Saturday, January 06, 2007


Headline of the Day

Israeli Experts Say Middle East Was Safer With Saddam in IraqThe Forward

And it goes on to say—

Although few tears were shed in Israel over Saddam Hussein’s death last week, a small but growing chorus — including government officials, academics and Iraqi émigrés — is warning that Israel could find itself in more danger with him gone, and that it might even regret having welcomed his toppling.

“Retrospectively, justice has been done,” Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Radio this week. Still, he cautioned, Israel must now be concerned “about what is liable to happen in the future.”

Saddam’s death, Sneh warned, could lead to “a reinforcement of Iranian influence in Iraq.” He said that Iraq had turned into a “volcano of terror” following the war, with “destructive energies” that could spill over into Jordan and Israel.

Such misgivings, though rarely aired publicly for fear of offending Washington, reach high into Israel’s security establishment. Yuval Diskin, director of the Shin Bet security service, told a group of students in a military preparatory program last May that Israel might come to regret its support for the American-led invasion in March 2003.

Saddam’s regime was preferable — not only for us but for all the states in the region, except for maybe the Iranians,” [Hebrew University security specialist] Barak said. “Saddam held together a divided, tribal, hostile state of Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds. He was a single man who made all decisions, and he was a rational leader. The moment he was gone, everything fell apart.”

How badly did Saddam treat Iraqi Jews?

A few years into the Iran-Iraq war, ... Saddam moderated his anti-Israel stance.... Jews in Iraq were now protected by a special unit and had a phone number to call if harassed. “Nobody could touch us,” said Emad Levy, who lived in Iraq at the time.

The notion that Israel would miss Saddam Hussein doesn't spring lightly to mind. But then who could have believed that I would miss Richard Nixon, who grows enormously in stature when viewed alongside the Presidential Nincompoop?

Related posts
Israel said to be feeling nostalgic for Syria (4/6/06)
Shushing Saddam (1/1/07)
Saint Saddam: The apotheosis has begun (1/4/07)


Friday, January 05, 2007


Cuisine de passion

Maybe the prison guards were enjoying one of those relaxed lunches for which the French are famous. How else to explain that without anyone noticing a prisoner could strike a fellow inmate "with his fists and feet, then used scissors and a razor on him before finally suffocating him with a plastic bag"? I say "lunch," but it may have been dinner, because the poor fellow was quite hungry after all that exertion. He proceeded to carve off portions of the victim's lung and some muscle tissue for a feast worthy of Hannibel Lecter, if there had been any mushrooms.

The assailant claimed to have eaten the heart of his victim, but he was either lying or ignorant because that organ was untouched. It's just as well; heart muscle is quite tough unless properly marinated.

It's odd how news can affect you. Now I feel inspired to post a Poem of the Day and consider what's for dinner.

Related post
French prisons follow the American model—downhill (7/22/05)



Poem of the Day

In the desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

—Stephen Crane


Thursday, January 04, 2007


Saint Saddam: The apotheosis has begun

"I sacrifice myself. If God wills it, he will place me among the true men and martyrs," wrote Saddam Hussein in a letter reported by the BBC two days before his execution. And indeed a number of voices warned that the execution of Saddam would do nothing more than produce a martyr.

But the Bushies listen to nothing other than the voices in their heads. And of course, they couldn't even arrange for their surrogates to pull off a creditable execution, if such a thing exists. Now Saddam is being elevated to martyrdom with breathtaking speed around the world, whatever the view or near-term consequences may be in Iraq.

Here are some reactions:

Libya has announced that it will build a statue of Saddam. The country has canceled public celebrations of a religious holiday, is observing three days of mourning and is flying flags on government buildings at half mast.

Fawaz A. Gerges pens an analysis from Egypt

One had hoped that the new Iraq would be built on a more humane and democratic foundation than the old, but as we have seen in other key decisions, the Iraqi leadership and the Bush administration are oblivious to the broader legal, moral and political ramifications inherent in Saddam's execution.

By all standards, Saddam's sentence is widely seen as illegitimate, as his trial was neither fair nor impartial....

Ironically, Saddam was already politically dead and his bitter legacy disgraced. But now, his hanging, coupled with his defiance, has turned him into a "martyr" among Sunni Muslims worldwide, with leading religious authorities saying that Saddam was a freedom fighter defending his country against the American occupation.

And that was ABCNews!

We learn the Palestinian reaction from Michael Widlanski, writing in the extreme right-wing FrontPageMagazine

In a bizarre and rare display of unity, Palestinians of all political stripes saluted Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi dictator, while strongly condemning those who carried out his execution.

“Saddam Hussein has entered history as a symbol of state nationalism [wattaniyya] and Pan-Arab nationalism [qawmiyya]…who helped the Palestinian revolution,” asserted a communiqué issued by the Fatah movement of PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The Fatah statement was read on official Palestinian radio and TV.

This is a blow against all that is Arab and all that is Muslim,” declared VOP [Voice of Palestine]....

Even the regularly scheduled Fatah celebrations of its own anniversary were overtaken by crowd salutes to the dead Iraqi dictator.

“By blood and by spirit, we will redeem you O Palestine,” chanted Palestinian crowds holding aloft pictures of Saddam, as they paraded in the rain-swept main square in Gaza Sunday evening.

In Tunisia,

Hundreds demonstrated on Tuesday here against the execution of Saddam Hussein, as labour union leaders here charged Britain and the United States with responsibility for an act they said would worsen the situation in Iraq.

The demonstrators assembled outside Tunisia's labour union headquarters carried Saddam portraits, chanted "Martyr!" and denounced the United States as murderers.

Perhaps the most amazing reaction comes out of India from the Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena normally berates the Indian government for not slaughtering enough Muslims!

Lashing out at the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Shiv Sena has termed it as an act of “martyrdom”. “Saddam’s execution is evidence of USA’s arrogance ... it is a parody of justice,” an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna said.

Criticising US President George Bush, the editorial said if Saddam was held guilty for massacre of Shias in 1982, the US president was hundred times more “guilty” for the death of lakhs of Iraqis in the last few years. “Saddam was a fighter and he died like a fighter. He died a martyr’s death for his country,” it said.

If anyone tried to write a novel of international intrigue positing this level of ineptness by a major power, no editor could possibly accept it as credible. Yet this is the surreality in which we live.

Related post
Shushing Saddam (1/1/07)



Detritus — 1/4/07


Korean-born Ji Yun Lee, now 71, was sent to a Pennsylvania prison in 1990 on an arson conviction based on assumptions about the "evidence" that were discredited that very same year. So he's been freed, right?

Nope. Once you're found guilty the prosecutors and courts will keep your ass in prison, no matter the facts. Wouldn't look good, you know, for the system to admit that it has imprisoned an innocent man.

Based on a best estimate of 80% accuracy in arson investigations, there could be "as many as 15,000 mistaken investigations each year."


Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Clean government, anyone?

As regular readers know, I would love to see newly elected Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer run for President. But that will likely have to wait until 2012 or 2016.

In the meantime Spitzer signed 5 executive orders on his first morning in office, four of which should give him instant fame for his efforts to clean up the executive branch. Based on Danny Hakim's account in the NY Times, here they are—

  1. prohibited state workers at public agencies and authorities from accepting gifts of more than nominal value and prohibited the use of state property, including vehicles, computers and telephones, for non-official business.... prohibited nepotism in hiring and contracting and barred former state workers from lobbying their former agencies for two years.
  2. prohibited state workers from donating money to the campaigns of the governor or lieutenant governor, or affiliated political action committees.... barred employment officials from asking job candidates about their party affiliation and barred state officials from appearing in advertisements paid for by state entities.... prohibited commissioners and executive directors of agencies and public authorities from running for public office without first resigning.
  3. requires all state agencies and authorities to come up with a plan to broadcast their meetings on the Internet, if they are subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law.
  4. established judicial screening committees to evaluate and recommend judicial candidates for a range of judgeships across the state

Spitzer hopes the executive branch reforms will, by example, light a fire under the state legislature. That may not be enough.

New York has a law known as the Moreland Act that gives the Governor extraordinary powers to investigate. Michael Goodwin writes that "The Moreland Act is to investigations what the nuclear bomb is to weapons." And Goodwin along with a number of other columnists are calling for Spitzer to drop some investigatory bombs on the legislature in Albany.

Columnist Mark Alesse opines

What goes on in Albany has always been messy, and sometimes inept and even incoherent - but it's never been this appalling.

Governor Spitzer could be as much fun for the New York State legislature as Attorney General Spitzer was for Wall Street.

And what about Congress?

Spitzer's demand for clean government had repercussions even before he took office. While still a candidate he withdrew his support for fellow Democrat and New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who has now resigned and pled guilty to a felony count of defrauding the government. Hevesi used his staff to chauffeur and care for his disabled wife.

This naturally leads to comparisons with a matter in the Congress this week. House Speaker Pelosi's determination to lead "the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history" is not off to a good start.

Michigan Representative John Conyers has had his own set of personal servants to answer for. The resolution of Conyer's "problem" by the House Ethics Committee has allowed the New York Post to do some righteous editorializing

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has been licking his chops at the thought of the mischief he can undertake as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - starting today, when his party assumes control of Congress.

Indeed, he once was speaking openly of an impeachment drive against President Bush - until incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi put the kibosh on it.

But Conyers' credibility as the Democrats' moral watchdog was shredded by the dubious deal he just struck with the House Ethics Committee - which was made public late last Friday in a holiday-weekend bid to avoid publicity.

After a probe lasting more than three years, the committee declared that Conyers has "accepted responsibility" for a series of House rules violations involving the use - and abuse - of his staffers.

According to published reports, Conyers used several staffers as his personal servants - requiring them to babysit and tutor his children, chauffeur him to personal events, help his wife with her law-school classes, work on his campaigns and pay restaurant and motel bills.

Sound familiar? It should.

New York's state comptroller, Alan Hevesi, just lost his job and pleaded guilty to a felony for doing a lot less with taxpayer-funded employees.

But John Conyers isn't losing anything.

Not the chairmanship of the judiciary committee, which Pelosi reiterated last Friday would go to the Michigan congressman despite his transgressions.

Nor is he facing any other kind of sanction from the House.

In fact, he didn't even really admit any wrongdoing - just a "lack of clarity" in explaining to his staffers what they are and aren't required to do.

Whatever that means.

Conyers, by the way, is no congressional novice. He's been a member of the House for no less than 42 years.

But as long as he follows some new procedures, the Ethics Committee declared, "This matter will remain closed and the committee will take no further action on it."

Including making public whether or not the allegations against Conyers are true.

That's a pretty astonishing way to dispose of accusations about practices that labeled "unethical, if not criminal" by one of Conyers' own chiefs of staff - who then resigned, saying she "could not tolerate [them] any longer."

And the fact that the committee's Republicans went along with it speaks volumes as to why the GOP is now in the minority - not to mention the extent of the unseemly mutual back-scratching that permeates Capitol Hill.

The Republicans went along with it because they hope to be treated as kindly in the very near future.

I'm afraid this may mean no real reform in the House of Representatives, where Democrats and Republicans came to an understanding some years ago not to expose each other's crimes. I believe Pelosi really does want honest and open government. But look at the material she has to work with!

Related posts
My nominee for President in 2008 (11/9/04)
Quote of the Day (1/13/05)
Even the music you hear is manipulated (7/26/05)
Promise of the Day (11/8/06)


Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Faint Praise of the Day

Concerning the New York State legislature—

I am not going to say everyone in this particular branch of government is corrupt. —U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia as quoted by Michael Goodwin in "Spitzer, stop the insanity!"


Monday, January 01, 2007


Statistic of the Day

Humanity is about to undertake the greatest change of habitat in its entire history. Authoritative international reports to be published over the next months will show that, for the first time, we will soon be a predominantly urban species, with more people living in towns and cities than in the countryside. —Geoffrey Lean, writing in "City dwellers poised to take over the world"



Global Warming Effect of the Day

In Sweden where records go back to 1756—

December 2006 will go down in history as the warmest since records began. And there are still no signs of snow in many parts of the country. The Local

To top it off, Sweden began the New Year with a hurricane warning.

Related post
Global Warming Effect of the Day (7/25/06)



Shushing Saddam

The execution of Saddam Hussein before he could be tried on more serious charges deeply angered the Kurds, who wanted to see him prosecuted for genocide, to be followed by a good old-fashioned boiling in oil. But the very reasons for which the Kurds wanted Saddam spared for further trials appear to be the very reasons for which he had to be dispatched so quickly.

The day of the execution Britain's Kurdish Media published several pleas to bring Saddam to trial including this by Pir Aso Yarsani—

Saddam’s execution now is unfair, illegal and thus a traitorous plan against the Kurdish nation. Do not let Americans and the Shiites in Iraq to execute Saddam now or in the coming days for mainly three important reasons; (1) Kurds and the rest of the civilized world are awaiting for a final verdict on the widely well-known Kurdish genocide (2) to investigate many unanswered questions such as the shares or multi-roles of foreign powers in his crimes (3) Kurds will see a legal international paper which recognizes the Kurdish genocide and describes in detail what, how and when the Iraqi government will compensate the families of victims.

Reasons (2) and (3) alone are sufficient to explain the unseemly haste in killing Saddam. Not only did the U.S. wish to spare itself the embarrassment of having its complicity in the crimes of Saddam Hussein revealed, but it also wanted to avoid future demands by Kurds for compensation. Hence an abrupt end to the proceedings was mandatory.

Simply Appalling expected as much.

Previous post
The first of few charges against Saddam Hussein (7/18/05)



Happy New Year

I just want to wish a Happy New Year to everyone everywhere smart enough or lucky enough not to be a part of the Bush administration.

For New Year's Eve I'm happy to report that I got leied, and I hope you did too.

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