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Weekend Journal: February 9-11, 2007

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Bush Bombs, Cont'd.
Paging Dr. Strangelove

The Economist, which regrettably supported the American invasion of Iraq and, even more regrettably, has not wavered in its support of Bush's various splurges and surges there since (even though the Economist's editorial board by its own admission is gravely divided on the matter) is not making the same mistake with Iran. Its latest issue's lead editorial:

This newspaper supported America's invasion of Iraq. We believed, erroneously, that Saddam Hussein was working to acquire nuclear weapons. And we judged that the world should not allow a mass-murderer to gather such lethal power in his hands. In the case of Iran, the balance of risks points, though only just, in the other direction. Even if it became clear that Iran was on the threshold of acquiring an atomic bomb, an American strike on its nuclear facilities would be a reckless gamble. Without America invading and occupying Iran—unthinkable after Iraq—such a strike would at best delay rather than end Iran's nuclear ambitions. It might very well rally support behind a regime that is at present not conspicuously popular at home, emboldening it to retaliate inside Iraq, against Israel and perhaps against the United States itself. Besides, it is far from clear exactly how dangerous a nuclear-armed Iran would be. Unlike Iraq under Saddam, Iran has a complex power structure with elements of pluralism and many checks and balances. For all its proclaimed religiosity, it has behaved since the revolution like a rational actor. To be sure, some of its regional aims are mischievous, and in pursuing them it has adopted foul means, including terrorism. But the ayatollahs have so far been shrewd calculators of consequences. There are already small signs of a backlash against the attention-seeking Mr Ahmadinejad. Like the Soviet Union, a nuclear Iran could probably be deterred. Every effort should be made to stop an Iranian bomb. But there is a better way than an armed strike. In 2002 Mr Bush consigned Iran along with Iraq and North Korea to an “axis of evil”. Since 2004, for lack of good alternatives, he has been helping the efforts of Britain, France and Germany to talk rather than bludgeon Iran into nuclear compliance. Iran claims that its nuclear programme is for civil purposes only. Last year, the Europeans called its bluff by offering trade, civil-nuclear assistance and a promise of talks with America if it stopped enriching the uranium that could produce the fuel for a bomb. When Iran refused, diplomacy led in December to the imposition of economic sanctions by the Security Council. This is a promising approach. […] What is required now is a further tightening of the economic squeeze coupled with some sort of an incentive—most usefully an unambiguous promise from Mr Bush that if Iran returns to compliance with the nuclear rules it will face no attempt by America to overthrow the regime. Even then, America and Iran may be fated to lock horns in the Middle East. But the region, and the world, will be a good deal safer without the shadow of an Iranian bomb.


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Anti-Immigrants' Rewards
The KKK Resurgent


The Christian Science Monitor and the Anti-Defamation League run items pointing to a disturbing, if unsurprising, trend in the United States: The Ku Klux Klan, ridiculous and moribund for a few years, is gaining new adherants and popularity again, thanks in large part to the nation's anti-immigration modd. If immigrants are in the neighborhood, who're you gonna call? The era's bigoted ghostbusters (immigration fears being based mostly on myths and shadows) are the Minuteman Project, the Religious Right, and now the KKK. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Gay marriage and urban crime are part of the picture. But, in particular, it is the debate over what to do about the nation's nearly 35 million immigrants, of whom about 11 million are in the US illegally, that has become the Klan's main recruiting tool. "If any one single issue or trend can be credited with reenergizing the Klan, it is the debate over immigration in America," says Deborah Lauter, the ADL's civil rights director. "New groups [are] sprouting in parts of the country that have not seen much activity." In addition to the South, where the Ku Klux Klan was founded by Confederate Civil War veterans in 1866, this now includes active or growing Klan chapters in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The ADL's report is extensively detailed. It's also more nuanced than the initial press report: in most cases groups re-form but also fragment again. Some highlights:

One sign of this [2006] resurgence was an increase in activity by some longstanding Klan groups, often accompanied by an expansion in size. Immigration and other issues have allowed these longstanding Klan groups to increase their activities in areas where the Klan has traditionally been strong, such as the eastern Midwest and the South, and to expand into some parts of the country where the Klan did not have a particularly strong presence in the early 2000s, including the Great Plains and Mid-Atlantic states. One such Klan group, the Brotherhood of Klans (BOK), exhibited considerably more activity in 2005-2006 than they had in a long time. Originally based in Prospect Heights, Illinois, the BOK’s leader, Dale Fox, moved the group to Henderson, Tennessee, and began organizing a series of Klan-related events, including large “Unity Gatherings” complete with speakers, vendors, and multiple cross-burnings. Such a gathering occurred in August 2006. [...] The ability of the BOK to continue its expansion, though, was thrown into doubt by the sudden death of Fox due to a heart attack in late November 2006, although the BOK’s Ohio leader and “Imperial Klaliff,” Jeremy Parker, has vowed to continue expanding the racist and anti-Semitic group. [...] Even in areas where Klan support is relatively strong, however, many individual Klan groups themselves typically do not last long before fragmenting or falling apart.

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An Inconvenient Truth
Time for a New Tax on Energy

It's either that or more of this

From the Wall Street Journal: “The government should encourage development of alternatives to fossil fuels, economists said in a survey. But most say the best way to do that isn't in President Bush's energy proposals: a new tax on fossil fuels. Forty of 47 economists who answered the question said the government should help champion alternative fuels. "Economists generally are in favor of free-market solutions, but there are times when you need to intervene," said David Wyss at Standard & Poor's Corp. "We're already in the danger zone" because of the outlook for oil supplies and concerns about climate change, he said. A majority of the economists said a tax on fossil fuels would be the most economically sound way to encourage alternatives. A tax would raise the price of fossil fuels and make alternatives, which today often are more costly to produce, more competitive in the consumer market. "A tax puts pressure on the market, rather than forcing an artificial solution on it," said Mr. Wyss. President Bush has made a strong push on energy initiatives over the past month but he has steered clear of proposals that would raise taxes. In his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush set targets that call for a 20% reduction in gasoline use over the next 10 years. He proposed regulations to tighten gas-mileage standards and force fuel suppliers to use more alternative fuels. In addition, his budget proposal presented to Congress this week provides substantial funding for biofuel, clean coal and renewable energy programs. In the survey, which was conducted Feb. 2-7, just two economists recommended regulations that require energy companies use more alternatives, one of the keys of the Bush plan, while six advised subsidies for producers of alternative fuels. "With subsidies, the government chooses the market solution," said Diane Swonk at Mesirow Financial. "I'd favor taxes in this area." Other economists in the survey, though, said the smartest course for the government is to let market forces determine the future of alternative energies. "The more we mess with things the more problems we create," said Brian S. Wesbury of First Trust Advisors. "Government interference in the marketplace can do damage to long-term development of alternate energies."”


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Roots of War
Sunni vs. Shia

Keeping the Sunni-Shia divide straight is anybody's challenge. When did it begin? Why did it begin? What has DNA and beards' lengths got to do with it, if anything? Back in Lebanon I remember, as a young boy, that there were Christians and Muslims, but rare were the times when I'd hear the words "Sunni" or "Shia" as social demarcations. I was probably too young to detect the subtleties of my elders' code language, and anyway at the time I just carried on the going prejudices common among Christian families: there were Christians, then there was all the rest. In the early goings of the war and untul the mid-1980s it was all a Christian-Sunni show. The Shiites were in the South, and like America's South in the 19th century, considered to be of another world by the northerners. Then came the resurgence, fueld by Hezbollah and its early bombs against American installations (the Embassy bombing in April 1983, the Marines barracks bombing that October, which also took out the French barracks). And now: a showdown of more contemporary vintage between the Sunni-Christian government and the Shia South. The New Statesman, that fine British weekly, devotes its cover story to the Sunni-Shia divide throughout the Middle East and attempts an explanation, country by country. A taste from the New Statesman:

The clash between Sunni and Shia Muslims across the Arab world is already the greatest single cause of strife around the globe. It is taking place within countries and between countries. It has been brewing for years, but only now do governments appreciate the dangers. The hanging of Saddam Hussein in late December took the problem to a new level. Sunnis saw the timing of the execution, on the eve of Eid al-Adha, one of their most significant festivals, as a deliberate insult. Shias worldwide celebrated the death of a man whom they saw as an oppressor. Now the United States and the rest of the western world are attempting, belatedly, to stabilise a situation that they themselves played a major role in creating. Two years ago, King Abdullah of Jordan warned that a "Shia crescent" was being established across the region. He was referring to the growing influence of Iran in Iraq, Iran's support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the strong alliance between Tehran and Syria. The resurgence dates back to the 1979 Iranian revolution, when the religious Shia regime of Ayatollah Khomeini ousted the secular, pro-western shah of Iran. The eight-year Iraq-Iran war could have turned into a Sunni-Shia conflict, particularly as, in the eyes of many, Saddam appeared to be fighting on behalf of all the Sunni regimes in the Gulf. That it did not was because thousands of Iraqi Shias saw it as an Arab-Persian conflict, rather than a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias in both countries.Shias constituted the bulk of the Iraqi opposition in exile, and Saddam's downfall ensured that it was only a matter of time before the majority group would seek to regain control. The Sunnis' refusal to accept the change coincided with the arrival of extreme elements associated with al-Qaeda and other Sunni organisations in Iraq. Now, two parallel battles are raging in Iraq: the one of resistance to the American-led occupation, the other a sectarian war. The full story...


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“Naive and Innocent”
Jimi Hendrix on Dick Cavett
From a July 7, 1969 broadcast


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Vickie A.N. Smith, Alas

First Molly Ivins, now Anna Nicole Smith. She is the epitome of the manufactured star that never rose, except to radiate the tragic and the pitiful from every zenith her manufacturers could hang her from. So they hanged her. There was beauty in her, unquestionably. Her pre-fame pictures, with child, show that there was something more than beauty too. But the collective murders of societies addicted to witch-hunting voyeurism need their victims. How voluptuously she fit the coroner's bill. What the world is coming to is a question best answered by sighs, and sights.

March 1992
Feb. 1994
Feb. 2001
Anna Nicole Smith, the Covers. The best one is from June 1993. Click on the thumbnails to see larger view. And because some of you would never forgive me, and would have the right never to forgive me, if Anna Nicole in her more pious poses wasn't also eulogized, you can see her here and here, and, most classically of all—the pose she took with her to heaven's gate, at St. Peter's autograph-hungry request—here.

The following few comments, while cheesy as hell, are nevertheless more authentic than the bewildering tripe dished out by the prim and proper. The comments were posted within moments and hours of Anna Nicole's death in south Florida on Thursday, and are drawn verbatim from Playboy's forum:

  • I never really cared much for her, but I'm truly at a loss of words.
  • When she debuted she was the hottest woman around. People who only knew her from her E! show will find that hard to believe, I'm sure. She just could never quite get a grip on things.
  • I remember when my wife and I were vacationing in Venice, we went down to the dining area for breakfast, and all the help were poring over the local newspaper--"Dee-anna, Dee-anna morte!" they kept saying, and it was true, Princess Diana had been killed. That was a weird day! Just like today. A dreary, rainy, empty day full of nothing but grey thoughts and now this. Her blondeness, loneliness, sweetness, anxiety, sexiness, naivete, her grasping, confused self. All gone.
  • A beautifully women living a troubled life. Her pain is over, RIP.
  • Anna - Rest in Peace - a classic PMOY and a real class act. she was one of the best Playmates of the 90's
  • This is really shocking! I saw a bulletin on MySpace saying she'd died but I thought it was just one of those things people post to get your attention and to click on it, then I logged onto internet movie database. This is very sad, she aspired to be like Marilyn Monroe and like Marilyn Monroe she has had a short and in some ways tragic life. Rest in peace Anna, wherever you are.
Before fame


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