30 September, 2006

Not surprising, just sad

As anyone could have predicted, the $5000 (minimum) bounties offered by the U.S. for supected terrorists has created a "black market" for abductions by police, border guards, and anyone else who whould like some quick cash. If the Soviet experience is any guide, there are probably some people being turned in in order to facilitate promotions and steal personal property. According to General Musharraf, agents have captured 689 and turned over 369 to the U.S. Some were guilty. I wonder how many were innocent?

25 September, 2006

George Carlin explains everything

George Carlin, in a video on myspace, gives his perspective on how America really works. The class analysis is simplistic, but there's a lot of truth, especially when it comes to the educational system.

Life in the Hot Zone

Photojournalist Kevin Sites has spent the last year touring twenty-two regions in conflict. The web site puts a human face on the horror. And while it's not fun to look at, it's important.

23 September, 2006

Eyewitness news. Not.

Look here for the names and locations of the nine officially embedded reporters in Iraq. That's right: nine. Of these, three are from Stars and Stripes, one from the Armed Foces Network, one from the Charlotte Observer, one from the BBC, one from the Associated Press, one from Polish radio, and one from RAI.

Are the rest of them hiding in hotels? Are they even in the country?

Not winning hearts and minds

A pentagon report finds the insurgency is gaining support from Sunnis in Iraq. From ABC News:

"A confidential Pentagon assessment finds that an overwhelming majority of Iraq's Sunni Muslims support the insurgency that has been fighting against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government, ABC News has learned.

Officials won't say how the assessment was made but found that support for the insurgency has never been higher, with approximately 75 percent of the country's Sunni Muslims in agreement.

When the Pentagon started surveying Iraqi public opinion in 2003, Sunni support for the insurgents stood at approximately 14 percent."

There's a heuristic that when what you are doing is making things worse, it's a good time to try something else.

"Not a Suicide Pact": Stone and Posner

Look here for a thoughtful discussion of the argument between absolutists and pramatists on the means by which one decides that some guarantees of liberty may be sacrificed in the name of security. Both make good points. My heart is with Stone. My head is with Posner.

Nazrallah addresses his fans


Hezbollah head praises 'victory'
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
Sheikh Nasrallah had not appeared in public since the conflict
The Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has hailed his group's "victory" over Israel, boasting that the group still has 20,000 rockets.

In his first public appearance since the recent conflict, he said Hezbollah would never be disarmed by force and called for a new Lebanese government.

Hundreds of thousands crowded into southern Beirut, heavily bombed during the conflict, to hear the speech.

Israel said the speech showed a lack of respect to the international community.

A "lack of respect"? I'm sure that will have an impact.

Osama bin Laden Dead?

Is Osama bin Laden Dead?
That's the story being leaked from the French DGSE, citing a report from the Saudis. Of course, President Chirac says the report is "in no way confirmed." But note he doesn't deny that the document cited is real, and instructs the defense minister to trace the leak. In other words, it's a real document which may or may not be reporting a real event.

If the Saudis believe it to be true, why not announce it? I can think of several reasons, including the desire to avoid any way UBLs death (by Typhoid, if true) could be spun into anything like martyrdom. Some information you hang on to until it can do the most damage.

(I wonder how long it will be until somebody claims Bush "knew" and kept the information to himself--to spring it as an "October surprise"? Very unlikely to be the case, but ideal for people who see conspiracies everywhere.)

For now, we wait for more evidence. Some people you don't declare dead until you see the body, and even then you should stand ready to revise your opinion.

UPDATE: Time now reports they have Saudi confirmation of the illness, but not of the death.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that Saudi officials have received multiple credible reports over the last several weeks that Bin Laden has been suffering from a water-borne illness. The source believes that there is a "high probability" that Bin Laden has already died from the disease, but stressed that Saudi officials have thus far received no concrete evidence of Bin Laden's death.

"This is not a rumor," says the source. "He is very ill. He got a water-related sickness and it could be terminal. There are a lot of serious facts about things that have actually happened. There is a lot to it. But we don't have any concrete information to say that he is dead."

Supposedly the DGSE is waiting until someone finds UBLs body. That's sensible.

Pure speculation: there was a recent report of a botched chance to hit a large number of Taliban leaders gathered at a gravesite. Is it possible a Predator drone witnessed the burial?