Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fun Protests

I love a good protest for a good cause:

Nearly 600 volunteers have stripped for the camera on a melting Swiss glacier high in the Alps for a publicity campaign to expose the impact of climate change.

The environmental group Greenpeace, which commissioned the photo shoot by world-renowned photographer Spencer Tunick, says the volunteers turned up under
blue skies near the foot of the Aletsch glacier, a protected UNESCO World Heritage site.

Now, why wasn't I invited.
Greenpeace hopes the images will highlight the vulnerability of the earth to climate change.

Saturday Musings

I'm not very materialistic. I realized that many years ago. That's one reason I'm able to get through life on a fairly low income. Money has never really motivated me (oh sure, I'd like more money, but I don't need more money), and I've never been very good at managing it. Just ask my now ex-wife. She loved to shop, buying new toys all the time. I hate to shop, and only buy something when I need it. She "needed" a new car every 2 years. I drove my old cars until repairing them was no longer an option (the last 4 vehicles I owned all went to at least 300k miles before I gave up on them). Currently, I live car-free because I don't need a car. It's a choice I've made, primarily for environmental reasons, but also for economic ones. A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends offered to give me a truck absolutely for free. I turned it down. I don't need it, and I don't want to spend my money on gas, insurance, etc.
I don't own (or want) an iPod, HDTV, or state-of-the-art computer. When I'm buying clothing (which I hate to do), I look for functionality rather than style. Then I wear it until it becomes worn out. The same for appliances. I've been using the same coffee maker for 14 years, and since it still works I don't have any urge to replace it.
The only exception I make is for river gear. There's a whole lot of "stuff" that I desire in river equipment. But I make due with old gear, and only buy what I can afford. If I won the lottery (which is highly unlikely since I don't play the lottery-otherwise known as a tax on people who don't understand statistics), there's a boat and a ton of accessories I'd love to own.
And I would love to travel more.
What bring this all to mind is the current economic turmoil. While I don't pretend to know what's going to happen in the future, all the signs I see look bad. The falling dollar, crumbling housing market, federal deficit, and generally weak infrastructure just aren't sustainable. Something has to give, and a lot of people are going to get hurt. I know many people who have accumulated debts in the pursuit of more "stuff", and their anxiety is palpable. There's a sense of being on the brink, waiting for the fall.
Which brings me to a simple point. If our economy tanks, I'm in a better position to weather it than a lot of people. I don't have much to lose, and a lot of experience getting by on next to nothing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A sticker

Look! Boobies!

Happy Friday! Have a masked pair.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I am SO in the wrong line of work

Not really. In the end, these folks got caught, and will see the inside of a jail for their curruption:

Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A small South Carolina parts supplier collected about $20.5 million over six years from the Pentagon for fraudulent shipping costs, including $998,798 for sending two 19-cent washers to an Army base in Texas, U.S. officials said.

The company also billed and was paid $455,009 to ship three machine screws costing $1.31 each to Marines in Habbaniyah, Iraq, and $293,451 to ship an 89-cent split washer to Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pentagon records show.

The owners of C&D Distributors in Lexington, South Carolina -- twin sisters -- exploited a flaw in an automated Defense Department purchasing system: bills for shipping to combat areas or U.S. bases that were labeled ``priority'' were usually paid automatically, said Cynthia Stroot, a Pentagon investigator.

Now we know that the Defense Department is spending billions every month. The question is how many other corrupt scams are raking in some of that cash. More accountability, please.

Padilla Convicted

While he may have been a terrorist wannabee, it was the denial of Padilla's constitutional rights that has pissed me off for years. The verdict comes as no surprise:
MIAMI - Jose Padilla was convicted of federal terrorism support charges Thursday after being held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant in a case that came to symbolize the Bush administration's zeal to stop homegrown terror.

The original "dirty bomb plot" that the administration hyped for propaganda proved to be a fantasy, and has been left in the dustbin of history.
Padilla was first detained in 2002 because of much more sensational accusations. The Bush administration portrayed Padilla, a U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, as a committed terrorist who was part of an al-Qaida plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the U.S. The administration called his detention an important victory in the war against terrorism, not long after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The fact that he was held and tortured for years without charges merely because the administration called him a "terrorist" should scare all of us. This conviction doesn't change that fact.

The charges brought in civilian court in Miami, however, were a pale shadow of those initial claims in part because Padilla, 36, was interrogated about the plot when he was held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2 years in military custody with no lawyer present and was not read his Miranda rights.

Oh, wait. Here's the most important news for today.
First daughter Jenna Bush engaged, White House says

Picking Your Candidate

I took this test; it's kind of long, but I found the results to be fairly accurate. By comparing candidate statements that you agree with it calculates which candidate most closely matches your views. While I would never choose a candidate based on an internet quiz, I did find it quite interesting. My results:
Bill Richardson: 16
Dennis Kucinich: 15
Barack Obama: 14
Hillary Clinton: 13
Christopher Dodd: 9
John Edwards: 8
Joe Biden: 8
Mike Gravel: 8
Ron Paul: 8
John McCain: 4
Mitt Romney: 3
Mike Huckabee: 2
Brownback, Giuliani, Hunter, and Tancredo: 0
The only surprises were that Edwards didn't score higher, and that McCain has actually said 4 things that I agree with. I wasn't surprised that Romney has made 3 statements that I agree with, because he's tried to be on all sides of the issues. In short, he may say something I agree with but I don't believe him.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When someone else

Tell's the tale you want to tell, but they say it more clearly, quote them:

Where we are today is not an aberration. It is the logical outcome of Reaganism.

When Reagan said that "government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem," he summarized a right-wing agenda intent on abolishing public responsibility in favor of a pre-New Deal vision of unfettered capital. The Reaganites endowed the market with the magical power of making everything work towards the good.

In this vision, selfishness is the only real good. The profit motive is the only legitimate motive. In the years since Reagan, we have seen privatization create havoc in our health care system. Healing is founded on the idea of service, of working together for the good of individuals and communities. The profit motive has proved to be only a degrading force in this regard, but those who made money from exploiting the system continued to force health into the Reagan mold.

The inability to recognize the public good as a value is a prime characteristic of Reaganism. For this reason, it’s impossible for the right wing to make any progress in the country’s educational system. In fact, the system continues to get worse.

The rise of Reagan constituted a quite deliberate and overt repudiation of empathy and compassion as social values. His fairy tales about welfare queens were all about blaming the poor. If people were poor, it was all their own fault. In addition, racism was no longer a problem. Black people who criticized institutional racism were guilty of a victim mentality. It was black culture that was at fault. This is a vein that the
Republicans have continued to mine up to the present. Reagan was actually George
Wallace, but with a nice smile.

I'm just out-done. Rarely do I say "great post", but this wins it:

If I had to pick a slogan for the Reagan movement it would be, “We don’t care.” We don’t care about anything except standing guard while the rich make their money. To accomplish this, we will pour the tax revenues into the Pentagon, from which no ordinary citizens will experience any benefit. When your taxes go for nothing, then of course you’ll demand lower taxes. Lower taxes, more money for the rich, the poor stay poor, and the defense contractors stay fat.

After Reagan, every little hate-filled cockroach came crawling up from the under the rocks. They got AM radio talk shows, newspaper columns, and TV shows, along with high government positions. People who were rightly considered wackos in the 1970s were suddenly treated as if they were respectable. Reagan’s appointment of the nutcase James Watt to head of Interior was symbolic of everything that’s happened since. When your position is that government is the problem, and you run the government, then government becomes a topsy-turvy circus, a grotesque theater of hostility. Reagan’s America had a sneer on its lip and a mean glint in its eye.

Reagan secretly sold arms to Iran in order to fund murderers in Central America. All he got was a little slap on the wrist. Many of the players returned under Bush Jr. to play their illegal games again.

So don’t look around and act surprised that we have a vicious mobster in the White House, bleeding our future dry with dirty wars and secret plotting. Reagan won two elections, the second by a landslide. A lot of people voted for this shit. This is exactly what happens when you say “We don’t care. All I want is mine. To hell with justice, fairness, kindness. To hell with children, the aged, the poor.” This is exactly what you get.

Welcome dashiell. I think I Like the Way you Think about the things I like to Think about when I Think about things.

Barking up the Wrong tree

In a way, this was too much fun. I stepped out for a smoke (yeah, I'm an addict), and two clean-cut young men in white shirts and ties are walking down the sidewalk. The older one stops and starts to talk to me:

"Hi, we're missionaries from the LDS church. Do you know god's plan?"


"Well, nice to meet you. I'm a happy atheist. Would you like to have a beer and tell me about this "God".

I'm wondering about the Mormons. I mean, I'm a hippie smoking outside a BAR and your missionaries are trying to convert me? You might as well preach abstinence at the mustang ranch.

It was worth it. The look on the younger missionary's face would make a great poster. But I didn't have my camera. So I'll leave you with this:

Added: BTW, I have no prejudice toward Mormons...or any other religion. Believe what you believe.

Hey, Zymurgian

This is to notify Zymurgian that if he were religious, today would have been a holiday:

Today's saint is Saint Arnulf of Soissons. The Patron Saint of Brewers!

According to my Saint-A-Day book:

Arnulf of Soissons was a French soldier turned clergyman. After reluctantly becoming the Bishop of Soissons, he was driven from his episcopate by invaders and moved to Flanders. When a plague broke out he noticed that the water drinkers were dropping like flies, but the beer drinkers were thriving. He hastened to brew up a big batch of beer and saved the town.

Beatified for Beer, hurrah!

Found over atI Was Just Wondering.

Must Lighten Up

The last few posts have been WAY too serious.

Idiocy on Iran

Lot's of other folks have said it, but this is just full-blown batshit crazy. Declaring that another nations army is a "terrorist organization":

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 — The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

The Cheney really wants a war with Iran, even though it would be the worst idea possible.

In the internal debate over American policy toward Iran, Ms. Rice has succeeded over the last year in holding the Bush administration to a diplomatic course in which America and five other world powers have used the Security Council to impose sanctions to try to get Tehran to suspend its enrichment of uranium.

But in recent months, there has been resurgent debate within the administration about whether the diplomatic path is working, with aides to Vice President Dick
said to be among those pushing for greater consideration of military options.

We actually need Iran's help with both Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's available:

Realities on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, are slowly revealing the incoherence (or impracticality) of Bush’s policies. Karzai talks about Iran’s helpful role in Afghanistan and acts accordingly while al-Maliki’s government in Iraq pleas for the continuation of US-Iran security talks before al-Maliki himself (along with his foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari) takes off for Iran in a few days for the government of Iraq’s own security talks with Iran.

There was a time when we could have worked with Iran. Shrub screwed that idea:

There was a time in Iran, during the reformist era of Mohammad Khatami, when the Iranian leadership thought that Iran’s cooperation in Afghanistan and the negotiations over the nuclear issue would eventually open the path for a broader framework within which matters of contention between the two countries could be resolved. The Bush Administration's rejection of reformist overtures and the fiasco in Iraq set the stage for the rise of a hard-line foreign policy in Iran.

Military action against Iran is the absolute worst possible disaster for America. Should we attack Iran, the rest of the world would be justified in declaring the U.S. a "terrorist organization".

Math and Iraq

As our shrub prepares to tell us how well the glorious "surge" is making "progress", I noticed the numbers given by our own military:

Meanwhile, U.S. troops killed 11 suspected terrorists and detained four others in operations against al-Qaida in central and northern Iraq, the military said in a statement.

Ten thousand U.S. troops and 6,000 Iraqi soldiers are involved in air and ground assaults across Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, both north of Baghdad, in a nationwide offensive against Sunni insurgents with links to al-Qaida and Shiite militiamen.

More than 300 artillery rounds, rockets and bombs were dropped in the Diyala River valley late Monday and early Tuesday, and three suspected al-Qaida gunmen were killed and eight were taken prisoner, the military said. U.S. troops also discovered several roadside bombs rigged to explode.

Now, I tend to distrust the military's statements as likely to be propaganda. But let's take these and pretend they are accurate. 10,000 troops, 300 artillery rounds, rockets and bombs succeeding in killing 11 suspected terrorists. At this rate we should be able to rid Iraq of terrorists by about 2050 or so, and only using about 1,800,000 additional artillery shells, rockets, and bombs. So, by the numbers, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And a side note: This line is pure horseshit:

"Sunni insurgents with links to al-Qaida and Shiite militiamen."

Conflating al-Qaida, Sunni, and Shia militia as being linked is flat out wrong. They are fighting each other, not side by side.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mental Health Treatment for Some

Another article that left me saying "WTF?". Mental health treatment for diplomats:

The State Department plans to create a new mental care office and require employees to take additional time off to deal with a surge in stress disorders among diplomats in danger posts abroad, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

The steps were proposed in response to the findings of a survey that found up to 17 percent of diplomats serving at such posts may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or similar problems, the officials said.

The figures, which some fear could be far higher in Baghdad and Kabul, are to be sent to all U.S. diplomatic missions in a cable as early as Tuesday after The Associated Press reported the results on Monday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

And Condi will be "personally involved (which would certainly make me crazy):

"The bottom line here is that we are going to do what we need to do to help out our people, if people need help, if they need counseling we're going to do that," he told reporters, adding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is personally involved in efforts to improve the department's ability to assist diplomats.

"She wants to make sure that our personnel have the best possible care if they need it," McCormack said. At the same time, he made clear that Rice wanted "to get diplomats out from behind the desks" at all embassies, including hardship posts to do their jobs.

Still, I suppose it's a good idea to have sane diplomats. Especially when the policies are insane.

_ Creation of a new mental health care office within the department's medical unit. The office would have three full-time employees, including a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist, a social worker specializing in stress disorders and an administrative officer.

_ Requiring diplomats returning from tours at hardship posts to take three to four weeks of home leave to assist employees in readjusting.

_ Revising mental health briefings for diplomats heading to and returning from hardship posts to focus on stress-related disorders.

How about the same level of treatment for our troops? And then the plain old Americans who need mental health treatment.

On Iraq

I haven't posted much on Iraq lately, mostly because it's too depressing. That, and I'm more confused than ever about what is going on. The political process seems on the verge of collapse.

Al-'Arabiya reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called for a summit “that could be held in the next few days,” and would join the main Iraqi parties and leaders, “in order to discuss the main issues concerning the political process.”

As is well-known, al-Maliki’s call comes after his cabinet was inflicted several major blows, causing a state of paralysis in the government; with 17 of its ministers – belonging to three major parties – deciding to resign or boycott the government sessions.

The planned summit – which came as no surprise, since the idea of a broad political conference has been floated for weeks – seeks to prepare the ground for a political solution that would return the IAF (the main Sunni constituent of the cabinet) and perhaps the Sadrist Current and Iyad 'Allawi’s bloc to the fold, in exchange for certain political and constitutional concessions on the part of the four dominant parties in the parliament: Maliki’s Da'wa party, al-Hakeem’s SIIC, Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party.

However, Maliki’s call for a conciliatory summit comes in the midst of a host of initiatives, on the part of the government and the opposition, which are not all conciliatory in nature.

According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, Da'wa party leaders are threatening (in tandem with Maliki’s initiative) to form a “majority government” in case the parties of the opposition refuse to cooperate and rejoin the “national unity government.”

The paper quoted Waleed al-Hilli, who said on al-'Iraqiya channel (funded by the government and supportive of Maliki), that “the withdrawal of the Iraqi List ('Allawi’s bloc) and the IAF ... will force the government to form a cabinet of parliamentary majority.” In other terms, a cabinet controlled by the aforementioned four parties, and excluding the opposition. Hilli is reminding
Maliki’s opponents of the fact that, while the detractors of the current government may be numerous, they do not form a cohesive coalition capable of toppling the cabinet, while the four major parties can rely on a slim –but guaranteed – majority in the Iraqi parliament.

The threat to form a government made-up of the four pro-Maliki parties had been advertised under the term “the coalition of the moderates,” Talabani and Maliki had announced, several times, that such a mega-bloc could be formed “soon” to take up the helm of governance in Iraq.

In case Maliki gives up on luring the Sunni IAF back into the cabinet, he would have to find Sunni candidates for the ministerial positions outside the parliament. Hilli said that “independent” personalities could be sought to fill the empty seats.

The bombing of the Thiraa Dijla bridge in Taji is, at the very least, a transportation disaster. While I'm sure that the administration will blame "al-Qaeda", the Iraqi papers seem to think that it was a Shia attack designed to cordon off Sunni's in Baghdad from aid from Mosul (I've given up on trying to post arabic articles. Blogger scrambles Arabic in ways that make it almost impossible to read).

Insurgents hit a bridge north of Baghdad on Tuesday, using a suicide bomber at the wheel of an oil tanker truck to destroy the span, plunging cars and people into the canal waters below. Ten people are reported dead and six more missing.

The Thiraa Dijla bridge in Taji links Baghdad to Mosul, and was reportedly a strategic asset to the US, which relied on it for supply transport.

The bridge was damaged by a previous attack in May and was only operating with one of its lanes when Tuesday's suicide bomber attacked.

The attacker detonated his payload after going through an Iraqi army checkpoint about 40 yards away from the span, according to the AP.

"The blast, that took place in the middle of the bridge, caused a part of the bridge to collapse," a police source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The explosion set a number of nearby vehicles ablaze," he also said.

The area was cordoned off by Iraqi and US security forces as rescue operations began. The New York Times reports US troops and divers were recovering bodies from the water soon after the explosion.

A senior oil ministry official is kidnapped:

And in Baghdad, dozens of uniformed gunmen in 17 official vehicles stormed an Oil Ministry compound and abducted a deputy oil minister and three other officials, a ministry spokesman and police said.

There should be more than enough guns in Iraq by now:

Does anyone seriously believe General Saint Petraeus' story about 190,000 guns - weighing in excess of 475 tons and worth over $50 million - being "misplaced" because they were kicked out of helicopters?

Especially when there are tales of crooked arms dealers and back-door deals with the mafia?

Nor is this about mere graft, as The Fifth Estate points out. It's about either graft or weapons being used to kill US troops or both. Fifth Estate has also been counting reports and figures the number of missing weapons is far higher than admitted so far. Perhaps as much as 300,000 missing guns, plus ammunition, worth around $100 million all told. Although it pales by comparison with the 363 tons ($9 billion) in cash that the US occupation managed to lose in Iraq, it's still not chump change.

Another helicopter down, more soldiers dead:

BAGHDAD - Three suicide truck bombers targeted members of an ancient religious sect in northwestern Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and setting apartment buildings and stores ablaze, while the crash of an American transport helicopter near an air base in Anbar killed five U.S. servicemembers.

Four more U.S. soldiers were reported killed in separate attacks — three in an explosion near their vehicle Monday in the northwestern Ninevah province and another who was died of wounds from combat in western Baghdad.

So what the hell are we doing in Iraq? We're spending $10 billion a month, and for what? We've armed insurgents and militias, supported the least popular politicians, done nothing to actually fix the infrastructure all in the name of fighting some mythical "al-Qaeda in Iraq" that didn't exist before we invaded. Somehow, we're supposed to believe that this is "progress"?

That's why I don't post on Iraq very often.


Yesterday we had one of those monsoon season monster thunderstorms and lost power for a couple of hours. The nearby Rio was so flooded that I almost inflated my small raft for a couple of short whitewater runs. Today's forecast calls for more of the same, but so far I'm looking at clear blue sky. Up here in the mountains thunderstorms can build quickly, so who knows if I might get a chance to row.
Added: No storm, so no rowing.

Tuesday Tidbits

A few items that have added to today's anger/depression.
Economics is not my forte (but I am an expert on poverty) but this looks really bad:

The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”.

These include “dramatic” tax rises, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments of holdings of US debt.

Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.

“Sound familiar?” Mr Walker said. “In my view, it’s time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time.”

Mr Walker’s views carry weight because he is a non-partisan figure in charge of the Government Accountability Office, often described as the investigative arm of the US Congress.

Shaun at Kiko's House has written one of the most heartbreaking pieces about the consequences of the war in Iraq. . I won't exerpt, because it needs to be read in full.

A real, live presidential candidate said this:

“Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.” the link

And even Opus, while funny, is depressing.

R.I.P. Phil Rizzuto.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dinosaurs? There have always been dinosaurs!

I grew up, predominately, in Northern New Jersey, and like Pygalgia, was exposed to a wide range of ethnicities. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish. We were a family of six, in a massive, sprawling, antediluvian house built during the Spanish Civil War.(read: peeling paint and bubbling wallpaper) Three floors and a basement, all of it creaky and creepy, eyebrow windows in the attic, rococo staircase and double French doors with smoked glass , seven bedrooms, five bathrooms (not all of which functioned), a Pre-Columbian oak out back, even the garage had three floors. It had been built during a time of horses. Gilded.
I guess my dad was making good money at the time. He would leave for work early, usually walked to the train station, took the Erie-Lackawanna to Hoboken, and the PATH subway from there to the sprawling basement of The World Trade Center, where he would take an elevator to the 89th floor of one of those skyscrapers, and do whatever it was he did in his very important office, overlooking Manhattan and the world.
Dad was usually quite busy and stressed out in them days, striding about thunderously with suit and briefcase, not at all like the relaxed, affable little-league umpire he is nowadays. But somehow, he occasionally found the time to play catch with me, kick around a soccer ball, introduce me to what was left of New Jersey woods.
My mother was a steadfast dipsomaniac.
So while all you psychologists are out there saying "hmm" and scratching your chins, what i'm really trying to talk about here is food.
Dad was usually off somewhere with his locked briefcase, and my mom liked to get wasted, all by herself, watching soap operas. Not at all intermittently, my mother would toss me a ten spot and say " get some dinner".
Even more vivid in my memory... then of my father's coattails in the wind, rushing for the train, or Mom's half-lidded stupefied gaze, was the smell of that Jewish deli around the corner, the mounds of fresh bagels, all kinds of cream cheese, weird shit in starched white butcherpaper. And the Italian place. Subs. Dude, North NJ is all about subs. Bouncy, substantive bread, salami, prosciutto, ham, cappalone, provolone, fresh, firm roma tomatoes, always red wine vinegar and sweet red onion. Slices of pizza that were huge, isosceles, greasy, foldable. There was something about these delicatessens i found comforting, not to mention the video game machines. Galaga. Tempest. Centipede. Donkey Kong. And that one where the yellow chomping ball devours ghosts in labyrinths....
I was not some fatassed kid, as i also ran about in the woods evading dinosaurs with Grizzly Adams. (i could really use him now!) but i was chubby. Kind of a loner. The food in that Millburn, NJ neighborhood was only barely usurped by the woods. Almost sad, when my mother was sober enough to prepare dinner .
Nowadays, I am a professional cook. (you psychologists are really stroking your chins now) I've actually been doing this for awhile ; my culinary skills have been honed to slinging hash for millionaires. But sandwiches, that item so close to the bottom of the chef totem pole,- I take quite seriously.
And I still have dinosaur issues. I need you, Grizzly Adams.

Bill Richardson on foreign policy

Via Cernig at The NewsHoggers, Bill Richardson's recent article in Harvard International Review setting out his vision for American foreign policy. The article makes some great points.

*“US leaders also must restore their commitment to international law and multilateral cooperation . . .”

*“[P]romoting expansion of the UN Security Council’s permanent membership to include Japan, India, Germany, and one country each from Africa and Latin America.”

*“[E]xpanding the G8 to include new economic giants like India and China.”

*“The US government must join the International Criminal Court and respect all
international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions.”

*“On environmental issues, the United States must be the leader, not the laggard, in
global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by embracing the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and then, going well beyond it, leading the world with a man-on-the-moon effort to improve energy efficiency and to commercialize clean, alternative technologies.”

*“[S]top considering diplomatic engagement with others as a reward for good behavior.”

*Various efforts to contain nuclear proliferation, including ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

*“The United States needs to start showing, both through its words and through its actions, that this is not, as the Jihadists [and Conservative Islamophobes - C] claim, a clash of civilizations. Rather, it is a clash between civilization and barbarity.”

*“[C]losing Guantanamo.”

*“The United States also needs to pressure Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other friends in the Arab world to reform their education systems, which are incubators of anti-US sentiment.”

*“[P]ressure pharmaceutical companies to allow expanded use of generic drugs, and it should encourage public-private partnerships to reduce costs and enhance access to anti-malarial drugs and bed nets.”

*[P]romote a multilateral Marshall Plan for the Middle East and North Africa.

It's a long article, and I'm still digesting parts of it, but I like this plan:

Most urgently, the United States must focus on the real security threats, from which Iraq has so dangerously diverted its attention. This means doing the hard work to build strong coalitions to fight terrorists and to stop nuclear proliferation. There is a pronounced need for better human intelligence and better international intelligence and law enforcement coordination to prevent nuclear trafficking. US diplomatic leadership is needed to unite the world, including Russia and China, to sanction the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, and to provide these nations with positive incentives and face-saving ways to renounce nuclear weapons.

Richardson's chance of being elected is slim, but he'd make a great Secretary of State.
*Thanks, Cernig

More Politics

Related to my previous post (or why I'm not so confident about 2008) and why Rove is still dangerous, here's some thoughts on political framing.
Objectively, there is no way that shrub should have even been close to Gore or Kerry. Both were much more qualified, and should have won in a landslide. But a funny thing happened on the way to the election. Gore became a "phony" in "pastels". Kerry became a "flip-flopper" who may have "faked his war record". Shrub was "resolute" and "a guy you'd like to have a beer with".
That was what the media told us over and over again. How did this framing become so pervasive? One of the reasons was Karl Rove. He is an expert at getting a "meme" into the mainstream media. The big time talking heads listen to him, and parrot the talking point he pushes ad nauseaum.
We can already see the beginning of the framing for '08. Think of Edwards' "hair" or Obama's "blackness" (I don't have time to catalogue all the Clinton framing) compared to the "manliness" of any of the rethug candidates. This is what Rove does.
A lot of blogs seem to think Rove is now "shamed", but I doubt it. He has too many friends in the MSM who will continue to refer to him as a "genius". Congress has not laid a glove on him, in spite of ample opportunity.
Remember that the average voter (sorry, American public, but it's true) hates politics, and only knows what their TV tells them about the candidates. The "image" is what matters.
The rethugs have shown that you only need to make it close enough in order to steal the election. They're very good at it. The corporations are very good at marketing image (why is McDonalds so big?) and they are on the rethug side.
That's why I'm not celebrating Rove's resignation, or confident about '08.
added: Anybody out there old enough to remember Lee Atwater?


I'm not surprised that Karl Rove has told the WSJ that he's going to quit at the end of August. It's common to leave lame duck administrations. Karl Rove has made his career by winning elections, and our shrub won't be running for office again.
But here's the part that bears watching: Who does Rove end up working for next? Karl's got a major reason to have the next president on his side, and if he takes over one of the current rethug campaigns it will have a major impact. None of the current crop of GOP candidates (announced or un) have claimed the lead (sorry, Mitt, the Iowa strawmen don't mean much), but Rove could change that.
Remember, Rove took the least qualified candidate for president, and got him close enough that the election result could easily be manipulated into victory (yes, I consider the elections stolen. But you have to be close to get away the theft). Rove would have an easier time selling one of the current candidates. It's what he does.
So watch out. Rove inside the Whitehouse was bad, but he's much more dangerous on the campaign trail.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perseid Party

Looks like a great night for a meteor shower, so we're gonna have a little Perseid party tonight. Y'all do know that tonight is supposed to be a great night to view it, don't you?
(pic from here:
Added: Good show, although somewhat cloudy at times.

Keep him, please

There is an element of low-brow comedy to this story:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, under fire at home with calls for his resignation, is spending some time in Iraq.

The Justice Department said that Gonzales arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for his third trip to Iraq to meet with department officials who have been there to help fashion the country's legal system.

"I am pleased to see firsthand ... the progress that the men and women of the Justice Department have made to rebuild Iraq's legal system and law enforcement infrastructure," Gonzales said in a statement released by the department.

His optimistic assessment came despite the frequent sectarian lawlessness and killings in the country.;_ylt=AhsuaSFYYrMoWdL.uvDAvoSWwvIE

Given that Gonzo is totally corrupt, and that the Iraqi justice system has been plagued with corruption, it should be a great fit. I propose that he stay there and run Iraq's justice department. In return, we'll take one of Iraq's top justice's to run ours. He might not be any better, but I doubt he'd be any worse.