Archive for September 29th, 2006|Daily archive page

Ferret Hammocks

I was going to point my German-speaking, ferret-owning readers to an online German pet store selling ferret hammocks.

Then I went over to the Ferret Store.

Never mind – just never mind.

Who would have thought there are so many kinds of ferret hammocks. The world is a weird place; but a good market for things snugly for ferrets.


After having her head in the stars, Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist, has her feet back on the ground. 


The space capsule containing Ms Ansari and the two professional space travellers* Pavel Vinogradov and Jeffrey Williams has landed back in Kasachstan this morning at 3:13 MET.


*I refuse to use astronaut  and cosmonut. Ideological idiocy!


One more time I’d just like to say – cool lady, cool trip. That slot couldn’t have gone to someone who wanted it more and really worked to earn it.


Spiegel-Online (German)

New York Times 

Washington Post

A Moderate Case of Synchronicity

David Schraub, my first stop for boneheaded political quotes, has an excellent heads up pointing to Trent Lott’s newest verbal derailment. Included is the fact that he doesn’t understand the problems in Iraq. CNN quotes him as saying “Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.” This perhaps explains what passes for cultural issues in Lott’s home state Mississippi and why Lott supports Bush’s policies in Iraq.

Fortunately on the same day at the same blog – elrod does an excellent job of comparing a Washington Post article about the cultural subterfuge necessary at Iraqi checkpoints with something that might be near and dear to Senator Lott’s heart, the Civil War. Although the Post agrees with Senator Lott in describing the difficulties in identifying the religious groups –

For centuries, from the Ottoman Empire to the British-installed monarchy to the republic eventually ruled by Saddam Hussein, Sunnis were the elite who got the bulk of government jobs. Shiites, in Hussein’s time, were badly persecuted.

Yet in daily life hardly anyone cared about telling Sunnis and Shiites apart. It was considered rude to ask a person’s sect, and it is practically impossible to discern from their looks, speech or dress. For generations, the two sects intermarried, making it difficult to differentiate them by surnames. They attended the same schools and lived in mixed neighborhoods.

elrod points out the difficulties in identifying neutral civilians in a quite different Civil War

In a grounbreaking book on the guerrilla war in Missouri during the American Civil War, Michael Fellman identified the practice of neutral civilians telling different stories to different sides in guerrilla war as “survival lies.” Rural Missourians living amidst the daily conflict between pro-Confederate guerrillas or “bushwhackers” and pro-Union militiamen learned to tell compelling stories when each side inevitably paid a visit to the family farm.

Just a tip Senator Lott – start having your aides read The Moderate Voice. Then the methods for recognising all those pesky religious groups will be portioned in mental titbits even you or your speech writers can understand.

Did David Schraub and elrod get together to put up these posts? I don’t know but I suspect a modicum of synchronicity.

Heads Up: Fighting for a Science Job

Just thought I’d point you to Sharon Weinberger’s snarky little piece about science recruiting. Working conditions might be a little extreme for some. It’s the insurgents in Iraq that are looking.

And if you don’t want to work for them, you might hop over to Defense Tech and read about the new CIA recruiting website. Do you have what it takes to be the next James Bond (or George Tenet)?

Who says you can’t get a job with a science degree?

Slim and none

Slate’s Jacob Weisberg has a very clear analysis explaining why the political parties aren’t presenting solutions for Iraq. Most of the article deals with the various ideas, from full on reinvasion, to some form of separation, to absolute withdrawal.

 But in the current political discussion, Weisberg is right. While many politicians point at each other saying what is wrong, no one talking about trying to solve the problem. There is an elephant in the room. He’s quiet and both sides of the political spectrum are completely ignoring him. (You just keep finding footprints in the butter in the fridge. Blah!)

Not only is discussing a solution almost as stealthy as the administration would like wiretapping programs to be, the reality is probably even worse. Weisberg sums up the situation nicely. 

Reviewing these proposed strategies suggests another, less partisan reason why House and Senate candidates seem so disengaged from the question of what to do in Iraq. The situation is hopeless. The best that our leading foreign-policy minds have been able to come up with is a grim choice among forms of failure and defeat. In a country of optimists, no politician wants to deliver that message.

One has to think not how America will leave Iraq but what are the odds of America leaving Iraq more or less unscathed. Probably somewhere between slim and none.

Torturing Justice

The Republicans managed to push their legislation through the Senate yesterday. My take on this is twofold. On the one side, I agree with the Democrats as reported by the New York Times

Democrats argued that the rules were being rushed through for political gain too close to a major election and that they would fundamentally threaten the foundations of the American legal system and come back to haunt lawmakers as one of the greatest mistakes in history.

This legislation is a mistake and only being pushed right now to give the Republicans a ‘rescue-ring’ issue for the next few weeks. Passing this bill now let’s the Republican party hammer on the anti-terror button for the next few of weeks, drowning out the negative press caused by the ‘Trends in Global Terrorism’ report from the intelligence agencies. The Democrats voting for the bill were left with little manoeuvring room; it was either vote for the legislation or be painted a friend of terrorism.

But I wonder if there isn’t even more political bait and switch going on. It is very possible that this legislation won’t pass even the current Supreme Court.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, arguing for an amendment to strike a provision to bar suspects from challenging their detentions in court, said it “is as legally abusive of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution as the actions at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and secret prisons were physically abusive of detainees.”

The amendment failed, 51 to 49.

Even some Republicans who voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the provision barring court detainees’ challenges, an outcome that would send the legislation right back to Congress.

“We should have done it right, because we’re going to have to do it again,” said Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, who voted to strike the provision and yet supported the bill. [my emphasis]

It will be interesting to see if Bush adds any signing statements limiting even this legislation. If yes, he will probably sign the law shortly before the election and include signing statements again limiting the Geneva Conventions.

But even if Bush signs the legislation as is, I wonder how many Senators are hoping this will just buy time. If the Supreme Court kills this sometime next year, it would give the likely Republican Senate (and  a possible Republican controlled Congress) the chance to replay this theatre for the Presidential elections.

Especially McCain might be hoping the cards fall this way. The anti-war feeling in the US will probably increase over the next few years. McCain can use the failure of this law and his status as a former prisoner of war to push more responsible legislation in two years. He can win brownie points while remaining well in character. If the Supreme Court doesn’t kill the law and the war starts looking up (or elves take over the Middle East), he can leave it more or less as is. For McCain it’s an almost win-win situation; probably what he was planning.

Oh! And if McCain changes the legislation, Bush can push the Justice Department to charge lots of intelligence agents and administration officials just before he leaves office. Then during his last days in office, he pardons them. Outwitted those justices again! (Boy can I spin conspiracy plots.)

I just wish the political system weren’t in such bad shape with all the problems at the moment. That’s what keeps torturing me.

Go read  The Blind leading the Willing by Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate. She’s probably my favorite legal journalist. (And she has an excellent sense of humor.) Her take is even darker than mine. Congress doesn’t know what they are talking about, or worse, they are actively trying to avoid finding out.

Best comment: “enemy combatants (a term that sweeps in citizens and noncitizens, Swiss grandmothers and Don Rumsfeld’s neighbor if-that-bastard-doesn’t-trim-his-hedge)” lol!