Blogs

Seven Active Duty Soldiers in Iraq Take to the Pages of the NY Times

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 11:45 AM EDT

I would consider this a direct rebuke of Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack.

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal... The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework...
Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Read the full thing here.

Update: There is a really good reported piece on life in Baghdad in Newsweek today. Here's the passage with the most direct summary, but the rest is filled with captivating details and personal stories:

While security is returning to some areas of Baghdad, modern conveniences aren't necessarily following. The Iraqi capital is no longer the place described in the old guidebooks, a metropolis of casinos, culture and Western-run hotel chains, although vestiges of that city can still be found. Instead, unceasing violence has thrust Baghdad back to a more primitive era, forcing its people to take up pre-industrial occupations and rediscover almost forgotten technologies. The collapse of municipal water services has revived the profession of well-digging... Donkey and horse carts are increasingly common on the capital's streets...

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"Tepid" Interest for a Rummy Iraq Book

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 10:49 AM EDT

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been fishing for a deal for a book that would justify the Iraq war. There's just one problem, the New York Post reports. Publishers aren't very interested.

IN the latest development in the quest by Donald Rumsfeld to snag a book deal, a well-placed industry source said the former Secretary of Defense has received only tepid interest from a handful of publishers.
As a result, he now plans to make it a full-blown autobiography rather than simply a treatment of his six years in the cabinet. ...

Weird - er, New-Normal - Weather Watch: Too Hot to Cool Nuclear Reactors

| Sun Aug. 19, 2007 10:39 PM EDT

Frank Strait's blog at Accuweather informs us that it's so hot in the east that nuclear reactors in the Tennessee Valley are being shut down because the water drawn out of the Tennessee River is too warm to cool them. That's a first. The Tennessee Valley Authority said it would compensate for the loss of power by buying power elsewhere—though just Thursday they announced they were imposing a fuel surcharge on their customers because hydropower production is already down from the drought.

So maybe we won't have to learn how to cut our own profligate carbon footprints. Maybe it will all be done for us in a hand-of-imaginary-friend, I mean, -god kind of way.

Add to this news the extremely weird behavior of tropical system Erin—it actually got stronger after landfall. And the fact that those fabulously bizarre birds known as frogmouths are breeding at the London Zoo for the first time in nearly a decade because, apparently, they're mistaking the neverending deluge there for a monsoon. Seems someone likes the new normal. JULIA WHITTY

More Wikipedia Fun (Waaaaah!)

| Sun Aug. 19, 2007 3:06 AM EDT

So the Times has gotten around to a story on Wikiscanner, the new online tool that allows you to look up Wikipedia edits made from computers at various organizations, companies, etc. (Check out our favorite editing wars here, and our interview with Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales on politics 2.0 here.) It's got some choice tidbits—someone at the Gray Lady edited the entry for Condoleezza Rice to change "pianist" to "penis"—but overall, the BBC take a couple of days ago was more amusing (h/t to our own Cameron Scott). There's the CIA bit Bruce blogged on:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.

There's also this:

The site also indicates that a computer owned by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site of right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The changes brand Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic," a "racist", and a "bigot". An entry about his audience now reads: "Most of them are legally retarded."

[...]"We don't condone these sorts of activities and we take every precaution to ensure that our network is used in a responsible manner," Doug Thornell of the DCCC told the BBC News website.

And the list goes on... someone at Diebold removed a reference to the company chairman Walden O'Dell being a top Bush fundraiser... the Vatican edited an entry on Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams... But why let other people have all the fun. Try it yourself. (A "Mother Jones" search, sadly, finds no entries. But why is someone at the Republican Party editing the "Baking" entry to add a citation for "bottom broiler"?

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Raising a Glass for Max Roach

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 9:22 PM EDT

When you're a true fan of jazz music, you don't take the music lightly. When you listen to recordings by jazz greats, you study each song; you learn each note of every solo.

The jazz drummer Max Roach was one of those greats that you study.

His passing this week prompted a lot of conversation between my friends and me about how awesome Roach was on the drum kit and how much we've been influenced by his style and ideas. One of my musician friends sent out this email today:

It seems like whenever one of the greats passes away these days, it never gets the press and back story it deserves. Max Roach's composition "Drum Conversation" was on a random old record that my folks had in their collection and it was the main reason I picked up the drums in the first place. After Max, drummers were considered musicians. Please raise a glass for Max, we owe him a huge debt.

Well, here I am, raising my glass. To Max Roach.

Man Arrested For Holding "Impeach" Sign

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 8:16 PM EDT

Jonas Phillips, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, sometimes stands at an Interstate overpass near his workplace and holds a sign that reads Impeach Bush-Cheney. Wednesday morning, he'd been standing there about ten minutes when he was approached by one Russell Crisp of the Asheville Police Department. Crisp asked Phillips how long he intended to stay in his spot, and Philips said not long--he had to be at work shortly. The officer then asked Phillips for his ID. Phillips asked if he had done anything wrong, and Crisp said only that a sergeant was on the way.

Sergeant Randy Riddle then appeared, told Phillips to put his sign down and to place his hands behind his back. He then arrested and handcuffed Phillips, and—when asked—informed him that he was in violation of County Ordinance 16-2, and that he was obstructing the sidewalk. Phillips replied that Officer Crisp had witnessed a man walk by him and his sign and could therefore attest that the sidewalk had not been obstructed.

According to Phillips, Riddle then yelled "You were obstructing the sidewalk!" "I'm sick of this shit!" and "Here's your fifteen minutes of fame, buddy." (Do you think Crisp has a working knowledge of Warhol?)

Once at the jail, Phillips says he was repeatedly questioned about his memberships in particular groups—Veterans for Peace and the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action. He was then searched, photographed and given a court date.

Phillips reports that in Asheville, it is legal to stage a protest on a city sidewalk without a permit. According to his wife, he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for help. Also, the police are considering changing the charge to a state violation of endangering motorists. After all, he must be guilty of something.

Breaking: Tony Snow Resigning

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 7:55 PM EDT

After less than a year and a half as the White House spokesman, Tony Snow plans on leaving the gig. So says CNN. Props to them for throwing in this bit:

Snow told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that "financial reasons" may prevent him for serving the remainder of his boss's presidency.
"I'm not going to be able to go the distance, but that's primarily for financial reasons." Snow said. "I've told people when my money runs out, then I've got to go."
According to The Washington Post, Snow makes $168,000 as the White House spokesman.

Maybe this is all an elaborate ruse to get a raise...

Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks To Record Low (Again)

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 7:54 PM EDT

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that Arctic sea ice broke an ominous record yesterday, with the least Arctic sea ice ever measured by satellite. The previous record low was set in September 2005 (see MoJo's Has The Age Of Chaos Begun?). Yesterday's record, August 16th, 2007, falls a full month shy of the typical summer low — which means there's a lot more melting yet to come. Sea ice extent is currently tracking at 2.02 million square miles, just below the 2005 record absolute minimum of 2.05 million square miles.

The Cryosphere Today scooped the news by a week, reporting on August 9th a new Arctic minimum sea ice.

A week before that, I heard it from Dave Carlson, an oceanographer at Oregon State University and current Director of the International Polar Year, during a talk he gave at Science Foo — a kind of science summit put together by O'Reilly Publishing and Nature Publishing, and hosted by Google at the Googleplex. Carlson reported then that NASA already saw the new record in their scopes.

The Sci Foo (FOO = friends of O'Reilly) meeting, by the way, proved exciting, exhilarating, inspiring, and terrifying, in no particular order. The good stuff came from the meeting of so many amazing minds, complete with their own onboard databases of experience and knowledge. The terrifying stuff came from listening to these physicists, mathematicians, bioengineers, biochemists, doctors, and about every other science and technology job known to humans, discuss the Really Big Problems of the day — everything from climate change to bioweapons. Everyone was probing science's responsibility and knowledge, and tossing around solutions. I'll be blogging more about this summit in coming posts.

In regards to the Arctic melting trend, it's likely to continue and even accelerate. You can read the how's and why's in my 2006 MoJo article, The Fate of the Ocean. It all has to do with albedo, water temps, positive feedback loops, and the like. JULIA WHITTY