Archive for June 4th, 2007

RIP Spike

My sister’s lizard, who just inexplicably stopped eating. I was really very fond of Spike, even though I’m pretty sure he didn’t like me.

I’m sure there is an endless supply of tasty crickets in Lizard Heaven.

29 comments June 4th, 2007 at 08:48pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

What Have We Become?

Perhaps the most telling line from WaPo’s chilling story about torturers interrogators:

Then a soldier’s aunt sent over several copies of Viktor E. Frankel’s Holocaust memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Lagouranis found himself trying to pick up tips from the Nazis. He realized he had gone too far.

Umm… yeah. When you’re trying to use the Nazis as role models, you have lost your way.

Read the whole thing. I can’t really feel sorry for him, but the American interrogator really is a complete mess. The story also profiles former British and Israeli interrogators, and they’re not exactly normal. Unless you’re a total xenophobe or sociopath, it’s hard to imagine that not having an extreme effect on your psyche.

Good thing the military is loosening its standards to let in more sociopaths, eh?

12 comments June 4th, 2007 at 06:02pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Prisoners,Torture,War

The Blame Game

Shorter Bob Kagan:

It’s unfair and dishonest to blame the Iraqis for the fact that Iraq is a hopeless mess… Blame al Qaeda instead!

I guess as long as we’re not blaming Dubya and his enablers, it’s all good.

3 comments June 4th, 2007 at 05:33pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Media,Republicans,Wankers,War

Quote Of The Day

Dubya’s soulmate, Vladimir Putin:

I am an absolute and pure democrat. But you know what the misfortune is? Not even a misfortune but a real tragedy? It’s that I am alone, there simply aren’t others like this in the world…. After the death of Mahatma Gandhi, there’s nobody to talk to.

AP notes that he laughed in the middle of this, so hopefully he was not entirely serious…

20 comments June 4th, 2007 at 04:38pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes


Fascinating story about dog brains in today’s WaPo:

The provocative new experiment indicated that dogs can do something that previously only humans, including infants, have been shown capable of doing: decide how to imitate a behavior based on the specific circumstances in which the action takes place.

“The fact that the dogs imitate selectively, depending on the situation — that has not been shown before,” said Friederike Range of the University of Vienna, who led the study. “That’s something completely new.”


The study was inspired by research with human infants. Fourteen-month-olds will imitate an adult turning on a light with her forehead only if they see her doing it with her hands free. If the adult is clutching a blanket, infants will use their hands, presumably because they can reason that the adult resorted to using her forehead because she had no choice.


To determine whether an animal could respond similarly, Range and her colleagues trained Guinness, a female border collie, to push a wooden rod with her paw to get a treat. A dog generally does not use its paws to do tasks, preferring to use its mouth whenever possible. So the key question was whether dogs that watched Guinness would decide how to get the treat depending on the circumstances.

After making sure the owners could not influence their pets’ behavior, researchers tested three groups of dogs. The first 14, representing a variety of breeds, did not watch Guinness. When taught how to use the rod, about 85 percent pushed it with their mouth, confirming that is how dogs naturally like to do things.

The second group of 21 dogs watched Guinness repeatedly push the rod with her paw while holding a ball in her mouth. In that group, most of the dogs — about 80 percent — used their mouth, imitating the action but not the exact method Guinness had used. That suggested the dogs — like the children — decided Guinness was only using her paw because she had no choice.


The third group of 19 dogs watched Guinness repeatedly use a paw on the rod with her mouth free. Most of those dogs — 83 percent — imitated her behavior exactly, using their paws and not their mouth. That suggested they concluded there must be some good reason to act against their instincts and do it like Guinness.

“The behavior was very similar to the children who were tested in the original experiment,” said Zsofia Viranyi of Eotvos University in Budapest, who helped conduct the experiment, published in the May 15 issue of the journal Current Biology. “Whether they imitate or not depends on the context. It’s not automatic, insightless copying. It’s more sophisticated. There’s a kind of inferential process going on. ”


The findings stunned many researchers.

“What’s surprising and shocking about this is that we thought this sort of imitation was very sophisticated, something seen only in humans,” said Brian Hare, who studies dogs at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. “Once again, it ends up dogs are smarter than scientists thought.”

The experiment suggests that dogs can put themselves inside the head of another dog — and perhaps people — to make relatively complex decisions.

“This suggests they can actually think about your intention — they can look for explanations of your behavior and make inferences about what you are thinking,” Hare said.

Others go even further, suggesting the findings indicate that dogs have a sense of awareness.

“It really shows a higher level of consciousness,” said Stanley Coren at the University of British Columbia, who studies how dogs think. “This takes a real degree of consciousness.”

I’m really more of a cat person, but this is still pretty cool.

Also, just how big is the field of Dog Studies anyway?

5 comments June 4th, 2007 at 11:36am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science

G.W. Bush, Strategeric Genius

So, how’s that Surge workin’ out for us? NYT has an update:

Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.


The operation “is at a difficult point right now, to be sure,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the deputy commander of the First Cavalry Division, which has responsibility for Baghdad.

In an interview, he said that while military planners had expected to make greater gains by now, that has not been possible in large part because Iraqi police and army units, which were expected to handle basic security tasks, like manning checkpoints and conducting patrols, have not provided all the forces promised, and in some cases have performed poorly.

That is forcing American commanders to conduct operations to remove insurgents from some areas multiple times. The heavily Shiite security forces have also repeatedly failed to intervene in some areas when fighters, who fled or laid low when the American troops arrived, resumed sectarian killings.


The last of the five combat brigades ordered to Iraq as reinforcements as part of the security plan will increase the number of American troops in the city to around 30,000, up from 21,000 before the operation, an American officer said.

In addition, around 30,000 Iraqi Army and national police forces and another 21,000 policemen have been deployed in Baghdad. Many of the Iraqi units have turned up at less than full strength and other units have been redeployed from the capital, General Brooks said, leaving fewer than expected.


In addition to carrying out sectarian killings, the Mahdi Army controls two of the area’s three gas stations, which refuse to sell to most Sunnis. Gunmen regularly attacked trash trucks when they entered Sunni areas until the American military began providing security. Sunni homes are also the targets of arson attacks if their occupants fail to heed warnings to leave, he said.

Sunni insurgents have fought back as well, with two large car bomb attacks in largely Shiite sections of Baya and Ameel that killed more than 60 people, officers said.

The sectarian violence was especially disheartening to some American officers because it occurred in May, the same month that they were undertaking the centerpiece of the Baghdad security plan – a neighborhood clearing operation.

The battalion’s troops, augmented by more than 2,000 soldiers in armored Stryker vehicles, went block by block through the neighborhood, arresting suspected insurgents and destroying arms caches.

But since the Stryker unit has moved on to a different area of Baghdad, “there’s been a reinfiltration” by Shiite fighters and intimidation squads, who had left the area when the operation began, said Capt. Tim Wright, the company commander responsible for the neighborhood.


When Colonel Frank went to the Ameel police station recently accompanied by a reporter and asked for help in capturing a local Shiite sheik believed to be behind the bombings, the police official he was meeting with spoke in a whisper. “They listen to us,” he said, pointing to a ventilation grill on his wall. “I am in danger just by meeting with you.”

A few weeks earlier, angered by the attacks on his soldiers, Colonel Frank ordered a video camera hidden near an abandoned swimming pool along a main road in Ameel, near a police checkpoint, where patrols had been hit repeatedly.

When the video was examined after another attack, it showed two Iraqi policemen talking with companions, who were heard off-camera, apparently laying an explosive device. Minutes after the policemen were seen driving away, the camera showed a powerful bomb detonating as an American Humvee came into view.


After police commanders were confronted with the video in mid-May, six Iraqi officers were arrested, Colonel Frank said.

But the episode has not been forgotten. At a weekly meeting where military commanders and police chiefs sit around a horseshoe-shaped conference table at one of the American bases, Capt. Adel Fakry, the Ameel police commander, complained that American soldiers on patrol were showing “distrust” toward his officers.

“The reason there is distrust,” Colonel Frank responded, his voice rising, “is because I have a video of six Iraqi officers placing a bomb against my soldiers, and they came from your station.”

There had been “some mistakes,” Captain Fakry responded, looking taken aback by the confrontation. Not all of the six officers were from his station, he added before ending the conversation by flipping open his cellphone and making a call while the meeting continued.

The same distrust has hampered relations throughout Baghdad since the strategy began. In Shula, a neighborhood just east of Kadhimiya, north of Rashid, American troops in March discovered a group of Iraqis in police uniforms setting up an E.F.P. near a bridge. They were using police vehicles to provide cover.

Clearly, the insurgents’ infiltration into the Iraqi police can only be a sign of their last-throe desperation.

I think, just maybe, it might be time to acknowledge that if the Iraqi forces still haven’t “stood up” after four years of training and US pressure, THEY NEVER WILL. Any plan that depends on the performance of Iraqi troops or police WILL FAIL. I don’t see why this is so hard to grasp, and yet every time Dubya comes up with one of these magical “I’ll get out of debt by winning the Powerball” plans, the media and pundits pretend that it’s something other than wishful fantasy or outright dishonesty.

When the president wants to stay in Iraq forever, and doesn’t care about the safety of Iraqis or Americans, the unreliability of Iraqi forces is more feature than bug.

1 comment June 4th, 2007 at 11:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,War

Monday Media Blogging

Stupid TV edition:

24 parody. Special Agent Tom Rogers has… a lot of daughters.
Contestant on the British version of The Apprentice demonstrates how not to sell a trampoline.

(h/t shadowy and mysterious Codename V. and Codename M.)

5 comments June 4th, 2007 at 07:25am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

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