March 11, 2010 archive

on walkabout





House Votes To Stay In Afghanistan, Chalabi De-Baths Again, MI5 Hides in Court

Four War on Terra stories for a Wednesday afternoon:

1. The House of Representatives just voted No on a resolution to direct the President to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan within 30 days, or by Dec 31, 2010 if a later date is safer.  65 to 356.  H Conn RES 248 was sponsored by Dennish Kucinich of Ohio and had 19 co sponsors.…

Patrick Kennedy (D, RI) is down as a NO vote inspite of this story on HuffPo where he yells at the MSM for not paying attention to this national debate.   “We’re talking about war and peace, $3 billion, 1,000 lives and no press! No press !”  WTF?  No vote, dude!…

The Yes on withdrawal votes were as follows.  We thank the 5 Republicans who also voted for this (marked with ••).


••Campbell, John, CA 48







Davis (IL)



••Duncan John TN- 2

Edwards (MD)




Frank (MA)




Hastings (FL)

Jackson (IL)

Jackson Lee (TX)

••Johnson Timothy  (IL- 15)

Johnson, E. B.

••Jones Walter NC -3



Larson (CT)

Lee (CA)

Lewis (GA)



Markey (MA)




Miller, George

Nadler (NY)


Neal (MA)



••Paul, Ron, TX 14


Pingree (ME)

Polis (CO)




Sánchez, Linda T.

Sanchez, Loretta














See the glory…

…of the royal scam

They are hounded down

To the bottom of a bad town

Amid the ruins

Where they learn to fear

An angry race of fallen kings

Their dark companions

While the memory of

Their southern sky was clouded by

A savage winter

Every patron saint

Hung on the wall, shared the room

With twenty sinners

See the glory

Of the royal scam

This is an open thread…

Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010

Update: I’ve bolded key passages in the bill below the fold to whet your appetites.

My Fellow Prisoners, High-Value Detainees, and Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents,

I would like to introduce to you the legislation that gets our accelerator stuck on the floor mat on the road to full tilt boogie, banana republic-style dictatorship, Senators John McCain’s and Joe Lieberman’s Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.  

This proposed legislation manages not just to “twist” the Constiution, but a does the physically impossible inward-rotating armstand flying forward back double reverse three-and-a-half somersault pike with a synchronized hand-in-butt-tuck.  The essence of the bill aims to completely destroy the concept and practice of due process, shoot America in the face, and throw it straight off the cliff.

I suspect that this bill was written with indefinitely, and illegally detained Guantanamo prisoners in mind, i.e., to keep them from being prosecuted in civilian criminal courts, but the scope of the language goes well beyond those poor suffering bastards and explicitly includes YOU, my fellow high-value detainees.   Someone needs to take a flamethrower to this odious piece of garbage.

Any person suspected of being an “enemy belligerent,” explicitly including U.S. citizens, can be detained without Miranda warnings, interrogated, and be imprisoned indefinitely at the whim of interrogation groups, the FBI, CIA, DNI, Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, “appropriate committees of Congress,” and the President, with the President making any final calls in cases of dispute.  Any alien determined to be a “high-value detainee,” the law would explicitly prohibit Article III jurisdiction, that is, it would prohibit the judicial branch from any consideration of due process requirements.  As a bonus, the bill would also essentially usurp any local, state, and federal law enforcement for military purposes.  Thus the President trumps the judicial branch on due process for non-citizens in all circumstances.  However, during a time of war, the President trumps justice on due process for citizens, as well:  

SEC. 5. DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL OF UNPRIVILEGED ENEMY BELLIGERENTS. An individual, including a citizen of the United States, determined to be an unprivileged enemy belligerent under section 3(c)(2) in a manner which satisfies Article 5 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities.

Overnight Caption Contest

larger here

International Working Women’s Day – By V.I. Lenin

Original article, by V.I. Lenin (yep…him), via In Defence of Marxism:

“The working woman and the peasant woman are oppressed by capital, but over and above that, even in the most democratic of the bourgeois republics, they remain, firstly, deprived of some rights because the law does not give them equality with men; and secondly – and this is the main thing – they remain in “household bondage”, they continue to be “household slaves”, for they are overburdened with the drudgery of the most squalid, backbreaking and stultifying toil in the kitchen and the family household.” V.I.Lenin, March 4, 1921

Does your representative show the military industrial complex enough love? (I’m naming names)

Today in America there is a big and under-reported issue.  There are actually people out there, some of them unbelievably in Congress, crazy enough to challenge that great American institution, the military industrial complex.  Who doesn’t love Halliburton?  Or Dick Cheney?  Or the Iraq War?  Or useless projects that do nothing more than enrich and empower an already powerful and rich elite?

I’ll tell you who.  65 good for nothin’ Congresspeople.  They’re the ones who today voted against a symbolic resolution to get our troops out of Afghanistan.

Now, cutting the snark, so many of the other 356 don’t even have the gall to vote against a symbolic resolution to end a war!  I understand that some people honestly support it, but when less than half of the country supports the war in Afghanistan, it’s a bad sign that all of these Congresspeople still do:

For Your Consideration: The Health Care Fight That Was Never Fought

 Jane Hamsher at FDL took more hyperbolic criticism at GOS for calling out Lynn Woolsey on her political naivity Lynn Woolsey: Closing Barn Doors Since 1993

Lynn Woolsey writes an op-ed in Roll Call today on her commitment to a public option, pandering to liberals who would indeed have to be “f*#king re#!rds” for it to make any sense.  It comes on the heels of her public announcement that she will break every single pledge she’s ever made to vote against a health care bill without a public option.

It’s a paean to the importance of said public option, but the kicker is at the end:

   Piecemeal tweaking of the health insurance system will not address this growing problem. We need to reform our health care system, and the public option must be included.

   I will fight to include the public option in the final version of the health care reform legislation.

   If it is not included, however, it will rise from the dead once again.

   The day after the health care legislation is passed, I will introduce a bill calling for the public option.

   Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Well, I agree with Jane. If either Woolsey is that politically naive about the Senate or thinks that progressives are that stupid to believe that a stand alone bill with a public option has a snowball’s chance, then she should step down as the chair of the Progressive Caucus.

But there is more that really had me amazed at those who so loudly claim that this bill is the beginning of health care reform

Cost Containment and Trust in “Bipartisan Reform”

Posted at Progressive Blue

If the hearing word bipartisan makes you want to commit senseless acts of violence, chances are that you are probably one of those pacifist liberals. Just like so many words in American politics, bipartisan no longer means what we think it means. It would also seem that “progressive action” has come to mean being in the constant state of erasing lines in the sand.

All this time so many Democratic supporters were thinking that Social Security and Medicare represented the backbone of the Party of FDR but in the spirit of bipartisanship our Democratic president recently appointed a Republican as the chairman of the euphemistically named National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. That way the former Republican Senator from Wyoming can “save” the United States from “insolvency” by hacking away at Social Security and Medicare.  

Now I’m feeling a bit naive because working to get Barack Obama elected, I was under the impression that health care reform was about a government run insurance option to keep the murder by spreadsheet gang honest. I was optimistically thinking that “no mandates” meant Americans would not be mandated into supporting Wall St. dividends. There was the “Hope” that Obama’s only mandate was mandating quality health coverage. I had this odd notion that there would be no back room deals with special interest groups and Americans would get drug price controls. I seem to remember that the Republican candidate wanted to do away with the tax exempt status of employee contributions and that Barack Obama was going to repeal Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, using that money to pay for health care reform.  

Yesterday there was this story by James Ridgeway and he seems to have understood what to expect from the beginning. It really helps to redefine bipartisanship and understand where progress will be going under “bipartisan Democrats.”  

The Concept of Terrorism


Last year a friend of mine in Germany sent me his Meisterarbeit about Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic, and as you might expect (if you have any expectations about such a thing), it was a forest of Begriffe.

So many concepts, and such a difficult subject, now further complicated by 200 years of criticism and analysis! But it wasn’t exactly inconceivable that I might provide some aid and comfort for my friend, because I studied the first Critique once upon a time with a famous Kantian, although he never had a balkier student!

But as I began to read through my friend’s thesis, with a German text of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft and two translations (Max Muller and Kemp Smith) near at hand, an uncanny sort of unfamiliarity with what was formerly most familiar about “the Chinese of Königsberg ” suddenly descended upon me.

Did I really have a concept of a “concept?”

Leaving aside the difficult examples which have provided grist for the mills of nominalism and realism for more than 2000 years, and proceeding directly to Kant’s favorite objects of intuition and analysis in geometry, where every quality of a circle can be deduced from the definition, I still doubted that all those qualities were already somehow present in my intuition as soon as I conceived of a curve everywhere equidistant from a given point.

Did I already (or ever) also conceive of the beautiful connection between Pascal’s triangle and the four (or any number of) travelers problem, where all of them traveling at constant speeds on skew lines will inevitably meet all of each other if any two of them meet all the rest? It was hard enough to conceive a statement of the problem!

Worse yet, was it even conceivable for anyone to conceive of the higher-dimensional analogues of our familiar two-dimensional circles, the most familiar of all geometrical objects, but eventually generalized into a realm where anything like a geometric interpretation of those hyper-complicated generalizations may (or may not) be impossible? (This is a worm’s-eye view of the Hodge Conjecture, and for an eagle’s-eye view readers are referred to Pierre Deligne.)

Apart from this zone of ne plus ultra abstraction, everything concrete also conceals an equal inconceivability in its limitless particularity, every apple indescribably individuated away from a concept of apples which is serviceable enough for grocery stores and picture dictionaries, but only because almost none of the differences matter.

If you know it’s a Fuji apple, and it isn’t a rotten apple, or an apple with a worm in it, you know almost everything that you need or want to know about that apple.

So our concepts of concrete things are so dependable in our everyday existence that it’s only natural to invest them with a confidence beyond their everyday context, in a parallel world of Platonic Forms, for example, and not only beyond any possible experience, where Kantian antinomies return us abruptly to the here and now, but even more naturally into domains where we might have any amount of experience, but happen to have none at all.

And then, descending from the aerial perspective of Pierre Deligne and Plato and Kant, down, down, and down to the less-than-a-worm’s eye view of George W. Bush…

I wondered what that dim and demented little man had conceived we were invading when our armies invaded Afghanistan.

Was it only a shape on a map, where Bush or his tools at the CIA wrote “Here There Be Terrorists!” like a scrawl on some medieval Imaginarium: “Here There Be Dragons?”

And dragons exist! …although those nasty animals on an island in Indonesia only minimally resemble the dragons so beautifully imagined by Raphael and many other painters.

And terrorists likewise exist!  …although they only distantly intersect with our everyday experience, and by the time we recognized the name “Mohammed Atta,” it was the name of nothing.

But at one time Mohamed Atta was a brilliant engineer and architect with an advanced degree in urban planning from the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg. Immediately before he disappeared into the Islamist underground he was spectacularly under-employed as unskilled labor in a warehouse.

And he hated tall buildings.


Mohamed Atta’s otherwise austere apartment in Hamburg, Germany, had a curious decoration. On his wall hung a poster of the black-and-white photograph taken by Lewis Hine in 1930 of construction workers perched on a beam of the Empire State Building high above New York. The city far below looks dwarfed and inconsequential. According to his teachers and former classmates, Atta believed that high-rise buildings had desecrated his homeland. In the ancient cities of the Middle East, the time-honored mode of construction was to build one- and two-story houses with private courtyards. The construction of towering, impersonal and usually ugly apartment blocks in the 1960s and ’70s, Atta believed, had ruined the old neighborhoods, robbing their inhabitants of privacy and dignity.

The ordinary business of terrorism is so crude that even American media can almost adequately describe it. Dig a hole. Put a bomb in it. Boom!

Mohamed Atta elevated this miserable occupation into an art-form of almost super-human power. Superman “leaps tall buildings in a single bound.” Mohamed Atta knocks them down, with nothing but a set of warehouse box-cutters and a few clumsy accomplices, like Zacarias Moussaoui.

To match this masterpiece of the art of destruction, you would have to cast someone like Richard Feynman in the dual role of inventing nuclear weapons and also piloting the plane which obliterated Hiroshima, and if your concept of terrorism includes the whole course of terror running backward and forward between 9/11 and Hiroshima, like Feynman’s hypothetical electron/positrons flowing backward and forward in time, in an infinite dance of creation and annihilation, from Big Bang to Big Bang…

Then it’s probably a concept of everything, and nothing.

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