when, lo! the flame of the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the half-burnt match in her hand


‘American Theocracy’ , Clear and Present Dangers

Four decades ago, Kevin Phillips, a young political strategist for the Republican Party, began work on what became a remarkable book. In writing “The Emerging Republican Majority” (published in 1969), he asked a very big question about American politics: How would the demographic and economic changes of postwar America shape the long-term future of the two major parties? His answer, startling at the time but now largely unquestioned, is that the movement of people and resources from the old Northern industrial states into the South and the West (an area he enduringly labeled the “Sun Belt”) would produce a new and more conservative Republican majority that would dominate American politics for decades. Phillips viewed the changes he predicted with optimism. A stronger Republican Party, he believed, would restore stability and order to a society experiencing disorienting and at times violent change. Shortly before publishing his book, he joined the Nixon administration to help advance the changes he had foreseen.

Phillips has remained a prolific and important political commentator in the decades since, but he long ago abandoned his enthusiasm for the Republican coalition he helped to build. His latest book (his 13th) looks broadly and historically at the political world the conservative coalition has painstakingly constructed over the last several decades. No longer does he see Republican government as a source of stability and order. Instead, he presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed and dangerous shortsightedness. (His final chapter is entitled “The Erring Republican Majority.”) In an era of best-selling jeremiads on both sides of the political divide, “American Theocracy” may be the most alarming analysis of where we are and where we may be going to have appeared in many years. It is not without polemic, but unlike many of the more glib and strident political commentaries of recent years, it is extensively researched and for the most part frighteningly persuasive.

Obsidian Wings has some more on those documents that are supposed to be the ultimate in smoking guns, Breathtaking New Revelations!!!

So, to recap: what this document, which sent shudders of alarm through the right-wing blogosphere, actually tells us is that Iraqi intelligence surfed the web and printed out a web page about itself.

I think that when you write a blog, or anything else that you expect other people to read, you have an obligation to try to get the facts right. No one can avoid ever making a mistake, of course, but you have an obligation to try. This was a fairly easy story to check: the document is available online, and questions like “what is the FAS?” and “why isn’t this in Arabic?” are pretty obvious ones. And just noticing the url at the bottom and typing it in would have cleared up a lot.

There is a bit more at the link. As documents appear it might be in the interests of conservative bloggers to be a little more rational and skeptical before the shrill shouts of vindication begin; considering that over the last five years they have displayed so much contempt for the truth it is doubtful they’ll change their ways anytime soon.

Deep in China, a Poor and Pious Muslim Enclave

The most recent census found 513,000 Dongxiang people in China, and an overwhelming majority live in and around Dongxiang County. Of the 25 townships in the county, 19 do not have a single Chinese person. Most people do not speak Chinese, and some, like Mr. Tie, have only a vague notion of China, despite living in the middle of it.

The geographic isolation has helped preserve an Islamic culture, as well as an ancient language, but it has also separated the Dongxiang people from the prosperity lifting other parts of China. The Dongxiang, one of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic minorities, are now among China’s poorest and most illiterate people.

This kind of cultural and economic isolation in the 21st century amazes me. There are a few small pictures, the architecture of one of the mosques is quite striking with a minimalist asian facade. No written langauge, a completely oral tradition. Reminds me of early native american traditions.
Veterans’ Voices On Iraq

Iraq was bad, nearly all of them agreed. “Not knowing day to day what was going to happen.” “Hard to figure out who the enemy was.” “Never being able to relax.” “The rules are that there are no rules.”

But it was not bad in the ways they see covered in the media — the majority also agreed on this. What they experienced was more complex than the war they saw on television and in print. It was dangerous and confused, yes, but most of the vets also recalled enemies routed, buildings built and children befriended, against long odds in a poor and demoralized country. “We feel like we’re doing something, and then we look at the news and you feel like you’re getting bashed.” “It seems to me the media had a predetermined script.” The vibe of the coverage is just “so, so, so negative.”

No two sets of memories were identical. This almost goes without saying, but not quite, because it underscores a point made by many of the veterans. Some of the deepest impressions left over from Iraq were not the externals — the sights, sounds, smells, scenes — but the internal marks. In Iraq, they saw, did and endured things they hadn’t seen, done or imagined before, and this affected each one uniquely.

“Each individual over there has his own little war he is fighting,” Army medic Joe Drennan explained. “No two people are going to have the same experiences.” These personal wars add up to the war they share.

I may write some more on this later. It doesn’t surprise me that experiences differ from soldier to soldier, that’s where everyone is entitled to their own truth to some extent. The issue for the center-left has never been whether the troops for the most part had the best of intentions and took their missions seriously, it was that they should not be put in harms way based on lies and a trumped up threat. For many of the boots on the ground its difficult for them to see the bigger picture. Taking a house, finding a particular group of bad guys, clearing a road of IEDs is commendable and contributes to the over all military mission, but after three years are we closer to a victory that hasn’t really been defined. Will Fourth Year Bring Civil War or Peace in Iraq?

After three years at war, Iraq is at what many people believe to be a crossroads: There have been both tentative steps toward a stable democratic government and menacing moves toward civil war.

Since the invasion of Iraq, Americans have helped fix up 825 schools, 13 hospitals and 302 police stations — but were also have been disgraced by the images of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison.

Iraqis have participated in two triumphant elections — only to have the first full-term parliament meet for the first time this week for just 37 minutes.

Much like Iraqis, Americans are divided about the war, and more are losing faith. Only 42 percent now think the war was worth fighting — down nearly 30 percent in three years.

After the bombing of a holy Shiite shrine last month, which set off a wave of religious violence, 80 percent of Americans now predict civil war.

Today, Iraq’s former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, issued an ominous warning. He said the country is already in a civil war and “moving toward the point of no return.”

Its not that there have been no positives on the part of the troops, its a matter of evaluating those positives within the context of the entire narrative. We could have a troop presence in Iraq for years, rebuild even more infrastructure, accomplish a thousand more individuals missions and still have chronic instability.

She drew one out – “scratch!” how it sputtered as it burnt! It gave a warm, bright light, like a little candle, as she held her hand over it. It was really a wonderful light. It seemed to the little girl that she was sitting by a large iron stove, with polished brass feet and a brass ornament. How the fire burned! and seemed so beautifully warm that the child stretched out her feet as if to warm them, when, lo! the flame of the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the half-burnt match in her hand.
She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a flame, and where its light fell upon the wall it became as transparent as a veil, and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a snowy white table-cloth, on which stood a splendid dinner service, and a steaming roast goose, stuffed with apples and dried plums. And what was still more wonderful, the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled across the floor, with a knife and fork in its breast, to the little girl. Then the match went out, and there remained nothing but the thick, damp, cold wall before her.
She lighted another match, and then she found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and more beautifully decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door at the rich merchant’s.

from The Little Match-Seller by Hans Christian Andersen