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Welcome to the Me Show.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
  • For future reference, a site to look at: Operation Truth. I found it via Across the River.

  • Details are obviously uncertain, but it looks like the Moscow car bomb reported earlier was not a car bomb, but a woman with explosives strapped to herself.

  • Details are obviously uncertain, but it looks like the Moscow car bomb reported earlier was not a car bomb, but a woman with explosives strapped to herself.

  • 8 people dead after a car explodes in Moscow.

  • Another blog recommendation: Back to Iraq 3.0.

  • Glad to see that Hesiod has returned to the blogsophere, even if it's only temporarily.

  • Remember when?

    Josh Marshall plays Bush Then and Now:
    "We meet today in a time of war for our country, a war (i.e., the war on terror) we did not start yet one that we will win."

    -- George W. Bush, August 31st, 2004
    "I don’t think you can win it (i.e., the war on terror). But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world."

    -- George W. Bush, August 28th, 2004

    Looks like George just lost his confidence there for a minute. Glad to see it only took him three days to get it back, though.

  • Well, I was just looking for a good definition of irony. Looks like I found one:
    Speaking from a heavily fortified convention hall... [the] central message of the Republicans' convention [is] contained in the first three words of the party's newly adopted platform: A Safer World.

    Now, I'm still trying to work out the difference between sarcasm and sardonicism. Though I'm certain this post is an example of one or the other of them.

  • Check out the The George W. Dance. Everybody's doin it.

  • Monday, August 30, 2004
  • In honour of the GOP's convention, I present this excerpt from Too Stupid To Be President's top 11 reasons not to fire Rumsfeld:
    8. The administration's investigation of Abu Ghraib only found fault with the "Office of The Secretary of Defense," so it's really the building's fault.

  • The US state department is joining other international observers in crticisizing the Chechen election as unfair. Warning, the link is to the Rev. Moon's Washington Times.

  • I have no idea how accurate this Earth Today site is, but it's sort of fun to look at.

  • It looks like those Russian planes were blown up by explosives. So why the report that one plane signalled a hijacking? The Transport Minister says the signal could have been triggered by the force of the crash.

  • 2 Minutes Hate

    I'm told at the Republican convention, the giant screens will flash enormous close-ups of jewish, gay, black, and arab faces. In response, the crowd is expected to jeer, shout, and scream. Both terror and loathing have been approved as appropriate emotional responses and the throwing of objects, or the firing of guns, at the iconic imagery is encouraged.

    To make sure everything goes according to plan, the Party has replaced Rev. Jerry Falwell, who was to make the opening speech, with this very evil Mormon woman.

    On days like this, I just want to hide my head from the world. But, of course, that's exactly what they want me to do.

    UPDATE: Corrected the apostrophe. And, no, only the middle paragraph of this post is serious. It's worth following the links, though, to see why Orwell's imagery comes to mind so readily.

  • Good news: New research suggests dark chocolate may help prevent heart disease.

  • Sunday, August 29, 2004
  • And in Russian news:
    Moscow's man in Chechnya, a policeman named Alu Alkhanov, has won the presidential election. And Russia has now found traces of explosives (hexogen) in both crashes. Investigators appear to be focussing on those two female Chechen passengers.

  • What's going on in the US of A?

    First, the First Lady:
    In an interview with Time magazine released on Sunday, Mrs. Bush said ads by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth criticizing Kerry were no different from attack ads that have been aimed at President Bush.

    U.S. gross domestic product -- which measures total output within the nation's borders -- expanded at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the second quarter to $10.8 trillion, down from the 3.0 percent pace estimated last month by the Commerce Department.

    And finally:
    Israel has strenuously denied spying after U.S. government sources said the FBI was investigating whether an analyst fed classified documents dealing with bitter foe Iran via a powerful pro-Israel lobby group. ... Some Israeli officials suggested the leak of the Pentagon probe, just before the Republican party convention in New York, looked like a pre-election attempt to soil Jewish, pro-Israel "neo-conservatives" in President Bush's camp who championed war in Iraq.

  • Friday, August 27, 2004
  • Russia has declared the twin crashes a terrorist act after traces of explosives were found in the wreckage and a group called the Islambouli Brigades of Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility (although of course such claims are hard to verify). From my perspective, there are two interesting aspects to this tragedy. First, Russia's apparent reluctance to admit that this is terrorism. Second, this:
    Officials said that investigators were focusing attention on two women with Chechen names — one aboard each plane — as possible suicide bombers, raising the specter of an ominous new front in Russia's fight against terrorism.

    In the last two years, women known as "black widows," who are said to be avenging the deaths of husbands, brothers or sons in Chechnya, have been involved in some of the Russia's most spectacular suicide attacks, including the bombing of a subway train in Moscow in February that killed at least 41.

    Women are increasingly preferred for suicide attacks. From what I understand, it's a practice that was introduced by the Tamils of Sri Lanka, and only recently made its way to Palestine and, evidently, Russia. In many cases (it is said) these women have been dishonored in some way (usually by rape, usually by the opposite side's men) and face ostracism from the community. As martyrs, however, they become revered. Strange logic, I know. To me, the revenge motive seems about equally plausible. In any event, it's a fascinating (if morbid) little case study of the diffusion of terrorist techniques.

    As for Russia's reluctance. I gather that Putin probably wants to put a happy face on the Chechen problem, to hold the presidential election on Sunday, and pretend like there's some kind of normalcy. Clearly, the Chechen rebels have other goals. I suppose what interests me about this behaviour is that Russia has an incentive to do the opposite. The obvious parallels to September 11th (including perhaps Al-Qaeda connections) bolster Putin's efforts to connect the Chechens to Al-Qaeda and thereby win American support for Russian activities in the Caucasus - both against the Chechen insurgency and in neighbouring Georgia. It's interesting, then, that whatever domestic need Putin has to convince people that he's making progress in Chechnya outweighs that incentive for American support.

    On a personal note, a friend of mine flew out of that airport on the same day.

  • There's a little something for everyone in this account of a New York Times interview with George W. Here's the bit that I'll emphasize:
    On environmental issues, Mr. Bush appeared unfamiliar with an administration report delivered to Congress on Wednesday that indicated that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases were the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades. Previously, Mr. Bush and other officials had emphasized uncertainties in understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.

    The new report was signed by Mr. Bush's secretaries of energy and commerce and his science adviser. Asked why the administration had changed its position on what causes global warming, Mr. Bush replied, "Ah, we did? I don't think so."

    Scott McClellan, Mr. Bush's press secretary, said later that the administration was not changing its position on global warming and that Mr. Bush continued to be guided by continuing research at the National Academy of Sciences.

    So that's that, then, I guess. They're guided by continuing research which shows we're causing the goddamned Earth to heat up, and their position (which denies that fact) remains unchanged. How does that work again?

  • The good news from Iraq (and for once it isn't about the schools):
    Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani returned yesterday to the embattled holy city of Najaf and won agreement from rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the government to end three weeks of fighting, government and religious leaders said.

    And the less good news:
    If the agreement holds, it could cement the power of Iraq's Shiite Muslim clergy - especially that of Sistani - and expose the weakness of the secular, U.S.-backed interim government, which has been unable to end the fighting between Sadr's militia and U.S. and Iraqi forces near the shrine.

    And here's an article on US soldiers' blogs with quite a list of links below. I hadn't seen several of these.

  • Thursday, August 26, 2004
  • Paul Glastris, standing in for Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly has an interesting update on the whole getting-Nader on/preventing-Nader-from-getting-on-the-ballot-thing. You know, that thing.
    In Oregon last month, Nader attempted to round up 1,000 supporters in a day to sign a petition -- one way to get on the ballot in that state. But Democratic activists packed the hall and then declined to sign on, leaving his petition a few hundred names short.

    The quote is from the WaPo.

  • Well, I'm gobsmacked:
    In a striking shift in the way the Bush administration has portrayed the science of climate change, a new report to Congress focuses on federal research indicating that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades.

    Wait just a minute... That sounds like... Yes, that actually is correct! Astounding. Clearly, we'll be seeing a report sometime in the next five minutes that Bush and Cheney are announcing strict emissions standards and a national push to develop alternative energy solutions... It's the only logical step. It has to happen. Any minute now.

    Link via Pandagon.

  • Bush campaign to take legal action to force the Federal Election Commission to crack down on 527 groups because Bush is, you know, opposed to money (mumble, mumble) in politics (mumble, mumble).
    White House press secretary Scott McClellan announced aboard Air Force One that the campaign would join Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a lawsuit against the FEC. ... The action promised today by McClellan is largely symbolic. There is virtually no chance that a lawsuit could be resolved before the Nov. 2 election.
    Yeah, um, expect this lawsuit aiming at reducing money's influence over politics to go nowhere in a very big hurry.
    Republicans have been moving aggressively in recent months to establish 527 organizations to raise money to compete with Democratic 527s, which have already spent tens of millions of dollars in ads attacking Bush.

  • No definitive explanation yet for the crashed Russian jets. The black boxes shut off before the planes were down, which is itself suspicious.
    The apparent failure of the recorders to provide significant information was sure to fuel what appeared to be rising suspicion among Russians over the crashes that killed 89 people, a view embodied by a headline in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta proclaiming "Russia now has a Sept. 11."

  • Astronomers have found us a Super Earth, where everything's bigger, hotter, and faster.

  • Wednesday, August 25, 2004
  • As of 5am (don't ask), it's looking a lot like some Chechen terrorists probably hijacked two Russian planes last night as they left Moscow, crashing them both a few minutes later and killing 90 people in the process. The wreckage of both jets has now been found. One of the planes sent a hijack alarm just before it crashed.

    That sounds a lot like confirmation of an Al-Qaeda style double hijacking just days before presidential elections in Chechnya, scheduled for Sunday, though obviously not all the details are in. Black Boxes have been recovered from both crash sites, so I'm sure much more information will be forthcoming.

    Assuming that both planes were hijacked, I'm inclined to doubt that it was the intention of the hijackers to simply crash the planes and kill everyone on board. Did the crews crash the planes rather than risk letting the hijackers use them as missiles? Or were the Chechen hijackers less capable pilots than the Al-Qaeda operatives of September 11th? The original destination of the first plane was Sochi, a Black Sea resort town where Putin is currently staying. It would have made a very attractive target.

    ...In local news: My girlfriend's mother arrived today on a plane which was delayed because 8 people had gotten on board who were not (so far as the airline was concerned) supposed to be there. Something sure as hell didn't work with the security precautions.

  • What I learned today on the Daily Show: John Kerry is a very tall man. Jon Stewart: not so tall.

  • Tuesday, August 24, 2004
  • I'm frequently rendered aghast by the blatency with which Bush and the people close to him lie. It's almost inconceivable to me that people can do such things, but here's John O'Neill of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to just how naive I am. O'Neill is one of the people who served "with" John Kerry, in the sense that he didn't actually serve with him, he took command of Kerry's boat after Kerry left and was pissed off by Kerry's later anti-war activism. (Like Snoopy served with the Red Baron, sayeth Jon Stewart.) What follows is a compilation of postings Atrios made over the course of today.

    First, O'Neill and co-author Jerry Corsi write in their "book", Unfit for Command:
    Kerry was never ordered into Cambodia by anyone and would have been court-martialed had he gone there.

    Now, here he is again. This quote is from George Stephanopolous' This Week, via Atrios - though I have not seen the rest of the transcript.
    JOHN O'NEILL: The whole country's watching him avoid the question. You asked about Cambodia. How do I know he's not in Cambodia? I was on the same river, George. I was there two months after him. Our patrol area ran to Sedek, it was 50 miles from Cambodia. There isn't any watery border. The Mekong River's like the Mississippi. There were gunboats stationed right up there to stop people from coming. And our boats didn't go north of, only slightly north of Sedek. So it was a made up story. He's told it over 50 times, George, that was on the floor of the Senate. He wrote articles about it, it was a malicious story because it painted all the guys above him, all of the commanding officers, in effect, as war criminals, that had ordered him into a neutral country, it was a lie.

    Finally, a transcript of a Nixon tape played on CNN's Newsnight tonight and transcribed by Liberal Oasis.
    O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

    NIXON: In a swift boat?

    O'NEILL: Yes, sir.

    Aghast I am. The guy told Nixon he was in Cambodia himself, then tells us he wasn't because it was impossible. I hope the Kerry campaign does an ad featuring these (or similar) quotations, and I hope to hell we've seen the end of the SBVFT.

    Thanks to Mustard is Evil at Atrios's comments.

  • Kerry is on the daily show tonight - like in 40 minutes.

  • Is this an attempt by Chechen terrorists at a Russian September 11th?
    The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, last night ordered the FSB security services to begin an investigation after one passenger plane with 42 people on board crashed and another aircraft carrying 52 went missing within minutes of each other after taking off from Moscow.

    It's possible the 'missing' plane is somehow a glitch and that there was actually only one plane crash. But so long as that second plane is unaccounted for, one can't help but think it's a copycat attack. Still, before leaping to that conclusion, let's recall that the Russian air industry is really, really bad.

  • Today, The New York Times thoroughly distorts what the "president" said:
    On Monday, President Bush, when asked by reporters at his Texas ranch about the anti-Kerry advertisements said that he wanted to stop "all of them."

    "That means that ad, every other ad," he said.

    He did not say he wanted to stop all the "anti-Kerry" ads. He said he wanted to stop all the 527-funded ads. There's a world of difference.

  • Shame on Reuters, MSNBC, and Yahoo. From Josh Marshall:
    MSNBC: "Bush: Vets should halt anti-Kerry ads."

    Yahoo News: "Bush Criticizes Anti-Kerry Television Ad."

    Reuters: "Bush says Kerry ad should stop"

    In fact, Bush just repeated Scott Mclellan's line that he opposes all 527 advertising. The closest he came to denouncing the Swiftboat Vets ads was this:
    QUESTION: When you say that you want to stop all...

    BUSH: All of them.

    QUESTION: So, I mean...

    BUSH: That means that ad, every other ad.


    BUSH: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s.

    So he did technically use a demonstrative pronoun to refer directly to the ad in question, but still within the frame of the '527' issue, never in terms of the content. He never says its inappropriate to challenge Kerry's military record. But by misrepresenting his statements, the media outlets listed above are making him out to be a gentlemanly politician, rather than the mean-spirited dirty trickster that he is. What Josh says:
    If someone asks me to denounce Joseph Stalin and I say, "Well, yes, I'm against all politicians who support the death penalty" then I haven't denounced Joseph Stalin, right? This is the same thing.

  • Monday, August 23, 2004
  • Jon Stewart kicks my ass. This is him on the Swiftboat Veterans ridiculousness. He gives them the treatment the major media oughta. A tip o' the hat to mainja.

  • The last time somebody stole The Scream:
    An anti-abortion group claimed it could get the painting returned if an anti-abortion film was broadcast on television.

    Police dismissed the claim.
    Edvard Munch's The Scream (Norwegian National Gallery version)

  • Sunday, August 22, 2004
  • Stupidity or corruption?

    As Jesse makes eminently clear, there are straightforward, easy-to-use, hard-to-screw-up ballot designs. I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone anywhere would ever want to do anything at all other than follow the clear-cut, simple, and brainlessly obvious design principles used by (for example) Elections Canada:

    But in the benighted land of Jeb Bush's Florida, voting is no simple matter. There, Democrats are relying heavily on absentee voting (vote-by-mail), partly because the touch-screen voting machines which will be much in prominence this year do not produce a paper trail. Thus in Palm Beach:
    Palm Beach County has introduced an absentee ballot that requires voters to indicate their choices by connecting broken arrows, sparking criticism that it is even more confusing than the infamous "butterfly ballot" used in the 2000 election.

    Theresa LePore, the elections supervisor who approved the 2000 butterfly ballot, opted for a ballot design for the Aug. 31 primary that asks voters to draw lines joining two ends of an arrow.

    Here's a good discussion of that 2000 ballot. Honestly, I can't even imagine this connect-the-arrows ballot. I've been searching online for an example, but so far I've found nothing. Why in the hell do they have to make it so complicated (if not to facilitate corrupting the process)?

  • You should read this column by Eric Margolis from today's Toronto Sun on the subject of Bush's recent announcement of major US military redeployments. Withdrawals from Germany and South Korea have been getting a fair amount of flak in the US media. Kerry has critisized it for being 'the wrong signal to send at the wrong time'.

    I don't know enough about the issues to make my own assessment. On the one hand, it's plain that the Bushies think they can benefit by saying that they're bringing the troops home - even when it's not the same troops everyone wants to see come home. Moreover, Kerry's 'wrong message, wrong time' critique is pretty reasonable. It looks like more Bush petulance: the US is punishing South Korea and Germany for not supporting Bush on key issues. Alternatively, you might be justified in thinking that the US is rewarding North Korea for building nuclear weapons. Finally, if the European withdrawal means a weakening of NATO or the more general US-European alliance, then it could be very bad for world security.

    But on the other hand, despite post-Cold War reductions, it's really pretty bizarre that the US has kept so many soldiers in Western Europe all this time. Militarily, at least, it seems totally unnecessary. There's a less strong case to be made about the US presence in South Korea, but it can be made, and Margolis makes it, so I won't bother repeating it. Furthermore, the stabilizing effect of US forces might be put to better use elsewhere.

    With these considerations in mind, I draw your attention to two points in the column:
    Removal of U.S. forces from Germany, with the inevitable reduction of power, even raison d'etre, of NATO, means declining U.S. political influence over Europe. This, in turn, will allow a united Europe to develop that is a full-scale partner, not a vassal, of the United States -- a most welcome geopolitical development. One wonders if the Bush administration's limited thinkers understand this vitally important point.

    ...Meanwhile, the U.S. will open new bases in Bulgaria and Romania as part of America's new "imperial lifeline." They will be linked to new U.S.
    bases being built across Central Asia, Pakistan, Iraq and the Gulf, designed to cement Washington's hold on the Muslim world and its natural resources.

    As a result, the entire armed forces are being restructured for "expeditionary warfare," (the British used to call it "the imperial mission"). ... These dramatic new deployments signal further expansion of military operations around the globe as America comes ever closer to resembling its forbear, the British Empire. Most Americans, however, remain unaware of their government's new imperial plans to rule oil and the Muslim world, and of the unexpected conflicts that lie in wait for America's increasingly far-flung expeditionary forces.

    So Margolis comes out in favour of a withdrawal from Europe (and even South Korea), but sees these things as signalling a new phase in the rise of the American Empire. It's not a wholly comforting vision.

  • This Canadian Press article is regrettably short on details. But I do enjoy this sentence:
    James Paul Stanson was arrested June 23 after police said a man approached a Toronto officer saying he'd aborted plans for a shooting rampage in east-end Toronto after encountering an affectionate dog.

  • Update: Via Atrios, Matt Drudge (of the rumormongering Drudge Report) is reporting that Bush is planning to visit the Olympics and may attend an Iraqi soccer match.

  • Saturday, August 21, 2004
  • Bush and his admen have been highlighting the participation of Iraqi and Afghani athletes at the Olympics. Yesterday, the Iraqi Soccer team spoke up about it:
    Their comments were made in a US Sports Illustrated magazine interview.

    Salih Sadir said he was angry at Mr Bush's campaign adverts showing pictures of the Afghan and Iraqi flags with the words: "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations - and two fewer terrorist regimes".

    Iraq as a team does not want Mr Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," said the Iraqi player.

    "He can find another way to advertise himself."

    ...Another star player, 22-year-old Ahmed Manajid, asked: "How will [Mr Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes." ... Mr Manajid, from Falluja - a hotbed of armed opposition to the US-led occupation in Iraq - said if he was not playing football "for sure" he would be fighting as part of the resistance. ...

    "My problems are not with the American people. They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything," he [the Iraqi team's coach] said.

    "The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

  • Friday, August 20, 2004
  • In stark contrast to Canadian affairs, the drama of South Ossetia continues unabated:
    TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - Hoping to end persistent skirmishing, peacekeepers moved into areas near South Ossetia's capital to separate Georgian troops and fighters from the breakaway region, officials said Friday. ... Following the fighting, Georgia began withdrawing troops from the contested region, and Russian peacekeepers - part of a force that includes Georgian and South Ossetian troops - deployed on hilltops near Tskhinvali and set up checkpoints near several villages, officials said.

    This seems to exemplify part of Russia's weird approach to peacekeeping. In 1992, a line was drawn around South Ossetia, to be patrolled by a force consisting of Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian soldiers. The peacekeeping force in Moldova is likewise made up of Russian, Moldovan, and Transnistrian units. The problem with this arrangement, obviously, is that when the bullets start flying the Georgian and South Ossetian contingents just join their comrades and Russia is the only third party... and it is far from being a neutral third party:
    Russia says it recognizes Georgia's borders, but it wields powerful influence in South Ossetia, where most residents have been given Russian passports and many want the region to become part of Russia.

  • If you're like me, you've been wondering if anything at all is happening in the world of Canadian politics during this long summer of our discontent... And yes, there's a little debate happening over whether or not a national pharmacare program is affordable. Also, Pierre Pettigrew (for whom I have a strange fondness) is hoping to expand this nation's Gestarbeiter program. I think it's important that we learn more about that. Finally, according to a new audit, our military is not very good with money. And that folks, pretty much wraps it up.

  • Abu Ghraib. From Reuters, citing the WaPo:
    The Post quoted its sources as saying the report implicated five civilian contractors in the abuses and that the army would recommend their cases be sent to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

    "Civilian contractors" means mercenaries. Is there any chance that they would actually prosecute a mercenary for doing something s/he was paid to do?

    Needless to say, I have my doubts. But then again, this is the Bush administration and, really, only one thing matters to the folks in charge.

  • Thursday, August 19, 2004
  • CORRECTION: Well, that's embarrasing. Lenin was not from Georgia. But at least I had Stalin right. Remind me to check my facts before I go spouting them.

  • Saakashvili is backing down:
    Georgia has pulled its troops out of the republic of South Ossetia. ... Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili called the pullout the last chance for peace in South Ossetia. But he warned he would send the troops back in if Georgian civilians are attacked by separatists.

  • What happens if you google "Silly"?

    Well, the first hit is
    Molecules with Silly or Unusual Names. Check it out.

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2004
  • A while back we were talking about Democrats' efforts to get international observers to the US election. I support the idea of international observers at all democratic elections quite strongly, particularly because I think it sends a good signal to other countries. Canada should do it. Well, Andy has discovered that there will indeed be observers at the US elections, though not UN ones, but rather OSCE ones.
    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was invited to monitor the election by the State Department. The observers will come from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

    It will be the first time such a team has been present for a U.S. presidential election.

    "The U.S. is obliged to invite us, as all OSCE countries should," spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir said. "It's not legally binding, but it's a political commitment. They signed a document 10 years ago to ask OSCE to observe elections."

    This is certaintly pertinent to recent discussion in the blogosphere, partly spawned by this Paul Krugman editorial, on how to make sure the election is legitimate, the votes get counted, and a frustrated electorate does not rise up in a tide of civil unrest... On the other hand, international observers at the elections can do nothing about voter intimidation happening right now.

  • My 'research paper' (i.e. abbreviated thesis) for this degree I'm working on focusses on Russia's relationships with several post-Soviet states: the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the 'South' or 'Trans' Caucasius (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), and Moldova. So, in case you care, here's a little bit of why this can be interesting. From today's news:
    Officials in Georgia say at least two soldiers have been killed and five wounded in the latest battles with separatist fighters in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. ... Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has called for an international conference on the situation, saying he has exhausted all peaceful means to resolve it.

    South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, and wants to become part of Russia.

    The Ossetes are an ethnic group that straddle the Georigan-Russian border. Next door to Georgia's South Ossetia, there's a Russian province called North Ossetia. The Russians are in an awkward position, because they want to support Georgia's 'territorial integrity', but North Ossetia (which is next door to Chechnya) has occasionally threatened to secede if Russia prevents the North Ossetes from doing whatever they can to help their Southern cousins. Furthermore, Russia likes having military bases in Georgia, and Georgia can't tell the Russians to leave so long as it depends on Russian help for holding back the South Ossetes (as well as Georgia's other secessionist minority, the Abkhaz).

    Georgia's new president,Saakashvili, is trying to reassert the power of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in its erstwhile provinces. He seems to have succesfully done so in Ajaria, a place which never quite turned to militant secessionism but simply teetered on the edge of it for the past 14 years. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are going to be much, much more difficult.

    Finally (and for a lot of people this is probably where it gets really interesting), Georgia is next door to Azerbaijan, which has large oil deposits which have been largely unexploited. A major Western oil consortium is involved with creating the infrastructure necessary to exploit them. Now, I'm a little hazy on these parts, but as I understand it, the oil companies are building two pipelines. One will go through Russia, one will go through Georgia to Turkey. In general, US and Western oilmen seem to want to avoid Russia. So Georgia is the preferred route. As a result, I think we can expect Georgia get some increased US attention.

    And for the history buffs: Both Lenin and Stalin were from Georgia.

  • I realize that you're really unlikely to care about this, but I do, although only a little.

    This past July, Pakistani "President" (yes, he gets quotes, just like W) Pervez Musharraf visited Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has been in something of a stalemate for the last decade with its neighbour Armenia, which controls about a tenth of Azerbaijan's territory, particularly the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Pakistan, of course, has been in a stalemate for the last half-century with India. India and Pakistan each control part of the (legally Indian) province of Jammu and Kashmir. (We can abbreviate these troublesome and awkwardly named regions N-K and J&K respectively.)

    So what's so (un)interesting about all this? Well, here's what happened during Musharraf's visit:
    President Musharraf thanked the Azerbaijani side for supporting Pakistan on Kashmir issue and pledged to continue supporting Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

    Usually when a state is trying to fight off a secessionist movement (which Azerbaijan is doing in N-K) it doesn't make a big show of supporting secessionist movements in other states (effectively what it's doing with respect to Pakistan and J&K). It's just a bad idea to say, well no, we don't support your right to self-determination, but, yes, we do support theirs. I guess the Azeri government just isn't too concerned about the apparent hypocrisy.

  • Cathaliban

    The Catholic Church, particularly certain conservative bishops in the US, has been acting awfully upity in recent days - with the encouragement of the Republican party, of course. Who do they think they represent, God, or something? Of course, it's not like we haven't seen some of the same newfound interest in politics among the Canadian clergy. Apparently, this all has to do with internal Church politics, with these guys playing my conservativism-is-bigger-than-yours against each other. (Surprisingly, none of them yet seem to be going the route of Australia's arch-bishop in advocating a return to giving mass in Latin...)

    Anyway, today Atrios points us to General JC Christian's recent letter to Rev. John Smith, Bishop of Trenton. Smith is one of the bishops advocating refusing communion to pro-choice politicians (i.e. Democrats). Now, though, Smith has decided it's time to really show us what the Catholic Church is all about, i.e. dogma, dogma and oh, yes, dogma. Quoth the General:
    My faith in your leadership was confirmed again the other day when I learned that you had revoked a little girl's first communion because she partook of a wheat-free host. It does not matter that a normal wafer might have killed her. She'd have met our Lord in Heaven. Now, thanks to you, she faces an eternity in Hell unless she chooses the death and resurrection embodied in the wheat-based host.

    The General links to this article which explains what the hell is going on for those of us unfamiliar with the legalistic subtleties of the Catechism:
    An 8-year-old girl who has a rare digestive disorder and cannot consume wheat has had her first Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained none. ... Roman Catholic doctrine holds that communion wafers must have at least some unleavened wheat, as did the bread served at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.

    In May, the girl received her her first Holy Communion from a priest who offered her a wheat-free host. But last month, the diocese told the priest that [her] sacrament would not be validated by the church because of the substitute wafer.

    No word yet on when pro-death penalty or pro-war politicians will see their communions refused.

  • Tuesday, August 17, 2004
  • OK, the computer is still busted, but I could not keep this one to myself. Ezra at Pandagon refers to a poll that shows that 64% of likely voters claim they're more interested in politics now than they were during the 2000 election. ...[While] a recent study found 75% of youth say they'll definitely vote this year. Pondering the source of this upsurge, Ezra suggests:
    Maybe all the voters needed were two wars, a major terrorist attack, skyrocketing deficits, environmental degradation, lies from the White House, sinister secrecy from the Vice-President, white-collar outsourcing and a recession to spur them towards the ballot booth.

  • Monday, August 09, 2004
  • Back home now, but I'm suffering from some internet-access problems (my computer is behaving badly). As a result, posting is and will continue to be light or non-existent at least for the next couple of days.

  • Sunday, August 08, 2004
  • Warning: Vaguely Adult Content. makes the following offer to anyong "seriously considering a terrorist act" for the sake of the forty virgins which are said to come as a reward in the afterlife:
    Set aside your plans, and we'll give you your virgins right here, right now!

  • Wednesday, August 04, 2004
  • Sinking to their level.

    Jesse over at">Pandagon points out that Joe Hoeffel, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, helped a right-wing third party get on the ballot as a way of bleeding votes off of his Republican opponent. Jesse rightly observes that not only is this somewhat undemocratic, it shoots "any credibility Democrats might have had in pointing out that Republicans are doing this with Nader right in the foot."

  • Psychoer and psychoer. John Gorenfeld brings us the latest from the Moonies. The Rev. Moon's been selling submarines, which may pose a nuclear threat, to North Korea. Man, oh man. Link via Eschaton.

    It's worth noting that this is a case of mid-1990s weapons proliferation from the former Soviet Union. The subs were purchased (indirectly) from Russia, and North Korea reportedly hired Russian experts to help them develop their submarine-launch technology. That technololgy, "could finally provide [North Korea's] leadership with something that it has long sought to obtain -- the ability to directly threaten the continental U.S.," Reuters quotes Janes Defense Weekly as saying.

    Speaking of True Father, Nick Confessore asks:
    This is serious stuff. Why is this nutcase even allowed to travel to the United States without being thrown in jail, let alone own a newspaper here, let alone be feted by Republicans at the Capitol?

    I'm obliged to point out, however, that, unfortunately, it is not just Republicans who were at the fete Nick mentions. Democrats were there too. Though Moon's ties to the Republicans might be tighter than his ties to the Democrats, the Democrats do not look entirely clean in this regard either.

    Given Moon's close relationship to North Korea, his control over various Western media outlets and his ties to US politicians, and in light of the Iranian intelligence operations which were apparently funnelling lies into the US government's reporting on Iraq, it is seriously looking like Iraq may have been the only member of the Axis of Evil that wasn't directly involved in shaping US policy.

  • Dick Cheney commits fraud, shrugs it off. All class, all the time.

  • Unimaginative and wimpy:
    Landay adds: "I think this administration may have a fairly punitive policy when it comes to journalists who get in their face. And if you talk to some White House reporters, there is a fear of losing access." He says that fear may have played into the relatively uncritical approach of news organizations like the Times. ... "I think the failure of the media in general in covering this story," Landay says, "is as egregious as the intelligence failure."

    This is from an article commending the excellent reporting done (prior to and during the war) by the Knight-Ridder organization on Bush's case for war and the intellgence surrounding his WMD claims, linked to this evening by Josh Marshall.

  • Monday, August 02, 2004
  • Videos of the Democratic National Convention speeches are here. I'm currently looking for all the transcripts. Some of the links, for instance to Obama's speech, include transcripts as well as the videos.

  • Sunday, August 01, 2004
  • As I'm currently travelling, posting is light. And so, even though it's now oldish news, I want to follow up on my previous post.

    Josh Marshall, linking to Reuters, as well as CNN and MSNBC, reported on July 29th about the capture of "a Tanzanian involved in the 1998 African embassy bombings," Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, for whom the US government has been, according to Reuters, offering a $25 million reward. Reuters describes him as "said to be a top al Qaeda operative and one of the world's most wanted men." Now, I haven't seen much news, so I don't know how much press this got, and since the Democrats' convention seemed to go off just fine and coverage of it seemed reasonable, then even if this capture were engineered by the Bush administration as a political tactic, it doesn't appear to have worked... yet, anyway.

    CORRECTION: fixed the date.
    UPDATE: Andy in comments below notes that they only announced the capture a few hours before Kerry's speech, even though it happened the previous sunday.

  • moon phases



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