Saturday, July 28, 2007


Tom's New Movie

Valkyrie is set to hit theaters August 8, 2008 and just began principal photography today in Berlin. Along with Cruise the film stars Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Christian Berkel, Thomas Kretschmann, and Carice van Houten.

The “July 20 Plot” on Hitler’s life is one of the most heroic but least known episodes of World War Two. Severely wounded in combat, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg returns from Africa to join the German Resistance and help create Operation Valkyrie, the complex plan that will allow a shadow government to replace Hitler’s once he is dead. But fate and circumstance conspire to thrust Stauffenberg from one of many in the plot to a double-edged central role. Not only must he lead the coup and seize control of his nation’s government … He must kill Hitler himself.

Valkyrie tells a story that is not only exciting but also important,” said Singer. “It’s something that Chris McQuarrie and I have wanted to do for some time. I can’t imagine shooting it anywhere else but on location in Germany, and I’m thrilled that we were able to get Tom Cruise to play Col. Stauffenberg.”

Maybe it's me, but I think Scientology Boy looks a little ridiculous. He's definitely not butch enough. Maybe there's an Ilsa the She-Devil of the S.S.! party somewhere in Hollywood, huh?

Thanks to Celebitchy for the news.

There's just gotta be a better way

I spent much of yesterday working some very tedious Cafe Press stuff. The section in question isn't even done yet, and I'm not that thrilled with it, so I'm not linking to it directly. But while I was working on that, Doctor Who came on. The television is on Demetrius' desk, and usually he puts on headphones if I'm in the room--since, if I'm in here, I'm probably trying to work on something, and my concentration is shot pretty easily. But today, when he asked if I'd like to hear the show, I said yes, given that I was working on something pretty mindless, and listening to the same show together was the closest we're going to get to "spending time together" yesterday.

Anyway, the Doctor and his traveling companion du jour find themselves in New York city during the depression. They were talking to some of the residents of "Hooverville", one of whom was remarking of the Empire State Building, which was under construction at the time. He said something along the lines of "how can they find the money to put up a building like that when people like us are starving?" Demetrius said, "Well, those people aren't working for you!" And we talked a bit about how, the more things change, the more they stay the same. How we still have this huge chasm between the "haves" and the "have nots", and still have extravagant, things being built or planned while many lack for basic necessities.

But that's not the part that's really bugging me. The part I find utterly insane is that the "haves" manage to find these artificial ways of dividing the rest of us against each other, and the rest of us keep falling for it. "Culture wars", and the like.

It's just gotta stop, that's all. I don't know HOW exactly, but it's gotta...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cheney Del Morte

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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Some time ago my friend Jimmy and I had a big laugh when we chatted about what a "Redneck Tarot Deck" would look like. Willie Nelson as the Devil with his two ponytails sticking straight up and maybe Dolly Parton would represent The Universe. But what would the BushCo Tarot Deck be like? Not everyone can be Death and not everyone can be The Fool.

That said, I think Halliburton would be a great representative of The Universe and Senator Vitter should grace The Lovers card. Ya know?

What are your suggestions?

Tarot on Wikipedia link.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One Vote '08

I like this idea--it fits with my belief that it's important to get candidates to endorse *our* agenda.

ONE Vote '08 is an unprecedented, bi-partisan campaign to make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities in the 2008 presidential election.

The next president will take office in a time of great hope: there are effective and affordable solutions that save lives. AIDS drugs can now cost as little as $1 a day. A $5 bed net can keep a child from dying from a mosquito bite. With the force of more than millions of members from all 50 states and a coalition of more than 100 non-profit, religious and charitable groups, ONE Vote '08 will educate and mobilize voters to ensure that the next American president is committed to using "strategic" power to end global poverty and keep America strong.
I'm not interested in being on any candidate's team at this point. I'm tired of candidates and their spokespople telling pundits "what the people want". I'm much more interested in being part of a movement where the actual *people* tell the candidates and elected officials what issues are important to us.

Michael Vick vs. Wild Kingdom

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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From ABC News:

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback was expected to appear at a bond hearing and enter a plea on dogfighting conspiracy charges. Vick is accused with three others of conspiracy involving competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the enterprise across state lines. Federal prosecutors allege the operation known as Bad Newz Kennels operated on Vick's property in rural Surry County.

If just 10% of what Michael Vick is accused of is true, he needs to be put away for life. I have, however, come up with some other choice punishments.

1) Drop his ass in the middle of Baghdad, without body armor and no gun, while wearing a t-shirt that has an American flag on the back and the front reads "American Mo-Fo."

2) Strap him down in a kennel with starving pit bulls, or hogs. Either one will do.

3) Stake his arms and legs to the ground near a fire ant colony and pour honey all over his body.

Got any good ones? drop them in the comments.

P.S. You can view today's rejected strip HERE.

F Minus

One of the worst things that can happen to a team is picking up a young stud who's got "potential", but is also "inconsistent". It's a dreadful paradox that gets coaches fired, pisses off teammates, and drives frustrated GMs to gulp down Maalox daiquiris.

For example, on some days the kid is a Natural; a fastball-devouring monster with a .397 batting average who steals bases, able to play any position, and can single-handedly carry a team to the World Series. Other days, he's a clown who can't catch, can't hit, and can't run. What's worse, you're unable to predict the days when he's either going to be A-Rod or just A Bust. Keep him? Trade him? Argh.

Tony Carrillo, a cartoonist who writes and illustrates the comic strip F Minus, reminds me a lot of that perplexing type of athlete.

F Minus is another one of those anonymous, badly-drawn strips that, at first glance, is easy to ignore. Carrillo's art is so stiff, his characters and landscapes appear to been cut out of cardboard with dull scissors. Ah, but if you take a second look inside the word balloons, there are interesting things going on. There's satire, bad puns, surrealistic mischief, and a cold hard analysis of how cruel people can be.

Carrillo has talent, and the potential to be much, much better than he is. But he's inconsistent. Argh. Annoying, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

wherein skippy randomly apologizes for what he's said about kos

cross-posted at skippy and a veritable cornucopia of other community blogs.

due to the wonderful nature of randomocity in the universe, the daily kos random blog roll of 10 user blogroll links (changed daily) has listed skippy the bush kangaroo for four days in a row.

since a lot of our disagreement with markos is based on being unceremoniously dumped from his blogroll, we feel that we must now make some amends.

ergo, we will randomly apologize for 4 random things we said about kos.

we have counted approximately 30 posts about kos which we have written about kos since being dumped off his roll (the number of which brings to mind the shakespearean quote about some lady protesting too much somewhere).

we then generated 4 random numbers with this random number generator. those numbers are:

28 4 26 13
so we will apologize for those posts. specifically

#28: it takes a big booman to do a big job

booman graciously took it upon himself to add all the blogs to booman's roll which markos and duncan dumped from their rolls. but we must apologize. we said it took a big booman to do a big job. if any of you have met booman in person, you know that he's not particularly big (not that he's short, he's just right). we regret having said he was big. he is not. he's medium. our apologies.

#4: killing two bugaboos w/one blog

we are sorry we agreed with steven d at booman who said he was often at cross purposes with markos. but we we sincerely apologize. we don't agree with steven d. he is never at cross purposes with markos, and if he says he is, he is a damnable liar.

#26: three questions of the day

man, this one is way beyond us. mimus pauly, our co-blogger, wrote on this post, en toto:

duncan who? markos who? jesus what?
we don't even know what the hell mimus was talking about. and you can bet, ladies and gentlemen, for that, we apologize.

finally, #13: dear markos: it gives us no pleasure to say "we told you so"

this one is almost a no-brainer. we got 7 kinds of sh*t from most people about this post wherein we chastized markos for dismissing cyber-stalking against kathy sierra, when not 3 days later, the virginia tech massacre took place. at the time, we seemed to think there was a cautionary moral lesson involved, something along the lines of "don't dismiss stalking as violence against women, because it could snowball into real violence."

upon reflection, we realize that it was an argument so weak that liberace could kick sand in its face. we truly regret having made such a facetious connection, tho we stand behind the primary premise that cyber-violence against women should not be dismissed.

we hope this sets a random amount of the record straight. we randomly want markos to not feel bad for a random amount of things that may or may not have randomly occurred.

we randomly regret a random amount of those errors.

[ed. note: and to a lesser extent, duncan.]

The Final Frontier

Reading The Field Negro this morning, his comments on the classic TV series Star Trek got me thinking about just how revolutionary it was at the time. Sure, it looks creaky, sexist, and old-fashioned when compared to other science-fiction programs (with a hell of a lot more money) like Lost or Battleship Gallatica today, but in 1966 it was important to me because it was the first science-fiction show that I seen where the future wasn't a melanin-free Utopia. As a Negro child growing up in the turbulent '60s, it was comforting to see other colored people in outer space.

Don't forget, it wasn't just the multi-cultural casting that was groundbreaking in Star Trek, it was the stories as well.

As Rod Serling did in his classic The Twilight Zone, Gene Roddenberry used the science-fiction premise of Star Trek as artful misdirection to comment on the hot-button issues of the era (the Vietnam war, religious intolerance, bigotry) that never would have gotten past the major TV networks otherwise. Remember "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"? Maybe it was heavy-handed, but damned if it ain't still relevant.

Once you get past the aliens, phasers, and FTL warp drive, I think the most mind-blowing idea in Star Trek was Gene's optimism that the human race would finally reach the stars without blowing itself up first.

I wish I shared his faith. It's kind of difficult these days.

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

I did an open thread again today at My Left Wing. Since the tradition is to show a picture of someone who was born on the day (or occasionally someone who died on the day), this give me the opportunity to learn about people I didn't know about before. Today it's Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind Franklin, born July 25, 1920

From the Rosalind Franklin Papers:
...a British chemist and crystallographer who is best known for her role in the discovery of the structure of DNA. It was her x-ray diffraction photos of DNA and her analysis of that data--provided to Francis Crick and James Watson without her knowledge--that gave them clues crucial to building their correct theoretical model of the molecule in 1953. While best known for this work, Franklin also did important research into the micro-structure and properties of coals and other carbons, and spent the last five years of her career elucidating the structure of plant viruses, notably tobacco mosaic virus.

Shooting Bricks

Oboy, it appears that the NBA has stepped into a big pile of shit, and it's not gonna be easy for Daniel Stern to wipe this mess off his thousand dollar shoes. Mitch Lawrence from the New York Daily News tells us more:

Quite simply, this is the NBA's worst nightmare.

For commissioner David Stern, 30 NBA owners, some 400 players and 60 refs, it can't get any worse than having a referee caught smack in the middle of a mob-inspired, point-shaving scandal.

The integrity of the NBA is open to question because referee Tim Donaghy allegedly bet on games he officiated and made calls over the last two seasons that affected the point spread of games.

The rumbling you heard yesterday was the foundation of a pro sports league shaken like it has never been in 60 years.

"There's nothing worse for the integrity and credibility of the game," said one ownership source. "This is horrible."

That's because when you buy a ticket for an NBA game, as for other pro sporting events, you are putting your hard-earned money and trust in the fact that the action is on the up and up.

It's not supposed to be pro wrestling.

Steve Bornstein, the ex-head of ESPN who's now running the NFL network, was asked why he thought sports was so popular, and he answered, "You can't go to Blockbuster and rent tonight's game."

Unlike novels, movies, or the theater, sporting events are unique because it's real and you don't know what's going to happen next. The World Series isn't a fake HBO movie written by a doofus from Hollywood. Those athletes doing those impossible things in front of you aren't holograms manufactured by Industrial Light and Magic. Kirk Gibson really did hit that game-winning home run. The Catch, The Drive, and The Fumble really did happen. Michael Jordan really did win six NBA championships.

But now a creep with a whistle has fucked that up. It doesn't matter that referee Tim Donaghy has resigned, because that poisonous seed of doubt has been planted in people's minds, and nobody knows how deep the roots go down. Daniel Stern and the NBA have a bigger problem than dull games or Allan Iverson's tattoos, and it's not going to go away anytime soon.

Do I want John Edwards’ health care or Hillary’s war?

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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I watched the YouTube debate on CNN and gave it some thought before I commented on it. First off, I am tired of Gravel, Dodd and Biden. I am almost tired of Bill Richardson, every question he answers, he delivers with such a jittery quality, it doesn't inspire confidence. Hell, Gonzales isn't that nervous when he appears before Congress (note I didn't say testify).

Although I don't think Kucinich has a chance to win, odder things have happened. I think Dennis needs to stay for no other reason than to lob common sense into the debates. They, so far, are in need of that.

Hillary I think did well, but I am still not feeling it. Her remarks to Obama about being naive about diplomacy was off the mark and petty.

Obama did very well and had an aura of confidence and intelligence that we haven't seen in the White House since, oh, you know when. His response to the diplomacy question was right on target. To paraphrase, "Get in there and get it done. We are not so afraid as to not talk to dictators."

Which brings me to Edwards. He had two powerful moments. One was the hair video - it was a genius piece. Do we want to discuss his hair or the utter democratic wasteland known as the United States? The other moment was his rant about the gentleman with the cleft palate.

After his rant, he said, asked really, the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF THE NIGHT!


Indeed. Why in the world does someone with a cleft palate need to wait fifty years for corrective surgery? The GOPers claim you need to wait weeks to see a specialist in Canada (which is the same as it is here). But FIFTY FUCKING YEARS? Isn't that kinda wait time a bit on the long side?

I think a lot of us need to start bellowing that question. "Why?"

Now if we can just get Edwards to get real on the Gay rights issue, I think his ratings would improve.


Did you see the new John Edwards video yet? It solidly puts a stake in the heart of the infamous Four Hundred Dollar Haircut crap.

So, not only can John Edwards take a punch, he's not afraid to punch back. Good.

I think Edwards learned hard lessons from the doomed Kerry/Edwards experiment, and he won't make the same mistakes twice. Although Edwards was obviously more intelligent, charismatic, and better-prepared than his running mate, he selflessly and purposely sublimated himself so Kerry could take center stage. And Kerry blew it by choosing to become a punching bag. Kerry allowed a bunch of chickenhawks to sully his service in the Vietnam war. Turning the other cheek may be a good idea in theory, but in politics all it gets you is your teeth knocked out and your pants pulled down around your ankles.

Not Edwards. Not anymore. Hey. You talkin' to me?

Now that he's not burdened by the dull albatross of a narcoleptic Kerry around his neck this time, Edwards can go back to being the vicious junkyard dog of a lawyer that won big settlements for his clients. Don't be fooled: behind the plastic helmet of hair and choir boy smile, Edwards is a tough son of a bitch who knows how to fight back.

Are we being hustled by Edwards? Too much Matlock and not enough Darrow? Probably. Who cares? Any politician that doesn't know how better find a new job, and Edwards is very, very good, and I believe the American public is finally ready to listen to his populist message. His "Two Americas" speech has won the hearts and minds of working class heroes stuck in the unemployment line or Wal-Mart. He's not an empty suit like Romney, or a bored ex-actor like what's-his-name. And, the last I looked, Edwards hasn't worn any of Giuliani's old gowns. Anyway, to paraphrase that famous quote about Stalin: "Maybe he's a bastard, but he's our bastard."

John Edwards can take a punch and he's not afraid to punch back. I think Edwards would pick up a brick if he had to. Can his Republican opponents deal with a pissed-off candidate who's willing to fight? I don't think so.

A tip of the beret to Whig at Cannablog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

No Direction Home

The International Herald Tribune:

U.S. seen in Iraq until at least '09
By Michael R. Gordon
BAGHDAD: While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. "Sustainable security" is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

"I can't be overdrawn!" the joke goes, "I still have checks left!" Using this nutball logic, will there still be a war in Iraq when we run out of soldiers?

Dick Cheney and the Deathly Hallows

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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Yes, I was one of those 40-something geeks in line at the Barnes and Noble at midnight to grab a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I always wanted to go to one of those midnight releases but never made it. Since this is the last Harry Potter novel, I had to go Friday.

I got in line as 6 PM to get my bracelet for the book pickup that night, that alone took forever, but it left me just enough time to go see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I hadn't seen it before and it served as a good review of the book I read some years ago. It also turned out to be one of those films that must be viewed in a theater - trust me, the wizard battle at the end needs a theater. Amazing.

After the movie, I grabbed a snack and went back to the bookstore and ran into two good friends of mine, Amy and Jimmy who were all decked out as Bellatrix Lestrange and Bill Weasley. We all queued for the cash registers at 11:30 and waited and chatted. There were some folks behind me, students from Wake Forest University, who had grown up with Harry Potter. This was there Star Wars.

The crowd started counting down the seconds to midnight and cheers all went up as we arrived at zero. The little girl who bought the first copy was paraded around the bookstore with her book held high. The crowd roared with applause and the kid is probably still grinning.

After I got mine, I read the first page, drove home and crashed in bed. Saturday, I plowed into the book and finished up at 1am Monday morning. My boss is also a big Potter fan and he and I always race to finish so we can dish the book on Monday. Well, the poor chap got saddled with a honey-do list on Sunday and he never made it out of the 500 page range.

The thing that struck me about the book was how Lord Voldemort and his subversion of the Ministry of Magic was so akin to the Bush Administration's destruction of American Democracy with the aiding and abetting of the Neocons in Congress. Fear, fear and more fear and once the populace gets used to that, take away more rights and then really scare the Hell out of everyone. If that doesn't work, just kill some of them dirty, filthy Hippies, er Muggles.

I realize the first Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, came out in 1997 and JK Rowling had no idea America would erupt and plunge down the path to fascism in just a few short years, so I know she had no intentions of setting up the whole series in response to George W. Bush. But I do believe the steps to fascism are more or less the same. The Nazi's, Pol Pot and Stalin all used the same tried and true methods of societal control. My hope is young fans of Harry Potter will consume the series and be able to identify fascism when they come in contact with it in the decades to come.

The Religious Right have always protested the books because they claim the Potter series promotes witchcraft. In retrospect, I think it really reveals how fascist governments are created and how just a few people can fight back and change the course of history.

Reasoned revolution, that is what the the Neocons and their puppets, the Religious Right really fear.

Bend Over, Boyfriend

Here's a guy who's obviously studied the how-to manual Sexual Abuse For Dummies:

Albert (his middle name), a good-looking 29-year-old who’s fairly well-known in the music industry, says he asks the women he dates to have anal sex with him because it raises the level of intimacy in the relationship. He doesn’t demand anal sex—especially not if it’s a one-time hookup—but he won’t commit to a woman who refuses to grant him a backstage pass. “I had a girlfriend who I was with for a long time and she wasn’t into it,” Albert says. “There was definitely a thing in the back of my head like, ‘I can’t marry her.’ How can I, knowing I can’t go to all the places I can go with her? The physicality of it, being painful or whatever, shows how comfortable the girl is with you.” Here, he pointedly stops short of romanticizing screwing a woman rectally. “Ideally, every girl is a disgusting pig who wants it,” he says. “But only with you.”

Thirty years ago, when I moved from New York to Connecticut, my first job was at a paper recycling company. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a shady operation that was rumored to have connections with the mob. There was no union, I wasn't paid much, the work was boring, nasty, and dangerous, and some of my co-workers were there only because they couldn't get a job anywhere else.

One evening I gave a guy a ride home and during our conversation he mentioned that he'd did time in jail. He raped his girlfriend. After a long, awkward silence he said, "Wasn't no big thing, y'know? It wasn't as though I took something that wasn't mine."

Even now, the casual brutality behind his words still disturbs me, and this punk "Andrew" creeps me out the same way. The only difference between him and the guy I gave a ride to years ago is that "Andrew" hasn't been arrested yet. He's objectifying her to get what he wants. If a man doesn't listen to the word "No", and doesn't care that he's hurting his partner as they're having sex, then he's a rapist. If a man is calling what he's doing "making love", he's a damned liar. And dangerous.

A tip of the derby to Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon for bringing this hateful article from Details magazine to our attention. It's only fair that Amanda should have The Last Word on this topic: "Let’s all pray to the Great Cat that one day Albert asks a woman for anal sex and she pulls out her strap-on and says, 'Sure baby. You first.' And when he blanches, she sighs and says that she’s going to have to move on to find her husband."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Awakening Warrior: An Interview With Author Timothy Challans

The topic below was originally posted yesterday, in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal, as well as The Peace Tree and Worldwide Sawdust.

Remember the pride Americans felt in its military following the first Gulf War in 1991? Prior to that conflict we had the “Vietnam Syndrome” tainting our military with the stench of defeat and shameful atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Supposedly, a reformed military culture debunked the legacy of Vietnam, liberated Kuwait with honor while safeguarding America’s interests in Saudi Arabia.

Among those who initially embraced that myth is Timothy Challans, who served in the Army as a career infantry officer and retired in 2002 as a lieutenant colonel. Challans writes in his new book, Awakening Warrior: A Revolution In the Ethics of Warfare (State University of New York Press) that,

“For years after Desert Storm I wanted to believe, like many Americans, that the U.S. military had completed a moral transformation. Those of us who had been duped by our own propaganda wanted to believe that the indiscriminate killing in Vietnam had been replaced by precision munitions in Desert Storm and beyond, that the repugnant crimes of war so prevalent in the degenerate destructive fighting in Indochina had been replaced by consciously clean conventional fighting in the Gulf, and also that the psychotic psychologies of a bankrupt former generation had been swept away by a reformed professional military that fought with moral clarity and certainty. But the progress that I and many others had imagined was a myth.”
Challans completed the manuscript for much of his book in the summer of 2001, before most Americans had ever heard of Osama Bin Laden or al Quaeda. Prior to the abuses of the Bush/Cheney Administration, Challans diagnosed the ills of what he describes as the “warrior ethos” and the “American War Machine” which encompasses those political and military institutions that engage the world with physical force

In a thoughtful book that blends philosophy and history, Challans focuses on the systemic, institutional level of morality rather than bemoaning the moral shortcomings of individuals. And he poses the following questions for the American War Machine: What are the limits of an individual moral agency? What kind of responsibility do individuals have when considering institutional moral error? How is that neutral or benign moral actions performed by individuals can have such catastrophic morally negative effects from a systemic perspective?

In addressing those questions, Challans postulates that “America’s War Machine” creates more conflict than it prevents and endangers the citizens it’s supposed to protect. He therefore argues that America’s survival is contingent upon replacing the current warrior ethos with a new paradigm guided by ethics.

Challans, a native of Colorado, is a West Point graduate and earned masters and doctorate degrees in philosophy at the The Johns Hopskins University. For more than ten years he taught over a thousand military students from the rank of cadet to colonel, at West Point (USMA), the Command and General Staff College (CGSC), and the School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). He has spoken widely and presented numerous papers pertaining to the ethics of warfare. Challans was the principal author for the Army’s 1999 doctrinal manual leadership, FM 22-100, Army Leadership. His troop experience includes the 172nd Infantry Brigade at Ft. Richardson, Alaska and the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Cambell, Kentucky.

Challans agreed to a telephone interview with me about his book and unique perspective. Our conversation is transcribed below.
ILJ: Timothy, the first thing that grabbed my attention about your book was the title itself, Awakening Warrior. For the benefit of those reading this who did not read your book, why did you choose that title and what do you hope to accomplish with this book?

Challans: I was looking at Francisco De Goya’s etching entitled the “Sleep of Reason” as I was writing this book and I wanted to entitle it “The Sleep of Reason.” I thought that was a little bit too negative because while I think that we’ve been asleep in terms of our moral consciousness as we engage in conflict, I think some of us are waking up and the time is ripe for some critical evaluation of what we’ve done and where we can go.

And so I wanted to give a positive note that some warriors are waking up and are the vanguard of a revolution in the ethics of warfare for the good.

ILJ: I suspect many reading this who are like me, liberal and largely anti-war, are confused about the concept of integrating ethics and warfare. Tim is it really possible to wage the brutality of war ethically and why does that matter?

Challans: I think that’s a very good question. And whenever we do go to war that’s a huge failure when our politicians are not successful at diplomacy. We have engaged in a tremendous ethical failure. But the reality is at times we will have to fight. And so while I think that ethically fighting and war is going to have some very bad things about it … that we have two questions that people in this business think about:

The first one is, when should we go to war?
And the second one is how should we fight it once we’re in it?

And these two questions, once we think about them are important ethical questions that we have to explore in order to minimize the horror. I am not a pacifist myself although I am largely antiwar. I think we’ve been involved in far too many wars, more than we should. And that the leadership, both political and military doesn’t know how to engage in this kind of moral dialogue and we need to get a lot better at it.

ILJ: A reoccurring theme in your book is that for the military means become ends. Yet I can’t help but wonder how it could be otherwise for the military mind. Shouldn’t thinking about the bigger picture, consequences and morality be in the bailiwick of civilian leadership while the military focuses on tactics and winning?

Challans: That is the traditional division. That the politicians answer that first question, when do we go to war? And then the military is supposed to answer the second question, how should we fight it? The reality of this over the last several decades and actually the last several centuries, is that the division between political and military thought has merged.

There was a medieval distinction, that of invincible ignorance that is pretty much the idea that the soldier can go to war with a clear conscience and doesn’t have to worry about the political decisions. But the reality is our political leaders depend on our military leaders for advice and especially at the highest levels. Especially the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his staff and every other headquarters and command where there is political/military interface there should be a dialogue between both groups of people: military and political as far as the morality of warfare given its gravity, potential destruction and the cost in terms of money and lives.

So, going back to your questions about means and ends, my book is primarily a challenge to the traditional structures and methods of thinking of ethics – and the way we think about means and ends, the very structure of reasoning about means and ends needs to be re-evaluated. For a very long time it has been inadequate for the military to think only about victory, winning the nation’s wars.

ILJ: In the second chapter of your book, you argue that the promotion of religion is undermining the ethics of our military and you even write that army chaplains “should get out of the ethics business in the military.” Why do you regard religion as a dangerous influence to the military’s moral compass?

Challans: If we’re looking at the three main religions in the world: Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the sacred texts for these religions really offer us very little if nothing when we go to answer these two questions,

1) When should we go to war?
2) And how should we fight it once we’re in it?

So I think the background that chaplains bring with them does not really help us in thinking about the moral questions that are at stake. And particularly the Bible is uninformative in this way. It tells us “Thou shall not kill.” OK, what do you do with that? What does the soldier do with that when he finds himself in war?

Additionally, since we’re working with the rest of the world now, I think we need some kind of ethical interoperability with the rest of the world. The rest of the world, the rest of the Western World … Europe, for example does not think of ethics in these terms. So if we’re going to be able to have a common conception of ethics, in a profession that is part of governmental structure in a democratic republic then it may be enough to think in terms that are not religious and that there are plenty of ideas out there where you don’t have to go to religion to understand respect for persons, rule of law and ethical ideas such as those.

My book also controversially challenges the Just War Tradition, the just war thinking that thinkers from Augustine to Michael Walzer defend. I believe we need a totally new conception, one reason being that our Just War Tradition has developed hand-in-hand with theological thought. For example, what good does it do to say the “legitimate authority” is a just war principle? Has there ever been a case in history when the leaders of any nation would say that they did have legitimate authority to go to war? Moral authority, especially religious moral authority, is one of the root problems of our muddled thinking about the ethics of warfare. I offer an original set of ethical principles of war, reasoned from some of the most profound ethical theories.

ILJ: Your book poses many important philosophical questions challenging what you describe as the “warrior ethos.” Yet for me, the nitty gritty of your book comes down to these two sentences in Chapter Four. You write, “The great paradox is that America goes to war against forces that it plays a large role in creating, and each war spawns new threats of largely its own creation.” That’s a harsh assessment. Do you really believe American militarism is responsible for the rise of radical Islam for example?

Challans: It may not be directly responsible if we’re thinking in the direct cause and effect relationship that you would see on a billiard table, one pool ball running into the next. But things connect up in a systemic way. And these forces are at work in ways that we really don’t sit back and reflect about.

So yes our approaches in solving problems at certain times will create the conditions for future problems. Just as in medicine today’s cures for certain diseases create tomorrow’s diseases. So, yes I do think there is this concept of blowback that the way we go about not only militarization but our economic expansion has tremendous systemic effects. An invisible hand kind of interaction where nobody is consciously intending or making something bad happen. But all these forces are at work, they’re at play in ways we don’t really think about and actually do create worse conditions making the world more dangerous year after year.

ILJ: In making your case for an ethics revolution in military culture, you challenge America’s moral standing over some of its proudest moments in history. One of them being, America’s victory over Japan in World War Two. Specifically, you accuse America of unjustifiably dropping atomic bombs on Japan when the war was essentially over. Growing up I was taught that even though the outcome was not in doubt, diehard Japanese soldiers would’ve kept fighting and taken many more American lives had President Truman not given the OK to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Couldn’t one argue that using atomic weapons was ethical because it minimized American casualties?

Challans: Here is a great example of how the military pursuit of victory – at any cost, by the way created more dangerous conditions. Our policy of unconditional surrender—an American invention in the annals of warfare beginning with Grant in the Civil War— put the Japanese Empire on notice that we were the ones who were not going to give up and accept a defeat. And here is the problem with the warrior ethos. It sounds good to us when we espouse the notion that we will never give up. But what happens when others take the same stance? It is precisely the warrior ethos existing on both sides in that war that escalated the brutality in the Pacific theater. The warrior ethos challenges the conventions of winning and losing. What does victory even mean is our enemy will never accept defeat? This is such a deep question at such a fundamental level that it does not even register in the minds of most warriors. And for a long time now it is not just the soldiery that refuses defeat but whole populations. The talk of victory in the current war against terror is nonsensical given that people won’t let another power achieve victory.

I mention in the book the irony of ending the war by attacking the Japanese population at large in order to bring about a military victory. And I juxtapose that against Japan’s entry into the war that was the attacking of an American military base in Hawaii at a time before Hawaii was a state.

That should symbolize our presence in the Pacific and our interference with Asia’s designs in their own region. So this goes back to your further question how our actions can create more dangerous situations. When we talk about setting the example for the world and then engage in wholesale destruction of a population, I think that while we may want to justify that for ourselves I don’t think we would want the rest of the world kind of picking up that example. And I’ll just mention Ramzi Yousef, the ’93 bomber of the World Trade Center who wanted to exact revenge on the World Trade Center symbolically for the destruction we brought against Japan at the end of World War Two.

Now, many sources will define terrorism as the threat or use of force against non-combatants for some kind of political objective. It’s inconsistent for us to use that definition when we want to define terrorists who are attacking us but we will not allow that definition the way we describe what we do. Now if we go so far as to say well, all of the Japanese citizens were combatants – then the problem with that is if everyone is being consistent about that, I think that’s pretty much what the attackers on 9/11 said about the occupants of the World Trade Center. Consistency is important here. And we need to think these things through very clearly.

ILJ: In fairness to President Truman though, wasn’t he being told by his military advisors we’re going to shed a lot more American blood unless we use these weapons? Occupying the Japanese mainland would’ve been a very tough proposition. And given the war weary American population at that point, did Truman really have another choice at that moment in time?

Challans: That’s a very interesting question because that’s not just a single choice at that point in time but things had degraded over time. So it’s really a series of decisions that take place over time. And so as we go back we can sympathize with Truman in terms of the choices he made on successive days. For example, why would they think atomic weapons were that much worse than the fire bombing of sixty other cities in Japan by that time? It may have seemed like a difference in degree but not a difference in kind.

In retrospect we can see that more clearly. But this should give us even greater pause in trying to think through the choices we make. As a series of decisions over time where we can potentially make thinks more dangerous than they need be.

ILJ: You also cite dropping the atomic bomb as the start of the cold war as an example of American military excess creating more conflict for it to fight. In fairness to America, Stalin brutally consolidated his Iron Curtain over Eastern Europe and since the Soviets were developing atomic weapons themselves, wasn’t the Cold War inevitable?

Challans: Well, yes. In some ways it had unfolded, maybe yes. And this goes back to my previous comment – that something like the Cold War unfolded as a result of thousands of decisions and hundreds of things that were happening. And many historians will now say we dropped the bombs more to keep Russia out of sharing a victory with us in Japan than the traditional rationale. But this may also be reason to think that we if reword McArthur’s most famous line, we should think about the role of diplomacy. Maybe its more important to say there is no substitute for diplomacy.

ILJ: Another proud moment in American history was the first Gulf War in 1991, when a supposedly new professional military liberated Kuwait, kept the Iraqis out of oil rich Saudi Arabia and conducted itself with honor – debunking the Vietnam syndrome. You reference two very serious allegations in your book however about the First Gulf War. The first is that independent satellite photos do not show the buildup of the Iraqi Army at the Saudi Arabian border before Operation Desert Shield was implemented in 1990. As a source you cite John MacArthur’s 1993 book, Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda In the Gulf War. If MacArthur’s right, why did King Fahd of Saudi Arabia allow the American military to set up shop in their country and anger Islamic radicals such as Osama Bin Laden? It doesn’t make any sense.

Challans: We’ve been involved in Saudi Arabia since the late thirties. There was certainly much more of an American military presence throughout the eighties in the Middle East. So the entry and the buildup of American forces in Saudi Arabia I think is a natural consequence of this relationship we’ve had with certain countries in the Middle East. Yes the buildup I think was exaggerated and this may help explain why the war only took 100 hours … that the forces that were reported to be there may not have actually been there. Now this is a serious allegation and I would love to see more exploration here but I really doubt the military is going to open itself up for this kind of investigation.

ILJ: Is there anything that civilians can do to explore these allegations, pressure politicians, especially in light of the past six years? Maybe people will want to dig further back into the history of our entire involvement in the Gulf.

Challans: I think that’s a great suggestion. The two conflicts are not separate. There needs to be some exploration and some interpretations that include Dessert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. And I think that would be a fascinating topic to look at the whole thing rather than just the first part and the second part separately.

ILJ: The second allegation you reference is against Major General Barry McCaffrey. McCaffrey would later serve as President Clinton’s drug czar and he’s been a television commentator for NBC in recent years. You write that two days after the shooting stopped in March 1991, McCaffrey had his 24th Division completely destroy an entire Iraqi Republican Guard Unit after falsely claiming he responded to an antimissile attack – and you cite the reporting of Seymour Hersch, a credible reporter as a source – he’s very credible in my opinion. Do you believe McCaffrey acted looking for glory? Or was he cooperating with higher ups that wanted a pretext to wipe out another a division of Saddamn’s elite Republican Guards?

Challans: I would go with A. That this was primarily McCaffrey’s action. I think that from General Schzwartkopf and higher that the action was pretty much over. This was a cease fire. Cease fires have very technical legal strictures which are greater than say armistices. So this is a much more serious incident … and it’s an incident we let go because of McCaffrey’s stature and later political appointment — I think this was kind of ignored. But this would be part of that overall story that I think we need to go back and look at more seriously.

ILJ: I’d like to get your thoughts on two recent developments. One, what do you make of the federal appeals court in Washington that on Friday, ordered the government to turn over all information on Guantanamo detainees who are challenging their detention?

Challans: I think this is a move in a positive direction because I have never thought that any of the talk of detention and talk of tribunals had anything to do with bringing anybody to trial but that it always had everything to do with interrogation and getting information.

There was never any procedural or substantive law that had been developed to deal with the detainees, especially in this bogus category of enemy combatants. We are operating somewhere in limbo between a war paradigm and a crime paradigm, legally. And I think this is a case of the courts imposing itself to force the White House to show its hand. There are virtually no substantive charges against the vast majority of detainees. The one they stick on everybody, which is really a false charge, is that of conspiracy. Conspiracy while a crime in terms of criminal law is not a war crime.

So to try to charge all these detainees with the war crime of conspiracy is just not going to work. I think this is part of the oversight that the judicial system should have over the executive branch. And this really is good news in my view. It’s democracy at work.

ILJ: Do you think it might cause chaos if all these detainees are able to challenge their detention?

Challans: I think it will be chaotic. And there may not be any good answers once all this is exposed. Even so I don’t think the potential chaos is a reason not to do it. Nor would it be a reason to justify what’s been done. It may be that we have to face the very painful consequence of exposing something that is really bad news for America. It’s bad news because we used bad reasoning in terms of means and ends, using questionable means to achieve certain ends.

ILJ: And what do you think about the White House announcing on Friday that it had given the CIA approval to resume its use of some severe interrogation methods for questioning terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas?

Challans: This is the executive branch trying to flex its muscle back at the judicial system. I think that is not a good idea. All of those heavy-handed measures have turned out to backfire in the past. For a long time I didn’t understand why the White House would be acting this way. But I’ve come to understand that there is a school of law out there, the John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales school of law which is to push the limits, to do something that is perhaps illegal. And if that sticks then they’ve actually succeeded in changing the law. And I really think that’s what they’re up to. This is particularly troubling to me for public servants take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. It is an outright contradiction to violate the very document that public officials have taken an oath to preserve.

ILJ: Timothy your book largely deals with reforming the ethics of the institutions of what you call America’s “war machine.” However, increasingly operations of America’s war machine are outsourced to private contractors such as Blackwater who essentially have their own army in Iraq and are not beholden to any government standards. Is it possible to have an ethical war machine if private contractors aren’t reformed as well and how can that be done if they’re not under the chain of command?

Challans: This is a huge problem and perhaps the greatest challenge that we’ll have in the future. As Smedley Butler, the Marine back in the early 20th century told us: “war is a racket,” war is business. And there are business forces at work that if the average American understood how profits are made off of people being killed I think they would be appalled. The rise of Blackwater, and the contractor force being the second largest army in the Middle East right now, is a tremendously problematic, not only because they can operate outside the law but they also operate outside of any consciousness of morality or ethical code that a military would have. So I think this issue of contractors on the battlefield is one we need to rethink seriously about.

ILJ: Do you think it’s possible assuming the military can reform its own ethical standards they can then mandate if you want to get any contract work from us, this what you have to adhere to? Is that a reasonable objective?

Challans: That could be a way to help solve the immediate problem. I think that’s a good idea actually. But it’s a world that’s really hard to control, unaccountable. Far more so then the blackest operation in our black ops world.

ILJ: Timothy you’ve been very generous with your time, a final question if I may. What sort of feedback, if any, have you received from the military establishment about your ideas in this book?

Challans: The feedback has been positive, from students and colleagues. Nobody has approached me to challenge me on anything I've said. I think the time is right for a moral dialogue of the sort I'm trying to carry out, one that can be critical enough to help us better understand where we've been, what we're doing, and where we're going.

Jet Blue Nonsense

In spite of my lack of affection for Big Orange, this Jet Blue business is nonsense. No way should the company have cowed to O'Reilly and his minions. I previously addressed the Jet Blue story here, by the way.)

It only emboldens them.

If you'd like to write a polite letter to the company expressing your disappointment in their willingness to be bullied by Fox viewers, here is the e-mail address

Sugar-Frosted Mercury Corn Bombs! Part of a balanced breakfast.

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

Everyone reading this should bow their head and say a word of prayer for my poor wife who puts up with my shopping habits... well, one habit especially.

I am unsure when this habit started, but it was within the last 2 years. I think it is some of Lou Dobbs rubbing off on me.

While grocery shopping and as my wife is busy checking the nutrition labels on the food we are putting in the basket, I am rattling off the countries of origin - China, China, China, Mexico, China, Peru, China, China, Honduras.

Then I lost it one day, I found a small box of garlic bulbs that came from China. One single ounce of garlic had been shipped from CHINA to Lewisville, NC and had found it's way into my basket. OH MY GAWD DID I BITCH. I complained to management, I warned and complained to other shoppers - Hell, I even let me displeasure known to the cashier. I wasn't belligerent or rude, just "can you believe we can't even get American grown garlic?" The folks in the store that I discussed the China issue with were all more virulent about the issue than I was. Some were damn mad - one chap was fuming.

That was it for me and Lowe's Foods. My wife and I decided to switch to Whole Foods, we expected our food price to be higher, but we bit the bullet. Surprisingly, our bill has gone down. Driscoll's strawberries at Lowes is four times higher than it is at Whole Foods, plus the WF's product was much higher in quality.

I still have my habit of calling out the place of origin, but now I can be heard saying "North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia, Maine, North Carolina, Lenoir, California, California, Greece, California, Maryland, North Carolina."

I can't say enough good things about this store and their buy local policies. Yes, Maine isn't exactly in Forsyth County, but it ain't Asia.

Originally posted on BlueNC on THIS thread)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Things Fall Apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of "Spiritus Mundi"
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."--George W. Bush

I don't believe those rumors about George Bush being the Antichrist. He's too lazy. If you look at his forehead closely, you'd see the numbers "333".


Nobody in the NFL has hit Michael Vick harder than Lisa Olson does here:

There is no way to justify such deliberate cruelty, such blatant monstrosity.

Only a very small man, a man so removed from all that is right and good, would perpetrate the sort of heinous deeds alleged in the federal criminal indictment against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three others.

Here is how Overt Act 83 reads: "In or about April 2007, (defendants) PEACE (Purnell A. Peace), PHILLIPS (Quanis L. Phillips) and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

Let us take a giant leap into October and assume Vick hasn't committed any of the horrors with which he's charged. Maybe he's been misidentified as the leader and financier of "Bad Newz Kennels," or framed, or unfairly targeted by prosecutors hoping to get a sit-down with Larry King for bagging one of America's most identifiable athletes.

It could happen, as unlikely as it now seems. There was a time when it appeared the Duke lacrosse players were guilty as sin of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer, until it turned out they were being railroaded by a lying, politically motivated district attorney.

But if Vick is indeed innocent, we'll still have this: a hardly underground culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to train innocent animals to kill, to torture them for profit, for fame, for fun.

As so often is the case, society's evils aren't illuminated until they're viewed through the prism of sport. It wasn't until details emerged about Vick's alleged depravities that most of us did anything but blanch at the notion that humans would coach house pets (or any animals, for that matter) to fight to the death. Now we're learning the culture is spreading like an incurable disease: it's in rural South backyards and inner-city basements, on album covers and in music videos, in Wyoming and Virginia and every borough of New York.

How jocks decide to spend their money is their business, I figure. After all, they earned it. If they wanna piss it away on coke, big muscle cars, ostenstatious jewelry, and hookers, it's their choice. When their career in the NFL/NBA/MLB is over and the money is gone, the majority of them will find out the hard way what the price of being a dumb and uneducated black man in White America is going to be. It becomes a bigger problem when these muscleheads full of rage, testosterone, and a bloated sense of entitlement become a danger to the rest of us living in the real world.

The idea that Vick enjoyed killing dogs is contemptible. Yes, it's likely that he won't go to jail for the same ($) reason that Ray Lewis, O.J. Simpson, and Kobe Bryant didn't go to jail, but he's a lousy role model and a rotten human being, and I hope his jerseys wind up in the bargain bit at KMart.

Looking backwards: The Bush Iraq War - Redrawing the map of the middle east

LA Times article exposed Israeli security and U.S. foreign policy goals even before the war.

It's always good to look backwards, in order to take positive steps forward. Here is a look backwards at a powerful article published back on December 1, 2002. About the Bush administrations efforts to redraw the map of the Middle East.

Please take the opportunity to read this article and let us know what you think about Israeli security and U.S. foreign policy goals

Beyond Regime Change

By Sandy Tolan and Jason Felch

LA Times

If you want to know what the administration has in mind for Iraq, here's a hint: It has less to do with weapons of mass destruction than with implementing an ambitious U.S. vision to redraw the map of the Middle East.

The new map would be drawn with an eye to two main objectives: controlling the flow of oil and ensuring Israel's continued regional military superiority. The plan is, in its way, as ambitious as the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement between the empires of Britain and France, which carved up the region at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The neo-imperial vision, which can be ascertained from the writings of key administration figures and their co-visionaries in influential conservative think tanks, includes not only regime change in Iraq but control of Iraqi oil, a possible end to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and newly compliant governments in Syria and Iran -- either by force or internal rebellion.

For the first step -- the end of Saddam Hussein -- Sept. 11 provided the rationale. But the seeds of regime change came far earlier. "Removing Saddam from power," according to a 1996 report from an Israeli think tank to then-incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was "an important Israeli strategic objective." Now this has become official U.S. policy, after several of the report's authors took up key strategic and advisory roles within the Bush administration. They include Richard Perle, now chair of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board; Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense; and David Wurmser, special assistant in the State Department. In 1998, these men, joined by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz (now the top two officials in the Pentagon), Elliott Abrams (a senior National Security Council director), John Bolton (undersecretary of State) and 21 others called for "a determined program to change the regime in Baghdad."


Lost on Planet Earth

Damn you, Prince. You ain't doing it to me again.

It's a vicious circle he's stuck me in before. You see, Prince puts out a new CD and, as usual, a herd of mesmerized critics bleat about how "different" it is. At last, they say, Prince finally stops his self-indulgent bullshit and releases the prophesied Masterpiece of Awe-Inspiring Brilliance that his faithful disciples have been impatiently waiting for. Oh thank you, Your Purple Majesty!

And then, of course, you listen to the tracks and you discover that it's another frustrating Prince CD: Good, great, bust, filler, good, O.K., so-so, the end. Again.

What drives me nuts is that Prince isn't a mediocre artist. He is a genius, and not only do geniuses produce CDs that are good from the first song to the last, they're able to do it from CD to CD. Stevie Wonder did it with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life. Joni Mitchell did with Blue, Court and Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and Hejira.

But, for some perplexing reason, it isn't that Prince can't do it, he just doesn't want to. Why? Damned if I know.

"Guitar", the new single from Planet Earth, is a great song. Fiery chords of molten gold shimmer and sizzle as Prince powerfully demonstrates what a criminally underrated guitar player he is, leaving us exhausted and exhilarated. Will I buy the CD? Uh-uh, nope, negative, no way, Jose.


Goddamn you, Prince.