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An Anti-American Iraqi Cleric Declares His Own Government

See my comments below about Shiite anti-American demonstrations earlier this week.

“An anti-American cleric, whose forces clashed on Thursday with American soldiers and killed two of them, has proclaimed his own government in Iraq.

The move failed to produce any signs of popular support on Saturday but did appear to notch up his defiance of the American-led occupation.

Mainstream Iraqi leaders roundly condemned the announcement by the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. The Baghdad City Council denounced it, as did members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the overall leadership body appointed by the United States.

Mr. Sadr, 30, is evidently challenging the authority of the Governing Council while trying to build a following among poor and alienated Iraqis among the Shiites Muslims, who make up a majority of the country’s population.” &mdashNY Times

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US newspapers barraged with same letter from different soldiers

“A newspaper has noticed that several US media have published identical letters from soldiers based in Iraq but which are signed by different people. And many of the letters have already been published in US newspapers.

The latest case of so-called ‘astroturf’ is reminiscent of a story we broke in January – Google hunts down ‘President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership’. It transpired then that the Republican Party was behind the ‘astroturf’.

According to The Olympian, it received two identical letters from different soldiers in the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, but on doing a news search discovered identical letters in 11 different newspapers. The letters paint a positive picture about how Iraq is returning to normal. But according to the Olympian, polls show that support for the war is dropping in the USA.

On investigation, the newspaper discovered that the soldiers named in the letters do exist, but the individuals don’t know why the letters were sent under their names to a number of newspapers. One squaddie didn’t find out about the letter until his father read a letter signed by his son in his local West Virginian newspaper.” —The Inquirer [not The Enquirer] [via Dave Farber’s Interesting People mailing list] How high up in the dysadministration or the Republican Party do you think the instigation to do this goes?

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Blind ‘see with sound’

“Michelle Thomas is learning to ‘see’, not with her eyes but her ears.

Blind since birth, Ms Thomas is able to recognize the walls and doors of her house, discern whether the lights are on or off and even distinguish a CD from a floppy disk after only a week using a revolutionary new system.

She is ‘seeing with sound’.” BBC

A computer reconstruction of one second of sound as seen by the vOICe system:

[seeing with sound]
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Now voters have only themselves to blame

Choice words on the significance of the Schwarzenegger phenom from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier:

  • “Two-thirds of the people who voted for him believe he will not have to raise taxes to rectify a $10 billion budget deficit. They are psychotic. One academic has called it ‘a rescue fantasy.’

    This is what happens when you get out the vote.

  • Millions who rarely, if ever, vote, by a 64-36 percent margin preferred Kindergarten Cop to Cruz Bustamante. Bustamante had labored under the ridiculous notion that as lieutenant governor, he was somehow more qualified than Arnold.
  • Forty-four percent of those exit-polled said they’d made up their minds more than a month ago. In other words, when actual issues were put on the table in the past few weeks, they’d already tuned out. This is what passes for citizenship in the 21st century.
  • The best case scenario for the Schwarzenegger administration is for Arnold to go down in history as the most important (if nowhere near the most competent) governor in history, important because Arnold was somehow the one pretend politician, in our hour of darkest ignorance, who awakened Americans to what’s become of our civic life, our public discourse, and to where our sprawling national apathy has led us.
  • The worst case scenario, and a scenario eminently more plausible, is that elected officials nationwide will become substantially more skittish about making difficult policy decisions for fear of triggering a recall, that they will never really be able to stop campaigning and that the bitter political partisanship that exploded and ruptured the legislative process during the Clinton-Lewinsky affair will continue to steamroll any attempt at reasonable negotiation on and careful resolution of public issues.
  • The recall election that brought down Gov. Gray Davis and inserted Arnold was a small-time Republican fantasy until millionaire San Diego legislator Darrell Issa threw a few million dollars at it. Some 48 hours before polls even opened, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren warned of an instant retaliation recall. And, Lofgren told The New York Times, ‘I don’t think there is any way to stop it.’
  • Democrats may have no choice. Republicans have gotten so adept at challenging elections, it’s hard to imagine that a close presidential election next November that doesn’t go Bush’s way won’t be thrown into the courts again.
  • This is tragic, but while the politicians engage in the most divisive public rhetoric, the public and the media have no moral base for objection because they are both immensely culpable in the enabling climate. In America today, most serious public issues are debated by parties on the extreme opposite edges of those issues. The moderate and often perfectly sensible people in the middle, the vast majority that could enact viable compromise, are instead watching ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’

    In California, in Pennsylvania, in Washington, D.C., and in so many other places, there simply is no centrist constituency.

  • To quote the great social observer and comic George Carlin, ‘You know the one group I never criticize? Politicians. Politicians are put there by the public. Garbage in, garbage out. You get the leadership you deserve.’
  • The media are equally bad. The thunder you hear in the distance is from hordes of short-attention-span editors and producers and reporters and columnists fleeing California, lest they be required to illuminate the complex economic issues that brought the Schwarzenegger Phenomenon to the table in the first place, rather than just provide a shameless conduit for celebrity culture.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot become president but only because he wasn’t born in the United States. If he could run, he could win, even if he knows nothin’ about nothin’. We’ve already proven that.”
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An Anti-American Iraqi Cleric Declares His Own Government

See my comments below about Shiite anti-American demonstrations earlier this week.

“An anti-American cleric, whose forces clashed on Thursday with American soldiers and killed two of them, has proclaimed his own government in Iraq.

The move failed to produce any signs of popular support on Saturday but did appear to notch up his defiance of the American-led occupation.

Mainstream Iraqi leaders roundly condemned the announcement by the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. The Baghdad City Council denounced it, as did members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the overall leadership body appointed by the United States.

Mr. Sadr, 30, is evidently challenging the authority of the Governing Council while trying to build a following among poor and alienated Iraqis among the Shiites Muslims, who make up a majority of the country’s population.” &mdashNY Times