Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rocket science -- the new arms race in Iraq

Although the Bush administration tells us that the insurgency is dwindling and in its "last thoes," it turns out that its "thoes" include some new, more lethal bomb making techniques. From the New York Times:

June 22, 2005
Iraqi Rebels Refine Bomb Skills, Pushing Toll of G.I.'s Higher

WASHINGTON, June 21 - American casualties from bomb attacks in Iraq have reached new heights in the last two months as insurgents have begun to deploy devices that leave armored vehicles increasingly vulnerable, according to military records.

Last month there were about 700 attacks against American forces using so-called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, the highest number since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the American military command in Iraq and a senior Pentagon military official. Attacks on Iraqis also reached unprecedented levels, Lt. Gen. John Vines, a senior American ground commander in Iraq, told reporters on Tuesday.

The surge in attacks, the officials say, has coincided with the appearance of significant advancements in bomb design, including the use of "shaped" charges that concentrate the blast and give it a better chance of penetrating armored vehicles, causing higher casualties.

Another change, a senior military officer said, has been the detonation of explosives by infrared lasers, an innovation aimed at bypassing electronic jammers used to block radio-wave detonators.

I.E.D.'s of all types caused 33 American deaths in May, and there have been at least 35 fatalities so far in June, the highest toll over a two-month period, according to statistics assembled by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that tracks official figures. . . . .

The shaped charge explosion fires a projectile "at a very rapid rate, sufficient to penetrate certain levels of armor," General Conway said, adding that weapons employing shaped charges had caused American casualties in the last two months. He did not give details.

A Pentagon official involved in combating the devices said shaped charges seen so far appeared crude but required considerable expertise, suggesting insurgents were able to draw on well-trained bomb-makers, possibly even rocket scientists from the former government. Shaped charges and rocket engines are similar, the official said.

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[LW: At last, the light at the end of the tunnel -- a bomb blast!]

Friday, June 17, 2005

Botero paints scenes of Abu Ghraib

Columbian painter Fernando Botero has long painted the violence and suffering of political struggles in his home country. This week an exhibtion of his paintings opened in Rome, including an number of recent works that depict scenes of torture at Abu Ghraib. This link shows some of the paintings along with an interview with the artist in Spanish. Not for children or the faint of heart.

Here's a news story in English about the exhibit.

- Langdon

Software design for totalitarian regimes

A story in the L.A. Times notes the helpful role that a Microsoft program plays for the Chinese government. The Bill Gates people have agree to flag certain forbidden terms, discouraging Chinese people from using them. I suppose this qualifies as the next "moster app" (or is that "monstosity app"?).

* * * * *

As China Censors the Internet, Money Talks
By Mark Magnier and Joseph Menn, Times Staff Writers

BEIJING — Chinese bloggers using a new Microsoft service to post messages titled "democracy," "capitalism," "liberty" or "human rights" are greeted with a bright yellow warning.

"This message includes forbidden language," it scolds. "Please delete the prohibited expression."

The restrictions were agreed upon by Microsoft and its Chinese partner, the government-linked Shanghai Alliance Investment. The limits have sparked a debate here and in the online world about how free speech could be threatened when the world's most powerful software company forges an alliance with the largest Communist country.

Multinational companies from cigarette makers to baby formula companies routinely change their advertising and other corporate behavior to adapt to local laws. Experts say that Internet companies such as Microsoft are often the focus of controversy because their products are linked to free speech issues, and many rules governing blogs — or Web logs — and other electronic speech are evolving.

"There's a spectrum here," said Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and an author of a recent study on internet censorship in China. "It's one thing to provide a regime with steel, another to provide bullets, and another to serve as the executioner."

Executives with the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant argue that they are only following local laws and any disadvantage is outweighed by benefits users get from the company's services.

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[LW: Of course, the same might have been said about the use of IBM equipment by the Nazi regime to facilitate the holocaust -- "any disadvantage is outweighed by benefits users get from the company's services."]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Downing Street memo and other evidence that the Iraq War was based on bogus intelligence and political deceit

While the US Congress, the media and the general public remain oblivious, the British press and bloggers have done fine job shining a light on documentary evidence of what amounts to the greatest political fraud in American history. The best complilation can be found at Think Progress.

How much longer will people simply nod, smile, wave the flag, and look the other way? (The evidence mounts that the 9/11 attack left America without a central nervous system.)
Profiles in cowardice: Senators who did not co-sponsor the resolution apologizing for not passing anti-lynching laws

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)

Evidently, majority leader Bill Frist was the one who bravely refused to hold a roll call vote on the resolution, shielding the above group from having to vote publicly by name. The resolution was adopted by "unanimous consent."

What a group.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dinosaurs on Noah's Ark?

To keep America safe from the theory of evolution and yet explain the embarrassing presence of ancient fossils, including dinosaur fossils, the creationists have arrived at an amusing re-telling of the story of Noah's ark.

"Why Do We Find Dinosaur Fossils?

In Genesis 6, we read that all flesh (man and animals) had 'corrupted his way upon the Earth' (Genesis 6:12). Perhaps people and animals were killing each other; maybe dinosaurs had started killing other animals and humans. In any case, the Bible describes the world as 'wicked.'

Because of this wickedness, God warned a godly man named Noah that He was going to destroy the world with a Flood (Genesis 6:13). God therefore commanded him to build a great ship (the Ark) so that all the kinds of land animals (which must have included dinosaurs) and Noah's family could survive on board while the Flood destroyed the entire Earth (Genesis 6:14-20). . . . .

God sent two of every (seven of some) land animal into the Ark (Genesis 7:2-3; 7:8-9)—there were no exceptions. Therefore, dinosaurs must have been on the Ark. Even though there was ample room in the huge ship for large animals, perhaps God sent young adults into the Ark that still had plenty of room for them to grow."

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It is too bad that since Yahoo has become the name for a web site, no one remembers Jonathan Swift's original designation for "Yahoo" in Gulliver's Travels. Evidently a lot of these creatures survived the flood as well.
When foxes run the hen house (greenhouse): a familiar Bush Administration tale

A NYT story, "Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming," gives yet more evidence of the what passes for "science" policy advice in the puritan plutocracy of George W. Bush.

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.

The dozens of changes, while sometimes as subtle as the insertion of the phrase "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties," tend to produce an air of doubt about findings that most climate experts say are robust.

Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues. . . . .

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A good sign of a failing city or failing society: when people take out more than they put in. That seems consistently characteristic of the Bushies approach. - LW
"Grocery Store Wars" -- 0rganic food video satire

The Organic Trade Association has released an amusing satire, "Grocery Store Wars," that pits a cast of virtuous, organic vegetable characters against chemicalized figures from the "dark side of the farm."

An earlier video by the same animators, "The Meatrix," is also a hoot.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

No clear purpose for the "war on terror" -- Army War College states the obvious

An interesting report by Stephen D. Biddle of the Army War College points to the quagmire in Iraq and the total lack of purpose exhibited in U.S. policy making about the "war on terror."

American Grand Strategy After 9/11: An Assessment


In the three years since 9-11, the Administration has yet to arrive at a clear definition of the enemy or the aim in the War on Terrorism; to date, American policy has combined ambitious public statements with ambiguity on critical particulars. Heretofore, the costs of pursuing such ambitious but ill-defined goals have been high but tolerable. The ongoing insurgency in Iraq, however, is increasing the costs of grand strategic ambiguity to the point where fundamental choices can no longer be deferred. There are two broad alternatives for resolving these ambiguities and creating a coherent and logically sufficient grand strategy: rollback and containment. Rollback would retain the ambitious goals implicit in today’s declaratory policy and accept the cost and near-term risk inherent in pursuing them. Containment would settle for more modest goals in exchange for lower costs and lower near-term risks. Neither alternative dominates the other on analytical grounds – both involve serious costs as well as benefits. Most important, the choice between them turns on a series of basic value judgments on the acceptability of risk, the relationship between near-term and long-term risk, and the ultimate degree of security the Nation should seek.