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March 11, 2005

Coming soon

(Larger photo here.)

...these are the prototypes--the final pieces will be fully painted, like the Christmas ornaments.

Speaking of blog silliness

Roy directs us to a blogger who wonders, apparently in all seriousness, why passage of the bankruptcy bill appears inevitable despite the opposition of all-powerful bloggers.

Mr. Language Man returns

I've noticed that the premature triumphalists of the right have lately adopted the phrase "Arab Spring." I assume this is a reference to the "Prague Spring" of 1968--the brief period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia which, as you may recall, was brutally supressed in August of that same year.

Small suggestion to my friends on the right: if you're going to come up with a clever nickname for your triumphalist fantasies, you might want it to refer to, you know, an actual triumph.

--------------------

March 08, 2005

Action alert

...never mind, too late--cloture passed. Debtor's prisons, here we come.

Speaking of the Prospect

Some of you may be understandably confused, given that the American Prospect (a) just sent out a mass mailer which prominently features my work, and (b) has not, to my knowledge, made any mention in the magazine itself of the fact that I am no longer a contributor. You know: long time regular contributor Tom Tomorrow has moved on, we'll sure miss him, that sort of thing. But just to be clear, I'm not actually doing work for the Prospect anymore. This was my decision, and there's no sinister backstory--it's just part of my ongoing effort to avoid burnout and stay in this game for the long run. Feedback is important, and I wasn't getting any from Prospect readers--my wife and I used to joke that we were the only ones who could actually see the cartoon, that in everyone else's issue the page on which it ran simply appeared to be blank. Basically, after more than five years I realized I was getting very little out of my association with the magazine other than the paycheck, and I was just tired of the extra deadline. The weekly cartoon consumes most of my creative energy, and that's as it should be. And there are never enough hours in the day, days in the week, especially if one hopes to have a life apart from the endless bitchfest in which we political junkies are constantly immersed.

None of which should discourage you from reading the Prospect--there's always something worthwhile in it. Just not me, anymore.

...well, at least one other person saw the work:

I assure you that your cartoon did run in my copies of The Prospect.  The Prospect introduced me to your work back in 2000 when I read my first issue.  Like you, I was expecting some sort of acknowledgment and thanks for your inimitable contribution to their magazine.  Your cartoon was the first thing I read when a new issue arrived - in fact, your work was the primary reason I kept my subscription going since most of the articles were available online.

  Please accept my gratitude and appreciation for doing a wonderful, if thankless, job.

Blogs and pseudo blogs

Good piece from the American Prospect on the difference between right- and left-wing 'activist' blogs, including this key distinction:

The targets of the liberal blogosphere are conservative activists; the target of the conservative blogosphere is the free and independent press itself, just as it has been for conservative activists since the ’60s. For the Republican Party, pseudo-journalism Internet sites and the blogosphere are just another way to get around “the filter,” as Bush has dubbed the mainstream media. “One of the things that I think the blog world offers is an opportunity to provide another source of information,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman on CNN’s Inside Politics in February. Blogs are “something we encourage supporters of the president and Republicans to be very much involved in.”

There's much more. Go read.

Why does Captain America hate America?

Here, via Atrios.

Why does Halliburton hate America?
It's just another Halliburton oil and gas operation. The company name is emblazoned everywhere: On trucks, equipment, large storage silos and workers' uniforms.

But this isn't Texas. It's Iran. U.S. companies aren't supposed to do business here. 

Yet, in January, Halliburton won a contract to drill at a huge Iranian gas field called Pars, which an Iranian government spokesman said "served the interests" of Iran. 

* * *

Still, Halliburton stands out because its operations in Iran are now under a federal criminal investigation. Government sources say the focus is on whether the company set out to illegally evade the sanctions imposed ten years ago.

"I am formally announcing my intention to cut off all trade and investment with Iran," announced President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Sources close to the Halliburton investigation tell NBC News that after that announcement, Halliburton decided that business with Iran, then conducted through at least five companies, would all be done through a subsidiary incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

"It's gotten around the sanctions and the very spirit and reasons for the sanctions," says Victor Comras, a former State Department expert on sanctions.

* * *

Halliburton says it is unfairly targeted because of politics, but recently announced it is pulling out of Iran because the business environment "is not conducive to our overall strategies and objectives."

However, that exit will be slow. Halliburton announced it was leaving Iran only three weeks after Iran announced the lucrative new gas deal, which industry sources say will take three years to complete.

Full story.

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March 07, 2005

Burying the lede

It's extremely unlikely that Giuliana Sgrena was deliberately targeted by U.S. troops (though, as Rall notes there are a number of far more questionable incidents). But here's the real issue, via Steve Gilliard:

The journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, 56, ran into fierce American gunfire that left her with a shrapnel wound to her shoulder and killed the Italian intelligence agent sitting beside her in the rear seat. She had been released only 35 minutes earlier by Iraqi kidnappers who had held her hostage for a month, and the car carrying them to the airport was driving in pitch dark.

But the conditions for the journey, up a road that is considered the most dangerous in Iraq, were broadly the same as those facing all civilian drivers approaching American checkpoints or convoys. American soldiers operate under rules of engagement that give them authority to open fire whenever they have reason to believe that they or others in their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks.

Next to the scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis, judging by their frequent outbursts on the subject. Daily reports compiled by Western security companies chronicle many incidents in which Iraqis with no apparent connection to the insurgency are killed or wounded by American troops who have opened fire on suspicion that the Iraqis were engaged in a terrorist attack.

Supporters of this war scoff at parallels with Vietnam--but as was the case in Vietnam, our troops often cannot tell friend from foe, which puts them in an untenable situation and gets a lot of innocent people killed.

Action alert

From Human Rights First:

Iranian blogger and human rights activist Arash Sigarchi was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of "espionage and insulting the country's leaders."  His harsh sentence, given by a Revolutionary Court on February 22, 2005, sends a stark message to other bloggers and independent government critics in Iran. 

Arash Sigarchi is editor of a daily newspaper in the province of Gilan and has run a social and political blog for the past three years.  His blog has from time to time dealt with human rights issues and criticized government policies.  For example, in August 2004 he posted an article about a demonstration in Tehran by families of victims of mass executions that took place in 1999.  He was imprisoned for a few days after posting this story.  At the time of his arrest he had been protesting the harassment, detention and mistreatment of more than 20 journalists and bloggers in Iran in recent months. 

Arash Sigarchi's imprisonment is part of a continuing wave of repression directed against independent critics of the Iranian government's human rights practices.  The government is especially intolerant of journalists and activists who expose its involvement in mass executions and other serious violations of human rights.

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