Monday, May 31, 2004


i was surprised to see the headline of this article. "4 Afghan Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Government Offices" it reads. my surprise is not because it is about fighting in afghanistan (which usually takes more searching to find), but rather because of what it says in the first paragraph of the article:

Hours after an explosive device killed four American soldiers in Zabul Province in this country's south on Saturday, a convoy of Taliban fighters killed four Afghan soldiers in an attack on government offices in Helmand, another southern province.

so four americans died and four afghans died, but only the afghan deaths got mention in the headline. it's precisely the opposite of the usual pattern of the american press. usually the american deaths are in the headline, you have to read the article to learn that others were killed too (often, at least when the others are iraqis, in greater numbers than the americans). personally, i think it's wrong to value any life or death more than another, regardless of nationality. if news sources really want to be objective that is the only way to really approach it. but on a practical level, i recognize that realistically american news sources are going to care more about americans than non-americans. without a clue again.

so why is today's headline counter to the usual pattern? i haven't a clue. i'm sure some will think that it's a plot to obscure the number of american dead in the country, but i doubt its anything that sinister. after all, the text of the article itself mentions that may has had "one of the highest one-month combat death tolls [for Americans] in Afghanistan in two years." they didn't have to mention that statistic and i'm sure they wouldn't have if anyone at the times were making a conscious effort to hide american casualties from the public. so i'm back to the beginning of this paragraph.


i've been quiet here, but things are happening.

first, today is my actual weeding anniversary (not that fake one like last week). also, lots of other things. i've been trying to help an uzbek friend apply for a u.s. visa (or at least find out if she is eligible to apply), cleaning our apartment, losing a game of new england and a game of carcassonne, attending a weeding in north jersey in which our friend married a rabbi (they had been living in sin for the past year---yes, apparently rabbis do that too), watching occasional episodes of the office, and not studying my new arabic vocabulary like i should.

of course, none of that is blogging. but i got big plans. big plans!!!! i'm involved in a sorta secret project that is related to what i posted here the other day. someone else is doing most of the work, and so it is coming together at a nice efficient pace. the unveiling of said project, at least as far as linkage from this site, should be soon.

yesterday, i got my second "is this you?" email from someone. this time it was from a friend from norway. i met my norwegian friend on july 15, 1992, spent a day with him and other assorted norwegians in rome and then exchanged addresses in the train station as we parted company at the end of the day. i kept in touch with him for years as a pen pal, but these days we exchange occasional notes via email. i have not seen him in person since the day i met him almost 12 years ago. anyway, yesterday i got back from the weeding and found an email from him with a link to this site asking if this was me. apparently he found the site by googling my real name and the name of the college i went to. (i've been effectively google-bombed, i think, by people linking to me via my real name) this site is the first blog he has ever read. his note was a nice surprise

Saturday, May 29, 2004

spring cleaning

if atrios can do it so can i. actually, this is long overdue. we opened up our place when it got warm, and now everything's covered in pollen. i also saw supersize me last night, but don't have time to write about it now.

Friday, May 28, 2004

"the truth is a swirling miasma of shadow and fog"

i've decided to add fafblog to my blogroll. i've linked to individual posts from the site recently, but what really got me was fafblog's impressive interview series. check out his interviews with: dr. james dobson, donald rumsfeld, and osama bin laden.

if only i could have such access to the big names of the day...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

babblin bout arabic

back from my meeting with the arabic tutor. i was exhausted then, but now that i'm home i'm wide awake.

among other things today we messed around with the root: qa'ada. it's a good one too. the word for grammar "qawaa'id" comes from that root. but "qawaa'id" is actually a plural. the singular form: qaa'ida means "base" (thus "grammar" literally means "the basis" i.e. the underlying basis for the language). with a definite article it's "the base" which now features the standard english spelling: "al-qaeda"

but it gets better! "baseball" in arabic is "kurat al-qaeda"

some national pastime.

uzbek stories

for any of you who share my uzbek obsession, chris wrote a post yesterday on three stories about uzbekistan. (two about the unstable situation there and how the u.s. is probably making the situation worse, and one about the increased harassment of opposition parties as the december 2004 general elections approach).

read chris' post, then read the source articles, then feel the obsession wash over you like a warm bath on a cold winter day.


as i've mentioned here before, i sometimes worry about the echo-chamber effect, where conservatives read only right wing blogs and liberals reading only left wing ones and each side preaching to the choir in parallel but alternate universes.

so this morning i took a cue from edwardpig and paid a visit to blogsforbush. i posted a comment to this post but when i came back an hour later, i found my comment (which i had to divide into 2 parts because of the 1000 word limit) had been deleted. i tried to post another comment and found that i had been banned.

but i saved a copy of what i wrote. as i read it again, i guess i was fairly belligerent. perhaps i should have been more polite. to some extent i was reacting to the tone of the original post and besides, that's no reason to censor my comment and then ban me. here's my original comment:

what a ridiculous post. the reference to gulag was obviously a reference to "the gulag archipelago", a novel about the string of prison camps the u.s.s.r. strung across siberia. as many people noted, the u.s. has created its own archipelago of prisons, from uzbekistan, to afghanistan, to pakistan, to iraq to saudi arabia, to cuba.

where have we seen even so much as an iota of evidence that even one prisoner was murdered in US custody

here's your iota: the pentagon now has already concluded that several deaths were, in fact, murder. at least one death certificate of a prisoner who died in u.s. custody the cause of death says "homicide." 37 is the number of cases currently being investigated precisely because there is evidence that they were killed in u.s. custody (and several of those 37 have already been ruled to be "unjustified homicide" i.e. murder.

as for your claim that the detained people are terrorists, others have already addressed the fact that 70-90% of those detained in iraq were innocent according to what the u.s. military told the red cross. also, the pentagon has already ruled that the geneva convention does apply to those captured in iraq.

perhaps you would have a better shot at convincing someone that gore is a dunce if you at least addressed those embarrassing facts that contradict what you’re posting. i am new to this site, but it looks to me that the people who post here are simply misinformed. to use your own words, i’m not seeing any sharp knives here, which is why i expect you will delete my comments rather than address my points.

when i came back and found my comments were gone, i tried to post the following, which is how i discovered that my i.p. is banned:
as i suspected you deleted my comments.

y'know, it's really easy to pat yourself on the back for "winning" a debate when you silence any opposing argument.

the only thing it proves is that you do not have a substantive response to my arguments

maybe i'll try again later from my computer at home...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


not me. nosiree.

but it seems like a lot of blogs i've been reading have been deciding to take a break. (like salam and billmon and lauren (though she's got a whole bunch of guest bloggers to fill in) and, as of today scout (which probably means bloggin the stans is on hiatus too))

is it all coincidence? is are they inspiring one another to stop? is it just something in the air? (i thought that was pollen) or is it just the ones that i read that are getting the hiatus bug?

anyway, whatever it is, i'm not feeling it. but i wish all those hiatused sites a speedy return

UPDATE: scout's back. the shortest hiatus ever. go visit him again.

another feather in my cap

i am proud to be the number one hit if you google uzbek postal service.

betcha can't top that nathan!

more on that speech

bryan pointed out in the comments that fafblog has a great Q & A about the president's new daring plan for iraq.

in other news, that www problem with blogger seems to be fixed. and candy tastes good again too

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

blogger weirdnessity

i noticed this last night. for some reason, accessing blogspot websites doesn't work if you have the "www" in the address, but leaving it off works (e.g. will either get you an error or a cached version of this page, but gets you here just fine). this morning, i forgot about my discovery until steve reminded me in the comments. and all morning i thought that neither echidne nor atrios had updated today. in fact, they had, i just was seeing the copy that i had cached yesterday.

i'm pretty sure all the links on my blogroll are of the "www" variety, so if you go to a blogspot page from any of the links on the right, try deleting the "www" and reloading to see if anything new magically appears.

(but how can you even read this message unless you have already figured this out yourself?)

so it is just me?

or did bush's speech from last night not live up to the "comprehensive plan for iraq" that it was puffed up to be? it had a trappings of a plan (five numbered steps and everything!) but each seemed to be nothing more than repackaged (and sometimes not even repackaged) versions of what bush has been saying all along.

let's look at each one:

(1) june 30th transfer of sovereignty.

obviously, this is nothing new. as alluded to in some earlier posts, the real question is what exactly he means by "sovereignty." at least twice bush refers to iraq post-june 30th as having "full sovereignty" but later he seems to undercut that point when he says that he will keep the current level of military forces in iraq "as long as necessary." if iraq really had "full sovereignty" that simply would not be bush's call beginning july 1st.

bush did fill in a few details about the make-up of the new government: a president, 2 vice presidents and 26 ministers, but he still punted on the question of how who exactly they are or how they will be chosen. the number of posts does not matter as much as who will hold them. bush promised that lakhdar brahimi will announce those details later this week, but wouldn't it have made more sense to give this speech to announce what brahimi decides?

on a more political angle, i am really curious how this let-brahimi-decide-all-the-details strategy plays out. (see the sixth cartoon down here)

(2) security in iraq.

nothing new here either. actually, this whole bit pissed me off. gratuitous use of the word "terrorist" (i wonder if the word has any meaning anymore). a promise to send more troops if needed (again, iraqi sovereignty be damned!)

his account of what happened in fallujah has almost no connection with reality:
In the city of Fallujah, there has been considerable violence by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters, including the murder of four American contractors. American soldiers and marines could have used overwhelming force. Our commanders, however, consulted with Iraq's governing council and local officials and determined that massive strikes against the enemy would alienate the local population and increase support for the insurgency.

So we have pursued a different approach. We're making security a shared responsibility in Fallujah. Coalition commanders have worked with local leaders to create an all-Iraqi security force, which is now patrolling the city. Our soldiers and Marines will continue to disrupt enemy attacks on our supply routes, conduct joint patrols with Iraqis to destroy bomb factories and safe houses and kill or capture any enemy.

We want Iraqi forces to gain experience and confidence in dealing with their country's enemies. We want the Iraqi people to know that we trust their growing capabilities, even as we help build them. At the same time, Fallujah must cease to be a sanctuary for the enemy. And those responsible for terrorism will be held to account.

what he forgets to mention is that the u.s. military lost the battle of fallujah. it's okay. no one else seems to want to say it, but i honestly see no other rational interpretation for what happened there. see billmon's post for a good timeline, but the short version is this:

(a) u.s. started the fallujah offensive with a set of stated goals (not negotiating with "terrorists", ending the baathist control of the city, and bringing the people who killed and mutilated the bodies of those u.s. contractors/mercenaries to justice), and

(b) failed to achieve each and every one of them (the u.s. ended up negotiating with the people bush had referred to as "terrorists," placed a former baathists general officially in control of the city, and never got any of the people who killed the contractor).

the u.s. news media never expressly told us fallujah was a loss, so most people did not see it. but it reported each fact as it occurred and i can't see any other conclusion given those facts.

somehow, this tragic story of perhaps the only battle the u.s. has lost in the iraq war is transformed by bush into a shrewd judgment call to minimize civilian casualties (never mind that the ultimately fruitless offensive killed at least 600 fallujis). i can't see anything in that story but a colossal blunder resulting in the needless loss of life and credibility of the u.s. in iraq. once again i must ask: is bush lying or just clueless?

(3) rebuilding iraq's infrastructure.

yet another example of taking something bush has talked about all along and trying to present it as some kind of comprehensive plan. the problem with the conservatives' endless bragging about "rebuild schools" whenever iraq comes up is the simple fact that iraq is not afghanistan and hussein is not mullah omar. under baathist iraq both boys and girls went to secular schools--a situation quite unlike the one in taliban-ruled afghanistan where most children were prevented from going to school and all were prevented from getting any kind of secular education. the "rebuilt schools" claim is yet another example that the american public is being taught to blend these two very different countries together into one indistinguishable generic islamic country. to the extent there were damaged schools in iraq after saddam hussein fell, it was probably because the u.s. bombed them.

so if you think about it, bragging about how u.s. forces are rebuilding schools is more an indication that the american "precision weapontry" is not all that accurate after all. but i don't think the bush administration wants you to think about it.

(4) enlisting international support for the u.s.' effort in iraq

this is the only point that i can endorse whole-heartedly. i just hope the bush administration is serious. winning over the international community means more than giving them an american designed program and telling them to sign on or get lost. it means giving other's a voice in the iraq project. perhaps two and a half years ago, the international community would have given bush the benefit of the doubt. but these days, he has to give them something in return if he expects any real cooperation.

(5) national elections by january 2005.

note, this goal is after the u.s. elections, so bush himself will probably not be held accountable if the elections are delayed at the last minute or declared to be unfeasible.

and there is a real question about the feasibility of holding elections in january. 4 months ago, some of bush's critics (and notable, shiite cleric sistani) demanded that elections be held before or shortly after the june 30th handover of sovereignty. the theory was that only a democratically elected iraq would have any legitimacy in the eyes of the world and the iraqi people. but the bush administration rejected the idea, saying that because of security fears, a free and fair election that early is simply not possible. but why do they think the security situation will be better in january 2005? indeed, a few paragraphs after talking about the january 2005 elections bush warned "There is likely to be more violence before the transfer of sovereignty and after the transfer of sovereignty." couldn't that jeapardize a january 2005 election? and how did he come up with january 2005 date anyway?

bush's speech was a far cry from what it was promised to be. i did not see him lay out any comprehensive plan for iraq. we still don't know who will rule iraq after june 30th, or how they will be chosen, or what limits (if any) there will be on american actions in iraq after june 30th when the iraqis allegedly have "full sovereignty," or what bush will give the international community to win over their support or how any of the bush administration's own objections to early elections would not equally apply to bush's call for elections next january. in short, last night's speech was not a comprehensive plan, but a teaser. like a preview for a film, it gave broad outlines of what bush wants us to expect, without giving away much of the plot. i guess we'll have to tune in to find out.

ironically, the only really specific detail in the speech was bush's proposal to "fund the construction of a modern maximum security prison" and to demolish abu ghraib prison "with the approval of the Iraqi government." aside from the fact that this is the only nod to post-june 30th iraqi sovereignty in the entire speech, what does it say about our country and this administration that building a modern prison is the only part of bush's plan in iraq that he really seems to be on top of?

UPDATE: when i posted the above, i failed to mention that i did not listen to bush's speech, i read the transcript this morning. my neighbor just emailed to castigate me for failing to note that the president mangled the words "abu ghraib" all three times it occurred in the speech. because they changed bush's utterences of "abugah-rayp" "abu-garon" and "abu-garah" to "abu ghraib" in the transcript, i didn't know of the mangling until i got my neighbor's email.

Monday, May 24, 2004

central what?

i haven't been posting on central asia for a little while now. i stopped partly because others were doing a better job than i could and partly because i know i am obsessed with uzbekistan and wondered how long my mostly non-uzbek obsessed readers would put up with it. so here's today's compromise--i'm gonna post about central asia but not uzbekistan. (am i clever or what?)

anyway, via the argus, it appears that turkmenbashi, your one-stop shop for an endless stream of crazy megalomaniac stories, is sick of all the jokes that he is a crazy dictator. and so he's ordered people to stop putting up all those portraits of him. of course, all the portraits are coming right down. that will show them!

however, turkmenbashi is not totally dumping the personality cult. he is allowing the turkmen people to keep that "colossal statue in gold in front of the presidential palace." and the article about the portraits coming down doesn't mention whether january can be january again.

in a related story don't miss the first glorious turkmenbashi short non-factual writing contest! a chance to win a free copy of the ruhnama doesn't come every day!

best used as a doorstop

via blogamy, i found this article about "the arab mind", a book considered to be inaccurate and racist by most scholars of the middle east, but a favorite of neo-cons and (even more alarmingly) a standard text book in u.s. military academies.

last december, i noticed an article in which an army captain urged us to understand "the arab mind". now i wonder where captain brown got this notion of the arab mind in the first place.

bubble boy

articles like this really drive me bananas.
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal was raging, American soldiers were battling Iraqi insurgents near a Shiite shrine, and the Europeans were arguing with the United States over the powers of a new government in Baghdad.

But on that hot, troubled Washington morning of May 14, when President Bush met in the Roosevelt Room of the White House with foreign ministers from the Group of 8, the world's leading industrialized democracies, he spoke to them for exactly eight minutes, took no questions, then left.

"We listen to his speeches, and then the president is gone," said a European diplomat who asked not to be named because he did not want to be seen as criticizing Mr. Bush.

Last week, when the president made a rare trip to Capitol Hill to try to soothe Republicans who are anxious over the increasing chaos of the American occupation, he gave them a 35-minute pep talk, shook hands, took no questions, then left.

"I was hoping the president would have some back and forth," said Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, the only Republican in the Senate who voted against the war in Iraq.

Specifically, Mr. Chafee said he would have liked to have asked Mr. Bush one question about Iraq: "If this thing starts spiraling downward, what are our options?"

All presidents live in a bubble, but Democrats, European officials and a group of moderate Republicans say that Mr. Bush lives in a bigger bubble than most. As the problems of the occupation and insurgency in Iraq have intensified, they say, Mr. Bush has appeared to retreat more than ever into his tight circle of aides.

and it goes on, discussing how the president decides where he will speak based upon whether he will encounter any dissent there (he skipped his own daughters' graduation at u of texas and yale because the universities told him that there would be big protests there).

for all my disagreement with his administration on various policy decisions, what i find the most galling is the president's refusal to even listen to anyone with different views. supposedly he has a bad temper and gets snippy when people disagree with him (a hazard of any rich kid growing up surrounded by a bunch of sycophants), so maybe his handlers fear he will have some outburst that is contrary to his "football buddy" image they so carefully try to cultivate. or maybe they're afraid that he will give more mangled english responses if any questions are actually posed to him. supposedly, his malapropisms get worse when he gets nervous.

or maybe, just maybe, some of his handlers realize that some of his policies are simply not defensible when faced with serious questions. i guess i'm going a little too far with that one. it seems pretty unlikely that anyone who thinks that badly of his policies would be a handler for the president. it's more likely that they think the policies are defensible but that bush is not a good enough speaker to do it.

several months ago, when the democratic primaries were winding down but not over yet, in that brief period when it seemed to be between kerry and edwards (and edwards was still thought to stand a chance), i saw edwards speak on t.v. it occurred to me that edwards would cream the president in a debate. kerry seems less articulate, but, i hope still able to take bush down. it isn't all that hard and someone needs to burst his bubble.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

reading reading lolita in tehran in annapolis

i'm back! we were in annapolis, a fine place for a get-a-way. it's not all that far from here, but i had never been there before this weekend. we sailed onto the chesapeake. i got burned badly. i am quite a paleface. redface now.

among other highlights were doing yet another ghost tour. we're averaging one a week now. i still have yet to see a single ghost, and actually, i think the entire noz household feels like we can give the ghost tour thing a rest for a little while. as mrs. noz remarked, the various ghost tales are all starting to blend together.

i'm almost through reading lolita in tehran. i've never actually read lolita (nor have i been to tehran). it's good, but not gripping. i'm enjoying as i go, but not racing ahead as i do with books i truly love. nevertheless, i'll probably finish tonight. each chapter is structured around a book--lolita, "the great gatsby", "daisy miller", and probably one more, but i'm not sure because i haven't finished yet. anyway, the book within-the-book is sort of the point of reference for western readers to understand the bit of iranian history that is described in that chapter of the memoir. my problem is, i've never read any of the framing books (well, i read "gatsby", but that was over 15 years ago when i was forced to in high school so i remember virtually nothing. so it doesn't count), but i have read a lot about iranian history. so while most people who read "reading lolita in tehran" probably learn about the islamic revolution and it's aftermath by reference to these pieces of american literature, i am learning about american literature by reference to my knowledge of iranian history.

it's also really friggin hot and i feel like doing nothing else today but sitting on my ass and goofing around inside.

ah, sundays.

Friday, May 21, 2004


i'm disappearing this afternoon.

my weeding anniversary is still a week away but we're celebrating it this weekend instead. originally, i was going to go to a certain feminist science fiction convention that i often attend over memorial day weekend. in most years wiscon conflicts with my anniversary, but my wife is kind enough to accomodate me when i want to go. this year is a little embarrassing because we agreed to move the anniversary weekend to accommodate wiscon, but then my trip to wiscon fell through. so i will be around over memorial day after all.

anyway, because it's my kinda anniversary this weekend, i am going away. i'm not sure where. my wife is taking me to a secret undisclosed location which i am fairly sure will have no internet access. other than that i have no clue where i will be.

i'll be back sunday, perhaps with something to say. meanwhile, have a great weekend

Thursday, May 20, 2004

toot toot!

tonight was the first night with my new arabic tutor. i know i've babbled about arabic here, but i can't remember what i wrote (nor do i feel like reading through my archives), so forgive me if i repeat myself. with the spring 2004 semester ending, i have topped out penn's offerings in the arabic language in the evening. i made an effort to lobby for them to create a new evening 3rd year class (or, at least, move their daytime 3rd year class to the evenings), but it didn't work. so now we're on plan B, a private tutor.

i have been avoiding a private tutor so far because of the cost. when i first started my efforts to learn this language in chicago 5 years ago, i looked into it and found it was too expensive. this time, however, i was going in on a tutor with other classmates and we could bring the cost down. though several seemed interested when the class was going on, so far, only one was willing to follow with it. which is surprising since at our level our arabic is not worth very much and yet we are so close to a tipping point into greater understanding we can all taste it. or at least i can. it tastes like dajaaj

anyway, we met the tutor tonight and i think it went well. we're basically following our old text book to give some structure, but the tutor promises to bring in news articles from al-jazeera to give us a more useful set of vocabulary in today's world of arabic broadcasts (words like "weapons of mass destruction" and "artillery" simply were not covered in our text). it's an odd thing to have a tutor, i've never had one before. he's both our professor and our employee. it's never completely clear who is supposed to direct who. but he seems flexible and willing to go wherever we want to go and i need other people to keep me disciplined enough to keep working at this language. i am tentatively planning to go to syria in 2005. hopefully by then i will be fully conversational.


speaking of having a hard time focusing on work, i've been facinated by this raid on chalabi's house.

chalabi was the neo-con's favorite to lead iraq after saddam fell. he fled saddam's regime several decades ago. originally to jordan, until he was charged with embezzlement and he fled to the u.s. (he was convicted in absentia). in the u.s. he campaigned for saddam's overthrow and is probably responsible for feeding much of the dubious intelligence to the bush administration about saddam's weapons programs, most of which chalabi himself seems to have fabricated to get the u.s. to invade. in return, the pentagon paid $335,000 per month to his organization, the iraqi national congress (most of the cash probably went directly into chalabi's pocket). the payments continued for more than a year after saddam's fall, the pentagon finally cut him off only last week

after saddam fell, many neo-cons pushed to have chalabi immediately installed as leader of the country. the u.s. military flew him into the country, along with his private militia, only to find that he had no support among the iraqi people. meanwhile, chalabi's militia terrorized and stole cars from iraqi citizens and chalabi moved into one of saddam's palaces. the bush administration could care less, in fact, they still pushed his case relentlessly. they even put him on the interim governing council and his brother in charge of prosecution of the former leaders of the baathist regime.

but then a few weeks ago he fell from grace. too many trails of bad intelligence led to him. plus there was the embarassing detail that while the u.s. was giving ultimatums to sadr's "illegal" militia, chalabi's militia seemed to have the american stamp of approval. a few neo-cons still pushed for chalabi to be set up as the iraqi leader, but their numbers diminished as it became clearer and clearer that he could not be elected dog-catcher in iraq if it was ever put to a vote. and simply putting such an unpopular figure in charge would fly in the face of the image of a new democratic iraq.

about a week ago, i thought about posting something about this with the question "i wonder if chalabi will go quietly?" after all, it was becoming clearer and clearer that chalabi's american sponsors were going to ditch him and they guy seems to have a big sense of entitlement and his own private militia. but like many of the things i think about posting, i never got around to it. so this almost-after-the-fact-i-told-you-so post will have to do.

actually, it's still not clear if chalabi will turn against u.s. forces. but it's facinating to see this dramatic fall from grace for what used to be the poster-child of the neo-con's vision of iraq.

UPDATE: juan cole says chalabi has been suspended from the IGC.

...and yes, the document review is going well. thank you for asking.


document review. i hate discovery. it's very hard to focus today.

june 30, the sham continues

this morning there are two different articles in the new york times displaying what a sham this june 30th handover of "sovereignty" will be.

the first, White House Considers Plan to Let Iraqi Forces Opt Out of Military Operations Ordered by the U.S., explains:
The Bush administration, responding to concerns at the United Nations about the limitations on Iraq's future sovereignty, is leaning toward a plan to allow Iraqi security forces to decline to take part in military operations ordered by American commanders, administration officials say.

Some administration officials say this so-called "opt out" arrangement will help win support at the Security Council for a resolution conferring legitimacy on the caretaker government to be installed in Iraq after June 30.

note that this proposal assumes that u.s. military forces will continue to operate freely in iraqi territory after june 30, 2004, and even conduct military operations over the iraqi government's objections. under this proposal, the iraqis will not be able to stop such operations, but instead would be allowed to "opt out;" no iraqis will take part, but the operation will still go on, regardless of what the iraqi leaders say. the u.s. military, not the iraqis decide whether the operation takes place.

this is not sovereignty. i just looked it up. of the four definitions listed at, two are relevant to this sense of the term: "Complete independence and self-government" and "Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state."* having foreign forces running around your country outside the government's control is not "complete independence and self-government." nor it is "supremacy of authority" when there are armed forces that are beyond the leader's authority. unless the iraqis have veto power over any military action within the country's borders, there is simply no sovereignty. on july 1st iraq will still be a client state of the u.s., only with a new and misleading label.

the second times article U.S. Advisers to Stay in Iraq After June 30 is further evidence that this whole thing is a sham. if there was real sovereignty, the only ones who could decide if american advisors would stay would be the new iraqi government. but no one even knows who will be the alleged leader of iraq after june 30th, so how exactly can anyone say at this point whether the advisors will stay or go?
About 200 American and international advisers will continue to work at 26 Iraqi ministries as consultants after the June 30 transfer of authority to Iraq, Bush administration planners said Wednesday.

"We want the Iraqis to understand that we are not abandoning them," said Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone, who is managing the transition for the State Department. He spoke at a briefing sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace.
(emphasis added)

the bush administration made the decision and announced it with no fear that it will be reversed by any new sovereign government this summer. if the new government would have any real authority, they could tell the advisors to leave on the morning of july 1st. the fact that the bush adminstration knows that will not happen suggests that the new government will not have the authority to ask them to go. (and why does he think iraqis are worried that we will abandon them? some iraqis, at least seem to be saying the opposite)

i've posted about this before, but i can't get over just how uncritically the press is parroting the administration's "sovereignty" line. the only real question is not whether this "sovereignty" will be real, it clearly won't, but rather whether the new iraqi government will have any real authority at all.

*the other 2 definitions are: "Royal rank, authority, or power" which refers to an individual (e.g. "the sovereign" when referring to a king) and "A territory existing as an independent state" which is the sense of the word "sovereign" which is synonymous with the word "country."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

change is scary

it seems like everyone has been messing with their template lately!

they're all nice, but i never know where i am anymore.

back to #2

i've had several false starts on a post this morning. each time i start, work intrudes (as it should. i am at work, after all). but each time that i come back to the post, i reread what i've written i decide to erase it. we shall see if i get farther with this one.

most of the aborted posts revolve around the possible discovery of sarin in an artillery shell in iraq. the thing i find so fascinating (and yet, somehow hard to write) about this story is how much the right seems to think this discovery somehow justifies the decision to invade iraq.

first, let's review. in early 2003, president bush ordered an invasion of iraq citing the following logic:

(1) iraq has stockpiles of W.M.D.s (i.e. chemical, biological and/or nuclear weapons)

(2) iraq's weapons posed an immediate threat to the u.s.

in the run-up to war, most of the criticism of the president's decision focused on #2. how could iraq, a poor diplomatically isolated sanction riddened country threaten the u.s. when it was periodically bombed by no-fly zone patrols above, was carefully watched by the international community, had a weak resource-starved military, and was located thousands of miles from the closest american shore? in short, wasn't iraq pretty well contained? as the invasion date approached, bush never seemed able to give a straight answer to those questions. instead, he and his handlers conflated hussein with al-qaeda to fudge the issue, after all al-qaeda managed to reach the u.s. on 9-11. but it was the second, not the first, issue that they fudged because that's where the debate was. regardless of what side you were on most people thought that iraq had W.M.D.s.

but then something unexpected happened. after the u.s. took control of iraq and non-could be found, the left started saying "wait, where are those W.M.D.s?" this put the hawks more on the defensive, insisting that the weapons would be found eventually in iraq, or, in the alternative, had been squirreled off to syria. as the months dragged on and there were still no signs of any W.M.D. stockpiles, actual stockpiles morphed into potential for weapons ("weapons of mass destruction-related program activities"). and then they morphed further such that any mention of W.M.D.s disappeared entirely. instead the focus was on bringing democracy to iraq. we had to invade iraq, after all, because it was undemocratic--unlike all those other democratic regimes throughout the mideast.

so now this week, a shell is found that may possibly contain two chemicals that when mixed together produce sarin, a chemical weapon. now despite the fact that the chemicals in the shell have not been confirmed to be sarin, or the fact that it was a single shell (not a stockpile) that probably pre-dated the first gulf war (and thus would not be evidence of any stockpile of weapons that were banned by the post-gulf war resolutions), the right is pointing to the discovery to declare victory. they also expresses puzzlement that the left has not yet admitted that it was wrong about everything. (see e.g. this piece or william safire's column this morning).

i think these guys are missing the forest for the trees. even if this shell contains sarin that's still a long way from establishing that hussein's regime posed any threat to the u.s. they've gotten so hung up on their surprise over the missing W.M.D.s that they have forgotten where the W.M.D.s fit into their argument. W.M.D.s were the first step, not the last. jumping off from ntodd's sarcastic post: how does an artillery shell with sarin justify all the death, destruction and torture?

at best, if everything is confirmed and this shell leads us to a huge cache of similar shells, this discovery brings us right back to where we were last year, still without an explanation of how these weapons posed an immediate threat to the u.s.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


i got busy again, blogging forecast is fairly light, with scattered posts in the next day or so, with a chance of a really big one later, but no promises. in other words, i would pack my umbrella if i were you but don't get mad at me if it stays sunny and post-free.

but, just to emphasize that i am a stand-up kind of noz, i will point your browser to something interesting to keep you busy... um... hang on, i saw that link somewhere.


okay, i got it.

via explanda, i found fafnir's plan of how the u.s. can get out of iraq:
In the middle of the night while everybody in Iraq is sleepin we pack up all our stuff, tanks, bombs, guns, tents, extra buildings and everything, and stuff it into our planes and helicopters so we can get out real fast at the drop of a hat - a fast hat. Then we will have specially trained troops sent out to each Iraqi home with cords attached to their backs and wait until sunrise and when all the Iraqi families start to wake up yawning and stretching and so on our troops jump out waving wiggly fingers and goin "It was allllll a dream... it was alllllll a dream!"

make sure to read the rest.

never let it be said that this site only criticizes iraqi policy, without offering constructive alternatives. (although perhaps it can be said that all i've been doing lately is riding chris' coat-tails for posts. a baseless charge, to which i reply "am not!")

Sunday, May 16, 2004

one year?

one of those things that bloggers do is note their anniversary. my only problem with that is practical. i don't know when exactly my anniversary is. i think it's around now, but i'm not sure

i guess it all goes back to my username, upyernoz, a name i chose because my first choice (mustafa) was taken when i opened my aol account in the mid-1990s. mustafa was the username i used on the college network when i was an undergrad (there's a story behind that name too. i don't want to get too discursive here, but the short answer can be found here) unfortunately, mustafa is also a real name so it's not to surprising that i didn't get to it first. so i went with upyernoz as part of my grass-roots campaign to bring "up your nose with a rubber hose" back into common american slang. later, i dumped aol but used upyernoz as my name at the new i.s.p. later still, i got afraid that someone else would take upyernoz from me from wherever i wanted to open my next email account, so i started cybersquatting--i opened an email account with the name "upyernoz" on every free email service i could find (don't try to email me at random upyernoz addresses, many have closed because of disuse).

my friend sarah is the one who first exposed me to the concept of blogging. i followed her site for 2 years, initially thinking that only my sarah and a handful of others were doing this blogging thing (sarah used to blog fairly regularly. but that was before she got eaten by her cats). slowly i discovered the wider blogisphere that went beyond sarah's diary-style blog--from political sites to sites with a more academic focus. eventually, i began to consider getting my own. i wasn't sure if i wanted to do it. i had a lot of rants in me, but i didn't know if i could keep it up. as i mulled the idea over, i realized in a panic that maybe someone would take my name if i waited much longer. (upyernoz is officially my username. it's like having a state bird). so i went on blogger's site, and grabbed just to make sure no one else did. that was sometime in may 2003.

i didn't even try to post for several weeks. and my first was not much more than a simple question. at that time i still didn't know if i even wanted a blog. every couple of days i'd post a little nonsense, still trying to figure out if i wanted to be posting at all. my first "real" post was in mid-june. basically, i wrote to try to get something that was bothering me off my chest. somehow googling up all the links and throwing my thoughts onto the internet really seemed to help. i still think i like that post better than anything else i've written here, though it probably means nothing to most other people.

actually, as i reread my first month's archives, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty about what exactly this blog was for. the funny thing is, one year later and i still don't know what the answer is. many of my entries are political rants, but not all. it really seems to depend on my mood. i see no point to commenting on every news story that catches my eye when so many others are doing a far better job than i could. i'm not trying to be the next atrios, but i'm not sure what exactly i am trying to do.

scout recently was kind enough to include me in his blogaround. he refers to my only in america entry as "lifestyle blogging." maybe that's what i do. i sometimes, but not always, include details from my own life to introduce rants. it seems only natural, i feel like i should explain why a particular issue bothers me, or at least, how it came up. also, when i use details from my own life i can be fairly confident that i am not repeating what everyone else has already covered. my life is safely mine. if i come up with some seemingly original political theory there is no guarantee that someone has already fully addressed it in some undiscovered-by-me corner of the internet.

the problem with "lifestyle blogging" is that i wonder if anyone would want to read it. my life may be safely mine, but, why would anyone else give a shit aside from a handful of friends? i don't have an answer for that. in fact, i find it easier to blog if i don't think about anyone ever reading it. at least while i am typing. afterwards, i ping trackbacks and check my hit counter obsessively.

so today is, quite possibly, the anniversary of the day that i cybersquatted this particular piece of the blogisphere. i don't know what i am doing here exactly. but, i suppose, i intend to keep doing it. maybe by next year i'll have this figured out.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

only in america

last night, after failing to find ghosts, some friends and i were sitting on a stoop in philadelphia. we were going out to dinner and, because pennsylvania issues about 6 liquor licenses to restaurants in the whole state, we were waiting for some other friends to dig up a bottle or two that they had somewhere in their apartment so we could b.y.o.

while we sat, a taxi pulled up and a guy got out of the cab. actually, he didn't get out for a minute or two, he seemed to be engrossed in a detailed conversation with the driver. but when he did, i guess i made the mistake of making eye contact with him because he started into this long speech about how all of life's truths can be learned by talking to taxi drivers. now i'm actually a big fan of talking to taxi drivers. i always ask where the driver is from, ask them about their country, and try to speak to them in their native tongue if they happen to come from french or arabic speaking countries (on the one occasion that i actually got an american cab driver, i must admit i was secretly disappointed. although you wouldn't know if from my crappy writing here, i'm fairly confident that my spoken english does not need practice).

but i digress.

anyway, this guy was going on and on about the educational value of taxi drivers and was eventually interrupted when our friends emerged from their apartment with a couple of bottles of wine. i guess he realized that i had to wrap things up and so, after asking if i knew where the punjab was, he said one more time how great it is to talk to taxi drivers solemnly adding "only in america" as he started to walk off. "or maybe canada?" i yelled after him as he turned away.

"only in america," is one of those phrases sometimes gets on my nerves. it's not the soft jingoism i hear in it, there are things about the u.s. that really do make this country exceptional. it's that the phrase is often used to make a claim of american exceptionalism that is simply incorrect. was the guy i met last night saying that: only in america there are foreign taxi drivers? or only in america can you talk to people from different ethnic backgrounds? or only in america can you meet people from other countries? all three are simply untrue. if that's what he meant it shows a stunning ignorance of what the rest of the world is like, albeit widely shared misconceptions here in this country.

case in point: this week william safire wrote a column entitled hold fast idealists in which he tries to put an optimistic face on the recent abuse scandals and setbacks in iraq. at one point safire notes that the abu ghraib abuse revealed the heroism of major general taguba:
Assigned by top commanders to investigate, he did his job without fear or favor. No other military anywhere would permit such searing self-examination.

in response to that last line chris from explanda wrote:
"Is Safire so far gone that he thinks that, say, Norway, would refuse to investigate public, photographic evidence of war crimes committed by its own troops?"

as chris also pointed out:
The U.S. actually has a rather mixed record of facing up squarely to wrongdoings, especially those committed by people much higher up in authority. After all, Henry Kissinger stills gets invited on television to speak about foreign affairs, published in the papers, (abortively) named to head important commissions, and so on. Please spare me the crap about how the punishment of serious crimes is what sets the U.S. apart. Either that, or explain to me what you think counts as a crime.

chris might have a point, but unfortunately he's canadian. so what does he know? only in america do we spend so much time patting ourselves on the back and so little time paying attention to what those non-taxi-driving foreigners are saying.


last night we went looking for ghosts but failed.

friggin ghosts

Friday, May 14, 2004


anglobaptist just emailed me this article about gene simmons offending the muslim community in australia. among his criticisms was islam's treatment of women:
The Israeli-born US musician went on to say Islam was a "vile culture" that treated women worse than dogs. Muslim women had to walk behind their men and were not allowed to be educated or own houses, he said.

since when did gene give a shit about women?

last year i heard the famous terry gross interview of simmons. among the highlights were this:
Terry Gross: No. Let's get to the studded codpiece.

Gene Simmons: Oh yes.

Terry Gross: Do you have a sense of humor about that?

Gene Simmons: No.

Terry Gross: Does that seem funny to you? Are you --

Gene Simmons: No, it holds in my manhood.

Terry Gross: [laughs] That's right.

Gene Simmons: Otherwise it would be too much for you to take. You'd have to put the book down and confront life. The notion is that if you want to welcome me with open arms, I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs.

Terry Gross: That's a really obnoxious thing to say.

Gene Simmons: No it's not, it's being -- why should I say something behind your back that I can't tell you to your face?

Terry Gross: Wait, it -- it -- has it come to this? Is this the only way that you can talk to a woman? To do that shtick?

Gene Simmons: Let me ask you something. Why is it shtick when all women have ever wanted ever since we've crawled out of caves is, Why can't a man just tell me the truth and just speak to me plainly? Though, if I do that -- you can't have it both ways.

in the interview, gene didn't seem particularly in women's education. instead, urged gross to get "put the book down" and spread her legs.

doomed to failure

2 days ago i posted about senator inhofe's already famous statement that he (and others) were more "more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment." senator inhofe continued:

These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations... If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

so who exactly were these prisoners? well, the new york times profiled former prisoner who suffered some of the abuse. here's how the article describes the circumstances surrounding his detention:

Mr. Aboud, a trader and Sunni Muslim from near the northern border with Syria, said he was arrested on Nov. 29, 2003, when he reported to the Iraqi police a car on Saddoun Street in downtown Baghdad that he believed was wired with a bomb. He was blunt that he did not do this out of concern for American soldiers, whom he views as occupiers who must leave Iraq.

"If this car would have exploded at an American site, I would support that," he said. "But this would have killed innocent people."

The Iraqi police, he said, handed him over to American soldiers. After spending five days at two small United States bases, he said he was sent to Abu Ghraib, to Cell Block 1-A, known as the "hard site" for the worst prisoners.

don't get me wrong. i don't think it matters whether the prisoners were really the worst of the worst, as inhofe claimed. the geneva conventions were not written to protect only the angels and, even without the conventions, sexually torturing prisoners is simply wrong, no matter why they were detained.

but notion that mr. aboud seems to be not only innocent of any grounds for detention, but was in fact trying to help the americans stop the violence in iraq, is a new height of ridiculousness and mismanagement in the occupational authority. ordinary iraqis are cooperating less and less with american troops in iraq, all the while the americans require local cooperation for their project to succeed. when u.s. forces are detaining and abusing people like mr. aboud, the u.s. occupation and rebuilding of iraq is truly doomed to failure.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

new look

notice anything different?

abu ghraib fallout of another kind

via atrios i found this post which asks whether the administration lied to the supreme court during oral arguments in the hamdi and padilla cases. the post reprints an exchange where paul clement, deputy solicitor general arguing on behalf of the administration, claims answers justice ginsburg's question about whether the executive branch authorizes torture. clement answers "well, our executive doesn't" even though it now appears that the executive had known for at least four months that torture had been practice in iraq.

i'm not sure whether this is, in fact, a lie (it's not clear to me that clement knew about the iraqi abuse story before it broke) or just another case of a lawyer who is sent into court without all the facts. but it taps into something i have been wondering since this torture scandal broke. the photos came out just after the supreme court heard oral arguments on several cases involving prisoners held outside normal criminal procedures as part of the "war on terror." the justices are right now deliberating over a decision in those cases. the administration's arguments in those cases rest on the premise that it can be trusted to make the right decision on who to detain without any review from anyone outside the executive branch.

although the images from abu ghraib are not relevant under rules of evidence (indeed, the justices are not supposed to consider anything that wasn't already put into the record before the case even reached them), the justices and their clerks are human beings. realistically, the abuse allegations directly undercut the underlying premise of the administration's case. it's hard to see how it could not influence them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

i'll see your outrage...

the more i think about senator inhofe's comments yesterday the more i am outraged by his outrage at the outrage.

i wonder if there is anything u.s. troops can do that would justify his criticism. i wonder if he realizes how counter-productive to the bush administation's goals in iraq these photos are. apparently, "humanitarian do-gooders" are not welcome in his version of iraq. so much for this being a humanitarian mission.

blog maintenance (like anyone gives a shit)

a side effect of my recent arguments over in the comments of trish's place are some of the new links i have been getting from trish's readers. each one has been a pleasant and flattering surprise. i hope they're not in for too big of a let-down; i feel like i have been a lot more articulate in my arguments in trish's comments than i have been here lately. i guess i could promise to be better, but i really have no way of guaranteeing that i will, so i won't.

in any event, their links have also allowed me to discover their sites. this morning i added links to my favorite ones (at least among the new linkers i have discovered so far), so to the right are new links for captain normal, dru blood!, and feministe. i highly recommend each one.

i've also added jesus's general (a non-trish-related discovery). i read the general's site way too often to not to link to him.

finally, i've been eyeing various templates now offered by the new blogger. i don't know if anyone remembers back in the day when i switched templates every 5 minutes. i was a moody blogger back in my petulant youth. that all stopped when i started adding bells and whistles to the code and it got too scary to try to transfer everything over without causing major screw ups. but i might do it anyway.

come to think of it, these new additions to my blogroll will only make the move more of a pain in the ass. oh well...

party pooper

an LSU student explains why he is skipping his own graduation

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

quick follow-up

just to follow up on that previous post, it looks like the berg family is not too happy with the bush administration. (via the agonist)


as i was driving in circles around chester county this morning (hopelessly lost), apparently a local family was grieving after their son was was decapitated on videotape in iraq. horrible. i can't imagine what it is like for a family to see that video.

i am dreading the inevitable right winger who claims that this somehow justifies the treatment of iraqis at abu ghraib. in fact, it shows just how damaging that story is. on the videotape the killers say "the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls." these guys, at least, are already using abu ghraib to justify violence against americans in iraq, if americans use this videotape to justify violence against iraqis, we will enter the territory pioneered by israelis and palestinians, caught in an endless tit-for-tat cycle or revenge killings.

and somehow a large portion of americans think we are somehow safer because we invaded iraq?

Monday, May 10, 2004

the long day and long enough post

new blogger interface. i think i'm gonna put off playing with the options right now. i'm sure i will get to it later and create a major mess of this site. i just surfed around other blogspot sites and several are sporting new templates and whatnot. has anyone tried the new built-in comments? is it better than haloscan?

it was another long day today. i had to get up at 5 a.m. to be in manhattan by 8. when i left this morning it was still dark out. when i'm up that early i'm always struck by how nice and peaceful everything is. on the other hand, it's really friggin early. i think i'd rather sleep and find niceness and peace some other way.

anyway, i hauled my assets to nyc, went into the hearing, only to find out that the other side didn't bring any witnesses. it's their burden, so the judge gave us a win by default (the two best words in the english language...). i left the courtroom about 4 minutes after i entered. i immediately went to penn station to catch a train back. i was in my office before noon and put in basically a full day. at around 3 p.m. i thought, "was i really in new york this morning?" it was a long day.

the worst thing about today's trip was not the fact that it was such an early morning, or that new york ended up being for basically nothing, it's that i forgot my book. all that potential reading time on the train totally pissed away. i did arabic flashcards instead. but this time no one sat close enough to me to be freaked out. where's the fun in that?

so now i'm home after a really long day. tomorrow i got another field trip. this time i'm going west young man to the wilds of chester county. i am sure it will be a blast as chester always is.

i'm in one of those punchy sleepy babbly moods.

speaking of babbly, over the past few years i have had on-again off-again debates with various people about whether president bush is stupid or just inarticulate. usually i'm on the latter side, but sometimes the former is the only possible explanation. i just found this article in slate the misunderestimated man which is a pretty good discussion of the issue. because The Blogger Code (tm) requires that i reprint some kind of excerpt here supposedly to wet your appetite (but really just to make this post a little longer and more impressive looking), here's one bit:
The question I am most frequently asked about Bushisms is, "Do you really think the president of the United States is dumb?"

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is yes and no.

is your appetite wet yet? is it at least damp? 'cause this post is long enough for me.

Sunday, May 09, 2004


when my wife goes away i sometimes overdose on movies. yesterday was no exception. both my mother and my mother -in-law were having a mother's day get together with various siblings. they don't live in the same town so the only thing we could do was each cover our own respective mothers.

so yesterday morning, mrs. noz set off for central pennsylvania and i hung around here. i saw three films: pieces of april, morlang and bubba ho-tep. they were about as different as 3 films can be.

"pieces" was probably the best of the three. my parents saw it at the sundance film festival the year before last and told me to look out for it. then i forgot about it until i saw the box in the video place. i had a vague sense that i wanted to see it for some reason, but couldn't remember exactly why. so i took it home and loved it. the biggest problem is that mrs. noz would have liked it too. when she is away, i not only try to gorge myself in movies, i also try to see things that she would probably not like. i failed with "april." she would have liked it too. i'm sure because she just told me that her twin sister liked it. mrs. noz always likes whatever her twin likes. (though that doesn't always go the other way around). but although i really should have seen it with her rather than on my own, i highly recommend it for the rest of you.

"morlang" was a film i got from the film movement in december, but i hadn't gotten around to watching it until now. the film movement is a sort of dvd of the month club that produces films directly to dvd that do well in the film festival circuit but don't pick up a distributor. as a member of film movement, the pick the film for you, so you never really know what you're going to get. the films have been a mixed bag. i like some but not others. morlang was solidly mediocre. part of the problem was that the liner notes spoiled the surprise ending. of course i read them before i watched the film and so i wasn't exactly sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time waiting to see what happens next. though technically it was really well done, i just had a hard time caring about it. perhaps it would have been better if i hadn't read the damn box.

"bubba ho-tep" is your average elvis-fighting-mummies flick. it was showing as part of midnight movie series down the street from me. it was a perfect midnight movie, full of camp and vigor. elvis presley, it seems, did not die, but rather got sick of fame and switched places with an impersonater (who died of the drug overdose instead of the real elvis). the film begins with elvis in an east texas nursing home with a black guy claiming to be JFK a few rooms down the hall. like most east texas nursing homes, this one gets nightly visits from a soul sucking mummy. thanks to some hieroglyphic graffiti the mummy leaves in the bathroom stall, the elderly elvis and JFK are able to engage the mummy in a life or death struggle outside the nursing home. i won't spoil the ending by telling you whether evil or good triumphs, but it was a good thing to see in the middle of the night.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


i got a jury summons in the mail today. i've never been called before. well, that's not true. i've never been called in the right state before. i got two jury summons from delaware after i stopped living in that state. each time, my parents told me it arrived and i wrote a letter telling them i was no longer a resident. when i lived in chicago, i got a notice that i might be called, but then we moved away a few weeks later before they got around to my name on the list. these last 5 years in pennsylvania have been quiet, jury summons-wise. until today. i think they got me this time. unless my wife is denied tenure next year, we're basically here to stay (and even if that happens it will be over a year before we have to move away).

i've actually always wanted to serve on a jury, but suspected i never would after i went to law school. i turned out to be wrong. many states allow attorneys to serve on a jury (in fact, a friend of mine clerked for the chief justice of the new jersey supreme court and once told me that the chief herself once served on a new jersey jury--talk about intimidating to the lawyers involved!). that's not to say that i won't be struck by either of the parties because i'm a lawyer. but at the very least, i gotta sit around like everyone else to wait to not be called.

the mideastization of the u.s.

juan cole wrote an excellent essay about why rumsfeld must go.

H. Res. 628

it turns out the house has passed a resolution after the abu ghraib photos came to light. this one passed on a voice vote along strictly party lines (with dems against). H.Res. 628 is a lot shorter than H.Con.Res. 118, so i will post the full text:
Providing for consideration of the resolution (H. Res. 627) deploring the abuse of persons in United States custody in Iraq, regardless of the circumstances of their detention, urging the Secretary of the Army to bring to swift justice any member of the Armed Forces who has violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, expressing the deep appreciation of the Nation to the courageous and honorable members of the Armed Forces who have selflessly served, or are currently serving, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and for other purposes.

for the record, there is nothing wrong with what it actually says, but it still is a remarkable contrast to H.Con.Res. 118. there is no reference to the geneva convention, no reference to war crimes, no reference to international law. more importantly, H.Con.Res. 118 ended with a bunch of demands, H.Res. 628 doesn't demand anything. there is no "resolved that congress..." clause at the end.

so, to answer my own question from last night, i guess lawmakers would pass a resolution in response to tortured iraqis (provided that it doesn't use the word "torture") and the resolution text does not show any commitment to the geneva convention, international law, or the treatment of the torturers as war criminals.

Friday, May 07, 2004

compare and contrast: H. Con. Res. 118 (3/27/03)

a bunch of people have linked to this excellent post by digby. go read it.

but that's not why i'm posting. one of the commentors to that post drew my attention to house concurrent resolution 118. h con res 118 passed unanimously on march 27, 2003, just after images of captured americans were broadcast on al-jazeera. the full text is in the link at the beginning of the paragraph, but these bits i find the most illuminating in light of recent events:
Whereas more than 190 nations, including the United States and Iraq, are parties to the Third Geneva Convention;

Whereas Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention requires the humane treatment of prisoners of war and that prisoners of war be protected against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity;

Whereas Article 17 of the Third Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits the infliction of physical or mental torture and other forms of coercion on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever and provides that prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind;


Whereas the Government of the United States has informed the Iraqi authorities that it intends to treat captured members of the Iraqi armed forces fully in accordance with the Third Geneva Convention and is in discussions with ICRC officials to facilitate access at the earliest possible time to Iraqi enemy prisoners of war held by United States Armed Forces; and

Whereas Iraqi television has broadcast what appear to be pictures of captured American military personnel; Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress--


(1) demands that Iraqi authorities comply fully and immediately with its obligations and responsibilities of the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War;

(2) condemns the failure of Iraqi authorities to treat prisoners of war in strict conformity with that Convention;


(4) joins the President in warning all Iraqi authorities that any individual who mistreats any prisoner of war in violation of that Convention shall be considered a war criminal and prosecuted as such to the full extent of United States and international law...

i can't help wondering, would lawmakers pass a similar resolution today in response to the tortured iraqis? or does our commitment to the geneva convention and prosecution of war criminals only extend to the actions of our enemies?

adventures into right-wing editorial pages

it turns out, rumsfeld and president are not ultimately responsible for the abuses that occurred at abu ghraib prison. the buck doesn't stop there after all. instead the obvious culprits are women, feminists, muslims and the academic left. (link via atrios)

at nuremberg we learned that a commander is responsible for the actions of his subordinates. so if we were to make a chart of the u.s. military command structure, how would it go? rumsfeld is under the command of bush, that much is clear. are the feminists are directly in command of bush? or is it the muslims or academic left, with feminists on top of them? and who is at the very tip of the chart? my wife is an academic and liberal, plus she's a feminist, can she fire the president? does she have to convert to islam to be sure? (i think my arabic professor is all three already, maybe she can do it). this president needs to be fired, he's clearly not following the orders of his superiors.

Thursday, May 06, 2004


well, he did it. at least to the king of jordan, and then told the press about it second hand. i'm still waiting for heads to roll. (scott mcclellan said today that the president "absolutely" wants rumsfeld to stay in the cabinet)

i'm not trying to be vindictive here, but the president has to do something to show he's serious right now. remember in march 2003 when americans were captured and their images were broadcast to the world? people all over the country called the images "chilling" and "disturbing." yet all they showed were a bunch of scared looking soldiers. they all had their clothes on and there was no sign of mistreatment. yet the country was outraged over the broadcast of the images. now can you imagine how this country would have reacted if the american POWs were shown naked, with wires attached to their bodies, in sexual positions, and with laughing iraqis surrounding them giving the "thumbs-up" sign? that would have gone way beyond outrage. the entire country would have flipped out, there is simply no telling the amount of rage that would inspire.

aside from the justifiable moral outrage, i still don't know if the administration fully realizes just how potentially damaging this is. from now on, no iraqi is going to go peacefully to questioning when he or she is stopped by american forces. their families won't cooperate either. if american troops show up at a someone's house, the occupants and all of their neighbors are going to think the americans are coming to sexually abuse them. it's only going to get worse too. there are more photos than the ones that have been broadcast before today. there's apparently even a videotape. more and more images are going to leak out, giving the impression that the abuse is ongoing. and the families of people who are held by american forces outside iraq are going to start asking questions too.

as anyone who reads this site knows, i think the entire iraqi invasion is a tragic blunder. i don't think we should be there at all. but the human cost of our occupation is going to get much worse unless the president does something right away. is this guy capable of any real leadership?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

my secret shame

sometimes it bothers me that i never found herb

i'm sorry to rant like this

i almost never watch t.v. broadcast news. but a half hour ago my wife asked if she could actually use the computer for a few seconds since i have been hogging it ever since i got home. (fair enough) while she was using this thing, i flipped around the t.v. channels and ended up at the various news channels. they all were running the same story: torture at abu ghraib. more specifically, whether the president should directly apologize for it (since he apparently did not do so when he appeared on arab media earlier today) and whether rumsfeld should resign over the allegations. my vote is yes and yes.

it never ceases to amaze me just how unwilling president bush is to utter anything even remotely resembling an apology or admit that he has made a mistakes. sure, he "regrets" things (often slipping into the passive voice), he demands those who are responsible be held in account (making it clear that he is not the responsible party). in short, he never takes personal responsibility for anything that goes wrong. why just last month bush said at his press conference that he could not think of any mistakes that he made during his presidency. not one! i can think of a half-dozen mistakes i made this morning. is it really that hard?

bush's attempt to evade any admission of blame is ironic since dubya ran on a platform of bringing "a new era of responsibility" to the presidency. the slogan, of course, was intended to highlight the irresponsibility of the clinton white house. but clinton apologized all the time. he talked about his mistakes more than we ever wanted to hear. it's not that hard. in fact, clinton showed us that it can be easy. and although the republicans don't like to admit it, clinton was pretty popular notwithstanding his ability to admit fault.

as head of state the president represents this entire country. he is also commander in chief of the armed forces. in short, the buck stops there. literally the least bush can do is take full responsibility for the conduct of people under his command at abu ghraib and make sure heads will roll. that's what a real president does. that's what a president who takes seriously his role as leader of this country does.

too bad we don't have one like that right now.

bad blogger. bad! bad!

i had to disappear to another hearing in new york today. between that, my arabic final and subsequent bar-hop, not to mention yesterday's continuing anti-troll action over at trish's place, i've pretty effectively neglected this page over the recent past. normally, when i stop posting, even for a short time, my hits drop like a stone. but today, while i was frolicking in another windowless and internet-less room in new york, people apparently continued to visit this page to read what i didn't post. it's nice to know that if i ever really want to hit the big time in the blogisphere, all i apparently have to do is totally blow this place off for a while.

but it never was about the popularity. you can't get rid of me that easily. i will post again!

in fact, i just did.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

al-imtihan huwa al-yawm

busy day at work and my arabic final exam is tonight (to be followed by the traditional post-exam drinking-with-the-arab-class thingy. it is cuatro de mayo, after all)

i got more to say, but probably shouldn't right now. perhaps i will get things more under control later.

Monday, May 03, 2004

one more thing

scout managed to figure out exactly where gerbils come from. a question that has haunted us all for some time.

why i haven't posted today

i haven't been posting because i've been arguing with "dave" over in the comments at trish wilson's blog. it started here over the weekend. but dave pretty much gave up that one, so now i've been arguing about abortion and the nature of the word "might" here and here.

join in if you're so inclined. its been my preferred method of procrastination today and it's fun!

Sunday, May 02, 2004


i never seem to get around to doing blogarounds and i feel terrible about it. just about everyone else in the liberal coalition does them at least occasionally, if not fairly regularly. but aside from one or two half-assed tries, i never seem to get around to a whole-assed one. why just over the past week the following TLC members have blogged-around:

scout just did one at and then

chris brown did one about a week ago at his site

ntodd's is more recent

it goes without saying that echidne is pulling her weight

bryan made lots of people a commentator

mercury did a big one too

jeff has it covered at speedkill

steve bates has his "lazy dog blogaround" at the top of his page

UPDATE: i almost forgot amy did one on the TLC page last week.

now obviously, the above is not a full list of the entire TLC. but this is just in the past week. i'm not digging up examples from everyone's archives, so you'll just have to trust me--i am one of the few lame ones. also, several TLC people have some good excuses for not getting around to one this week:

jesse at the gotham city 13, for example, warned us a little while ago that his posting would lighten for a little while he was busy with work

peter at kick the leftist is too captivated with menudo to do a serious post.

t-rex crapped his pants

mustang bobby is moving, so he has an excuse and so is elayne so she does too

i have no excuse. i'm not moving. i'm just lazy.


i just found this chart via left is right

conspiracies of weather and georgia

the weather is conspiring to keep me lazy. every bright sunny day over the past few weeks, i have been too busy with work or play to ride my bike. today, i finally have time and it looks like it's about to rain. some day i'm sure i will be able to ride again. but it's already been so long, so when i start again it's gonna hurt. maybe i will go anyway later today

yesterday was talk cinema again, the last of the spring series. i actually missed a bunch of them this season (the prior one was when i was in san francisco), but i'm glad i caught yesterday's. we saw since otar left a french/belgian film that took place mostly in tblisi, georgia. lately, i've got georgia on my mind. it started about 6 weeks ago when i saw power trip, a documentary about the (ultimately failed) efforts of an american company to take over the state-run power company in the former soviet republic of georgia. "otar" was a nice follow-up, although the film's focus was on the various characters, the power would wink off and on without explanation as they tried to go about their lives. the film had a real documentary feel, although it was a work of fiction and a lot of the "action" was in subtle looks and hand gestures between the characters, especially at the end. all the talk cinema films get released eventually, but i really wonder how much of an audience there is for this one. i don't think it will be around for long when it is released. so if you get the chance, jump at it. i guarantee it will be the best french/belgian/georgian film you have ever seen.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

dispatches from iraq

keith over at the invisible library has started a new series called "dispatches from iraq." he's posting emails from an acquaintence of a friend who is on his way to iraq as a civilian contractor. part one of the series is up and it promises to give a different perspective of what it's like on the ground there. i know i'll be following it.

its not over but...

i don't have to go back on monday. no one expected this trial to go on this long and so everyone has schedule conflicts in the next week. the trial will resume in june or july. the crazy thing is we're not even close to finishing. at the rate we're going, the whole thing will be at least another week and it could possibly go longer.

i had the opportunity to finally sleep in this morning, but i didn't take it. i've been pretty exhausted, but i guess my body just got used to waking up at 5.a.m. mrs. noz is not particularly thrilled about this development.

so now what? a thousand bloggable things ran through my head on my train to and from new york over the past few days. but here i am and i got nothing.

well, almost nothing. in yesterday's nyt, there was an article about the village of siyu, a small collection of mud and brick houses on pate island off the coast of kenya in the indian ocean. i happened to be in siyu in 1995 and i could not believe the times was running an article about such a small obscure place.

somehow its very exciting to read about a place in the paper that only you have been to. (that's not really fair. others have been to siyu. my brother, for example, was with me when i visited). especially when it is as hard to get to as siyu was (i got there by flying to nairobi (via london), then taking a train to mombassa, then a bus to malindi, then a small prop plane to lamu, then a dhow to pate island, where siyu is located. the dhow trip took about 13 hours)

it's odd to think that u.s. soldiers are there now and that it is some kind of al-qaeda hideout. in my experience, the people there were to have visitors (too happy, in fact, they tried to double the prices after we arrived). but that was 9 years ago, and before fazul abdullah mohammed came to town. i remember it as a small village of mud and brick houses. no electricity except for a single generator that the locals proudly showed us the night we arrived and that powered the home of the local big-wig. just outside the town was the unexcavated ruins of a walled fortress. i wonder what the kids who climbed with us over the rusting cannons in those ruins are doing now.