Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Bunch of Monkeys

Here is a highlight from Times article on a recent survey about creationism and evolution:

"The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism."

I found the first number absolutely staggering. As far as I can tell the last major academic proponent of this idea was this guy Agassiz who helped found Harvard's version of the Sheffield Scientific school some time around the Civil War. Basically he lost out to those who practiced what we now recognize to be methodologically sound science. The thing that I can't believe is the gap that currently exists between scientists and the general public. I'd stake a fair bet that 98% of all scientists and 100% of all non-crackpot types believe that the evidence is overwhelming that evolution has occurred. 42% is out of hand.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I read an interesting article by neocon Tod Lindberg yesterday about how the foreign policy aspect of Neoconservatism is actually a logical/realist extension of post-WWII Liberalism. The main thrust of the article was that Neoconservatism takes into account the "reality on the ground" while advancing the cause of "liberty", whereas the Liberalism of the '50's and 60's propounded a more universal applicability. Now I'm cautious about sounding the death knell in Iraq this early, but it seems like things are going completely to shit there as of late, and it's largely because of the sectarian/religious realities "on the ground" that the Neoconservative architects of the war either never took into account or ignored entirely for one reason or another. So if this "rigorous and realist case analysis" of the advancement of liberty is a central tenet of Neoconservatism, how did they get Iraq so wrong? How did they botch what they hail as a central tenet of the Neoconvervative foreign policy? I'm guessing it's just an utter and complete incomprehension of Iraqi society/internal politics, coupled with a gradual reconstruction of reality on their part via theoretical geopolitics, Iraqi dissident groups, securing oil insterests, and residual 9/11 vengenance. The upshot was that this original, geopolitically calculating version of Neoconservatism that Lindberg describes yielded to a more militant, post-Sept. 11 crusading neoconservatism that is both misguided and dangerous to the security of our country.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Anyone else find this mildly hilarious?

Say what you want about Snoop Dog, he always manages to you surprise you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Letter from an Iraqi

This is an interesting letter written by an Iraqi at concerning the Bush Administration's overreliance on Tribalism and the subsequent "braindrain" in the developing Iraqi state:

' It is remarkable how the "experts" on Iraq ignore the most important
section of Iraqi society: the non-tribal millions centred in Baghdad, Basra,
Mosul, Kirkuk and some other large cities. These may well belong to tribes and
may even be religious, but are totally independent. They regard their Sheikhs
[tribal leaders], if they know who they are, almost as a lower cast: Asha'ir
(Tribal people) who are considered clumsy, thuggish, and worst of all obeying
the tribes rather than following their principles or the country's
institutions.Until the 1980's Iraq enjoyed the best health, education and other
governement service, while the tribal areas were, and still are, quite backward
and even primitive, while the cities were as advanced as south western Europe.
The non-tribal Iraqis, call them Nationalist if you like, have had no place in
Bush's Iraq because the Americans promoted tribalism from day one in the hope of
controlling Iraq by buying its Sheiks and Mullahs. This policy worked in
Afghanistan and Kurdistan because these are collections of self-ruled tribal
areas, and not real countries, but have failed in Iraq's large cities with their
complex relationships and mobile population.These urban Iraqis are critical for
the future of Iraq because of their skills and patriotism - do not confuse them
with the corrupt Ba'athists though. The Iraqi ministries now are paralysed by
the corrupt and incomptent relatives and friends appointed by the Mullahs and
Sheikhs who now rule Iraq, which is being transormed into a failed state. The
militias and terrorists decide what happens to the people of Iraq. The
Constitution and state Institutions are irrelevant no matter how much fuss is
made about them.The Nationalists, who are more likely to be highly educated
professionals do not have militias, but can leave the country in droves.
Thousands already have, and the country can not function without them regardless
of who is in power. The bizzare collection of "Iraq Leaders" today are fighting
over spoils that do not exist. The Oil money is not enough even for basic needs,
and the failed economy and services will sooner or later trigger national
revolt. Unlike other nations, millions of ordinary civilians have AK47s in their
homes, and plenty of military training. '

Many of the Lebanese people I met complained about a similar exodus of educated elites during their civil war from 1975 to 1990, a situation that Iraq is quickly mirroring every day. Only now, 15 years later, are Lebanese professionals returning to their country.

Also, in their books, Richard Clarke and Bob Woodward document the U.S. Special Forces' tactic of literally handing out wads of cash to Tribal leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq in an effort to buy them off. Is this really the best allocation of U.S. tax dollars? Is there anyway to track where that money goes? We might as well just start sending personal checks to Sunni Insurgents.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Iran's Hand In Iraq

Yesterday's Pentagon press conference finally corroborates what most officials have been suspecting for a while about arms coming over the border from Iran. However, I think it's semantically misleading when officials use the term "Iran", because everyone immediately assumes Iran's government has something to do with it. I'm guessing that this particular materiel is coming from extremist groups within Iran and not sanctioned by the government itself. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution that dominates the Iraq government right now is more or less an ideological/religious extension of Iran, (Sistani himself is Iranian by birth) so it makes little sense for the Iranian government to be undermining the very Iraqi government that could more of less secure their future economic/military interests.

This is also a possiblity though - the Iranian government is simply "looking the other way" while some of these bombs cross their borders because a weakened, but not utterly defeated, U.S. army in Iraq serves their particular self interest. It IS possible for Iran to simultaneously support the Iraqi government and undermine the U.S. military presence.

This is all assuming of course that this bomb making material was intended for the "insurgents". Since we've utterly failed to provide Iraq with anything approaching security, many local militias are taking it upon themselves to counter the insurgency, so this stuff could have been intended for one of these local militias as well. (btw, I think one of the misconceptions perpetuated by the American media/government establishment is that this "insurgency" is a shadowy united front of Jihadis/Baathists coordinating all attacks their together. While this is probably the most widespread and lethal facet of the insurgency, many of the attacks are also perpetrated by groups of people or individuals who are simply angry with the United States for a number of reasons - remember that back in April of '04, our main enemy on the battlefield was Moqtada al-Sadr and Co. holed up in the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf. You're telling me that none of them want retribution for A. their friends getting killed last year, or B. the U.S. abandoning the Shiites in '91 after exhorting them to rise up against Saddam, resulting in another classic "Saddam kills everyone" massacre?)

Personally, I think we're fucked. No one really gives damn about democracy when you don't have power or water or a job, and and the only thing distracting you from the bullets whizzing by your head are the giant car bombs going off down the street. I'm guessing it'll probably be a "declare victory and leave" situation that comes back to haunt us in 25 years.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Alternate Universe of Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld's Recent Comments attempting to delink the recent London bombings with our invasion and occupation of Iraq either A.) betrays that he knows absolutely nothing about the people we're allegedly at war with, or B.) he understands the roots and intricacies of Islamic Extremism, but yet again is attempting to construct his own Rumsfeldian version of reality.

Many of the London bombers were British-Pakistanis with links to Jaish-e-Muhammad, an Islamic militant group with ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, operating in the hinterlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This and groups of its ilk are explicitly infused with al-Qaeda's atavistic propaganda of "The West is at War against Islam" and "Kick the Crusaders out of the Middle East", and impressionable/dislocated young Muslims from Manila to London are recruited by operatives plying pictures of dead civilians in Gaza, Falluja, and Kabul.

And Rumsfeld's comments are even more surprising after Ayman al-Zawahiri's lastest chart-topping music video yesterday:

"The truth that has been kept from you by (President) Bush, (Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice and (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld is that there is no way out of Iraq without immediate withdrawal, and any delay on this means only more dead, more losses. If you don't leave today, certainly you will leave tomorrow, and after tens of thousands of dead, and double that figure in disabled and wounded."

To me, it just seems like the Bush team has always had an agenda since 9/11, and they won't like anything, (including reality) get in the way. But to think that you can barge into a region that's already seething with anti-Americanism because of our history and policies, (Support for Israel aggression and Arab Police States) destroy their infrastructure, uproot their society, kill 20,000 civilians, instigate an influx of crazy jihadis, and then to say the countervailing reaction (which I'm not condoning at all - I think these extremists are the craziest of the crazies) has "nothing to do" with our policies in the region is just batshit insane. It's like a fat kid who's been whacking a beehive with bat for 30 years finally sticking his head into a beehive and then acting surprised when all the bees sting the shit out of him. (yes, he this hypothetical fat kid is at least 34 years old.)

Then Rumsfeld attempts to further his "we have nothing to do with why people attack us" illogic by saying something like "there was no war in Iraq or Afghanistan when terrorists attacked the Beirut barracks in 1983". True, but the U.S. WAS shelling Shiite and Druse positions in Beirut and its environs, killing hundreds of civilians, as well as finacially aiding an Israeli Army/Maronite Government that was committing unspeakable atrocities.

If this conflict with Islamic Extremism is ever going to be resolved, our elected officials have to start being more honest with the American people about its actual causes and stop propounding this disingenuous notion of perpetual American exculpability.