Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tonights Joke

For a while this evening, one corner of the brewery was "Pygalgia". Sweaterman, Zymurgian, Gandhisxmas, and I were all together for a beer. And 3 dozen unwritten posts were debated. Bottom line: we're a pretty lazy group of bloggers.
But we can tell jokes.
My contribution:
Two early Cavemen, Ugh and Thak, are sitting by a fire.
Ugh is really good at naming things. He named "rock" and "tree", then he even found the word "wet". Thak was impressed.So, while sitting by the fire, Ugh looks at his hand and tells Thak " I use this hand to throw rock. I use this hand to cut meat. I'll call this hand the 'right hand', because it is the 'right' hand to use".
Thak has to ask him "what will you call the one that's left?".
Please feel free to put your joke in the comments.
Added: The joke is funnier when acted out.

Saturday Time Wasters

A couple of perfectly good wastes of time for a Saturday. First, from Bing at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes, you can find out what you did in a past life . Here's mine:
Your past life diagnosis:

I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Italy around the year 575. Your profession was that of a librarian, priest or keeper of tribal relics.

Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Seeker of truth and wisdom. You could have seen your future lives.
Others perceived you as an idealist illuminating path to future.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
Your lesson is to develop a kind attitude towards people, and to acquire the gift of understanding and compassion.

Do you remember now?
Another minor entertainment: Virtual Bubble Wrap:

Sometimes we miss stupid things when we move into a more green lifestyle. Yes, one of the things I most miss is the easily-reusable, but non-biodegradable, petro-chemical-based packing material, bubble wrap.

I don't miss using miss destroying it. Turning it from a useful product into a sheet of pure trash. And while I know that popping bubble wrap is no good for anyone, that doesn't stop me from wanting to do it.

Which is why I'm so happy that I've found a way to artificially pop bubble wrap in the virtual world. Check it out, and don't forget to go into manic mode.

Hope that someone's Saturday isn't totally wasted.
Added: And Aliens in the news:

A GOVERNMENT investigation into a series of unexplained fires in fridges, televisions and mobile phones in an Italian village has concluded that the responsibility lies with "aliens testing secret weapons".

In scenes similar to the drama series The X-Files, Canneto di Caronia on Sicily was the centre of world attention three years ago after residents reported everyday household objects - electrical appliances, a pile of wedding presents and furniture - bursting into flames.

Dozens of experts including scientists, electrical engineers and military experts, arrived in the village, in the north of the island, to investigate. One amazed scientist reported seeing an unplugged electrical cable burst into flames.

No word on the legal status of the aliens.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Signs for our Times

A couple of pics found on the 'net that seem to explain our current world.

A Boobie from Palmyra

This Friday's boobie came from a story on NPR. More here:

Stupid Sanctions

Shrub had Condi announce a new round of sanctions against Iran. I'll let Prof. Cole explain why it's a bad idea:

The Bush administration announced wideranging new sanctions on Iran on Thursday, which target three Iranian banks, nine companies associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and several individuals, as well as the IRGC (roughly analogous to the National Guard in the US, i.e. a populist adjunct to the formal Iranian army).

These unilateral sanctions clearly reflect frustration on the part of Bush/Cheney that they have not been able to convince the UN Security Council to apply international sanctions. (Iran has not been demonstrated to be doing anything that is illegal in international law.)

The sanctions may work but may not. The Dutch Shell corporation is thinking seriously of bucking the US and helping develop Iranian oil and gas production. China is negotiating a big deal with Iran. The world is energy hungry. Iran has energy. The US is a debtor nation, and has gone even more deeply into debt under Bush. It may just not be able to stand in the way of the development of Iranians energy.

The hypocrisy of the Bush case is obvious when it complains about Iran supporting Hizbullah and Hamas. The Kurds based in American Iraq have done much worse things to Turkey in the past month than Hizbullah did to Israel in June of 2006. Yet when Israel launched a brutal and wideranging war on all of Lebanon, destroying precious infrastructure and dumping enormous amounts of oil into the Mediterranean, damaging Beirut airport, destroying essential bridges in Christian areas, and then releasing a million cluster bomblets on civilian areas in the last 3 days of the war-- when Israel did all that, Bush and Cheney applauded and argued against a 'premature' cease-fire! Yet they are trying to convince Turkey just to put up stoically with the PKK terrorists who have killed dozens of Turkish troops recently and kidnapped 8 (again, more than the number of Iraeli troops that were kidnapped). Bush's coddling of the PKK in Iraq is not different from Iran's support for Hizbullah, except that the PKK is a more dangerous and brutal organization than Hizbullah.

Not to mention the US-backed Kurdish front against Iran itself, as Farideh Farhi

Among the more fantastic charges that Bush made against Iran was that its government was actively arming and helping the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. In fact, the Taliban are extremist Sunnis who hate, and have killed large numbers of Shiites. Shiite Iran is unlikely to support them. The neo-Taliban are a threat to the Karzai government, which represents the Northern Alliance (Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbeks) along with non-Taliban Pushtuns. The Hazara are Shiite clients of Iran, and both the Tajiks and the Uzbeks are close to Tehran. The neo-Taliban are being supported by Pakistan, which resents the Northern Alliance, not by Iran, which favors it.

That Iran is trying to destabilize the Shiite government in Baghdad is absurd. The Bush administration charge that Iran is the source of explosively formed projectiles is based on very little evidence and flies in the face of common sense; in fact these bombs are probably made in Iraq itself or perhaps come from Hizbullah in

The charges are frankly ridiculous, and certainly are so if proportionality is taken into account. That is, if one bomb was sold by an Iranian arms dealer to the Taliban for profit, a hundred bombs were given to the Taliban by Pakistan for tactical reasons. Likewise, the Shiite militias in Iraq have killed very few American troops when the US troops have left the Shiites alone; most attacks on the US come from Sunni Arabs.

The Senate Kyl-Lieberman resolution helped legitimize this new Bush policy, which is why the senators should not have voted for it. It took us one more step down the
road to war with Iran.

Why, oh why, are they so committed to an adversarial relationship with Iran? We need more allies, not more wars.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Strange Search Results

I'm sometimes amused by the searches that bring people here, but I got a real chuckle from one this morning. Searching for:
"Sex With Miners"
OK, I'll try to help you out. While I have never had sex with a miner, I don't think that there's anything wrong with it. As long as the miner is consenting, go for it.
But I would avoid doing it at the workplace.
Added: Thanks to Bing at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes, here's the truth:
"Sex with miners"

That's One Long List

The "terrorist watch list" is now at 755,000 names. And you may have wondered why the government wants more wiretaps? Silly you, there are 3/4 of a million terrorists to worry about:
WASHINGTON — The government's terrorist watch list has swelled to more than 755,000 names, according to a new government report that has raised worries about the list's effectiveness.

The size of the list, typically used to check people entering the country through land border crossings, airports and sea ports, has been growing by 200,000 names a year since 2004. Some lawmakers, security experts and civil rights advocates warn that it will become useless if it includes too many people.

"It undermines the authority of the list," says Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies. "There's just no rational, reasonable estimate that there's anywhere close to that many suspected terrorists."

The exact number of people on the list, compiled after 9/11 to help government agents keep terrorists out of the country, is unclear, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some people may be on the list more than once because they are listed under multiple spellings.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who plans a hearing on the report today, says "serious hurdles remain if (the list) is to be as effective as we need it to be. Some of the concerns stem from its rapid growth, which could call into question the quality of the list itself."

About 53,000 people on the list were questioned since 2004, according to the GAO, which says the Homeland Security Department doesn't keep records on how many were denied entry or allowed into the country after questioning. Most were apparently released and allowed to enter, the GAO says.

Of course, none of these people are on the list for political reasons. The government would never do that, right?
And check out the growth rate:

The number of terror watch-list records [1] more than quadrupled over roughly a three-year period:

June 2004158,374
May 2005287,982
June 2006515,906
May 2007754,960

[1]: One record reflects one name but not necessarily one person.

Source: Julie Snider, USA TODAY; Government Accountability

At this rate, we'll all be on the watch list in a few years. Or maybe we already are...

On Torture

I cannot believe I'm hearing this debate in America. Now it's Rudy G., echoing AG nominee Mukasey on "waterboarding":

Linda Gustitus, who is the president of a group called the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, began her question by saying that President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey (who happens to be an old friend of Mr. Giuliani’s) had “fudged” on the question of whether waterboarding is torture.

“I wanted to ask you two questions,’’ she said. “One, do you think waterboarding is torture? And two, do you think the president can order something like waterboarding even though it’s against U.S. and international law?’’

Mr. Giuliani responded: “Okay. First of all, I don’t believe the attorney general designate in any way was unclear on torture. I think Democrats said that; I don’t think he was.’’

Ms. Gustitus said: “He said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.”

Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.

This should be simple: torture is wrong (and it doesn't work). America is better that this.

While I oppose torture, I'm willing to allow an exception. Anyone who claims that "waterboarding" isn't torture (such as Mukasy and Giuliani) should subject themselves to being "waterboarded" on national TV. If you are willing to subject other people to such treatment, you must undergo such treatment yourself first.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Whirlled Series

So, Rocks or Sox? I have a lot of Sox fans in my family, but I'm a western liberal. So I'm leaning Rocks, but if I were betting my money would be on the Sox.


For our 800th post, here's a picture of Slickhorn Canyon on the San Juan river. Getting to 800 posts is more than I would have imagined when the blog started, and I really want to thank Sweaterman, Gandhisxmas, and Zymurgian for their contributions. Also, a BIG thanks to readers and commenter's, whose encouragement has made this project worthwhile.


So the White House scrubs the CDC report on the health risks associated with global warming. Then it gets weird:

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before a Senate panel yesterday on the impact of climate change on public health, but the White House altered her testimony before it was delivered. References to potential health risks were removed; one CDC official said Gerberding’s draft “was eviscerated”; and details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming were deleted.

This afternoon, reporters asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino to explain what happened.

Q: On the CDC testimony, you said this morning on Dr. G’s testimony was not “watered down.” Can you tell us why it was altered to leave out any discussion of serious health effects related to global warming, and to leave out her original comment, that “CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern”?

PERINO: I haven’t seen the specific edits…. As I understand it, in the draft there was broad characterizations about climate-change science that didn’t align with the IPCC. And we have experts and scientists across this administration that can take a look at that testimony and say, “This is an error,” or, “This doesn’t make sense.” And so the decision was made on behalf of CDC to focus that testimony on public health benefits.

Well, there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, both benefits and concerns, that someone line Dr. Gerberding, who is the expert in the field, could address. And so that’s the testimony she provided yesterday….

“Public health benefits.” Seriously. The White House touched up the director of the CDC’s Senate testimony, coincidentally taking out the information the Bush gang finds politically inconvenient, and the president’s press secretary is left talking about the silver lining of global warming.

Too bad she didn’t get into specifics; I’d love to know what these “public health benefits” might be. Less hypothermia? Fewer instances of frostbite? A steep decline in the number of snowball-fight-related injuries?

Lest anyone think it was a slip of the tongue, Perino referenced these benefits three times in today’s briefing.

Q: So, why wasn’t the Senate committee able to hear Dr. Gerberding’s full opinion? Why were 10 pages of 14 taken out.

PERINO: I disagree, Peter…. We believe climate change is real; we believe that humans are largely responsible; we are working on a way to solve the problem. And in the meantime, we are working with experts, like Julie Gerberding, to figure out what are going to be the health benefits and the health concerns of climate change, of which there are many.

Note that last detail: 10 of 14 pages were removed from the report about health risks. Instead, we only get vague words about the "benefits". Some days, I think we've gone so far beyond Orwell that only Lewis Carroll could make sense of it.

A Problem on the Fireline

As the tragic fires in Southern California continue to (understandably) dominate the news, here's a pice of the story that is important:

SAN DIEGO -- As this county burned, firefighters confronted a familiar reality: too few resources and not enough personnel to effectively make a stand.

San Diego officials say fire conditions Monday would have overwhelmed even a larger, better equipped firefighting force. They point to progress made in the four years since the devastating Cedar and Paradise fires, including a better communications system, more air support and an automated evacuation call system.

But little else has changed. Just one new city fire station has been built since 2003, and many of the area's chronically underfunded fire departments still fall short of national standards.

Once again, firefighters here found themselves outrun by fast-moving fires that
hopscotched the county. And the logistical challenge of moving at least 233,000 households out of harm's way proved daunting.

"We're stretched about as thin as we could possibly be," said San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman.,0,5020072,print.story?coll=la-home-center

Coupled with the lack of National Guard units available (they're busy bringing freedom to Iraq), who are supposed to be the first responders in case of disaster, it's another example of our misplaced priorities. We have gutted the nations infrastructure for the sake of tax cuts and wars. With each disaster or crisis, I'm reminded of the reasons for government and the result of our neglect. We deserve better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shrub is Getting More Delusional

Our shrub is using Iran as a justification for the missle defense shield, but to me it sounds like the delusional ravings of a paranoid schizophrenic:

Our intelligence community assesses that, with continued foreign assistance, Iran could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States and all of Europe before 2015. If it chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability. And we need to take it seriously -- now.

Today, we have no way to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, so we must deploy a missile defense system there that can.

The various nutcase ravings about the "need to attack Iran" are getting crazier with each passing week, but this one is just plain insane. The missle defense shield doesn't work, so we must use it to defend ourselves from weapons that don't exist, because Iran might someday attack us? What's next? Iran might develop flying zombie vampire pigs someday, so we must attack them now?

Sounds Fair

With all kinds of big news to ignore, I found this story about an air base deal with Ecuador amusing:

NAPLES (Reuters) - Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.
Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.
"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.
"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."

The U.S. embassy to Ecuador says on its Web site that anti-narcotics flights from Manta gathered information behind more than 60 percent of illegal drug seizures on the high seas of the Eastern Pacific last year.

Hey, that sound reasonable. After all, maybe the Ecuadorian Air Force would be an ally in the war on (some) drugs.


I haven't posted about the Turkish-Kurdish escalation because I'm waiting to see how it will play out (I suspect badly), but I hope that this map will help explain some of the tensions. When the Ottoman empire was carved up, creating the current map of the Middle East, the Kurds got screwed. Now, Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq all have Kurdish minorities who do not identify themselves with their national governments.

And they have oil.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thinking About Iraq

As I was reading Riverbend, I found myself thinking "how would we handle it if that happened here?"
Here are some simple parameters for this game:
Prior to the invasion, Iraq had roughly 25 million people.
4.5 million people are now refugees, either internally or externally.
At least 1 million are dead.
Look around your friends, your family, your community. Take out 1 of 6. Randomly.
(No, you don't get to choose which 1/6 you'll lose.)
That's a simple way to understand Iraq. 1 out of 6 people are gone. They are either dead or refugees.
How would YOU respond if that were the reality around you?.

Don't Tell Zymurgian

Because I like my kitchen, I don't want Zymurgian to click on this link.

Flickr user Cog_nate got into the Hallowe'en spirit by using a pumpkin as a
brewing vessel, documenting the process in a Flickr set. Link

But I did post it anyway.

Human Views on Iraq

Riverbend Has a new post up , and it's about as tragic as you'd expect. On Iraqi's adjusting to life in Syria:

It is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria today. I believe it. Walking down the streets of Damascus, you can hear the Iraqi accent everywhere. There are areas like Geramana and Qudsiya that are packed full of Iraqi refugees.


We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven.

The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house- across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask- this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too... Welcome to the building.”

I cried that night because for the first time in a long time, so far away from home, I felt the unity that had been stolen from us in 2003.

At the same time, here's a piece by NPR's Tom Bullock, who's ending his time as their Baghdad correspondent. It, too, reflects the human tragedy of Iraq:

At a pizza parlor not far from where we use to live there was a piano and an Iraqi-Armenian who had an amazing ear for music. You'd walk in and he'd hand you a dog eared copy of the songs he could play and demand you make a request. He spoke almost no English and the song titles showed it. "Fly Me to the Moon" became "Fling Me at the Moon." Whatever the name, the guy could play – and the pizza was great.

On a regular basis American troops would show up there to buy dozens of pies to go, then throw them in the back of their armored vehicles and drive them back to their base — basically the world's most heavily protected pizza delivery service.

That world was brilliant, brief, and, is no more.

As the violence increased everything in Baghdad changed. The Americans became isolated behind barriers in the Green Zone and U.S. bases. All of Baghdad turned into 12-foot high concrete blast walls and razor wire that spread through the city like kudzu.

Our reporting changed too. Dominated by stories of car bombs, insurgent attacks and then civil war, millions of Iraqis fleeing and thousands dying as Shiites and Sunnis cleansed neighborhoods and bombed markets.

Kidnappings became commonplace.

I became a prisoner in our bureau. To go out meant putting not only my own life at risk, but the lives of my translators and drivers as well. So we taught the Iraqis we work with our trade, and they became journalists.

Our entire Iraqi staff is now made up of refugees. Each one has been forced to flee his or her home and seek safety in another neighborhood. Not because they work with us, but because they prayed slightly differently than the militia on their street.


Working in Baghdad is a strange thing. You get accustomed to the long days and constant work. You learn to live with having no where to let off steam. The cycle is simple: wake up, work, repeat.

You weed through press releases and sit through press conferences, which seem at odds with the reality we — living the Red Zone, the real world — know all too well.

Some of my favorites: a series of statements from the Iraqi government saying reconciliation is at hand. Read the fine print and make some phone calls, and you found out there's been a meeting to agree on a more important meeting on some unknown day in Iraq's very unknowable future.

Or, the US military saying Iraqi forces will be able to take over security in the country in 12 to 18 months. I've been told that regularly for the last three plus years.

Some press releases are just plain strange: U.S. troops defuse an explosive device strapped to a donkey. I'm pleased to report the donkey was unharmed by the way.

Have I been harmed? I've come close. But after 21 tours my body and mind seem to have held up OK.


My last view of Baghdad will be of the city by air. I will leave frustrated at that death of that golden era of pizza parlors and barber shops; frustrated with Iraqi's I've talked to who proudly say "we are all brothers," then take up arms against each other; frustrated with American military and civilian officials who stand up and say everything in Iraq is working, then when they leave write books about how everything in Iraq has failed and its not their fault.

And I'm pained by the number of people I've personally known who've been killed here: journalists, Iraqis and American soldiers.

There is nothing left to "win" in Iraq. The longer we stay, the worse it will get. We can't put Humpty-Dumpty back together.

Added: And airstrikes don't make the situation better:

Bombs targeted Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad on Monday, killing at least seven people and wounding two dozen, while Iraqi police reported that a woman and her daughter were wounded in an American airstrike against the Shiite enclave of Sadr City.

The airstrike leveled a small shop selling engine oil, wounding a woman and her daughter who were in their house nearby, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. The U.S. military said it was checking on the report.

The number killed in Baghdad's main Shiite enclave was one of the highest tolls for a single operation since President Bush declared an end to active combat in 2003.;_ylt=AkttyMBp8VviKKIWCB9tGXQUewgF

I've read a lot of speculation about what will happen if we leave Iraq. But look what is happening now as we stay. When we are conducting airstrikes on civilians, we are committing war crimes. Is this what we have achieved?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Post You Can Ignore

I'm going to ramble here, so please feel free to ignore this post.
Cheney and Obama are 8th cousins? Well, my sister (a christian republican) took over the family genealogy research after my father passed, and she found that we are 5th cousins to our shrub. She announced this with pride. I'm with Obama: "Every family has its black sheep". But as long as we're related, I want to say "Hey shrub, can I get one of those no bid contracts? I can do almost nothing for a ton of money as well as the next guy".
I went to the brewery to watch game seven of the ALCS. Unfortunately, a redneck sat down next to me. I love a good political debate, but this guy wanted to complain about "Liberals" during the GAME. Idiot. So I decided to watch at home. I'm writing this during commercials (I hate commercials), with no rednecks yelling in my ear.
One of my housemates (well, OK, all of them) has a minor sanity deficiency. We call him the "attack hamster", because he's small but ferocious. But now he's taken to sleeping in a hammock in the back yard on any night that will get below freezing. That's right: Below freezing. This old hippie believes in letting everybody do their own thing, but it's really cold out there. Just looking at that hammock sends me to grab another blanket.
Added: While I'm watching the game, there is a commercial for a medication for bipolar disorder. Psychiatric medication being advertised? WTF?