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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Rhetoric Games

The recent visit of the Iranian President to New York and the free speech dust cloud that was kicked up made me wonder if everyone was clear on just how this game is played Mr. Ahmadinejad Speaks - New York Times. Free speech is just that; free and open. The idea is to keep the game of rhetoric on the level of rhetoric. To not let it spill over to other modes of process. In a free society like this one is supposed to be, on which we stake our claim of being enlightened, people get to make the statements they want. Bad, unprincipled demeaning idea's are taken to task by our peers. Those they hurt make demonstration. Self serving aspects of a point of view are exposed. No weak ideas are left unexamined to grow stronger in the shadows. All is brought forth to be cleansed with light.

Free speech is not free. Which is to say it is free like software ought to be free, not so much like free beer. It contains the corollary of struggle. A harmful idea that is allowed to breath always presents a risk of gaining respect in particular circles. Public discourse must always and continually engage such ideas and vanquish them. This is the cost.

Free speech also is not a benefit or product, but a foundation of a free society. Free speech does not function when it stops short of full and free discussion. Those who say they believe in or support free speech, but say that only at the point where they announce their exceptions, things they will not have spoken about. These people simply do not really believe in free speech. There are always the three categories. Things you are for, Things you are not against, and those things you cannot abide. Free speech is always and only about the last. Not the second, never the first. It is about overcoming the doubt that you cannot make argument against force fear, and trickery. It is about gaining the weight of accumulating facts on the scales of just reason. Capturing the desire and will of the people, not just a faction, for your vision of justice.

Visitations from beyond the apple. Ahmadinejad is a head of state. The US agreed to host (back whenever) the United Nations so as far as a trip to New York is concerned he has pass. A Visit to Ground Zero? Maybe not, it would be too insensitive to too many. I certainly doubt his sincerity, and without sincerity that is a place he ought not go to, but in the art of diplomacy you simply keep it from happening without making a Broadway production of it.

He was invited to give a speech at Columbia University. If a head of state desires to give a speech while abroad the head of state generlly should be accommodated. The generals of Burma hide, they do not give speeches. The president of Columbia Mr. Bollinger invited him, then saw his way to pissing on him once he was there. Pandering to the posturing policy mules and the muleskinners driving them on. It seemed unnecessary in Ahmadinejad's case. I've never seen or read of this guy saying anything that left him looking like the bigger or better man. He is Iran's empty celebrity head of state. This is not to say he had no plan. His objectives were to deflect attention from Iran's lack of freedom by appearing to eagerly engage in free speech. To to get us to jump offside and appear foolish Why Ahmadinejad wanted to speak at Columbia. - By Anne Applebaum - Slate Magazine.

You can run this in to various larger contexts. Sticking closely to what was at hand. We were willing to accept Ahmadinejad as Iran's leader and by extension leader of the forces arrayed against the west. At that point he needed only to show up. The roiling crowd would do his work for him. Then he makes statements such as the one that Iran has no homosexuals, or is unable to give a coherent account at why Iran had to detain the head of the Wilson Center for months Facing Scorn, President of Iran Is Defiant to His Critics - New York Times. At once it becomes obvious he only has a partial understanding of what goes on in his own country let alone ours. One is left asking: who runs Iran? Ahmadinejad is only one player among many, immersed in the concerns of his own entourage and his own portion of the script U.S. Focus on Ahmadinejad Puzzles Iranians - New York Times.

An arching goal is to maintain clear nuclear weapons containment policies. The purpose of his visit was his speech before the UN where he would speak of Iran's nuclear ambitions. While all states are not the same. The work of the those trying to stop the spread of nuclear weapons is simplified if all states face the same choice. That nuclear weapon acquisition does not increase a nation's security or well-being. This message has a weight greater than any other and ought to be maintained in the face of chaotic and unstable micro polices, such as decaring that we will blast nuclear tools out of the hands out of some. And all subsequent attendant and catastrophic rounds of point proving.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Sortied Sentimental

 A week ago reports emerged there was a mysterious air-strike by Israel against vague and unspecified targets in Syria Syria-Israel bombing incident shrouded in mystery | International | Reuters. Syria at least alleged an air incursion with "munitions" dropped and "air defenses" deployed BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israel's Syria 'raid' remains a mystery. Turkey has identified fuel drop tanks inside its borders which appear to have come from unidentified military aircraft. Israel for its part is saying nothing, except to allow they are satisfied with what they are not saying. This much was established in the days immediately following the incident.

 After a few days two distinct narratives emerged. First the North Koreans added themselves to the list of people saying nothing N.Korea calls Syria nuclear ties report conspiracy | U.S. | Reuters. This established the line that the Israelis had struck at a nuclear weapons material storage facility. Supposedly sold by the Korean's to Syria with or without Iranian money in the control of Syria, Iran, or Hezbollah. Depending on who was telling the story. All this commentary (occurring in only a few articles) seemed strangely muted. If true - or even if only believed to be true - I expected more reaction from the excitable. John Bolton (former ambassador) for one would be hanging from the ceiling of the Senate chamber by his claws speaking in tongues and calling for world war. William Kristal (editor) would be running through the streets of Washington DC naked; clutching photocopies of half-typed sheets of paper containing what half-alleged information he had.

 The way this narrative appeared in such suggested fashion is indicative that people are seizing on this to supply an answer off their short wish list. A flag half raised for a war they think they want, but do not need in reality. William Kristal began complaining about the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war within months. As soon as the reality began diverging from his impossible fantasy. The idea of the war he is still sweet with.

 This does not mean something is not going on in the realm of nuclear technology transfer. Both the Washington Post N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility - and the New York Times among the American press have written cautious and non dismissive stories on this. So much so that they have opened themselves to criticism North Korea-Syria nuclear ties: deja vu all over again? | FP Passport. This sort of preciously parsed reporting is not good journalism. If no agency or source is willing to acknowledge or confirm the story, speculation should be identified as baseless. But when weapons of mass destruction no one wants to climb out on a limb. The reward is a quiet kingdom of manipulated paranoia.  A few days later a official source somewhere was willing to pull up alongside the Post and Times, and quoth that "there was a ship"

The cargo was transferred to the site that Israel later attacked, the officials said. It is unclear exactly what the shipment contained. A former top American official said the Israelis had monitored the site for some time before the ship arrived. The ship's arrival in Syria before the raid was first reported Saturday by The Washington Post.  Israeli Nuclear Suspicions Linked to Raid in Syria - New York Times.

 This seemed to reinforce the notion that this was a specific and event driven occurrence, while revealing nothing.

 The other possibility was that the Israelis, for their own benefit, decided to fly against Syrian  SA-22 anti-aircraft missile batteries  SA-22 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is a recent system recently acquired from Russia. As the Russians tell it, absolutely fatal once activated. Russian anti-aircraft missiles have previously been very effective, and have for periods been able to tilt the balance of airpower from offense to defense.  The Israeli's can scarcely afford to leave such an unknown in the military equation and needed to have this system fired at them to test it and examine its capabilities. Usually my approach to things is to look at what is saying about something in the middle east and taking whatever is the direct contradictory opposite as the real truth. But a week ago this is how they saw the incident DEBKAfile - Advanced Russian Air Defense Missile Cannot Protect Syrian and Iranian Skies and I am inclined to think this was the greater part of what was going on.


 The general importance of this is how it might fit into larger events. The SA-22 is, from what descriptions I've seen, a point defense weapon system. One that is not supposed to be susceptible to jamming or anti-radiation (home-on-radar) air to ground missiles. It consists of a heavy truck carrying tube launched missiles with a 24 km range, that can fly over 1000 meters per second. It also carries twin 30-mm guns controlled by the same radar. Iran has purchased this or similar systems to protect its nuclear facilities. The main purpose of such antiaircraft missiles is to keep an attack hurried enough so that any conventional weapons strike is unlikely to completely destroy the protected target. This forces a course of multiple strikes, probable losses, and the ability to react in between Iran warns it could strike Israel as nuclear tensions | Agence France-Presse, a global news agency. Alternately it pushes planners to think in terms of dropping hydrogen bombs. Potentially an inconvenient irony.

 I admire the FP correspondent who made an attempt to use Google Earth to ferret out an answer as to what lay at the end of the North Korean cargo's route Tuesday Map: How not to find Syrian nukes with Google Earth | FP Passport. I tried the same thing myself, but did not immediately get much further. I would guess; though, that  blocks of higher resolution photography do not always indicate recent interest in a locale, so much as imagery available - that Google was not inclined to update by lower quality though more recent imagery later. By conducting a mission where the Syrians would use this system, if that is what happened. They were mapping its abilities and weaknesses and demonstrating the feasibility of a strike against similar systems in the region  Israel sends Middle East a message with Syrian airstrike |

Update: I see Bibi (an Israeli politician) has jumped in to declare he gave his personal ok for this mission.  Which seems to break the studied  code of silence that has surrounded this. Also the title for this post is a play on words that refers to the French magazine that once released the Joy Division song "Dead Souls" as a flexi-disc.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
beyonder music

In what will probably be my radio highlight of the week. WFMU's own Kenny G. had R. Stevie Moore and Haun Saussy on as guests. Apparently on the strength that their fathers knew each other. Moore is a exemplar of "outsider music" R. Stevie Moore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Saussy a professor of comparative literature at Yale Haun Saussy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Myself, not being even comparatively literary; Moore was the only one of the two I had heard of before.

R. Stevie Moore I remember from my days as a college radio DJ. I associate him with a record label that used to be here in Silver Spring (and still is I see Cuneiform Records) The show was strangely fascinating in the way that Ken G.'s shows often are. Although being in the same room with R. Stevie Moore, he seemed somewhat muted. "Kenny G not what he used to be" as was sung at one point ["Stevie improvs with "Toy for R. Stevie"" I think]. I particularly liked the Roy Orbison song Southbound Jehrico Parkway that was played. I had never heard that before. It was arranged in 1972 by Tupper Saussy who like Moore's father was a Nashville based jazz musician The Wiki page on R. Stevie Moore states he has collaborated with Jad Fair. I saw Jad Fair (and his brother) play once.... What I remember about that show was talking to a girl I only knew as Iggy whose brother was supposed in either Deuce or Pentagram.

Still none of this matches the moment of breaching clarity I had a few months ago when I realized that the guy, Derek Birkett, who runs One Little Indian Records was the bass player for Flux of Pink Indians. I live an inoperably simple life; the advantage is it takes little to amuse me.

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Sunday, September 9, 2007
A Thistle by any other name.

I wanted to write a brief post where I question the topics I've written on previously that seem bring people to this web site. It goes without saying they are only marginally associated with my prevailing obsessions. Reviewing the daily referrer logs of what yahoo or google search strings bring people here is the staring point for this exercise

Weed Victorix. I consider this now a possibly unfortunately named post. The point had been the resilience of nature the tenacity of life. something which we at once fear, respect and are despite ourselves are a part of. I read something where Hannah Arendt seemed to be arguing that it is man's nature to fight nature. I'm not sure why that would be so - jealousy I guess. The plant in the picture I believe is a Scottish Thistle. It grew improbably in a hard packed corner in nothing that could be called soil by the Journalism building, until groundskeeping pulled it out. Down on Assateague island these things grow five feet tall and are pricklier than a cactus.

The Dragon caterpillar. The Hickory horned devil a six inch long inch round spiked party-colored caterpillar that is not only native to the eastern US, but not all that rare. From the hits I'm getting. These turning up all over the place. The pictures I took three years ago account for 6 to 10 hits a day and have for most of the summer. It's been hot and dry around here and maybe that brings 'em out, but I don't know whether these conditions are replicated where these hits are coming from. The one I saw was by the Adelphi Mill in Adelphi Md. Perhaps in a Fahey-esque move I should write a song about the critter. "Better the Hickhorn Devil you know, than the devil you don't" or something of the like would be the title. Other than that, of course, it would just be a guitar instrumental.

The 1950 chevy pick up truck at the Old Navy Store on Rockville pike. I guess its still there, I haven't been back to check. My niece still is not sure about the optimism of earlier generations, but she has developed the ability to fix you with an numbing gaze while she asks "and this is relevant how? I'm not giving up. 40 inter-states are as good as 40 acres. A good pickup truck is like a good mule.

The Ra5c crowd. The other thing I get traffic to this web site for continues to be pictures of Ra5c vigilantes. I've noticed earlier that this traffic seems to divide into two parts. One part is people apparently focused on color schemes and detailing for one reason or another. The other stream is people who were part the RVAH squadrons and community. While I still have many pictures of Ra5Cs left (though the group I have digitized at the moment are in black and white) I thought that I might take up writing some more narratives of those days and the people I knew. Before I cease to be able to remember that far back at all. This actually was a request from a reader- J.E. I figure if Strongbad can draw Trogdor, I can write about Key West and Olongapo. It's all about the consummate S's The pictures will still be around.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Street without Joy

President Bush's invocation of Vietnam in discussions of Iraq a few weeks ago surprised many  President compares Vietnam, Iraq wars - The Boston Globe. Since the consideration of and start of the war, it has been a comparison for others to make, for the administration to avoid Historians Question Bush's Reading of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq - New York Times. This was due to the general prevailing view of the Vietnam war as a disaster Eugene Robinson - Good Morning, Vietnam! - A quagmire while it was going on, a tragedy after it was over. Some question whether it was particularly apt comparison irreregardless of how you felt about it War - History - Iraq - Vietnam - Korea - War of 1812 - New York Times. It comes up now as a nod to a certain historicism, rescuing this war is to rescue Vietnam and validate the organizing principles of the new world order Bush Warns U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq Would Destabilize Mideast - New York Times.

It always seemed to me that every time the administration and their apologists denied that the situation was in anyway analogous to Vietnam they were at the same time doing things that quietly massaged Iraq into Vietnam. I attributed this to certain instinctive and subconscious tendencies. Foremost in this our embassorial rule. That is: freedom self rule and democracy as long as everything is decided the correct way. We are preparing an embassy capable of vetting the actions of a nation. If not our way we switch sides and empower in other directions. We form models of weak contested rule in an imitation of western democracy. Division and corruption played against interference by determined alien ideologies of disorder arrayed against us. The archetype of a colonial war against a revolutionary insurgency and regional powers.

While we shadow box with the past. There is a reluctance, an inability to confront the agency that resists us GAO Reports Iraq Has Failed to Meet 11 of 18 Benchmarks .. Incomprehension that it is a struggle against independent others that have only marginal interest in fitting themselves into our roles Military Officials in Iraq Fault GAO Report - A further reality is that no distant others enter into the essential struggle. The (neo) conservatives are wrestling themselves, the past. The near enemy, those Americans who are not accepting of corporatized, share-held, petrochemical America.

The ending of Vietnam war was always a sore point and never totally accepted among some. Increasingly it may have seemed to be a crack in the armor of triumphalism, a leak in the hermetical bubble of histories end. The glint of reality from Iraq is that neither American Unilateralism nor American exceptionalism is absolute. They trace this heresy back to Vietnam. Iraq will answer for it. It was always intended to.

Going forward in Iraq and achieving some form of decent outcome requires dissipating the fog, ceasing to make Iraq answer for Vietnam. Neither by how some suppose that war might have been won, or getting caught in historic parallels of how it ended.

Mary McCarthy remains one of my favorite observers from that period Vietnam []. She caught the disparities between the comfort and isolation of Saigon from the countryside. The disconnect between building and painting schoolhouses on one hand, infusion of small town America into a foreign land, and the disruption of the mass population resettlement programs of the new life villages. The brutishness of the campaigns to eradicate the NLF and Viet Cong on the other. Bernard Fall, author of a book on the battle of Dien Bien Phu, was McCarthy's traveling companion, for part of that trip in 1967 (there's a picture of them together in his book Last reflections on a War). An Austrian born veteran of the French resistance (which struggle claimed both his parents lives), the French army and professor of international relations at Howard University in Washington DC (Bernard B. Fall - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). He realized by mid 1960s America could not win the war, but thought America's military might could keep it from losing (he always blamed the U S for not adequately aiding the French a decade before). Bernard Fall seems to have thought the answer lay in new political coalitions in the South whose existing government's political underpinnings American machination had largely delegitimized. Bernard Fall, accompanying US Marines, stepped on a land mine and was killed while filming a documentary for American television.

30 April 1975 haunts the debate on Iraq. After the war ended probably less people died than during the war, no more American soldiers at any rate. Still people died, in cold one-sided retributions. With the form of state authority, but without the function of legality. My friend Tran spent a portion of her early childhood either in jail or penury and not knowing whether the communist government would find it easier to shoot, imprison, or simply watch her father for having been associated with the former government. I can only be so objective towards our responsibilities now.

Iraq should not be pushed towards such a moment. One point of departure from the administrations rhetoric I have is that we shouldn't be encouraged to think the military alone can stave off such a moment. Not with any succession of surges and added Friedman Units. Any successes we believe we are seeing now means nothing. It will melt away like a morning dew in August unless the political actors make accommodation while we hold them apart. It will take the form of soft partition, and weak federal government. Amid talks towards further integration slow and ongoing. The key is to get back to normalcy of commerce and trash collection. Through mostly homogenous and trusted local government if that is the organizing principle that obtains.

The origin of the war is not separable from the ineffectiveness of its conduct. We learn nothing if we try to deny this. A corollary to this we ought to leave sooner than later. When we go, we ought to go completely and not try to maintain a training, or security force. Perhaps we cannot leave now until the Iraqi police and security forces are developed enough to be politically controlled and able to maintain a monopoly of coercive force among the provinces Iraqi Army Unable To Take Over Within A Year, Report Says - At the same time this asks the question as to why and how the US military made itself so utterly indispensable to this project.

Any force we leave could be only an oil garrison. A presence through which we would always be tempted to shape Iraqi politics to our own end. An inherently destabilizing and corrupting course which would not advance US interests in the long run.

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Last update: 10/8/07; 12:31:58 AM.