Saturday, April 10, 2004


Shorter David Brooks:

"Sing a happy happy happy happy happy happy song. Sing a happy happy happy happy happy happy song." (Repeat)

I liked this post:

Vacations all I ever wanted...

Maybe the Beltway spinmeisters can concoct a new phrase for Junior Caligula's excessive vacationing. My vote: Presidential Program-Related Activities.

What a difference a year makes...

It's time to judge the pundits

The right wing's rush to judgment last April was quite boisterous to say the least. During those heady days that seem to have receded into the fog of distant memories, it was clear that the initial invasion had more or less gone off as planned. Boy, did we anti-war types look foolish, according to the pro-war camp. The invasion had been accomplished with relatively minimal US & UK casualties, and Saddam's regime had fallen with barely a nudge. Democracy was just around the corner, we were assured, and those WMDs (a major if not the major justification for the invasion in the first place) were going to be discovered in no time.

One of my favorite comments from a pro-war advocate was posted on a message board I then frequented about a week after the infamous toppling of the Saddam statue:

everything is slowly falling right into place... we could have talked for another 20 years trying to get stability in those regions and nothing would have happened except more time to maqke [sic] things even more unstable... they know our government is resolved to return stability, to protect ourselves from terrorism, to stand up for human rights and for freedom....

and they slowly fall into place.....

be patient my little liberals... things will be ok.

The hubris of that remark captures the mindset of the pundits whose words are displayed once more for our amusement. Things are not okay. They are not falling into place. There is ample reason to believe that we are not any safer from terrorism than we were before, and if anything have probably contributed to an increased threat of terrorist attacks (never forget Madrid's 3/11). At bare minimum the now destabilized Iraq is a prime recruiting target for terrorist groups. The notion that the Bu$hCo-Blair axis is standing for human rights in the occupied territory is truly a joke in light of the civilian carnage that continues to this day.

There were a lot of us, from a wide variety of ideological, religious, and social backgrounds who had voiced concern of Junior Caligula's rush to invade Iraq. We didn't buy the rationale, and by and large we were concerned (justifiably, as it turns out in retrospect) that the rather hasty rush to invasion and its ensuing occupation would ultimately do more harm than good. To a large degree, I would have been relieved to have been wrong. That those concerns that I had in the run-up to the invasion have largely been borne out in the aftermath has been very unsettling and has only served to increase my anger level. I gather I am not alone in that regard.


Check out Cakewalks and nonesuch by Kos. Captures a similar vibe.

Friday, April 9, 2004

Some Weekend Science: Meow!

Ancient Body's Buddy: An Early House Cat?

Some evidence that house cats have been with us for quite a long time -- easily a good 9,000 to 10,000 years. The article reports the findings of an archeological dig in which the remains of a human and a cat were found buried side-by-side, suggesting that the feline was likely a pet and possibly was sacrificed after the death of its human so that it could travel with its human companion into the afterlife.

I've read speculation along these lines before, and the reasoning seemed fairly sound. Namely, about the time humans began to settle into agricultural lives (farming, ranching) they began to store foods such as grains. Such storage attracted mice and rats, which became both a nuissance and a health hazard. Cats began to emerge on the scene in fairly short order, and it probably didn't take long for some savvy humans to realize that cats were not only good predators but they tended to get on fairly well with humans.

Being a cat person, I sure found the article interesting. We currently house six cats -- and they generally earn their keep when field mice try to invade our home during the early autumn season (seeking warmth and a steady food supply as the cold winds of winter threaten to make their appearance).

So this is GOP "leadership"

via Musing's Musings we can read about how a GOP state legislator from Missouri (an aside: I spent several years in Columbia, MO, and it's a great place to live) made farting noises to keep Democrat legislators from being heard during a debate on the state budget.

As I think about it, this sums up very nicely what GOP control has been like nationally: the kids are running the candy counter. The level of immaturity exhibited by the name calling, physical threats, shunning of Democrat legislators thus shutting them out of the debate process, the dramatic increase in pork-barrel spending, and so forth is at best adolescent and at worst down-right juvenile. We really need to get the adults back in charge. So, here's my challenge to those of my readers who may be sitting on the fence regarding regime change in the US: give us (i.e., Democrats) the White House and the House and Senate this year, and give us two years to clean up the mess that the kids have made. Seriously. I think we could make some serious headway in that time, and that you'll see a dramatic change in tone and a some semblance of financial prudence -- something we haven't seen in a few years at any rate. If you're not satisfied with our progress in that time, vote us out of the majority in 2006 and out of the White House in 2008. Seems like a fair enough proposition to me.

Mission Accomplished

This is Cool

George Says..."

Create your own custom Junior Caligula comic.

From the "Ah, Memories..." Department

The pro-war commentators: what do they say now?

Some stubbornly cling to the perspectives they held last year. Some seem to have developed a case of what social psychologists call the "I knew it all along effect" or hindsight bias. And one, merely says today "no comment."

I say: those of us against the war were right. Given the carnage that has ensued, sadly that knowledge is far from satisfying.

The Forgotten War Casualties: Iraqi Civilians

After the fall: One year's civilian death toll.

And From the "Full Metal Jack-Off" Department:

Remember what Junior Caligula said on May 1, 2003. End of combat? Mission accomplished?

Every Picture Tells a Story

Courtesy Billmon at Whiskey Bar.

Iraqi volunteers drive through coalition forces to bring supplies to Fallujah.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Dumping Junior Caligula is step one in extracting ourselves from a situation that is, to put it mildly, FUBAR

Feeling a Draft?

Junior Caligula requires more human sacrifices at the altar of power, lust, and greed

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Here's a roundup of articles from Reuters:

Fierce Fighting Sweeps Iraqi Cities, Shi'ite Areas

Sadr Aide Says Iraqis Capture Coalition Soldiers

Ukrainian Troops Pull Out of Iraqi Town of Kut

Italy Troop Injuries in Iraq Fuel War Debate

Bulgaria Asks U.S. to Reinforce Its Troops in Iraq

U.S. Asia Allies Say No Iraq Pull-Out for Now

Civilians Hide as Iraq Insurgents Fight U.S. Forces

Five Iranians, Three Iraqis Killed in Southern Iraq

ANALYSIS-Arab Rulers' Worst Fears on Iraq Come True

FACTBOX-Table of Military Deaths in Iraq

Even the most positive of those headlines (i.e., the one regarding US Asian allies keeping troops in Iraq for now) suggests the degree to which the Bu$hCo grip on the situation has loosened.

Ghost Town

A fascinating tour of the areas most affected by the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. If you wonder what life would be like after a nuclear holocaust, this makes for a good visit.

"Chosen by God"

New tune & video by Trucker, a Lawrence, KS based rock band that reminds me in sound and attitude of the heyday of 1980s alternative rock. These cats won't be on Clear Channel or MTV, but they truly deserve to be heard. Hopefully some college station on the left end of the dial will be playing these cats. Check 'em out. If you dug REM and the Placemats back in the day, you'll dig this.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

The Temperature's Heating Up, and So Are the Tempers

If you look at contemporary psychological theories of aggression, it becomes clear in a hurry that numerous antecedent conditions can bring about an aggressive response. In Iraq, we may very well be witness to a confluence of conditions that are responsible for the current level of violence as well as predict an escalation in the coming months. Let's examine a couple of those factors:

1. Uncomfortable heat:

There is now ample evidence that uncomfortably hot temperatures are causally associated with increases in aggressive behavior. In laboratory studies, individuals who are placed in uncomfortably hot conditions tend to deliver higher levels of shock or noxious white noise to their presumed victim than do individuals placed in relatively comfortable room-temperature environments. Lab data also shows a causal link between uncomfortably hot temperatures and increases in level of anger. Research on archival data, such as police and FBI records, shows that violent crimes, such as homicides and aggravated assaults, tend to show an increase during the summer months, and also tend to spike late in the afternoon or into the evening following hot days.

Think about the time of year. Spring is an apparently short season in Iraq, and the summers are unbearably hot with high temperatures regularly exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit in many locations. There is also no plausible way for many Iraqis to escape the heat: electricity is still pretty undependable, and for the average Iraqi may be unaffordable. For that reason alone, I might expect to see an increase in unrest.

2. Frustration:

The earliest model of aggression was proposed by Dollard and several other colleagues at Yale University during the 1930s: that is, the frustration-aggression hypothesis. The main thrust of the hypothetical model is that frustration (i.e., blocking an individual from attaining a goal) can lead to an aggressive response. One early application of Dollard and colleagues' frustration-aggression hypothesis was aimed at examining the role of economic hard times on such behaviors as homicides and various other violent activities, which from their archival research there seemed to be some support for their hypothesis. Frustration is associated with increases in various physiological measures such as heart rate, as well as anger, as well as aggressive behavior; indeed there is tons of laboratory evidence to support the hypothesis, as well as quite a number of creatively executed field experiments.

Think of what the average Iraqi may be facing on a day-to-day basis. Efforts at finding meaningful work may be frustrated for any of a number of reasons, which means that efforts to provide for one's self and family are frustrated. The expectation of a regular flow of electricity during the summer months may also be frustrated. Efforts to move freely to conduct one's business may be frustrated to varying degrees as the occupation continues.

3. Provocation:

Sometimes frustration is described by aggression theorists and researchers as one form of a broader category: provocation. Whether frustration really fits there is certainly subject to debate. When I discuss provocation to my students, I define the term as an action intended to elicit a strong response from the target of the provoking behavior. Most provocations fall under two categories: physical assaults and verbal attacks. Again, there is a ton of laboratory evidence and field research that demonstrates conclusively that there is a causal link between provocation and aggression. One thing to mention is that sometimes behaviors are unwittingly provoking - perception then becomes an important part of the equation.

Again think about what's going on to the average Iraqi. The various news reports surely suggest behaviors by coalition troops as well as various mercenaries that would fit the definition of provocation. Other acts may end up seeming provoking simply because to provocateur failed to understand the cultural norms governing acceptable behavior among the natives. Again, perception is of critical importance.

It is likely that what we are now seeing is a particularly volatile combination of these three factors (and probably others). For those of us who are pessimistic about the near future of Iraq under occupation, basic social science research on aggressive and violent behavior is unlikely to give us any cause for changing our tune. For the optimists, perhaps they would do well to reconsider their optimism in light of available theory and data.

Cross-posted at American Samizdat and my Diary at Daily Kos.

War President

This is quite powerful, created by Joe over at American Leftist (see blogroll to your right).

Naomi Klein Has an Interesting Take on Iraq

Is Bremer deliberately fanning the flames of violence among the Shia? Klein seems to believe that a good case can be made for that very hypothesis. What would Bremer and by extension, Bu$hCo, have to gain? The short answer: making the best of a bad situation for Junior Caligula during this rather contentious Presidential election cycle. Continued occupation may hurt Junior Caligula in the polls, but, so the argument goes, handing over the controls to a Bu$hCo-selected puppet only to see that puppet regime go up in flames as civil war ensues would be far worse for Junior Caligula's re-selection bid. The corporations would not be pleased. Another possibility is that the fanatics in the White House, which I've previously described as apocalyptic, are spoiling for a fight with an equally apocalyptic fanatic (for a better exposition of Bu$hCo's apocalyptic approach, check out Robert Jay Lifton's Superpower Syndrome). For whatever reason, Junior Caligula and his minions "need" that Manichean epic battle against the forces of God and Satan. If it weren't Sadr, they'd be picking a fight with someone else in Iraq.

While we're at it, here's an article that's aptly titled On the brink of anarchy. Whatever the twisted motives that Bu$hCo may possess, one thing is certain: the situation in Iraq is one of escalating violence. Mission accomplished? I suppose it depends on the extent to which one shares Junior Caligula's warped vision.

One more for the road: Coalition forces fight a losing battle to win the peace. Where have all the flowers gone?

The Wrong "Christians"

Neal Pollack on Tim LaHay and like-minded fanatics. The amusing summary of the "Left Behind" series of "novels" is worth the price of admission alone. There's more of course. Check it out.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Jesus' General Endorses "Life of Brian"

and I say, Hallelujah, my brother!

Both "Life of Brian" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" would make my top ten favorite movies. What can I say? I love a good religious story. :-)

Read This, Then Take Two Prozacs and Call Me in the Morning

Apocalypse soon: the outlook on fuel, inflation, farming

Just remember, the revolution will not be televised, and there will be no SUVs in 2100.

By the way, this little blurb from the book review caught my attention:

Like Hubbert, Kotlikoff is a methodological innovator. An economist at Boston University, he has pioneered ''generational accounting," a way of analyzing the finances of a family, company, or government over long periods. (His coauthor, Burns, is a syndicated economics columnist.) Applied to the finances of the post-Bush-tax-cut United States, the results of generational accounting are . . . well, words fail. The country is, at the moment, ''technically bankrupt." To pay off our government's present and future liabilities would require a combination of tax increases and benefit reductions so painful that many readers of the book (and, needless to say, most politicians) will choke over them. So, naturally, they won't happen, or only in watered-down form. Nor, the authors acknowledge, will their own fairly drastic proposals for Social Security and Medicare reform. Instead, we will print more money -- there's quite a bit of inflation in our future, they predict, along with much other unpleasantness.

Credit Junior Caligula for succeeding at one thing in his life: bankrupting the very nation he was sworn in to serve. Boy, with success like that, we don't need failure.

Also read this: Fossil-Fuel Dependency - Do Oil Reserves Foretell Bleak Future?

Kathleen Parker: "You say Fallujah, I say Rambo"

The Left End of the Dial: I say racist.

Wouldn't it be lovely were justice so available and so simple? If we were but creatures like those zoo animals we witnessed gleefully jumping up and down after stomping, dragging, dismembering and hanging the charred remains of American civilians whose only crime was to try to help them.

Emphasis added by yours truly.

Here's My Latest Over At the ?W Galleries

A window sticker I'd love to see.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

The Left End of the Dial Stands in Solidarity With Daily Kos

While concentrating on family things, I missed the turmoil surrounding Kos' comments on the four mercenaries who were killed in Iraq. I basically agree with the thrust of what Kos was trying to say, and with his right to say it. The one thing I certainly do see around blogtopia (as so aptly named by Skippy) is a great deal of over-reaction, to which I suggest, to wit, take the pill of chilling.

And for the wingnuts and fellow travellers such as Instapundit who wish to make hay over what was a fairly tame set of remarks, I have this to say: Pot, kettle, black.

Never forget what some of these wingnut assholes had to say at Rachel Corrie's expense last year when she was killed by Israeli soldiers. They've lost any credibility unless or until (and I am not holding my breath, folks) they take a good, long, honest look at their own actions. That'll be the day.

Peace out, y'all.

Psychological Consequences of Quagmire

Is America sending battle-weary, clinically stressed soldiers back into Iraq?

Good article for suggesting what I suspect has been a long-standing problem with the military: namely the redeployment of individuals who are simply not fit to be in a combat situation. Long after the physical wounds heal up, to whatever extent that is possible, those psychological wounds from the extreme stressors of a war environment remain. I fear that our soldiers do not get the attention they need to preserve their psychological well-being. In the case of PTSD, I am aware of various approaches to treatment including prescriptions of anxiety and antidepressant medications as well as participation in support groups with other PTSD survivors. The support groups in particular are helpful in that they allow the individual to face the causes of their symptoms from a position of safety. Simply throwing the person out there into the same environment that caused the symptoms in the first place, on the other hand, as the military is apparently doing with its troops, is akin to treating a person with third degree burns by setting them on fire.

Of course I don't think the answer is to simply send in even more troops into Iraq, especially given the clueless manner in which the war has been initiated and the equally clueless manner in which occupation has been administered. All that does is increase the potential number of people who will be traumatized. Surely in that sense there is a parallel to what went on with Vietnam a few decades back.

I also wonder with Junior Caligula and his GOP cronies cheerfully cutting back on VA benefits if our troops will have access to the psychological help that many of them might need when they return stateside. I fear that for the risks they've faced, that many will be short-changed as they attempt the adjustment to civilian life. I wonder too to what extent the average American cares.

The Birds Will Come Home to Roost

Spread of Bin Laden Ideology Cited: Iraq Invasion Said To Alter Dynamics Of Local Militants

Here's a taste:

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has accelerated the spread of Osama bin Laden's anti-Americanism among once local Islamic militant movements, increasing danger to the United States as the al Qaeda network is becoming less able to mount attacks, according to senior intelligence officials at the CIA and State Department.

At the same time, the Sunni Triangle has become a training ground for foreign Islamic jihadists who are slipping into Iraq to join former Saddam Hussein loyalists to test themselves against U.S. and coalition forces, these officials say.

Islamic militant organizations in places such as North Africa and Southeast Asia, which were previously focused on changing their local country leadership, "have been caught by bin Laden's vision, and poisoned by it . . . they will now look at the U.S., Israel and the Saudis as targets," a senior intelligence official said last week. "That is one manifestation of how bin Laden's views are expanding well beyond Iraq," he said.

My suspicion as that we're all going to be paying for Junior Caligula's Iraq disaster for a long time to come. It would behoove us to get over our elitist, ethnocentric attitude that we Americans generally assume when encountering others who differ from us. America hardly can count itself as "civilized" when its leaders continue to engage in gunboat "diplomacy", enable ruthless dictators, practice capital punishment, and turn their backs on the most vulnerable members of its society -- among other things. The alternating patronizing and belligerent approaches to the Iraqis is yet another example of our leaders' collective failure to "get it" -- think from an Iraqi's perspective of what it would be like to be told at various times that US-style "democracy" shall be imposed on them by force because they can't do it right and then to be dissed as "savages" who must be bombed into the Stone Age. Those are the messages that are being sent in our names. It would behoove us to consider the possibility that if individuals and groups from the so-called "Third World" are angry about something the US government has done, that there's actually a basis in reality for that anger. Our leaders in the US continue to put all of as at risk as long as they ignore or dismiss legitimate complaints -- and I think it's a safe bet that there are plenty of legitimate complaints out there. It gets bck to root causes. Let's recall an old adage: "Be careful how you treat people on the way up, as you will be meeting them again on the way down." That adage applies to both individuals and to collectives. Given what our leaders have done to the rest of the planet as the US ascended in power, the descent is likely to be especially painful. Something to ponder.