Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rising High Water Blues

You may recall that back in February, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) released a report about manmade global warming, along with some preliminary estimates of how much sea levels would rise if global warming was not stopped.

Today, comes this story:
HOBART (Reuters) - Rising sea levels and melting polar ice-sheets are at upper limits of projections, leaving some human population centers already unable to cope, top world scientists say as they analyze latest satellite data.

[...]"Observations are in the very upper edge of the projections," leading Australian marine scientist John Church told Reuters.

"I feel that we're getting uncomfortably close to threshold," said Church, of Australia's CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research said.

Past this level, parts of the Antarctic and Greenland would approach a virtually irreversible melting that would produce sea level rises of meters, he said.
You might recall, although I can certainly appreciate that you might not, the original report was criticized for its optimistic projections of the melting of the polar and Greenland ice caps. The report assumed a constant rate of melting.

Today's story puts the lie to those projections. Those projections called for the sea to rise no more than two feet this century. That may happen this decade, based on this latest research:
Church pointed out that sea levels were 4-6 meters higher more than 100,000 years ago when temperatures were at levels expected to be reached at the end of this century.

Dynamic ice-flows could add 25 percent to IPCC forecasts of sea level rise, van Ommen said.
Not good news.

And we even have a laboratory experiment in how societies will cope after massive coastal flooding alters civilization forever:
The number of permits issued to carry concealed weapons [in New Orleans] is running twice as high as it was before Katrina — this, in a city with only about half its pre-storm population of around 450,000. Attendance at firearms classes and hours logged at shooting ranges also are up, according to the gun industry.

Gun dealers who saw sales shoot up during the chaotic few months after Katrina say that sales are still brisk, and that the customers are a cross-section of the population — doctors, lawyers, bankers, artists, laborers, stay-at-home moms.

"People are in fear of their lives. They're looking for ways to feel safe again," said Mike Roniger, manager of Gretna Gunworks in Jefferson Parish.

Citizens, the tourism industry, police and politicians officials have been alarmed by the wave of killings in New Orleans, with 162 in 2006 and 37 so far this year. A Tulane University study put the city's 2006 homicide rate at 96 slayings per 100,000 people, the highest in the nation.
By the way, of that 162 killed last year? An additional number of people were killed in self-defense using guns. That number?

Two. Just over 1 percent. So a gun was 81 times more likely to be used in the commission of a homicide than in self-defense.

The breakdown of the social structure in the wake of the breakdown of the infrastructure in just one city is an object lesson in what happens to society. People feel vulnerable and so they will take drastic steps to feel less vulnerable, even if those "drastic steps" may seem reasonable at the time.

Too, think about how easy it was to sell the American people on the Iraq invasion, and that was after a relatively small tragedy occurred in two cities that most Americans view with disdain. Now think about how ready Americans will be to go to war just to feel good about themselves if the Outer Banks of North Carolina wash away, and take Charlotte with them.

We can even look back to history and see that the various occurrences of the plague wreaked havoc with society, resulting in the widespread persecution of Jews and Muslims, the extending of what was to become the Hundred Years' War, and the Jacquerie and England Peasant revolts. Hell, the plague even caused the Great Vowel Shift, which is why roam is pronounced to sound like "rome" but loam is pronounced to sound like "loom".

When you add to this the fact that most Islamists are not going to be too concerned with the immediate effects of global sea level rises, you can see there's a bit of reason to be concerned about warfare after the catastrophe's effect is felt fully.

But, um, yea, right won't have to shovel as much snow, so there's an upside...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Don't Stop Me Now - Queen

As interpreted by Simon Pegg in the marvelous movie, "Shaun of the Dead"

Friday Kitten Blogging

The Wimp Factor, Redux

Long time readers of this blog may recall that many moons ago (more like a year), I wrote a long think piece about, among other things, the inability of the Bush administration to cowboy up and give straightforward answers about difficult situations called The Wimp Factor.

President Clinton was called a liar, yet he rarely prevaricated (except of course, during the Paula Jones/Monica Lewinski, but who the fuck cares if he lied about a blow job except for those with a visceral deep-seated hatred of all things Clintonian?)

Comes this story this week:
Bush has vowed to oppose any attempt to compel aides to testify under oath in probes into whether last year's dismissal of eight of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys was politically motivated.

The president offered this week to have his aides meet with lawmakers under conditions that Democrats and even some of Bush's fellow Republicans have called unacceptable.

"We're told that we can have a closed-door meeting with no transcript, not under oath, limited number of people, and the White House will determine what the agenda is. That, to me, is nothing," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee.
I could get into a whole long drawnout discussion of checks and balances and the repudiation of Congressional oversight and even how this is being spun in that direction.

That's precisely the distraction the administration wants. It takes the focus off "The Wimp Factor," which lately, is running very very high in the White House.

Think about it: Bush and his staff have faced more and more challenges to their stated policy goals...and have buckled under the pressure.

With another administration, even say, Ronald Reagan, you could call this "statesmanship," but I seriously doubt any credible historian will see it that way in the years to come. The kindest way to look at this is to call it "politically calculated".

But that doesn't excuse the fact that, as with all bullies, when confronted by superior firepower and complicated strategies (as Reagan did in Beirut), Bush is folding up his tents and running for cover.

What the administration is engaged in is running out the clock, a time-honored if disreputable way for a team with a slim lead to keep control of the ball away from the other side until the game clock runs down.

You see it in football all the time: less than a minute to play, less than 3rd down, the team with a two-point lead snaps the ball, the QB takes a knee and thirty second are run off the clock.

Cheap. Cowardly. But effective.

In the case of the White House, the "lead" is the secrecy of the information leading up to what can charitably be called as "cheating," by abusing the conditions of the Patriot Act to depose eight prosecutors, some of whom had active investigations into Republicans nationwide, and replace these with prosecutors more loyal to what has been termed "the Bush agenda" (What agenda is that? Allowing cronies to pilfer at the public trough, like Duke Cunningham? Actually, could be, given we're talking about Republicans who somehow don't seem to mind being seen as ripping off the United States taxpayer.)

Likely, the House will issue subpoenas today (expect the Senate to do likewise shortly), and the White House will refuse to allow them to be served (or worse, they will be served and then torn up), which will create a fairly major Constitutional crisis:
Without a compromise, a lengthy court fight could ensue, possibly lasting until after Bush leaves office in January 2009. Republicans and Democrats have urged that common ground be sought.

Any court battle probably would turn on the issue of executive privilege, a legal doctrine invoked occasionally throughout U.S. history to shield presidents and their aides from having to answer questions or turn over information to Congress or legal probes.
Ultimately to be decided in the Supreme Court. Bush's Supreme Court.

Well, now at least we know why Harriet Miers was even considered for the court:
The Senate committee authorized subpoenas of Rove along with former White House counsel Harriet Miers and deputy White House counsel William Kelley.
Even if she recused herself when the case was brought up to the bar, she'd be involved in the discussions over the case.

Executive privilege saw its heyday during the Watergate era, and again during the Lewinski investigation. Clinton, however, agreed to testify under oath. Courage, that takes. A Man For All Seasons, indeed.However, in Nixon's case:
The Supreme Court addressed executive privilege in United States v. Nixon, the 1974 case involving the demand by Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski that Richard Nixon produce the audiotapes of conversations in the Oval Office of the White House in connection with criminal charges being brought against members of the Nixon Administration. Nixon invoked the privilege and refused to produce any records.

The Supreme Court did not reject the claim of privilege out of hand; it noted, in fact, "the valid need for protection of communications between high Government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties" and that "[h]uman experience teaches that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interests to the detriment of the decisionmaking process." This is very similar to the logic that the Court had used in establishing an "executive immunity" defense for high office-holders charged with violating citizens' constitutional rights in the course of performing their duties.

The Supreme Court however rejected the notion that the President has an "absolute privilege." The Supreme Court stated: "To read the Art[icle] II powers of the President as providing an absolute privilege as against a subpoena essential to enforcement of criminal statutes on no more than a generalized claim of the public interest in confidentiality of nonmilitary and nondiplomatic discussions would upset the constitutional balance of 'a workable government' and gravely impair the role of the courts under Art[icle] III." Because Nixon had asserted only a generalized need for confidentiality, the Court held that the larger public interest in obtaining the truth in the context of a criminal prosecution took precedence.
You'll notice that it's Republicans who deign to honor the Constitution when it suits them, not Democrats.

Naturally, the Bushies found a loophole and are claiming that the need for secrecy in this case rests on the doctrine of the ability of advisers to speak freely without recrimination.

Which raises a whole nest of ugly questions, mostly centering around, "If the advise was so controversial, then what the fuck could it possibly have been in a fairly straightforward case?"

The Patriot Act allowed for the firings. No law was broken there, and all the Congress wants to do is to understand what the mechanism was, and how the replacements were determined, since these positions generally have to be filled with the endorsement of the Senate under its advise and consent powers in Articles I & II. Too, you'll note that Article I, establishing Congress, was written before Article II, so important did the framers feel a public legislature was to the nation.

And oaths are a vital part of how any business, governmental or private, is conducted in this country. The United States is curious in that so much about this country is transacted between strangers on a handshake and a word given.

Ultimately, the quarrel comes down to taking an oath:
When a man takes an oath, he's holding his own self in his own water.

And if he opens his fingers then, he needn't hope to find himself again.
(yes, the movie was on this morning on HDMovieNet...thank you, Mark Cuban!)

And this is precisely why Bush won't let his people swear out an oath to testify to the truth, and nothing but the truth. He knows they would be unable to stand that test, and ultimately, the entire house of cards would tumble in on itself.

And that, this vainglorious, self-indulgent, ignoramus, could not stand. James Wolcott is as puzzled as the rest of us about this:
That's what's so strange about this percolatiing scandal. Instead of defusing it, dousing it, sedating it, Bush & co. have amped it up to a mini-Watergate decibel level of confrontation and document spew, complete with a former Watergate cast member. When Dick Cheney famously told Pat Leahy to go fuck himself, he and the rest of the administration clearly never anticipated the day when Leahy would return to powerful chairmanship; I think they internalized Karl Rove's visionary scheme of a permanent Republican majority and thought the future was in the bag. Now they're holding the bag and it's leaking all over their laps.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wet Enough For You?

I didn't want today to pass by without mentioning the single greatest threat to peace and stability, and perhaps the very existence, of (wo)mankind.

Water. Or rather, the loss of potable water for all humanity. Between global warming, pollution, and population growth, water is quickly becoming more costly than oil in some places and will in other places. There is much work to be done to stave off a major catastrophe the likes of which we have never and will never see in history.

Today is World Water Day. To quote the UN statement regarding water:
Each year more than 1 billion of our fellow human beings have little choice but to resort to using potentially harmful sources of water. This perpetuates a silent humanitarian crisis that kills some 3900 children every day and thwarts progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The consequences of our collective failure to tackle this problem are the dimmed prospects for the billions of people locked in a cycle of poverty and disease.

The root of this underlying catastrophe lies in these plain, grim facts: 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking-water. To help end this appalling state of affairs, the MDGs include a specific target to cut in half, by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation. In addition, the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation recently recognized that integrated development and management of water resources are crucial to the success or failure of all the MDGs, as water is central to the livelihood systems of the poor.
Already, two billion people, one-third of the world's population, suffer in regions of extended drought (including parts of the United States).

This is obviously not just about drinking: it's about sanitation, health, disease, poverty. It's about food and food sources. It's about being able to live a life, put out a fire, cook. It's about maintaining a bare minimum existence. It is, in fact, about how mankind can wrench a living out of the earth.

Something we in the United States (except for the southwest) barely have to pay attention to, while other countries, other continents, have to spend their entire waking lives keeping an eye on. Just ask Australia.

Places where population is exploding, places like India and China and Asia, are under tremendous strain, and there really is no way to mitigate this strain externally: we have to get in there and help them find water for their people, or risk threats that will expand globally. Think plague, if it will help. And as the strain takes its toll there, there will be less water for the rest of us around the world.

Eventually, it will hurt us all. What can you do? A lot, but far and away the most important thing you can do today is spread the word. Get two friends to the website I linked to, and have them get two more friends to go.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

- A friend of mine is celebrating his 32nd wedding anniversary today. For his wife, a life sentence. For him, a death sentence, for it is written, a man is incomplete until he is married. Then, he is finished (just kidding, Krishna!)

- I'll be sad to see John Edwards leave the campaign trail for such a tragic reason, but (note to self: wait for the news to catch up with the speculation)sadly, he sort of lost all his momentum already. He screwed up royally with the whole blogger "are they in? Are they out?" thing, and should by rights have a) vetted the bloggers ahead of time and b) stood by them once hired. His voice is important and while he would have been a longshot under any circumstance, I backed him in 2004 in the primaries and would have had no problems backing him again this year.

- I wish Elizabeth Edwards all the best in her struggle and my prayers are with her. They call it "incurable" but they don't know what they are talking about. Her voice, above even John's, maybe the most important Edwards' in the campaign.

- Speaking of campaigns and candidacies, I will have an huge announcement regarding the 2008 campaign, probably sometime around the first of the month. Stay tuned. Huger, they don't come.

- There was a fight in a hockey game last night...yea, I know, big shock to me which something happened that I have never seen before in nearly 35 years of watching and playing hockey: a KO in the first round. Usually hockey fights turn into endless fist-fencing duels, in which both parties square off, circle each other (literally...the ice is slippery), until someone sees an opening and lands a few glancing blows off the other guy's helmet or face mask. The combatants finally exahust themselves, fall to the ice, and that's that. But last night, in the Rangers/Flyers game, there was a one punch knockout by Colton Orr of the Rangers on Todd Fedoruk of the Flyers, who tried to cripple Jaroimr Jagr about three weeks ago. Check it out:
(not for the faint of heart)

- The trouble with Republicans is they'll sell their principles for power. The trouble with Democrats is they'll sell their principles for a shiny toy. By the way, these are also their strengths.

- On that line, the problem with the current brouhaha over the firing of prosecutors is not the firing itself, but the fact that no one read the fucking Patriot Act before voting for it, except Michael Moore. Normally, the Senate has some say in the hiring of prosecutors in their "advise and consent" capacity, but this administration has politicized what should have been clean-skirted from the get-go: the judiciary, from the hideous and embarassing decision in December 2000 to this current scandal.

- The reason we have checks and balances in our government is for precisely this situation: it gives the administration cover while also making sure the administration doesn't oversell its partisanship.

- John Bolton came off a whole lot better on The Daily Show than a lot of lefty blogs are saying in Blogtopia (©Skippy the Bush Kangaroo):

- Baseball season is nearly upon us. I'll be writing a lot about that next week, leading up to the season opener in St. Louis: My Mets v. the lowly Cards, the defending National League champions.

- Al Gore looked awfully Presidential yesterday. Looks like he lost some weight, too...

- If you look to the right in the sidebar, you'll see the brand new Actor212 Radio Days Network. Set a spell and share my music with me.

- Hang onto your butts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

From Shaun of the Dead, one of the funniest scenes involving oblivity ever made.

State Secrets vs. Life Itself

There's something enormously hubristic about this story:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy on Tuesday said it had asserted the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit by environmental groups, a move to keep the military from being forced to disclose classified information about the use of sonar believed to injure whales and other animals.

Navy Secretary Donald Winter, in a court filing submitted on Monday, said disclosure of the information requested by plaintiffs "could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security."
Which could be true, or might be nothing more than a way to cover up a hideously damaging report about American activities in the deep water oceans.

Some background: According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Navy sonar testing and private industry oil and gas exploration (by detonating explosives, then studying the resulting seismic waves) has caused mass beachings of whales and other marine mammals, forced nursing mothers to abandon their babies (in effect, driving the mothers insane), and has even driven fisheries to bankruptcy by killing or driving away edible fish, meaning entire communities and even countries are now on the brink of starvation and relocation.

Some of these beachings due to sonar include:
October 1989: At least 20 whales of three species strand during naval exercises near the Canary Islands.

December 1991: Two Cuvier's beaked whales strand during naval exercises near the Canary Islands.

May 1996: Twelve Cuvier's beaked whales strand on the west coast of Greece as NATO ships sweep the area with low- and mid-frequency active sonar.

October 1999: Four beaked whales strand in the U.S. Virgin Islands during Navy maneuvers offshore.

May 2000: A beaked whale strands in Vieques as naval exercises are about to begin offshore.

May 2000: Three beaked whales strand on the beaches of Madeira during NATO naval exercises near shore.

April 2002: A beaked whale and a humpback whale strand near Vieques during an offshore battle group training exercise.

September 2002: At least 14 beaked whales from three different species strand in the Canary Islands during an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the area. Four additional beaked whales strand over the next several days.

May 2003: As many as 11 harbor porpoises beach along the shores of the Haro Strait, Washington State, as the USS Shoup tests its mid-frequency sonar system.

June 2004: As many as six beaked whales strand during a Navy sonar training exercise off Alaska.

July 2004: Approximately 200 melon-headed whales crowd into the shallow waters of Hanalei Bay in Hawaii as a large Navy sonar exercise takes place nearby. Rescuers succeed in directing all but one of the whales back out to sea.

July 2004: Four beaked whales strand during naval exercises near the Canary Islands.

January 2005: At least 34 whales of three species strand along the Outer Banks of North Carolina as Navy sonar training goes on offshore.
2006 saw an even greater frequency, pardon the pun.

So one wonders what kind of "state secrets" could possibly be more important than the entire South Pacific chain of islands, more important than the fisheries along the east and west coasts of the United States that provide millions of tons of fish to our dinner tables, or, in truth, the killing of intelligent creatures like whales and dolphins.

As a scuba diver, this distresses me, to know that our "national security" is held to a standard incompatible with our existence as human beings on a planet filled with life that we haven't even begun to understand.

And that security is predicated on pissing other humans off and then defending our country, when in truth, a small change in our attitude towards other people and other creatures would solve most of these problems at far lower cost than the billions and trillions of dollars we have and will spend to defend our 5% of the planet's land mass.

True security only comes when you respect other people. When you start building walls to provide yourself security, eventually you find yourself a prisoner within those walls.

Think about it: how many of us would willingly travel to anyplace other than Western Europe, the Caribbean, or maybe Japan and China? First, you have to take into account the fact that a small minority of us ever leave the shores of the United States, we're so afraid of what the world holds in store for us.

Most Americans don't even hold a passport, that's how jingoistic and chauvinistic Americans are: we think we have it all, when we have so little of the world's beauty and culture.

And now we're building walls, literally, to keep other out, but to keep ourselves in. We build them physically, we build them economically, and we build them psychologically, all designed to "protect" ourselves.

But who will protect us FROM ourselves? How does the United States stop from becoming a stultified dinosaur of a nation, irrelevant to anyone but those who would make a profit off our markets?

One way would be to stop taking ourselves so seriously, to stop believing that we are so much better than everyone (and everything) else. That charming self-indulgence-- particularly evident in certain states that are immune from immigration and diversity (*ahem* redstates)-- has to stop, which is why I've maintained all along that we ought to be welcoming Iraqi refugees and encouraging them to settle in places like Alabama and Tennessee and Wyoming.

The other way would be to start taking everyone (and everything) else more seriously. We've all travelled a road through a tough and dangerous world to get to this precise moment in time, and that ought to be respected and celebrated.

We claim to be a nation that is 85% Christian, and I'm sure there's a vast majority of silent Christians out there who live in Grace daily, but the overwhelming voices we hear are of the Pharisees of Hatred, of Greed, of Lust, and of Pride. These voices must be replaced, too, for us to truly take our place in the world and to do God's work.

Saving whales included. For it is written (Ecclesiastes 3:19):
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For All Those Interested

If anyone is interested in the continuing saga of Sibel Edmonds, there is a wealth of information and a chance to be heard here
It's interesting how the Valerie Plame Affair and some other things fit in there, particularly with Carl's mention of Turkey yesterday.

Also, for those interested in the intricacies of Blackwater, Jeremy Scahill's book is out and Amy Goodman interviewed him today here.

Why Rednecks Are Morons

Gun control is a touchy subject in America. While there is a case to be made for gun control in some parts of the country, there is a case to be made for gun ownership in other parts. I see both sides of this issue, since I have residences both in the most populated part of the nation, as well as in an area that could charitably be called "sparsely populated."

It takes a state trooper about 45 minutes to respond to a call in that area (I know, I've had to do it). In the city, I can count on a cop within a few minutes, usually.

Part of living in the city is understanding that, in dense populations, crime is more rampant, and guns are far more dangerous. Most big city police departments stand four-square behind gun control laws, and in the city, I sure do as well.

New York City has taken this one step further: knowing how hard it is to obtain a handgun in the city (or New York State, for that matter), it has taken the initiative to find out where the illegal guns used in crimes come from and to shut down the flow. Case in point:
The Republican mayor has sued 27 out-of-state gun dealers, alleging they sold firearms illegally to undercover private investigators conducting a sting operation for New York. City officials say the dealers have supplied hundreds of weapons used in New York City crimes. The lawsuits, which name dealers in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, ask the court to require monitoring of the shops' sales.

Private investigators attempted "straw purchases" at about 45 dealers, in which one person fills out the legal forms and makes the purchase for someone else. The practice, prohibited by federal law, is typically used by those who can't own firearms, such as convicted felons.
Nine shops agreed to settle the case, and stop these phantom sales. Two shops were forced out of business by the legal bills they were running up.

However, some moron decided to fight back:
Through March 31, customers who spend $100 at either of Bob Moates' stores or Old Dominion Guns and Tackle in Danville are eligible to win a handgun or a rifle at an April 19 drawing. Among those ineligible to win, as per official rules: "Mayor Bloomberg and his immediate family members." Van Cleave said he came up with the idea to boost sales: The stores have paid thousands in legal fees.
In other words, not only are they operating illegally, according to Federal law, but they want to flout authority and flaunt their "independence" by mocking the law, and mocking Mayor Bloomberg. Rather than obey the law, and abide by the agreed-upon identification requirements, they'd prefer to see dead New Yorkers (and presumably, other Americans).

Sad, isn't it? Yet, I can almost guarantee you they'd be the first to appeal for Federal assistance should their own neighborhoods be threatened by some bizarre force of nature or man, say the military opening up a post, and exercising eminent domain to seize their gun shops.

Not, you know, that I'm suggesting a course of action for my two Senators and my Congresscritter. Far be it from me to suggest a demonstration of capitalism in action....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Let's Talk Solutions

It's four years on now, plenty of time to see what doesn't work, plenty of time to realize that we've made an huge mess of Iraq and the Middle East in general.

We've done a few good things, most of them lately: we seem to have put the Palestinian-Israeli issue back on track a little, even if both sides are resentful and hurt by our ignorance and earlier Bush-led partisanship towards Israel. Iraq *might* be better off with Saddam gone...might, depending on who's statistics you accept. And we seem to have Iran back talking, even if they'ev made some progress in defeating our initial (and wrong-headed) agenda from the early Bush days.

What to do about all this, then? How do we regain the credibility that we once had, both in the region and at home? How do we incorporate ourselves back into the world community, now that the Bush-Cheney legacy is being chipped away?

I have an answer. Like most of my solutions, it's elegant, fairly simple, and only requires some quibbling about the details. The best part is, not only does it help solve OUR problems, but it helps solve Iraq's deep troubles, it keep Iran under the spotlight, and protects our interests in the western Middle East as well.

The centerpiece of my plan is a de facto partitioning of Iraq into three regions: the Kurdish north, the Sunni/Shi'a middle (around Baghdad) and the Shi'a south.

Here's the twist: We station a moderate number of troops in the Kurdish sector. The Kurds were and still, for some silly reason still are, our friends. We turned our backs on them in the fallout from Gulf War I. We can't do that again but at the same time, we can't alarm Turkey into believing we will destabilize a strong ally and an even stronger democracy in a region that we've failed to implant our democratic ideals in the first place (In truth, I've long believed that Turkey should have been more involved in Iraq, but that's just my opinion).

If we were to station, say, 40,000 troops in what I will call Kurdistan, we could protect the Kurds (and their oil assets) while having strike forces poised to defend Sunnis in "Baghdadistan". To keep the peace but also to keep our troops from being targets and from being icons of occupation. Let this middle region settle itself out, while clamping down on overt actions of ethnic cleansing. As it sorts itself out, we obtain commitments from various of the Coalition of the Bribed Willing to take in Iraqi refugees. Most of the wealthy Iraqis fled the country already (some two million of them). There's no reason why anyone who doesn't want to should have to remain behind in what will be the equivalent of the American Old West.

Then in the farther south regions, we could have a coalition, led by Britain, of NATO and UN peacekeeping forces, basically performing some mop up tasks and protecting allies such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, from what I see as a likely incursion from Iran into that region. If you look at a map, there's a bottleneck in southern Iraq which makes it very favorable for Iranian dominance in that area.

By forcing the UN to take a humanitarian stance here, it would signal to Iran (without much pressure form the Security Council) that we take them seriously. That may be enough to keep the more radical elements of Iran at bay while encouraging the moderates to the bargaining table. Too, the fist in the velvet glove is knowing the American forces are closer to Tehran than the UN forces.

Whatever squeeze play Syria and Iran could do in "Baghdadistan" could be covered by a joint pincer movement of the southern allies, supported by the British base on Diego Garcia and the American bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and the northern allied coalition of Kurds and Americans (hey, the Kurds would have to be included).

Once "Bahgdadistan" settles itself out, we can begin a strategic withdrawal, but notice this would also give us time to work out the other issues in the Middle East, and perhaps even begin to tackle the strategic interests China has begun to take in the region.

Four years is too long without even having a plan for "victory". By suggesting this plan, we can give our troops there something to fight for and the people of the entire Middle East some hope.

tags technorati :

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I've been meaning to blog about this, but other events have taken precedence and since as I write this for Sunday, I have no clue what the news will bring today, this is as good a time as any to post on this:
[Al] Gore is scheduled to announce the concerts today in Los Angeles. He's expected to be joined there by rock stars Jon Bon Jovi and Sting, rap musician Pharrell Williams and media executive Kevin Wall, who served as worldwide executive producer for Live 8, the 2005 concerts that drew attention to African debt relief.

The Gore-promoted event will be held July 7, according to published reports, with seven major concerts on seven continents. Producers are said to be considering Washington as the North American host city, but one likely venue -- the Mall -- might be unavailable to them, a National Park Service spokesman said yesterday.
Gee....can't imagine why the Bush administration wouldn't want Al Gore parked on their front lawn, so to speak, just days after the annual Capitol Fourth, but I digress...more details on the event are found here and here.

Can a concert, even one as massive as a six continent, 24 hour extravaganza (no, that does NOT include's the middle of winter!), promote the cause of saving the earth enough that people will take action?

I mean, the Police reunion will help, of course (and one wonders if this is why Sting decided to tour with Andy and Stewart), but can a concert change enough minds that are intractably resolved to the stubborn belief that global climate change is not real, or not a threat, or perhaps even a benefit?

It's not intended to. We need to focus on the fact that there are billions of people on this planet whose only interest in the news is what can filer down to them as they go through their meager existences, without television, without the internet.

But with music. This is not to change minds. It is to inform.

So maybe, just maybe, it will open enough eyes in places like India and China...and America, I'm ashamed to say...who are mis- or underinformed.

It might make a difference, and given the stakes of man's continued existence, it must be done.