Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Two Nation Theory

From here

Caption: QUETTA, PAKISTAN - AUGUST 29: Anti-Pakistan Rioters step on a portrait of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan during a violent demonstration August 29, 2006 in Quetta, Pakistan. More than a thousand angry Baloch took to the streets following a prayer service for slain tribal leader Nawab Bugti, who died in a clash with Pakistani army troops over the weekend. The mob torched buildings and cars and looted stores before police scattered them with tear gas and warning shots. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

There is not much to editorialize here. Jinnah's creation supposedly was to provide safeguards to Muslims, which however, Pakistan itself (even in Jinnah's lifetime) did not extend to its own people (e.g., the West wing to the East wing which is now Bangladesh) and its own minorities.

Added later:
I think this picture from the Dawn archives along with the picture above speak quite eloquently of the tragedy (The young Akbar Bugti shaking hands with Jinnah.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Housing bubble ready to pop?

To see another "hockey stick" curve - this one signalling a dangerous exuberance in the housing market, and not global warming, go here.

We are in for some extremely, ahem, interesting times.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Waning Days of the Republic? -9

I have to take this all in small doses, or suffer a apoplexy.

"History may ultimately hold Bush in the greatest contempt for expanding the powers of the presidency beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution. "

The Waning Days of the Republic? -8

"Previous presidents have regularly invoked the Almighty. McKinley is supposed to have fallen to his knees, seeking divine guidance about whether to take control of the Philippines in 1898, although the story may be apocryphal. But no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country. The White House's sectarian positions -- over stem-cell research, the teaching of pseudoscientific "intelligent design," global population control, the Terri Schiavo spectacle and more -- have led some to conclude that Bush has promoted the transformation of the GOP into what former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips calls "the first religious party in U.S. history."

The Waning Days of the Republic? -7

From the Rolling Stone article referenced in part 6:

"According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever -- with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush -- sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that "prosperity is just around the corner" -- insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!"

The Waning Days of the Republic? -6

Via Desi: the Rolling Stone article on the worst president ever. (no cookie for guessing who).

Quote: "Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance."

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Waning Days of the Republic? -5

In today's NYT, Thomas Frank comments on the philosophy of presidential chief domestic policy adviser, Karl Zinmeister, former editor of the American Enterprise Institute's flagship magazine.He notes that even though Zinmeister has written the idea "that the United States has separate classes is dubious", Z. spends pages after pages going after the "elites". The "elites" it turns out, are not the leaders of rightwing think tanks, corporate lobbies and bosses of corporations, they are uniformly liberals - "educated elites", "East Coast elites", "professor/lawyer/journalist/activist elites".

Frank writes:

"Then why has Zinsmeister expended so much ink assailing elites and their works? Enter the magic concept of the market, the source of corporate power and all else that is sacred. The working of the free market “is democracy,” Zinsmeister writes, “with pluralities of economic actors exerting votes.” Democracy itself, however, if it takes the form of a regulatory state, “is monarchism. It lets the handful at court boss the masses.”

Swallow this, and all the rest of it starts to make sense: how liberals are elites even when they aren’t, how the sweatshop economy of the Mariana Islands is the will of a humble people looking to be free from a domineering central government (an argument Zinsmeister’s magazine made in 1997), and how a well-subsized think-tank editor can advise the victims of economic dislocation to stop whining."


The idea of "commonwealth" is going down with the Republic.

The Waning Days of the Republic? -4

From the NYTimes:

....the Army Corps of Engineers held a meeting in Mr. Bensman’s neighborhood to talk about helping those fish swim around the locks and dams it has constructed on the Mississippi River over the years. There was a PowerPoint presentation on various options. One — clearly not the Corps’s favorite — was to eliminate a dam in East Alton. To illustrate that idea, the presentation included a picture of a dam being dynamited.

Mr. Bensman rose later to support removing the dam. Big mistake.

A local paper reported that Mr. Bensman told the Corps he “would like to see the dam blown up.”

A Corps security officer read the report. He decided that Mr. Bensman was threatening a public facility. He notified the G-men.

An F.B.I. agent then contacted Mr. Bensman, who was surprised to learn that federal investigators believed a terrorist might announce his plans at a public hearing of the Army Corps of Engineers.

When the agent said he wanted to visit his home, it occurred to Mr. Bensman that he needed a lawyer. At that point, Mr. Bensman said, the agent threatened to “put you down as not cooperating.”....

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Behavior of Concern

B. Raman is a retired Indian Intelligence official. Here is something from his web-site that I hope a lot of people read.

"There have been many instances of such behaviour of  concern by the Western security agencies arising from their tendency to over-dramatise threat perceptions and to over-react."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Waning Days of the Republic? -3

From Bill on, excerpts:-

October 28-November 10, 2002:

Bush's comments about Saddam Hussein, each from a different speech:

"This is a person who has had contacts with al Qaeda."
"He's got connections with al Qaeda."
"This is a guy who has had connections with these shadowy terrorist networks."
"We know he's got ties with al Qaeda."
"We know that he's had connections with al Qaeda."
"He's had connections with shadowy terrorist networks like al Qaeda."
"We know that he has had contacts with terrorist networks like al Qaeda."
"This is a man who has had contacts with al Qaeda."
"This is a man who has had al Qaeda connections."
"He's had contacts with al Qaeda."
"This is a man who has got connections with al Qaeda."

March 19, 2003:

U.S. President George W. Bush sent Congress a formal justification for invading Iraq Wednesday, citing the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

August 21, 2006:

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing!!  [...]  Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.


I think Bill Clinton, with his parsing of the mean of "is", was less demeaning to the Presidency and to the country.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dark Matter

We have new "visual evidence" of dark matter in the universe.

Sean at has a very good article about this exciting development.

Read it!

Mercenaries and the rule of law

Mercenaries hired by the US in Iraq operate outside the law. They are not governed by US law, US military law and they are immune to Iraqi law (this was granted by the Coalition Provisional Authority). Therefore, when four "security contractors" were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah, I had no sympathy for them. Those who operate outside the law are fair game for anyone, in my opinion. After all, these guys can shoot anyone for any reason and get away with it.

Here is more on that utter lack of accountability (Paul Krugman in today's NYT) :

"To whom are such contractors accountable? Last week a judge threw out a jury's $10 million verdict against Custer Battles, a private contract that was hired, among other things, to provide security at Baghdad's airport. Custer Battles has become a symbol of the mix of cronyism, corruption and sheer amateurishness that doomed the Iraq adventure - and the judge didn't challenge the jury's finding that the company engaged in blatant fraud.

But he ruled that the civil fraud suit agains the company lacked a legal basis, because as far as he could tell, the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, wasn't "an instrumentality of the US government". It wasn't created by an act of Congress; it wasn't a branch of the State Department or of any other established agency."

A little knock here, a scratch there, a sledgehammer elsewhere, thus does this Administration demolish the Republic.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Waning Days of the Republic? -2

Hidden from the non-paying in TimesSelect there is an article by Thomas Frank 'What is K Street's Project?'

K Street is where the lobbying business has its offices.

These three sentences will give you a sense of the article

From all its complex machinations emerges a discernible political project best described by Joseph Goulden in “The Superlawers” back in 1972, when the lobbying business was so many acorns beside today’s forest of towering oaks. The “Washington lawyers,” Goulden wrote, had over the years “directed a counterrevolution unique in world economic history. Their mission was not to destroy the New Deal, and its successor reform acts, but to conquer them, and to leave their structures intact so they could be transformed into instruments for the amassing of monopolistic corporate power.” (Goulden, by the way, is no radical: he is a former director at the very conservative press watchdog Accuracy in Media.)

The Waning Days of the Republic?

From talkingpointsmemo:

Number of reporters contributing to Friday's front page New York Times story on the JonBenet Ramsey case: 13

Number of reporters contributing to Friday's front page New York Times story on the federal court ruling that the NSA warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional: 2

Thursday, August 17, 2006

King George

from - a judge ruled that the warrantless wiretaps by the government are illegal, and pointed out:

"The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of Constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself.

We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no power not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent power" must derive from that Constitution."

Three cheers for Judge Anna Diggs Taylor!!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Life as a dhimmi-5

As Gerard put it on bharat-rakshak:

Meanwhile, in the Islamic Emirate of England, Wales, Held Scotland and English-Administered-Ireland, the dhimmis accept sharia...

He was referring to this news-item:

Passport photograph of girl's bare shoulders rejected 'as it may offend'
By Paul Stokes

A five-year-old girl's passport application was rejected because her photograph showed her bare shoulders.

Hannah Edwards's mother, Jane, was told that the exposed skin might be considered offensive in a Muslim country.
End quote.

The offending photograph :

Monday, August 14, 2006

The War against Terrorism

For some, the main tactics against against terrorism are investigation and intelligence work. But post-9/11 that is supposed to be wrong-headed. We need a pro-active, pre-emptive approach, i.e., invade other countries. So we invaded Iraq. Of course, we do not know what terror plots never got off the ground because of the invasion of Iraq. But one can ask the following questions:

The invasion of which country or countries would have possibly thwarted

1. The attacks of Sept 11, 2001?
2. The Bali bombings of October 12, 2002?
3. The Mumbai bombings of August 25, 2003?
4. The Istanbul bombings of November 15 and 20, 2003?
5. The Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004?
6. The Al Khobar massacres of May 29, 2004?
7. The London bombings of July 7, 2005?
8. The Mumbai bombings of July 11, 2006?
9. The plot to blow up planes with liquid explosives just uncovered by the British?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

On Bush

From a comment on this Turcopolier thread:

I think the difficulty with Mr. Bush's policies lies in disbelief. It is just so hard to believe that anyone sitting in the Oval Office with the full resources of the federal government at his disposal can be so utterly and absolutely mistaken about virtually everything. Thus, there must be another explanation.

Then I look at his other policy initiatives and actions. Pick any initiative or action and somehow incompetence, arrogance, or both creeps in--Social Security Reform, Department of Homeland Security, 911 Commissions, Intelligence Reform, Katrina recovery, Iran, Immigration Reform, CAFTA, budget deficits, domestic spying, torture, rendition, internment, etc. He is either single-mindedly destroying the U.S., or he is in over his head. William of Occam forces me to accept the latter assessment because of the scale of his mistakes. Simply, I cannot believe he wants to destroy the nation. So, what exactly is Mr. Bush doing?

They attack us because they hate our freedoms

This post was prompted by a thread on

President Bush is sometimes derided for his statement that bin Laden & co attacked the US because "they hate our freedoms".
It is worth reading bin Laden's Letter to America in this regard.

Osama bin Laden states very simply that "we attack you because you continue to attack us. Since Americans vote for the government, pay the taxes and enlist in the armed forces, the American people cannot be considered innocent, and can be attacked".

However, Osama bin Laden answers "What do we want from you, and what are we calling you to do?" and the answer is unambiguously against our freedoms. Abjuring these freedoms (listed below) is one of seven conditions, for which
"If you fail to respond to all these conditions, then prepare for fight with the Islamic Nation."

So, one must conclude that the President is not wrong, but he isn't addressing the full story either. This is a problem on both the Right and the Left in American politics.

It is saddening to tell you that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind:

(i) You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator. You flee from the embarrassing question posed to you: How is it possible for Allah the Almighty to create His creation, grant them power over all the creatures and land, grant them all the amenities of life, and then deny them that which they are most in need of: knowledge of the laws which govern their lives?

(ii) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury. As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense; precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned you against.

(iii) You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants. You also permit drugs, and only forbid the trade of them, even though your nation is the largest consumer of them.

(iv) You are a nation that permits acts of immorality, and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom. You have continued to sink down this abyss from level to level until incest has spread amongst you, in the face of which neither your sense of honour nor your laws object.

Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the official Oval office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that he 'made a mistake', after which everything passed with no punishment. Is there a worse kind of event for which your name will go down in history and remembered by nations?

(v) You are a nation that permits gambling in its all forms. The companies practice this as well, resulting in the investments becoming active and the criminals becoming rich.

(vi) You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools calling upon customers to purchase them. You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women.

(vii) You are a nation that practices the trade of sex in all its forms, directly and indirectly. Giant corporations and establishments are established on this, under the name of art, entertainment, tourism and freedom, and other deceptive names you attribute to it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

History repeats itself

"One of the definitions of madness is the repetition countless times of the same action, always expecting a different result."

Quoted in a Charles Grass essay on how the events of 1968, 1973, 1978 and 1982 are repeating in 2006.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Targetting civilians

From the words of Olmert, it would appear that displacing the population of South Lebanon was an Israel war goal. He certainly counts this as a success. Then it is hard to argue that Israel did not deliberately target civilians to bring about this result.



Israel's offensive in Lebanon has "entirely destroyed" the infrastructure of the Hezbollah guerilla group, Olmert said Wednesday.

"I think Hezbollah has been disarmed by the military operation of Israel to a large degree," he said.

"The infrastructure of Hezbollah has been entirely destroyed. More than 700... command positions of Hezbollah were entirely wiped out by the Israeli army. All the population which is the power base of the Hezbollah in Lebanon was displaced," he said.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Total War

For some reason, this news-item got under my skin (reproduced in full).

Yesha Rabbinical Council: During time of war, enemy has no innocents

The Yesha Rabbinical Council announced in response to an IDF attack in Kfar Qanna that "according to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as 'innocents' of the enemy."

All of the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation and are costing us in the blood of our soldiers and civilians," the statement said. (Efrat Weiss)
(07.30.06, 17:37)

Yesha — is a Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (West Bank and Gaza Strip) = the occupied territories.

Among other things, it seems to validate the notion of "collective guilt", it leads down a slippery slope to genocide. It echoes bin Laden, who in 1998, formed the International Islamic Front (for Jehad against the US and Israel), and declared war on the US - according to bin Laden, the people in the World Trade Center on 9/11 were legitimate targets. To them, we are the enemy, and killing any of us is right as per this law. It means either that one (stupidly) believes that God is on one's side and that anything one does is therefore good (and thereby the asymmetry is introduced); or else in the symmetrical case, it means might is right; if we kill them, we are right and if they prevail, they are right. This is the morality of the medieval duel.

If Yesha is correctly stating Jewish law, then Jewish law is obscene.

I do not know the Islamic rules of war, Bernard Lewis gives the following sayings to the Prophet Muhammad
("Islam - from the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople"):

"Go in the name of God and in God and in the religion of the Prophet of God! Do not kill the very old, the infant, the child, or the woman. Bring all the booty, holding back no part of it. Maintain order and do good, for God loves those who do good."

A slight improvement over the Jewish law, though one must note that in practice, Christians and Muslims mostly didn't observe these rules.

But there is no reason to debate old religious law. All nations are signatories to various international conventions that make it a crime to target civilians, and this would take precedence over all religious law. The religious types belong in a museum, along with the dinosaurs.