Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Due to unforseen occupational and social intrusions, westerby probably will not be updated until next week. I recommend all of the fine links to the left.


Monday, December 10, 2001

Democracy Now in exile reports on a University of New Hampshire economist's estimate of over 3700 civilian casualties in Afghanistan to date. The figures are compiled from mainstream news sources. If correct, then Afghan civilian casualties (trending upward) have surpassed the official (trending downward) World Trade Center body count which stands as of today at 3045.

Professor Marc Herold's figures and documentation in excel format and his complete report in word format
Robert Fisk delivers a lesson in grace.

Friday, December 07, 2001

Jonathon Alter, oh so tastefully, criticizes Bush, then apologizes for Bush, then euphemizes anew for us:
Of course, several hundred men-most charged with minor violations-are still being detained. As long as they're told why they are being held, and have access to lawyers, is this such an outrage? The old ACLU notion that it's better to let 10 guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent person is, in an age of suicide bombers with access to bioweapons, not just a luxury but a danger. And as a practical matter, the president is right that we need some kind of military tribunals for terrorists seized overseas; we can't ship hundreds of Al Qaeda's terrorists from Afghan caves to, say, New York courtrooms. Imagine the security nightmare.

The problem with Bush's proposal is not so much what he's doing, but how he's doing it-like a king. Unilaterally. And he's oblivious to the possibility that with such loose standards for conviction we could end up executing the innocent (a good deal worse than detaining or deporting them). The military tribunals we establish need to be consistent with this country's basic constitutional framework. They need to reflect the thinking of both civil libertarians and civil securitarians (did I just make that word up?).
Ahh,"securitarian" is indeed a lovely coinage. It's so much fresher and cleaner than that nasty, discredited "authoritarian", the previous (and one would think entirely adequate) antonym for "libertarian". The entire etymology of "authoritarian" is just disgraceful, having been hurled as a pejorative throughout its lexically young life. But securitarianism conjures images of comfort and safety delivered in a thoroughly non-threatening way. Say, "I'm a securitarian." Say it softly. It's as if being whisked away to sip gin and tonics on a neatly groomed golf course in a firmly gated, well-ordered subdivision inhabited by fellow "civil securitarians", whose investments are doubtlessly secured by yet more brother securitarians, and where armed response is only an automated alarm away.


I briefly mulled over creating a new website called alterwatch, devoted to responding to the superhuman feats of illogic that are the Jonathon Alter columns in Newseek. Network Solutions says and .com domains are available. However, I doubt work and family obligations would permit me the time involved in a line by line analysis and refutation of his weekly ejaculation. That and my better, frugal angels told me that the annual expense of maintaining that particular piece of nominalistic real estate cannot not justified.

What brings one to consider such a seemingly pointless exercise? Well, as I was perusing the waffling twaddle quoted above, it occurred to me that I had been driven to comment on him here at least twice in the last 30 days. And then I read, “The problem with Bush's proposal is not so much what he's doing, but how he's doing it-like a king.” And then I read the cute construction “civil securitarian.” And then I felt compelled to comment once again on something this silly, gutless liberal had written. (I try to avoid entirely silly, gutless liberal Thomas Friedman as he usually induces in me seizures of apoplectic incredulity alternating with convulsive spasms of painfully uncontrollable laughter.)

I didn't think much about Alter before 9-11. I occasionaly read his column if I was at my doctor's office or in a subscriber's home. I would occasionlly see him on MSNBC, while scanning television. He always struck me as a bland, center-left (well, center-left by U.S. measure, which would be center-right in any advanced democracy, like Mexico) He seemed one of the crowd that likes pro-abortion Republicans and "fiscally responsible" Democrats, that crowd which bestows the shiny badge "bipartisan" upon the heroic middle and that sneers the insult "ideological" to those on the right and left base enough to irresponsibly resist compromise. (Have any of those in the mainstream press bandying about the term ideology ever read Althusser? Have they no respect for what words mean?)

However, post-911, Alter's columns became hyperpatriotic, in a New Yorker reading, Newsweek writing kind of way. No they became in fact intolerant, in a New Yorker reading, Newsweek writing kind of way. And he, with the rest of the "reasonable center" and “comfortable middle”, free fell into absolute obsequiousness to the current regime, eager to accept any servility demanded of them, and they erased from their minds the demonstrated intellectual buffoonishness of the President.

In short, his behavior was much the same as most of the people I know, most of my relatives, most of my country as far as I can tell. And what I experienced anecdotally does seem to be confirmed by those scientific pollsters. So, Maybe Alter's is the voice of America, and I could divine the mood of the public by limiting myself to reading only Newsweek. And maybe Alter’s not only the voice but the champion of the king, public opinion. And battling one lone columnist is much less daunting than engaging the whole of U.S. society. But Jesus, that would still a monumental waste of my time, surely to result only in much banging of head on wall. Better sporadic guerilla attacks on the many, than a full frontal assault on the one. Thus there will be no alterwatch.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

From Rick Bass:
What if there were an enemy among us, a corporation, (like W.R. Grace, for instance), possessing the rights of an individual but none of the responsibility, that willfully spread the spores, the phantom dust, the tiny fibers of a material - call it tremolite - so deadly that there is no cure? And that this enemy killed hundreds of people with that contamination, and inflicted some degree of damage upon, perhaps, a third of an entire American town?

Suppose some foreign aggressor were to threaten to cut us off from our power, our energy supply? Or suppose that supply was commandeered by profiteers, (like PP&L, say), whose earnings ballooned by 1200% on the resale to us of power generated from our own rivers, our own wind, our sun?

What if there were an attack - in Montana - on one of the nation's first ten wilderness areas? What if some crazed throng plotted to blast a tunnel beneath this wilderness, ferrying away the stone heart of the mountain, pouring their poisonous slurry into the pristine Rock Creek, and into the Clark Fork, where we just spent $132 million taxpayer dollars cleaning up after the last such attack?

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Bork enthusiastically supports (surprise) military tribunals But he has one tiny problem:
If there is a problem with Bush's order, it is the exemption of U.S. citizens from trials before military tribunals.
The Goddess of Liberty was smiling on the United States the day the Senate voted to keep this maniac off the Supreme Court.

[via phil]

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Laughter during Wartime:

New Tom Tomorrow

New mnftiu

Fisk on terror strikes in Israel:
The Palestinian suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa are disgusting, evil, revolting, unforgivable. I saw the immediate aftermath of the Pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem last August: Israeli women and children, ripped apart by explosives that had nails packed around them – designed to ensure that those who survived were scarred for life...

So let me tell a little story. A few hours before I wrote this article – exactly four hours after the last suicide bomber had destroyed himself and his innocent victims in Haifa – I visited a grotty, fly-blown hospital in Quetta, the Pakistani border city where Afghan victims of American bombing raids are brought for treatment. Surrounded by an army of flies in bed No 12, Mahmat – most Afghans have no family names – told me his story. There were no CNN cameras, no BBC reporters in this hospital to film the patient. Nor will there be. Mahmat had been asleep in his home in the village of Kazikarez six days ago when an bomb from an American B-52 fell on his village. He was asleep in one room, his wife with the children. His son Nourali died, as did Jaber – aged 10 – Janaan, eight, Salamo, six, Twayir, four, and Palwasha – the only girl – two.

"The plane flies so high that we cannot hear them and the mud roof fell on them," Mahmat said. His wife Rukia – whom he permitted me to see – lay in the next room (bed No 13). She did not know that her children were dead. She was 25 and looked 45. A cloth dignified her forehead. Her children – like so many Afghan innocents in this frightful War for civilisation – were victims whom Mr Bush and Mr Blair will never acknowledge. And watching Mahmat plead for money – the American bomb had blasted away his clothes and he was naked beneath the hospital blanket – I could see something terrible: he and the angry cousin beside him and the uncle and the wife's brother in the hospital attacking America for the murders that they had inflicted on their family..

yet more excellent Fisk from Af-Pak border.
Kama Ado bombing from The Independent's Robert Parry
More on Kama Ado goatherds vs. B-52's from Parry
Longish Bruce Sterling speech on crypto culture vs. spook culture.

[via null device]

Monday, December 03, 2001

Angelus Novus, Paul Klee

A Klee painting named 'Angelus Novus' shows an angel looking as though he
is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes
are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one
pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we
perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps
piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel
would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.
But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with
such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm
irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while
the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call
Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History