by Harry on August 10, 2005

I’ve been meaning to write a long and irritating piece on divorce for ages. You’ll have to wait. In the mean time, Laura at 11D has a good post on it, followed by fascinating, if sometimes slightly intemperate, comments. Well worth a read. (And not irritating, unlike my unactualised piece).

Katherine Harris is Drunk

by Kieran Healy on August 10, 2005

Totally. “See for yourself”:http://www.crooksandliars.com/2005/08/09.html#a4385. Also disturbing in a chest-thrusting, cheesecake-grin kind of way, too. Brrr.

Or, we had to destroy the country in order to save it

by Henry Farrell on August 10, 2005

Via “Matt Yglesias”:http://yglesias.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/8/10/102155/390, this quite repulsive comparison from “Max Boot”:http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-boot3aug03,0,3318247.column?coll=la-util-op-ed between the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in World War II and the war in Iraq.

bq. Oh, how times change. Today we can put “smart” bombs through the window of an office building. Along with greater accuracy has come a growing impatience with “collateral damage.” A bomb that goes astray and hits a foreign embassy or a wedding party now causes international outrage, whereas 60 years ago the destruction of an entire city was a frequent occurrence.

bq. Does this make us more enlightened than the “greatest generation”? Perhaps. We certainly have the luxury of being more discriminating in the application of violence. But even today, there is cause to doubt whether more precision is always better. During the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. was so sparing in its use of force that many Baathists never understood they were beaten. The butcher’s bill we dodged early on is now being paid with compound interest.

So the reason that we’re in trouble in Iraq is that we didn’t carpet-bomb the hell out of the country at the beginning of the campaign. Boot demurs that he “can’t claim to have worked out the moral calculus of bombing,” and is “troubled” by the deliberate targetting of civilians. Still, the direction of his argument is quite clear, and, as Matt says, rather revealing. There’s something deeply nasty about the disconnect (which is perhaps most clearly expressed in Charles Krauthammer’s dictum that the only way to win Arabs’ hearts and minds is to grab their balls and squeeze them hard) between neo-cons’ purported aims and methods. It would seem rather difficult to make the claim that you’re acting in the best interests of the Iraqi people gel with a claim that greater brutality and more indiscriminate use of force against said people was needed to protect said interests. But that’s what Boot seems to be trying to do.

The Future Lasts a Long Time

by Kieran Healy on August 10, 2005

On the way in to work I was listening to a story about the latest round of “proposed radiation standards”:http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2005/2005-08-09-04.asp for the proposed high-level radioactive waste dump at “Yucca Mountain, Nevada.”:http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/ymp/index.shtml Because spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste lasts a terrifically long time, and because the project is so controversial, the EPA has had to come up with a standard for storing the stuff. Yesterday they announced one designed to protect public health for a million years, or, in the words of an EPA administrator “the next 25,000 generations of Americans.”

I’m not an expert on any of this, but it seems that the inescapable fact about this sort of policy document is that the premise is wholly absurd. The sociologist Lee Clarke “has argued”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0226109410/kieranhealysw-20/ref=nosim/ that plans of this sort, designed to cope with huge disasters or accidents, are fundamentally rhetorical “fantasy documents” that have no prospect of working but which are produced as ritual symbols of social order and control. It’s bad enough when the disasters in question are things like a large-scale terrorist attack or a big oil spill. But a million years is about two hundred times longer than the whole of recorded human history, and the idea that we can design something built to work over that time-span is just ridiculous. Even the short-range standard proposed by the EPA covers a period of ten thousand years. At the same time, both the political fight and the nuclear waste are real, so you have to do something. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair,” to coin a phrase.

Everything’s coming up Persian

by Ted on August 10, 2005

This seems like an awfully big deal.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 9 – Armed men entered Baghdad’s municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city’s mayor and installed a member of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d’état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

“This is the new Iraq,” said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. “They use force to achieve their goal.”

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq’s capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri.

The militia has been credited with keeping the peace in heavily Shiite areas in southern Iraq but also accused of abuses like forcing women to wear the veils demanded by conservative Shiite religious law.

“If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that,” said Mazen A. Makkia, the elected city council chief who led the ouster on Monday and who had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Mr. Tamimi.

“We really want to establish the state of law for every citizen, and we did not threaten anyone,” Mr. Makkia said. “This is not a coup.”

As Justin Delbar notes, this militia is trained and funded by Iran. It seems that the coalition hasn’t had time to respond to this. However, through a spokesman, the Shiite Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, announced that “the prime minister would not stand in the way of the move.” That’s very depressing. It should go without saying that the blossoming of the rule of law is incompatible with armed coups by Iranian-backed militias. I’m ignorant about so many things in Iraq, but I can’t see how coalition forces can let this stand. (Maybe Christopher Hitchens could suggest an appropriate bake sale for us liberals to support.)

On the same day, Iran broke the seals on an atomic processing facility. More on Iranian nuclear plans here and here.

UPDATE: More on Al-Tamimi. He was appointed by the Baghdad city council under Paul Bremer’s supervision. (He’s also a former engineer in Saddam’s nuclear weapons program who managed to escape the country in 1995.) Neil (in comments) notes that according to Wikipedia, he resigned on June 21st in response to charges of corruption, but apparently had not vacated yet. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated city council has been actively pressuring him to leave office since 2004.

UPDATE II: Picking on Hitchens isn’t the most important point here, but Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog points out:

This is the mayor Christopher Hitchens wrote about Monday in Slate.

Question: Why have several large American cities not already announced that they are going to become sister cities with Baghdad and help raise money and awareness to aid Dr. Tamimi?

Steve points out that Tempe, Philadelphia, Dallas, Tuscon, and Denver have established sister cities in Iraq since the war. He then notes:

It has been pointed out that, strictly speaking, Denver’s link to Baghdad isn’t a formal sister-city relationship. Whatever it is, though, it didn’t prevent this coup. Then again, neither did billions in federal tax dollars, 1,800 servicemembers’ lives, and semi-permanent occupation by 130,000 U.S. troops.


by Chris Bertram on August 10, 2005

The Flop Eared Mule (who is becoming a daily stop for me) has “a fine post on Townes Van Zandt”:http://flopearedmule.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_flopearedmule_archive.html#112365680440804113 , Philip Larkin, and how life-embracing depressing lyrics can be (complete with link to an interview with the maker of the forthcoming Townes movie).