Saturday, December 1, 2007
Now, most of ya'll are oblivious to this but I happen to have a pet dinosaur.(in our archives if ye really give a crap) One day, a dinosaur hopped out of a time travel device- disguised as a dumpster- and nosed its way to my house. It lay mewling and bawling and lost on my doorstep, only because it was attracted to my scent. Folks, I, as well, was once vacuumed into a time travel device that was disguised as a dumpster. I went to 2011,(see archives) but somehow made it back...Anyway, I was an involuntary time traveler, and so was said dinosaur. There is a certain musk one gleans when one time travels, discernable only to those of same affliction.
I named it(soon to be known as a she) Noam. To be sure, Noam was at times quite charming
(and really affectionate..which i won't espouse upon just yet) But her diet- Noam was into devouring books- proved too daunting for this household.
Noam was a good-enough dinosaur. Gorgeous. Lithe. Stupid. Indomitable.
But I never knew exactly what sort of Jurassic hitch-hiker i had on my hands... and now I know that Noam is, in fact, a Knopflersaurus.
Twas a hard decision to make- but i had to send Noam back to her own time. She had simply wreacked too much havoc in our time, and I knew that she was traumatized and alone and longing for her Cenzoic pals...
I stood by the dumpster(looks like one but it's a time travel device) And played "Sultans Of Swing" over and over again until Noam came bounding along like a ten ton beagle.
Noam leapt into the "dumpster" and is, I hope, back in her proper time.
Befriending a six-million year old knopflersaurus don't happen every day.
Damn, I'm gonna miss her.
The Clinton HQ hostage situation brings up again the lack of adequate mental health treatment in America:
ROCHESTER, N.H. - Leeland Eisenberg was already in trouble before he walked into one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign offices.
Three days earlier, his wife had filed for divorce; he was due to appear in court with her for a domestic violence hearing in about half an hour.
Then, the nicely dressed, gray-haired man peeled open his jacket to reveal what looked like dynamite strapped to his chest, authorities said, and things got much worse.
Police say Eisenberg went to the office Friday demanding to talk to Clinton about helping him get mental health care and ended up taking at least five people, including an infant, hostage. Night would fall before the last one walked free and the hostage-taker peacefully surrendered.
I guess he'll be getting treatment now, albeit within the criminal justice system.
As I posted in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, I'm a former mental health counselor. My degree is in community mental health treatment. I worked in the field for about 14 years, before burnout and frustration led me to leave the field. Our mental health system is virtually nonexistent for the people who need it most. If you're poor, the only way you will receive treatment is if you commit a crime and are court ordered into a system that is so overextended that it is unable to provide even minimal care. There is no preventative care unless you're well off enough to pay for it yourself, and the vast majority of people with mental illness aren't.
Another symptom of the sickness that has become the norm in our society.
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration intends to slash counterterrorism funding for police, firefighters and rescue departments across the country by more than half next year, according to budget documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The Homeland Security Department has given $23 billion to states and local communities to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the administration is not convinced that the money has been well spent and thinks the nation’s highest-risk cities have largely satisfied their security needs.
The department wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half — $1.4 billion, according to a Nov. 26 document.
Just try to imagine the reaction if this were a Democratic proposal. I suppose that shrub believes that our occupation of Iraq is providing all the security that we need.
DHS has been riddled with odd spending priorities, but this is weird:
The plan calls outright elimination of programs for port security, transit security, and local emergency management operations in the next budget year. This is President Bush’s last budget, and the new administration would have to live with the funding decisions between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, 2009.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, oh great wizard.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Whoa, let's hold those surging horses in check a moment. Violence has lessened in Iraq. That seems to be a fact of the last two months -- and, for the Iraqis, a positive one, obviously. What to make of the "good news" from Iraq is another matter entirely, one made harder to assess by the chorus of self-congratulation from war supporters and Bush administration officials and allies, as well as by the heavy spin being put on events -- and reported in the media, relatively uncritically.
An exception was Damien Cave of the New York Times, who had a revealing piece on a big story of recent weeks: The return of refugee Baghdadis -- from among the two million or more Iraqis who had fled to Syria and other countries -- to the capital. This has been heavily touted as evidence of surge "success" in restoring security in Baghdad, of a genuine turn-around in the war situation. In fact, according to Cave, the trickle of returnees, which had actually been lessening recently, has been heavily "massaged by politics. Returnees have essentially become a currency of progress."
Those relatively modest returnee numbers turn out to include anyone who crossed the Syrian border heading east, including suspected insurgents and Iraqi employees of the New York Times on their way back from visits to relatives in exile in Syria. According to a UN survey of 110 families returning, "46 percent were leaving [Syria] because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security." And that's but one warning sign on the nature of the story under the story.
Remember that there are an estimated 4.5 million displaced Iraqi's, so the current trickle is the proverbial "drop in the bucket".
And the "drop" in violence? Not such a rosy picture, either:
A recent Pew Research Center poll of American reporters who have been working in Iraq finds that "[n]early 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit" and many believe that "coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict." In an on-line chat, the reliable Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post (and author of the bestselling book Fiasco), just back from Baghdad himself, offered his own set of caveats about the situation. He suggested that, in addition to the surge of U.S. troops into the capital's neighborhoods, some combination of other factors may help explain the lessening violence, including the fact that "some Sunni neighborhoods are walled off, and other Sunni areas have been ethnically cleansed. In addition, the Shiite death squads, in addition to killing a lot of
innocents, also killed some of the car bomb guys, I am told." Of the dozens of American officers he interviewed, none were declaring success. "[T]o a man, they were enormously frustrated by what they see as the foot-dragging of the Baghdad government." And he points out that violence in Baghdad "is only back down to the 2005 level -- which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth." In 2005, or early 2006, of course, such levels were considered catastrophic.
Robert Parry of Consortium News points out that, while "good news" dominated front pages here, "the darker side" of "success" has "generally been shoved into brief stories deep inside the newspapers." He adds that "the harsh repression surrounding the ‘surge' has drawn far less U.S. press attention," even as "Iraq steadily has been transformed into a more efficient police state than dictator Saddam Hussein could have ever imagined."
In other words, the sectarian groups have established their seperate enclaves. They don't have as many rivals around to kill.
So the current "plan" is to continue the occupation for 5 more years:
You can tell things can't be going well if your best-case plan is for an armed occupation force to remain in a major Baghdad community for the next five years. It means that the underlying causes of disorder are not being addressed. You can tell things are not going well if five more years are needed to train and activate a local police force, when police training takes about six months. (Consider this an indication that the recruits exhibit loyalties and goals that run contrary to those of the American military.) You can tell things are not going well when communities have to be surrounded by cement walls and checkpoints that naturally disrupt normal life, including work, school, and daily shopping. These are all signs that escalating discontent and protest may require new suppressive actions in the not-so-distant future.
The American military is well aware of this. They keep reminding us that the present decline in violence may be temporary, nothing more than a brief window of opportunity that could be used to resolve some of the "political problems" facing Iraq before the violence can be reinvigorated. The current surge -- even "the five year plan" -- is not designed to solve Iraq's problems, just to hold down the violence while others, in theory, act.
Now comes the real reason for the continuing occupation:
By now, however, most of us realize that there is much more to the American purpose in Iraq than a commitment to an elected government in Baghdad that could peacefully resolve sectarian tensions. The rhetoric of the Bush administration and its chief democratic opponents (most notably Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) is increasingly laced with references -- to quote Clinton -- to "vital national
security interests" in the Middle East that will require a continuing "military as well as political mission." In Iraq, leading Washington politicians of both parties agree on the necessity of establishing a friendly government that will welcome the presence of a "residual" American military force, oppose Iran's regional aspirations, and prevent the country from becoming "a petri dish for insurgents."
Let's be clear about those "vital national security interests." America's vital interests in the Middle East derive from the region's status as the world's principle source of oil. President Jimmy Carter enunciated exactly this principle back in 1980 when he promulgated the Carter Doctrine, stating that the U.S. was willing to use "any means necessary, including military force," to maintain access to supplies of Middle Eastern oil sufficient to keep the global economy running smoothly. All subsequent presidents have reiterated, amplified, and acted on this principle.
The Bush administration, in applying the Carter Doctrine, was faced with the need to access increasing amounts of Middle Eastern oil in light of constantly escalating world energy consumption. In 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force responded to this challenge by designating Iraq as the linchpin in a general plan to double Middle Eastern oil production in the following years. It was reasonable, task force members decided, to hope for a genuine spurt in production in Iraq, whose oil industry had remained essentially stagnant (or worse) from 1980 to that moment. By ousting the backward-looking regime of Saddam Hussein and transferring the further development, production, and distribution of Iraq's bounteous oil reserves to multinational oil companies, they would assure the introduction of modern methods of production, ample investment capital, and an aggressive urge to increase output. Indeed, after removing Saddam via invasion in 2003, the Bush administration has made repeated (if so far unsuccessful) efforts to implement this plan.
They're not even trying to hide the fact that we're staying for the oil.
However, maintaining the occupation won't be that simple:
The desire for such an endpoint has hardly disappeared. It became increasingly clear, however, that successful implementation of such plans would, at best, take many years, and that the maintenance of a powerful American political and military presence within Iraq was a necessary prerequisite to everything else. Since sustaining such a presence was itself a major problem, however, it also became clear that America's plans depended on dislodging powerful forces entrenched in all levels of Iraqi society -- from public opinion to elected leaders to the insurgency itself.
American ambitions -- far more than sectarian tensions -- constitute the irresolvable core of Iraq's political problems. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis oppose the occupation. They wish the Americans gone and a regime in place in Baghdad that is not an American ally. (This is true whether you are considering the Shiite majority or the Sunni minority.) As for a "residual" American military presence, the Iraqi Parliament recently passed a resolution demanding that the UN mandate for a U.S. occupation be rescinded.
Even the issue of terrorism is controversial. The American propensity to label as "terrorist" all violent opposition to the occupation means that most Iraqis (57% in August 2007), when asked, support terrorism as defined by the occupiers, since majorities in both the Sunni and Shia communities endorse using violent means to expel the Americans.
Remember that we've pumped tons of guns into Iraq, and that we've armed both Sunni and Shia. So we will continue to face an insurgency as long as we remain.
As long as that government is determined to install a friendly, anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, one that is hostile to "foreigners," including all jihadists, but welcomes an ongoing American military presence as well as multinational development of Iraqi oil, the American armed forces aren't going anywhere, not for a long, long time; and no relative lull in the fighting -- temporary or not -- will change that reality. This is the Catch-22 of Bush administration policy in Iraq. The worse things go, the more our military is needed; the better they go, the more our military is needed.
And shrub will not leave Iraq, regardless of the situation. But shrubs "goals" will never be achieved because they are based on a delusion. The bleeding will continue, because our goals are incompatable with the Iraqi's goals.
It's a tragedy based on empire and hubris of epic proportions, and we'll be facing the blowback for at least a generation.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Tired of spending big bucks for Christmas gifts that your friends only use till the middle of January? Here's a practical gift that says you care...and it's free! Well, except for a
piece of heavy card stock and learning to use scissors, I mean.
While I'm sure some of our friends in the northeast and midwest may scoff at this,
Click on the picture to enlarge then save it to a folder, print, cut and assemble and you're protected.
Oh, and it's kinda cool in the bedroom, also.
Having grown up in San Francisco, I'm always aware of earthquakes. I might make myself one (if I can get my semi-dead antique printer to agree).
The real problem is that the Republican media machine will latch onto the eventual nominee, and we'll get months of propaganda about how candidate "X" represents the "real America" and "values". And Huckabee looks like someone they can sell to the public.
Added: And I agree with Gandhisxmas's post below.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
There are times when I get confused by international relations. Our shrub has a unique talent for uniting diverse groups, albeit that he unites them against him:
The diplomatic chess game around Iran's nuclear program includes an unlikely bishop. According to several well-placed Rome sources, Iranian officials are quietly laying the groundwork necessary to turn to Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican diplomats for mediation if the showdown with the United States should escalate toward a military intervention. The 80-year-old Pope has thus far steered clear of any strong public comments about either Iran's failure to fully comply with U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors or the drumbeat of war coming from some corners in Washington. But Iran, which has had diplomatic relations with the Holy See for 53 years, may be trying to line up Benedict as an ace in the hole for staving off a potential attack in the coming months. "The Vatican seems to be part of their strategy," a senior Western diplomat in Rome said of the Iranian leadership. "They'll have an idea of when the 11th hour is coming. And they know an intervention of the Vatican is the most open and amenable route to Western public opinion. It could buy them time."
With the timing of the Annapolis conference on low expectations (hey, we'll talk about peace and then do absolutely nothing to promote peace), and the ongoing rhetoric blaming Iran for our disaster in Iraq, strange bedfellows are increasing. Most of the world is trying to prevent the Cheney from attacking Iran, and they just might prevail.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Bahamas to Ratify Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, says Acting PMI'm glad that the Bahamas oppose nuclear testing, but...uhm...I would have thought that they would have signed on years ago. It's not like they were going to enter a nuclear weapons race any time soon.
By Lindsay Thompson, BIS
Nov 26, 2007 - 4:46:30 PM
The Bahamas is set to ratify its position as a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban
Treaty, designed to rid the world of nuclear weapons, Acting Prime Minister the Hon Brent Symonette announced Monday, November 26, 2007.
He was addressing a regional workshop co-hosted by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is being held November 26 – 28, at the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino, Cable Beach.
The year 2006 marked the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty open for signature. Since then, the CTBT has been considered a cornerstone of the non-proliferation of the nuclear weapons regime.
The Treaty has 177 State Signatories, with 140 countries who have ratified. Thirty-four of the 44 States listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty, whose ratification is required for entry into force, have ratified the Treaty.
Last I looked (OK, I've never been there. But I would love to go) the Bahamas had beautiful beaches with lots of tourist resorts. The testing of nuclear weapons would not be a tourist draw, so opposing it should be a "no brainer", so I'm wondering why it's taken over 10 years to sign on.
From the BBC-British officials are trying to secure the release of a British schoolteacher arrested in Sudan for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammed.
Gillian Gibbons, of Liverpool, may face blasphemy charges for insulting Islam's prophet. A conviction could mean six months in jail, 40 lashes, or a fine.
Okay so none of the above will probably happen, but still... IT'S A FUCKING TEDDY BEAR folks. Gillian has already been in jail for three days now, suspended from her job, and even the school is closed until January.
I don't get it. I just cannot comprehend this overwhelmingly atrocious and pathetic situation.
Please understand, I am not attacking the Islamic faith. If one looks closely enough, ALL religious principle tries to function as a way for us to not to be self-centered assholes. Well, I'm no theologian, but I strive to keep an open mind...
I once had a friend, a very good friend, named Doug. He was rather troubled but he had a heart of gold. One day he died of a heroin overdose. Anyway, Doug had a dog he named Christ.
He never got 40 lashes or anything, but ever-rebellious punk-rock Doug encountered more than a little outrage for naming his black lab as such. For one thing, his parents- fundamentalist Christians- disowned him as their son.
One could argue that vastly intelligent aliens are not amongst us, as they would have already thoroughly sacked us and preserved our planet for a more noble species such as cockroaches. But then again, perhaps folks from outer space, like us, love to be entertained, and are enjoying what a splendid job we are doing at sacking ourselves.
Monday, November 26, 2007
This is not a joke. The Flying Spaghetti Monster has appeared to us in a pumpkin pie. Bless his noodley appendages!The Manefesto is home to many things,
but rarely is it the place of divine revelation. OnThanksgiving night, the Great Divine Deity of Pasta made an appearance in a pumpkin pie baked by no other than my wife, Miranda.
I do not know why we were selected for such a blessing, but we receive it with glad and open hearts.
No, you will not find it on eBay with such commercial sluts as the virgin Mary grilled cheese, or the gay Jesus in a pancake. I will not defame his greatness in this manner.
The photo is not doctored in any way, neither was the (delicious) pie. I will be sending full, hi-res versions to the church for verification. I assume they will sing pirate shanteys to herald its arrival.
To those of you who did not believe before: believe now. His Pastafarian power extends beyond the spaghetti and the ravioli. It inhabits all food in all time and all space. His noodles are of infinite length and omnipotent power.
Praise the pastafarian one with pie!
MSNBC says this ...
While the exactly reason Lott is stepping down before he finishes his term is unknown, the general speculation is that a quick departure immunizes Lott against tougher restrictions in a new lobbying law that takes effect at the end of the year. That law would require Senators to wait two-years before entering the lucrative world of lobbying Congress.
By resigning now, Sen. Lott can go right to lobbying in a year and make a few boatloads of money. Pure sleaze and greed. Oh, I'm sure he'll say something about "family" or some other pretty excuse, but it's really about money. The lobbying reform that takes effect next year makes corruption harder for members of congress, so Lott is racing to sell out under the wire.
Republican values have a price tag. Buy a Senator now while they're on sale.
Update: Just now on NPR, Cokie Roberts (who I almost never agree with) said "he's going to work as a lobbyist" and made it sound like that's a good thing.