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New translation, the Magna Carta

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on “to-hell-with-them”hawks Four GoldenYak (tm) award

Useful 4 yak summary.

“Probably terrorist attacks with death tolls in three or four digits will happen again on our soil. We shall just have to be stoical about that. The thing that ought to fill us with dread is a terrorist nuclear attack. That would be terrorism multiplied a thousandfold, with casualties not in three or four digits, but six or seven. Terrorism will be around for some time, and while we should of course do what we can, and strike back at any nations found to be involved, terrorism per se should not keep us awake at night. What should keep us awake at night is nuclear terrorism. Since, fortunately, the making of nukes is far beyond the resources of terrorist gangs, or of anything below the level of a nation-state, it ought to be sufficient to our purposes to prevent terrorist-friendly nations from getting nukes. That should be the first priority of U.S. policy.

“But we can put an end to terrorism! says Rich.

“ "To-hell-with-them hawks" implicitly promise that if we deny extremists sophisticated technology, and secure ourselves at home, we can be safe. But it is the fire in the minds of men that matters most. As long as there are countless young men who want to do us harm, and are willing to die in the process, it is going to be hard to deny them the materials or the access to the U.S. necessary for them to do it. The key is to try to see that the fire itself begins to die out.

“I disagree with three of those four sentences. We cannot be safe, if 'safe' means 'free from terrorist attacks.' Terrorism is just too easy, and there are too many crazy people in the world. (Some of them Americans: Remember Oklahoma City.) Government’s task is strenuously to act against the gravest threat, and do what it can against the others. What matters most is not the fire in the minds of men, which will burn at some level for as long as there are men, but the fire that results when fissionable material undergoes a fast chain reaction. Yes, denying terrorists access to that material, and our country, will be hard; but given the threat, surely not too hard.

“As for the fire dying out, I agree with Fukuyama, as I read him, that only the slow evolutions of history can accomplish such things. Conservatives are the people who do not believe in social engineering. I don’t merely doubt that we can transform Iraqi society; I believe that to think we can, is a preposterous fantasy. A gyroscope has only two moving parts; yet if you try to push it in direction A, it confounds you by moving in direction B, at right angles to A. A human society has a trillion moving parts. If you try to push it in any direction, all sorts of things might happen, but the probability that what happens is the thing you wanted to happen, is very tiny.

“But we have done this! protests Rich. We know how to do it, because we have actually done it! “Insurgencies can be beaten.” Yes, they can; but can this insurgency be beaten, by methods the U.S. electorate is willing to contemplate?.[...]”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#hawks_260306

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on de tocqueville and falling electoral interest and revolution

“The 2002 [UK] local elections witnessed an average turnout of 35%, and in some wards turnout was below 20%. There is much evidence to suggest that a lack of understanding of the structure and power of local government fuels these low figures. But by empowering local government, there is an opportunity to revitalise a flagging electoral system and in turn, the communities in which we reside. Just as De Tocqueville argued that empowering 18th century local government would have avoided the apathy and the eventual breakdown of French society.

“Therefore, it would appear that De Tocqueville's analysis mirrors two of the functional flaws that advocates of localism employ when criticising central government. Vibrant communities require an accessible representative and participative democracy. This can only be achieved if local government has discretionary powers to meet its local priorities. Likewise, if people feel they can make an impact then they are more likely to participate in the electoral process and in their communities. Perhaps David Miliband would be wise to heed De Tocqueville's analysis and revolutionise from the centre.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#de_tocqueville_250306

bliar, bush and big ears all on message

Possibly the best speech Bliar has ever made, and about time too - full transcript
[Javascript link to video of speech from this page]

“ "In my judgement, the only way to win is to recognise this phenomenon is indeed a global ideology, to see all areas in which it operates as linked and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.”

“He told the audience at a Reuters event that religious extremism - including the term Islamist extremism - should be labelled as such.

“ "It will give offence. It is true. It will," he said.

“But he said Muslims who committed acts of terrorism were no more true to their faith than the "Protestant bigot" who murdered Catholics in Northern Ireland.”

marker at abelard.org

Bush - news conference format, look down the page if necessary

“But no question about it, we missed some time as we adjusted our tactics. We had to change our reconstruction strategy. You know, we thought it would make sense initially when we went in there to build big, grand projects, which turned out to be targets for the insurgents to blow up.

“And a better strategy was to be spending reconstruction money at the local level so that local leaders committed to a peaceful and unified Iraq would benefit. In other words, people would see tangible benefits from an emerging democracy, and the leaders would be viewed as people helping to improve their lives.

“And so this is a war in which we changed tactics. It's a war"

marker at abelard.org

Big ears [Charles]

“[...] And he makes clear his disappointment that Muslims who embrace their faith with reverence and respect do not more forcefully denounce those who would make it an instrument of division.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#three_speeches_230306

deaths at guantanamo - zero; deaths at the hague - two in a week

Hilarious comparison of alleged old Europe competence and American bungling.

“The prison at Guantanamo Bay was designed to interrogate terrorists and jihadists swept up from the battlefield: the idea was to keep them as prisoners of war in a war that was undeclared, and as enemy combatants without uniforms or officers. It had a no-win mandate, and will probably close soon due to international outcries about its supposed barbarity. Yet, for all the fury about its existence, not a single detainee has died there in over four years of operation.

“In contrast, the European Milosevic just dropped dead while under custody of the U.N. at the postmodern tribunal at The Hague. This follows the recent suicide of Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, likewise an inmate in a European detention center.

“Few in Europe said much about the deaths of such high-profile prisoners, whose barbarity differed from that of many of the killers in Guantanamo mostly in order of magnitude. If American Rambos can keep alive Muslim jihadists, with their radically different customs, religion, languages, and diets, why cannot the more sensitive Europeans ensure that fellow Europeans don't drop dead in their jails?”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#guantanamo_hague_180306

“today, the terrorists attack the government - in saddam’s day, they ran it”

Worth reading right through.

The biggest nuisance in Iraq?
“ History is being written by the losers.”

“Coalition casualties declined by 27 percent in 2005. They have declined by 62 percent in 2006, measured against the comparable period of 2005.”

marker at abelard.org

“Asked to compare their current lives with their lives under Saddam, Iraqis reported an improvement in availability of necessities, and an improvement in overall economic wellbeing. They reported superior access to clean water, health care, and education. Iraqi respondents believed that their local governments had improved. Asked what form of government they hoped to live under going forward, democracy won handily: four-to-one over the rule of one-man, and ten-to-one over totalitarianism.

“Iraqis list security as their most pressing problem. But a plurality of Iraqis feel safer now than under Saddam, and a majority feel safer from ordinary crime. Moreover, better than 60 percent feel personally safe in their neighborhoods.

“Marine Corporal Gibson's presentation sorted out these seemingly contradictory findings. The problem most Americans have, he said, in understanding Iraqi opinions on security, is that we operate from a different baseline. Iraq under Saddam was an incredibly violent place.

“Iraq Body Count, an antiwar group that keeps a running tally of Iraqi civilian deaths, reports that the daily toll under the occupation falls in the range of 25 to 28 per day. But under Saddam's rule, the death toll averaged three times that, including 600,000 civilian executions recorded by the Documental Center for Human Rights, and the 100,000 Kurds killed during the Anfal operation. A violent day under the coalition would be just a routine day under Saddam.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#government_terrorists_160306

useful orientation - on new old.new.oldlabour’s problems

“Meanwhile, the big issues that need to be dealt with - pensions, climate change, the nuclear deterrent - do not fit neatly into party political boxes. And the terrorist attacks on London and the military action in Iraq, together with issues such as bird flu, have given the Prime Minister a sense that he is almost a war leader, presiding over the nation at a time of crisis.”

“And yet this is a defining political moment. The very fact that the Labour leader has made clear that he is willing to get legislation - on such a touchstone issue for his party through with the help of the Conservatives, and in the face of the opposition of dozens of Labour backbenchers, is a sign that the "tectonic plates" at Westminster have shifted.

“The significant change is that Mr Blair no longer sees himself as a Labour prime minister but as a leader - as Churchill once was - of a national government who will do the best for his country despite, rather than because of, what the members of his own party think. When Frank Field wrote in the Telegraph last month that we are in a "new political world" in which the Government will depend on a coalition, from across the House, to get its business through the Commons, Mr Blair was so intrigued that he discussed the point with him.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#labours_problems_140306

“an iran that possesses nuclear capability would be an unrivalled regional power”

From “Keyhan, a hardline Iranian paper supportive of the[ir] President”:

“But "what we have is worth [all the trouble], because an Iran that possesses nuclear capability would be an unrivalled regional power", it added. If it added nuclear energy to its oil and gas, "Iran shall have a unique position in the field of energy in the world", it said.

“ "One cannot put a price on such an advantage . . . This is not something that any rational politician would like to give up as soon as he hears some hue and cry or faces some empty threats." ”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#nuclear_iran_120306

rumsfeld and others reporting to the senate appropriations committee re iraq

“Making an unprecedented joint appearance with Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, to defend the administration's request for $91bn in emergency spending, mostly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Rumsfeld said the Iraqi security forces would deal with a civil war "to the extent they're able to".

“Concerns about civil war have escalated in recent weeks since the bombing of the Golden Mosque, which sparked widespread violence, forcing the government to introduce curfews. Over the past two weeks, senior US officials have said that Iraq had "walked up to the abyss" of civil war, but pulled back.

“Testifying at the same hearing, General John Abizaid, head of US central command, which runs US military operations in the Middle East, said violence in Iraq was increasingly sectarian, as opposed to an insurgency. But he said it was "controllable" by the Iraqi and US forces.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#rummie_iraq_120306

on understanding iraq - or otherwise

“Back in the days of Mao Tse-tung's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when China was very nearly a closed country, there came up a phenomenon called "the three-week sinologist." This was a person, usually a showbiz, journalistic, or political celebrity, who had somehow wangled a Chinese visa and done a three-week tour of the country (model factory, model collective farm, Great Wall, revolutionary ballet performance,...) under the close supervision of "interpreters" and "guides" who were in fact, of course, secret police personnel. Then the "three week sinologist" went back to Europe or America and wrote a book about how great things were in China.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#china_iraq_110306

background to policing iraq

Groundwork in developing a new polity in Iraq. This item may well be boring to the impulsives!

“Now, they are making it a central goal to weed out ethnic or religious loyalties from the Iraqi forces, particularly in the police, which is controlled at the highest levels by Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties. Militiamen loyal to conservative clerics have flooded the police ranks in Baghdad and the south, and reports of uniformed death squads have risen sharply in the past year.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#policing_iraq_090306

excellent and sober analysis of progress in the m.e

“The result? They are coming back around to the United States, in a way that would be impossible had we sent dozens of envoys to London and Paris begging to restore the old Atlantic partnership. Gerhard Schroeder, after all, not George Bush, is now a paid lackey for a post-Soviet state-owned oil company, and Jacques Chirac is blathering in his dotage about using French nukes. The legacy of that sad pair of bystanders is only appeasement, cheap anti-Americanism, and oil deals with Saddam, while the United States has altered the very dynamic of the Middle East.”

“These opportunities are not a reaction against the purported unilateralism and preemption that took us to the Middle East in 2001-3, but rather a logical result of just such determination. We have such options precisely because an Assad no longer thinks an American statesman will wait obsequiously on his tarmac. Saudi financiers don't think any more that they can finance killers with impunity. And after the fate of Saddam Hussein, it is no longer possible for Pakistan's Dr. Khan, Libya's Khadafi, or Iran's Ahmadinejihad to count on the benign neglect of their nuclear trafficking.

“Long-overdue rocks have been thrown into the stagnant lake of the Middle East, and now we must, with patience, carefully let the ripples of aeration do their work.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#m_e_analysis_080306

developing re-alignments in international politics

“In other words, India would receive the same rewards as countries that had signed the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] - without actually having to sign it and thus to put up with its restraints. (America's reward would be that India buys the nuclear materials, as well as a lot of other products, from U.S. companies.) The deal violates the NPT - and a treaty governing the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, an organization of 44 nations that sets rules on importing and exporting nuclear materials.”

“But a few things are worth noting. First, the United States has no authority to grant such an exemption on its own. The NPT is a treaty signed by 187 nations; it is enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency; and it is, in effect, administered by the five nations that the treaty recognizes as nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France). This point is not a legal nicety. If the United States can cut a separate deal with India, what is to prevent China or Russia from doing the same with Pakistan or Iran? If India demands special treatment on the grounds that it's a stable democracy, what is to keep Japan, Brazil, or Germany from picking up on the precedent?

“Second, the India deal would violate not just international agreements but also several U.S. laws regulating the export of nuclear materials.”

This is becoming a major and complex argument, with suggestions that the NPT is reaching the stage where it needs re-negotiation. There is a major re-organisation of American foreign policy under way, with increasing focus on the East and lowered focus on Europe. This is having repercussions in the re-deployment of diplomatic missions and military assets. It is a natural consequence of the extreme foolish shown by “Old Europe” in the removal of the socialist dictator of Iraq.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#npt_050306

substantial crit of fukuama by chris hitchins

This fellow is learning fast. What a joy it is to watch at least one socialist growing out of the cult. I would like to see a version of this item at least four times as long!

“I have my own criticisms both of my one-time Trotskyist comrades and of my temporary neocon allies, but it can be said of the former that they saw Hitlerism and Stalinism coming - and also saw that the two foes would one day fuse together - and so did what they could to sound the alarm. And it can be said of the latter (which, alas, it can't be said of the former) that they looked at Milosevic and Saddam and the Taliban and realized that they would have to be confronted sooner rather than later. Fukuyama's essay betrays a secret academic wish to be living in "normal" times once more, times that will "restore the authority of foreign policy 'realists' in the tradition of Henry Kissinger." Fat chance, Francis! Kissinger is moribund, and the memory of his failed dictator's club is too fresh to be dignified with the term "tradition." If you can't have a sense of policy, you should at least try to have a sense of history. America at the Crossroads evidently has neither.”

related material
socialist religions
fascism is socialism

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#fukuama_030306

on lies and suicide bombers - the dysfunction in the m.e.

Powerful article - highly recommended Four GoldenYak (tm) award

“It is a daily routine to hear the same leader making opposite statements in Arabic to his people and in English to the rest of the world.”

“Why do I put aside Israel and its own immediate neighborhood? Because Israel and any problems related to it, in spite of what you might read or hear in the world media, is not the central issue, and has never been the central issue in the upheaval in the region. Yes, there is a 100 year-old Israeli-Arab conflict, but it is not where the main show is. The millions who died in the Iran-Iraq war had nothing to do with Israel. The mass murder happening right now in Sudan, where the Arab Moslem regime is massacring its black Christian citizens, has nothing to do with Israel. The frequent reports from Algeria about the murders of hundreds of civilian in one village or another by other Algerians have nothing to do with Israel. Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait, endangered Saudi Arabia and butchered his own people because of Israel. Egypt did not use poison gas against Yemen in the 60's because of Israel. Assad the Father did not kill tens of thousands of his own citizens in one week in El Hamma in Syria because of Israel. The Taliban control of Afghanistan and the civil war there had nothing to do with Israel. The Libyan blowing up of the Pan-Am flight had nothing to do with Israel, and I could go on and on and on.

“The root of the trouble is that this entire Moslem region is totally dysfunctional, by any standard of the word, and would have been so even if Israel would have joined the Arab league and an independent Palestine would have existed for 100 years. The 22 member countries of the Arab league, from Mauritania to the Gulf States, have a total population of 300 millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its expansion. They have a land area larger than either the US or all of Europe. These 22 countries, with all their oil and natural resources, have a combined GDP smaller than that of Netherlands plus Belgium and equal to half of the GDP of California alone. Within this meager GDP, the gaps between rich and poor are beyond belief and too many of the rich made their money not by succeeding in business, but by being corrupt rulers. The social status of women is far below what it was in the Western World 150 years ago. Human rights are below any reasonable standard, in spite of the grotesque fact that Libya was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights commission. According to a report prepared by a committee of Arab intellectuals and published under the auspices of the U.N., the number of books translated by the entire Arab world is much smaller than what little Greece alone translates. The total number of scientific publications of 300 million Arabs is less than that of 6 million Israelis. Birth rates in the region are very high, increasing the poverty, the social gaps and the cultural decline. And all of this is happening in a region, which only 30 years ago, was believed to be the next wealthy part of the world, and in a Moslem area, which developed, at some point in history, one of the most advanced cultures in the world.”

marker at abelard.org

“But words also work in other ways, more subtle. A demonstration in Berlin, carrying banners supporting Saddam's regime and featuring three-year old babies dressed as suicide murderers, is defined by the press and by political leaders as a "peace demonstration". You may support or oppose the Iraq war, but to refer to fans of Saddam, Arafat or Bin Laden as peace activists is a bit too much. A woman walks into an Israeli restaurant in mid-day, eats, observes families with old people and children eating their lunch in the adjacent tables and pays the bill. She then blows herself up, killing 20 people, including many children, with heads and arms rolling around in the restaurant. She is called "martyr" by several Arab leaders and "activist" by the European press. Dignitaries condemn the act but visit her bereaved family and the money flows.

“There is a new game in town: The actual murderer is called "the military wing", the one who pays him, equips him and sends him is now called "the political wing" and the head of the operation is called the "spiritual leader". There are numerous other examples of such Orwellian nomenclature, used every day not only by terror chiefs but also by Western media. These words are much more dangerous than many people realize. They provide an emotional infrastructure for atrocities. It was Joseph Goebbels who said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. He is now being outperformed by his successors.”

“[...] In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#m_e_020306

various rather complex limitations to the patriot act accepted

“The White House and GOP leaders finally broke the stalemate by crafting a second measure - in effect an amendment to the first - that would somewhat limit the government's power to compel information from people targeted in terror probes.”

  • “Give recipients of court-approved subpoenas for information in terrorist investigations the right to challenge a requirement that they refrain from telling anyone.
  • “Eliminate a requirement that an individual provide the FBI with the name of a lawyer consulted about a National Security Letter, which is a demand for records issued by investigators.
  • “Clarify that most libraries are not subject to demands in those letters for information about suspected terrorists.”
  • "Their bill would make the government satisfy a higher threshold for warrantless wiretaps and would set a four-year expiration date for the use of National Security Letters in terrorism investigations."

It still looks set to run and run.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/politics0603.php#patriot_act_020306

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