Saturday, December 8, 2007

it is snowing outside

I have nothing to say today. So here's a river pic.

Light Snow

While it's only a "dusting", we have our first snow of winter this morning.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Best Friday Boobies

I think this is the best pair of Boobies I've found so far for a Friday.

Act Surprised

The CIA destroyed the "torture tapes". Big surprise. Actually, I'm more surprised that they even admitted that the tapes ever existed. They claim "national security", but this is an obvious cover up of multiple crimes. And with our current dysfunctional government, they will get away with it.
This is the depth that shrub has sunk America to. The tacit admission that America has engaged in torture and then covered it up should be enough for all decent, moral people to call for impeachment. Instead, we get a lot of blather regarding "well, the tapes have been destroyed" as if that is exculpatory of the actual torture. I'm betting that there will be no prosecution of these crimes. They no longer even bother to lie about the torture itself.
As on so many other times, the shrub administration has placed themselves above the law, knowing that they wont be held accountable for their crimes.
How did we come to this? We deserve better.
added: Obstruction of justice is an easier charge to face than violation of international law, I suppose.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Way Too Dumb

Mutt Romney gave his speech "on faith" and proved that he is way too stupid to be president by saying this:
ROMNEY: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.”

Anyone who knows even the smallest smattering of history would know that this is absolutely false, not true, stupid, and dangerous.
(lots of other blogs have done more lengthy critiques of Romney's speech. I'll keep mine simple)

History in 100 Words

The history of the human race in 100 words:

Alan Charles Kors

George H. Walker Endowed Term Professor of

  • First, tribes: tough life.
  • The defaults beyond the intimate tribe were violence, aversion to difference, and slavery. Superstition: everywhere.
  • Culture overcomes them partially.
  • Rainfall agriculture, which allows loners.
  • Irrigation agriculture, which favors community.
  • Division of labor plus exchange in trade bring mutual cooperation, even outside the tribe.
  • The impulse is always there, though: "Kill or enslave the outsider."
  • Gradual science from Athens' compact with reason.
  • Division of labor, trade, the mastery of knowledge, plus time brought surplus, sometimes a peaceful extended order and, rules diversely evolved and, the cooperation of strangers - always warring against the fierce defaults of tribalism, violence, and ignorance.
  • No one who teaches you knows what will happen.

Pretty accurate in my opinion.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Job Hunting (or an excuse for the 900th post)

Those around me know that I'm looking for a job. Then I saw this one:

The opportunity of a lifetime! The government is paying up to $144,000 for a "business development/tourism" expert to "work with private sector businesses and local governments in fostering business development with a particular focus on tourism and related services."

The 13-month job also offers a 35 percent "danger pay" premium and other bonuses because it's based in Baghdad.

Yes, as the surge continues to calm things, the State Department figures it's time for the tourists to show up. But Iraqi tourism has been on the skids for many years and jump-starting projects will not be easy.

So one of your jobs will be "recognizing and reporting on obstacles to business development" -- small-arms fire, roadside bombs, for example -- and to be "a catalyst for new ideas."

So, dear readers, should I apply for this job? Why or why not?

BTW, I could always use P.J. O'Rourke's slogan "see the ruins".

Happy Repeal Day

Today really should be a national holday. On December 5th, 1933 prohibition came to an end. Feel free to celebrate however you see fit, but as for me, I'll use it as an excuse to have a beer later (not that I need an excuse).

Walter Cronkite on Iraq

For those of us old enough to remember Vietnam, the voice of Walter Cronkite has a certain resonance. When he called for the end to the Vietnam war, the country listened. Now he's speaking out (written with David Krieger) for the end of the war in Iraq:

The American people no longer support the war in Iraq. The war is being carried on by a stubborn president who, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, does not want to lose. But from the beginning this has been an ill-considered and poorly prosecuted war that, like the Vietnam War, has diminished respect for America. We believe Mr. Bush would like to drag the war on long enough to hand it off to another president.

The war in Iraq reminds us of the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Both wars began with false assertions by the president to the American people and the Congress. Like Vietnam, the Iraq War has introduced a new vocabulary: “shock and awe,” “mission accomplished,” “the surge.” Like Vietnam, we have destroyed cities in order to save them. It is not a strategy for success.

The Bush administration has attempted to forestall ending the war by putting in more troops, but more troops will not solve the problem. We have lost the hearts and minds of most of the Iraqi people, and victory no longer seems to be even a remote possibility. It is time to end our occupation of Iraq, and bring our troops home.

Mr. Cronkite makes the case quite simply:

We must ask ourselves whether continuing to pursue this war is benefiting the American people or weakening us. We must ask whether continuing the war is benefiting the Iraqi people or inflicting greater suffering upon them. We believe the answer to these inquiries is that both the American and Iraqi people would benefit by ending the US military presence in Iraq.

Moving forward is not complicated, but it will require courage. Step one is to proceed with the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and hand over the responsibility for the security of Iraq to Iraqi forces. Step two is to remove our military bases from Iraq and to turn Iraqi oil over to Iraqis. Step three is to provide resources to the Iraqis to rebuild the infrastructure that has been destroyed in the war.

Congress must act. Although Congress never declared war, as required by the Constitution, they did give the president the authority to invade Iraq. Congress must now withdraw that authority and cease its funding of the war.

It is not likely, however, that Congress will act unless the American people make their voices heard with unmistakable clarity. That is the way the Vietnam War was brought to an end. It is the way that the Iraq War will also be brought to an end. The only question is whether it will be now, or whether the war will drag on, with all the suffering that implies, to an even more tragic, costly and degrading defeat. We will be a better, stronger and more decent country to bring the troops home now.

Thank you, Mr. Cronkite for speaking out. I only hope that the American people will again heed your word of wisdom.

Shrub Rejects Intelligence

I had hoped to post yesterday on shrub's press conference, but didn't get to it. Shrub seems to be rather confused by the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
For example, Iran halting their nuclear weapons program in 2003 means:

Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. The NIE says that Iran had a hidden -- a covert nuclear weapons program. That's what it said. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program? And the best way to ensure that the world is peaceful in the future is for the international community to continue to work together to say to the Iranians, we're going to isolate you.

Notice that shrub believes that "knowledge" is "dangerous" (which explains a lot of his behavior). He made the point more than once:
I think it is very important for the international community to recognize the fact that if Iran were to develop the knowledge that they could transfer to a clandestine program it would create a danger for the world. And so I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program. And the reason why it's a warning signal is that they could restart it. And the thing that would make a restarted program effective and dangerous is the ability to enrich uranium, the knowledge of which could be passed on to a hidden program.

Of course, the "knowledge" to make a nuclear weapon is readily available to just about anyone who has studied physics. Given that Iran has a fairly highly educated population (many Americans may be surprised by that) and that the "knowledge" is readily available in the world, we would have to eliminate a lot of people to keep Iran from having the "knowledge". And he's not backing down:

THE PRESIDENT: No, nobody ever told me that. Having said -- having laid that out, I still feel strongly that Iran is a danger. Nothing has changed in this NIE that says, okay, why don't we just stop worrying about it. Quite the contrary. I think the NIE makes it clear that Iran needs to be taken seriously as a threat to peace. My opinion hasn't changed.

And I just explained, Jim, that if you want to avoid a really problematic situation in the Middle East, now is the time to continue to work together. That's our message to our allies, and it's an important message for them to hear. And here's the reason why: In order for a nation to develop a nuclear weapons program they must have the materials from which to make a bomb, the know-how on how to take that material and make it explode, and a delivery system.

Now, the Iranians -- the most difficult aspect of developing a weapons program, or as some would say, the long pole in the tent, is enriching uranium. This is a nation -- Iran is a nation that is testing ballistic missiles. And it is a nation that is trying to enrich uranium. The NIE says this is a country that had a covert nuclear weapons program, which, by the way, they have failed to disclose, even today. They have never admitted the program existed in the first place.

The danger is, is that they can enrich, play like they got a civilian program -- or have a civilian program, or claim it's a civilian program -- and pass the knowledge to a covert military program. And then the danger is, is at some point in the future, they show up with a weapon. And my comments are, now is the time to work together to prevent that scenario from taking place. It's in our interests.

So Iran is a "threat to peace"? I know it's not a revelation that our shrub is a moron, but how the hell did this idiot get to be in charge of a country that has actual functioning nuclear weapons? Shrub has proven himself to be the greatest threat to peace on the planet. It wont be Iran that starts WWIII. Let us hope that shrub will be prevented from starting it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

That's Good

Under the list of unexpected treats, Zymurgian made "mullagatoni" (spelling by guess), an Indian curry soup. I had planned a basic dinner of something sandwich, but I ran into a bouquet of marvelous flavors. Thanks, Zymurgian.
Added: It's not that I don't know how to cook, it's that as a single guy I seldom get motivated to cook. I seldom get the urge to make really good food, and instead go for quick and easy. So a really good soup is a treat.

The NPR Debate

Sister Mary Ellen at The Devine Democrat did a "live blog" forum, with some truly great comments (my own were short).
Well, that was an improvement. NPR took an audience-free, topic focused format and allowed all the candidates (minus Richardson who was repatriating a Korean war vet's remains) time to go beyond sound bytes. While there were no home runs, everybody came away sounding like a huge improvement over shrub. Hillary sounded slick, Barack was tentative at first but got better as the debate continued, Edwards continued his populist message, Joe and Chris both sounded smart and experienced, Dennis was Dennis, and Gravel finally got to talk.
The debate was limited to 3 areas: Iran/Iraq, China/Trade, and Immigration.
On Iran/Iraq: Clinton was the most hawkish, Obama stumbled a bit but sounded solid on engagement, as did Edwards. Biden emphasised his experience, as did Dodd. Kucinich and Gravel took the strongest anti-war positions (as expected), but were both too much "I told you so" rather than how to fix the mess.
China/Trade: Everybody agreed on the need for more regulation enforcement, but the amount of "leverage" was divisive. The nuance between the candidates was quite interesting.
Immigration: Bah! I swear, beyond Gravel, they all fell into the trap of this wedge issue. If I could tell the Democratic candidates what to say on immigration it would be very simple: Restore the funding that shrub has cut from INS so that the LEGAL immigration system can work, and illegal immigration will decrease dramatically.
Anyway, here's the link (transcript not up yet):

Monday, December 3, 2007

Another Outrage

When I read this story, I almost could not believe it. This is a total outrage:

WASHINGTON — In a nondescript conference room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside listened last week as an Army prosecutor outlined the criminal case against her. The charges: attempting suicide and endangering the life of another soldier while serving in Iraq.

Her hands trembled as Maj. Stefan Wolfe, the prosecutor, argued that Whiteside, now a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed, should be court-martialed. After seven years of exemplary service, the Army reservist faces the possibility of life in prison if she is tried and convicted.

Military psychiatrists at Walter Reed who examined Whiteside, 25, after she recovered from her self-inflicted gun wound diagnosed her with a severe mental disorder, possibly triggered by the stresses of a war zone. But Whiteside's superiors considered her mental illness "an excuse" for criminal conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At the hearing, Wolfe, who had warned Whiteside's lawyer of the risk of using a "psychobabble" defense, pressed a senior psychiatrist at Walter Reed to justify his diagnosis.

"I'm not here to play legal games," Col. George Brandt, chief of Behavioral Health Services in Walter Reed's Department of Psychiatry, responded angrily, according to a recording of the hearing. "I am here out of the genuine concern for a human being that's breaking and that is broken. She has a severe and significant illness. Let's treat her as a human being, for Christ's sake!"

In recent months, prodded by outrage over poor conditions at Walter Reed, the Army has made a highly publicized effort to improve treatment of Iraq veterans and change a culture that stigmatizes mental illness. The Pentagon has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to new research and to care for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. On Friday, it said it had opened a new center for psychological health in Arlington, Va.

But outside the Pentagon, the military still largely deals with mental-health problems in an ad-hoc way, often relying on the judgment of combat-hardened commanders whose understanding of mental illness is vague or misinformed.

The stigma around psychological wounds can be seen in the smallest of Army policies. While family members of soldiers recovering at Walter Reed from physical injuries are provided free lodging and a per diem to care for loved ones, families of psychiatric outpatients usually have to pay their own way.

Wolfe suggested the military court might not buy the mental-illness defense. "Who doesn't find psychobabble unclear ... how many people out there believe that insanity should never be a defense, that it is just ... an 'excuse.' "

A soul broken down by war attempting to take her own life is a tragedy. To prosecute her is flat out cruel and inhumane. I've got a piece of "psychobabble" for you, prosecutor Wolfe: Sociopathic sadistic fucks like you are an offense to the honor of America's veterans.

Please, contact your congressperson and senators and demand better treatment for mentally-ill vets.

Shrub Reveals a Truth

Our shrub revealed his true intent while blasting Democrats in congress:

“In a political maneuver designed to block my ability to make recess appointments, congressional leaders arranged for a senator to come in every three days or so, bang a gavel, wait for about 30 seconds, bang a gavel again, and then leave,” Bush said. “Under the Senate rules, this counts as a full day. If 30 seconds is a full day, no wonder Congress has got a lot of work to do.”

Senate Democrats had held pro forma sessions throughout the Thanksgiving break to keep the Senate “in session” and block Bush from making recess appointments.

He just implied that he would have made recess appointments, but congress prevented him from doing so. Good job, Sen. Reid (something I rarely say)!

The Cheney is Upset

This report is not going to make the Cheney happy:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program. Concerns about Iran were raised sharply after President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III,” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.

The finding also come in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed. The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”

“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states.

So, will 16 intelligence agencies saying clearly "Iran is not a nuclear threat" be enough to stop all the talk about war? I doubt it. But it could be enough to stop an actual war.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Imperial Hubris

Not the book (which is quite good), but the latest assertion of authority from the shrub administration:

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.

Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects.

The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.

Got that? Shrub's law trumps international law and all previous extradition treaties. And they're actually putting it to the test:

The US government’s view emerged during a hearing involving Stanley Tollman, a former director of Chelsea football club and a friend of Baroness Thatcher, and his wife Beatrice.

The Tollmans, who control the Red Carnation hotel group and are resident in London, are wanted in America for bank fraud and tax evasion. They have been fighting extradition through the British courts.

During a hearing last month Lord Justice Moses, one of the Court of Appeal judges, asked Alun Jones QC, representing the US government, about its treatment of Gavin, Tollman’s nephew. Gavin Tollman was the subject of an attempted abduction during a visit to Canada in 2005.

Jones replied that it was acceptable under American law to kidnap people if they were wanted for offences in America. “The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared,” he said.

Sometimes it seems that shrub is trying to unite the world against us. I mean, last time I looked, the British were one of the few countries that we have good relations with. Pissing them off doesn't strike me as a good move.

How would America respond if another country (oh, say Germany) decided that they are entitled to abduct an American citizen (oh, say Donald Rumsfield) whom they accuse of a crime?

Or is shrub tacitly implying that America now rules the world?

Added: Cernig of The NewsHoggers adds this thought:

But the same administration has vigorously pursued immunity from prosecution for US citizens by other nations for crimes committed while in those nations. Such a double standard, fuelled by a view of American exceptionalism which draws its inspiration from past colonial powers (including, it must be admitted, Britain) gives a clear lie to administration supporters' claims of there being no intention for hegemonic dominance. Only the most blinkered "my country, right or wrong" zealots could argue otherwise.

British law, however, says that kidnapping is a crime with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The UK government should make it clear that charges will be brought against any US official authorising kidnapping under a purely American and outdated law - and that even if extradition is refused by the US then those charges will remain
open indefinitely. It should also make it clear that should the accused travel to another nation where the UK has an extradition treaty, Britain will ask for remand of the suspect to a British court for trial. Other nations should follow suit.

We live in a very strange time.