Mystery Pneumonia Toll May Be Much Higher

“Mysterious pneumonia-like illnesses and breathing problems appear to be striking U.S. troops in greater numbers than the military has identified in an investigation — including more deaths, according to soldiers and their families.

Some of the soldiers were deployed to Iraq and died but are not part of the Pentagon’s investigation. Others who got ill told United Press International they suffered a pneumonia-like illness after being given vaccines, particularly the anthrax shot.” UPI [via CommonDreams] I have written here before about this plague—sorry to sound Biblical— on the occupying forces. Beyond the anthrax vaccine, exposure to depleted uranium is another suspected etiology. Let’s see—lethal toxic exposure or mandatory fatal and likely needless inoculations, pay cuts, open-ended commitment with no return home in sight, constant targeting by enraged Iraqis and foreign terrorists the occupation is drawing like flypaper, frequent fatal accidents from faulty undermaintained equipment because of fiscal skimping, central betrayal by their commander-in-chief’s lies about the rationale for being there at all. What isn’t a Biblical affliction about the situation?

Are Westerners joining the Iraqi resistance?

“Some members of the coalition forces in Iraq, under steady attack by anonymous snipers and suicide bombers, have expressed fear that they are targets of an increasing number of assailants – from Saddam Hussein’s loyalists, to foreign insurgents, to members of Al Qaeda. Now there is concern that ordinary Iraqis, and possibly even Westerners, could be added to the list.” Christian Science Monitor

Related: Iraqis’ Bitterness Is Called Bigger Threat Than Terror NY Times [via CommonDreams]

Dalai Lama Says Terror May Need a Violent Reply

“The Dalai Lama, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and one of the world’s most prominent advocates of nonviolence, said in an interview yesterday that it might be necessary to fight terrorists with violence, and that it was ‘too early to say’ whether the war in Iraq was a mistake.

‘I feel only history will tell,’ he said. ‘Terrorism is the worst kind of violence, so we have to check it, we have to take countermeasures.'” NY Times

Bush: No proof of Saddam role in 9/11

“President Bush said Wednesday there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — disputing an impression that critics say the administration tried to foster to justify the war against Iraq.” Salon

When the president distances himself from the statements of the vice president, you know the administration is in a desperate scramble. Related: Wolfowitz contradicts Cheney: Iraq not involved in 9-11 attacks. CommonDreams

Maybe Cheney ought to begin looking for a new job. Oops! He’s already got one. Arizona Daily Star All in all, though, I would rather see Rumsfeld take the fall for the Iraq morass than Cheney, if it had to be one or t’other.

Defining the ‘Peace Party’:

James Q. Wilson & Karlyn Bowman: “About one-fifth of Americans strongly opposed the war in Iraq. Surveys taken in December 2002 showed that 15 to 20 percent of the public resolutely opposed the war three months before it began, and the numbers remained about as high in April 2003 after the war had been underway for a couple of weeks. While the level of support increased after the war began, the onset of fighting did not budge the war’s strongest opponents. This ‘peace party’ became known to the American public through antiwar protests and demonstrations, but media coverage of these events did not tell us much about the composition of this group. Who makes up the peace party? How many Americans have joined its ranks? And how do their numbers compare with antiwar groups from past military conflicts?” The Public Interest

burning hypocrisy

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.” — George Orwell

“The hypocrisy of the Burning Man Organization pisses me off. …But the thing that yanks my chain is that they do all this — they give you a straight-up totally one sided work-for-hire contract that essentially says, ‘if you are a photographer, and you are at the Burning Man event, then you are our employee and we own all your work’ — and they try to soften the blow by accompanying it with a smarmy press kit that re-states the terms of the contract in this totally weaselly way: they go on at length about how they are viciously protecting their brand for your own good. And every other paragraph says stuff like ‘Larry Harvey — dare we say it — a Genius…’

It is to gag.

They’re taking a totally standard, normal, corporate line toward their theme park — but that idea embarrasses them (they don’t like to think of it as a theme park.) So they cloak it in bullshit and hope that everyone will buy the lie that it’s actually some spontaneous group-hug, and not a theme park.” Jamie Zawinski [via walker]

Now don’t get defensive if you’re an enthusiast for hip, scene-making events like Burning Man. I’m in one of my equal-opportunity misanthropic moods. We expect there to be less potential for exploitation, hypocrisy, inequity, at an alternative event than a mainstream one, so it hurts more when the inevitable letdown comes, but come it does. Pockets of resistance and counterculturalism (if there is such a word) exist; I happen upon them in my peregrinations, but they are certainly not the events with the media buzzword visibility like Burning Man. Oh, I don’t know, I’ve never been, probably because I got fed up wtih hipper-than-thou long ago, not long after I felt so self-important for making the scene at Woodstock. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

Diet of fish ‘can prevent’ teen violence

New study reveals that the root cause of crime may be biological, not social:

“Feeding children a diet rich in fish could prevent violent and anti-social behaviour in their teens, according to research to be announced this week which suggests the root causes of crime may be biological rather than social.

The study raises major questions over the extent to which criminals exercise free will, as well as fuelling fresh debate over whether simple childhood interventions might be more use in preventing crime than blaming parents or organising draconian crackdowns on crime.

Professor Adrian Raine, a leading psychologist at the University of California, will outline a growing body of evidence showing that violent offenders have physical defects in a part of the brain linked to decision-making and self-control – which may make them more likely to lash out.

Raine’s latest research, to be unveiled this week in Sheffield, looked at whether brain deficits could be avoided by action in the early years when the tissue is still developing.” Guardian/UK

Is Buddhism Good for Your Health?

“In the spring of 1992, out of the blue, the fax machine in Richard Davidson’s office at the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison spit out a letter from Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Davidson, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, was making a name for himself studying the nature of positive emotion, and word of his accomplishments had made it to northern India. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists was writing to offer the minds of his monks — in particular, their meditative prowess — for scientific research.” NY Times

Wilson: White House is in ‘full retreat from Iraq reality’

“Joseph Wilson, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 1988 to 1991, has called into question the Bush administration’s assertions about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa by revealing that he had been asked by the U.S. government to look into such claims — and had reported in early 2002 that they were unfounded. He is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.” Wilson writes that Alice in Wonderland is the most apt metaphor for the Iraq situation, “where nothing is as it seems” (see also the LA Times editorial, Cheney in Wonderland, incidentally) and the administration has “dragged us down a rabbit hole.” Wilson likens the Iraq situation to the mujaheddin insurgency (see below*) against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the ’80’s, an apt simile which is not in my opinion mentioned often enough, with full appreciation for the fact that that situation was the breeding ground for a generation of Islamic loyalist rebels including al Qaeda. Wilson finds administration distortions on Iraq unsurprising because we have accomplished so little of our original objectives there and are unlikely to do so. Wilson suggests that the administration was deluded in its intention to impose democracy on the region or, more cynically, that the anarchic Balkanization of Iraq was an acceptable or even desireable outcome. Wilson feels it is feasible to see Iraq as on the brink of fragmentation and factional civil war. The situation requires multilateralism, reconstruction, and a reasonable approach to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. “But before we can hope to win back international trust or start down a truly new path in Iraq, the administration has to start playing it straight, with the American people and with the world. Recent administration statements, including the president’s speech, suggest that it still prefers to live in a fantasy world.” San Jose Mercury News op-ed

*Related: Iraqi police ready to turn guns on US troops:

“Iraqi policemen declared themselves holy warriors yesterday and vowed to take revenge for the deaths of their comrades in the town where ten police and a security guard were killed on Friday in the worst ‘friendly fire’ incident of the Iraq conflict. ‘I am full of hatred for the Americans and I am ready to kill them,’ said Arkan Adanan, who was injured in the shoulder early on Friday morning when US troops poured rifle and machinegun fire into three police vehicles that were chasing suspected bandits.

‘All Fallujah people are Mujahidin and they care only about killing Americans. We don’t care about their powerful weapons, because we know that if we die we will become martyrs.'” Times of London

EFF Analysis of USA PATRIOT Act

As the groundswell of concern about the USA PATRIOT Act (UPA) continues to mount and Ashcroft bullies and ridicules anyone who dares to criticize it, even staunch opponents of the UPA may have only a vague understanding of its provisions. (Some have said that understanding it requires you to be a constitutional law expert.) I have found it useful, and others might, to go back to this cogent analysis of USA PATRIOT Act from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), dating from Halloween, 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the bill’s enactment. Essentially, the EFF gives you a primer on electronic surveillance under U.S. law and how it is expanded, with corresponding abatement of protections for the public, under the UPA.

An Interview With Paul Krugman

“You probably think you know Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist with never a kind word for George Bush. Think again.

Is Krugman merely someone who dislikes Bush and thinks his policies are horribly misguided? Oh no. In fact, in his most recent book, The Great Unraveling, he makes it clear that he thinks it’s much, much worse than that.” CalPundit

Call to extend alien life search

“Jupiter or Mars-like planets beyond our Solar System may be serious contenders for harbouring life, says a British astrophysicist.

According to Professor Tim Naylor, of Exeter University, planets that do not resemble home should not be ruled out in the search for primitive lifeforms.

If we can find life at the extremes of Earth where thermophiles are, then it could be that life could get a foot hold on the giant exoplanets that we’ve discovered

Tim Naylor, Exeter University

He is calling on biologists to draw up new parameters for extra-terrestrial life using their knowledge of the toughest organisms on Earth.

Microbes which thrive in boiling hot springs or in volcanic vents are stretching the limits of conditions that can support life.” BBC

Wesley Clark to Enter Presidential Race

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Everybody has heard by now that he is apparently in the race as the tenth announced Democratic contender. This is making the rounds as well — Michael Moore’s enumeration of the reasons he thinks Clark is just the guy to beat Bush:

In addition to being first in your class at West Point, a four star general from Arkansas, and the former Supreme Commander of NATO — enough right there that should give pause to any peace-loving person — I have discovered that…

1. You oppose the Patriot Act and would fight the expansion of its powers.

2. You are firmly pro-choice.

3. You filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action case.

4. You would get rid of the Bush tax “cut” and make the rich pay their fair share.

5. You respect the views of our allies and want to work with them and with the rest of the international community.

6. And you oppose war. You have said that war should always be the “last resort” and that it is military men such as yourself who are the most for peace because it is YOU and your soldiers who have to do the dying. You find something unsettling about a commander-in-chief who dons a flight suit and pretends to be Top Gun, a stunt that dishonored those who have died in that flight suit in the service of their country.

Moore may be getting carried away by his wishfulness about beating the Bushes. I think it is a reach on Moore’s part to call Clark an antiwar candidate. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve known antiwar candidates, and Wesley Clark isn’t one. The line about military men being inherently for peace is an easy bit of rhetoric for them to spout as they go about their business, and Clark has hardly been a vocal. visible opponent of the Iraqi intervention from its inception. The domestic policy points he scores with Moore, likewise, may be politically opportunistic. In choosing to enter the race as a Democrat at the point where Bush has his lowest poll ratings since 9-11, one would want to ‘assume the positions’ that best differentiate oneself from the failing president, wouldn’t one? I will give him one point for internationalism, which represents a credible commitment on his part forged in the fires of his NATO commandership and Kosovo. He gets a half each for his affirmative action and pro-choice stands, which are abit overdetermined and less courageous for a modern Democratic wannabe to take.

Turning to perhaps a more sober appraisal of the significance of Clark’s entrance into the race, Josh Marshall points out that political outsiders and late entrants usually don’t win, but that this is anything but business as usual. He thinks Dean’s frontrunner status won’t cut the mustard for long because his folksy social liberalism and unwavering antiwar stance won’t appeal to the swing voters the Democrats will need. Marshall says there is a large void no one has managed to fill to the right of Dean, and he will be watching how Clark does with fundraising, dealing with the temperamental and capricious press, assembling a team around him, and dealing with whatever the other nine candidates dish out. By the way, the word is that Clark has “prior commitments” that will keep him out of at least one of the upcoming Democratic candidate debates. One might argue that these are useless exercises until the field thins somewhat, but his absence might be interpreted as reinforcing the impression that Clark does not have well-formulated positions on domestic issues yet (if ever…). On the other hand, he did study economics, philosophy and politics at Oxford, and later teach economic policy at West Point, so he is not likely to be pig-ignorant on domestic issues…

After watching the debut of K Street the other night on HBO, at this point I would almost rather know what political consultants Clark is hiring. A joke, but if you believe everything you see on TV, the docufictional version of James Carville was responsible for the single best line of the campaign so far, when Dean quipped during the second debate last week that “(i)f the percent of minorities that’s in your state had anything to do with how you can connect with African- American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King,”

Here’s an informative interview with Clark by NPR’s The Connection host Dick Gordon from last week [thanks, miguel] Clark defends his lack of political experience to Gordon by arguing that his command was like governing a small city. Let us hope that we should not take that to mean that his only template for governing a larger constituency would be military command. Former Pentagon associates have been known to characterize Clark as imperious and arrogant, not exactly Presidential material (although all bets are off when you look at the character attributes of the current occupant of the White House, of course).

For my own part, I’m desperately hoping that Clark’s entry into the race is as much about having heard Dean’s reported offer to join his ticket as the vice presidential candidate (although Dean is just the guy to have a woman as a running mate) as it is a spoiler presidential run. Having Clark as a v-p candidate would cetainly broaden the spectrum of Dean’s appeal, although that tactic in ticket-building may be out of favor in recent presidential races. In any case, one can wish that both of them, as well as the other eight, keep their eyes on the prize, which is saving the country from Junior and his henchmen. This will take civility and consensus above and beyond business as usual in primary season; probably too much to wish, I think it would require the Ten subordinating their grandiose personal ambitions to the establishment of an authentic robust meaningful opposition party in this country. I was hopeful at the time of the first debate but the true, carping, backstabbing, Senatorial characters particularly of Kerry and Lieberman began to emerge even by the time of the second outing last week. I cling to the hope that the Democrats, unlike Marshall’s prediction, have the courage and integrity to present themselves as a truely distinct progressive opposition rather than trying to attract the ‘swing voters’ with a kinder-gentler-Republican-clone pitch. And, while we’re on the topic of the crucial significance of the swing vote, consider for a moment the spoiler role of the Green vote in the 2000 election. With the possible exception of Kucinich, Dean is the only candidate who stands a chance of melding the Green vote into a facet of a Democratic majority voting bloc. Can you seen the Greens under any circumstances going Democratic on behalf of a Wesley Clark candidacy? Not likely, no matter how passionate the Michael Moores become…