< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: December 2005

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Most Revolutionary Document in History

So said Tolstoi, of this text:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

--from the first chapter of Luke, in the King James version

Now if Mary could see that the birth of Jesus means that the powerful are dethroned, and the rich dismissed, then what prevents the followers of Jesus, who sit in seats of power and privilege, from seeing it?

What was that about a War on Christmas?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Forcing the Issue

To date the most insightful commentary on the NSA scandal may be this one:

But this is not a case in which the President acted with Congress's consent, where his authority is at its apex; nor where he acted unilaterally, in the face of congressional silence. Instead, this is a case in which the American public had a comprehensive, contentious, and long public debate, borne of a serious history of government abuse, and our elected representatives -- both Executive and Legislature -- regulated this subject matter in great detail (going so far as to enact a specific exigency-in-war provision), and flatly prohibited the conduct in question.

So what the president has done is not to assert authority where the circumstances are ambiguous; rather he has directly contravened, explicitly violated, the law. And--don't forget--has caused others to do so. When or if a prosecutor--or a private citizen (as provided explicitly by the law)--takes one or more of these staffers to court, then are they, the staffers, also going to be protected by executive privilege? What about the staffers' subordinates? It reduces to an absurdity in which anyone can be ordered by the president to break any law.

Congress, and the courts, cannot withstand such a direct frontal assault on their very existence as co-equal branches of government. They will either fight back, or be forever powerless.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Losing.

This account from abroad begins with the simple words: "Iraq is disintegrating," and continues variously:

The election was portrayed by President George Bush as a sign of success for US policies in Iraq but, in fact, means the triumph of America's enemies inside and outside of the country. (My emphasis.)

. . . Ironically, Mr Bush is increasingly dependent within Iraq on the co-operation and restraint of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for the eradication of Israel. It is the allies of the Iranian theocracy who are growing in influence by the day and have triumphed in the election. The US will fear that development greatly as it
constantly reminds the world of Iran's nuclear ambitions

Let us be clear that the correctness of the above analysis is not the issue. Only time (but probably not much time) will tell. The facts will be plain enough for all to see, e.g.: Iraq disintegrating in violence; Iran growing stronger and more threatening, the U.S.humiliated by the Iraqi-Iranian alliance; Israel endangered; Israel at war.

What's especially revealing is that the administration has not proposed any alternative future facts which, if they came true, would make a U.S victory plain for all to see. That may mean they already know that no such facts are possible.

Leaders who are both incompetent and corrupt cannot win wars of this kind. Roughly half the country thinks Bush and his administration are exactly both: incompetent and corrupt. If they're right, then the U.S is going to lose this war. No amount of spinning by the administration will change the fact of that loss. Any terror alerts or other distractions will not change it. That the U.S. press tends not to publish analyses like the above will also not change it. That the Democrats don't have a unified position on the war also will not change it. And a poll that asks whether we won or lost will not change it.

But the merkun people will be able to change something: they can throw out the losers and start recovering from the loss.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"Here's a little lemma"

Who said that? Bonus points for any reader who knows... While some of the people I respect greatly have reviewed the demonstration which follows and called it: "an ontological proof of America's decline" or a "didactic refutation of modern America", I make no such claim. I'm merely allowing the reader's own intuition to be my guide. Following the path of those who hold such truths as "self-evident" and steering clear of any controversial waters, here it is:

The rules to this are simple, just use your basic civic knowledge and political intuition to map these points and terms in your own mind's eye.

Now, let an x-axis be drawn and the left end of the axis place the term "Monarchy". At the right end place the term "Direct democracy". I assume this makes intuitive sense to you. It certainly made some sense to our founders, and to the Revolution they inspired. See figure 2-1.
Next, allow your intuition to place the term "Aristocracy" somewhere on this line. Would it be closer to the monarchy or direct democracy end? Most people I talk to place it a little left of center, towards monarchy. Now place the term "Republic". A little right of center? See if fig 2-2 is close. On average, this is where most people who grew up in a democratic republic tend to place these dots.
Now, let us invert this x-axis and make it a y-axis. Keep the direct democracy end at the top, and the monarchy end towards the bottom. Extend the axis through the monarchy point and draw an arrow downwards. Underneath the arrow place the proportion 1 over infinity. At the top, beside the term direct democracy place the proportion 1 over 1. Again, this should hopefully make some intuitive sense. The most direct of democracies, or any government, is that which a man has over his own self (1:1), and the most indirect of governments is that which God has over the universe (1:infinity). For the sake of a relaxed cognition, this is just figure 2-1 on its end, with some proportions written in! See figure 2-3 below.
And again, if place those dots in relatively the same position as they were before, you would have figure 2-4 below.
Now, I am going to place a dot representing the proportion 1 over 50,000. This is approximately the proportion of representatives to counted citizens (ex 2/5 slaves, Indians not taxed, etc.) according to the 1800 census numbers. In other words, in the Congress of 1800, congressional districts were about 50,000 strong. I am going to place the dot in between the "direct democracy" proportion and the dot for "republic". This is an arbitrary placement, we can put it anywhere you wish, but in general, my own feeling is that that back in those days there was a little "more democracy" and a little "less republic". Again though, you can place it anywhere you like.

Now that I have my 1800 1:50,000 ratio placed, I am going to extend an x-axis again down at the bottom of my line. I am going to call this axis "time" and represent it with an arrow at its right most extreme. I am then going to extend two dotted parallel lines across the graph from the points "republic" and "aristocracy". This merely assumes that the definitions have held more or less constant since the founding. I am then going to move out along the x-axis and place another dot, representing today's current congressional district size 1 over 660,000. This dot will be substantially below the 1:50,000 dot we placed earlier.

Finally, let's connect the two dots with a dotted curved line, representing America's history of congressional district size. You will then have figure 2-5, and you will see a rather alarming trend.
Of course, it matters entirely where you place these dots, but the trend is still there no matter how far up or how far down you start. Is "republic" a simple point on a map? Does it encompass a range of options? Of course, but how far can we move on our present course before a qualitative change takes place? How many more people can we add to congressional districts until it simply makes no sense to call us a republic any longer and we should use a term like aristocracy or some other form?

Now if we superimpose a chart of US population growth, we can begin to see an answer to that question. Not for long. As our population continues to increase, and as our Congress continues to refuse to perform its Constitutional duty, the very essence of the Republic will fade from contemporary existence. See figure 2-6.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another Problem: Spy Scandal

One of the posts that I love at this site is one which none of the contributors wrote. It was a quote from Thucydides, the famous Pericles Funeral Oration.
But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.
What is lacking here is any public censure. Immediately the two great warring factions of American politics jumped headfirst into the specifics of whether or not a crime had been committed. The goal in the debate appeared to be to convict or exonerate the President and his staff of a crime for which no evidence had been offered, no charges had formally arisen, no indictment was issued. The great American sport of moral outrage had given way to something else: armchair quaterbacking of the legal case.

In other words, in our public debate the President stands accused of taking the law unto himself, like a King he claims the power to say what the law is. And where does our attention then turn? To whether or not he's guilty of this. Not one person seems to be bewildered that the land of the free is even at this point. That is probably because the chief protagonist in this issue, Congress, is as culpable in the event as the President, if not moreso. But I pray that the wise folks on Main Street are reading these tales with some sense of horror. I hope to God most Americans are asking themselves, how did we arrive at this stage in the first place?

More on that 4th Amend Thing

At the risk of offending our newest contributor, I'd like to post an email here that A9 commenter, and a good friend of mine (aka Uncle Pete), sent me last night. I was supposed to post something he wrote about Fitzgerald, but its since out of date. His latest email is thoughtful and timely. Enjoy and please let Uncle Pete know you'd like him to contribute to A9 more regularly!
Lets start with the big tuna of all this if you will, 4th Amendment prohibition on warrantless searches. Does the President's domestic spying operation violate the 4th Amendment? We don't even need to know what the racket is to begin analyzing this. The prohibition has exceptions. What are they? The ones that matter here are the national security exception and the "border search" exception. I'm guessing no one here believes in the national security exception. Which is a good thing, because it doesn't really exist. I know you're thinking "then why does everyone talk about it?" And the answer is, because they don't listen! These windbag law school professors, whether left, right, or just drunk straight down, aren't in there getting their elbows dirty with trial judges and criminal courts. If they were, they'd understand this simple fact, and they'd shut their traps about national security.

If anyone walks into a criminal court anywhere in this country and says the following: "Your honor, I represent the federal government, and we concede these searches were warrantless, but urge you to accept the evidence found by them anyway as they are covered by the national security exception to the 4th Amendment of the Constitution." The judge, the stenographer, the defense attorney, the bailiff, and anyone else present in the courtroom would laugh hysterically at this idiot. At some point, the judge would regain his composure and say something like: "Well gee counselor, I sure do appreciate that suggestion. But how on earth do you expect me to throw out two-hundred years of jurisprudence in favor of an exception so wide, so great, so massive that you could drive an entire army right through it?"

And then there would be silence. Now I'm sure the attorney for the government would mumble about footnote 23 in Katz, and maybe something about the Keith Case, but that would be about all he would do because when you open those cases up and read them, this is the conclusion:

Official surveillance, whether its purpose be criminal investigation or ongoing intelligence gathering, risks infringement of constitutionally protected privacy of speech. Security surveillances are especially sensitive because of the inherent vagueness of the domestic security concept, the necessarily broad and continuing nature of intelligence gathering, and the temptation to utilize such surveillances to oversee political dissent. We recognize, as we have before, the constitutional basis of the President's domestic security role, but we think it must be exercised in a manner compatible with the Fourth Amendment.

In other words, there is no national security exception to the 4th Amendment. Now border searches are a different thing. That does exist. And it applies to mail. So if all we're talking is opening up some email thats crossing our borders, then the surveillance racket is fine. That would not get laughed at by a court. What would though is this national security crap. Which is why I can't understand why for the life of me liberals aren't just sitting around quoting from Wong Son, and instead continue to get involved in the minutia of the FISA. I freely admit I don't understand FISA very well. But if I was a liberal, I sure as hell wouldn't be getting involved there. The place to fight this is on the 4th Amendment. And the way to fight it is like this.

We aren't the type of country where someone in a dark overcoat can walk up to you, grab you by the arm, and say: "May I see your papers sir?" Then frisk you. Then decide whether or not you can go on your merry way, all without any oversight or judicial review. We aren't that way now because we don't believe in it. But things are changing. Do we want to be a country like that?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thanks.

Sorry for the delay. My first post will be controversial I hope. I intend to be slightly different from the typical partisan rancor. I'm non-partisan, honestly. I could care less whether you're a greenie, a whig, or a socialist. Your ideology means nothing to me. All I care about are results. Sound familiar? Well, if so, there's one big difference, I'm serious.

That said, when I read the fourteenth amendment, I don't see a damn thing in there about corporations, businesses, companies, or any form of being other than human beings. From my simplistic view the fourteenth amendment was designed to add additional security to our Constitutional liberties in the form of regulating state action, instead of just federal action.

I get why it applies to corporations, they need protections too. But at what cost? I believe the fight for power is a zero sum game, power is not created, it is either held or lost. So we give the corporate form powers and rights under the Constitution at the cost of ourselves. That goes for increasing voting rights too. Every time you do it, you decrease the power the earlier votes by dilution.

So again, this is my admittedly unstudied view, but wouldn't it make sense to allow families to compete with corporations head to head? We always hear this talk about consumers, management, labor, production, but never do we hear about families. Is it possible to allow families to incorporate themselves? Issue stock? Live forever? Or is there no way to deal with this?

FIG

Been awhile since the Vulture's Corner has posted. We've been busy. I'm doing an update over there now and will link to it from here when complete. Thanks for all the emails, I think. And let's give it up to FIG for shoving the King of Pop down into debtor's prison. Looks like they've been busy too! End of year is always a time of reflection for vultures. We'll be doing some of that too. Stop in this week for the goods.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Winning?

If you have to say you're winning, it's a dead giveaway that you know you're losing.

Victory is victory only when it's apparent on the scoreboard, and cheerleading doesn't change the score. W's insistence that we're winning only invites his audience to look at the score, which says we're losing. We're already in the fourth quarter, and the bad guys have the ball.

And just to be clear: "at least" rhetoric, like "At least Saddam is gone" or "at least they had an election," is no more reassuring than saying "at least we scored some touchdowns, even if they scored more."

Won't be long before the cheerleader leaves the stadium.
And history records the loss--and the loser.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Chaos and Chairos

Hail to Federal Farmer for striking one of the first and earliest sparks in the firestorm over NSA lawbreaking, the New York Times, etc. More details on the substance itself in tomorrow's post, but for now let's celebrate FF's timeliness.

Consider two sets of circumstances, whether in the social-political or the natural environment . . .

Chaos refers to nonlinear mathematical functions, by which small differences between the two sets initial circumstances are amplified to become large dbifferences in outcome. The one pair of butterfly wings triggers the hurricane; the other, the gentle breeze.

Chairos defines the moment when the two different trajectories are first discerned and the different outcomes first recognized. By definition it arises late enough so that it is possible to detect with assurance which pathway leads where, but early enough so a choice between pathways can still be made. Such choices, as Robert Frost said, make "all the difference."

That is the context in which I view FF's post below: he has seen the impending destruction of the NYT, and has nudged it forward at just the moment of opportunity to make a difference. Bravo.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The New York Times is Dead

Today should be remembered by history as the official death of the New York Times. Of all of their fuck-ups of the last few years -- the fictional stories written by Jayson Blair, the equally fictional stories written by Judy Miller, the ineptitude of management, especially the current boy-king Sulz' Junior -- this is by far the worst:

At the behest of their White House masters, the New York Times declined for at least a year to report to the public one of the most shocking, illegal and unconstitutional abuses of governmental power since Jim Crow days.

They are worse than Bob Woodward, if only because they had not yet been written off. Now they should be. Any of you who still has a subscription should cancel it.

If Arthur Andersen can go down, so can the New York Times.

It is no more an independent media outlet than Radio Moscow was during the Cold War.

The New York Times is dead.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Say Hello To Blackbird

I'm preparing for a trip, and won't be blogging as regularly. Wilderwood and Federal Farmer have promised to keep things on schedule with daily updates. And it seems like they'll have a lot to cover on the Plamegate investigation.

I have also asked Blackbird to join as a contributor, and he has agreed. Some of you know him through the comments, others through his day job. Hopefully Blackbird will have some interesting perspectives as things in Iraq begin to take on a new shape. Please give a welcome to Blackbird.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Viv and Lusk Dialogues

As in Woodward's confessional (see Woodward Syndrome posts, below), so also in Viveca Novak's yesterday in Time: the interesting thing is the last "oh by the way" paragraph (she calls it a "final note"). She defends herself for publishing details of her conversation with Rove's attorney Luskin, and the quaint excess in the argument ("Lusk revealed our conversation to Fitz, so the confidentiality was already broken" and "since my testimony will be used by the grand jury, I have the right to tell about it") flags it as forced, and not altogether frank.

Why this little sore spot in Viv's current feeling space? And why should Lusk care about Viv publishing their conversations? And why should she care that he cares? (Forget "journalist's honor," like unto which the honor among thieves is a veritable monument of rectitude.) Of things he could be embarrassed about, one might be her report of the extent of their dialogues (at least five, beginning with his revelation to her that he was Rove's lawyer); another, her description of his surprise at being told that it was all over Time that Rove was Cooper's source. The former doesn't seem to recommend him to future clients; the latter makes him look lied to and disrespected by his current client.

Seems like everywhere you look in this case some journalist, and now some lawyer, is dissolving into disrepute. "Ordinary" cases or investigations don't do that--which tells us how extra-ordinary this one is. It's maybe less like a cancer on the presidency, and more like, how to say it, an infection that spreads by intimate contact.

Which gives new meaning to the term "source."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

All that Hegel Crap

Recently I wanted to post a more thorough reply to Dan's interesting post on globalization, at least more thorough than my original thoughts. In the interim, I've noticed that the breadth of "hegelian" experience out there in the blogosphere is quite diverse. From complete novices, to bona fide experts, this site has readers all throughout that range. So before I get into a more detailed dialectic on globalization, I'd like to begin this by discussing why I personally think Hegel is so relevant to the current historical moment.

First off, regardless of the substance of one's political philosophy, if you are an American, you are by definition a Kantian. This is an important realization for one to make. Many people out there, many learned people at that, refuse to accept this premise, that the western world is a Kantian world, and that their concepts are still shaped by his writings, but you can just trust me now, this is the case.

Hegel was, to put it mildly, preoccupied with Kant, especially with the great beauty of the Kantian system. He was impressed with Kant, and speaks highly of him throughout the Science of Logic. But at the end, which for Hegel is also the beginning, Kant is finally rejected and freedom instead is embraced.

Hegel is sometimes called "a freedom philosopher". But as those of you who have studied know, he is "the freedom philosopher". Embracing freedom forces Hegel to abandon simple syllogistic reasoning. It forces him to give up non-contradiction, the excluded middle, and many other "live and die by" logical rules. And instead, Hegel focuses on the method of history, the method of noos, what some refer to as "the Hegelian dialectic".

Now at this point, the novices in Hegel will likely find one of the great misunderstandings (Hegel is perhaps one of the most misunderstood philosophers, besides Plato), which is the term dialectic. Many believe this refers to the positing, negating, and synthesizing process loosely defined in the Phenomology of Spirit as "thesis" "antithesis" "synthesis". And while this is convenient shorthand, it is misleading. Hegel was concerned not with "dia"lectic, but with "speculation". That is, the third movement (often termed sythesis) is a "speculative moment", or if you prefer, a creative instant. Understanding the essence is only piece, understanding its opposition is merely the same piece in a different light, but taking the essence and moving towards a third, as yet unposited idea is the genius in Hegel. Speculation, as always, is most important in volatile situations, where "bread and butter" routines or patterns have broken down.

All of this important in this period of history, in my opinion, for two very simple reasons. First, the notion of freedom is on trial these days. The ability to live an examined life is once again in jeopardy. So it would seem attention to "the freedom philosopher" would be warranted. Second, the tempo of the current epoch is dramatically increased. Changes are occurring much more frequently, with much more volatility than during most other historical reference points. Understanding the logic of speculation is absolutely criticial in order to continue finding and delivering value in whatever context.

Finally, let me end with a challenge to the expert and novice alike. Do not read Hegel with any preconceptions whatsoever. Do not ready any substantive commentary on his work. Just pick up a book and start moving through it. Let Hegel talk to you, for too long other people have spoken for him.

Big Quake off PNG Coast

Another quake in the southwestern pacific. So far no signs of a tsunami anywhere. Good news. Has anyone noticed a pretty drastic increase in seismic activity over on that side of the planet?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Feedback Request

A9 readers. I have some questions. We have a great number of "lurkers" on our site, lots of people reading this blog never leave a comment. Thats not a bad thing. Comment threads can get ugly quickly, and they take up a lot of time. But at the same time, we have some "regular" commenters as well. Then we seem to have an in between group that comments occassionally, but reads regularly. And finally, there are the spammers, who read infrequently, but whenever they do they leave a rant in the threads.

So here's to you readers. Thanks for your contributions, and your readership, and if possible, could you let me know a little about what you like, what you don't like, why you leave comments, or why you don't? All feedback will go into the quality loop. Cheers and thanks again for choosing A9.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

They Prefer the Cold

This post is likely to offend some. I hope it does. I find the dishonesty in the discourse about this topic to be so offensive, that some ruffling of the feathers is warranted.

I had just finished an investigation at the Holocaust Museum in the US. It was both an interesting historical look, as well as a somewhat personal look, into the administration of Germany by occupying US forces after the fall of Berlin. My grandfather was a senior JAG officer in the occupation, so part of my work included looking for clues about him. I won't share what I found, except to say that the documentation of the Holocaust, when examined from the cold, historical record used as evidence at Nuremburg, was truly heartbreaking. With each turn of the dusty page, my sense of what humanity was changed irrevocably. We aren't the wondrous Mankind which the Muses sang about and the Poet recorded, at least, thats only half the story. My colleague actually had a crisis of sorts. At one point he confessed, as he thought, that his grandparents were German and he had no idea that the German people could be this horrible. He missed the point, we're all German.

Shortly after that gut wrenching study, and during my own continued research into the history of the American Plains Indians, I accompanied an American delegation of political dignitaries visiting Israel. It was my first trip to Israel, though I of course had read plenty about the biblical land, and obviously knew much about the land as it had been shaped by modern war. We deplaned and were whisked off to a waiting lounge at the airport for VIPs. It was loaded with the best breakfast foods I had ever eaten (or at least, the long flight made it seem that way).

A hunkety hunk from the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) greeted us when we arrived. She was incredibly good looking and incredibly professional, as were almost all of the high-ranking Israeli officials I met with. Both men and women, were sharp, well-dressed, extremely intelligent, and capable of indulging in conversation. Their professionalism was truly admirable, I wish our government showed this sort of face to this world. A lot of problems would go away then.

That was why it was so surprising to meet our personal tour guide. Hand picked to accompany the American delegation us and answer all our questions about the land. He had metallic silver hair cut in a tight crew cut. His sun wrinkled skin was deep bronze. The silver hair on his arms glistened as if coated in olive oil. He wore Ray Ban aviators, and reminded me of many of the deep sea fishing boat guides I had seen operating off the coast of North Carolina. His dress was casual, white pants and an open linen shirt showing off his old chest hair. No chains though. He could have been from New Jersey or Florida had he wore some gold. But he was from Israel, he proudly boasted.

Later on in the trip, I realized why he had been paired with the Americans. First of all, he had family in New Jersey and in Florida. His daughter was going to school in New York. He was able to relate to us. But most importantly, he was a veteran. He reminded me much of any WW-II vet in the states. Proud of his accomplishments. He often bellowed: "they call it the six days war in America, but I can tell you the truth is it lasted for over a year." What he meant, as I later learned after having a few drinks with him, he was paratrooper in Operation Shredder (the 1966 attack on Jordanian troops in the West Bank at Samu). In fact, he had been part of the force that blew up a girl's orphanage, though he referred to it as a safe-house for guerrillas. His CO, Col. Shaham was killed in the battle. For him the six days war started then.

But this isn't the point of my post. The point is to relay how many times, and in how many ways, the Palestinian people were degraded, disrespected, and dehumanized by our "tour guide". After traveling through the wondrous modern city of Tel Aviv, we headed to the equally fabulous King David hotel in Jerusalem. For several days we attended conferences with leaders like Shimon Peres. I got to meet with Ehud Olmert in person and have a somewhat lengthy discussion, after which, he told me I was too "intellectually aggressive." We had not seen nor heard a peep out of a Palestinian. Then, one day before we were to head to the Temple Mount and have a guided tour of the Dome of the Rock, we drove through what in American words would be described as a "slum."

In Israeli words, it was described to us as "a nice Palestinian neighborhood." There was garbage piled up on the street. It was dusty. Our bus had "just happened through the area", but it was clear to me this was a setup from the beginning. A former US Mayor, and official in the Clinton Administration, called it too, he leaned over "next they're gonna show us some police line ups".

We saw well-armed Israeli troops questioning a Palestinian woman with child in tow. And we were told by our veteran tour guide: "crime here is always a problem. They just don't know how to govern themselves. The schools and hospitals are always worn out and underfunded because their politicians are so corrupt." Etc. etc. It went on and on for what felt like an hour, but in truth was only about ten or fifteen minutes.

I imagined that similar trips made by similar delegations to the Great Plains after the Civil War ended with similar "tours" through Indian Reservations. "See them all huddled up there, they just prefer to live outside in the cold. They can't be civilized."

Later on in the trip I was able to meet with the city council of Bethlehem. There hadn't been free elections there since 1976. So the council was old, grey, and tired. Several of the politicians were animated. But one of them just sat there, staring at the wall, twiddling with his prayer beads. He saw me notice them, and gave them to me without so much as a word. He returned to his chair, and wall staring.

To be sure, at some Palestinian stops (half of which were cancelled) we met the "victim" game full force. It was truly pathetic, and a waste of time. We got some first hand accounts of Jewish settlers on the West Bank, how they felt like they may be abandoned. And we heard from Jericho residents how they felt like they were giving birth to a long overdue baby. But we also met people like that Bethlehem pol who had probably been staring at that wall for almost 20 years. Just staring. Always remembering his manners, but nevertheless, not much else to do. Then, the other day, I read from what is an otherwise and entertaining and often insightful blog, the following:
No, the enemy is not "intransigence" ,but rather visceral hatred generated by Jihadist extremism. To this day, unbridled hatred of Israelis is taught in Palestinian schools. Sharon has taken genuine physical and political risks for peace. It is time that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas actually cracks down on extremists in his midst.
When people like the Bull Moose make one-sided statements about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, I recall that similar Cherubs cried "savage" whenever Native Americans attacked a camp or a settlement in the Old West. Most of them had never passed the Mississippi. And the few that had saw an isolated, "tour guided" view of the world. They never saw the wild for what it was. They never understood that our "savage" was their "nobility". Honor cannot transcend the lenses of politics.

Luckily, we know that "savage" or "jihadi" or whatever the word of the day is, it reflects dueling realities... it is and is not. This Hegelian truth may often be obscure, but deep in our hearts, we know it to be true. We are all "German", whether we like it or not. And while we have yet to summon the courageous thinkers who will sublate this opposition, one thing is for sure: the Moose will not be among them.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bush's Victory Rhetoric Makes Him a Loser, Not Just a Liar.

Bush is (1) insisting on victory; (2) defining victory as the prerequisite for withdrawal; and (3) starting to withdraw. But what he's not doing is the one thing he must do: tell us how we'll know if we've achieved victory.
Victory has to be visible. Absent that, we all know that withdrawal is a declaration of defeat.

George! If you want to be a war time president, you have to win the war! Being a liar is sick, but being a loser is fatal. We regular Americans don't put up with presidents who are losers.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Results

Yesterday's somewhat 'unexpected' delivery by Pres. Bush has already achieved, perhaps, its one true goal: scuttling Khalilzad's chances at regional stabilization talks. Exposing the struggle for power within the White House, it appears once again that the Cheney/Rumsfeld coalition has curried enough favor to avoid a strong course correction.

As A9 readers know, Khalilzad expressed a willingness to meet with Iran. We presume he also intends to meet with other regional powers, and has been quoted as open to talks with Sunni insurgents as well. This was the right time for him to pursue such a strategy, coming on the heels of what looked like political momentum for a hasty withdrawal. The negotiating leverage such a power vacuum and imminent civil war gave Khalilzad could have been used to pry concessions from competing regional powers and make a withdrawal possible as well as preferrable. Without such leverage, and without such talks, withdrawal is not preferred.

Today's headlines out of Iran are: no go on the talks.
ANKARA – Iran has no plans to negotiate with the United States to help make Iraq safe after U.S. troops start leaving, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Wednesday.

'Negotiating with America is not on our agenda or programme,' he told a news conference via a translator.

The announcement in Turkey by Iran's foreign minister seems to have come just after the President's speech, and certainly not long after the "Strategy for Victory" document was released. Now that the talks are sunk, it appears the President has decided to "stay the course" afterall. God help us.

There is perhaps one other way to read this. Clearly open and direct talks with the Iranians would be unprecedented. Such talks could have already occurred. A deal could have already been reached in private. And Khalilzad could be announcing the talks in public merely so the Iranians could reject them, in public. This would give the President political cover with conservative hawks, and allow a withdrawal to be completed under a "stay the course" rhetorical campaign... under our nose essentially. It wouldn't be the first time Iran provided an American President with political cover, and of course, we've done likewise for them on occassion too.

How to tell which is the case? The most likely alliance between Iranian Qod force operatives and Iraqi militias is Sadr. Sadr's militias would give the Qod force ample support with which to operate in southern Iraq. We also know that the Qod force continues a presence in Kuwait. Without Iranian agreement, and assuming a Sadr / Qod alliance, withdrawing our troops through Southern Iraq would be a suicide mission. It stands to reason that if talks have occurred, Sadr will remain quiet until we leave. If they haven't though, and if Iran is still looking to destabilize the situation, Sadr and southern Shiite militias should begin activity again.

It is difficult to monitor, but it seems safe to assume if you hear Sadr's name anytime soon, or here about a step up in attacks in Southern Iraq, the talks were scuttled. If you don't hear about that, it could mean Khalilzad was already successful and safe passage for our troops has already been won, along with a more stabilized Iraq and regional cooperation. Both Iran and Syria stand to gain by dealing straight with the US here. Lets just hope we still understand that.