Category Archives: News

A Stirring Time for People That Have Wished to Have Powerful Self-Reliant Defence Capability One-Hundred Percent

It’s a really scary world out there with a nuclear North Korea. So we look for silver linings where we can. On that note, who can resist their news releases, with their endearingly screwy English syntax?

DPRK Successfully Conducts Underground Nuclear Test

Pyongyang, October 9 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following report: The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, Juche 95 (2006) at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation.
It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under a scientific consideration and careful calculation.
The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defence capability.
It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.


Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

An English Translation of the Mourner’s Kaddish


It was a Tuesday morning and I was at work, of course. I worked at Arthur Andersen, at the Office of Federal Tax Services, at 1666 K Street Northwest in Washington DC. I was on the tenth floor. At some point my boss Bethany came by my cubicle and asked if I had heard what was going on in New York. I hadn’t.

So I made my way down to the ninth floor, to the legislative practice, where they had TV sets, usually with C-SPAN on them. It may have been Rachelle Bernstein’s office, or maybe Andy Prior’s, I’m not sure. Maybe Carol Kulish, now that I think about it. But she wasn’t in the legislative practice, I don’t think. I seem to remember John Rooney being there as well. Anyway, doesn’t matter.

Both planes had hit the World Trade Center by then, but the news anchors or reporters or whoever were still talking as if they might have just been small planes. They weren’t sure yet that they were airliners, that they were hijacked airliners. I went back up to my desk and turned on my little radio, my little ten-dollar radio shack transistor radio, that I had bought to listen to coverage during the recounts in November and December 2000. I still had no idea of the magnitude of what was happening.

It must have been soon after that that I heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon. That was a good bit closer than New York City, just barely over two miles. What was more worrisome, though, were reports on the radio that the Old Executive Office Building, right next to the White House, was on fire. That was 450 yards away. The radio also said that there had been a car bombing at the State Department (a rather safe 11 blocks away) and that there was a plane circling the Capitol. Really was turning into the craziest fucking day.

I went downstairs again to check the television news. I saw that someone had wheeled in and turned on the TV in the main conference room. Nobody was in there watching it, but it was on. And amid the chaos and chatter they were saying that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed.

My God. There were tens of thousands of people who worked in there. Tens of thousands dead?

I wandered back upstairs in a daze. I went into Bethany’s office and mumbled that one of the towers had collapsed. She put her hand over mouth and just stared at me. Then she said we were leaving. This was about quarter after ten. I saw Glenn Carrington, the office managing partner, in Jim Malloy’s office. I think it was just a few minutes later when he shut the office down and sent us all home, but we were on our way out anyway.

Bethany, Abbie, and I went across the street to the Metro, to the Farragut North station, on the Red Line. We were under a vague sort of impression, one of us had heard somewhere, that the Metro had shut down, but we went down into the station to make sure anyway. The trains were in fact still running. We hopped on the next train and rode it to Friendship Heights.

I had been in phone contact with my brother. It was at the Friendship Heights station where he told me that the second tower had fallen. He also told me that our sister was not in New York City this particular morning, that she was still at the Coach facility in New Jersey.

I drove Abbie and Bethany to their respective homes, then went back to my apartment, a couple blocks past Western Avenue, just outside the the city line. My girlfriend had moved out the previous weekend, taking her TV with her, so I didn’t have any way to watch any news the rest of the day. And I lived right by a top-forty radio station tower, so all I could get on the radio was that crappy music station, and they weren’t having any news. And by this time phones lines were all jammed, and all I had was dial-up Internet, so no news there either.

So I spent the rest of the day just lying around with my kitty Gwen. I knew that the FAA had grounded all air traffic, so I would get pretty rattled when any jet would come screaming low overhead. They were low, and so very loud. Military fighter jets, evidently.

President Confirms Secret CIA Prisons

Original story here.

Bush Says Detainees Will Be Tried
He Confirms Existence of CIA Prisons

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Michael Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 7, 2006; Page A01

President Bush yesterday announced the transfer of the last 14 suspected terrorists held by the CIA at secret foreign prisons to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said he wants to try them before U.S. military panels under proposed new rules he simultaneously sent to Congress.

Bush’s statement during an impassioned East Room speech represented the first time he has confirmed the existence of the CIA program under which Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and others have been secretly held and subjected to irregular interrogation methods.

It’s these kinds of stories that I honestly and truly have trouble reading. I actually start to get physically sick and have to turn away. There was a point in say late 2001 when I use to exclaim that I simply must be on fucking Mars, because the world just did not make sense to me anymore. That feeling’s passed, to be replaced by an incredulous wonder at the path that we have taken, at the things we do now.

Secret prisons. We’re operating secret prisons. Irregular interrogation methods. This is also called torture. It’s all just so a priori wrong.

In the movie The Untouchables, a Chicago beat cop, played by Sean Connery, describes to federal agent Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, the “Chicago way” of dealing with criminals. Agent Ness subsequently murders a captured suspect, throwing him from a roof. He declares, “I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld, and I am content that I have done right.”



The IAU decides to re-define planet, and Pluto gets the boot.

I learned the planets in first grade, faithfully memorizing them in order of distance from the Sun. So that’s like thirty-five years ago. I’m too old to un-learn Pluto.

I mean, I understand that the actual science is more important than the romantic or nostalgic aspects. The IAU is the controlling legal authority here in these matters.

But still, Pluto’ll always be my Pluto.

Breaking News: NSA Wiretapping Violates FISA

News just popped up on AP wire a few minutes ago. Findlaw doesn’t have anything about it yet. But the actual opinion and judgement/injunction are handily already up on Eastern District of Michigan website.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants, its agents, employees, representatives, and any other persons or entities in active concert or participation with Defendants, are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (hereinafter “TSP”) in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (hereinafter “FISA”) and Title III;

The opinion is forty-three pages. Will take a while to digest, but you know what I’ll be reading this weekend. Hoo boy!

Late Update: Looks like the injunction will be stayed pending appeal, although I’m not so sure on the details. Seems like ACLU has agreed to government’s request to delay enforcement, but then also government is set to argue on Sept. 7 for such a stay. And but also any appeal will go to the Sixth Circuit.

Even Later Update: So instead of Judge Taylor’s opinion, I took home to read a printout of a policy address by Senator John Edwards at the National Press Club in June.

Later Late Update: But I didn’t have time to read it.

Later Latest Last Update: And apparently Judge Taylor’s opinion is getting no respect anywhere. Here’s Prof. Laurence Tribe defending it:

It’s altogether too easy to make disparaging remarks about the quality of the Taylor opinion, which seems almost to have been written more to poke a finger in the President’s eye than to please the legal commentariat or even, alas, to impress an appellate panel …

Had I been in her place, I never would have reached the difficult First and Fourth Amendment issues that she disposed of so summarily when a powerful, and indeed all but impregnable, statutory path to decision at least appeared to be available under the FISA. I also would have been less ready to find standing on the part of the complainants without much more meticulous analysis than Judge Taylor undertook; I would obviously have grappled with the “special needs” exception if I had reached the Fourth Amendment claim; and I can’t imagine not addressing the 2002 decision by the FSIA [sic?] Court of Review. 

What’s not to love?

Okay, so maybe there’s not a lot for Hezbollah to love in Resolution 1701.

Nasrallah was quick to agree to it as means of cease-fire, Hezbollah’s agreement to stop fighting, of course, being as necessary as Israel’s. Heck, probably more necessary than Prime Minister Siniora’s, now that I think about it. But Hezbollah’s agreement to me looks more and more like a merely cynical move, in light of their more recent threats to refuse withdrawal and disarmament.

Sort of like how the underpinning of society itself is simply cooperation, likewise the first necessary thing for any contract (as also in treaty or cease-fire agreement) is good faith, something that I surely have not been fully appreciating as to be so lacking all around among the parties involved. And Hezbollah especially, as they’re the first to look to violating the terms of 1701, terms to which they agreed only days ago.

But then that takes me back to why they should abide by it in the first place (again, other than the simple fact that they said that they would). I noted t’other day that the agreement of all states to effect disarming non-governmental bodies, i.e., Hezbollah, in 1701 was a nifty piece of maneuvering. Nifty, yes, but not good from Hezbollah’s point of view. So why should they allow it?

And say Syria and Iran may also make all nice and say they agree to stop arming Hezbollah, and but then just ignore the ban and continue to supply them with missiles.

But I assume that the administration is way ahead of me. Well, I hope they are. Oh, they must be. I mark Secretary Rice as being way smarter than I am. But then I also see that she is constrained by her own ideology as well as that of the administration’s constituency. (Oh, and John Bolton’s utter nuttiness.) But anyway I assume that the U.S. is thinking like five steps ahead of poor me.

Although maybe that’s not a good thing either. Maybe we’re counting on Iran and Syria to violate 1701, and that could be just the casus belli that we need. But I suppose that we really don’t have the resources to take on another war or two. We’re overextended in Iraq as it is.


The Security Council decides four things and requests four things, but only authorizes one thing, apparently. And three calls on‘s and three calls upon‘s really make up six calls, by my count.

But seriously, who could fail to adore 1701, what with something for just about everyone in it?

After recalling such and such, the usual preamble, sort of the Security Council’s way of beginning, kinda like, Dear World, How ya been? Listen, the reason I’m writing is …

First things first. Listen, Hezbollah. You started this. Yeah, that’s right. We’re talking to you.

Then a little dance, first leaning on Hezbollah for the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers. but then also, let’s be fair here, calling for urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel,

A quick shout out to Lebanon itself. Let’s get this done quickly. But this is neither the time nor the place to even get into the Shebaa farms here. (Goodness, whose idea was it to mention that mess?)

Okay, fifteen-thousand Lebanese troops and then somesuch number of international (later specified as another fifteen-thousand for UNIFIL).

Let’s work on a long-term solution. This is making everybody everywhere a little nervous.

So, therefore: stop fighting.

Wiggle room for Israel here, as the Council calls for a halt to all Hezbollah attacks and a halt to Israel’s offensive military operations.

Lebanon, why don’t you try a little harder. Blue line, meaning Lebanon, try a little harder. Let’s all help Lebanon try a little harder. Maybe a little money to help Lebanon try a little harder.

The United Nations will do A, B, and C. Fifteen-thousand troops for UNIFIL.

Everyone will make sure that nobody is selling arms to anybody in Lebanon. (How did that slip through? That’s a nifty piece of work, Dr. Rice.)

Oh, and by the way, 242 and 338. (Oh, that’s how. Even niftier.)

And, as always, their version of Yours truly, the Council decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

— — — —

In all seriousness, a pretty good job. A surprising effort from this administration.

If it holds.

Although I’m praying that it does, for the greater good of the poor and suffering in the region, if not also to show that diplomacy and the UN can actually succeed.

Actually, They Are Asking

I asked last Thursday, what about the rest of the world. Well, what if they asked?

BEIRUT, July 31 (Reuters) – Israel rejected mounting international pressure on Monday to end its war against Hizbollah and launched a new incursion into Lebanon, as world powers squabbled over the urgency of a ceasefire.

Seems maybe Israel won’t listen to them either.

Not that they necessarily should, mind you. Israel’s in a pretty rough neighborhood, where ain’t nobody else looking out for their interests but they themselves. Although in general we, the U.S., have got their back.

And also note that “international pressure” is a tad vague, without quite the same weight as a resolution from the Security Council. Although how much weight, really, do UN resolutions carry, especially when the United States doesn’t especially want to commit troops to their enforcement? Compare Resolution 242, say, to one like 678.

Crazy Upside-Down War

Don’t know what to say or do, but asymetrical warfare sure is weird.

Hezbollah shoots off rockets willy-nilly into Israel, trying to kill civilians, but the majority of Israeli dead are soldiers. Israel ostensibly practices more modern warfare, but has killed mostly civilians, apparently hundreds.


From the Washington Post:

Death Toll since June 25
Lebanon: 519 total, mostly civilians
Israel: 51 total, 18 civilians

International Crisis Group

One of the authors of the article referenced in the earlier post is Gareth Evans, who is President and Chief Executive of International Crisis Group. ICG was founded in the early nineties mostly by Mort Abramowitz, the President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Mark Malloch Brown, the Vice President for External Affairs at the World Bank. Joining them almost immediately was Fred Cuny.

Fred is widely hailed as being instrumental in providing potable water to Sarajevo during the seige, when he masterminded and effected the building of a purification plant in a mountainside tunnel. Sadly, Fred didn’t live to see any of the things that ICG would go on to do. He disappeared in Chechnya in April 1995.

I met Fred once, had dinner with him at Weather Lea, as he was a friend of the Baldwins. He was a giant of a man, bigger than life. I’m sorry to say though that I was in a terrible mood that day, and I didn’t appreciate him or his work nearly enough. It was only after he disappeared that I began to learn more about him.

Heard way back that they were making a movie about Fred. Harrison Ford was supposed to play him, although he looked nothing like him.

Dubious Zero-Sum Choice

Excellent article in Slate today, in the War Stories department, Rice’s Fallacy. Interestingly, the sub-headline in the article is “What if Israel can’t win militarily?” whereas at the top of the browser window the page is titled “Why Israel can’t win militarily.”

I’d rather that the headline and (possibly) sub-headline not be so confrontational. Or so snide maybe. The arguments within speak so much more eloquently, so devastatingly true, that any such snarkiness only serves to undermine them, to undermine the authors’ argument. Not undermine so much in and of themselves, but rather provide ammunition to those who would disagree.

The most devastatingly damning graf, emphasis mine:

But, the United States says, stopping violence is not enough unless we deal with what the administration calls “root causes.” Indeed. Yet it posits a dubious zero-sum choice: Either we tend to those causes now, while violence flares, or we never will. Surely there is no reason why the administration, applying its considerable power, could not mobilize international energy to address these underlying problems once a cease-fire has been secured—no reason, of course, other than that it has shown no such appetite for diplomacy in the six years preceding the crisis. Just as there was no reason to wait for violence to break out before tackling root causes, there is no reason to wait for root causes to be tackled before ending violence.

Indeed indeed.

Not Just Us

Okay, but what about the rest of the world?

I said earlier that I don’t see that we can or will or should just call up Israel and tell them to stop what they’re doing and expect them to stop what they’re doing. I said that we don’t necessarily have the clout nor yet even the moral standing to do such a thing. But, thinking more about it, what if say the whole world were to tell Israel that it was acting disproportionately, that it needed to stop doing something? That’d be something out of the UN, of course. And that’s now where I’m thinking I’m starting to see a problem.

Most recently the Security Council overwhelmingly passed a draft resolution calling for Israel to cease its military offensive in Gaza. In other words, representatives of the whole world telling Israel to knock it off. But we, the United States, of course vetoed the resolution. Or, in other words, the whole world was trying to tell Israel to do something, trying to send them a message anyway. But the U.S. had the power and the will to block that.

Although I am not unmindful of the rabble from the right, yelling Oil for Food and 3379 and other such inanities, declaring the United Nations morally bankrupt and a perversion of democracy and all sorts of other vicious things. But of course we send Ambassador Bolton there anyway. Secretary Rice spoke yesterday of how “we” passed Resolution 1559 and how Syria has responsibilities under it. And any cease-fire deal we eventually endorse in Lebanon will naturally involve a multinational peacekeeping force via the UN.

Pool or Pond

Don’t know much about the case, but apparently one Andrea Yates was re-tried and this time found not guilty of murdering her children.

I don’t follow the stories generally, but I can’t escape from them altogether. Seems to me that the narratives that really grip the nation’s tabloid sensibility are (1) pretty young white woman in peril and (2) mother murders her children. Many more examples of the former. This Andrea Yates being the latter of course.

Suffering from a mental illness myself, having lived with clinical depression all of my adult life, I have sympathy for Ms. Yates. I have more sympathy for the poor children, without question. It’s remarkably painful even just to read the simple declarative from the story in the Post: Yates drowned 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah in their Houston-area home in June 2001. Oh, those poor beautiful children!

But they are lost to us, and we are left with Ms. Yates. And what to make of her? I again must admit knowing almost nothing about her and the case. But I do find it slightly remarkable that she has been found not guilty.

It reminds me of course of John Hinckley, another one found not guilty by reason of insanity. And how they howled of the injustice of it then. I won’t be surprised by any howls now. They’ll say how permissive a society we have become. They’ll say how we don’t hold anyone responsible for their actions anymore. Yadda yadda yadda.

Meanwhile, Ms. Yates by a guilty plea would spend the rest of her life behind bars, and, clearly suffering from some type of psychosis, would be further held in some special facility for the mentally ill. Prison and hospital. Won’t be much different now, either. Hospital and prison.

The Guns of July

Israel continues to fight on two fronts. With as hot & troubled as things are in the Middle East, some wise folks are wondering if maybe this is what the summer of 1914 felt like, before everybody got involved. Not me so much, oddly. After some major jitteriness last week, I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I don’t pay too much attention to it.

CPC is terribly upset by it, though. I think maybe he’s reacting the way that I reacted to Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon, back in 1982, back when I paid a lot more attention to such things. I remember when Israel actually had to admonish its troops, tell them quite emphatically that burying Palestinians alive with backhoes was strictly frowned upon. I remember that the U.S. sent troops to Beirut, then we turned tail & bolted after the barracks bombing (likely perpetrated by Hezbollah). But then U.S. warships fired artillery shells willy-nilly into Beirut.

So the U.S. lobbing 16-inch shells into Beirut in 1983, that upset me. The U.S. bombing Baghdad in 1991, that upset me. But the rest of the world didn’t agree with me. They didn’t seem to care. This was United Nations sanctioned bombing. We had a big old parade when it was all over. And so I figured I must just be weird.

So now Israel is bombing Beirut. And the President shrugs his shoulders and says that Hezbollah needs to knock that shit off. And we can just veto anything anybody comes up with in the Security Council. And so then how much outrage do I have left? Not much, apparently.

But, I do have to say, that when CPC directly blames the U.S., our President and our Secretary of State, I actually can’t agree with him. Sure, we have a lot more influence over Israel than we do over Syria, say. Or Iran. Or Hezbollah. But Israel is not our puppet state; they are quite independent actors. CPC seems to think that we can just tell Israel to stop, and they’ll stop. But I think that even apart from the fact that the President doesn’t want to tell Israel to stop, Israel wouldn’t stop even if he did tell them.

Now, it’s also true that we do give Israel tons o’ money, which may you think earn us a little influence, a little say as to how that money is spent. Or may not earn us that. Depends on how you look at the relationship, I guess. And I’d just as soon prefer that the U.S. not tell other people how to go about their business. Something about not removing the mote in one’s neighbor’s eye until we attend the beam in our own. I think maybe it’s a little gauche to be criticizing Israel’s invasion of Lebanon while we’re still occupying Iraq.

So, of course, I’ll go on pretending that I know what’s best, that I can tell you what’s right and wrong, that I can tell Israel what they should or shouldn’t do. Nobody’s going to listen to me anyway. And I got big old railroad ties in my eyes.

The President Says Shit

The big news of course shouldn’t be so much what President Bush said or how he said it. It’s that he said anything. Here were the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom talking candidly for a couple of minutes. It’s that little voyeuristic insight that’s really the news. Most everything else is just chaff.

Especially that the President used the barnyard epithet. Big deal. Chaff.

But then what he and the Prime Minister said and how they said it is fairly interesting. First, there’s, “See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” I’m not exactly sure what the irony is here, though. Or who “they” are. Later the President mentions Secretary-General Annan calling Syrian President Assad to “make something happen.” So likely he means the United Nations, through the Secretary-General, when he says what “they” need to get Syria to do.

I think maybe his point is more that Hezbollah is a client of Syria, though, that Syria has influence over Hezbollah, rather than anyone having much influence over Syria. Certainly we don’t have a lot of influence over Syria. We don’t have much dialog with them, having recalled our ambassador in early 2005. Maybe that’s why President Bush wants Secretary-General Annan to talk to President Assad.

But then why would Syria want to reign in Hezbollah? Hey, it’d be nice if they did, but I can’t seem to think of a single reason why they’d want to do it. Prime Minister Blair seems to understand this. He says, “What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he’s had it. That’s what this whole things about. It’s the same with Iran.”

(Different sources transcribe this a little differently. This is what it sounds like to me.)

I think by “he” the Prime Minister means President Assad. And this is all part of the model democracy that we are trying to establish in Iraq. The Prime Minister is saying that if Lebanese democracy flowers, if Israel and Palestine make peace, if Iraq turns out to be that model democracy, then President Assad and his autocratic regime are in trouble. So therefore why would President Assad reign in Hezbollah?

For the past week I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on and, more importantly, what’s going to happen. And the powers that be all make bland statements on this or that. But here, just for a minute, we get to see what they’re thinking.

That’s pretty cool.

I wish the President wouldn’t talk with his mouth full. But, hey, who doesn’t, at least every so often, right?

Palestine and Lebanon

I don’t know much, but I do want to note here that, in direct contrast to my comments earlier about the Lebanese government “controlling” (or not controlling) Hezbollah, it’s actually true that Hezbollah is part of the government. They control twenty five seats in the legislature. They control two of the ministries. It’s wrong actually to talk about them as separate from Lebanon.

Sort of like Hamas, by the way.

What happens in a democracy when the people elect parties like Hamas and Hezbollah? Is that right? Aren’t therefore the latest eruptions the will of the people?

Or maybe it’s like Iraq, and me. I didn’t support the invasion. But it still happened.

And now what?

Bastille Day

Apparently there were only seven prisoners being held in the Bastille when the mob stormed it. They, the mob, were more interested in the munitions stored there. Not that they weren’t thinking about the prisoners at all, mind you. They did release them after all. Just wasn’t on the top of their list.


Okay, so is it just me, or does anyone else think all hell is breaking loose lately? There’s North Korea. I’ve mentioned Mumbai. Now it’s Israel going into Lebanon.

I hate hate hate war.

Although I don’t know what else Israel’s supposed to do, if Lebanon can’t or won’t control Hezbollah. (I suppose that goes for India too, if Pakistan can’t or won’t control Lashkar-e-Toiba. Or if Lebanon does control Hezbollah but uses them as their proxy, likewise Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Toiba.) And but I was very much not a fan of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon back in 1982, when they invaded to root out and destroy the PLO. How well did that turn out?

Like with the Infitada(s), Israel has the muscle, if it wants to use it, but if faces a whole lotta people.

Hezbollah was founded to fight that invasion, too, in 1982, by the way. So if Israel destroys Hezbollah now, isn’t somebody else just going to replace them?


Sameer is late for our meeting this morning. He’s got friends and relatives in Mumbai, and news starts to break right around time of our meeting about the subway bombings there. Phone calls to and from are down or jammed or something. He can’t get hold of anybody and they can’t get hold of him.

Reaction in the western press is somewhat muted, or much less anyway compared to the London bombings last year, which bombings these do in fact resemble. I generally think that this muted reaction is due more to our understandings of the tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India, between India and Pakistan, and the dispute over Kashmir, rather than simply that we are more pained by the deaths of white people.

Lashkar-e-Toiba and SIMI later both deny responsibility for the bombings, although people generally still think Lashkar-e-Toiba did it, likely with the help of Pakistan.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Petitioner v. Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, et al.

In all other excitement, I’ve neglected to mention how pleased I was with the Hamdan ruling. Check it out:

[W]e conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions.

On the one hand, the Supreme Court merely requires that the executive not create its own rules but instead enforce the laws of the legislature. But that’s actually something of a big deal with this current executive, who declares presidential power to be nothing less than plenary.

Thankfully the Court disagrees. But then they go a step even further, and they say that Common Article 3 applies. Oh, yeah, baby. You go, Supremes.

And so now the administration says that they’ll work with Congress to craft some actual, you know, laws and stuff. And that until some other individual determination is made, prisoners will be accorded prisoner of war status under Geneva.

How about that?

Kenneth L. Lay

I was in a meeting on Wednesday morning with my boss Matt. It was a pretty informal meeting I guess, because at one point he got up from the table where we were talking and went over to his desk to check his phone or computer or something. Anyway, he saw on his computer the news, and he immediately mentioned it to me. Ken Lay had died.

It’s an odd sort of anticlimax to a long saga. I worked at Arthur Andersen from 1995 into 2002, during the whole Enron fiasco. Enron itself went belly up on its own, but Andersen was put out of business by a stupid prosecution by the Justice Department. Of course I blame President Bush, and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. And then-Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. But at the time we understood that the decision to indict was made by the head of the Criminal Division, then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff.

We are now, of course, as innocent as Oliver North, thanks to the wise heads at the Supreme Court, who threw out the conviction in a unanimous decision. Of course, all 80,000 of us were long since out of our jobs. Sure, most everybody was highly skilled and marketable and found employment elsewhere. I was with the tax division, and Deloitte & Touche bought a large part of the practice. About two-thousand of us went over there.

Still. What a waste.

Independence Day

The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from early September to late October 1774. The Second Continental Congress convened in May of 1775. Richard Henry Lee presented a resolution of independence on June 7, 1776, and the Congress convened a committee on June 11 to draft a declaration of such. Thomas Jefferson from Virginia wrote the first draft.

The Committee of Five presented the final draft of the declaration to the full Congress on June 28. The Lee resolution was adopted on July 2, and the Congress, after some debate and changes, adopted the Declaration of Independence itself on July 4, 1776.

A copy of the Declaration, signed by both the president and the secretary of the Congress, was sent to a local printer, John Dunlap, who made up some couple hundred copies. The signed original is no longer extant, and only twenty-five of the Dunlap broadsides are known to still exist.

The Congress ordered on July 19 that a copy be engrossed and signed by the whole Congress, and most of the delegates signed that copy on August 2. Some delegates never signed, while other newer delegates not present at its adoption were later allowed to sign. It is this signed copy that is on display at the National Archives.

That signed copy is much faded and difficult to read, possibly due in large part to a wet transfer method employed by William Stone, commissioned by President John Quincy Adams to make an engraved copy of the Declaration. It is copies of Stone’s engraving that are most familiar to us today.

The painting pictured above is John Trumbull’s oil on canvas The Declaration of Independence, from 1817 or so, which hangs in the Capitol rotunda. It is variously described as either the presentation of the draft by the Committee of Five or the signing of the Declaration itself. It’s what’s on the back of the two-dollar bill.


We awake to the news of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Dawn and I both are immediately pleased by his death. Then we both have second thoughts. Dawn regrets her enthusiasm at the death of a fellow human being, no matter how repugnant that human being may have been. She’s a good person. I regret that Zarqawi’s death will in any way reflect well on the President and the conduct of the war. I’m not such a good person.

I actually don’t know much about Zarqawi, except that the President has said that he’s a bad man, that he’s my enemy. I usually don’t believe people when they tell me that someone is my enemy. I’ve heard the name, heard that he’s the man behind the bombings in Jordan, and understand that he’s behind the kidnappings and beheadings of Westerners in Iraq. So, I don’t know about enemy. But repugnant? Without a doubt.

As it happens, the Atlantic Monthly just went up yesterday with a feature story about Zarqawi, so I read that today. Pretty much sums him up as a street-level thug made big. No grand visionary like Osama Bin Laden. And apparently they met and absolutely loathed each other just about right away. Zarqawi’s views on Shi’as were apparently too extreme even for Bin Laden.

So Zarqawi lived by the sword. Violently by the sword. Viciously by the sword. Disgustingly by the sword. And then he died by the sword.

I won’t miss him. Can’t think of anyone who should.

Memorial Day, May 29, 2006, Washington, D.C.: What passing bells for these?


The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

from Headquarters Grand Army of the Republic, General Orders No.11, Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868, by order of John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief


No. 458-03
June 27, 2003
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today that Lance Cpl. Gregory E. MacDonald, 29, of Washington, D.C., was killed on June 25 in Iraq. MacDonald was killed when the light armored vehicle he was traveling in rolled over.

MacDonald was assigned to Bravo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Frederick, Md.

No. 631-03
August 27, 2003
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today that Spc. Darryl T. Dent, 21, of Washington, D.C., was killed on August 26 in Southeast Arimadi, Iraq. Dent was in a convoy when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle. Dent died of his injuries.

Dent was assigned to the 547th Transportation Company, U.S. Army National Guard, based in Washington, D.C.

This incident is under investigation.

No. 911-04
September 15, 2004
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

LtCol. Kevin M. Shea, 38, of Washington, D.C., died Sept. 14 due to enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For further information related to this Marine contact the Camp Pendleton Public Affairs Office at (760) 725-5044.


Today I think of Wilred Owen, greatest – and certainly my favorite – of the Great War poets. He was killed on November 4, 1918, just a week before the armistice. His Dulce et decorum est is for another day, though. Not today.

But this, from a letter he wrote in July 1918 to his friend Osbert Sitwell. He describes training the men under his command:

For 14 hours yesterday I was at work – teaching Christ to lift his cross by numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine the thirst till after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were not complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands at attention before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.

Harold Owen and John Bell ed. Wilfred Owen: Collected Letters. London: Oxford University Press, 1967, letter to Osbert Sitwell – July 3, 1918, letter # 634, 562 (as quoted by Kevin Fielden The Church of England in the First World War (Masters thesis, East Tennessee State University, 2005))

Thirty Years of Life Defeating Death!

Argentines Mark 30 Years Since ‘Dirty War’
By Bill Cormier of the Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Thousands of Argentines swayed to protest songs Friday at an early morning vigil marking the 30th anniversary of a military coup that ushered in the country’s Dirty War.

The gray-haired Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo took center stage at the rock concert-styled rally, wearing the trademark white handkerchiefs of their long human rights struggle.”Thirty Years of Life Defeating Death!” and “Not One Step Back!” read large banners strung alongside black-and-white photographs of hundreds of “desaparecidos” — Spanish for the “Missing” victims of the seven-year dictatorship and its bloody crackdown on dissent.

It was just after 3 a.m. on March 24, 1976, that coup leaders announced they had toppled the government of Maria Estela Martinez de Peron, widow of the former strongman Juan Domingo Peron. She was flown away by helicopter from the pink Government House, steps from where the rally was held Friday on the Plaza de Mayo.

The junta would remain in power until 1983, leaving a trail of nearly 13,000 now officially listed dead or missing during the era. Human rights groups put the toll for a systematic crackdown on dissidents, now known as the Dirty War, at nearly 30,000.

I’m a little disappointed that both the Washington Post and the New York Times choose only to carry the AP story of the anniversary, rather than reporting on it themselves. I can’t think of a better warning for us now, of the road that we’ve been travelling since 9/11, than the example of Argentina. Indeed, all of the countries of South America that were involved in Operation Condor, with the cooperation of the United States, in the name of fighting any number of -isms, terrorism included, should really be bright red flags, telling us to stop this madness.

Only we call it interrogation, not torture. We call them enemy combatants, not political prisoners. And we say extraordinary renditions, what used to be called “disappearing” someone. The AP story above translates “desaparecidos” as the “missing.” I really feel that that doesn’t capture the chill, the horror, that the “disappeared” give us. And who knows now how many men my government has disappeared, has rendered extraordinarily?

I remember reading, and weeping over, Lawrence Thornton’s Imagining Argentina, blending the Dirty War and magical realism, in 1987. And yet it was all so far away, even, back then. We could imagine all sorts of horrible things about Ronald Reagan, insasmuch as we could see his always sunny and cheerful, and disgusting, support of the juntas in Central and South America, but we could hardly envision this happening in the US. Even more recently, Louis De Bernieres’s The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, with its grand scope, the fictional country a composite of all the Operation Condor countries, but especially Chile and Argentina, mined similar territory. We could read it and weep, but it wasn’t here. We would never have thought that the disappearing would happen here, that we would become what we beheld.

So today I honor the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo. And I hang my head in shame to them too, knowing that I have not even a fraction of their courage. And honor and prayers especially to you, Azucena Villaflor. Your son Nestor and his wife Raquel were disappeared on November 30, 1976, and, after months of useless petitioning to the Interior Ministry, you began marching on the Plaza on April 30, 1977. You were yourself disappeared, probably to the Navy Mechanics School, on December 10, 1977. Your remains were finally discovered and identified in 2005 and are now interred in the center of the Plaza. And on the Plaza they march still. They’ve never stopped.

Nunca mas, Senora.

Happy Birthday, um, Iraq War?

I’m a little unsure as to how to date the beginning of the war. Wikipedia pegs 20 Mar 2003 02:30 UTC, with explosions being heard in Baghdad, as the beginning. That’s 5:30 a.m. local Baghdad time, so UTC and Baghdad time both put it on 20 March. But that’s also 9:30 p.m. EST, which is my time, Washington DC time, the White House and Pentagon time.

In either case, today is Sunday, which is major op-ed day here in America. And today we see major, and really rather competing, pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post on this most august anniversary. The Post has Donald Rumsfeld, who writes, “The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq.” On the other hand, the Times carries a piece from recently retired Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, formerly the commanding general of the rebuilding of the Iraqi armed forces and security forces. Says he, “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces.”

State of the Union?

Oh, hey, I forgot.

In years past I’ve always been a big fan of the State of the Union address. Sort of the same way I’ve been a fan of the party nominating conventions every election year. I like speeches.

But I skipped this President’s speech this year. He just makes me so mad.

I used to read his speeches, and they usually have read very well. Because they’re written by Mike Gerson, of course.

But now that we imprison people without access to lawyers, now that we torture people, for cryin’ out loud, I just can’t stand it.

I am a little sad that I missed the great moment where he chided Congress for not passing his Social Security “reform” package last year and the Dems all stood up and cheered. Heh.

And he apparently made some reference to some type of human-animal hybrids being a result of stem cell research? The hell?


I see in the news that our facility at Guantanamo is now four years old.

I call it a concentration camp.

I understand that this is controversial, calling it a concentration camp. My brother especially objects to any such characterization, any such comparison to Dachau or Auschwitz. But I do so deliberately.

I also do so almost comfortably. I certainly am no scholar of the Shoah, but I have read a book or two. From Anne Frank to Miep Gies, to the Art Spiegelman Maus books, to Martin Gilbert’s The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War. Okay, so I didn’t finish The War Against the Jews by Lucy Dawidowicz, but I did read Treblinka by Jean-Francois Steiner; Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka by Yitzhak Arad; and The Theory and Practice of Hell by Eugen Kogon. I made it through the utterly overwhelming Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach.

I think I understand that there were differences among the various camps operated and controlled by the Nazis. Some were to concentrate prisoners in one place, some were to organize prisoners as laborers, and some were simply to exterminate people. Some camps were all three.

Strictly speaking, the original Auschwitz facility was a concentration camp. Later they added Birkenau, the extermination camp. There was also a separate labor camp. Dachau was from 1933 to 1941 a concentration camp, after 1941 becoming the death camp.

And but so I maintain that Guantanamo is a concentration camp.

And yes, okay, Guantanamo is not nearly as bad as Auschwitz. I’ll grant you that. But is that the best we can do? Only a few hundred have been imprisoned? Only a few dozen have been tortured? Only a handful have been killed? That’s not so bad, then, compared to the millions of Jews.

This is progress?

The Miners

Oh, how awful. How wrenchingly sad.

I cried in wonder and joy and disbelief at the headline of USA Today in the box on L Street, just up out of Farragut North Metro. They’ve been miraculously rescued.

Then I get to work and fire up Washington Post and see the news that the announcement was wrong. Twelve of the miners are dead.

We pray for their souls and hope they are now with St. Piran and John L. Lewis. Amen.