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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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8/14/2004

Old Time Religion

Greg Staples in comments asked me to expand on my remark that
"The Conservative Habit of Mind is about is very much a Protestant version of political philosophy."
below
What I had in mind was Umberto Eco's rather famous remarks about the religious war between Macs and PCs,
...."Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

"The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the 'ratio studiorum' of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach--if not the Kingdom of Heaven--the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

"DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revellers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

"You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions; when it comes down to it, you can decide to allow women and gays to be ministers if you want to.

"And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..."
umberto eco
My point being that the Conservative interest is perpetually engaged in a struggle to find its own meaning. Essentially, conservatives are uncomfortable with the Liberal orthodoxy but, in Canada at least, have been unable to create a viable response to that orthodoxy. While we await our Luther, we seem content to follow the Anglican alternative in which the official party spends most of its time explaining how nothing would change if the Conservative/Alliance/Reform party were to be elected. In essence an alternative Curia, a B-team, which promises no substantive doctrinal revisions.

To mix the metaphor just a bit further, Lurther's great gift was to look back to Scripture without the intervening, and at the time throughly corrupt, priesthood. He hacked back to the machine code.

The present Conservative Party, mimicing much of the Anglican Church, is engaged in a long running struggle to refine the liturgy without asking why the form of service is as it is. (And yes Anglican readers I know that is a gross oversimplification.) What I believe is necessary for the Conservative interest to prevail is a much deeper examination of the nature of conservatism and the application of essential conservative tenets to the modern world.

The Problem

You now have two distinct ways of gathering information beyond what you yourself can experience. One of them is less a medium than an environment -- the Internet -- with a huge multiplicity of points of view, lots of different ways to find out what’s going on in the world. Lots of people are tuned to that, and a million points of view have bloomed. It creates a cacophony of viewpoints that doesn’t have any political coherence at all, a beautiful melee, but it doesn’t have the capacity to create large blocs of belief.

The other medium, TV, has a much smaller share of viewers than at any time in the past, but those viewers get all their information there. They get turned into a very uniform belief block. TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I’ve ever seen. Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch. Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob.
john perry barlow, reason online
I read recently that virtually no blogs both to mention Kobe or Lacy or whatever other courtroom drama is keeping CNN viewers deluded into believing they are up to date on the news. The disconnect is huge.

But, as Barlow points out, that television nation votes. So whatever hallucination is being fed on the networks has an awful chance of being the basis for people casting their vote. (Which makes me sort of encouraged at record low voter turnouts - though I am well aware that statistically there is no reason to believe the television watching public is gracefully staying home to find out "What the Mistress said" and leaving politics to the informed.)

The only positive in all of this is that as the television market races to the bottom of pandering and fragments into dumb, dumber and dumbest, overall audience share is declining. Quickly. More and more people are simply turning the box on less often. This has to be healthy.

Tory Roots

"Conservatism, as a distinct political tendency, can be traced back to the reaction to the French Revolution. Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France was a plaintive cry to preserve the old order of politics based on prescription and tradition instead of following the notions of "sophisters, economists, and calculators," who promised a more rational, modern form of politics and social organization but which Burke feared would lead inevitably to the guillotine." Mark Cameron,Comment
Even if Mark wasn't on Harper's policy staff it makes sense to take a look.

Reconcilling the various factions of the Conservative interest in Canada is no small task. Mark scouts the territory and reports on the nature of Conservative Party politics in Canada. " Though it would be difficult on both sides, a conversation between the two groups could lead to a vision of politics that is much deeper than the bottom line, ledger-book focus of mainstream fiscal conservatives." Worth reading.

8/13/2004

Cheeky Bastard

So there you are picking shrapnel out of your ass and surrounded by US Marines whose forebearance (see below) you live and die by. So what do you do?
A representative of Muqtada al-Sadr has issued demands from the Shiite cleric for a truce between U.S. and Iraqi forces and fighters loyal to him.

An official from al-Sadr's office in Baghdad listed the following conditions to bring about peace:

# If the multinational forces, Iraqi forces, and Iraqi police leave the city of Najaf and if the Marjayia, the Shiite religious authority, gets full responsibility over the city, al-Sadr's Mehdi militia will pull out from Najaf.

# The city of Najaf must be protected by fighters from the city itself, under the authority of the Marjayia.

# All detained supporters of the resistance, imprisoned religious clerics, either Shiite or Sunni, and women must be released.

# All those who fight the resistance whether they are Sunni or Shiite should not be persecuted and the al-Sadr movement should be able to decide its self whether or it becomes a political movement.
cnn
The only sensible response to this is to press al-Sadr into a box about the size of the one currently occupied by our old friend The Troll of Ramallahtm. Actually two sizes smaller as no one in their wildest dreams ever elected fat boy. With one added feature - until he surrenders no one leaves the box alive. Station snipers and shoot to kill.

Surrender must be al-Sadr's only option. After all, it is not as if he is, er, winning.

Silly Science

The Doctor is in at the Monger and he has run into more medical silliness this time from the Canadian Safety Council,
Health experts want alcohol vaporizer banned
A new gadget that allows users to "inhale" alcohol rather than drink it has health professionals worried and bar owners baffled....Inhaling hard liquor means the alcohol cannot be smelled on the breath, which means someone could be "dead drunk" and pass a breath test, Mr. Therien said.

"The liver and stomach don't absorb it, so it's absorbed by blood vessels in the nose or lungs and then goes right to the brain," he said.
press release
The Monger points out,
He notes that, with AWOL, "the liver and stomach don't absorb [the alcohol], so it's absorbed by blood vessels in the nose or lungs and then goes right to the brain." Unless anatomy has changed a great deal since I studied it, I think I would be on safe ground in suggesting to Monsieur Therien that the brain does NOT get its blood supply via the nose. The stuff that gets absorbed into the blood via the nose or lungs gets sent south in what we doctors call "veins", before pumping through what we doctors call "the heart", and only then (maybe!) getting shipped out towards the general direction of what we doctors call "the brain".
the monger
Er, even I knew that....

The Real War

The real metaphor for the terrorist war on civilization is not wide-bodied aircraft crashing into the twin towers. It is mortars firing from the courtyard of the Imam Ali Shrine by men who don't even sandbag their positions, secure in the knowledge that they can slay men too decent to fire back.
belmont club

A Political Pause

U.S. and Iraqi forces halted attacks in and around the Shiite holy city of Najaf to allow for political talks intended to end an insurgency by followers of rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, according to a statement the U.S.- led military coalition e-mailed from Baghdad.

The coalition said it observed an ``operational pause at 7 a.m. as Iraqi government leaders continue to work toward a peaceful conclusion.''
bloomberg
The fear of actually beating al-Sadr seems to have overcome the operational tempo the Marines have established in Najef.

I suppose the Americans and the Iraqi government do not want a full scale slaughter. Which is noble but not likely to actually help in the medium to long run. Within the region the only thing which seems to have much effect is overwhelming force ruthlessly applied.

The ideal outcome of the battle of Najef would be a lot of shell shocked Shi'ites wandering through the region telling lurid tales of how horrible having the Marines come after you really is. But with this pause the story will always end with the Marines being called off.

"Truly, if you can keep your head down the Marines will go and you will stay . The Americans are always stopped by their leaders. Dig in well, they will pass." is not the message which is going to change the politcal face of the region.

8/12/2004

Polspy de-Crunches

Sean over at the newly redesigned Polspy has come up with a wonderful way of helping me through the crunch...
For the next thirty days I will donate all profits from print and postcard sales from my (Sean’s) side of our CafePress store to Jay. My markup is $15.00 USD on framed prints and $4.00 USD on postcards. You’re not limited to the items in the store, either. If there’s a picture on my site you’d like that isn’t available in the CafePress store, simply let me know and I’ll create the item for you immediately.
polspy
Besides being incredibly generous it is also a great opportunity to get great phtographs.

Thanks Sean. (And all the rest of you who have been so generous.)

8/11/2004

Endgame for al-Sadr

Heavy gunbattles are taking place in the holy city of Najaf today, as US forces prepare to launch a final assault on militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

It was not immediately clear if the stepped-up fighting signaled the beginning of the major offensive against al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, but the US military and Iraqi forces said it was preparing for a full-scale assault to crush the week-long uprising.
the scotsman
It seems possible that al-Sadr and the poor buggers who seem intent on dying for him are about to get their wish.

While this may look like a measure to end one of the challenges to the new Iraqi government it is likely something rather deeper.

It has been pretty clear for some time that al-Sadr has been a cats paw for fairly radical factions of the Iranian mullahocracy. (I wrote about this at TechCentralStation which you can find here.) These factions stand accused by the Iraqi Defence Minister, Hazem Shaalan, of supplying arms to al Sadr,
"There are Iranian-made weapons that have been found in the hands of criminals in Najaf who received these weapons from across the Iranian border," Shaalan said.

Asked if Iran is still considered the "top enemy" of Iraq, he answered ambiguously.

"From far and near, the facts that we have say that what has happened to the Iraqi people is done by the one who is considered the top enemy,"
ap
he said. The same factions which, in defiance of world public opinion and the promises of the Iranian government, have insisted on going forward with the enrichment of the uranium required to make nuclear bombs. Worse, as Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria points out,
The powerful Iranian politician Ali Rafsanjani has publicly speculated about a nuclear exchange with Israel. If Iran's program went forward, at some point Israel would almost certainly try to destroy it using airstrikes, as it did Iraq's reactor in Osirik. Such an action would, of course, create a massive political crisis in the region.
newsweek
Short of taking out the Iranian nuclear program itself, America needs to send a clear, blunt, message to the Iranians.

A bloody - for the militias - take down of al-Sadr would send exactly that message to Iran. In effect the willingness of the Americans to go full on in Najef would signal a clear intent to thwart Iranian ambitions in Iraq. It would also indicate a willingness to use military force to prevent what Euro-diplomacy has been unable to.

From a domestic political perspective, there is very little downside for President Bush to take tough measures in dealing with the al-Sadr uprising and, indirectly for the moment, Iran. Michael Moore Democrats will cry war crime and draw comparisons to the surreptitious war in Cambodia. But John Kerry, who may or may not have served in the Cambodian adventure, has next to no room to carp. He is aware of the huge potential threat a nuclear Iran poses and if that threat can be blunted or removed without direct strikes into Iran he cannot gain much political traction by condemning the action.

Beating al-Sadr decisively is very possibly the last chance America has of forcing an end to the Iranian nuclear ambitions. The shock and awe of a combined forces attack on a militia rabble will remind the ayatollahs that the Revolutionary Guards in Iran are barely more lethal than the poor buggers in their t-shirts firing their RPGs. The Iranian Army has already watched as the Coalition sliced through the Iraqi Army. The Iranian people, with increasing internet access and cable television are likely to see the destruction of the Mahdi militia.

Each group will take its own lessons.

Update: Looks like al-Sadr got his....
Aide Ahmed al-Shaibany said that al-Sadr was wounded in three places during shelling but he didn't say what happened or if the wounds were serious.
fox
I'm all for serious...and painful would be a bonus.

Grrr!

So I have been tidying up Long Posts. I think it looks great. But only in Mozilla Firefox (and, I assume, other modern browsers). While I am going to wrestle with the code I am lauching a one man campaign to convert people, one at a time, to Mozilla. Go here and download Firefox.

And, hey, I'm offering incentives. I have six, ultra cool, Google Gmail invitations. If you send me an email saying that you have downloaded and installed Firefox, I'll send you an invitation. (And yes, gmail is very, very good.)

8/10/2004

Conservative Habits

...Well there's whiskey...I have been delighted to see a bunch of bloggers linking to, and,more importantly commenting on, my Conservative Habit of Mind piece over at Long Posts.

Greg Staples at Political Staples comments,
he concept of Canadian-values (as defined by the Liberal Party of Canada) is a very powerful marketing tool. It seems to me that Canadians (in general) are very fair-minded, compassionate people. Sticking up for the little guy is a national identity. Closely tied to the fact that we think of ourselves as the little guy in North American. You know, Trudeau's famous mouse and elephant analogy. Now this identification as the not-American country has lead to rampant to Anti-Americanism. As such, the neoconservative movement is seen as classic Americanism and therefore it is tough for such a movement to gain traction. I am afraid that Jay's point above about economic gravity is true and in Canada nothing much will change unless this happens (and to be fair, it this does not happen, there is no compelling reason to change). I especially like Jay's allusion to empiricism and the law of unintended consequences. The spirit of fairness often leads to bad consquences for all, which is fair in that fact that it is equal. But not fair in that there is a better alternative.
political staples
Staples gets the idea that conservatives are reluctant to try to make the world a "better place" simply because they know from experience how badly such interventions can turn out. (My friend Bob Turner immediately reached for his wallet when a chap called him and announced, "I'm from the Federal Government and I'm here to help. Bob, for all his anarchist sensibility, is deeply conservative.)

Tiger in Winter seconds Trudeaupia's nomination of Sir Wilfred Laurier as a possible Canadian political philosopher.
I would suggest the Canadian political philosopher to use as a model would be Sir Wilfrid Laurier. While it's a little awkward that he was a Liberal, it is obvious the Liberal party of today has utterly rejected pretty much everything Laurier advocated, other than his record of winning elections. I sometimes wonder if young Liberals of today ever read any of his speeches. If they do it must generate a fair bit of cognitive dissonance as the central tenets of his philosophy were to put the liberty in liberal. All his talk of low taxes, commercial freedom and personal reliance must make a young Liberal's head spin these days.
trudeaupia
One of the sad facts about the Liberal Party is that it has simply dropped Laurier down the memory hole.

In many ways what The Conservative Habit of Mind is about is very much a Protestant version of political philosophy. While I would be delighted if a full bore Canadian political philosopher on the order of Sir Michael Oakshott arrived on the scene, I think it is just as important for individual conservatives to think beyond electoral politics. I was tempted to call the piece, Zen and the Conservative Art; but how cheesy can you get.

The Zen point is, however, one which Canadian Conservatives might want to consider. Most of the action in the Reform to PC to Alliance to Conservative journey has been instrumental. It begins with the question, "How do we beat the Liberals?". Which is a great question but one which cannot be answered directly. Instead, conservatives need to ask, "Why should we be elected?". In answering that question well they have also, and legitimately, answered the earlier question.

Yo, Paul, look out your window

Great pics of the CHOI Liberté rally in Ottawa over at Autonomous Source. From the looks of it more than a few people are unhappy with the CRTC jerking the licence of a radio station on the grounds of "good taste".

What is encouraging is that there are people willing to stand up to the nannies and ninnies of the Commission. As Jay Jardine puts it
"Thank God these despicable assholes will never be able to corral the internet, try as they might. Piss off a statist: listen to some streaming radio today!
freeway to serfdom
The CRTC will die a natural death over the next decade as 1000 television channels and a bazillion "radio" stations zip seamlessly through the net. But, right now, the nannies need to be stopped.

I can't help but enjoy the fact that the ex-Liberal clients in Quebec are leading the charge. Gee, you think the Bloc got all those votes for nothing?

Sadr and Sadr

"We've pretty much just been patrolling and flying helicopters all over the place, and when we see something bad, we blow it up," said U.S. Marine Maj. David Holahan, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment.
ap
It is, as the al Sadr milita is finding out at a horrible cost, suicidal to take on the US Marines. Especially when they have had two months to scout every square inch of the kill zone.

Belmont Club is not impressed

Wretchard thinks there is movement in the War on Terror. I am less sure, but we both agree that the Left is not going to buy it.
But all this is mortuary makeup on an intellectual corpse. The death of public discourse over the War on Terror was at least partly the result of the self-lobotomization of the Leftist mind. That operation was necessary to prevent an admission of the obvious: the basic Leftist tenets were bankrupt and sustained only by ever more tedious extensions to the original discredited theory; a latter day replay of the downfall of geocentrism which held back the Copernican revolution only by introducing artificial and complicated epicycles. Thus was the Marx's theory of the impoverishment of the proletariat transformed into Lenin's theory of imperialism. It had the virtue of postponing the false prophecy, but even that was not enough. From there it lost all cohesion and branched into "North-South" theory, a generalized schema of victimology and finally into Said's Orientalism in which it is not only impossible for the West to understand the world; it was even impossible for it to be innocent. Every Western -- and especially American -- act became ipso facto, a crime.
belmont club

Trial by Jury

Over at Long Posts I have put up an essay on the need to retain trial by jury despite the fact it is tougher for the Crown to get convictions. BC Attorney General Geoff Plant sees this as a bug, I see it as a feature.

(And I appologize in advance to IE users going to Long Posts - Microsoft is allergic to CSS standards. Grrrr!)

Hi Tech snooping

here is where my fond hope that terrorists are caught before they can strike collides with my belieft the state really has no business snooping in the lives of its citizens. The Globe and Mail has a fascinating article on the high tech security measures being taken at the Olympics. Here's just a sample,
Spoken words collected by the cameras with speech-recognition software are transcribed into text that is then searched for patterns along with other electronic communications entering and leaving the area — including e-mail and image files.
globe and mail
Yep, lip reading cameras.

This is all great if it catches even one terrorist; but it is technology which can move the state into the intelligence business against its own citizens. And, because it is not terribly intrusive, it is technology which it is hard to object to. After all, only criminals would be worried about this....

While it is presently being developed for the state, there is little doubt the same technology could be fitted to the ubiquitous video surveilance systems at your local Shoppers Drug Mart - which would give the marketers the ability to record your convertation as you chose a given product and co-relate that choice to the information you have already given on your credit cards, airmiles cards and customer loyalty cards.

Criminals, and terrorists, are probably going to be bright enough to put their hands over their mouths when planning where to put the plastique; ordinary citizens would not be so careful. So their words will be recorded and, because it costs next to nothing to store text, kept more or less forever.

8/09/2004

Clinton on Alerts

Great catch by the "other" Damain at Babbling Brooks who caught Bill Clinton on a TO radio show,
The first question thrown at Clinton was whether or not he thought the recent terror alert put out by the Bush administration was a political manoevre. His answer was a strong 'no.' In fact, he went on to say that those questioning whether the recently-gathered intelligence was dated and therefore unreliable were off-base.
babbling brooks
Welcome to Canblog land, Damain.

Debt BC

Great article by Will McMartin up at The Tyee on the rapid increase in British Columbia's debt and the conspiracy of silence which seems to surround it. The Libs, NDP, big business and big labour, all for their own reasons don't want to be pointing fingers.

Lie, John Kerry Lie?? Never. Bush Lies don't you know

Devasting stuff from the Swift Boat Veterans. Kerry is worried enough that he has had his lawyers send letters to televsion stations theatening grave legal consequences if they run the SBV's ad. The SVB's have shot back a lawyer's letter which specifies names and place where Kerry is lying about his viet Nam service. Just one example: Kerry says he spent Christmas of 1968 in Cambodia listening to President Richard Nixon on the radio.
"I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."(Boston Herald on October 14, 1979)
Which was not, er, actually true.
The story is a total preposterous fabrication by Kerry. Exhibit 8 is an affidavit by the Commander of the Swift boats in Vietnam, Admiral Roy Hoffmann, stating that Kerry's claim to be in Cambodia for Christmas Eve and Christmas of 1968 is a total lie. If necessary, similar affidavits are available from the entire chain of command. In reality, Kerry was at Sa Dec -- easily locatable on any map more than fifty miles from Cambodia. Kerry himself inadvertently admits that he was in Sa Dec for Christmas Eve and Christmas and not in Cambodia, as he had stated for so many years on the Senate Floor, in the newspapers, and elsewhere. Exhibit 27, Tour, pp. 213-219. Sa Dec is hardly "close" to the Cambodian border. In reality, far from being ordered secretly to Cambodia, Kerry spent a pleasant night at Sa Dec with "visions of sugar plums" dancing in his head. Exhibit 27, p. 219. At Sa Dec where the Swift boat patrol area ended, there were many miles of other boats (PBR's) leading to the Cambodian border.
http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/002202.php
Best of all, Nixon was not President Christmas 1968...Tricky Dick was inaugurated January 20 1969. A fact I rather doubt we will be reading about M. Kerry.

Update: Mark Steyn puts the analytic boots in...
The one thing the Democratic Party owed America this campaign season was a candidate credible on the current war. The Democrats needed their own Tony Blair, a bloke who's a big socialist pantywaist when it comes to health and education and the other nanny-state hooey but believes in robust projection of military force in the national interest.
John Kerry fails that test. If you wanted to pick a candidate on the wrong side of every major defense and foreign policy question of the last two decades, you would be hard put to find anyone with judgment as comprehensively poor as Mr. Kerry: total up his votes and statements on everything from Grenada to the Gulf war, Saddam to the Sandinistas, the Cold War to missile defense to every major weapons system of the 1980s and '90s. He called them all wrong.
washington times
Steyn also refers to Kerry's "vanity candidacy". Ouch.

8/08/2004

Where are France, Germany, China, Russia, Canada

I'd missed this,
The United Nations will have to rely on the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq for security for its new envoy in Baghdad because no countries have offered troops for a separate U.N. protection force, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday.
ap
Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

Fisking Fisk

Anti-idiotarian Rottweiler takes a tasty chunk out of Robert of Iraq. Go have some fun....

Fisk: then and now

Ian Welsh writes at the BlogsCanada egroup that a curtain of media silence is being imposed on Iraq. He suggests,
Meanwhile those of us not on the ground in Iraq are going to have to rely on the few sources we have left to try and understand what's happening. Triangulate, read Robert Fisk, read Juan Cole and the various Iraqi blogs, listen to official US news releases and read the Iraqi reisistance site.
Now Robert Fisk is so unrealiable save in his visceral anti-Americanism that the term "fisking" was invented to cover the activity of contradicting a biased journalist's writing with facts. Here is what Fisk writes in the article Ian cites,
I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching British Prime Minister Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.
arab news
Now, to calibrate Fisk's capacity to get his facts, much less his opinions, right, here is what he had to say as the Coalition began to roll towards Baghdad,
To grasp the realities – at least the strategic realities according to the Iraqis – you had to venture down to the villa where General Hazim al-Rawi of the Iraqi army was giving his morning press briefing, à la General Tommy Franks. In fact, General Rawi is promising us more press briefings than the US commander, a practice that will presumably continue until General Franks takes the surrender of General Rawi or – less likely perhaps – until General Rawi takes the surrender of General Franks.

"Iraq will become a quagmire for the Americans ... It is not true what your agencies have been saying that thousands of troops had surrendered."
robert fisk
Or in a radio interview a day or two later,
Because if this turns into the tragedy that it is turning into at the moment, if the Americans end up, by besieging Baghdad day after day after day, they’ll be looking for a way out, and the only way out is going to be the United Nations at which point, believe me, the French and the Russians are going to make sure that George Bush passes through some element of humiliation to do that. But that’s some way away. Remember what I said early on to you. The Americans can do it- they have the firepower. They may need more than 250,000 troops, but if they’re willing to sacrifice lives of their own men, as well as lives of the Iraqis, they can take Baghdad; they can come in.
democracy now!
The point being that if Fisk wrote it was dark at midnight in Baghdad, I'd want independent verification.

Ian is certainly right that there is an urgent need to have reporters and media on the ground in Iraq. And he is also right that security concerns have kept much of the Western press in the compounds. Those security concerns have been created by the assorted barbarities committed by the thugs and Baathists who make up the majority of the non-Sunni opposition. I wonder who is trying to frighten the reporters and why?

As for al-Sadr and the poor men who make up his Iranian financed militia, his capacity to push events to the point where there is an insurection throughout the South is limited. He took a shot at it a couple of months ago and lost. Now his folks are out of bullets and falling back into the holy shrines and cemeteries of Najaf,
Mahdi Army fighters have taken refuge in the shrine of Imam Ali, many of them having exhausted their ammunition. Muqtada al-Sadr himself has disappeared and gone into hiding. His mansion in Najaf was unguarded on Saturday.

US Marines captured the Najaf cemetery on Saturday, which had been a hide-out of the Mahdi Army militia. For centuries, pious Shiites have brought the corpses of dead relatives not only from Iraq but from all over the world to be buried near the shrine of Imam Ali (the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and successor according to Shiites). This practice has created enormous cemeteries in Najaf, with many crypts and other edifices where Mahdi Army fighters had begun hiding out. Most Shiites would view US troops as desecrating these holy burial places.
juan cole
Al-Sadr should have been taken down two months ago. Unfortunately the squishier factions in the Coalition were unwilling to administer the coup de grace. Which is a pity because it only means more militiamen are going to be killed and, inevidably, as the milita operate in heavily populated areas, civilian casualties.

Read Fisk if you must, read Cole by all means; but also get some perspective by reading Amir Taheriwhenever you can and check in at Canada's own Winds of Change for Iraq news. And, just to stay current with facts on the ground, check out the Iraqi bloggers listed at the most recent "Carnival of the Liberated" over at Soundfury.

Links and Blogrolling

I did a bit of pruning of my links. Basically folks who are not updating all that often. If you are updating and have been dropped send me an email.

I also installed Blogrolling to start keeping track of the sites which I like but forget to visit as often as I should. That list will get longer quickly.

Update: Grrr! so how come blogroll works fine for four entries and then decided to switch fonts on me...Anyone have any suggestions?

Update 2: Fixed by deleting a few of the blogs I added. They'll be back shortly.