What is Hizbullah?

Juan Cole at Informed Comment has a post on Hisbullah that is important reading.

Western and Israeli pundits keep comparing Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. It is a huge conceptual error. There is a crucial difference between an international terrorist network like al-Qaeda, which can be disrupted by good old policing techniques (such as inserting an agent in the Western Union office in Karachi), and a sub-nationalist movement.
Al-Qaeda is some 5,000 multinational volunteers organized in tiny cells.
Hizbullah is a mass expression of subnationalism that has the loyalty of some 1.3 million highly connected and politically mobilized peasants and slum dwellers. Over a relatively compact area.
[. . .] Hizbullah is not like al-Qaeda in any way, sociologically speaking, and making such an analogy is a sure way for a general or politician to trick himself into entering the fires of hell.

Go read.

War Is Always Wrong And It’s Up To US To Stop It

Update – and just for the record: What I meant to say, and what I should have said, was that CHOOSING war is always wrong.
Atrios posted a YouTube video of Elvis Costello singing “Peace Love and Understanding.” A simple message, but I’d like readers to reflect on this a minute.
I was born not long after the end of WWII. The world was sick of war and looking for ways to avoid it — line the UN. For example, the UN’s processes helped us back away from nuclear destruction during the Cuban Missile Crisis and has helped dampen many other conflicts. But somehow it seems that lessons have been unlearned since then, the most important of which is WAR IS WRONG. WAR IS THE WORST THING!
Today I turn on the AM radio and almost every station is blasting a message that war is a good thing. Seriously, listen to Limbaugh for a while. Or just listen to Bush the other day explaining why a cease fire is out of the question. And there are well-funded organizations working long-term to undermine the UN and other peacemaking efforts. Then there are the more subtle pushes toward war, the kind that ride under the radar of the media, doing things like encouraging India and Pakistan to develop ever MORE nuclear weapons. Or refusing to talk to North Korea or Syria or Iran… It is all cloaked in modern, soothing PR-speak, but it’s war and aggression and it could bring the same consequences to humanity that it has always brought in the past.
Now we live in the Propaganda Age. Marketers have figured out how to use words and images to trigger deep emotions, distract our focus, fog our thinking and get us to do things we would never do otherwise. This isn’t right or wrong – it’s just science. It’s just knowledge. But all of us need to catch up to the science here, and find ways to regulate it, counter it, protect against it. Europe learned the hard way what happens when unrestrained racist propaganda is put in front of people — so now in much of Europe it is banned. Look at what unrestricted marketing has brought us — a lung cancer epidemic, widespread obesity, massive debt, global warming and other forms of what I call “marketing diseases.” And now they are marketing war. We are going to have to learn, probably the hard way, that we need collective agreement about restrictions on marketing.
We live a good life in America. But that doesn’t mean it can’t go all wrong. We talk about “withdrawal” from the Iraq war, as if that would end anything we have started. Tell me, do you think Japan could have called for a time out and “withdrawal” after Pearl Harbor? No, that is not how war works. Japan thought it could do a quick, surgical strike and knock out our capability – and will – to respond. They guessed wrong. And now, like Japan, we have leadership that is bringing war to others. So it is our responsibility – each and every one of us individually and together – to do what we can stop this madness NOW. This could escalate and place us all in direct danger – here, in our shopping malls, in our own homes, not sanitized on a TV screen. That could be our children being dragged from bombed buildings. We all have to start taking real action to stop the madness, beyond just watching it on a TV screen and clicking our tongues. This is our country’s leadership doing this — in our names. We cannot accept this. We must stop it.

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New Programs?

How did I miss this? From February, Bush’s Mysterious ‘New Programs’,

Plus, there was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with “an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs,” KBR said. [Market Watch, Jan. 26, 2006]
Later, the New York Times reported that “KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space.” [Feb. 4, 2006]
… Less attention centered on the phrase “rapid development of new programs” and what kind of programs would require a major expansion of detention centers, each capable of holding 5,000 people. Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to elaborate on what these “new programs” might be.
[. . .]Given Bush’s now open assertions that he is using his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief for the duration of the indefinite War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights protect them from government actions.

Watch your backs.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post

m4s0n501

Calculated Risk: New Home Sales and Recessions. Look at the chart, showing the correlation between drops in new home sales and recessions, and see where we are now.

or consumer led recessions (all but the most recent recession in 2001), New Home Sales were falling prior to the onset of the recession. It appears that New Home Sales peaked last year.
This doesn’t imply a cause and effect relationship, but it is something to watch. If New Home Sales can stay above 1.1 million or so that probably increases the probabilities of a soft landing (just slower growth), as opposed to a hard landing (a recession).

Then go look at this post and its charts to see the likelihood of people being able to sustain a good rate of new home sales.
I report, you decide.

We Are Seeing Different News About Lebanon

Americans need to understand that the rest of the world is seeing very different images on their news broadcasts from what we are seeing here. VERY different.
YouTube has lots of short videos from Lebanon.
Also, go watch Mosaic – excerpts from Middle Eastern news shows.
Just go watch a bit, and then try to reconcile what you see with what we are getting here from the news. The consequences to all of us are enormous.

Bush Wants “Protections” From Torture Laws

The Bush administration is asking Congress to pass “protections” from prosecution of people who kill or torture prisoners. The specific law they want changed was passed by a Republican-controlled House, and unanimously by a Republican-controlled Senate in 1996.
WP: Detainee abuse charges feared,

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.
… Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said.
… Jones and other advocates intended the law for use against future abusers of captured U.S. troops in countries such as Bosnia, El Salvador and Somalia, but the Pentagon supported making its provisions applicable to U.S. personnel because doing so set a high standard for others to follow.

The Bush administration was predicted in one of the great tunes of all time (there is a sound clip sample at the end of the referenced page):

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Republican Says We Need A Dem Congress

The following is a letter from former Republican Congressman and Presidential candidate Pete McCloskey.

THE NEED FOR A DEMOCRAT MAJORITY IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN 2007
I have found it difficult in the past several weeks to reach a conclusion as to what a citizen should do with respect to this fall’s forthcoming congressional elections. I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans, active in Merced and San Bernardino Counties as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have just engaged in an unsuccessful effort to defeat the Republican Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, in the 11th Congressional District Republican primary, obtaining just over 32% of the Republican vote against Pombo’s 62%.

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Save the Baby Or the Freezer?

I don’t know if you have heard this pro-choice and pro-stem-cell-research riddle: Suppose there is a fire at a fertility clinic. In one room is a freezer with 100 embryos. In another room is a baby. Now, suppose you have only enough time to enter ONE room. Do you save the baby, or the freezer?
The Republican case is that you must save the freezer, not the baby, because there are 100 “babies” in the freezer and only one in the other room. Burn, baby, burn.
With Republican government in mind, I want to put this a different way. If someone goes in and saves the baby instead of the freezer, do you prosecute? Republicans would prosecute you for saving the baby.
Here’s what I want you to do. There is an election coming. In your local Congressional districts, please show up at a “meet the candidate” event and ASK the Republican candidate if they would save the baby or the freezer. Demand a clear answer. Write letters to you local newspaper’s “letters to the editor” asking the Republican candidate to put their answer on the record – baby or freezer?

THE BUCK STOPS THERE – The Story Of Who Really Wins When The Right Wing Raises Money

Originaly published at The Patriot Project. Please support the Patriot Project.

Imagine that you’re a Republican. You’ve just received another urgent letter from one or another organization associated with The Party, and you’re scared. You’re terrified, actually. And you are pissed off. You’ve been a proud, loyal American for almost 80 years and now you read that the Democrats have nominated an actual Communist agent to run for President!  And, on top of that, they’re planning to BAN THE BIBLE!  There is a special urgency about this letter — if you don’t help RIGHT NOW it might even mean the end of this great country. So you do your duty as a loyal, vigilant citizen and ACT NOW and send $250.  It is so important, and the money goes to such a good cause – doesn’t it? 

This post takes a look at the question: if you give money to an organization like Swiftboat Veterans for Truth (SBVFT), where does your money GO? 

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