Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dental Care

Because I would NEVER say anything like "woman with a cockatoo in her mouth".

I guess I was wrong

In a post yesterday, I said "the Iraqi administration wants us IN Iraq". Today, not so much.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shrugged off U.S. doubts of his government's military and political progress on Saturday, saying Iraqi forces are capable and American troops can leave "any time they want."

Not that it will change anything.

Interview with a folk hero

Growing up in San Fransisco, the name Owsley Stanley III was legendary. While I was too young to actually try his LSD (as far as I know), much of what we took was purported to be "purple Owsley". So this interview tickled my memory:
The name Owsley became a noun that appears in the Oxford dictionary as English street slang for good acid. It is the most famous brand name in LSD history. Probably the first private individual to manufacture the psychedelic, "Owsley" is a folk hero of the counterculture, celebrated in songs by the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan.

"I never set out to change the world," he rasps in recalling his early manufacture of LSD. "I only set out to make sure I was taking something (that) I knew what it was. And it's hard to make a little. And my friends all wanted to know what they were taking, too. Of course, my friends expanded very rapidly."

By conservative estimates, Bear Research Group made more than 1.25 million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967, essentially seeding the entire modern psychedelic movement.

I never met him (that I know of. He was notorious for hiding his identity.) but his impact on the San Fransisco of my youth was incredible. I was a deadhead, and he was literally the creator of the Grateful Dead's sound. And there was that LSD thing, which I'm sure had no effect on the course of my life.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Our shrub writes a letter to the armed services committee:

It's official: President Bush will veto any and all measures put forth by Congressional Dems to halt the Iraq War, according to a little-noticed letter from the White House to Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The letter also says that the White House will veto any measure that would tie its hands on Iran -- including on military action inside that country.

That Bush will veto any such measures was expected, and isn't surprising. Nonetheless, the letter makes it official that Congressional Dems face the daunting prospect of having to muster a veto-proof majority on any Iraq or Iran measures. The little-noticed letter can be read right here.

The Iran section of the letter is particularly interesting. It says the White House will veto any Congressional effort to either "direct or prohibit" any military, intelligence or diplomatic action regarding Iran. While the emphasis is clearly on possible restrictions to the president's ability to go
after the Iranians, the most prominent amendment on Iran is Sen. Joe Lieberman's (ID-CT) successful effort to get the Senate to "confront" Iran for alleged attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It'll be interesting to see if that effort, which passed the Senate yesterday on a 97-0 vote, spurs Bush's veto pen.

Aside from the sheer arrogance, wait, did he just claim the authuority to attack Iran?

(bolds mine. via Digby)

Democracy in action

The American people want us OUT of Iraq.
The Iraqi people want us OUT of Iraq.
The American administration want us IN Iraq.
The Iraqi administration want us IN Iraq.
This is being called "democracy".
Any questions?

IBAR: fuck it

I'm giving up on my deconstruction of the IBAR. It's just too frustrating. Bottom line: They tried to put as positive a spin on Iraq as they could and it still looks really bad. When your own propaganda shows more failure than success it's hard to spin it. Our shrub tried to highlight the areas where progress was "satisfactory", but reading the report itself shows a very low bar for such a grade. You can read the report here:
Shrub will continue to say "progress" no matter what the facts say.

Bush to Declare Progress in Iraq on Some Benchmarks

The Bush administration will assert in the next few days that progress in carrying out the new American strategy in Iraq has been satisfactory
on nearly half of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress, according to several
administration officials.

Where have I heard it before? It sounds familiar. Where have I heard the refrain that "we're making progress" in Iraq before? Oh, right. Every year for the last four years of this war.

"The colonel leading the assault says we have denied al Qaeda a major bastion. The
city is cleared. The challenge, of course, is going to be for coalition and Iraqi forces to keep it that way. But we're making progress in Operation Phantom Thunder."

"So while we're making progress, it also is tough. And so the way
to deal with it is to stay on the offense, is to help these Iraqis."

"And victory in Iraq is a country that can sustain itself, govern itself and defend
itself. That's the definition of victory, and we're making progress toward that goal."

"And I'm convinced we're making progress there. But I do urge the
folks on the ground to get that unity government in place, so that the Iraqi
people have confidence in their future."

"And we're making progress when it comes to training the troops.
More and more Iraqis are taking the fight."

"We're making progress because of -- we've got a strategy for victory, and
we're making progress because the men and women of the United States military
are showing magnificent courage and they're making important sacrifices that
have brought Iraq to an historic moment -- the opportunity to build a democracy
that reflects its country's diversity, that serves its people, and is an active
partner in the fight against the terrorists."

"The training of the Iraqi police is an enormous task and, frankly, it hasn't always
gone smoothly. Yet we're making progress -- and our soldiers see the transformation up close."

"We're making progress toward peace. We're making progress toward an ally that will join us in the war on terror, that will prevent al Qaeda from establishing
safe haven in Iraq, and a country that will serve as an example for others who
aspire to live in freedom."

"So on the one hand, we're making progress when it comes to training Iraqis
to take the fight to the enemy, we're bringing the enemy to justice, we're on
the offense. On the other hand, democracy is moving forward in a part of the
world that is so desperate for democracy and so desperate for freedom."

"I'll remind the people that we're making progress on two fronts -- a
political front. The Iraqi people are working hard to reach a consensus on their

"And we're making progress training the Iraqis. Oh, I know it's hard for some
Americans to see that progress, but we are making progress."

"But one of the things that's important to understand is the Iraqi government
understands that as civilian governments change, there needs to be stability in
the military and a chain of command that links top to bottom. And General Casey
knows we're making progress toward establishing that chain of

"And we're making progress toward that goal. We've been there -- it's been 14
months since the fall of Baghdad, and the work has been hard and difficult."

"We're making progress. Yet there still is much work to do. Over the decades of
Saddam's rule, Iraq's infrastructure was allowed to crumble, while money was
diverted to palaces, and to wars, and to weapons programs."

"And we're making progress. There are a few people there in Iraq that want to
claim credit for any situation on the ground, but the people in Fallujah are tired of foreign fighters and radicals and extremists preventing them from living a normal life."

"And so we're making progress, you bet. There's a strategy toward

"But when you think about where the country has come from, it's a relatively short
period of time. And we're making progress."

"Well, one way you measure is how many people you bring to justice. And they feel like they're making good progress."

"The American people know that we laid out the facts, we based the decision on sound intelligence and they also know we've only been there for a hundred days. And we're making progress."

"And so we're making progress. It's slowly but surely making progress of
bringing the -- those who terrorize their fellow citizens to justice, and making
progress about convincing the Iraqi people that freedom is real."

"And we're making progress. There's tangible, visible progress on the ground
there in Iraq."

And it's truly scary that 1 in 4 approve of him.

Boobie the 13th

A blue foot for Friday the 13th.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

one for pygalgia

Gee- sure wouldn't want to be in that boat!

IBAR: Benchmarks 1-3

OK, I've washed my brain. I'm taking this in smaller chunks for the sake of preserving some remnant of sanity.
(i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review.

Assessment: The Government of Iraq has made satisfactory progress toward forming a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) and then completing the constitutional review.

thoughts: They've formed a committee to review the constitution, but they haven't actually done anything. Given everything else that is going on in Iraq, I'm sure the Iraqi people will be glad that there's "satisfactory progress" toward benchmark #1

(ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification

In Recommendation 27, the Iraq Study Group emphasizes the need for United States Government support of reintegration of former Ba’athists and Arab nationalists into civic life. The New Way Forward strategy makes de-Ba’athification reform an integral part of the United States Government’s Iraq policy. The Embassy has
pressed hard on all political elements to move forward.

Assessment: The Government of Iraq has not made satisfactory progress toward enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification

thoughts: Not much re-integration? How about some revenge? Under Saddam, you had to join the Ba'ath party to get a government job (the communist model), so a lot of party members weren't enthusiastic Ba'athists. The upper level members of the party are mostly dead, imprisoned, or have fled the country. It's really only the lower level workers (mostly Sunni) for whom this is an issue.


(iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable
distribution of hydrocarbon resources to the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner

Assessment: The current status is unsatisfactory, but it is too early to tell whether the Government of Iraq will enact and implement legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to all Iraqis.

thoughts: Ah, the oil law. This is the one benchmark that shrub has pushed the hardest on. The parliament has had some meetings on this, usually leading to one group or another walking out. The actual law benefits oil companies, not the people. Since almost all of Iraq's oil is in Shia and Kurdish lands, the Sunni's are (rightly) afraid they'll be shut out. It's unlikely that the current Parliament will be able to resolve an oil law any time soon.
Notice what the first 3 benchmarks have in common? All three are American goals, not necessarily Iraqi goals. As I pointed out in my initial IBAR post, we're grading the progress based on shrub's priorities more that on Iraqi priorities.
Time to take another break.

IBAR: The Overview

The Initial Benchmark Assessment Report (hereafter IBAR) starts with an overview of four areas being assessed with a summary of achievements and shortfalls:
1. Security:

Security: The security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging. Iraqi and Coalition Forces continue to emphasize population security operations in Baghdad, its environs, and Anbar province to combat extremist networks, and create the space for political reconciliation and economic growth. As a result of increased offensive operations, Coalition and Iraqi Forces have sustained increased attacks in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, Diyala, and Salah ad Din. Tough fighting should be expected through the summer as Coalition and Iraqi Forces seek to seize the initiative from early gains and shape conditions for longer-term stabilization.

...These new operations are targeting primarily al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) havens in Baghdad, Babil, Diyala, and Anbar provinces. While AQI may not account for most of the violence in Iraq, it is the organization responsible for the highest profile attacks, which serve as a primary accelerant to the underlying sectarian conflict. We presently assess that degrading AQI networks in these critical areas ‑‑ together with efforts to degrade Iranian-backed Shi’a extremist networks ‑‑ is a core U.S. national security interest and essential for Iraq’s longer-term stability. Since January of this year, AQI has proven its resiliency and ability to conduct high-profile, mass-casualty attacks, mostly targeting Shi’a population centers through suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIEDs) attacks. The number of suicide and SVBIED attacks in March and April approached all-time highs, further exacerbating sectarian tension and making political deals more difficult to close.

Complex and challenging? No Shit! Notice the emphasis on al-Qaida, the universal bogeyman, and Iran. But the report is at least correct in the need for more stability. Shells landing inside the Green Zone almost daily and roughly 100 civilians dying each day aren't exactly positive signs, but the report claims "some progress". I disagree.

2. Political Reconciliation:

Political Reconciliation: Moving key legislation depends on deal-making among major players in a society deeply divided along sectarian, ethnic, and other lines. Meaningful and lasting progress on national reconciliation may also require a sustained period of reduced violence in order to build trust. For this reason, most of the major political benchmarks identified in the legislation ‑- i.e., final passage of monumental pieces of
legislation through Iraq’s Council of Representatives by consensus ‑- are lagging indicators of whether or not the strategy is succeeding or is going to be successful.

Iraq's politics are far from stable, with coalitions changing almost daily (do I need to say this? Go to for more). What is clear is that al-Maliki's government is in peril, the Parliament has not been able to achieve much of anything, and the situation is still in flux.

3. Diplomatic Engagement:

Diplomatic Engagement: Iran and Syria have continued to foster instability in Iraq. As noted, Iran funds extremist groups to promote attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi Government. We see little change in Iran’s policy of seeking U.S. defeat through direct financial and material support for attacks against U.S. military and civilians in Iraq. Iran is engaging in similar activities in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, foreign fighters (especially suicide bombers) continue to use Syrian territory as their main transit route to Iraq. The Syrian Government also allows major insurgent
organizers and financiers to operate in Damascus.

Blame Iran and Syria. While the report does remark on the summit at Sharm el-Shiekh (which didn't accomplish very much) as a positive, it mostly complains about Iran and Syria. This administration doesn't "do" diplomacy, we just tell other countries what we want them to do.

Economics and Essential Services:

Economics and Essential Services: The economic picture is uneven. Key economic indicators paint a modestly improved picture ‑‑ unemployment has eased slightly and inflation is currently abating. Government revenue is steady due to high oil prices, but the Iraqi Government has not yet made needed investments to increase oil and refining output. Private-sector activity is picking up in some areas, notably the more than $1 billion that have been invested in wireless telecoms, but investors remain wary due to poor security and the continuing need for a stronger legal framework. The Iraqi Government has begun to show resolve in initiating budget execution and capital investment to restore services, but citizens nationwide complain about government corruption and the lack of essential services, such as electricity, fuel supply, sewer, water, health, and sanitation.

This is a major disaster area. In Baghdad, electricity has dropped from about 4 hours a day last year to about 2 hours a day now. It's worse in the rest of the country. Safe drinking water is scarce. Prior to the invasion, Iraq was a functioning modern society in spite of the sanctions. In short, this is not progress.

Overall, the report tries very hard to put some positive spin on all four areas. It fails.

OK, later I'll be tackling the 18 "benchmarks" and the grades the report gives on each. I need to take a break to wash my brain.

Reading the IBAR

I'm reading the "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" that our shrub says "shows progress" in Iraq (we've heard that before). The full text is here:
While I hope to deconstruct some of the specifics over the course of the day, here's some initial responses:
1. Very weak standards for what they call "satisfactory". All 8 benchmarks where the "progress" is graded "satisfactory" would be better described "not a total disaster".
2. On 2 benchmarks, the report takes a pass, saying "too soon to tell". Maybe.
3. The 8 benchmarks where the progress is graded "unsatisfactory" include the oil law and various security benchmarks. You know, the important stuff.
4. Some of the "evidence of progress" sited are directly contradicted by the facts on the ground (i.e. reductions in sectarian violence).
5. Lots and lots of references to al-Qaida in Iraq, crediting AQI with much more influence than most analysts would.
6. It's all well and good for the US to set 18 benchmarks for Iraq, but these are American goals, not necessarily Iraqi goals. Reading the Iraqi press I conclude that their goals aren't quite the same as ours, especially the political goals.
7. There's a hell of a lot of propaganda mixed into the report. Our shrub likes to politicize everything.
Like I said, I'll try to get into more detail over the course of the day.
added:graphic from WTF

Pass it on-from Whig

I don't usually copy other people's posts, but this one from Whig at is worthy:

Would you please take one minute to call your member of Congress and ask him or her to vote in favor of the medical marijuana amendment that the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on next week?

It’s easy: Just call the Capitol switchboard operator at (202) 224-3121. Give the operator your zip code and ask to be connected to your U.S. House member; you don’t even need to know your congressperson’s name to do this.

When the receptionist for the congressperson — not the Capitol switchboard operator — answers, say something like: “Hi, this is [name]. I live in [city], and I’m calling to ask that my representative vote for Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s [HIN-chee’s] medical marijuana amendment to the Justice Department’s spending bill, which I understand will be considered on the House floor next week. The amendment would prohibit the Justice Department from spending taxpayer money to arrest medical marijuana patients in the 12 states where medical marijuana is legal.”

Please call now: (202) 224-3121

Make the call. We can debate recreational marijuana, but medical marijuana should be legal to alleviate the pain and suffering of millions.

Not that I think my congress-creep will vote for it, but at least his office "noted my view".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The press

The press gets a new press room. And shrub shows his great respect for the press:

Q What, do you think I'm going to ask a question?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I did think you were going to ask me a question, yes.

Q I am. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, maybe some other time.

Q Oh, but do you think you open --

THE PRESIDENT: See what I'm saying? (Laughter.)

Q You can't come to the press room, especially a modern press room --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, let's do this -- let me cut the ribbon, and --

Q You think anything has changed?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me cut the ribbon -- are you going to cut it with me,
Steve -- and then why don't you all yell simultaneously? (Laughter.) Like, really loudly. (Laughter.) And that way you might get noticed.

Q It doesn't sound like you're going to answer --

THE PRESIDENT: No, I will. I'll, like, listen --

Q And leave?

THE PRESIDENT: -- internalize, play like I'm going to answer the question, and then smile at you and just say, gosh -- (laughter) -- thanks, thanks for such a solid, sound question. Here we go, ready? I'm going to cut the ribbon. (Laughter.) Then you yell. I cogitate -- and then smile and wave. (Laughter.)

Are you going to come, Laura? Here we go.

(The President and Mrs. Bush cut the ribbon.) (Applause.)

Q -- (inaudible) --

THE PRESIDENT: Brilliant question.

Q -- (inaudible) -- cogitating that, right?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. See you soon.

Q We look forward to seeing you come and do a little --

THE PRESIDENT: I will see you soon, thank you.

Q Y'all come back. (Laughter.)

Holy crap, they proudly post this juvenile crap? I know that stupidity and arrogance aren't technically ground for impeachment, but this kind of behavior should be.

Rant-y Day

I guess today is a good day to rant. Both Sweaterman and Ghandisxmas have posted great rants, and I recommend both.
Now I've got one more:
The rethuglicans in the senate have decided to filibuster Webb's amendment, and have basically said that they will filibuster ANY bill calling for any change of course in Iraq. They've used the filibuster to stop almost every bill the house has passed. Can we call them obstructionist? You bet. But will anyone listen?
This is what the rethugs support in Iraq:
On Tuesday, guerrillas launched some 20 katyusha rockets and mortar shells into the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, killing 3 persons, including a US soldier, and wounding 25 persons.
The Green Zone was originally supposed to be the safe place in Iraq, with the area
outside it (everything else) called the "Red Zone." The US Embassy in Baghdad appears to have forgotten what the phrase "Green Zone" means, since a spokesman
there told the LAT, "There's fire into the Green Zone virtually every day, so I can't draw any conclusions about the security situation based on that . . ."
Let me draw the conclusion. If you've got fire into the friggin' Green Zone every day, then we can draw the conclusion that the security situation in Baghdad sucks big time. When you've got people killed and a large number of people wounded in the one place in Iraq that was supposed to have a "permissive" security environment, then security in general is the pits.
Now you might say that we can't draw many conclusions from the events of a single day. And, being able to lob mortar shells over a wall doesn't speak to that much organization. But then what about these two nuggets in the LAT story?
1) "There were about 39 attacks [on the Green Zone] in May, compared with 17 in March, according to a U.N. report."
2) "Tuesday's attack came the same day gunmen kidnapped Iraqi Police Col. Mahmoud Muhyi Hussein, who directs security inside the Green Zone . . .
In other words, the security situation in the Green Zone is spiralling down at an
alarming pace, and the guerrillas have such good inside knowledge that they can
kidnap the very person responsible for security in it, as he drives in Jadiriya. That, my friends, is an inside job. And such an inside job doesn't bode well for future security in the Green Zone. For one thing, presumably they are "debriefing" Col. Hussein as we speak, looking for weak points.

They OWN it. For every soldier killed or wounded in Iraq, we need to shout "this soldier died because of republican obstructionism!". It may not get the media's attention, but it could get our neighbors attention.
OK, enough ranting by me for now. I'm gonna need a beer after all this crap. Hey, Sweaterman and Ghandisxmas, I'll buy the first round. And if any of you readers come by, I'll buy you one too.

The Fear-litzer

It's chillingly white. Maybe it's made of bones! BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!

From yesterday's stories:

Tue Jul 10, 8:25 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has called an urgent multi-agency meeting for Thursday to discuss a potential new al Qaeda threat on U.S. soil, ABC News reported on Tuesday.

Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have been told to meet in the White House Situation Room to report on steps to minimize or counter the threat and what steps are being taken to tighten security at government buildings, ABC said.

Now, if'n there's really something to all of this "urgency" about an imminent attack, then why announce (on a Tuesday) that you want to have an all-important, double-secret-Probation meeting of the big wigs on Thursday? Why wait a couple of days? Travel time? Fuck that, waste some Avgas on some fighter jets and get 'em all there in a few hours. A-and, why get them all together in one place to talk? Isn't that bad security? Don't these folks know about conference calls? Do they all have to be in the same room to absorb or disseminate information? Hasn't a plan been put into place since September 11th, 2001 that will allow coordination between all these agencies?


You mean no plan for coordination has been put into place?

Not even simple conference calls?



Well, you and I feel safer, anyways, right? I mean, there haven't been any events since 9/11, so we must be safer, right? Of course we are. But just not abso-fuckin-lutely safe enough, as the Republicans want to keep reminding us (July 8th, 2007):

In an alarming display of fearmongering, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum has suggested that a series of "unfortunate events," namely terrorist attacks, will occur within the next year and change American citizen's perception of the war.

Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Santorum also hyped the necessity of "confronting Iran in the Middle East," and predicted that Giuliani, Romney and Fred Thompson would be the three surviving Republican candidates who would go head to head in the race for the nomination.

Santorum went on to clearly imply that terror attacks will occur inside America which will alter the body politic and lead to a reversal of the anti-war sentiment now dominating the country.
Or this:

Last month, the new chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party Dennis Milligan said that there needed to be more attacks on American soil for President Bush to regain popular approval.

"At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001]," Milligan told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "And the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country," he concluded.

Now. Wait.

Just. A. Gawd-damned. Minute.

Are we going to fall for that?! For that kind of obvious horseshit? From Republicans who seem to be showing almost a sense of glee that there will again be attacks on American soil? Like they WANT IT TO HAPPEN?!?!?! I mean, little Ricky up there seems like he's going to decompose into his frothy namesake, just thinkin' about it, and Gilligan...errr...Milligan sounds like he looks forward to the mayhem.

Yep, that's right, it's the last trump card any and all Republicans can play, the Fear Factor card. Cue the Fear-litzer! Start your propogandifyin'! Throw the fear of Jay-sus and the onslaught of Islamofacist Muslim hordes into the crowd! Because after all, they surely wouldn't want you to see what's going on elsewhere. As in:

  1. Sara Taylor, that blonde-haired, blue-eyed Stepford-bot aide of our current Fuhrer is testifying before the Senate today. Maybe she'll take the 5th (after all, she's been ordered to by her master, Der Fuhrer Bush himself). But, maybe she won't and she'll spill some beans about the attorney firings. Can't have that, so...LOOK OVER THERE! It's al-Qaeda! RIGHT THERE!
  2. Generalissimo Patraeus is set to release a pre-lim finding of how well the "splurge" is working in Iraq. My guess, not so well. But don't think about that, BE SCARED, SCARED, SCARED!
  3. Harriet Miers still hasn't decided (or still has not answered whether or not she'll blindly follow the "Deciderer's" orders) and testify before the Senate. If not, the American public will soon find out if subpeona power means anything at all, and, basically, if Americans should give a shit about the law of the land. But, we know that's not important, and besides, THERE'S A CAR-BOMB ON YOUR DOORSTEP! AAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!
  4. More prominent Republicans are vocally bailing on Our Glorious Leader's plan for Iraq, and calling him out on it in public. But they're wrong, and the reason they are wrong is because OSAMA IS EATING YOUR PETS! RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!
  5. The House is starting hearings into whether Scooter Libby might have received, oh, shall we say preferential treatment from the White House in regards to that sentence commutation, but never forget that al-Qaeda is training giant attack badgers to MURDER US ALL IN OUR SLEEP! OH THE HUMANITY!

And, that's just this week. Previous weeks have been similar, and I'm sure that future weeks will be the same.

Because it's all they have left.

Like the chronic complainer who just wants to spread their brand of misery throughout the world, Republicans are good at only one thing: spreading fear. Spreading it far and wide and piled a couple of feet thick.

Why? Because deep-down, they are afraid. Spine-tingling, hair-standing paralyzed with afraid-i-ness. Others, who are cautious, but brave, walk on through their lives without giving into teh fear. The Republicans wallow in it and insist that we wallow in it too. But enough is enough, and actually, it has been more than enough for a few years now. Because, see, eventually, that kind of fear-mongering becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and soon enough, becomes part of who each of us is, and most importantly, part of our collective national psyche and culture.

And that's not the kind of America I want to live in. Change "Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave" to "Land of the Contentedly Shackled and Home of the Big, Fat, Cowardly Pussies" and it just goes all sour on me.

I want to live in the kind of America that says, "We know it sounds crazy, but we're goin' to the moon!". Not the kind of America that's afraid to take the dog out for a poop on account of some crazy turban-wearers that are ready to nuke my front lawn. I want to live in the kind of America that says, "By god we've got some pretty country out here. Better save some of it for my grandkids." As opposed to the other kind of America that would as soon pave over the whole place, because then those brown-skins won't be havin' any place to hide. I want to live in the kind of America where I stop and say howdy to my neighbors sitting on the stoop, reach down and pet their dog, and wish them well on my walk to work. Not the kind of America that feels it has to cocoon itself up inside a McMansion somewhere, because the only way they can live, is if they're living amongst their "own kind". I want to live in the kind of America where a schoolkid learns actual, empirical truth (e.g., the earth is a sphere, albeit oblate, but a sphere), instead of learning what's been handed down as dogma for 2000-plus years and is never challenged by anyone. And I want that opportunity for every damn kid in this country. I want to live in the kind of America that every other place in the world looks up to because of our kindness as well as our strength, because even though we don't always get things right, at least we have ideals, and because this country is about the best example of social organization that seems to have come about yet. Not the kind of America where we get respect only because we're the bullying type, the one willing to change anyone else to be "just like us", and if not, well, we'll just get rid of them.

That's the kind of America I want to live in.

So the next time the Republicans bring on teh fear, mock them. Laugh at them. Tell them, to their face, what big, fat, cowardly, pencil-dicks they are, and tell them you're walkin' away, because you've got a life to live or better things to do or even that you need to get away to wash away their piss-scented fear cloud off of you. Tell them that you're the real America and you're grown-up and that you don't have time to cry over every damn little thing any more. Offer to put them in a bassinet, if they want it, and tell them you'll hand them a pacifier, and then, just walk away, and go out and make your America.

More problems for Iraqi's

With everything else going on in Iraq, here' another one:

The Iraqi port city of Basra, already prey to a nasty turf war between rival militia factions, has now been gripped by a new fear -- a giant badger stalking the streets by night.

Local farmers have caught and killed several of the beasts, but this has done nothing to dispel rumours of a bear-like monster that eats humans and was allegedly released into the area by British forces to spread panic.

Iraqi scientists have attempted to calm the public but, amid the confusion and mistrust spawned by the ongoing guerrilla war, the story has spread like wildfire in the streets of the city and the villages round about.

That's right. Giant Badgers in Basra.

"They are native to the region but rare in Iraq. They're nocturnal carnivores with a fearsome reputation, but they don't stalk humans and carry them back to their lair," he said.

Both the scientists and the soldiers agree that the badger ought not to be a danger to humans, but so far they have failed to reassure the populace.

OK, they're not really all that dangerous. But they do sound kinda scary.

"I was sleeping at night when this strange animal hit me on my head. I have not seen such an animal before. My husband hurried to shoot it but it was as swift as a deer," said Suad Hassan, a 30-year-old housewife.

"It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey. It runs so quickly."

Here's a pic:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The honey badger, or ratel, is known as a brave predator capable of killing a cobra. It weighs up to 14 kilos (30 pounds), not usually known as man-eater.

Thanks, Chertoff

So our brilliant homeland security guy is warning that terrorists just might want to attack us, because it's summer. Guess they like warm weather or some such.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune that he had a “gut feeling” about a new period of increased risk.

He based his assessment on earlier patterns of terrorists in Europe and intelligence he would not disclose.

“Summertime seems to be appealing to them,” Chertoff said in his discussion with the newspaper about terrorists. “We worry that they are rebuilding their activities.”He added, “I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk.”

Let me explain it for you: terrorists would like to attack us, but only on days that end in "y". Most of us know this. Your job is to stop them. When you make these kinds of public pronouncements, you're just fear-mongering. If you have a specific threat, get to work. But don't waste are time trying to scare us.

If the Bush Fear Machine six years after 9/11 still sees a need to scare the base with threats like this to justify the Escalation To Nowhere, then its time for JayRockefeller and Silvestre Reyes to drag Chertoff's butt to a hearing. Chertoff says that their concerns about Al Qaeda stem from their resurgence and regrouping in the areas along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. If this is the reason for the new fear campaign, Democrats need to ask why then did the Bush Administration encourage Pervez Musharraf to allow the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup there in the first place?

Bin Laden is still free nearly six years after Tora Bora because Bush needs him to be free.

I'm not saying that the terrorist threat isn't real. It is. al-Qaida and their ilk have come right out and said they want to attack us. They want us to be afraid. And your stupid statements only help them. I would hope that you're department is actually trying to prevent such attacks. But here's the important thing: most Americans aren't fearful. We're courageous. Life is dangerous by it's very nature (heck, today's forecast calls for lightning in my area. People get killed by lightning. We aren't hiding under our beds though.).
Lot's of blogs think the fear-mongering is to distract us from other issues, and I agree that it's the intent. But I don't think it works anymore. We've heard "wolf" so many times, but we have lives to live.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

it ain't ALL bad folks!

here is a buddhist monk and a dancing cat.

Fun at the All Star game

Oooh, here's another reason to watch the All Star game this evening:
Online activists raised enough money in two hours Monday afternoon to fly a banner encouraging the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over AT&T Park in San Francisco before Tuesday's baseball All Star Game.

Although I doubt the corporate TV masters will let it be shown.
Added: it's on Faux, so no showing. Anybody out there got photo's?

Something Lighter

I need something less depressing at the top of the page. How about this?

Cactus in bloom.

The cost of occupation

No, not just the $12 billion a month. It's the human cost that will haunt us for decades to come. This is just plain tragic:
With no end yet in sight for the long dark night of the Iraq war, The Nation magazine is coming out this week with an article that goes into great and disturbing detail about the brutal treatment of Iraqi civilians by some U.S. soldiers and marines.

The article does not focus on the handful of atrocities that have gotten substantial press coverage, like the massacre in Haditha in November 2005. Instead, based on interviews conducted on the record with dozens of American combat veterans of the war, the authors address what they describe as frequent acts of violence in which U.S. forces have abused or killed Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — with impunity.

The combination of recklessness, wantonly destructive behavior born of panic and
deliberate acts of cold-blooded violence by G.I.’s are believed to have cost the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the article says. The soldiers interviewed said they believed that only a minority of U.S. troops engaged in objectionable behavior, but the toll of their actions has been huge.

The long occupation has a dehumanizing effect on our soldiers. They've been stuck in an alien culture, where they don't know the language or customs, can't tell friend from foe, and have no workable mission plan.
The article describes soldiers and marines frustrated and fearful in an alien environment in which the enemy hides among civilians and uses acts of terror as
the primary tactic. “The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and
the devastating effects of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis,” said the authors, Chris Hedges, a former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, and Laila al-Arian.

Returning soldiers that I've talked to (including the Marine below) have expressed how frustrated they were about the inability to identify the enemy. While they try to do their duty honorably, it's not surprising if some begin to blame all Iraqi's.
Accidents, even those caused by recklessness, are bad enough. More disturbing
are the incidents described in the article in which G.I.’s routinely abused civilians. Among the worst abuses have been the shootings of innocent civilians and the improper arrests that have occurred in the course of raids carried out by soldiers and marines looking for insurgents.

There have been thousands of such raids. An extraordinary number of them — the vast majority, according to the interviews for article — were exercises in futility, yielding nothing but grief and terror for the innocent families whose homes were invaded.

“So you have all these troops, and they’re all wound up,” said Army Sgt. John Bruhns of Philadelphia, who participated in many raids while serving in Baghdad and Abu
Ghraib. “And a lot of them think once they kick down the door there’s going to be people on the inside waiting for them with weapons to start shooting at them.”

In most cases, there is nothing more than a terrified family on the other side of the door.[Bob Herbert, NYTimes Select]

And, after over four years, Tony Snow says this:
MR. SNOW: No, he's -- again, we have just started the course. The course has just begun.


Remember (as recent as last week) the administration's attempts to conflate Iran with Al-Queda? Someone forgot to tell them that they were co-operating:

CAIRO, Egypt - The leader of an al-Qaida umbrella group in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shiites in Iraq within two months, according to an audiotape released Sunday.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the group Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.

“We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shiite government.

Long ago, I made the point that Al-Queda is a strictly Sunni group, whereas Iran is fundementalist Shia.

We really would be better off if we at least talked wtih Iran.

Monday, July 9, 2007

tuesday tortoise

Some of ya'll may already be familiiar with Pygalgia's tradition of posting booby pictures on Fridays. I've decided to post tortoises on Tuesdays. Actually, I'm posting on a Monday. I may not be this bored tomorrow.

Please stop

I see that the Senate is ready to tackle an issue important to all Americans:
Oh, and on Thursday, the Judiciary Committee will move on to the weighty subject of too many Americans not knowing the words to the national anthem and will consider S. Res. 236, "a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of the National Anthem Project, which has worked to restore America's voice by re-teaching Americans to sing the national anthem."

To which I say "please don't". The last thing we need is more people attempting to sing a song that is routinely butchered by professionals. The amateurs should not be encouraged.

An Attorney Speaks

John S. Koppel on the DOJ scandal:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

This is the real scandal:
In more than a quarter of a century at the DOJ, I have never before seen such consistent and marked disrespect on the part of the highest ranking government policymakers for both law and ethics. It is especially unheard of for U.S. attorneys to be targeted and removed on the basis of pressure and complaints from political figures dissatisfied with their handling of politically sensitive investigations and their unwillingness to "play ball." Enough information has already been disclosed to support the conclusion that this is exactly what happened here, at least in the case of
former U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico (and quite possibly in several others as well). Law enforcement is not supposed to be a political team sport, and prosecutorial independence and integrity are not "performance problems."

And this paragraph should be read by every member of congress:
In his long-awaited but uninformative testimony concerning the extraordinary firings of U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales did not allay these concerns. Indeed, he faced a no-win situation. If he testified falsely regarding his alleged lack of recollection and lack of involvement, he perjured himself and lied to both Congress and the American people. On the other hand, if he told the truth, he clearly has been derelict in the performance of his duties and is not up to the job. Either way, his fitness to serve is now in doubt.

I appreciate his courage.

I realize that this constitutionally protected statement subjects me to a substantial risk of unlawful reprisal from extremely ruthless people who have repeatedly taken such action in the past. But I am confident that I am speaking on behalf of countless thousands of honorable public servants, at Justice and elsewhere, who take their responsibilities seriously and share these views. And some things must be said, whatever the risk.

The views presented in this essay are not representative of the Department of Justice or its employees but are instead the personal views of its author.

John S. Koppel has been a civil appellate attorney with the Department of Justice since 1981.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tommy, can you hear me?

One of the blogs I follow (hey, we started before he did) is
There are still a few news sources suggesting that The Who are playing a part in
the Live Earth Festival. We are not, but this should not be taken as a rebuff, we know what the organizers are trying to achieve. We were not invited. We are playing at Roskilde in Denmark, and so have not had to do what most participants must have done, which is to work out how to balance the Ying against the Yang of the whole thing. Festivals are energy consuming, but at least they involve gatherings of large numbers of real people coming together in a common cause, with joy, humour and optimism.

If you don't know who (WHO) Pete Townshend is, please stop reading this blog.
In London change has been forced on us. Traffic Congestion charging is an extreme
way to get people to travel on trains and buses. It seems to be working. Many more people are riding push-bikes to work as well. I am not soft. I can ride a bike with little effort, even at 62 years old. I do love my car, but I don't mind walking or riding a bike. Roger and the band have made several long journeys on this European tour by train. I often use the train from my home town to central London. Once, when I mentioned the wonder of our local train service to Mick Jagger in a documentary, the British press took the piss. Better I buy a Hybrid car? Better I keep my old one and use it less I think.

But you don't need Pop Stars telling you how to save the planet. Neither do you need
news services telling you the uncaring, selfish Pete Townshend travels with seventy guitar cases. (I carry about fifteen). Exaggeration has always been my weakness. Seventy does sound better. It's just not true. But when the Live Earth events are cited in the same news services as producing as much carbon as Afghanistan, you can see how lazy web-'journalism' creates hysteria, anger and pointless jealousy. Someone else suggested we travel with 1,000 tons of equipment (this extrapolated from the earlier report that we had 1,000 cases). I think 1,000 tons might be the weight of a small aircraft carrier you chumps. We all want to do our bit. What about next tour we don't take the surface to air missiles?

This was weird.

Weddings and Bars

I just performed a wedding in a bar (yes, I am an ordained minister) . Some may wonder why people get married, but this one was clear. He's going for a fifth deployment. She just got back from Iraq. Short story: they both are serving our country. He's a Marine, she's Army Reserve. They wanted to be married before he left. So I was happy to wed them.
The next person who tells me that I "don't support the troops" better be ready to tell a marine.
(and yes, that is the couple who got married).

A Story of a Moose

I was asked (in real life, not the comments) about what I wrote in "8 random things about myself" where I said "Yes Gary, I stole the moose. But the moose really wanted to be stolen". Last night, at a friends b'day party, I was asked "did you really steal a moose?".
(Oh, come on. I bet a lot of you have.)
So I got to tell the story. It goes something like this:
Years back, I was a mental health counselor in a large hospital. The head administrator had in his office a stuffed moose. I mean, a real taxidermist stuffed moose. He got it at some estate sale, and kept it beside his desk as a curiosity. Yeah, he was a fun boss.
Every year on April 1st, I would break into his office and take the moose (sidetrack: I've always enjoyed picking locks. I started as a kid. It was the challenge. I've never been a burglar or a thief. Locks are to me what crossword puzzles are to some people.) and then hide the moose somewhere in the hospital. As soon as the administrator found out the moose was missing, he would confront me with "where's the moose?". I, of course, would say "what moose?". The fun was hiding the moose various places in the hospital. The morgue, x-ray, the nurses changing room, and of course beside the helicopter landing pad on the roof. I mean, if you have a moose where should you put it?
The moral of this story is if your gonna have a moose, you're just asking for a moose-napping.

al-Maliki may be out soon

Nouri al-Maliki may face a "no confidence" vote, according to CBS:
That has led senior Iraqi leaders to demand drastic change. CBS News has learned that on July 15, they plan to ask for a no-confidence vote in the Iraqi parliament as the first step to bringing down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Even those closest to the Iraqi prime minister, from his own party, admit the political situation is desperate.

"I feel there is no strategy, so the people become hopeless," said Faliy al Fayadh, an MP from the Dawa party.

I really don't see any way he can pull together enough votes to win. While al-Maliki may have the best intentions (I'll emphasize "may") he's always been vulnerable. I'm not passing judgement, but it still appears to me that Moqtada al-Sadr has positioned himself to be the "kingmaker". His power base has been a coalition of parties that have diverse interests.
Al-Maliki has announced his own alliance to try save his government, but even his vice president says that's little more than a short-term fix.

"Cosmetic change is not going to serve the interests of Iraqis is not going to stabilize, is not going to improve security , what we need is much bigger that that," said al Hashimi, the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party.

Leaders of the Iraq Project claim they have the necessary votes to force al-Maliki to resign, but that has yet to be tested in parliament. For now, the U.S. is still standing by the Iraqi leader – publicly at least.

As always, Juan Cole:
They would need 138 seats to unseat al-Maliki, however, and it is not clear that they would have them. The 58 Kurdish deputies will vote for al-Maliki, and he would only need 80 Shiite votes to win the vote. Even with the defection from his alliance of 32 Sadrist MPs and 15 from the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), al-Maliki probably still has 80 Shiite MPs behind him (before the defections he had about 130 in his United Iraqi Alliance, so the defections should have left him with 88). It is also not clear that the Sadrist and Islamic Virtue MPs will actually vote with Sunni fundamentalist parties to unseat a Shiite prime minister.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that al-Maliki has put together an alliance of 'moderate'
, including the Da'wa (Islamic Call) Party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (Shiite, leans toward Iran), and the Kurdistan Alliance. Da'wa has 24 seats in parliament, SIIC has 30, and the Kurds have 58. That gives them 112. For a stable government they need another 26 at least. There are some Shiite independents in the United Iraqi Alliance that still support al-Maliki, and he is hoping to peel off one of the three parties (the Iraqi Islamic Party) that make up the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accord Front, so as to put him over the top. (When he made these plans, I don't think al-Maliki realized that the Iraq Islamic Party's head, VP Tariq al-Hashimi, was planning to try to unseat him). So it is close, but al-Maliki may still have a simple majority behind him.

And I must quote this from Prof. Cole:
Readers sometimes ask me if analyzing the news from Iraq every day doesn't get me down.

It got me down today. Sunni Arab guerrillas, unable to operate as effectively in Baghdad because of the US troop surge, had a suicide bomber drive a truck loaded with explosives into a market in a village on the fringes of the northern city of Tuz Khurmato and detonate his payload. As I write, authorities had counted 130 dead bodies, many of them women and children, and relatives reported another 20 dead. Another 250 or so were wounded, some of them badly, according to the Arabic daily al-Hayat. The latter says Iraqis are referring to the bombing as "the Turkmen massacre." Some 40 homes, 20 shops, and a dozen automobiles were also destroyed.

Too little, too late

This from Colin Powell today:

THE former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.

“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

So he spent a whole 2 1/2 hours trying to talk shrub out of the war? I'm sure the 3,600 or so dead soldiers appreciate that level of effort.

Powell has become increasingly outspoken about the level of violence in Iraq, which he believes is in a state of civil war. “The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty to watch, but I don’t know any way to avoid it. It is happening now.”

He added: “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.” All the military could do, Powell suggested, was put “a heavier lid on this pot of boiling sectarian stew”.

Colin, it's not like you had some sort of public forum to oppose the war from or anything. I mean, like talking to the UN. I seem to recall a presentation that you made, but I don't recall it being in opposition to the war.

What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts on Iraq's behavior demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort -- no effort -- to disarm as required by the international community.

Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime
are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.

Not exactly a profile in courage.