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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Sunni Triangulation

I read the papers closely Sunday and earlier this week for analysis in the Sunni's opting in or opting out of Iraq as a nation The Fragments of Iraq - New York Times. This was before the focus of the news shifted decidedly to the domestic front. The Sunni's are still talking about what details and compromises Iraqi draft divides, but is often vague | they would like to see to vote Iraqis Finish Draft Charter That Sunnis Vow to Defeat for this constitution Constitution Sent to Parliament in Iraq Despite Sunni Objections. I believe that behind this straight forward talk they have a range of strategic thinking in place Mideast Course At Mercy of Local Actors . Their current negotiating represents the edge of the realm of the possible. They are making their case for the Administration handing Iraq back over to the Baathists. There is reason to believe that might happen. Among the arguments they might muster. Current overwhelming edge in education,civil bureaucratic and military expertise. A Coalition of Baathist Syria and Iraq. In rigorous form this can be deployed as a threat. In moderate form it can be presented as lesser of two evils to Iran's influence among Shiite's - even viewed as a useful check to this. Sunni's who are in a more precarious position might be willing to agree to permanent US basing rights. All of this can be deployed as leverage to gain advantageous terms to joining a unified government. In addition to leveraging the insurgency, they lead  with their willingness to conform to past practice and murder and torture without discrimination. Giving no indication in any of this that they would rule any differently.

I still think that somewhere in this there will be a mid point flip. A point where if a secure postition in Iraqi society is not codified, Sunni's logically would shift to federated Iraq so to secure their own affairs. They can be expected to have two levels to this position. Leveraging the same arguments to try to gain some level of federal profit sharing of oil revenue, and a worst case givening up rights to oil revenue to achieve partition on favorable grounds.

In the midst of this Christopher Hitchens has a truly bizarre column in the Weekly Standard A War to Be Proud Of. It closes with a numbered set of points he believes the administration ought to be making for the war. A sample:

(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.
(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

The state of this war adventure is testing the limits of the dubious sanity of some people.

But for the sake of argument let's consider two Black Hawks down. The first Blackhawk was the Somalia ambush which led to the withdrawal and disengagement in Somali chaos of a decade ago. The second Blackhawk was a nearly identical multiple ambush in Afghanistan mountain valley a few weeks ago that lead to the deaths of some 20 US Navy Seals. There was an
episode in middle of that second incident where an air strike killed some 20 civlians almost exclusively women and children. DoD dismissed this by saying they were at a terrorist compound: they were likely the wives and children of Taliban fighters - this compound, for that, was their home.The Taliban fighters themselves were not hit in this strike - they were in the field engaged in the ambush operation. A subsequent large scale operation was launched to permanently take control of this valley. The US approach to its struggles is being carried out now on vastly different grounds.

Last week ABC's Nightline broadcast a story on a US citizen being detained in Iraq by the army for 53 days ABC News: Filmmaker Cyrus Kar Describes Ordeal of Iraq Detention. They knew he hadn't done anything, the purpose seemed to be harassment or neglect. The personnel involved seem have become de-sensitized, at the least, to just locking people up. More troubling was the hint of supramission attitudes the personnel have developed. Did they really ask him if had voted for Kerry prior to making the decision to lock him up? That, if it happened is a blatantly irrelevant and illegal question in the circumstance. One that betrays a fundamental mis-apphrehension. Democracy is the secret ballot; A police officer even a military police officer demanding political persusion of an American citizen is not democracy.

Let's take a second look at Gil Merom's book How Democracies Lose Small Wars: State, Society, and the Failure of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the US in Vietnam [1]. I posted on this last year [ Small Wars, Small Wars ii] (I realize I've got to the point where I'm just repeating myself). In the chart (fig. 1.2) he summarizes his thesis, keep in mind the middle portion is a repeating process. Conduct of a war and reaction to this operating in a loop throughout the conflict. Looking at this chart again and trying to follow the labels and meanings of his indicated shifts, this chart seems to be describing two things.
The realm of society where control of war policy is centered : Society v, State actors. It also diagrams consensus, or divergence of opinion between these two groups about the war. In initial stages consenus renforces the decision to prosecute the war, particulars of this lead to extreme divergence of opinion. If that differnce becomes untenable the consenus collapses, but the extremities of opinion and attitudes developed still exist. The political leaders, military leaders, who bent moral imperatives, the soldiers who were required to undertake acts bordering on savagery are still with us after the war concludes. They will either slowly reintergrate back into civil society, or be unable to.  Even resist integration - resist the nature of the open democratic society they have become estranged from. There is no struggle a democracy engages in that does not run this risk. No Political leader should ever endeavor to substitute artifice for genuine consensus.

1. Merom, Gil. How Democracies Lose Small Wars: State Society and the Failures of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the United States in Vietnam. Cambridge : Cam. U. Pr. 2004

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I have to admit that even though I read the paper and follow the news. The disaster befalling New Orleans and the Gulf coast took me a little by surprise. For the past few years the number of hurricanes per season has been above average and the coverage of them tends to run together. I rely on alarmist press or weather diagrams that show that a given hurricane is headed towards the chesapeake before I give any genuine focus to it. I remember them saying it was just a tropical storm when it was poised last weekend to rollover florida. I remember them saying it might regain hurricane strength when it got back out over the warm (90°) water of the gulf. The next I recall was hours before it gained landfall - still heading for New orleans - they were talking about  90 - 140 mph winds.  That's not just a catagory three hurricane, I thought that's catagory four. At the end of the segment the weathercaster says it is a cat. five hurricane. I couldn't believe a storm could ramp up in force so quickly.   Was it that quickly, maybe I wasn't giving nature the attention and respect it deserves and will occaisionally demand. Since it took me by surprise and the realization occured in a single moment, I can say that the hairs on the back or your neck really do stand up at such times. A catagory five storm will rip apart anything in its path. Far too many people may have had an attitude like mine and didn't evacuate and at this point is is great fear and a hundred or more people may have drowned.

At first it seemed like New Orleans had dodged a bullet when the final track took Katrina east of the city, but with the levee breached the city looks like it may have to be abandoned for the near future. A major American City abandoned? These are not good times. The blog Googlemapsmania (featured in the Washington Post last Sunday) has some creative ways of tracking this - NWS mashups. There are flickr Hurricane Katrina and technorati tags Katrina for this as well.

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Monday, August 29, 2005
War and (puzzle) Piece on Able danger

Laura Rozen's web log War and Piece has continued to follow former intell project Able Danger. She links up a New York Post report on Able Danger indicating the project was producing a great deal of vauge information that was leading the team running it to produce substantial and very off the wall reports. One operation was to examine Chinese (PRC) strategic and business connections Since the design was to highlight relationships it threw up a lot of names, a lot of American names - Like Dr. Condoleezza Rice's. Probably through her association with that known hotbed of international commu-anarcho-islamo-terrorism, Stanford University. This seems to be approximately when the program was "restructured."

Two other posts: Terry McDermott...weighs in on Able Danger and More on Able Danger contrator J.D. Smith: deal with with what has been pieced together on the strength of post 9/11 examinations. What is known and what could have been known about Atta versus the Able Danger data and the sort of analysis it was subjected to. Analysis is the critical step whether you're talking about aerial photo data or data mining through the randam data of the information society. You have to have a plan, a method of analysis, critera for judgement, a way of forming hypothesis and then testing them. Otherwise you are just playing games; The seven degrees of Mohammand Atta. She notes in the last post she has on this Able Danger Update we are getting some clarification (admittance of this) in the last analysis from some of the people involved. Who point out that all we may being seeing are certain statistical shared characteristics irrespective of any geographical relation or people actually knowing each other.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005
Here's a quarter, go play the jukebox.

I meant to squeeze this little post in last week but at some point while I was preoccupied mis-spelling the words that make up the previous posts it slipped my mind. It is (this is now a formal essay catagory) a shout-out to what I believe to be the best music radio station in America (and I'm sure Steve Kiviat would agree) WFMU-FM Located somewhere in or near New Jersey. That is less important these days because you can listen to it on the internet. They have a house blog WFMU's Beware of the Blog, and as they are the best radio station in the land it follows they have the best radio station blog too.

I listen at work so I know only the day time shows. Shows such as Joe Belak's, Tues noon to three. It is of this show that last week that I write. He announces that he had a guest band in the station to record a live set [duly noted] the previous Friday which he is now going to play straight through for the next hour - one Steve Wynn (and the Miracle 3). "Steve Wynn" I say "that sounds vaguely familiar". They play their first song, and, then I remember...

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Saturday, August 27, 2005
Our War

[note this post started life as part of the previous, but I decided it was just too long and spent a few days untangling it from the Cindy Sheehan post.]

It's our war not George W. Bush's. He just started it, it is the property of the American people - to dispose of as they see fit. We are entitled to ask: are we seeing a thousand points of light at the end of the tunnel, in his call for total victory, or imagining a point of light at the end of a thousand tunnels. With some hesitancy (well, with a lot frankly) I look to leadership from the left. The first thing you encounter here is the striking inability of the Democratic party leadership to develop a consensus position Democrats Split Over Position on Iraq War.

No real reasons, No Debate = No referendum. If one never felt the war was good policy, properly debated, or even legitimately grounded; what responsibility exists to seeing it though to its stated outcome. The election is often brought up by conservatives as validating the presidents policy. But those in the GOP leadership know better perhaps better than the left, that last years election was an anti-referendum. Discussion of the war was displaced by side arguments irrelevancies, symbols that referred to other things, a wall of skulking straw-men. They did not want discussion, did not want to answer questions, did not want to defend every reason they had for this war. As a result they got little or nothing in return - they didn't get a referendum because they didn't ask for one. They don't really know what the public is thinking, or feeling either.

Neither Kerry or anyone else forced the issue at the time. They had no answers that they felt would stand up. The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate steadily from the ostensive goals of the administration. Now we find ourselves seriously regarding the viability of the leave now position of the peace movement TPMCafe || Naive Questions on Getting Out of Iraq (also the Nation article by Ari Berman that Mark Schmitt links to). Does leaving now "encourage" our "enemies"? Does it make no real difference because the current situation suits them? Does our "Staying the Course" make things worse, does our presence make things harder for those Iraqi's trying to build a secular democratic system? Do large numbers of US troops pacify or simply present more targets? The US commitment is settling into an irrational intransigence. It reacts to rather than leads events and weakly.

Answers that come from the democrats need to consider the strategic issues that exist indistinctly behind the immediate problems: basing and long term regional stability. U S Military basing had three goals: regional stability for transport of oil from production to market via pipelines or shipping, contingent ability to seize fields directly to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the American economy, regional stability which would have the collateral benefit of forestalling another Arab-Israeli war. I imagine a component of this would be to keep any single regional power from dominating the rest. Other issues such as maintaining buffer zones between emerging and emergent world powers and opening of the Arab world as a mass export market (opposed to Saudi Arabia, a specialized elite market) were of lesser consideration.

To this add the new goal of prosecuting the "war" on terror and managing | containing Radical Islam. Even here you must decide whether radical Islam has a locus and whether it truly distinguishes between the "near enemy and the far enemy" : Britain: homegrown terror. Given the possibility of loss of bases in ex Soviet states, can the goals be met by confining US military presence to the periphery. Is our military structure set up to accomplish this kind of distance education, or do we really need to set up in a H-3 to garrison oil fields, inclusive of Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Iraqi fields. What are the US Strategic goals now?

A lot has been said about the grand wilsonian visionary foreign policy of the Bush-41 administration. What is there to be seen though? Corporatism: following big business, servile and not leading. the prime foreign as well as domestic policy. Desperation: attempting to stave off perceived long term global prosperity shifts by leveraging a technologically superior military more peerless than any in history at this moment. This is unfortunately all reducible to arrogance and war: the procedure was unilateral, the tone arrogant, the tool was warfare. Beyond the question of justice in war - just war. To move beyond law and order (the procedures of which -- due process exist natively in all cultures for a reason). To disregard and disparage the many other tools diplomacy offers to approach disorder is not the way of the just. War is death and destruction. Pain and deprivation, callous, cruel and un-containably indiscriminate. To initiate a war of discretion is nothing less than looking for a hole to hell and shouting down the shaft: "You Scratch, Lucifer, whatever. Get your scaly red ass up here and I mean now. We've got work for you, boy." It is an abomination. It is not to be countenanced. War is to call Hell upon earth.

What were the war aims, Beyond the war excuses. Make the distinction between the war on terror -- the Afghanistan war for instance, and the Iraq War no more than a beast spun out of jealous history ten years prior. Consider the origins and implications of the Clean Break and a New Model Middle East. This is the full version of a transformed Iraq which would serve as a de-baathised beacon of values to the Arab Middle East (see Baghdad Year Zero by Naomi Klein). The phrase the Administration used at the time for this "clean break" echoed of a position paper Doug Feith Richard Perle and others had written for Benjamin Netanyahu's 1996 campaign A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. This described a vision of strategic alliances for Israel, a fantasy transformation of the 100 year politics of the region. The two usages were not all together unrelated.

What are the aims now? Mostly to choose from a sliding scale of remaining possibilities The Globe and Mail: Partition lurks as an option to stabilize war-torn Iraq. A Free Market Democracy for Iraq? A market economy perhaps but without the full set of financial institutions to be independent. Democracy fully embraced now will give a future democracy comprised of limited local autonomy. Show elections at the national level with opposition parties being legalized on a per election basis. A shadow elite of clerics. In a word the Iranification of Iraq. A strategic setback for the US.

The administrations current largely unstated goal is a federated partial democracy of nominally unified regions. This is what the force and direction of its program of constitution and government is directed towards. Iran's influence is checked, but a long casualty-ridden quelling of the sunni insurgency by the US army is probably necessary to allow and motivate sunni acceptance of a shiite majority government. The drawdown of the rotating multi battalion US force would still be tied to markers of Iraqi progress, and not reducible to any timetable of withdrawal.

From these choices the country flies apart. Into the chaos of civil war and regional jockeying carried out by proxies of everyone's secret police apparatus with Hammas and al Qaeda taking the lead. This is the probable outcome of withdrawing American forces in the near term.

What the Sunnis want most of all is to not live under a shiite majority they treated despotically for 30 years. Their non negotiating it seems to some is still a negotiation - for terms of a deal not yet offered. It would involve giving up much of Iraq's oil wealth which is largely not in Sunni areas and would require careful negotiation of the status of ethnic groups living in each others primary territory. This tripartite mediated partition would deflate the insurgency and remove the platform for foreign fighters. The US Army would likely be asked to leave Iraq at this point, but the gains of any return to normalcy in Iraq the possibilty that the Kurds and Shiites would continue to view the US favorably Playing The Shiite Card and concurrent freedom to redirect military and diplomatic energy First Step? Admit There's a Problem to other goals would offset this greatly.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Cindy Sheehan's War.

 From George F. Will's last column Tone-Deafness Among Democrats: "Sad yet riveting, like a wreck by the side of the road, Cindy Sheehan, a plaything of her own sincerities and other people's opportunisms, has already been largely erased from the national memory by new waves of media fickleness in the service of the public's summer ennui." 

That at least is how George Will wants to see it. Rather than fall in line with Will's desperate urge to look beyond this let's look right on for a moment. The deceptively obvious first: Cindy Sheehan is a real woman with a real life, who had a grown son. This is a reality that extends beyond in both direction beyond this set of news cycles. The Vigil at Crawford; her planitive protest and plea for answers began quietly and with only a modicum of fanfare. She had been there a week with only local and bored presidential detail press coverage,  It was into the third week of August that this became a Story - in captial letters. 

 Jockying over the story brought up the question whether this was Grass roots or Astroturf. What difference does this make though? Clearly Democratic, more, liberal agency PR has gotten involved and is guiding this to a certain extent.The Washington Post did cover that aspect of it in detail at the outset Cindy Sheehan's Pitched Battle, and less caustically for that. Without this guidance and professional assistance, this would have been taken as a regional thing, not commanding national AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Success of the 'Grieving Mom' and international The Observer | International | Mother tips the balance against Bush attention. But, it would exist and with its native sincerity intact in either case. The greater media campaign has neither added to or subtracted from her message of personal grief and anguish. The real test of an issue is whether or not it resonates with the public Is Sheehan a Spark or a Flicker?. There are curious apples and issues in this debate. To understand compare, or grade loss without suffering loss. To understand that sense of dutiful obligation of the service branch member without having worn a uniform. This affects what is said and what is not said. My fellow enlistees were a high school graduates, or less. We were unsophisticated people. Our sense of duty, a fair nugget of civic mindness and sentiment, was stiffened greatly by the uniform we wore, the steel of the ships we cruised in.

 The inevitable GOP Counteroffense AlterNet: MediaCulture: Attacking Cindy Sheehan has varied not all from the predictable method of Attack | Damn | Disparage. Relying on the publics deficit of available attention. at least the phenomenon has a name now Swift Boating: impuning as a way of proceeding. It has struck me recently that the particular quality it often has of Reflecting rather than deflecting the charge or disagreement betrays signs of being a personal psychological (my guess is we are seeing Karl Rove's nature in all this) reaction rather than a consensus policy of the administration. At any rate the media sets an August focus on this issue and has reported the varieties of counter spin as well as the counter offensive.

. The remaining question is with the future directions for or from the peace movement now fomally recognized to exist. To engage the heirarchy of Democratic party - make the case for their agenda of disengagement. Or to go their own way, taking the lead and letting the party, congress, and later the nation last of all the administration President Bush's Loss of Faith - New York Times follow. 

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Monday, August 22, 2005
The joke not the comic; the singer not the song?

John Roberts was in his youth a real piece of work, thats the message which comes through the last set of releases from the White House Roberts Resisted Women's Rights, and Roberts Scoffed at Promotion for O'Connor - Yahoo! News. Key consideration for his upcoming Senate conformation hearing is whether he appears to have genuinely changed as he's gone through life - or not. Others have noted that the White House seems strangley and singularly loathe to release documents from his later work for the Reagan and Bush adminstrations, which might answer that question. If the determination is that he hasn't, then I do not believe he has the crucial temperment, maturity, empathy, the ability to internalize experience, conceptualize justice, opposed to easy and empty holding of puerile opinion necessary for the job. Even mere knowlege - basic awarness of his fellow citizens that would suit him to be a Supreme Court Justice simply does not exist in the emerging picture of young John Roberts. Some insular people become aware of this as they grow and hold opinions with a lighter touch as result - some people do not. For these people opinions exist transcendently; they do not depend on or require anything, they are nurtured through ignorance.

Much of the controversy has centered on the Joke as the White House has come to term it; and others have insipidly gotten in line with: If the Senators Laugh, It was a joke . To wit: "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good,..." This on a memo advising whether a lawyer who was a government employee should nominated for an award for women getting law degrees as a career change. To say that is a joke is to truly stretch the boundaries of the type of communication that comment belongs to, no less excretable is the implication currently being pushed that anyone who does not see the laughter is the one at fault John Roberts' Woman Problem - The humorless feminists strike again. By Dahlia Lithwick . But I hear that the White House is considering a compendium of Robert's "humor" to be made into a movie, a sequel of a kind to the Aristocrats, which they have preliminarily titled the Plutocrats.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005
World Youth Days

I was talking to Tran the other day, well teasing her really, why she hadn't gone off to Cologne Germany for World Youth day Youth gather for 'Catholic Woodstock' | She had gone a few years ago when Pope John Paul came to Toronto. World Youth Day began in 1984. Now its Pope Benedict XVI's first shot at filling his predecessor's big populist shoes. Tran who I suspect knew I was teasing her retorted that she had sung with her church choir for an event at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception over the weekend. The event was some sort of national gathering for Vietnamese Catholics. This, she advised me, was just as important to her as going off to Cologne. She has hinted darkly she has a dvd recording of event.

Looking over the coverage of Cologne it seems to have carried on its tradition with sufficient flair. And seems to be shaping up to become the Catholic Church's flagship outreach event. I saw that the 2008 WYD is going to be in Australia. [ Here on Monday I notice that when you look at newspaper's front pages Today's front pages - Newseum , the Washington Post has a picture of the Pope on the FP, though separate from the story Sea of Youth Embraces New Pope. The Boston Globe has Mick Jagger, story on WYD has no accompanying pic Pope ends Germany trip with Mass for 1 million - The Boston Globe.]

A mostly unrelated topic I saw this Piece in Slate AlterNet: WireTap: Why I'm Still 'Thuy' and not 'Jane' or 'Susie' and felt increasing implicated as I read through it. I have no idea whether I pronounce Tran's name correctly. I hope it is as it seems to me: T + ran, but how would I know? She actively discourages me generally from trying to pronounce Vietnamese words - including the full version of her given name Huyen-Tran. I take this is a sign what whatever I am saying is painful to her or I'm saying it in the wrong order. In any event, when I get the idea I am causing her distress I try to stop. Causing people distress is no longer my primary aim in life. I suppose I should try to make an independent study of this; names at least. Rather than continue to proceed in the most clueless way possible.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005
IPCC report - arch-typing

On Wednesday portions of a not yet released Independent Police Complaints Commission report were leaked to the British press. This report is an investigation into the events of the shooting of Jean Charles Menezes in the London Subway. Led to a spate of articles revisting this:

I had written a post on this just the other day. Most of it Sunday night. To me It seemed this affair was under reported. The significant fact in the story was not the mortal error and what was going to be done about it here and in the future. The significant fact was that Mr. Menezes was not who people needed him to be - a terrorist, and this was inconvenient. While most of these articles press the conventional concerns of having a shoot-to-kill-policy. More pointedly a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy (to use a favorite phrase of my father), and subsequent apparent police stonewalling if not cover up. I still favor viewing this as a falling back to Archetypes. A societal and subconcious reversion process. It is a profoundly powerful flexor of events. Capable of distorting anyone - anyone at all - into seeming to be the enemy in a given moment. In coverage on the past two days only the Sydney Morning Herald picks up on this angle, in any way . Otherwise it seems only I am saying this.

On Mircea Eliade - Wikipedia: The last paragraph of that post contains some language which is a close paraphrase of his writing, I should have made a more formal footnote there. Here is a near comprehensive list of his writings from RLIN RedLightGreen -- Search Eliade, Mircea

The Final report from the IPCC may be more, or possibly, less revealing than these leaks. I await what it might say.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Able baker charlie Danger!

 The, formally, compartmented classfied project Able Danger has suddenly become an emerging political football. Or has it, few seem to want to run with it after the handoff The Right's Strange New Retreat - Who called the blogs off on 'Able Danger'? By Mickey Kaus.  Sometimes with a topic like this it helps to go all 'old school' on it. That means asking Who, What, Where, When, Why.

 Who: is  Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 11 Sept. al Qaeda cell. Who is also  Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa,two mid rank military officers, and the  9/11 Committee -  now the 9/11 Public Discourse Project). Where is  Brooklyn NY, Fort Belvoir VA, Afghanistan, and Washington DC. It really does help to know where you are as you consider a particular episode. When involves points in every year between 1999-2005.If it helps to know where at any given point it is crucial to know when. Causality is funny like that.The critical What: Mohammad Atta was identified by U S Intelligence as being part of Al Qaeda; "the Brooklyn cell" prior to 11 September 2001  Four in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in '00 - New York Times ,   Atta Intelligence Omitted From Report - Yahoo! News .

 In response to this initial set of disclosures and storys the  9/11 Public Discourse Project released a four page public statement on 12 Aug. I'll quote a little of this here:

     21 Oct 2003 Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, two senior Commission staff members, and a representative of the executive branch, met at Bagram Base, Afghanistan, with three individuals doing intelligence work for the Department of Defense.  One of the men, in recounting information about al Qaeda[base ']s activities in Afghanistan before 9/11, referred to a DOD program known as ABLE DANGER... memorandum, prepared at the time, does not record any mention of Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers, or any suggestion that their identities were known to anyone at DOD before 9/11.  Nor do any of the three Commission staffers who participated in the interview, or the executive branch lawyer, recall hearing any such allegation.

 ...  Nov 2003, shortly after the staff delegation had returned to the United States, two document requests related to ABLE DANGER were finalized and sent to DOD.

 ... Feb 2004, DOD provided documents responding to these requests. The records discuss a set of plans, beginning in 1999, for ABLE DANGER, which involved expanding knowledge about the al Qaeda network.  Some documents include diagrams of terrorist networks.  None of the documents turned over to the Commission mention Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers.

 ...  {In} 2004, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) and his staff contacted the Commission to call the Commission[base ']s attention to the Congressman[base ']s critique of the U.S. intelligence community.  No mention was made in these conversations of a claim that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers had been identified by DOD employees before 9/11.

 ...   Jul 2004, the Commission[base ']s point of contact at DOD called the Commission[base ']s attention to the existence of a U.S. Navy officer employed at DOD who was seeking to be interviewed by Commission staff in connection with a data mining project on which he had worked. July 12, 2004, as the drafting and editing process for the Report was coming to an end (the Report was released on July 22, and editing continued to occur through July 17), The officer being interviewed said he saw this material only briefly, that the relevant material dated from February through April 2000, and that it showed Mohamed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn. At the time of the officer[base ']s interview, the Commission knew that, according to travel and immigration records, Atta first obtained a U.S. visa on May 18, 2000, and first arrived in the United States (at Newark) on June 3, 2000.

  In June of this year nearly a year after these last events Rep. Weldon gave an interview with a newspaper in his district bringing it up publicly, and has been hawking this topic ever since. He has a book on the market at the moment. After the first round of coverage he arranged for his source Lt. Col. Shaffer (along with a Navy Capt. Named Phillpott) to be interviewed by selected press. (Aug 2005:) From the Washington Post article Officer: 9/11 Panel Told Cells Identified : addressing the vagueness of the revelations "Able Danger "wasn't about dates and locations. It was about associations and linkages. That's what the focus was," Shaffer said." Problem is probably no one can say what that means because no one can say much about the catagory of meaning all this data mining information fits into. From the NYT Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I. - New York Times  "During the interview in Mr. Weldon's office, the former defense intelligence official showed a floor-sized chart depicting Al Qaeda networks around the world that he said was a larger, more detailed version similar to the one prepared by the Able Danger team in the summer of 2000." I read elsewhere that he has been showing this chart to people for months now and only here is it established that this one is just a recreation of the first from memory.

 Why. Reading from  a column by Mark Steyn "Atta way to blow 9/11 panel's credibility".  Note bien : that's the idea.  Steyn focuses on Felzenberg's (9/11 commission spokesperson) comment ["t]his information was not meshing with the other information that we had." Felzenberg is referring to the commissions belief that Atta hadn't come in country or applied for a visa yet. Steyn attempts to portray this as the commission being blinkered at the least or willful more probably. He describes it as odd.  Some people actual feel bound by facts. Steyn for his part, no less oddly, kicks up a cloud of Atta might have, could have, can't be proved not [to have been in the U S] dust. All of which demonstrate the validity of the average Elvis sighting.

 I'm not sure where all this leaves us [Metafilter has a thread, Operation Able Danger | MetaFilter , going on this now]. The release by Kean-Hamilton seems to have angered Schaffer and Phillpott, but considering the  amount of interviews and material considered for the 9/11 report, their statements coming in after the draft had been written and after their earlier interview had lead to a review which didn't really substantiate what they were saying. I don't think the commission is at fault - given this set of facts. It seems also that Able Danger ran into problems with domestic intelligence collection legality, but probably has continued under some agencies aegis with even deeper classifaction and different rules.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005
Archetypes of Fear

Scanning the media for news about what is going on in Britain this summer in reaction to the subway bombings; I look for a trend. A trend away from the one I saw earlier this summer. The dynamic is how a open society will react to a continuous state of terrorist attack. Britain holds a somewhat unique place being home to a middle east diaspora of political refugees and also from its colonial days being the destination of choice for those governed seeking to move closer to the centers of finance authority and stability. Many of these are several generations settled. There was a interesting piece in the Washington Post Outlook section today A Literary Guide to Britain's Terrorists detailing how British literature has been documenting for nearly a decade how the former are acting as a wedge to the youngest generation of the latter.

Mostly I'm interested in narratives of the "incident." The incident where British special police chased a man down entering the subway and fired several bullets into his head. Termination with extreme prejudice. I had a conversation about this the week end after it happened. The person I talked to thought the police had clearly done the correct and necessary thing. "Suppose they hadn't shot him and he blew up a train." He could not see what a tremendous watershed such an unqualified validation was. He was working from a narrative which provided him with a scenario of near obvious guilt. Open and shut really. It was not one, in its details, I had heard before. I had heard plenty of versions in those few days (it was the one running on Fox news). The first stories I brought up in my browser as the incident came into the press were as different from each other as they were vague in general.

It latter became known that Jean Charles de Menezes was not an al qeada terrorist but an unfortunate young Brazilian man in the wrong place at the wrong time: Telegraph | News | More innocents could be shot. Once that was established the police begin quietly backpedaling through their statements and so did the press. Some of these corrected versions were most similar to the very earliest eyewitness accounts. It crystalized for me that an odd thing had occurred.

Narratives of the "incident" and of this story in general ad been diverging from the facts that existed, But uniformly and predictably diverging. They were merging instead, with a story of innocents which intend nothing (but to live their peaceful and idyllic lives) and have caused no harm, beset by mongering non-rational evil. Which desires nothing, but terror and fear. It is a return to the collective unconscious. a story of civilization attacked by barbarians, order by chaos. It is a Transformational substitution. A substitution with rules as sure as Grammar transformation, of linear history for cyclic history. Historicity for story.

The notion of cyclic history and archetypes is a powerful human inclination, because of its apparent offer of explanation and prediction. What is involved is less clear - that our nature contains templates, perhaps, which contain only certain outplays and personality types. That even as these appear to bestow individualities, that bring fully realized persona and frisson of struggle against diversity they, with a less seen hand, remove individuality. There are no true individuals, there is no history, there is only the archetypes of a mythic narrative endlessly repeated.

Most modern historians have resisted the notion of "life cycles" of societies and cultures, have downplayed the need to mine the past for morals and outcomes, just because of the perceived danger of being pulled back in a cyclic view of the human condition. Talk of clashes of civilizations strikes me (and undoubtedly many others) as treading close to the edge of this abyss with its organizing principle of contestation and triumph, downfall. Linear history is irreducible to narrative. It is the sum of lives amid natural events. Decisions made casually only to the extent that one can see them being made with a reason that may resemble but never equals syllogistic logic.

Whether one calls it the War on Terror the Global Struggle against Violent Extremism as it was called for a brief moment President makes it clear: Phrase is War on Terror New York Times. It delievers Heroes and Villains and it does so in mirrored fashion. Our one is their other and conversely perfectly.

Let's consider Krauthammer's Grandmother for a moment. Not his actual Grandmother who conceivably tossed Haymarket bombs into Haymarket squares well beyond counting in her day. Rather Krauthammer's pean to profiling Give Grandma a Pass - Charles Krauthammer. Profiling is an art with many rules, a bureaucratic art. Its task is to accomplish its task of selecting before full judgement of all facts, without prejudging. Without recourse to ethnicity, gender or race. This drives men like Krauthammer beside themselves, who believe it should only proceed along such lines - because we know who the enemy is and we know what they "look" like. The only thing such men really know is that they believe they have devised a sieve that will never be used against them. Most law enforcement agents know that witnesses will often describe their assailant as being who they expected an assailer to be. The symbolic assailant is a direct projection of the state of some ones current fears. Real assailants form a more diverse population; moreover, any sophisticated terrorist operation will take care to work against mere type. A behaviorally based profiling is more likely to succeed even as portions that use randomness appear to be ineffective.

Looking at this pragmatically. To what degree is this a phenomenon no more escapable than the pull of the moon on the tides. A reaction to a set of a catastrophes seen as unavoidable, irreversible and so calling for a narrative which supplies ultimate triumph[1]. Against this look at what it allows those who look with favor on a police state, in terms of freedom of action in making policy, the efficacy of which is only ameliorated by how well a given set of events can be kept within a frame . Before it makes more sense when seen outside of any mythic dichotomy.

1. Eliade, Micea. Cosmos and History:The Myth of the Eternal Return. translated: W.R. Trask. New York: Harperr and Row, 1959 . (Ch. Misfortune and History)

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My brother-in-law, Doug, is possibly being sent by his company out to a place called Lanai for a week or so. It's one of the Hawaiian islands, near Maui Lanai, Hawaii- Google Maps. It wouldn't be a vacation, it would be work. Chef stuff I presume: menus, kitchen set up, staffing, provisioning - that sort of thing. He's a chef that's what he does. I thought about the possibility that UMCP libraries would send me to Hawaii, but consider it unlikely.
Lanai is almost entirely privately owned (98%) - pineapple plantations, pineapple company towns. And now, golf courses, beaches, and resorts. It is, judging by pictures I've seen of it, one of those places which is unlike other places. There are two kinds of places. Those which are like other places, and those that are not. As types neither is particularly rare, as types there is a remarkably even distribution of occurrence. The latter in their individual distinctness have the ability to put one if just for a little while outside ones self. Lanai has a windswept boulder strewn mountain top plateau called Garden of the Gods.
I'm just looking for a quiet mosquito [free] coast where I can return to being inside myself.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2005
Broadband Blindside

The FCC a preface: I'd comment more on what I see the FCC get up to, because they are a significant influence on the marketplace of ideas in this society, and because I think they have their heads tightly and firmly wedged up their collective posterier cavities. But my sister works there as an anti trust lawyer, so out of deference to the good standing of the family name, I mute my opinions down to a malcontented mutter.

Last Friday the short handed FCC made a major decision. The FCC is currently down to four members A Look at Current FCC Members, that's bad for a committee, even number - can't break ties. What they decided was that phone companies would be no longer required to lease their lines to companies that offer DSL services - which were generally in direct competition with the telcoms own DSL offerings FCC Eases High-Speed Internet Rules. (there is another much longer article that ran in the Wa Post Saturday but I can't find it now). It was a 4-0 vote. The Commission was simply balancing out a previous decision last June that excluded Cable providers from having to provide signal space to any other concern. The phone companies who were under such an obligation claimed this placed them at a competitive disadvantage and asked for their own exemption FCC grants phone companies Internet relief.

All this involves what are known as common carrier issues as it applies to Cable, DSL the "last mile" and the private future of the internet. In general the term Common carrier - Wikipedia is invoked to describe services involving the movement of goods or people. Phone lines (and electric and gas lines) were considered common carriers because there was thought to be a limit on how many you could stuff into a house and also because the cost of the initial infrastructure installment was not trivial. Then the television industry went on and installed coaxial cables into just about every building in America, the FCC got confused and decided the rules had changed. Of course the cable companies didn't always install the coax themselves, or where they did, they received long term monopolies in return. "Just so", the telcomms argue, nobody gets that last mile solution unless we know we can cash in.

The "wi" in wifi stands for wireless, which seems to nail that last mile problem down. The University of Maryland College Park, essentially a small city, is one big hot spot. You'd expect the telcomms shouldn't care. The reality is they believe they've got barriers to entry in place and they don't like seeing solutions they don't control coming in over the top. To consider recent examples: Massport's Logan Airport (having granted a exclusive pay wifi contract) banned Continental Airline's presidents club offering free wifi Massport criticized for WiFi shutdowns. The FCC's inroad to regulation is signal interference. As long as all 802.11 signals remain separate they shouldn't get involved, but if Continental gets the ban overturned in the courts expect that they will. The Boston Globe reports the FCC is currently taking public comments on this. There is also the Austin Wireless City Project. Which I recall led a Texas congressman to crawl out of somebody's pocket to introduce a bill that would outlaw all such municipal or neighborhood cooperative networks.

The attitude of the industries apologists is, the (multiple) medium is the (competitive) message. As a practical matter as long as information is proceeding along electromagnetic wave propagation from a source to a receiver, the existing set of telcomms will demand all competition be handed to them with their heads on platters, or they will threaten to stifle innovation. This is nothing more than Free Market rhetoric yoked to an oligopic guild mentality. At that; the more I see books like this Markets Don't Fail! the more I wonder whether the "free market" is ever anything beyond that.

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Friday, August 5, 2005
Say it ain't so Joe, say it ain't so.

I love politics as much as the next man, or woman, I don't need to have every current event in American culture politicized; though. As a native Red Sox fan I took to the Baltimore Orioles easily when I moved down here and have considered Rafael Palmeiro one of the good guys - a fan you could be an unabashed fan of. It's bad enough that I have to retreat to a native Ring Lardner cynicism to contend with this story. Now Congress feels it has to jump in Congress to Investigate Whether Palmeiro Committed Perjury at Hearing and there is a story in Alternet too on this Raphael Palmeiro and the Politics of Distraction I am distressed.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Translated Geographies

Looking over my referers log I see someone looked up the post I wrote on Derrick Hsu. This reminded me that I need to add a minor caveat to that story. My friend [Nancy] Micaela is fairly sure that Derrick didn't go to high school at Georgetown Day School but at some place called the Field School. I do not know this Field School, but she was more sure of this than I was of what I thought I knew, and she knew Derrick fairly well too. So I'm going with her version. Nancy attended Walter Johnson High in Bethesda.

The entire time I was with this group of people in college, who had all grown up in the DC suburbs I found I could never understand their experiences and stories of pre-college life directly, but had to translate the spaces and geometries into Boston places and vectors before I really got a dense emotional sense of what they were trying to relate. I always had the feeling that when I couldn't come up with an anologue I wasn't really getting it. Even now I don't judge I was. Fort Reno, Great Falls. Cordell ave., the Psychodeli, Madames Organ, WHFS. WGTB (or whatever that Georgetown U. stations call letters were) Maybe you had to be there. I can't begin to imagine what Tran, who went to high school in Saigon, makes of the descriptions and accounts I give of enthusiasms and places here. She doesn't try to reciprocate, perhaps feeling there is no way I could understand, but I wish she would anyway.

Some people who read this, may have noted that previously, I tend to refer to Micaela when I do in folds of near total obliqueness. For the 20 years we have known each other we have not always seen eye to eye about...things. She was in town over on the Fourth last month down from Brooklyn visiting her father with her husband Andreas and her two sons Julien and Pascal (5 yrs and 18 mo). So we we met up and wandered through the Smithsonian folklife festival caught up on things, ate food, and stuff.

11:52:21 PM    comment [];trackback [];
Still here, sorta.

Nearly as I can tell - it is possible to take pieces from the rendered backups folder that a radio userland web log can create and then manually sFtp them up to the server. At least it seemed to work yesterday. The whole "upstreaming" process that radio uses works like a macro driven merge-mail routine, with data, templates and text file markers for posts loaded with Manila scripting macros colliding together in a renderer which turns it into actual html and uploads it to a server. Backs-ups are created through a callback routine This chain of events doesn't get called into being; though, until it tries to transfer files somewhere.   Mehh! I was a Government and Politics major; this hurts my brain.

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Monday, August 1, 2005
Corporation for Public Balancecasting

Tavis Smiley attempts to put the debate on Public Broadcasting - the Corporation for Public Broadcasting specifically, back on even keel with an OpEd in last Sunday's Washington Post Left? Right? Wrong! The Misguided CPB Debate. If anyone thought the restortion of funds in the current budget settled the matter look for it to heat up again when Cheryl F. Halpern replaces Kenneth Tomlinson as president of The CPB next year Major GOP Donor Favored as Next CPB Chairman. Scott Sherman has a usefull current (28 Jul 05) summary of this up : The Nation | Comment | Press Watch | Scott Sherman. Some points of Mr. Smiley's which I let him make in his own words:

[P]ublic broadcasting has come under renewed attack by conservatives who see liberal bias in news and discussion programs on the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio and Public Radio International. ...what Tomlinson and critics on Capitol Hill are aiming for: an ideologically balanced, tit-for-tat, eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth political debate on every public broadcasting program. ...since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act and Congress chartered the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the country has become infinitely more diverse and multicultural ...why isn't the debate over how public broadcasting can become more inclusive of folk of different ages and national origins, of various ethnic groups, faiths and cultures -- over how it can be used to introduce Americans to new ideas, and to each other?... [to] foster noncombative, civil conversation, ...intelligent and inclusive conversation.

Compare this with David Boaz's commentary Top Ten Reasons to Privatize Public Broadcasting on the Cato web site. There is a quality the entites that makes up the CPB have that make them nonfungable with Boaz's legion of imagined replacements, which even as Boaz imagines them he must know don't exist. I expect he knows this exactly. He doesn't seem to have the imagination to see what CPB actually tries to do. What PBS is doing, is broadcasting. Its approach is still an encompassing appeal to the entire American audience rather that a deliberate niche marketing strategy. Broadcasting with narrow-cast numbers. It is this orientation that makes the CPB an information source that can stand alongside the small set networks and house organs like Fox news that currently organize (and reorganize) the national agenda. You see in Boaz's view the continuing pretense of the right that corporate wealth and ownership of information outlets is not the same as political power and never translated into normative adjustment. At his fifth point he rails against taxpayers money being spent on bias. This implicates his eighth point, but he sees it as just another marshalled reason for his titular argument, but at that consider his final point:

1. The separation of news and state. We wouldn't want the federal government to publish a national newspaper. Why should we have a government television network and a government radio network? If anything should be kept separate from government and politics, it's the news and public affairs programming that Americans watch. When government brings us the news[~]with all the inevitable bias and spin[~]the government is putting its thumb on the scales of democracy. It's time for that to stop.

This article originally appeared on on July 25, 2005.
Either the right has become masters of a subtle gossemer irony, or they possess none at all.

Frank Rich writing in a column The Armstrong Williams NewsHour - New York Times is probably closer to the mark: "The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense."
   Critics of the CPB advance their attack on the question of balance East of the Sun West of the Moon web log noted this point last month when this issue was being disscussed Congress' War on Public Broadcasting "God, there's that pesky question of 'balance' again, being used as a bludgeon against something good and useful." And I might add to put weak unsound ideas on the same level as strong ones.

9:58:13 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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