Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Story for Dcup

(about a month ago, I promised Dcup at PoliTits a story that involved sex and pickup trucks. This isn't the best one.)
Back in the dark ages (for me, around 1977), they started growing "sinsemilla" in Northern California. At the time, most of the "pot-heads" were into "columbian" or "jamaican" or "maui wowie", but I was an early fan of "homegrown". It started as a cheap thing, but I watched it become chic, and I had the inside track.
I found myself involved with a lady for whom life was a constant adventure, who taught me the principle of THANOR: "There Are No Rules". She called herself "Cat", even though her real name was "Cathy". It was a strange time. I had just finished working 4 months on a Grateful Dead tour, with a few weeks before the next semester, and she showed up as my neighbor. She was a stripper from Anchorage, Alaska, who had come back to help care for her ill mother, who lived next door. She was a few years older than I. It was a match made in San Francisco.
I had to make a "run" up to a place in a part of No.Cal. that meant going places that normal people avoid. I owned 2 vehicles at the time. "Cat" had been out in my (very nice) SAAB 99 Turbo. But the SAAb is not a good back woods wilderness "this ain't a road. It's a goat trail" vehicle.
For that I had: The 1963 Willy's pickup. A "Jeep" back when it meant something. It was called "the old #2". I did a great job of maintaining the parts that kept it running, but the "cosmetics" were neglected. That truck would go anywhere.
So Cat and I head north together. For some reason, she was uncomfortable with seeing the road through the floorboards, so I stopped off at my Uncle's to get a piece of plywood to cover the hole in the floor. She wasn't all that impressed by my act of chivalry, but she looked much less in a state of panic. So I was a little late a transaction. But we made it.
We're coming back down the coast when she says "I wanna screw. Pull over somewhere." So I thought I found a place. Not a really romantic place, but a place.
We throw the old sleeping bag out across the bed of the pickup for padding, and have at it. I was young then, and believed that I was a sexual superstar. She was a very vocal woman, so our sex was far from quiet.
What I missed was that there was a nightclub overlooking where we parked to screw. When I heard the round of applause, I realized that the back of a pickup truck is open. Cat then waved to the audience. I was not so composed. I was a little concerned that someone might call the cops, as there were 10 lbs. of illegal substance in the cab. We got back on the road.
I'm glad there weren't digital cameras in 1977

A San Juan Picture

Needed something nice to look at.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Red Footed Boobie

Happy Friday. Here's a Red Footed Boobie, who also cares about global climate.

The Nobel Mr. Gore

Al Gore, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Congratulations to Al Gore on the Nobel Peace Prize, you deserve it. When you're done saving the planet, could you come back and save America? We'd appreciate it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Third Rail Theme

Tell me what you think:
"The party of the first part
and the party of the next
were partly participled
in a sparsely covered text"
"Were you partial to a party
that has parceled out its parts
to a faction that was second
in your parley-tickle heart?"
Walt Kelly, 1953.
This poem from 54 years ago.

Lost Another Friend

My old friend Dougal left us. He was a fine old Aussie gent who went down the river with me a bunch of times. His health had been bad over the past couple of years, but he never lost his dry wit. I'll miss you, buddy.

Birthday Party

Happy Birthday wishes go out to frequent commenter and inspiration Dcup at PoliTits. She's one of my favorite reads, a smart, sexy lady with a perfect mix of humor and outrage. Today's post on the housing market is a prime example. Go read, and give her a good solid teasing for her birthday.

(Cake baked on the San Juan river)

The Refugees

The simplest way to see what a disaster our occupation of Iraq has been is the refugee crisis. But at least in Jordan, the children are going to school:

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- In the sunbathed schoolyard of the Shmisani Institute for Girls in Amman, Jordan, principal Sanaa Abu Harb makes an announcement over the speaker system.

"All Iraqi girls come outside now. All Iraqi girls. Iraqi girls only!" she repeats several times, making sure the message is clear and waving away Jordanian pupils attracted by the commotion.Dozens of girls in green apron-like uniforms pour out into the courtyard and cluster on the top level of a stone staircase overlooking a concrete playground.

Harb wants the CNN crew to see how many Iraqi refugee girls her school is accommodating. This school year, she says, 145 students are Iraqi -- roughly 20 percent of the students at this state-funded institution -- with another 40 Iraqi children on a waiting list. VideoWatch Iraqi girls describe a long way from home »

The reason behind the jump in the number of Iraqis at the school is a new government policy: For the first time since the start of the Iraq war, Jordan is allowing all Iraqi children -- regardless of refugee status -- to enroll in state-funded schools.

Simply, this means that even illegal refugees with no paperwork can send their kids to school with no questions asked.

The move is cementing a massive population shift in the Middle East. More than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled the violence in their homeland, most of them seeking refuge in neighboring Jordan and Syria, according to humanitarian officials.

Jordanian Minister of Education Khalid Touqan says he expects Jordan to accommodate 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi students this year. That's more than double the number of Iraqi children enrolled in public school two years ago.

Harb, on the front line of the phenomenon, says the influx is putting a strain on her school. Even with some U.N. and U.S. aid to Jordan, there's still not enough money.

"We need more teachers here, more resources, more buildings, more chairs for all Iraqi students and our students," she says.

In a nearby neighborhood, in the study room of the Ahmed Toukan School for Boys, a handful of Iraqi kids talk of their experience living far from home. Seated at a rectangular table covered with a red and white tablecloth, the boys tell stories of horror and displacement.

Eighteen-year-old Qutaiba lost five immediate family members before moving to Jordan to try to live a normal life. Matter-of-factly and with a straight-ahead stare, he repeats the number: "Five members."

Most of the boys and young men from Iraq have missed several years of school -- up to a four-year educational gap that will delay not only their high school graduation, but also their entry into the workforce.

All say, though, that they feel lucky to have gotten out, even if the violence in their country means always having to be on the move, ready to live far from home and away from loved ones.

"It's not strange for me to be in the middle of people I don't know," says
eleventh grader Ziad Tarek Al Shamsi. "I had friends in Iraq when I was small, I left them. In America, I left them. I came here, I left them."

He pauses: "But you have to miss your country."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates up to 250,000 school-age Iraqi children are in Jordan.

The pro-war types will try to spin any little sign of "progress" as proof that we need to stay in Iraq, but the stark reality of roughly 4.5 million people displaced is clear evidence of the human tragedy.

World's Oldest Painting?


Found in Syria, the oldest (known) painting in the world:

French archaeologists have discovered an 11,000-year-old wall painting underground in northern Syria which they believe is the oldest in the world.

The 2 square-meter painting, in red, black and white, was found at the Neolithic settlement of Djade al-Mughara on the Euphrates, northeast of the city of Aleppo, team leader Eric Coqueugniot told Reuters.

"It looks like a modernist painting. Some of those who saw it have likened it to work by (Paul) Klee. Through carbon dating we established it is from around 9,000 B.C.," Coqueugniot said.;_ylt=ApkCTGMOy1IXOffiSwkTkOPK.nQA

Another reason to prevent "the Cheney" from starting a war with Syria.

A Call For Peace

Something that I doubt will get a lot of attention, but here's a rational religious appeal for peace:

The "survival of the world" is at risk if Muslims and Christians cannot make peace, leaders from across the Islamic community have warned.

The prediction came in an open letter signed by 138 prominent Muslim scholars in a bid to defuse inter-religious tensions.

The letter, which was sent to Pope Benedict, The Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders around the world, calls on Christians "to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions" and spells out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Koran.

It goes on: "As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes."

The missive, organised by the Royal Aal al-Bayed Institute for Islamic Thought, notes that Christians and Muslims make up over a third and a fifth of humanity respectively, "making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world".

"If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace."

It also refers directly to the wars that Muslims and Christians are involved in around the world.

"With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake."

"And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."

The message closes with a quote from the Koran: "So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works."

We'll see how the Pontiff responds.
Added: The vatican "welcomes" the letter:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The top Vatican official in charge of relations with Islam on Friday welcomed an unprecedented call from 138 Muslim scholars for peace and understanding between their religions.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran told Vatican Radio he found the letter, released on Thursday, "very interesting," in part because it was signed by both Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims and made numerous references to the Old and New Testaments.

The letter, addressed to Pope Benedict and other prominent Christian leaders, said finding common ground between the world's major faiths had to go beyond polite dialogue because "the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake".

Tauran, a Frenchman who heads the Vatican's department for inter-religious dialogue, said he welcomed the fact that the letter was "not polemical" and called for a spiritual approach to inter-religious dialogue

Now if we could get the right-wing to "welcome" a dialogue with reality...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Line of the Day

While talking with a friend, she said:
"Oral sex should always include chocolate. It's just better that way".

A Flag in My Hair

Another episode in bar room politics. One of my friends who is a conservative who I've had many debates with planted an American flag on the tail part of my ponytail. I found this to be strange, but good. We often disagree, but when he said "You are a Patriot, even when I think you're wrong", I found our feelings reciprocal. We may not agree on how to do what is best for America, but we both believe that we can do better.
And yes, I kept the flag he stuck in my hair.


While I didn't post anything about last weeks beef recall over e. coli, it was one of those "symptoms" of what is wrong in America. Today, it's salmonella:
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- ConAgra Foods Inc. voluntarily stopped production Tuesday at the Missouri plant that makes its Banquet pot pies after health officials said the pies may be linked to 139 cases of salmonella in 30 states.

ConAgra officials believe the company's pies are safe if they're cooked properly, but the Omaha-based company told consumers Tuesday not to eat its chicken or turkey pot pies until the government and company investigations are complete.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also issued a health alert Tuesday afternoon to warn consumers about the link between the company's product and the salmonella cases.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking reports of the salmonella cases since Wednesday. A CDC spokeswoman said the largest numbers of salmonella cases had been reported in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Here's where the liberal me starts screaming "this is wrong!". Food should be reasonably safe. That's really not asking that much, is it? When I wander into the grocery store, I should have a reasonable trust that the food on the shelf is safe (I'll leave "healthy" to the consumer). But, thanks to shrub, the government doesn't monitor the production safety of food anymore. They only respond when a disease outbreak occurs. In short, they won't prevent the illness; they barely respond when people are sick or die.
We're paying taxes for what? We have plenty of money for wars, but we can't afford to pay for children's health care. The V-22 Osprey budget is close to the FDA budget in total cost, and has similar results. I know this sounds like liberal "socialism", but we have a right to expect certain basic services from our government in return for our tax money.
I'm beginning to wonder if we still have a civilization.

Our Iraq Policy, in a Nutshell

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mogollon Musings

So I'm outside a bar, having a smoke, and we're debating the rethug debate. We agree that there are no sane rethug candidates.

Then the Mormon missionaries stop by. This is an ongoing drama. The missionaries come by once a week, and we have a pleasant conversation about the nature of "god". I point out that guys smoking outside a bar aren't likely to convert, but I must admit that I respect their dedication. I should include that our local missionaries are two women, one a tall blond who speaks rarely, and the other being a young women from Fiji.

I'm going to get shallow here. The pretty little woman from Fiji is cute enough that I would debate carbon molecule chains with her. Actually, religion led to philosophy, which led to belief systems, which led back to politics. She is for Romney, which I argued (lack of substance), and I realized why I am afraid of people who "believe" something.

But I look forward to next weeks debate. If I'm going to debate a rethug then make it a cute one.

My Brain is Melting

During a break, I've been watching the Rethug economics debate. They are all insane. Aside from Ron Paul, the main issue seems to be how quickly we should attack Iran. But almost as insane, during the discussion on energy, my senile senator John McCain said:

"If we need to drill for oil in the Grand Canyon, if that's what the people
of Arizona want, we should do it".
Amazing. He should go into standup.

Go Cernig!

Over at The NewsHoggers , Cernig scored an email interview with Col. Steven Boylan, the press spokesman for Gen. Petraeus. Very interesting, if not terribly revealing. Col. Boylan does a lot of "talking points", which is to be expected, but reveals more by the questions he chose not to answer:

Newshoggers: Colonel, you wrote recently in comments at Newshoggers blog that ""Sadr is only one element of the issue. If he has in fact regained control of his militia, then all the better, but the numbers of events based soley on his militia was not the prime killer or reasons for the levels of attacks." Yet we are being told by the administration and by the White House military press officers dispatched to Iraq over the last year that Sadr's JAM are the major group "in league" with Iran. What you write suggests, then, that Iran is not a major motivator of attacks either. Would you agree that's the case? If Iran is meddling, but not in conjunction with Sadr but rather SCIRI and Dawa, then what does it say, that our allies in the Iraqi government are in league with Iran and attacking our forces?

Answer: [none given]

Newshoggers: Some independent experts have said that the U.S. military's claim that Iran is providing EFP's to Iraqi militias is entirely based on an assessment - that Iraqis cannot make EFP's themselves - that isn't warranted by the evidence. How does the United States military maintain its credibility in information operations when it has a public information warfare/public disinformation office --- notably the evolving EFP claims?

Answer: [none given]

Understand that I'm not questioning Col. Boylan's honesty. His position as a spokesman requires that his comments reflect the administrations perspective. I do think it's a good thing that he would agree to be interviewed by a blogger as astute as Cernig.

Strange Leaks

One of the stranger things about the Sept. 7th Osama video (that I barely commented on at the time) was the fact that it appeared on the American media before it was released to the Arabic media. Now the WaPo reveals the story:

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

Truly a strange tale. There is a school of thought that the administration uses Osama for propaganda purposes, which is true. But this was a truly stupid move. The few political points scored are far outweighed by the cost of burning a source.

Another strange issue here is the private intelligence service finding the video before the government did. It doesn't surprise me, but it does trouble me. Full disclosure: I spend a fair amount of time reading Arabic sights (trying to improve my language skills), and have on several occasions found information that I felt was important enough to pass on to the relevant authorities. What I am continually amazed by is how clueless those authorities are. Obviously, I don't know everything going on within our intelligence agencies, but the fact that those I've had contact with seem truly surprised to receive information that is easily accessible on the internet is a sign of incompetence that boggles my mind.

Also, how do I get one of those government contracts?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Scott Ritter on Iran

I've been trying to write a post on Iran that would compare the rhetoric with the reality, but I haven't been having much success in making it coherent. Now I see that Scott Ritter has written what I meant to say:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), mandated to investigate Iran’s nuclear programs, has concluded that there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, the IAEA has concluded that it is capable of monitoring the Iranian nuclear program to ensure that it does not deviate from the permitted nuclear energy program Iran states to be the exclusive objective of its endeavors. Iran’s support of the Hezbollah Party in Lebanon - Iranian protestors shown here supporting Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during an anti-Israel rally - while a source of concern for the State of Israel, does not constitute a threat to American national security primarily because the support provided is primarily defensive in nature, designed to assist Hezbollah in deterring and repelling an Israeli assault of sovereign Lebanese territory. Similarly, the bulk of the data used by the United States to substantiate the claims that Iran is a state sponsor of terror is derived from the aforementioned support provided to Hezbollah. Other arguments
presented are either grossly out of date (going back to the early 1980’s when Iran was in fact exporting Islamic fundamentalism) or unsubstantiated by fact.

The US claims concerning Iranian interference in both Iraq and Afghanistan ignore the reality that both nations border Iran, both nations were invaded and occupied by the United States, not Iran, and that Iran has a history of conflict with both nations that dictates a keen interest concerning the internal domestic affairs of both nations. The United States continues to exaggerate the nature of Iranian involvement in Iraq, arresting “intelligence operatives” who later turned out to be economic and diplomatic officials invited to Iraq by the Iraqi government itself. Most if not all the claims made by the United States concerning Iranian military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been backed up with anything stronger than rhetoric, and more often than not are subsequently contradicted by other military and governmental officials, citing a lack of specific evidence.

Ritter is one of the people who said that the Iraqi WMD claims were lies, based on his time as a U.N. weapons inspector, and he was right. He was attacked by the right-wing, but some of us knew he was telling the truth. Now, as the drums are beating for war with Iran, we need to listen to him. Please read the whole thing.
Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including “Iraq Confidential” (Nation Books, 2005) , “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” (Nation Books, April 2007).

The Commercial Media

Reading over at Booman Tribune , there's a good piece debating the media as "liberal" or "conservative", but I see the problem somewhat differently. What bothers me most about the media is it's commercialism. TV news shows are driven by the desire to sell commercial air time, not by reporting news. It's all about how many eyeballs will be watching the 60 second spot for whatever the corporations want to sell us. "Ratings" only matter in that they reflect the value of the commercial minutes, so the "news" shows strive to report in ways that keep people entertained. I rarely watch TV because the corporate marketing really annoys me, but also because TV news is by it's very nature restricted to shallow sound bites.
Print media does somewhat better as far as depth of reporting. While still driven by advertising, the target audience is more demanding. Readers are by nature more attentive than viewers, and tend to be seeking more substance than style.
While I agree that our media tends to be more "conservative", I see this as a result of the corporations running the news outlets. To understand the bias, look at what they're trying to sell. This will tell you who the audience they're targeting is. And it sure as hell isn't the bloggers.

Not Lazy

Really, I'm not being lazy. The paucity of posts are partially as a result of not knowing what to say. Every post I've prepared on Iraq and Iran have fallen into angry blathering, and I'm trying for something more coherent than that.

Sunday, October 7, 2007