Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Absurd Diversions

Or, Fractured Fairy tales:

Sausage on the loose.

And the loo joke.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Israel's Major Malfunction

The significance of Israel's botched military incursion into Lebanon over the last 2 months has been dismissed by some pundits as deja-vu all over again, or business as usual for the middle east (the way it is destined to be). But a closer inspection beyond the pages of reveals a few striking differences from past military efforts.

First, the legendary Israel military stalwart of old seems to be lost, maybe temporarily, perhaps forever. The perceived morally superior architect of precision, daring and surgical (not to mention successful) operations such as the raid at Entebbe appears now more like the US of Iraqi fame: if a 1,000 lb bomb doesn't win their hearts and minds, try a 10,000 lb bomb. If that doesn't work, then surely a 20,000 lb one will do the trick. Show 'em how tough you are, that's the only way to win the peace, cowboy style. What it in fact now appears to have accomplished is to demonstrate to the rest of the region that it is now possible to stand up to the most powerful military force in the area, and do it convincingly. And worse, Israel is left with nothing even approaching their original stated goals in the conflict. In fact, they are more at risk as a result.

Second, after 15 long years of invasion, occupation, civil war, and massive bloodshed Lebanon was finally free of its last occupiers, Israel and Syria. Reconstruction of its infrastructure, services and utilities was nearly complete, the economy was growing, foreign investors returning and it was well on the way to reclaiming its place as a major tourist destination (Beruit was once known as the "Paris of the Middle East"). Hezbollah was waning in significance and popularity, and seemed to be going the way of the IRA. While it was still the de-facto government in the south, military operations were slowly being eclipsed by social and governing activities. In a few short weeks Israel managed to turn Hezbollah into a regional hero again, marginalize a budding Lebanese government, destroy bridges, power plants and other new infrastructure, and remind the area whom they despise, and why.

Third, Iran has now clearly emerged as the top power broker in the area. As the saying goes, "the Iraq war is over, and Iran has won!" Israel managed to underscore that for any who missed it the first time.

Fourth, by using what was clearly a grossly disproportional show of force to what should have been seen as a relatively insignificant provocation (reminds me of W's claim that he was "tired of swatting flies"), they have lost a lot of the support they once took for granted in the world. I know this was a tipping point for me. And that of course will start the cries of "anti-semitism" much as the critics of the current US administration are accused of being unpatriotic.

One of the most stunning observations has been watching (and listening to) the reaction of lefty talkers on radio and TV. One would expect a similar reaction as the one to the invasion and occupation of Iraq: you know, can't bomb your way to peace, innocent civilians, world opinion, etc.

But suddenly the lefty talkers are sounding like sound-bite righties when it comes to Israel and Lebanon. Some of the tidbits I've heard, and my commentary:

"Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and they killed 241 marines in 1983.

Yes, and Libya killed 270 people (including 189 Americans) in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, but we've managed to patch things up there and get American oil interests going in that country again. There are literally dozens of other examples. There is a time to move on when the environment is fertile for it. Because of our lack of understanding of the region, we use the term "terrorists" indiscriminately and without makeup and functional distinction.

"They started it.

How childish does that sound....... I've even heard some of the talkers say "what's Israel supposed to do when rockets are fired into its northern areas?" Folks, the first rockets heading south didn't launch until well after they were heading north. The initial provocating was a minor firefight between Hezbollah and the IDF. Evidence suggests that Israel has been planning this for months if not years, just waiting for a reason to excuse a preemptive strike.

"Israel has a right to defend itself.

One of my faves, a soundbite right out of Karl Rove's playbook. Of course they do, no sane person disputes that. Now that that's been established, lets talk meaningfully about the current situation and stop being sidetracked by meaningless phrases.

"At least Israel is trying to avoid civilian deaths.

A noble cause, thought their stated intentions conflict a bit with the actual results. Depending on whose numbers you use, Israel has killed 3-4 civilians per Hezbollah fighter killed, Hezbollah has killed 3-4 IDF members to every Israeli civilian killed. I realize that this can be partially explained as the situation mixes conventional forces with urban guerilla tactics. But that's the path they knowingly took, and the results are still the reality for Lebanese civilians.

I do not suggest that Israel is all wrong and Hezbollah is all right; the latter has a sinister and duplicitous past. But one should expect a higher moral standard to be set for Israel, backed by the most firepower the world has ever seen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Breaking the Law

Another glimmer of hope and sanity emerged today as a federal judge ruled that the NSA's so-called "terrorist surveillance program", commonly referred to as warrantless wiretapping, not only violates the law but the constitution as well and ordered an immediate halt to the program. What this means is that the smokescreen about this activity potentially being legal is off the table. What it doesn't mean is a cessation of the program.

There are two basic reasons for this: First, the government will likely petition for (and will likely be granted) a stay pending outcome of appeal, said appeal to drag on for years potentially. Secondly, this administration has made it perfectly clear to date that they do not feel they need to play by the same rules the rest of us do. Lacking any enforcement mechanism (given our rubber stamp congress), her ruling is likely unable to be enforced.

But still, thank the heavens for "activist" judges who still recognize the law when they see it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Mr. Cheney to publicly call this ruling a "victory for al-Quaeda".

Read the complete ruling--PDF

Monday, August 14, 2006

Memoirs of October, 'O Five

I seem to get a large number of Google and Yahoo! searches (among others) leading readers of the blogosphere to my entries of October, 2005. I note this because when I occasionally look back in my archives (blush!), that month still intrigues me (blush, blush!!) and I wish I could duplicate some of the topics and writings of that time. Perhaps this fall will accommodate......

Here's a link to that collection, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Clueless Joe Lieberman

If any optimists still held out hope that Senator Joe Lieberman cared solely for the best interests of his constituents and the Democratic party, those hopes were crushed mightily last night and this morning by the good Senator himself. After suffering a narrow but historic loss in yesterday's US Senate primary in Connecticut to newcomer Ned Lamont, Joe proceeded to not only challenge his alleged party in the November generals as an independent, but continued to attack his alleged party's nominee for US Senator (note that most prominent Dems quickly endorsed Mr. Lamont after the results of the election were certain).

Further, Senator Lieberman made it more than clear that no one will be successful in talking him out of running as an independent this fall. With these statements he's essentially saying three things: first, I don't care about the schism I will help create in my "party" over the next 3 months, second, I don't care about the fact that I may be responsible for my "party" losing another Senate seat as I split the vote, and third, the one and only most important thing to me is to maintain the power and prestige I've enjoyed for the last 18 years, period. Its the same arrogance which prevented him from taking his challenger seriously until the last few weeks.

A funny sidebar, the wingnut reaction is bound to be amusing as up to now they've seen only two types of Dems: the good ones, Senators Lieberman and Miller (who consistently support the stiffs more than the Dems), and the rest who are all far left Massachusetts type abortion & gay lovin' cut and runners. So its not surprising to see them bemoaning the loss of this DINO. Here's one amusing blast (albeit a product of simple, shallow thought and weak writing skills) at those who voted for Mr. Lamont as being in the "wackadoo wing" of the party. Sure. Those way-out crazies who voted for a millionaire businessman. But of course one must consider the source, a publication a half step up from The Weekly World News.