Thursday, June 30, 2005

Theirs and ours

From the BBC, via Gilliard.
Iranian officials on a visit to Belgium have upset their hosts by trying to ban alcohol from the lunch table and refusing to shake women's hands.
Belgium's parliament speaker, Herman De Croo, decided to cancel a lunch rather than hosting a meal with no wine.

Strict Islamic teaching instructs Muslims to avoid looking at alcohol, as well as to avoid drinking it.

Belgian Senate president Anne-Marie Lizin later cancelled talks with the visitors over the handshake issue.
From the BBC

"We tried to find a solution, but they held fast to their position of not wanting to shake her hand," spokesman Patrick Peremans said.

The Senate said the meeting with the 12-strong delegation had been called off because of the "continued refusal" of Ms Lizin's counterpart to shake her hand.

From The American Prospect's Tapped, via Atrios

Larry Diamond, a former senior adviser to the coalition government in Iraq and a current fellow at the Hoover Institution, lays out where America went wrong in Iraq in a piece in today's San Jose Mercury News:

....One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion....

No matter what the religion fundamentalists are all nut bags.

Train wreck 2 (avalanche)

From Juan Cole "Guest Opinion:Iraq Avalanche Unstoppable"

"The Iraq Avalanche Cannot be Stopped"

by Alan Richards

University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA
June 24, 2005

...There is a way, however, in which I am troubled by what I perceive as a tacit assumption--a very American assumption,--underlying most of the discussion. It seems to me that even "pessimists" are actually "optimists": they assume that there exists in Iraq and the Gulf some "solution", some course of action which can actually lead to an outcome other than widespread, prolonged violence, with devastating economic, political, and social consequences.

I regret to say that I think this is wrong. There is no "solution" to this mess; it is sometimes not possible to "fix" things which have been broken. I can see no course of action which will prevent widespread violence, regional social upheaval, and economic hammering administered by oil price shocks. This is why so many of us opposed the invasion of Iraq so strenuously in the first place! We thought that it would unleash irreversible adverse consequences for (conventionally defined) US interests in the region. I am very sorry to say that I still think we were right. ...

There is much more and this post, unsettling as it is, is worth following the link to Juan Cole's site and the few minutes it takes to read it.

The post ends with this paragraph:

So let me close where I began: I think it is delusional to imagine that there exists a "solution" to the mess in Iraq. From this perspective, the folly of Bush, Cheney and Company in invading Iraq is even worse than most informed observers of the region already think. Starting an avalanche is certainly criminal. It does not follow, however, that such a phenomenon can be stopped once it has begun.

Delusional to imagine there is a solution to the mess in Iraq and it is delusional to imagine there will be an easy way out of the consequences of our stupid reliance on oil. Rather than leading to a stable, imperial control of what oil remains in the ground, which is lot of the Bushista agenda, our actions in Iraq put our sources in greater jeopardy. Withdrawal from this addiction will not be pretty.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Train wreck

The railroad bridge is out. You see the bridge. You see the train rushing headlong toward disaster. You know the people on the train have no idea what’s ahead. If they do, maybe they think the engineer is so masterful he will make a miracle. They don’t know there is no masterful engineer; a crazed monkey is at the controls and it is already too late.

I didn’t watch the speech. But I am watching the train wreck. It is happening in slow motion but it is happening. It takes a long time to stop a train.

I plan to heat with wood and because I am old I plan to die before the process of foreclosure catches up.

Two fronts

I thought Taliban resistance in Afghanistan was well into its final throes stage.


...Concerns already have been on the rise that rebel attacks here have been escalating into a conflict on the scale of that in Iraq.

More than 660 people have been killed in Afghanistan since March —
including 465 suspected insurgents, 29 U.S. troops, 43 Afghan police and soldiers, and 125 civilians — a level unprecedented since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001....

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hunting liberals

David Neiwert puts Rove's recent remarks about Liberals/Democrats into a meaningful historical context.

From Neiwert's Orcinus
...This is how propaganda is supposed to work: Circulate ideas on the popular level first, perhaps disguised as "humor" or "edgy commentary," until they become part of a broadly popular "conventional wisdom." Seemingly "outrageous" ideas gradually gain broader acceptance, leveraging the populace toward the movement's agenda. Then, when these notions are enunciated at the official and most powerful levels of government, any outrage that might be voiced is easily ignored....
via Noutopia

Bird flu

Over population is not a stable state. There is always a correction. Maybe this time it will be Bird Flu.

From "Preparing for the Next Pandemic", New England Journal of Medicine
...An influenza pandemic has always been a great global infectious-disease threat. There have been 10 pandemics of influenza A in the past 300 years. A recent analysis showed that the pandemic of 1918 and 1919 killed 50 million to 100 million people,1 and although its severity is often considered anomalous, the pandemic of 1830 through 1832 was similarly severe — it simply occurred when the world's population was smaller. Today, with a world population of 6.5 billion — more than three times that in 1918 — even a relatively "mild" pandemic could kill many millions of people.

Influenza experts recognize the inevitability of another pandemic. When will it begin? Will it be caused by H5N1, the avian influenzavirus strain currently circulating in Asia? Will its effect rival that of 1918 or be more muted, as was the case in the pandemics of 1957 and 1968? Nobody knows. ...

And some other links

UK says bird flu "as grave a threat as terrorism"

The Flu Wiki

From the Birds

Monday, June 27, 2005

Clubs left in the closet

The public golf course a couple of miles down the hill from my house, in northeast Pennsylvania, has been mostly empty this summer, even more so than last year. I walked the course on Saturday with a friend and it was empty. A few years ago it was packed every rain-free weekend and crowded on weekdays. This is not a luxury club but it has four very attractive nines. You can golf in your blue jeans and a T shirt if you like. The course mainly attracts working class golfers, with a very large percentage coming from New Jersey and New York City, groups of cops and firemen for example, and industrial workers.

My impression, supported by years of driving by the course parking lots, was confirmed by club employees I met at the supermarket. “I don’t know where everyone went.” one said. “Golf is over” another said, “except for the luxury courses,” and then went on to cite a competing, slightly more upscale course that went bankrupt this year.

There could be a lot of reasons for the waning local interest in golf, but my guess is there are two basic reasons. One is economic. People are more worried about money than before. They can’t justify spending a $100 dollars a day on golf, counting expensive gas, food, beer and green fees. Many are also working longer hours than ever before and can’t blow off a Saturday on golf because there are more urgent demands on their time.

The other reason is attitude. People (in these mostly blue areas) seem less playful, tenser than they were in the peaceful, even joyous Clinton years. They are also more fearful of losing jobs, retirement, health benefits and so on and I think they feel keenly alone, expendable and under a government that does not include their interests in its agendas. Not many among the depressed and anxious care to pass a frivolous day on the links.

Anyway, it seems likely that during a move from prosperity to depression the impact will first be felt on the fringes, like public golf courses. Those that depend on customers who drive hours to get there will also give early indication of the impact of more than $60 per barrel oil (today’s price).