ukraine, but especially Bulgaria.

Puzzled, I investigated. I found that they had all come to News Links through Google's image search following the string, "fat women".


Terminally puzzled, I continued my investigation. It turns out that what was drawing the traffic was a photo I had inlined of very big lady struggling with her fly, which I used to illustrate a post about ethanol.

It seems the tag "fat women" has pushed aside "Salvador Dalí" and "Porky Pig" for pride of place in News Links', off-topic, search-engine-serendipity Hall of Fame.

So as to make these new visitors, many of whom probably know no more English than "fat women", at home, I have published this photo of the amazing yet cheerful lady above.

And to any of News Link's regular lady news junky visitors who may be struggling with their waistlines and need a little boost for the old self-esteem: Globalization offers something for everyone... Put on your high heel sneakers, put your wig hat on your head, hop on the next flight to Sophia honey... (rim shot) pretty sure ya gonna knock 'em dead! DS

Cheap shot













David Seaton's News Links

I know it's a cheap shot, but the question is still the same:

Why is it so absurdly easy in the United States of America for people with histories of severe mental disturbance to get their hands on deadly weapons? DS

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Amira Haas on exploiting the Holocaust

David Seaton's News Links
Amira Hass is the daughter of Holocaust victims and reports on Palestinian affairs for Haaretz. This is the sort of clear-sighted, self-aware commentary that you can easily read in the Israeli press.

Try to imagine this article in the New York Times. Imagine Abe Foxman or Alan Dershowitz reading this article over breakfast coffee, imagine their telephone conversations after reading it... Hey, you've got quite an imagination!

AIPAC is destroying Israel by preventing peace and severely damaging the USA's international position in the effort. With such "Friends of Israel", who needs enemies? DS


Amira Hass: The Holocaust as political asset - Haaretz
Abstract: Turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the Palestinians. When the Holocaust is on one side of the scale, along with the guilty (and rightly so) conscience of the West, the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland in 1948 is minimized and blurred. The phrase "security for the Jews" has been consecrated as an exclusive synonym for "the lessons of the Holocaust." It is what allows Israel to systematically discriminate against its Arab citizens. For 40 years, "security" has been justifying control of the West Bank and Gaza and of subjects who have been dispossessed of their rights living alongside Jewish residents, Israeli citizens laden with privileges. Security serves the creation of a regime of separation and discrimination on an ethnic basis, Israeli style, under the auspices of "peace talks" that go on forever. Turning the Holocaust into an asset allows Israel to present all the methods of the Palestinian struggle (even the unarmed ones) as another link in the anti-Semitic chain whose culmination is Auschwitz. Israel provides itself with the license to come up with more kinds of fences, walls and military guard towers around Palestinian enclaves.(...) Holocaust and anti-Semitism researchers fumble for words when in Hebron the state carries out ethnic cleansing via its emissaries, the settlers, and ignore the enclaves and regime of separation it is setting up. Whoever criticizes Israel's policies toward the Palestinians is denounced as an anti-Semite, if not a Holocaust denier. Absurdly, the delegitimization of any criticism of Israel only makes it harder to refute the futile equations that are being made between the Nazi murder machine and the Israeli regime of discrimination and occupation. READ IT ALL

Gun control

David Seaton's News Links
It would appear to me that the Virginia Tech shootings were a perfect example of where more stringent handgun controls could have avoided the tragedy.

From what I am reading, Cho Seung-Hui appears to have been very much a borderline type who had made it to the age of 23 with a grade average which allowed him to be a university senior and without giving any more signs of being a psychopath than some "troubled" class compositions. He did not collect guns. He did not carry out his rampage with semi-automatic weapons or a hunting rifle, but with two ordinary, garden variety, handguns, recently acquired.

I would argue that if it was not so absurdly easy to acquire handguns, which are only for using against people, this tragedy might never happened and
Cho Seung-Hui might have either ended up knifing somebody, committing suicide with pills or growing up and having a family as most "troubled" adolescents finally do. DS

Update: The following is the best article I've found on the subject so far:

James Alan Fox: Why they kill - Los Angeles Times

JAMES ALAN FOX is a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University and the author of many books, including "The Will to Kill" (2006) and "Extreme Killing" (2005).


MASS MURDER certainly wasn't invented with the 1966 Texas Tower shootings. For as long as there has been history, there has been murder — including horrific mass murder. Certainly in the first half of the 20th century there were examples, such as the case of Howard Unruh, a mentally ill war veteran who killed 13 people in 13 minutes with a Luger pistol on the streets of Camden, N.J., in 1949.

But 1966 was a dramatic turning point. On Aug. 1, Charles Whitman, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, climbed up a 27-story tower and killed 14 people, wounding 31 others, before being shot dead by the police.

After the Whitman killings, the incidents started to climb. Mass murders (and, especially, mass shootings) became increasingly common — George Hennard in Killeen, Texas; Patrick Edward Purdy in Stockton; James Huberty in San Ysidro; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., to name just a few — and the body counts began to grow as well. Seven of the eight largest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred in the last 25 years.

The murder of at least 32 people at Virginia Tech on Monday may have been the worst, but it was only one of about 20 mass shootings that occur each year in the United States (a subset of the two dozen or so mass murders). A mass murder is defined as an event in which four or more people are killed in the same episode. Serial killings, by contrast, occur over an extended time.

What accounts for the increase? Is it possible that man (and yes, 95% of all mass murderers are men, who tend to be far more comfortable and better trained in using firearms) has simply grown more evil and bloodthirsty since 1966 than during the previous millenniums of human existence?

Of course not. But several changes have taken place that have made such incidents more common.

One, of course, is the change in the potency of weaponry. Before 1966, the best weapons available to most would-be killers were pistols, rifles, maybe a shotgun. That is no longer the case; today, semiautomatics are all too easily accessible.

But there also have been societal changes that have increased the incidence of mass killing. In studying mass murderers over 25 years, my colleague, Jack Levin, and I have identified five factors that exist in virtually all cases.

First, perpetrators have a long history of frustration and failure and a diminished ability to cope with life's disappointments.

Second, they externalize blame, frequently complaining that others didn't give them a chance. Sometimes they argue that their ethnic or racial group or gender isn't getting the breaks that others are. (An example of this is Marc Lepine, who killed 14 female engineering students at the Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal, apparently because he felt that women were taking too many seats at the university.)

Third, these killers generally lack emotional support from friends or family. You've read the "he always seemed to be something of a loner" quote? It has a grounding in reality.

Fourth, they generally suffer a precipitating event they view as catastrophic. This is most often some sort of major disappointment: the loss of a job or the breakup of a relationship. In massacres at colleges and universities, it's often about getting a grade the shooter feels he didn't deserve. In 1991, a graduate student at the University of Iowa killed five people because he thought his physics dissertation should have won a prestigious $1,000 award.

Fifth, they need access to a weapon powerful enough to satisfy their need for revenge.

So what has changed? For one thing, the United States has become much more dog-eat-dog, more competitive in recent years. We admire those who achieve at any cost, and it seems that we have less compassion for those who fail. (Just look at how eager we are to vote people off the island or to reject them in singing competitions.) This certainly increases frustration on the part of losers.

Then there's the eclipse of traditional community: higher rates of divorce, the decline of church-going and the fact that more people live in urban areas, where they may not even know their neighbors. If mass murderers are isolated people who lack support, these trends only exacerbate the situation.

Many mass murderers, for example, are people who have picked up roots and moved. James Huberty, who used a 9-mm semiautomatic Uzi to kill 21 people during a 77-minute massacre at a McDonald's in San Ysidro in 1984, had moved to California from Ohio after losing his job. When he lost another job in California, he had no friends or extended family to fall back on. They were all in Ohio.

These days, we know an awful lot about why these events occur. We're beginning to understand the motivations behind events that, to many people, seem senseless. But that doesn't mean we can prevent them. We're not going to build fortresses out of our college campuses, nor should we.

It should give us some degree of consolation to know that these events are exceedingly rare. But they still occur, and they are among the sad and tragic prices we pay for the kind of open, modern, democratic society we live in.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Swords into plowshares? Generals on global warming

David Seaton's News Links
A distinguished panel of retired generals and admirals have come to the conclusion that if something isn't done about global warming soon, it is going to lead to unheard of levels of worldwide instability producing endless conflict. If not arrested, the trend of climate change will lead to a multiplication of the sort of failed states that provide refuge for "non-state actors" (read Al Qaeda).

Dare we hope that this could be the beginning of some sort of miracle by which the military-industrial complex is "greened"? Are the soldiers going to be the ones to demand that the poor of the world have enough to eat and to drink? DS
Climate change 'a threat to security' - Financial Times
Abstract: Climate change threatens to prolong the war on terrorism and foster political instability that governments will be unable to cope with, an influential panel of 11 retired US generals has warned.(...) The new US military report, commissioned by the government-financed Center for Naval Analyses, lays out strong support for a link between climate change and terrorism. Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, the former commander-in-chief of US Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe and a member of the panel, said: "Climate change can provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror. In the long term, we want to address the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit, but climate change will prolong those conditions. It makes them worse." The report describes climate change as "a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world", which will "seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states". To make matters worse, the military experts warned climate change offered a challenge much more complex than conventional security threats because ofits potential to create "multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame".(...) "We will pay for this one way or another," said Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of US forcesin the Middle East. "We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll." One of the recommendations of the military advisory panel was that "the US must commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilise climate change at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability". READ IT ALL

The Virginia shooter - updated

David Seaton's News Links
Certainly having guns available facilitates these killings, but guns themselves are not the heart of the story. A long time ago, when I was a boy, America was filled with guns like today, nearly everybody hunted or had something in a drawer or closet, but these massacres didn't occur. I really don't have a clear idea of what has changed. What is certain is that something has changed.

My working hypothesis would be that because of the exponential explosion of the entertainment culture and the proliferation of video games since I was a boy that extreme violence has become primarily a masturbatory fantasy world and that people are moving into it from areas of craziness that in the past found other outlets. I would be surprised to learn that the Virginia shooter* had a past record of violent behavior or even overt hostility. DS

* With reader's permission, I'll update this post as we get more information on the perp.


Update: It seems we are looking at a two part crime: the first being what used to be called a "crime of passion". I hesitate to call that "normal", but, in fact, we have one of those almost every day in Spain, as traditionally over-mothered Latin men find themselves unable to cope with newly emancipated Latin women. I don't know enough about Korean mother-son relationships to draw any parallels here.

The second part of the Virginia massacre seems to hew to the "all American killing spree" scenario.
Now the shooter's creative writing teacher says his writings were "troubled" and that he was referred for "counseling". This is going to be more interesting than we thought.

Now it appears that the shooter may have been sexually abused as a child...
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6
Eight Years After Columbine - Editorial - New York Times
Abstract:
Yesterday’s mass shooting at Virginia Tech — the worst in American history — is another horrifying reminder that some of the gravest dangers Americans face come from killers at home armed with guns that are frighteningly easy to obtain. Not much is known about the gunman, who killed himself, or about his motives or how he got his weapons, so it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy. But it seems a safe bet that in one way or another, this will turn out to be another instance in which an unstable or criminally minded individual had no trouble arming himself and harming defenseless people. In the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre — in which two alienated students plotted for months before killing 12 students, a teacher and themselves — public school administrators focused heavily on spotting warning signs early enough to head off tragedy. As the investigation of the Virginia Tech shootings unfolds in coming days, it will be important to ascertain whether there were any hints of the tragedy to come and what might be done to head off such horrors in the future. Campuses are inherently open communities, and Virginia Tech has some 26,000 students using hundreds of buildings over 2,600 acres. It is not easy to guarantee a safe haven. READ IT ALL

Monday, April 16, 2007

Michael Moore: the Picasso of agit-prop

David Seaton's News Links
Michael Moore is a genius at agitation-propaganda.

The working people who cleaned up the mess after the 9-11 attack are sick because of inhaling toxic dust. They do not receive adequate medical care, except as charity cases. Michael Moore takes them to Communist Cuba where first class medical care is available free and there they receive the "Elvis treatment". I can't imagine a more powerful metaphor. What a lovely kick in the gonads for the flag waving "patriots" of the American right. A real work of art. ¡Olé! DS


Michael Moore takes 9-11 Victims to Cuba for treatment - New York Post

Abstract:
Filmmaker Michael Moore's production company took ailing Ground Zero responders to Cuba in a stunt aimed at showing that the U.S. health-care system is inferior to Fidel Castro's socialized medicine, according to several sources with knowledge of the trip. The trip was to be filmed as part of the controversial director's latest documentary, "Sicko," an attack on American drug companies and HMOs that Moore hopes to debut at the Cannes Film Festival next month.(...) Responders were told Cuban doctors had developed new techniques for treating lung cancer and other respiratory illness, and that health care in the communist country was free, according to those offered the two-week February trip. Cuba has made recent advancements in biotechnology and exports its cancer treatments to 40 countries around the world, raking in an estimated $100 million a year, according to The Associated Press. In 2004 the U.S. government granted an exception to its economic embargo against Cuba and allowed a California drug company to test three cancer vaccines developed in Havana, according to the AP.(...) Some called the trip a success, at least logistics-wise. "From what I heard through the grapevine, those people that went are utterly happy," said John Feal, who runs the Fealgood Foundation to help raise money for responders and was approached by Moore to find responders willing to take the trip. "They got the Elvis treatment." Although he has been a critic of Cuba, Moore grew popular there after a pirated version of his movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," was played on state-owned TV. READ IT ALL

The Soros antenna

David Seaton's News Links
George Soros has one of the world's most highly developed senses of where things are going to be in the future. Whether those things are currency futures or political ideas, his antenna are legendary.

The right wing advocates of "Greater Israel" that make up the back bone of AIPAC, themselves a minority of a minority, are driving Israel off a cliff and pulling the United States after it. As the disaster deepens this could have a devastating effect on America's vibrant Jewish community, something that in turn would have a devastating effect on American society in general. This is what I think Soros's antenna are picking up.

As rich as any of the AIPAC
core members, he is a formidable opponent not to be trifled with and, along with former president Jimmy Carter and professors Mearsheimer and Walt, he is helping to make a frank conversation about US/Israeli relations possible. DS

Soros adds voice to debate over Israel lobby - Reuters
Abstract: The billionaire investor George Soros has added his voice to a heated but little-noticed debate over the role of Israel's powerful lobby in shaping Washington policy in a way critics say hurts U.S. national interests and stifles debate. In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Soros takes issue with "the pervasive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)" in Washington and says the Bush administration's close ties with Israel are obstacles to a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Soros, who is Jewish but not often engaged in Israel affairs, echoed arguments that have fueled a passionate debate conducted largely in the rarefied world of academia, foreign policy think tanks and parts of the U.S. Jewish community. "The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism," wrote Soros. Politicians challenge it at their peril and dissenters risk personal vilification, he said.(...) The long-simmering debate bubbled to the surface a year ago, when two prominent academics, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, published a 12,500-word essay entitled "The Israel Lobby" and featuring the fiercest criticism of AIPAC since it was founded in 1953. AIPAC now has more than 100,000 members and is rated one of the most influential special interest groups in the United States, its political clout comparable with such lobbies as the National Rifle Association. Its annual conference in Washington attracts a Who's Who of American politics, both Republicans and Democrats. Mearsheimer and Walt said the lobby had persuaded successive administrations to align themselves too closely with Israel. "The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only U.S. security but much of the rest of the world," they wrote. No other lobby group has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy so far from the U.S. national interest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. interests and those of Israel are essentially identical, they wrote. Once considered an honest broker in the Middle East, the United States is now seen in much of the Arab world as an unquestioning backer of Israel, according to international opinion polls.(...) The two academics said that pressure from Israel and its lobby in Washington played an important role in President George W. Bush's decision to attack Iraq, an arch-enemy of Israel, in 2003. Mearsheimer and Walt found no takers for their essay in the U.S. publishing world. When it was eventually published in the London Review of Books, they noted it would be hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing such a piece.(...) In his contribution to the debate, Soros said: "A much-needed self-examination of American policy in the Middle East has started in this country; but it can't make much headway as long as AIPAC retains powerful influence in both the Democratic and Republican parties." That influence is reflected by the fact that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world.(...) According to Oren, the pro-AIPAC historian, the Carter book and the Mearsheimer-Walt paper had the same "insidious thesis" and suffered from the same flaw -- ignoring oil as a driving element in U.S. policies on the Middle East. READ IT ALL