Hogan's Alley

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's Last Political Act

Al Jazzera's English language TV report of Bhutto's assasination.

John Moore of Getty Images was at the political rally in Rawalpindi. At the NY Times website he has a marvelous and touching slide show of his pictures of the end of her life.

Christopher Hitchens has an honest and insightful piece in Slate about her.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 24, 2007

Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song

A very Merry Christmas to all and may the joy of the winter solstice holidays, whatever religious or social tradition you follow, fill your heart with hope for the coming New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Season Of Religious Nuts

Some religious fanaticism just begs out for serious mockage. CNN reported today about a group of fundamentalists who believe that Interstate highway 35 (I35) is a holy road as predicted in the simiarly numbered Isaiah, chapt. 35. The Biblical quote is: "A highway shall be there, and a road and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it..."

So these nuts have started a campaign to wipe out any sign of sinners along the length of I35. After all, so sayest the Lord, n'est pas? You have to see the video at the above link to appreciate the true madness.

A saner response to Biblical injunctions from the primitive societies of 3000 years ago is to be found in the opening lines of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited", below. Abraham says, "say what?" when ordered by God to kill his oldest son.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Judy Garland Sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

For the movie, "Meet Me In St. Louis", released in 1944, Judy Garland sang the first performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

The context of the song in the film is Judy's attempt to console her little sister, played by Margaret O'Brien. The family has just been advised by their father that they will be moving away from their beloved St. Louis so that he can pursue a career opportunity in the big city.

But for the original audiences, trying to sustain themselves into the fourth year of war and separation from loved ones, the song no doubt had deeper and personal resonances.

With its minor chords and Garland's usual undertone of sadness the song is also very appropriate in our time, especially for those with family serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

God bless us, every one.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Problem With The National Intelligence Estimate

When the N.I.E. was released the other day it provided a strong sense of relief. Our joint intelligence bureaucracy had concluded that Iran was no longer attempting to build a nuclear weapons capacity. Whew! Now, assuming this N.I.E. was a product of a reorganized and chastened intelligence infrastructure that was better than the one that advised that WMD in Iraq was a slam dunk, there would be no need to consider military action against Tehran until well after the departure of Bush and Cheney.

Could it even be possible that our adventure into Iraq in 2003, and ongoing, prompted the Iranians to pull back a little out of fear of the cowboy in D.C.'s capacity to cross their border with our tanks?

Then we had the spectacle of George Bush going quickly before the cameras to try to explain to us and the world that Iran was still busily enriching uranium and could quickly restart their bomb building once the fissile material reached weapons grade. Well, he tried to say that, but did it in his usual smirking Bushspeak, which can no longer convince anyone.

In today's Times, Tom Friedman has it exactly right. The way the N.I.E. was written, with its emphasis on the cessation of bomb building and its relegation of the continuing enrichment activities to the depths of the report led everyone to get the full picture wrong.

The Gulf Arabs feel like they have this neighbor who has been a drug dealer for 18 years. Recently, this neighbor has been very visibly growing poppies for heroin in his backyard in violation of the law. He’s also been buying bigger and better trucks to deliver drugs. You can see them parked in his driveway.

In the past year, though, because of increased police patrols and all the neighbors threatening to do something, this suspicious character has shut down the laboratory in his basement to convert poppies into heroin. In the wake of that, the police declared that he is no longer a drug dealer.

“But wait,” say the Gulf Arabs, “he’s still growing poppies. He was using them for heroin right up to 2003. Now he says he’s in the flower business. He’s not in the flower business. He’s dealing drugs. And he’s still expanding the truck fleet to deliver them. How can you say he’s no longer a drug dealer?”

Sorry, say the police. We have a very technical, legal definition of drug-dealing, and your neighbor no longer fits it.

That’s basically what has happened between the U.S. and Iran — just substitute enriched uranium for poppies. Now, Bush officials are trying to tell everyone: “No, no, Iran is still dangerous. You have to keep the coalition together to get Tehran to stop enriching uranium.” But in a world where everyone is looking for an excuse to do business with Iran, not to sanction it, we’ve lost leverage. Everyone in the neighborhood can smell it — and it worries them.

The problem this creates is that it potentially deprives the US and its few remaining allies of the only leverage we had that might force concessions from the Iranian government if the next President chooses to engage them in talks. As Friedman puts it:

As I have said before, I’d rather see Iran go nuclear, and contain it, than have the Bush team start another Middle East war over this issue. But I’d much prefer a negotiated end to Iran’s enrichment. Right now there is a silly debate: Should we negotiate with Iran “conditionally” or “unconditionally” on this issue. Wrong question. The right question is should we enter such negotiations with or without leverage.

If we sit down with the Iranians without the leverage of a global coalition ready to impose tighter and tighter economic sanctions — should Iran not halt enrichment — we’ll end up holding a stuffed animal. The peculiar (obtuse?) way the N.I.E. on Iran was framed has deprived all who favor a negotiated settlement of leverage.

“It was the C.I.A. doing its job of collecting intelligence really well and presenting it really badly,” said Mr. Samore.

Now we have to depend on — Oh, my God! — President Bush to persuade the world to read the whole N.I.E. and see it in a balanced perspective. As I’ve also said before: Some things are true even if George Bush believes them, but good luck getting anyone to buy that anymore.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Indesputable Proof Of Global Warming - The Onion Style

The Onion provides the ultimate proof, especially for pro football fans, of the growing lag in truly cold weather each football season. Key quote:

"The phenomenon of weather-related African-American supracranial vaporous emission, or 'Steaming Black-Guy Heads,' as it is colloquially known, occurs when cold dry winter air comes into contact with hot, humid, shaven heads of football players, causing their personal water vapor to condense and rise on a column of heated air," the statement read in part. "It is then observed by network cameramen, who overwhelmingly choose to film African-American players due to the dramatic contrasts that result—especially when the player in question is backlit—and beamed to millions of households during time-outs, replay reviews, and other stoppages of play. The viewers then realize that winter has come to America."

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chelsea Faces The Hazards Of The Campaign Trail

It could be just me, but doesn't the look in Chelsea's eye make it seem she is looking a year's worth of carbs on a plate and is mortified?

In all likelihood the truth is that both her parents have schooled her in the fine art of surviving the rigors of the road without packing on excessive poundage.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Agnostics Need Not Apply

According to Mitt Romney's recent speech on religion and the Presidency, which was widely praised, only followers of some, any, mainstream religion can serve in the White House. Presumably the same standard would apply to any elected position.

David Brooks has it exactly right in today's Times:

When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?

Labels: , ,

If CIA Destroyed The Videos, Which Ones Were Viewed By US Attorneys?

According to all the reports, including the NY Times, the two video tapes showing the interrogation of two suspects were destroyed in 2005. If, and I emphasize if, the tapes were destroyed some two years ago, which tapes were viewed in September and October of this year by the U.S. Attorneys involved in the Zacharias Moussaoui prosecution?

The Times provides a link to a pdf file of a heavily redacted copy of a letter from U. S. Attorney Chuck Rosenburg and his staff. In the letter the Justice Department is advising the Courts involved that, contrary to assertions previously proffered by the prosecution, two video tapes, (and one audio tape) of interrogations do indeed exist. In fact the letter asserts that the attorneys personally viewed the tapes on September 19, 2007 and October 18, 2007.

Only two conclusions are possible, assuming the assertions of the U.S. Attorney are true: either the tapes allegedly destroyed in 2005 still exist or a second pair of video tapes exist. Who is being interrogated in the tapes referred to in the letter is impossible to discern due to the redactions.

But Congressional subpoenas should be able to ferret out the truth. You can cut the bullshit in this matter with a knife.

Labels: , ,