(What would Don Johnson do?) Some 84 Hollywood stars have taken a controversial political stand: They're in favor of democracy and opposed to terrorism (article here). Well, good. Mighty white of them. (Julia and Steve M. chime in on the celebrity-political complex.) Here's what the celebrity signatories had to say: We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organisations such as … [Read more...]

3.14159265 …

The area of the circle of the barrel of a gun The Third Geneva Convention forbids the inhumane treatment of prisoners of war. This treaty was signed by nearly everybody -- more than 120 nations -- including the United States, whose ratification of it made it legally binding in this country. The Third Geneva Convention provides an unambiguous legal framework, so it becomes an obvious first response to the appalling question: Why is torture unacceptable? Torture is unacceptable because it is … [Read more...]

Standing on a beach …

I'd been right, I was still right, I was always right. President Bush, Tony Snow tells us, read Albert Camus' novel The Stranger during his vacation in Crawford, Texas. Steve Benen -- crossposting at Crooks & Liars and The Carpetbagger Report -- finds this hard to believe. So do I. Even staunch Republicans have raised questions about Bush's intellect, but it's not just that. It's that it would be hard to imagine a novel that was more out-of-character for George W. … [Read more...]

How I learned that song

From a comments thread at Crooks & Liars I find this link: "Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome." And so, a story. * * * * * … [Read more...]

Terrorists are Bad

Let's try another angle: Nobody likes terrorists, right? I mean, those of us who aren't terrorists can all agree that, you know, terrorism is Bad and terrorists are Bad People, right? I see most of you nodding but a few of you -- that bunch there in the back -- look worried. You're probably wondering if this is some kind of trick question. It's not. Or at least not in the wingnut sense of pretending-everybody-I-disagree-with-is-a-terrorist-and/or-lover-of-terrorists (such … [Read more...]

Perverse arithmetic

"You're not allowed to kill civilians" is not exclusively, or even primarily, a legal statement. Like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this prohibition is spelled out in international law. But, like those rights, it precedes this particular legal formulation. Just as the Universal Declaration is not the source of the human rights it affirms, so too international law is not the source of the prohibition against killing civilians. But let's save the metaphysics for … [Read more...]


In a better world, today would not need to be remembered as the 61st anniversary of the dishonorable, indiscriminate slaughter of Nagasaki. It would instead be remembered primarily as the 70th anniversary of the day that James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens won his fourth gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin running the first leg of the United States' world-record-setting 400-meter relay. * * * * * I missed another important anniversary on Sunday. August 6 was the fifth anniversary … [Read more...]


Sixty-one years ago today, my country dropped an atomic bomb on a nonmilitary target: In the closing days of World War Two, the United States dropped a 10,000-pound plutonium-239 bomb, nicknamed "Fat Man," on Nagasaki. It exploded about 500 meters (1,600 feet) above the ground, instantly killing about 27,000 of the city's estimated population of around 200,000. By the end of 1945, the number of dead due to acute radiation exposure reached about 70,000. The names of 2,831 people … [Read more...]