Monday, June 28, 2004

Pope calls for torture ban

John Paul pressed for a "common commitment of institutions and citizens to completely ban this intolerable violation of human rights, which is radically contrary to the dignity of man."

The Pope did not cite any nations or groups in his comment.

But we all know who he was speaking to, right?
(12:23 PM) 0 comments

I occasionally browse the Christian Science Monitor to get a different perspective. Here is an article on how the Iraqi insurgency is not monolithic.

It's really just a rundown of what other news outlets are saying, but the gist is that there are secularists who prepared for the insurgency since before the war and Islamicists who came in afterwards, ready to create a new Afghanistan. And it brings up two criticisms of U.S. policy leveled by Fareed Zakarai:

1) That the U.S. failed to bring in an intimidating number of troops.
2) That U.S. leaders severely underestimated the possibility that any insurgency might have any popular support.

Iraq has been ill-planned from the get-go.

(12:22 PM) 0 comments

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

More from the comments archive.

In response to this post:

Well, for some whiny types who I repudiate, any torture is itself the key. (God, I hate pacifists, but at least they won't hit back when you smack them around.) It's distasteful but necessary to whip up the fervor of that segment of the population, just as more thoughtful conservatives need to preserve their alliance with the Religious Right.

But the actual fact or non-fact of any torture going on isn't the real issue. It's the question of whether or not this is an administration that plays fast and loose with established rules, choosing what laws to obey and when and whether or not this is a pattern of behavior that we can expect in areas other than terrorism or Iraq such as domestic and economic policies (as some liberals contend is the case).

That's why lines such as:
"For example, a 2002 order signed by Bush says the president reserves the right to suspend the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war at any time."
in the article cause a chill to run through some people.

I don't particularly need to know the details of the Bush administration's rules on torture. I would be satisfied if a trustworthy, independent group from outside the administration looked at documents in secret and ruled that interrogation methods do not violate the Geneva Conventions.

Or, I want someone at the level of Bush or Rumsfeld to go on the record as to why it can waive those conventions (which can be done without making the exact details open) in a setting where they will be made to defend their position publicly. (I'd be curious to hear if this is an inherent power of the leader of any soevereign nation and whether or not it is legitimate if done by other powers who may in the future hold American citizens captive.)

The current administration has created a large "credibilty gap." It will be questioned on every point by a large number of people who will no longer give the benefit of the doubt.
(7:35 PM) 0 comments

Monday, June 21, 2004

So, I'm archiving my comments on other blogs here.

In response to this post wondering what is going on in Afghanistan.

It should be noted that:
1) According to UN numbers, more than half a million refugees returned to Afghanistan last year and more than three million since the fall of the Taleban.
2) Some of this is due to Pakistan closing refugee camps on the Afghan border, giving refugees a choice between returning home or moving to another camp. Iran has also pushed for refugees to go home.
3) Despite this, displaced Afghans remain the largest single refugee group, comprising more than 20% of all refugees officially counted by the U.N.
4) Some of those refugees, however, date back to the Soviet invasion of the '70s.
5) Despite the improved conditions, some people have still chosen to leave the country, while others have been displaced internally without leaving Afghanistan.

Have refugees been returning to Afghanistan? Yes. Why? Probably because of the relative conditions between Afghanistan and refugee areas. This could be because of clear improvements in Afghanistan. It could be because the UN and government assistance now available makes returning a better prospect even if the local conditions haven't changed appreciably. It could be because countries like Iran and Pakistan are now pressuring refugee populations to leave. It could be some combination of the three that varies from person to person. it could just be a case of "my country, right or wrong."

And any of these conditions don't preclude the possibilty that warlords and Islamic extremists are making life hell for a lot of people.

Afghanistan may have improved from where it was three years ago, but it sure as hell ain't a shining beacon of peace and democracy that should make citizens of other countries in the region feel awe and jealousy.
(9:47 PM) 0 comments

Saturday, June 19, 2004

From the "Speak Ill of the Dead" file:
More than merely nearly headless Paul Johnson had ties to a Bangkok bar in Soi Cowboy and he married a Thai girl.

What happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok, right?

(1:26 AM) 0 comments

Thursday, June 17, 2004

This news is good for fans of good music.
(10:54 PM) 0 comments

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

You can also find this in the comments to this post.

In response to the objection about rote memorization making the Pledge of Allegiance, the true purpose of public education is not education but socialization. Just look at the history of public schooling in America; schools were given a decidedly Protestant cast to "protect" against Catholicism, leading to the creation of a parochial school system.

Nowadays, people wish to use education as a vehicle for promoting "tolerance." That's just another way in which schools are used for socialization rather than education. I'm not opposed to using public schools in this manner, but I am honest enough to admit what's going on.

Does rote repetition influence people, especially children? Are math problem sets just busy work or does repeated application of principles reinforce how do do basic math? Does the repetitive nature of things on Sesame Street fail to worK?

Or does, as you say, rote repetition suck the meaning out of a thing. Are we arguing over what, through the sledgehammer of over-and-over, becomes a minute of each day lost to some increasingly inane formula?
(10:24 PM) 0 comments

Monday, June 07, 2004

So, I was out of town this weekend with no internet access when Ronald Reagan died.

So, here's a belated "Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, good bye."
(11:26 PM) 0 comments

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Until I read it recently, I had no idea that The Chronicles of Riddick is a sequel or something of that nature.
(8:22 AM) 0 comments

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Christian Science Monitor has a story on "traditional neighborhood development.

I think I would consider living in one of these for several reasons:
1) "Walkability." I like this concept. I'd like to be able to walk to the grocery and back in five minutes to pick up a few extra ingredients for a recipe. I'd like to have a couple of nice neighborhood restaurants that I can travel to on foot. In a nation of Super Size Me, I think what is lost is that people no longer walk to school, that commutes are by car. I want a routine where walking is a viable mode of transportation and not some exercise that feels chore-like.
2) "Small lot sizes." I hate mowing the lawn. 'Nuff said.
3) "Sociability." People that you are friends with just because they live next door. Bumming a burger when they cook out.
4) It's popular with retirees. Not that I want to live with a lot of old people, but having some elderly around means that I can occasionally listen to interesting stories of days gone by.

(12:48 PM) 0 comments

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Twinkie defense, eat your heart out.

I think I would be more respectful of someone who tried the Chewbacca defense in rea life.

(4:39 PM) 0 comments