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Monday, May 29, 2006

Just what I always suspected

At a BBC studio a job applicant was mistaken for an expert who was to discuss the legal dispute between Apple Computer and the Apple Record label. Shepherded into the studio Guy Goma, an immigrant from the Congo who was applying for a job as a computer technician, was happy to reply to the questions posed by the host of the show in broad generalizations about the internet. The show's host nodded sagely and thanked Guy for his expert and keen observations, having no clue that he was not talking to the legal expert. Just goes to show that from the standpoint of the idiots that pass for TV hosts, you can say just about anything and be applauded for it. Fox does it all the time.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Immigration Facts and Trivia

1. The argument that previous waves of immigrants were "legal" makes little sense. Until the early twentieth century all an immigrant had to do was verify his/her name. Passports were not required. The southern border was not guarded and was crossed frequently in both directions.

2. Immigrants took a long time to assimilate. Germans and Italians were still speaking their native tongues some seventy years after the major waves of immigration from their home countries.

3. Literacy tests were done in the native tongue, not English.

4. Rates of return to the home country were often as high as fifty percent. Clearly many people came here not to stay, but to earn more money and then to return home.

5. Italians, Poles and Greeks took much longer to assimilate and join the middle class because most had come from illiterate rural backgrounds in their home countries. They typically stressed work over education.

6. Every generation of immigrants looks down on the following waves of immigrants.

7. Some scholars suggest the evidence points to waves of immigration as providing the vigorous periodic rejuvenation that has made the United States as strong as it is. Without it we would be languishing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cobra II

Cobra II was the name of the rush to Baghdad by General Franks et al. This enlightening book describes the intense negotiations and maneuvering that went on between Rumsfeld, Powell, and the Army (mostly General Franks) in the design of the invasion.

Lots of interesting tidbits:

1. Both Saddam and the United States failed on intelligence. Saddam was not worried about the U.S., but he was terrified of a Shiite rebellion in the south, similar to the one he put down so brutally after the first Gulf War.

2. Saddam wanted to show the world that he did not have any WMD. He sent orders to his commanders to make sure that the sites had been cleaned up and no WMD were present in preparation for weapons inspectors. He did not want to give the U.S. a casus belli. Unfortunately, the CIA misinterpreted data from spy satellites and assumed that Saddam was trucking the stuff away or hiding it.

3. No preparations were made for installing a government after a successful invasion. The Iraqis were looking for some kind of force to maintain order after the troop took Baghdad. U.S troops were under orders not to interfere, so looting quickly became uncontrollable sending the message to everyone that the U.S. had lost control.

4. Franks tried to fire one of top corps commanders who recommended a pause during the invasion because it was becoming apparent that the Fedayeen were a force to be reckoned with behind the lines. Franks wanted the fastest trip to Baghdad possible with no stops along the way. This decision came back to haunt them.

5. Rumsfeld continually tried to trim the size of the invading force despite concerns of the top U.S. commanders.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer

George Packer has written a truly enlightening and intriguing book about our descent into Iraq. Packer is a lucid and engaging writer who can clearly summarize the intellectual debate between the neoconservatives and the realists. It's also a sad book. Learning how policy is arrived out and then justified and implemented can be very discouraging.

The neocons and Bush had decided to go after Iraq for a variety of reasons before 9/11. The concern then became how to sell that decision. Shortly after the fall of Baghdad Paul Wolfowitz fold an interviewer: "The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S, government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction." The real rationale for the war was to realign American power in the Middle East, toward a democratic society and away from Saudi Arabia, home of the Wahhabi sect that virtually controlled Saudi society and government and had been the home to almost all of the 9/11 terrorists. (See Sandra MacKey's very excellent book on Saudi Arabia -- The Saudis -- for a detailed view of what it's like to live in such a theocracy.)

The job then became to selectively use pieces of intelligence that supported their common justification. "Just a year earlier, Iraq had been viewed as an outlaw state that was beginning to slip free of international constraints and might present a threat to the region or, more remotely, the United States in five years or so. Now, suddenly, there wasn't a day to be lost. . . It didn't matter that there was no strong evidence to back up the doomsday prognosis."

Sunday, May 07, 2006 News - International - Creationism dismissed as 'a kind of paganism' by Vatican's astronomer News - International - Creationism dismissed as 'a kind of paganism' by Vatican's astronomer

Other "creationism is nonsense" links:

"Don't distort science to promote religious beliefs, say scientists"

Excellent screed

This guy nails it. I heard a great line the other day. It's about as impossible to teach Democrats fiscal responsibility as it is to teach Republicans decency.

Christian Republicans?

Other comments:

John Adams: ""This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it."

""Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects." - James Madison

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all." - Thomas Paine