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Friday, December 29, 2006

Movies of 2006

I'm a fan of film. This past fall, I taught "Global Politics Through Film" and I joined one of those on-line rental DVD companies, which delivers movies by mail. It is safe to say that I watch a lot of movies.

So, what were the best movies of 2006?

Well, many of the best films I saw this year were 2005 flicks that I missed in the theaters. Some were even older.

To make a 2006 list, I scanned the top 150 grossing movies of 2006, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2006 (and their most popular by average vote list), and these were the only ones I saw this year. Pictures marked with asterisks were viewed in a theater:

Thank You for Smoking **
Casino Royale **
V for Vendetta
Little Miss Sunshine **
Inside Man **
An Inconvenient Truth
A Prairie Home Companion **
Glory Road
The Break-Up
Superman Returns
X Men: The Last Stand
Mission Impossible III **
Nacho Libre
Monster House
Happy Feet **
Cars **
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

And here's the annual list of movies I intend to see in the near future (but probably in 2007): Babel, Blood Diamond, Bobby, Borat, Children of Men, The Departed, The Fountain, The Good Shepherd, The Illusionist, Kenny, The Last King of Scotland, The Prestige, The Queen, The Road to Guantanamo, A Scanner Darkly, Scoop, Stranger Than Fiction, and Who Killed the Electric Car?

I'll probably also end up watching United 93 and World Trade Center, though I cannot bring myself to rent either one when I'm at the video store.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Victory challenge

The Oklahoma blogger Red Stater has issued a "victory challenge" to "liberal" bloggers. He wants bloggers on the left to declare that the US cannot leave Iraq because that means defeat. He recently left this challenge in a comment on one of my recent posts.

Oh, and he thinks I'm in denial about Iraq.

Recently, he left a comment on my December 4, 2005 post "Failed state?"
So you can't determine (or guess) if US troops supporting Iraq's Democracy is a stablizing factor or not...yet you already determined that removing US troops would be destablizing.

Therefore, if removing US troops is bad then keeping US troops in Iraq is good.
(for democracy)

Your hatred for Bush is obviously affecting your ability to draw correct conclusions from your own findings.
I tried to leave the following reply, but there were too many links for haloscan:

You are commenting on a December 2005 post -- written nearly 13 months ago. The circumstances have drastically changed.

For one thing, the new October 2006 evidence suggests that innocent Iraqis are dying at a much higher rate than anyone knew at that time. The US is not there specifically to kill them, but they are dying as a direct and indirect cause of the US-backed war. On your blog, you attribute a strawman argument to me.

For another thing, the old post pre-dates the February 2006 mosque bombing that made the conflict much more of a sectarian civil war.

More-and-more, Iraq already looks like a failed state. The US troops seem to be irrelevant to that fact.

However, there is very little chance that this makes Iraq like Afghanistan in the 1990s. Al Qaeda is Sunni and the dominant Shia in Iraq simply will not tolerate a Sunni-based terrorist training site.

Civil war will be bad for many Iraqis, but there's very little reason for the USA to participate.

The US couldn't defeat the Vietnamese insurgency with nearly 185,000 troops in 1965. It didn't fare a lot better in 1966 with 200,000 more, nor a lot better in 1967 with another 100,000...nor better in 1968 with another 50,000.

The US currently has no real prospect of putting anywhere near those troop levels in Iraq. Even the US generals say peace has to be achieved politically; this will not be a military victory.

Note: Professor Juan Cole has a thorough answer to many of the myths about Iraq promulgated by bloggers like Red Stater.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday cheer: feedback requested

In case you didn't notice, operations have been slow here at the blog for some time.

I had quite a bit of grading in December, then normal holiday commitments. Expect more writing and posting after the new year. Meanwhile, I certainly hope all my readers are enjoying the normal slowdown that many people enjoy this time of year.

As for me, I'm contemplating the best way to spend a gift card. I've got all the books I currently need from Powell's, so I'm planning to purchase a couple of music CDs.

I'm a fan of Americana and have already looked at the end-of-year "best of 2006" list from No Depression. I also took a look at NPR's choices, the Boston Globe's picks, and Metacritic.

I have all-but decided to purchase my second Neko Case CD.

For the next choice, I'm mulling Rosanne Cash, Cat Power, Grayson Capps, Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint, Old Crow Medicine Show, Todd Snider, and T Bone Burnett.

Any advice on selections from this group?

Alternatively, what are the indispensable Americana CDs? Maybe I've missed some important work from the past decade or so?

Or, which Drive-By-Truckers CD should I buy, considering I only have one now?

I like Bob Dylan a great deal, of course, but already own much of his artistic output from a very long career. Do I really need another Dylan album?

Readers, I'd like to hear from you on this.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just try to duck this

Today, I've written a lengthy post about Iraq on the Duck of Minerva: "Bush 'We're not winning.'"

December 15, I posted "Pakistan on the hot seat, again."

December 10: "Conservative dead pool."

December 7, I blogged a "Friday maxim" regarding the fortune in my Chinese food.

Happy reading.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Talking Heads: Start Making Sense

Today, on "Face the Nation," former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the US is losing in Iraq -- and that a surge in troops to protect Baghdad would likely not work. This is life during wartime, December 2006:
"So if it's grave and deteriorating [as the Iraq Survey Group concluded] and we're not winning [as new Defense Secretary Gates said], we are losing...

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work,"
Powell did say that he agreed with the ISG and Gates, by the way.

It was a Sunday, so a lot of administration supporters in the audience probably thought that Powell was speaking in tongues. He said that the US is less safe as a a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom:
"I think we are a little less safe, in the sense that we don't have the same force structure available for other problems," Powell said. "I think we have been somewhat constrained in our ability to influence events elsewhere."

To prove the politics makes for strange bedfellows, Senate Majority Leader (to be), Harry Reid today said that he would support a temporary surge in troops for Iraq.

True Story: Reid also said that the 2 or 3 month troop surge had to be part of a plan to have the US out by this time next year.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

"War is a continuation of politics by other means"

It appears the the Joint Chiefs of Staff haven't forgotten this admonition by Clausewitz. This is from today's Washington Post:
Pentagon chiefs think that there is no purely military solution for Iraq and that, without major progress on the political and economic fronts, the U.S. intervention is simply buying time, the sources said. They particularly want to see U.S. pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to offer amnesty to Sunni insurgents, approve constitutional amendments promised to the Sunni minority, pass laws to ensure equitable distribution of oil revenue, and modify the ban on members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party taking government positions.
Hopefully, this kind of talk will put to rest all the "double down" whispering that has been emanating from the media's talking heads these past few days.

The military has long known that Iraq could not be won as a purely military campaign. Analysts in the US have to stop talking about victory versus defeat and focus instead on the choice between stalemated war versus sustainable peace.

Under the Joint Chiefs plan, what will the military be doing in Iraq? While many thousands of troops would become newly embedded in Iraqi units to serve training purposes, the remaining US forces would stop fighting Iraq's civil war.
Meanwhile, the remaining seven to eight brigades of U.S. combat forces would focus on three core missions: striking al-Qaeda, strengthening security along Iraq's borders, and protecting major highways and other routes to ensure U.S. forces freedom of movement in Iraq.
I'm not confident that this is the pathway out of Iraq, but it does sound better than the status quo. Hopefully, by changing course, fewer American soldiers would be exposed to violent injury and death.

If sectarian violence escalates dramatically after the switch to this strategy, it will become even more politically difficult for hawks to argue that the US should increase its involvement. Though the Pentagon might not identify civil war now, their perspective might be better from a more remote perspective.

Likewise, it will be harder to frame American withdrawal from Iraq as "cut and run." After all, the civil war won't be widely viewed as America's fight.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Cyber-war: did it already start?

According to The Washington Times, the Naval War College has recently suffered an attack:
Chinese computer hackers penetrated the Naval War College network earlier this month, forcing security authorities to shut down all e-mail and official computer network work at the Navy's school for senior officers.

Navy officials said the computer attack was detected Nov. 15 and two days later the U.S. Strategic Command raised the security alert level for the Pentagon's 12,000 computer networks and 5 million computers.
The story is filled with lots of threat mongering, which I won't repeat. Read it yourself, Times stories tend to endure on their site.

Another data point: several of my emails sent over the past month to a colleague in Newport have bounced. I received one bounce notice just today from an email sent last Wednesday! I am not confident now that any of my emails have been received.

This may not be influencing world politics very significantly, but it makes for slow progress on joint individual projects.

This might be a job for the telephone.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

RIP Jeane Kirkpatrick

Former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick died on December 7. I've linked to The Washington Post obituary, but you won't have to google very long to find others.

At first glance, Kirkpatrick was a political schizophrenic. As a youth, she was a Columbia-educated Marxist who became a fervent anti-communist in Washington. Though it is not a transformation of that magnitude, she also worked for Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1981.

By the 1970s, Kirkpatrick was an ardent cold warrior. In 1979, she published her best-known work, a very famous piece about democratization and human rights for Commentary magazine, "Dictatorships & Double Standards." The piece offered a blistering critique of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy -- and an ideological defense of America's cold war alliances with various right-wing autocrats throughout what was then commonly called the "third world."

Though today's neocons supposedly owe Kirkpatrick a huge intellectual debt, and the administration of George W. Bush is often-said to be heavily influenced by her thinking, it seems obvious to me that the neocons and Bush people should go back and read her 1979 article:
Although most governments in the world are, as they always have been, autocracies of one kind or another, no idea holds greater sway in the mind of educated Americans than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. This notion is belied by an enormous body of evidence based on the experience of dozens of countries which have attempted with more or less (usually less) success to move from autocratic to democratic government. Many of the wisest political scientists of this and previous centuries agree that democratic institutions are especially difficult to establish and maintain-because they make heavy demands on all portions of a population and because they depend on complex social, cultural, and economic conditions.

...Decades, if not centuries, are normally required for people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits.
Here's another zinger from that article:
Vietnam presumably taught us that the United States could not serve as the world's policeman; it should also have taught us the dangers of trying to be the world's midwife to democracy when the birth is scheduled to take place under conditions of guerrilla war.
Despite these warnings that resonate in contemporary politics, Kirkpatrick was primarily arguing that some right-wing autocracies had eventually evolved into democracies while there were no examples at that time of a "revolutionary 'socialist' or Communist society being democratized."

This implied (a) that the U.S. could justify its alliances with right-wing autocrats because they were not necessarily permament; and (b) that the U.S. should overtly support these right-wing autocrats because they were vulnerable to pressures applied by Marxist revolutionaries. If the latter came to power, she argued, the new government would be worse than the autocracy it replaced.

In this article, the "Kirkpatrick doctrine" justifying support for right-wing autocrats did not directly begat the "Reagan doctrine," which justified American support for anti-communist insurgencies in places like Nicaragua and Afghanistan. But as the US Permament Representative to the UN for four years, Kirkpatrick certainly supported that policy. And the Commentary piece does criticize the Carter administration for its failure to attempt to undermine any communist states.

Let me note one other prominent Kirkpatrick statement. At the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas that re-nominated Ronald Reagan for president, she delivered the famous address that criticized the "San Francisco Democrats" (the party had just had its national convention in that city) that would "Blame America First" for various ills in world affairs.

In her public life, Jeane Kirkpatrick was both a skilled politico and a scholar. Not many have bridged those two worlds.

My personal experience confirms both her political skills and intellectual prowess. Ten years ago, I spent significant parts of two working days and a long evening with Kirkpatrick and a few other colleagues. Given the stark differences between her politics and mine, I was not really expecting to like her very much. However, I found her to be a very skilled advocate for her positions. She was also quite charming. And entertaining.

And maybe just a little bit flirty.

One final note: As my Duck of Minerva colleague Bill Petti has pointed out, the latest move by the neoconservative crowd is to "Blame America Last." It is clear from Kirkpatrick's 1979 critique of Carter's foreign policy that she was quite willing to place blame on America when she thought its leaders were doing a poor job and creating instability and new threats.

Thus, I'd like to think she would reject this latest twist.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Global Politics Through Film, Fall 2006

This post consolidates links to the weekly blog posts I wrote during fall 2006 about POLS 552, Global Politics Through Film. This link should take you to a copy of the course syllabus (pdf version).

Note: the following dates reference the blog postings, not the class periods.

August 14, I announced the "Film class selections." The post includes the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) links to each film, as do the following posts, which were originally written for the Duck of Minerva group IR blog.

August 24, "Film class: week I" about "Casablanca" and sovereign nation-state involvement in the so-called "protection racket." Are states like the mafia and is IR like a series of real or threatened gang wars?

August 31, "Film class -- week 2" on "Twelve O'Clock High." We discussed the critical roles of fear and military power -- and the importance of real or threatened great power war -- in shaping interstate politics.

September 7, "Film class -- week 3." We watched "Saving Private Ryan" and discussed the tragic dimensions of great power politics. Does the structure of the international system force tragic choices on states, or do individuals make tragic choices because of their flaws?

September 15: "Film class -- week 4." We viewed "The Quiet American" and discussed Wilsonian liberal internationalism -- particularly in US foreign policy. We also addressed recent tensions in US and European relations.

September 22: "Film class -- week 5" the class saw "Black Hawk Down" and discussed humanitarian intervention during the 1990s. Can tremendous American military power be used for good?

September 29, "Film class -- week 6." We viewed "Breaker Morant" and discussed whether states (or empires) can promote democracy and other ideals through the application of force, perhaps by using even brutal means.

October 5, "Film class -- week 7" which discussed the viewing of "Red Dawn" and the role of nationalism in global politics. The class, for obvious reasons, considered the Iraqi insurgency.

October 15, "Film class -- week 8" focused on comedian Stephen Colbert's monologue at the 2006 White House Correspondent's Association dinner. It was fall break, so we didn't actually have time to watch a feature. Discussion centered around the role of the court jester -- and I offered a brief description of critical theory and its application to IR.

October 19, "Film class -- week 9." The class viewed Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and discussed the power of ridicule. Facism, of course, is an easy target, but Chaplin's film does offer a meaningful alternative vision of world politics.

October 27, "Film class -- week 10." We viewed "Wag the Dog" and talked about Clinton's impeachment, the diversionary theory of war, and the Iraq war justifications.

November 3, "Film class -- week 11," about the brilliant dark comedy of the nuclear-age -- "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Is nuclear deterrence a sham? Is it irrational?

November 10, "Film class -- week 12," which discusses the terrific satirical film "Network." This is the first film that places a lot of attention on powerful corporate interests. We also addressed the role of the media in shaping perceptions of threats, including terror risks.

November 17, "Film class -- week 13," was about "Ghandi" and the use of nonviolent political strategies in global politics.

November 26, "Film class -- week 14," which concerns "The Whale Rider." We discussed "warrior citizens" and feminist notions of global politics.

December 1, "Film class -- week 15." We viewed"Hotel Rwanda" and discussed human security and "the responsibility to protect" populations threatened by genocide or crimes against humanity.

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Duck food-for-thought

Over at the Duck of Minerva group IR blog, I've recently written these posts:
  • November 28, I announced the "2007 Grawemeyer winner" Roland Paris of the University of Ottawa for his book about post-war nation-building since the end of the cold war. His strategy: "institutions before market democracy."
  • November 26, "Film class -- week 14," which discusses "The Whale Rider," "warrior citizens" and feminist notions of global politics.
  • November 17, "Film class -- week 13," about "Ghandi" and the use of nonviolent political strategies in global politics.
The film class is over, but I plan to make a permanent sidebar link to all the posts concerning the class.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Cash is more convenient

According to Laurie David's November 26 op-ed in The Washington Post, she and other producers of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" were turned down when they offered to give the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) 50,000 copies of the film for use in the classroom.

Why would the NSTA refuse the offer? Even at discount prices, that is a half million dollar donation.

In the op-ed, David points out that the NTSA's letter refusing the offer said that the group did not want to bring "unnecessary risk upon the capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters."

Ah, it's all about the fundraising. And what donor, specifically, would be displeased by "An Inconvenient Truth"?

Her candidate is ExxonMobil, which has given $42 million this year to various organizations trying to influence the way science education is taught and $6 million to NTSA in the past decade. These are but small elements of the oil giant's huge PR efforts to influence the climate debate.

David notes in the piece that teachers' groups routinely accept free curricular materials from corporate America -- even some about environmental issues prepared by Exxon Mobil and Weyerhaeuser.

Don't those materials sound...what's the right word?

Ah: convenient!

David is the wife of comedian Larry David, as well as a Natural Resources Defense Council trustee and founder of

Hat tip to my spouse, who brought this anecdote to my attention.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Anthrax update

The recent murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko reminded me that I have for some weeks meant to post an update about the anthrax attacks of fall 2001. Like the more recent case, the killer(s) apparently used an unusual weapon to send a political message.

After five years, however, we still do not know who obtained and sent the anthrax that was mailed to various journalists and Senators. The Washington Post published a story updating the investigation on September 25, but the Hartford Courant scooped the Post on September 22 with a similar narrative:
Contrary to a widely held theory among anthrax experts, the killer needed no sophisticated equipment or intimate knowledge to produce the anthrax mailed to two U.S. congressmen, Douglas Beecher wrote recently in a trade magazine for microbiologists.

Anthrax experts and many media reports have long theorized that the killer would have needed to mix the deadly substance with an additive to aerosolize it - a feat most likely accomplished by a limited number of people with access to high-level labs such as those operated by the U.S. military.

The FBI official's apparent dismissal of that theory is chilling in that it greatly broadens the potential pool of suspects, experts who have followed the case say. Beecher also wrote that previous theories "may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally distract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations."
Beecher is named as a microbiologist in the FBI's hazardous materials response unit, so his article is certainly worth noting. The FBI has said very little about the case for four years.

In any case, Beecher's article debunks the "widely circulated misconception...that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production."

However, the Courant also quoted "prominent anthrax expert, Louisiana State University Professor Martin Hugh Jones" saying that he still believed the anthrax was made in a sophisticated laboratory rather than a basement because of quality control issues and cost ($20,000 for the proper equipment).

The Post story quotes, anonymously, a scientist stating that the 2001 anthrax had no signature that "points to a domestic source." The so-called "Ames" strain long-linked to the attacks is widely available around the world, meaning that that this lineage alone means nothing.

It appears that the case is more of a mystery than ever. While some on the right have used this latest news to suggest that Iraq or al Qaeda could have been behind the attacks, this is pure speculation. The notion that the 9/11 hijackers were exposed to anthrax seems almost surreal -- and the evidence is anecdotal at best. Even then, there's no reason to believe that Mohamed Atta and crew could have made the anthrax.

The person who did make the anthrax cooked up a really pure form, so he or she is a good microbiologist, but the anthrax was not weaponized. Moreover, it could have come from anywhere in the world.

This news might make it harder to identify the killer, but it is probably good news overall in that there is now no evidence that a terrorist has access to militarized and extraordinarily lethal anthrax.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Rock Chalk!

Saturday night, Kansas beat #1 ranked Florida in basketball. It was a great game, especially for November, but the Las Vegas neutral court meant a very late start in the eastern time zone. I watched until nearly 1:30 in the morning.

Naturally, Kansas jumped in the rankings after the victory (to #5), but I'm somewhat surprised that they remain behind Florida (#4). After all, they did just play on a neutral court...

Hmmmm, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006


"Casino Royale" has successfully revived the James Bond franchise. I really enjoyed the movie, even though the theme song was lame, Moneypenny and Q were AWOL, and the running time was a longish 144 minutes.

Not everyone appreciated the poker scenes, but I like to play (and sometimes watch) the game, so that part too was entertaining to me.

Eva Green's character was smarter than your average "Bond girl," which is a good thing, and Daniel Craig's Bond is the best since Sean Connery. He may prove to be better, but that debate cannot be resolved until he completes a couple more of these.

Thumbs up!

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Was Litvinenko a victim of terrorism?

The media has been focusing great attention on this story about former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. From the BBC:
Police probing the death of Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko have found above normal levels of radiation at three locations in London.

Mr Litvinenko's death has been linked to the presence of a "major dose" of radioactive polonium-210 in his body.

Scotland Yard confirmed traces were also found at his home, a sushi bar and a hotel
From what I've seen on TV and in the American press, no one on this side of the Atlantic is discussing this as a suspected case of terrorism.

Yet British "anti-terror police" have been investigating the crime.

The following is from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, on a webpage called "Definitions of Terrorism." It addresses the well-known problem that "UN Member States still have no agreed-upon definition." Nonetheless look at this proposed definition:
4. Academic Consensus Definition:

"Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought" (Schmid, 1988).
Alexander Litvinenko's family apparently thinks that Russian President Vladimir Putin had the former spy assassinated. They released this statement purportedly from the diseased:
You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.
If this crime fits within a pattern of violence designed to intimidate dissenters, then it would seem to qualify as an act of terror and not simply murder/assassination.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The dead

Thursday's Washington Post reports this very bad news:
The number of civilians killed in Iraq reached a record monthly high of 3,709 in October, mostly a result of sectarian violence, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

The report by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq described the many ways civilians have been killed, from roadside bombs to drive-by shootings to kidnappings. Many were found handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing. Most had gunshot wounds.
3700 in one month -- and that may be a conservative estimate!

Does anyone reading this blog think that the Bush administration would have been able to launch an invasion of Iraq without the 3000 victims of the 9/11 attacks?

Perhaps it is time to declare that "we" are even and that it is time to move on? I realize that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, making the entire bargain quite lopsided from their point of view. But since 9/11 was an important justification for US action, and still more US action is required to end the war, it seems like an appropriate way out too.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

What I didn't do this weekend

So why the light blogging, lately?

Well, it wasn't because I watched "the game." Yawn, football. This was interesting though.

Nor was I attending a wedding. Actually, I didn't go anywhere out of town. Sometimes, staying home is for the best, eh?

Locally, I didn't go to a comedy club, to a shopping mall, or to a basketball game. Did I really miss anything?

What do I have to say for myself then? Well, I started a good book, watched a decent video, and consumed some good BBQ.

I guess the holiday season has started.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Climate change update: November 2006

Kofi Annan is trying to go out with a bang.

Consider these strong statements from the UN Secretary-General`s "Address to the UN Climate Change Conference," Nairobi, Kenya, 15 November 2006:
Climate change is not just an environmental issue, as too many people still believe. It is an all-encompassing threat.

...Global climate change must take its place alongside those threats -- conflict, poverty, the proliferation of deadly weapons -- that have traditionally monopolized first-order political attention.
In the speech, Annan mentions the threats posed by climate c hange to human health, food and water supplies, coastal cities, and vital ecosystems. He added:
Climate change is also a threat to peace and security. Changing patterns of rainfall, for example, can heighten competition for resources, setting in motion potentially destabilizing tensions and migrations, especially in fragile states or volatile regions. There is evidence that some of this is already occurring; more could well be in the offing.
Framing environmental issues in terms of security threats may or may not be desirable, but many policy actors like Annan clearly believe it helps. Consider the repeated comparison to climate change risks and terrorism offered by various European and Canadian environmental ministers.

Finally, Annan had some strong words for the skeptics:
This is not science fiction. These are plausible scenarios, based on clear and rigorous scientific modelling. A few diehard sceptics continue to deny global warming¡± is taking place and trying to sow doubt. They should be seen for what they are: out of step, out of arguments and out of time. In fact, the scientific consensus is becoming not only more complete, but also more alarming. Many scientists long known for their caution are now saying that global warming trends are perilously close to a point of no return...

So let there be no more denial. Let no-one say we cannot afford to act. It is increasingly clear that it will cost far less to cut emissions now than to deal with the consequences later. And let there be no more talk of waiting until we know more. We know already that an economy based on high emissions is an uncontrolled experiment on the global climate.
Annan points out that voters could pressure political candidates to stake out positions and act upon this issue.

Despite some reasons for optimism about the US, I don't recall many politicians talking about this in the midterm election.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Best in show

Across the river from Louisville, the Clarksville Little Theater is putting on a stage adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." There were several performances last weekend (I went to the Sunday matinee) and I understand that good tickets are still available for this Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.

The young girl who plays Scout* seems especially talented.

The theater seats more than 200 guests per performance, so this run will play to at least 1000 people even if the drama doesn't sell out most shows. That seems impressive to me.

Update: From critic Sherry Deatrick of the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO):
"[Atticus] Finch’s daughter, Scout (Cate Payne), matures through watching the trial and its consequences.

Payne does a fine job with her difficult role."
Apparently, the review will appear in the issue dated November 15.

*Disclosure: she calls me Dad.

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Friday, November 10, 2006


Since Halloween, I've blogged the following at the Duck of Minerva:
  • November 3, "Film class -- week 11," about the brilliant dark comedy of the nuclear-age -- "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."
  • October 31, "How cool was that?" concerning political scientist John Mueller's appearance on "The Daily Show."
Thanks for reading.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rumsfeld fallout

Donald Rumsfeld might be out of the Pentagon, but that certainly does not mean that all of the organization's problems will disappear. The new Democratic Congress will want to ask potential successor Robert Gates hard questions about Iraq, the Pentagon's potential responses to Iran and North Korea, and other important matters.

Additionally, the new Congress may want to look into other personnel issues at the Pentagon as well. Just how many of the OSP-types survive?

This is a policy context, so the terminology does not quite match, but I am thinking of the potential "unindicted co-conspirators."

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006


You can get the news lots of places, so I won't try to report much.

At the party I attended tonight, the host cracked open some champagne and the entire group tosted when Anne Northup conceded to John Yarmuth. Disclosure: I gave Yarmuth a small amount of my cash this election cycle.

I'm also intrigued by the Virginia Senate race, where Democrat Jim Webb is winning by about 2200 votes with 99% counted. Unfortunately, it's not looking good for Claire McCaskill in Missouri, with two-thirds of the vote counted (50-46). Jon Tester is doing well in Montana (54-44), but only about 28% of the votes are counted.

Harold Ford is down 50,000 votes in Tennessee, so I'm not sure why the networks haven't called it yet. With 94% counted, there must be a lot of Democratic votes remaining (otherwise they would call it) -- but I'm skeptical.

A 50-50 Senate means Dick Cheney breaks the ties.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Election predictions

I'm going to an election party tomorrow night (that's what Political Scientists do for fun) and am expected to weigh in on these races:
IN-09 Sodrel (R) Hill (D): Hill
KY-02 Lewis (R) Weaver (D): Lewis
KY-03 Northup (R) Yarmuth (D): Yarmuth
KY-04 Davis (R) Lucas (D): Lucas
AZ-Sen Kyl (R) Pederson (D): Kyl
CT-Sen Lieberman (I) Lamont (D): Lieberman
MO-Sen Talent (R) McCaskill (D): McCaskill
MT-Sen Burns (R) Tester (D): Tester
NJ-Sen Menendez (D) Kean (R): Menendez
OH-Sen DeWine (R) Brown (D): Brown
PA-Sen Santorum (R) Casey (D): Casey
RI-Sen Chafee (R) Whitehouse (D): Whitehouse
TN-Sen (*) Corker (R) Ford (D): Corker
VA-Sen Allen (R) Webb (D): Webb
House majority R D: Democratic + 24 = 227 - 208
Senate majority** R D: Democratic + 6 = 51-49

Yarmuth’s final score (score rounded up to two decimal places): 50.62
** Jeffords and Lieberman will be counted as D; 50-50 means a R majority

Post-election update: Apparently, I only had to select between R or D control of the House and Senate. Thus, I wasn't penalized for guessing that the Dems would merely pick up 24 House seats (it looks like they'll get 28, accounting for the fact that the Independent seat used to caucus with them).

So, I got 15 out of 16 correct (all but KY-04) and won the election pool!

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

"Prepare to Bomb Iran"

Ignore the distractions in the news, my title phrase is a direct quote from neoconservative Joshua Muravchik's latest article in Foreign Policy. Here's what immediately follows:
Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office. It is all but inconceivable that Iran will accept any peaceful inducements to abandon its drive for the bomb. Its rulers are religio-ideological fanatics who will not trade what they believe is their birthright to great power status for a mess of pottage. Even if things in Iraq get better, a nuclear-armed Iran will negate any progress there. Nothing will embolden terrorists and jihadists more than a nuclear-armed Iran.

The global thunder against Bush when he pulls the trigger will be deafening, and it will have many echoes at home. It will be an injection of steroids for organizations such as
Muravchik, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is helping to launch neoconservative's "Operation Comeback."

Indeed, do not be fooled by the apparent silence of the neocons for the past couple of years. They are mounting a full-on effort to duck responsibility for the Iraq war fiasco -- and they apparently plan to get things right in Iran.

This is why Pete Dombrowski and I want to invigorate the public debate about the prospects for such a war. Muravchik focuses on the negative implications of an Iranian bomb, but completely ignores the disastrous potential consequences of even a "limited" war against Tehran.

Coming attraction in this space: Explicit discussion of the downside of war with Iran.

Hat tip on Muravchik's article to Steve Clemons.

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Sunday: Combating Global Warming workshop

The University of Louisville is hosting the Engaging Our World conference November 3-5. It is a Southeastern Global Leadership Conference featuring these aims:
raise awareness among students in our region of the country to contemporary problems confronting our global society, empower them to creatively engage these problems and participate in the creation of a better and safer world.
Sunday morning at 8:30 am in Humanities 106, I'm giving a workshop on "Combating Global Warming." This is the abstract I submitted weeks ago:
Scientists overwhelmingly agree that human activity is altering global climate in profound ways. Figuring out what to do about this reality poses substantial political, economic, and social problems. This workshop discusses actions that students and others can take as members of their communities, workplaces, states, nation, and planet.
It is free for UofL students and $35 for others. In all, organizers have lined up over 40 speakers and the program is interesting and diverse.

If you are in Louisville this weekend, check it out.

NOTE: I am giving this post a Sunday date so that it will remain at the top of my page even as I make other blog entries.

Followup: The session went fine, I focused discussion on efforts by colleges to meet Kyoto goals, "offset" their greenhouse gas emissions and/or promote renewable energy efforts. Many interesting student-powered initiatives have been launched at colleges from coast-to-coast.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Risks of attacking Iran

Frequent coauthor Peter Dombrowski and I are thinking about writing a piece about various risks associated with "pre-empting" an Iran nuclear weapon. Each of us has been searching the literature to see what other analysts have already said about this question.

So far, my graduate assistant found a briefing paper written by Paul Rogers called "Iran: Consequences of a War" published by the Oxford Research Group in February 2006. This is from the abstract:
It outlines both the immediate consequences in terms of loss of human life, facilities and infrastructure, and also the likely Iranian responses, which would be extensive.

An attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would signal the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably grow to involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, as well as the USA and Iran. The report concludes that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further.
Another related piece is by W. Patrick Lang & Larry C. Johnson, "Contemplating the Ifs," The National Interest, Spring 2006, pp. 27-31. They make a point that Pete and I discussed:
But before we embark on another military operation, we must reckon the costs; we must ensure that we are willing to pay those costs; and we should ensure that neoconservative enthusiasts would not be tempted to say—if venturing into Iran becomes a misadventure—that it was impossible to foresee negative consequences. There are a lot of bad things that could happen if we launch a pre-emptive war with Iran.
If you search around, you can perhaps find a copy of this article online.

I also found this piece, by Sammy Salama and Karen Ruster, "A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences." It is on the Center for Nonproliferation Studies webpage, September 9, 2004. They conclude:
An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in Bushehr, Arak, and Natanz, could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world.

Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran's international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. Such an event is more likely to embolden and expand Iran's nuclear aspirations and capabilities in the long term.
Also, see this: Jeffrey White, "Iranian Nuclear Weapons (Part III): How Might Iran Retaliate?" Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch #762, May 29, 2003.

Pete and I have considered and/or discussed some potential consequences that none of these authors address. More on that later.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reminder: what disarmament looks like

North Korea just agreed to return to the six party talks and President Bush said he was pleased about this diplomatic development.

Just in case these talks lead to any kind of success, let us not forget what the Bush administration has previously said about dictators and their weapons of mass destruction. Please keep in mind, North Korea is now a nuclear-armed state.

In January 2003, the administrationp produced a document called "What Does Disarmament Look Like?"

Referencing past successes (South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan), the White House (and Condi Rice) said:
The world knows what successful cooperative disarmament looks like. When a country decides to disarm, and to provide to the world verifiable evidence that it has disarmed, there are three common elements to its behavior:

* The decision to disarm is made at the highest political level;

* The regime puts in place national initiatives to dismantle weapons and infrastructure; and

* The regime fully cooperates with international efforts to implement and verify disarmament; its behavior is transparent, not secretive.
Those standards provide analysts a way to evaluate whatever outcome might emerge from the six party talks.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Luke warm, but not cold, Duck

Lately, most of my IR-themed posts have been at the Duck of Minerva:
  • The post on October 27 was about the "Film class -- week 10." We viewed "Wag the Dog" and talked about Clinton's impeachment and the Iraq war justifications.
  • October 28, you can find my "Afghanistan war reconsidered." While that conflict was widely viewed as a legitimate exercise of self-defense, the Bush administration decided to risk everything and make war on Iraq.
It is 8 days until the midterm elections. If you know any swing voters, try to work Iraq and Hurricane Katrina into every conversation you have.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The rats are abandoning ship

It looks like a lot of flacks from corporate America stuck a finger in the air and figured out which way the political winds are blowing this fall. From The New York Times, October 28:
Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress.

The shift in political giving, for the first 18 days of October, has not been this pronounced in the final stages of a campaign since 1994...
In 1994, of course, the Democrats lost 52 seats in the House. It was the greatest shift in power in that chamber since 1946. The newspaper provided a simple graphic which summarizes the data on corporate PAC giving.

In the last decade, corporate political action committees typically gave 27.2% of their funds in October to Democrats, 72.8% to Republicans. Republicans maintained control of the House throughout all those elections.

This October, these same corporate PACs are dividing the money 43% to 57% in October. Some corporations have already started giving 60 to 70% of their money to Dems. The article mentions PACs from Pfizer and Lockhead Martin, for example. Sprint, UPS and H-P have also increased contributions to Dems by at least 15%.

Finally, the article also notes without irony that the freshmen members of Congress will likely have new corporate "friends" after the election -- many offering, for example, to help retire campaign debt. If a hypothetical Speaker Pelosi hosts events between election day and the beginning of the new Congress, expect them to be crowded and economically productive.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Death Penalty Panel

Tonight at 7 pm, I'm moderating "Views On Justice: A Panel Discussion on the Death Penalty.” This is from the sponsors:
The panel will be discussing the ethics of capital punishment, how fair it is in practice, if it should be abolished or reformed, and other relevant issues surrounding the death penalty.

Speakers Include:

•David Harshaw, an attorney for the Dept. of Public Advocacy and a member of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

•Dr. Ricky Jones, Chair of the Pan-African Studies Dept. at the University of Louisville

•Jo Ann Phillips, Executive Director of Kentuckians’ Voice for Crime Victims

•Rev. Charles Sweeney, Pastor of the Full Gospel Neighborhood Church and a member of Kentuckians’ Voice for Crime Victims
If you are interested in attending, the event will be at the University of Louisville in Strickler Hall, room 102.

Again, the event is at 7 pm, Thursday, October 26.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Weight for a new energy policy

This news from AP gives new meaning to conservation. As reported in today's Boston Globe:
Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960 because of their expanding waistlines. Simply put, more weight in the car means lower gas mileage.

Using recent gas prices of $2.20 a gallon, that translates to about $2.2 billion more spent on gas each year.
Here are some of the details from the study, which is set to appear in the October-December issue of the peer-reviewed Engineering Economist:
The obesity rate among U.S. adults doubled from 1987 to 2003, from about 15 percent to more than 30 percent. Also, the average weight for American men was 191 pounds in 2002 and 164 pounds for women, about 25 pounds heavier than in 1960, government figures show.

The study's conclusions are based on those weight figures and Americans' 2003 driving habits, involving roughly 223 million cars and light trucks nationwide.
Sheldon Jacobson and Laura McLay estimate that each additional pound of average passenger weight increases gas usage by 39 million gallons. The total increase, however, is under 1% of the amount of gas consumed.

This is one time that it pays to be below average.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Latest Quacks

Recently, at the Duck of Minerva, I made these blog entries:
  • October 19, "Film class -- week 9." The class viewed Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and discussed the power of ridicule.
  • October 15, "Film class -- week 8" focused on comedian Stephen Colbert's monologue at the 2006 White House Correspondent's Association dinner. It was fall break, so we didn't actually have time to watch a feature. Discussion centered around the role of the court jester.
  • Friday the 13th I assigned some "Weekend homework" based on provocative questions raised in a leader's speech at the 2006 UN session.

I've been grading a lot of papers, which partly explains the light blogging here.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

World Series note

I am not a big Tiger fan by any means, but I typically root for the AL team in every World Series.

This kind of mediocy drives me crazy. From the AP:
The Tigers got [Sean] Casey from Pittsburgh on July 31, the trading deadline, for Brian Rogers, a fringe prospect. Casey gave Detroit the left-handed bat it desperately needed and muchneeded help at first base, where Chris Shelton fizzled after a strong start.
For the season, Casey hit .272, with a .336 OBP and .388 slugging average. That latter figure is pathetic for a first basemen.

Casey was acquired by Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline and had a .715 OPS in August and .611 in September. Those would be bad totals for a middle infielder or weak-hitting catcher. First base is a prime slugging position.

Chris Shelton was the young first baseman sent down to the minors when Casey was acquired. Shelton's weak May was basically the equivalent of Casey's August (.703 OPS) and his weaker June (.642 OPS) was better than Casey's September. Shelton had a tremendous April (1.186 OPS) and a July (.730 OPS) that was better than his own May/June, and better than Casey's August/September. On the season, Shelton's OPS was .806. In 2005, in a comparable amount of playing time, it was .870.

It was bad enough that the Tigers traded for a mediocre old talent like Casey, but it is unfathomable that they did not activate Shelton for the World Series. Casey is hurt and cannot even play first defensively:
With Sean Casey still hurting with a left calf injury, Detroit considered activating backup first baseman Chris Shelton for the World Series. But under the Byzantine system regulating postseason roster changes, they would have had to drop infielder Ramon Santiago to promote Shelton, a change manager Jim Leyland wasn't willing to make.
On the season, Santiago hit .225 with a .244 OBA and .263 slugging average. He had 80 at bats, while Shelton was a starter for four months.

The Tigers are also carrying utility infielders Neifi Perez and Omar Infante, so it is not as if Santiago is vital to backup a middle infield spot.

I hope the Tigers don't find themselves short a bat in one of these games.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Iraq update: the situation on the ground

The other day, I talked about Iraq at a local event on the Middle East and Afghanistan after 9/11.

Much of what I said would be familiar to my readers. However, I did compile some fairly up-to-date information about the war. Here's a selection:
  • US resources are under increasing strain: The Congressional Research Service has determined that the Iraq war is now costing $2 billion per week. That's double the cost of the war during the first year and up 20% from last year.
An independent assessment, based on British military intelligence, said, “Based on current usage, there are enough stocks of illegal explosives to continue the same level of attack for 274 years without re-supply.”
In case you've not been paying attention, October 2006 is the deadliest month of the war for US troops since 2004 -- and the total number of troop deaths is about 2800 now.
At least 914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than a third of them since sectarian bloodshed increased early this year, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.
750,000 are internally displaced, the rest have fled to neighboring states.
The political and security situation in western Iraq is grim and will continue to deteriorate unless the region receives a major infusion of aid and a division is sent to reinforce the American troops operating there, according to the senior U.S. Marine intelligence officer in Iraq [Colonel Peter Devlin].
Without the deployment of an additional division, "there is nothing MNF- W can do to influence the motivation of the Sunni to wage an insurgency," the report states, according to a military officer familiar with the assessment.

MNF-W stands for Multinational Force-West, which is the formal name of the U.S. Marine command. A division generally numbers about 16,000 troops....The assessment describes Anbar as a region marked by violence and criminality. The region generally lacks functional governments and a respect for the rule of law.
The report adds: The Sunnis' "greatest fears have been realized."

That insecurity is a recipe for extending the insurgency indefinitely, eh?

Note: Hat tip to Rob at LGM for the IED data.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pop culture update

I'm not much of a reggae fan, but I heard a cut today that I liked: "Light Up Ya Lighter" by Michael Franti & Spearhead.

Here's a taste of the lyrics, which reveal the song's anti-war themes:
Fire, fire, fire, light up ya lighter, fire fire fire
Armageddon is a deadly day, Armageddon is a deadly way
Tell me President tell if you will,
How many people does a smart bomb kill
How many of em do you think we got,
The General says we never miss a shot
And we never ever ever keep a body count,
we killin so efficiently we can’t keep count
The track appears to be available here.

I heard the track on the sampler CD in last month's Paste.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Iran and Iraq: my take

At 3 pm today, I'll be particpating in an academic forum and teach-in panel on "War, Politics & Security after 9/11."

My topic is "US foreign and security policy towards Iran and Iraq." I'll be posting some of my latest thoughts either here are at Duck of Minerva.

I have 20 minutes, plus responses in Q&A.

This session is part one of two on "The Middle East and Afghanistan after 9/11." There's a session featuring other panelists on "Israel, Lebanon and Palestine" at 5:30 pm.

Panelists are supposed to consider these questions: What’s wrong? What’s right? What now?

For those in Louisville who can attend, it is open to the public as well as students and faculty: Ekstrom Library Chao Auditorium.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The smoking gun...

...apparently involved ingesting some funky mushrooms.

The John Yarmuth campaign needs to make this clip central to the local congressional eleciton: See this Anne Northup clip from March 6, 2006. She was interviewed by WHAS-11's Mark Hebert.

In the clip (you have to watch a commercial first), Northup claims that Saddam became a haven for al Qaeda after Afghanistan fell. "The new port in the storm, the new country of Qaeda...Saddam Hussein made them welcome."

All lies, which we knew in 2002 -- and not even the neocons were going this far before the war. She's saying this in March 2006!

Oh, and she doesn't think Iraq was a mistake.

Hat tip to

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Midterm election countdown: 23 days

It is three weeks and two days until the 2006 midterm elections. The latest issue of PS includes two different political science studies, using different methodologies, which conclude that the Democrats will pick up 22 seats in the House. Apparently, the latest polling also suggests a solid Democratic victory -- though it seems premature to talk of a "landslide."

Republicans, of course, are not going to roll over and play dead. As Karl Rove warned back in January, they see their trump card as terrorism.

I expect some effort in the coming weeks to raise the level of fear. Basically, they will return to their strategy that seemed to be working for them (well, President Bush's approval ratings increased anyway) around the fifth anniversary of September 11. Their message really was that Americans are "safer," but "still not safe."

As James Fallows implied in the September Atlantic Monthly, raising the level of US fear is all too easy:
Any of the dozens of ports, the scores of natural-gas plants and nuclear facilities, the hundreds of important bridges and tunnels, or the thousands of shopping malls, office towers, or sporting facilities could be the next target of attack. It is impossible to protect them all, and even trying could ruin America’s social fabric and public finances. The worst part of the situation is helplessness, as America’s officials and its public wait for an attack they know they cannot prevent.
Are the Democrats ready for the electorate to be reminded, selectively of course, about some of these facts?

Back in January, I offered what I still think is a good game plan for the Democrats. Talk about Iraq in a very blunt way.

If anyone from the John Yarmuth campaign is reading -- I think this could work to defeat Anne Northup as well.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

UK: not-so-willing?

BBC, October 12:
The head of the British Army has said the presence of UK armed forces in Iraq "exacerbates the security problems".

In an interview in the Daily Mail, Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, is quoted as saying the British should "get out some time soon".
Danatt had this to say about the legitimacy of the ongoing war:
Sir Richard told the newspaper: "We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear.

"As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren't invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time."

He added: "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."
I'd say the clock is ticking down now...

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

650,000 "excess" deaths

The Washington Post is reporting a finding on October 11 that is already the subject of great discussion (nearly 200 blog links so far):
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred....

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.
The study was overseen by the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This is the same group that previously said that 100,000 Iraqis had died in the first 18 months of the war. While that study was controversial, the group stands by its methods:
Both this and the earlier study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called "cluster sampling," is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.

While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.

"We're very confident with the results," said Gilbert Burnham, a Johns Hopkins physician and epidemiologist.
In addition to referencing the death certificates (90% were produced), the newspaper also quoted a couple of independent experts as well to support the veracity of the claim:
Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years, called the survey method "tried and true," and added that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have."

This viewed was echoed by Sarah Leah Whitson, an official of Human Rights Watch in New York, who said, "We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy" of the survey.
The Bush administration will be asked, yet again, to explain just how much the US is helping Iraq.

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Saucy duck

Recently, on the Duck of Minerva, I blogged:

Sorry for the lack of new blogging here. It was fall break in Louisville and my family made a trip out of town to visit more kin.

Just before leaving, I gave a 75 minute essay exam and those blue books have commanded much of my time as well.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

North Korean bomb?

The North Korean government is reporting a successful nuclear test. Given the time difference, it occurred on Monday morning, October 9.

Likewise, South Korea is confirming an explosion in northeast North Korea that measured 3.5 on the Richter scale. That is generally consistent with a small atomic bomb. Moreover, in Seoul, President Roh Moo-hyun has also called an emergency security council meeting.

While the talking heads on TV try to figure out who to blame for the congressional page sex scandal, keep in mind that it is easy to assign blame for this foreign policy disaster.

North Korea gained access to weapons grade fuel after October 2002, just months after President Bush said that the regime was part of an "axis of evil."

I won't claim that the neocons were sleeping, but it does appear as if they heads stuck, somewhere else.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Yankees lose!

Last Sunday, Scott Lemieux wrote:
Could the Tigers win one goddamned game against the Royals? Yeesh. The first round is just going to be a massacre.
In comments there, I was more hopeful:
I'm a full-blooded Yankee-hater myself and I think it's premature to count out the Tigers.

Anything can happen in a short series.

Who among us thought the Angels had much of a chance versus the Yanks in 2002?

Who thought KC had much of a chance vs. the Tigers last week? This is from the game preview KC-Detroit, Sunday, September 24: "The Tigers are 13-1 against the Royals, outscoring them 109-52 in the season series."
Just as I predicted, by the way, KC went exactly 62-100 on the year.

So, despite the fact that I expected my favorite team to lose 100 games, and they lost 100 games, there's still something to celebrate.

Yankees lose!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pakistan ISI behind Mumbai attacks?

The Times of India reports that investigators in Mumbai have concluded that the terrorists responsible for the 7/11 bombings were produced by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence:
The [Indian] home secretary was assured that the ATS [anti-terrorism squad] had sufficient evidence to prove that the arrested persons were actually trained in Pakistan by ISI, said sources in the ministry.
Apparently, they have quite a bit of evidence:
The Mumbai cops are learnt to have told [home secretary] Duggal that the evidence was based on the accused persons’ movements, intercepts of their cell phone conversations, the proof of their participation in Lashkar-e-Taiba camps run by Azam Cheema, at the behest of ISI in Pakistan, receipt of funds via hawala transactions and detection of RDX at the residence of one of the accused.
Pakistan's President Musharraf called the finding "regrettable."

If ISI is behind the bombing, it is terrible for regional security. Relations between India and Pakistan have long been poor, to say the least. These nuclear-armed rivals have fought multiple wars and still dispute the fate of the Kashmir.

Note that The Times of India has been claiming for 5 years that the ISI was implicated in the 9/11 attacks on the US.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Building social capital

Dawn Sagario, who writes a Workbytes column for the Des Moines Register recently reported this interesting news about the workplace:
Drinkers earn 10 to 14 percent more at their jobs than nondrinkers, economists Bethany Peters and Edward Stringham found.

"As long as you're not drinking into excess, then it's a good thing," said Stringham, an associate professor of economics at San Jose State University.

...The findings, published by the Journal of Labor Research and Reason Foundation, showed that men who drink earn 10 percent more than those who abstain; for women drinkers, it's a 14 percent boost over nondrinkers' pay.
Don't go overboard. Stringham notes research finding that those who consume between 21 to 38 drinks per week will make less money than a nondrinker.

Re: social capital. Male drinkers who go to bars at last once monthly take home 7% more than those who don't. That finding doesn't hold for women. Hmmm.

The data came from the General Social Survey, which had 8000 respondents.

This is a followup to "Go ahead, clean your plate."

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Midterm fever

Catch it:

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball.

Charlie Cook's Political Report.

Midterm Madness from The American Prospect.

Did you know that even the State Department has a page?

By the way, related to that next-to-last link, congratulations to Rob Farley of the Patterson School and Lawyers, Gun$, and Money for his new gig at TAPPED.

Turns out that TAPPED isn't about beer.

Can we assume he's blogging for the big bucks now?

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Today's lunch: warm Duck

Recently, at the Duck of Minerva, I blogged:

October 3, "Revolt of the Generals" about the retired military leaders who dissent from current US policy in Iraq -- and in the management of the Pentagon.

September 29, "Film class -- week 6." We viewed "Breaker Morant."

September 26, "'Outrages upon human dignity'" about President Bush's hypocritical attack on the phrase "human dignity," even as he frequently uses that phrasing.

September 25, "Should progressives be happy about Iraq's successes?" The title explains itself.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Iraq's new "green" zone

Apparently, some on-the-ground officials in the US military want to go green. From the Christian Science Monitor, September 7:
Memo to Pentagon brass from the top United States commander in western Iraq: Renewable energy - solar and wind-power generators - urgently needed to help win the fight. Send soon.

Calling for more energy in the middle of oil-rich Iraq might sound odd to some. But not to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, whose deputies on July 25 sent the Pentagon a "Priority 1" request for "a self-sustainable energy solution" including "solar panels and wind turbines."

The memo may be the first time a frontline commander has called for renewable-energy backup in battle. Indeed, it underscores the urgency: Without renewable power, US forces "will remain unnecessarily exposed" and will "continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties," the memo says.

..."Without this solution, personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rate," the memo says. "Continued casualty accumulation exhibits potential to jeopardize mission success."
The current diesel generators are hot and loud, and make it easier for foes to find US forces. The Army is following up on this request and hopes to find a company to ship nearly 200 frontline renewable energy power stations to Iraq ASAP.

The CSM article is filled with details about how renewable energy might be to the military's advantage -- less need to carry heavy batteries, lowered fuel costs over the long-haul, increased ability to redeploy forces currently assigned to carry fuel, etc.

I missed this story when it originally appeared, but the environmental group World Watch brought it to my attention.

Incidentally, this is not them military's first venture into green energy. The Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, recently started using four large wind turbines and they now provide 25% of the electricity there.

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