Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quitting on the job

When there is no reason for working:
WATERTOWN, New York - Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here in upstate New York say that morale among US soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed "search and avoid" missions.

Phil Aliff is an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum. He served nearly one year in Iraq from August 2005 to July 2006, in the areas of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, both west of Baghdad.

"Morale was incredibly low," said Aliff, adding that he joined the military because he was raised in a poor family by a single mother and had few other prospects. "Most men in my platoon in Iraq were just in from combat tours in Afghanistan."

According to Aliff, their mission was to help the Iraqi army "stand up" in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, but in fact his platoon was doing all the fighting without support from the Iraqis they were supposedly preparing to take control of the security situation.

"I never heard of an Iraqi unit that was able to operate on their own," said Aliff, who is now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). "The only reason we were replaced by an Iraqi army unit was for publicity."

Aliff said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. "We were hit by so many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralized, so we decided the only way we wouldn't be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time."

"So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine," he said, adding, "All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of command."
Reminds me of the stories about how the soldiers were behaving in the last part of the Vietnam War. And then there is this:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several hundred U.S. diplomats vented anger and frustration Wednesday about the State Department's decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq, with some likening it to a "potential death sentence."

In a contentious hour-long "town hall meeting" called to explain the step, these workers peppered the official who signed the order with often hostile complaints about the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam. Announced last week, it will require some diplomats - under threat of dismissal - to serve at the embassy in Baghdad and in so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams in outlying provinces.

Many expressed serious concern about the ethics of sending diplomats against their will to serve in a war zone, where the embassy staff is largely confined to the so-called "Green Zone," and the safety outside the area is uncertain while a review of the department's use of private security contractors to protect its staff is under way.


"It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment," Crotty said. "I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?"

"You know that at any other (country) in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point," Crotty said to loud and sustained applause from the about 300 diplomats who attended the meeting in a large State Department auditorium.


Under the new order, 200 to 300 diplomats have been identified as "prime candidates" to fill 48 vacancies that will open next year at the Baghdad embassy and in the provinces. Those notified that they have been selected for a one-year posting will have 10 days to accept or reject the position. If not enough say yes, some will be ordered to go.

Only those with compelling reasons, such as a medical condition or extreme personal hardship, will be exempt from disciplinary action. Diplomats who are forced into service in Iraq will receive the same extra hardship pay, vacation time and choice of future assignments as those who have volunteered.
Gee. What if they gave a war and nobody came? C'mon, Georgie, go get your pals and go over there. You can show us how to do it! At least you know how to dress the part....

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Green light, red light

Lights are on but nobody's home. Helen Thomas tries to get Dana Perino to answer a question:

Q Would the President seek an explicit green light from Congress if he intended to bomb or attack Iran, or does he think he has that right?

MS. PERINO: Well, Helen, there is no intention of bombing Iran. We are on a diplomatic track. We are working with our partners, the U.N. Security Council. We have provided them, the Iranians, a road map to get to a civil nuclear program. They have walked away from that. We are hoping that they'll come back. We are both working with our U.N. Security Council partners as well as pursuing sanctions on our own, and there is not an intention to bomb Iran, as you said.

Q Does the President think he has the right to do it without going through Congress?

MS. PERINO: That is -- it's a hypothetical situation, Helen. I'm not going to answer it.

Q It's not hypothetical. It's concrete.

MS. PERINO: Go ahead. Sarah.

Why does the White House even have a press room?

Big Brother Clear Channel only wants the best for you

And wants you NOT to listen or buy Bruce Springsteen's Magic. Protecting you from distressing thoughts about the war and why we have people dying there and why we went there in the first place and...

See? Do NOT listen to Magic.

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I think I'll go shopping later today...

Update: 11/1: Heard on Air America that this post is incorrect, that Clear Channel sent no memo and is not asking Magic not to be played. Will post correct info when found.

Thanks to you both

Two brave souls who actually watched the Democratic debate last night.


and Mustang Bobbyof Bark Bark Woof Woof

I can't do it. It's like watching commercials or infotainment shows where everything is slick and processed to the consistency of cheese whiz. The only way for me to know what these people will do once in power is to look at their background, their prior held offices, and the record. We've had enough of those who will promise the moon (or Mars) and deliver shit.

Will we get a Democrat out of this bunch who loves our country and our Constitution enough to save them?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

War with Iran is inevitable

So says Spengler of the Asia Times:
As usual, the American media are slow to grasp how profoundly the landscape has shifted during the past week. Writing in the October 27 Washington Post, for example, David Ignatius argued, quite incorrectly, that Ahmadinejad "faces growing resistance, starting with former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Sources tell me that Rafsanjani's allies have been advising officials in Europe and the Middle East that Ahmadinejad is weak and vulnerable." I do not know what Rafsanjani's allies have been saying of late, but I am certain that their credibility is exhausted.

Ignatius worries that if the United States or Israel were to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran would retaliate through such proxies as Hezbollah and various terrorist operations under its control.

These fears are well-founded. In February 2006, I argued that a few sorties by American aircraft could put the Iranian problem to rest, but that the window for a clean military operation would not last long.

The longer Washington dallies, the more resources Tehran can put in place, including:
# Upgrading Hezbollah's offensive-weapon capabilities in Lebanon.
# Integrating Hamas into its sphere of influence and military operations.
# Putting in place terrorist capability against the West.
# Preparing its Shi'ite auxiliaries in Iraq for insurrection.[1]

One might add to this complications on the Turkish-Iraqi border, as Iran and its ally Syria have taken the Turkish side against Kurdish rebels, which Iran claims have the covert assistance of the United States.

In early 2006, I predicted "war with Iran on the worst terms", and that is what the West is likely to get. I warned at the time, "if Washington waits another year to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, the results will be civil war to the death in Iraq, the direct engagement of Israel in a regional war through Hezbollah and Hamas, and extensive terrorist action throughout the West, with extensive loss of American life. There are no good outcomes, only less terrible ones. The West will attack Iran, but only when such an attack will do the least good and the most harm."


The West has no choice but to attack Iran, because Iran believes that it has no choice but to develop nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: this attack will destabilize the entire region, past the capacity of the king's horses and king's men to reassemble it. The agenda will shift from how best to promote stability, to how best to turn instability to advantage.

Georgie spleaks

After going alone and going nowhere, Congress should instead work with the administration on a bill that puts poor children first; a bill that will take care of the poor children that the initial bill said we got to do; a bill that would stop diverting money to adults.

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He's the Compassionator!

He said Hitler. Are you scared yet? Hitler... anything?

You're supposed to scream and run around in circles. Hitler. Because we need to bomb Iran. Hitler and diplomacy Hitler doesn't Hitler work.

Glen Greenwald writing for Salon:
That about covers the full set of arguments and knowledge of our nation's leading neoconservative war cheerleaders.

Whoever is next on the War List is always The New Hitler and the country they lead is always The New Nazi Germany. Anyone who wants the new war is the brave and glorious Churchill. Everyone who opposes the new war is the cowardly appeaser Chamberlain, willing to allow Hitler to Take Over the World and impose Caliphate and burquas and humiliation on everyone. That's the level of advice which both George Bush, the current President, and Rudy Giuliani, the leading GOP presidential candidate, have chosen to receive and -- by all appearances -- follow.

Josh Marshall:
It's almost an insult to what the world faced in the late 1930s. Germany, industrial powerhouse, with arguably the most powerful army in the world, at the forefront of technology, overawing and invading neighboring countries. Iran, minor economic power, second or third-rate military power, which may get a couple of small nuclear-weapons compared to the couple hundred high-end nuclear warheads in Israel's arsenal (plus, a robust second strike capacity, as Fareed notes) and the many thousands we have -- and our blue water navy, satellites, air force. Please. Time's running out for us? We're going to look back on this fifty years from now and see the non-podhoretz-loons as the Chamberlains of the day? I don't know what to say. Just watch ...

What color was Barbara Bush's hair when she was younger?

Just wondering....
CHICAGO (AFP) - Some of our cave-dwelling Neanderthal relatives probably had red hair and fair complexions, much like modern-day humans of Celtic origin, according to a study released Thursday.


The news did not come as a surprise to one leading scholar of Neanderthal evolution and biology.

"The stereotype of primitive peoples is that they are dark skinned, but some paleontologists have been speculating for 20 years that some Neanderthals must have been pale skinned because they lived in northern Europe," said Erik Trinkaus, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

"Light skin is adaptive at higher altitudes because it allows more UVB radiation to penetrate the skin and that promotes Vitamin D synthesis."

Neanderthals, whose ancestors diverged from that of modern humans about 300,000 years ago, colonized Europe and parts of Asia, dominating Europe until about 30,000 years ago.
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My apologies to all Neanderthals for this joke...

Update 12/6:
Watertiger of Dependable Renegade offers a Celtic illustration of Barbara in her youth.

Since the missile defense system has worked out so well

Except for actually intercepting incoming missiles and really pissing off Russia, Bush obviously will listen to scientists and diplomats about his wonderful GNEP plan:
WASHINGTON - A panel of the National Academy of Sciences urged President Bush on Monday to abandon an ambitious plan to resume nuclear waste reprocessing that is the heart of the administration's push to expand the civilian use of nuclear power. A 17-member panel of the Academy's National Research Council said the proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, has not been adequately peer reviewed and is banking on reprocessing technology that hasn't been proven, or isn't expected to be ready in the time the administration envisions.

The report, released Monday, said GNEP research is taking money and focus away from other nuclear research programs and efforts to speed the construction of new nuclear power plants.

"All committee members agree that the GNEP program should not go forward and that it should be replaced by a less aggressive research program," said the panel. It said if the administration proceeds as planned there will be "significant technical and financial risks."

Bush announced the global nuclear initiative in early 2006 and has repeatedly touted it as key to U.S. efforts to deal with a growing amount of highly radioactive reactor waste and still allow a large expansion of commercial nuclear power. Internationally, the plan envisions a small number of countries including the United States and Russia supplying other nations with reactor fuel and reprocessing their used fuel.

Only last week, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman cited the importance of the GNEP program. He said in a speech it "represents the future of global nuclear power cooperation" and will "allow for a greater global reliance on civilian nuclear power to produce the electricity needed" while safeguarding against proliferation.

The Academy panel said it did not address the pros and cons of the international aspects of the GNEP program, but expressed deep reservations about its ability to address the U.S. waste disposal issue.

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Well what a surprise....

The State Department kinda sorta forgot to tell investigators about uh... you know.. the IMMUNITY they gave to Blackwater:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 — State Department investigators offered Blackwater USA security guards immunity during an inquiry into last month’s deadly shooting of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad — a potentially serious investigative misstep that could complicate efforts to prosecute the company’s employees involved in the episode, government officials said Monday.

The State Department investigators from the agency’s investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, offered the immunity grants even though they did not have the authority to do so, the officials said. Prosecutors at the Justice Department, who do have such authority, had no advance knowledge of the arrangement, they added.


F.B.I. agents have been at the Blackwater compound in the Green Zone interviewing guards involved in the shooting.

Immunity is intended to protect the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination while still giving investigators the ability to gather evidence. Usually, people suspected of crimes are not given immunity and such grants are not made until after the probable defendants are identified. Even then, prosecutors often face serious obstacles in bringing a prosecution in cases in which defendants have been immunized.
I will predict something. Blanket immunity papers for everybody that ever worked for Bush, passed out January 20, 2009! On the White House lawn right after the paper shredding party and the memory-erasing pills.

Update: Dana Perino and Blackwater's immunity:

Now it's really getting out of hand

Headline: Dogs shoot man on hunting trip.

What Putin's visit to Iran accomplished

Attack Iran and you attack Russia:

The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia.


Iranian hawks close to Ahmadinejad are spinning that Putin's proposal involves Iran temporarily suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for no more United Nations sanctions. That's essentially what International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammad ElBaradei has been working on all along. The key issue is what - in practical terms - will Iran get in return. Obviously it's not the EU's Solana who will have the answer. But as far as Russia is concerned, strategically nothing will appease it except a political/diplomatic solution for the Iranian nuclear dossier.

US Vice President Dick Cheney - who even Senator Hillary Clinton now refers to as Darth Vader - must be foaming at the mouth; but the fact is that after the Caspian summit, Iran and Russia are officially entangled in a strategic partnership. World War III, for them, is definitely not on the cards.
Just something you might want to consider, Georgie. Don't know if Unka Dick warned you about this part.

Meanwhile back in Iraq....

Life goes on... or not:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 30 Iraqi policemen doing their morning exercises at a base north of Baghdad on Monday, in one of the deadliest strikes on security forces in months.
BAGHDAD - Twenty decapitated bodies were found dumped near a police station on Monday west of the volatile city of Baqouba in Iraq, police said Monday.
Well, THIS war is going so well, I can hardly wait for us to attack Iran....

The only thing we have to fear

Is the group who continually tells us to be afraid.

Paul Krugman
...there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.

So this group of Neocons who knew that attacking Iraq would be a slam dunk and we'd be wallowing in candy and flowers is pushing for an attack on Iran. Just a quick fly over. A few bombs. No problem.

So what will happen AFTER our bombing raid on Iran? You know.... an exit strategy? A Plan B for those unexpected things that happen when you attack a sovereign country?

Do they really expect Iran, the Islamic countries, the world to just stand there after we do this? Have they really given it ANY thought at all?

Or do they really really want to start WWIII?

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Update: Phoenix Woman of Firedoglake and Bryan of Why Now? show the world reaction to Bush's beating of the war drums over Iran.

When the cookie jar is empty, you look for the kid with crumbs on his face....

Social Security is not broken, it's just been robbed. And we're being told to believe the thieves who gutted the system and took the money when they tell us it's not working? Bryan of Why Now? says it best:
How many times do these people have to be told that the only problem with Social Security is that the Repubs have been raiding the trust fund to give their friends and supporters tax breaks, and now they are going to be forced to pay it back. The money has been paid by the people who will receive the benefits and Congress has to put back what they have taken. The Repubs have been looting the trust fund to drive the system under and they need to be called on it, not supported in their alibis by Dems.
The Republicans never met a savings account they didn't want to drain. The money they've partied with belongs to the millions of hard working Americans who worked 9 to 5 for fifty years and paid into the system, expecting it to be there when they retired.

We want our money back.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holy Crap, Batman!! Suicide bomber squirrels!

How will we be able to protect ourselves unless we declare war on all evil rodents:
A New Jersey woman's Toyota Camry last week suffered a sciurine kamikaze attack during which a flaming squirrel fell onto the vehicle, slid into the engine compartment and provoked an explosion which destroyed the parked vehicle, the Jersey Journalreports.

Lindsey Millar, 23, and bruv Tony, 22, were at home in Bayonne last Wednesday lunchtime when the incident occurred. The animal had apparently decided it was a really good move to chew through overhead powerlines directly above the motor, and was duly fried for its trouble.

Tony Millar explained: "The squirrel chewed through the wire, was set on fire, fell down directly to where the car was. The squirrel, on fire, slid into the engine compartment and blew up the car."

He added: "They're always coming around here, chewing through the garbage."

Ms Millar is apparently fully insured for incendiary squirrel strike, although her brother concluded: "It's something to laugh about once she has a new car. It's not funny yet."

As a rather poignant footnote, the Jersey Journal notes that the Millars' house is fully decked out in anticipation of Halloween, "complete with a tiny plastic tombstone on their front lawn". Tony Millar said the family "will consider dedicating the tombstone to the squirrel".
Thanks to Bryan of Why Now? and via Der Verrückte Philosoph of Peripetia we now know the depths of nefarious perfidy these flea-plagued apricot-stealing furry-tailed bird-feeder raiders will sink to.

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This week's shiny and new

Top ten idiots for your amusement.

Brave Sir Rumsfeld ran away

Bravely bold Sir Rumsfeld fled forth from Paris
He was not afraid to have others die, O brave Sir Rumsfeld
He was not at all afraid for them to be killed in nasty ways
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Rumsfeld

He was not in the least bit scared to have others mashed into a pulp
Or to have their eyes gouged out and their elbows broken
To have their kneecaps split and their bodies burned away
And their limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Rumsfeld....
(mangled hijack of Monty Python's Brave Sir Robin)

Whig of Cannablog first caught it, Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat expounded more: Rumsfeld had to leave France suddenly to avoid legal complications over a lawsuit.


and here

and here

Call or fax French Prosecutor Jean Claude Marin
to urge him to charge Rumsfeld with torture.

and Attaturk has an excellent pic

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Wid sumbude elz' kat:

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Feeling hopeful

Phila of Bouphonia.

Nudge Nudge Wink Wink

Say no more...

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(Pic stolen from Tengrain of Mock Paper Scissors)

Even natural disasters are politicized in Georgie's world

He'd probably have sorted the passengers of the Titanic by party: (my bold)
Bush takes shot at Blanco while touring wildfires.

BATON ROUGE --As the California wildfires continued to rage Thursday, so too did the political feud between President Bush and Gov. Kathleen Blanco that has smoldered since the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina.

The latest flare-up came when Bush, while touring the California disaster area, took an apparent swipe at Blanco's post-Katrina leadership as he complimented California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"It makes a significant difference when you have somebody in the statehouse willing to take the lead," Bush said, according to the Associated Press.

The president's statement, coming from a White House that seems determined to avoid a repeat in California of the public-relations disaster that followed Katrina, brought a swift response from Blanco.

In a statement forwarded by her press office, Blanco noted that it took federal forces nearly a week to arrive in Louisiana after the storm. "I was the only game in town, leading for nearly a week without the president's help," Blanco said.

"Of all the lessons learned from Katrina now being put into place in California, I would hope the one he would remember is that politics has no place in any disaster," she added, before taking a shot at the slow manner in which promised federal aid has been delivered.

"While the promise of help from Washington is being extended, Gov. Schwarzenegger will have to work hard to make it a reality. In the meantime, Louisiana stands by ready to help with anything they may need," she said.

Asked to compare the two disasters, Bush said it's a job better left to historians.

Oh, tell us how wonderful and mighty you are, FEMA

Because your manly muscles make us feel so safe....

Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat pops the bubble. FEMA employees disguise themselves as reporters to interview.... FEMA.

How odd. I wonder why they are so scared of answering questions....

Who cares if our soldiers' body armor doesn't work

As long as the business made money, that's the American way, right?

Bryan of Why Now? notes:
DHB Industries made millions off their single-source contract for military body armor, some of which was definitely not up to specifications, but ripping off Wall Street is the only reason for an indictment anymore.
Anybody remember the complaints of soldiers who were told they could not use their personal body armor in Iraq because it wasn't military issue, this after families had pitched in to buy them? And then they were told to use DHB's product?

DHB Industries (now Point Blank Solutions) cavalierly had a hand in killing our soldiers by selling a defective product. The top two executives are going to jail for "securities fraud, insider trading, tax evasion and other criminal offenses in a 21-count indictment".

It should be for murder.

Blackwater's saga continues in Iraq and California

Why is our government having to clean up after Blackwater?:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 24 -- The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday began offering tens of thousands of dollars in payments to victims and families of victims of the Sept. 16 shootings in Baghdad involving security guards from the firm Blackwater Worldwide, according to relatives and U.S. officials.

Family members of several victims turned down the compensation, out of concern that accepting the funds would limit their future claims against the North Carolina-based security contractor and its chief executive, Erik Prince. Others said that the money being offered -- in some cases $12,500 for a death -- was paltry and that they wanted to sue Blackwater in an American court.

Shouldn't Blackwater be making the payments? It's not like it is running out of money.

Erik Prince, war profiteer:

Always widening the business ventures:
We couldn't make this stuff up. Brian Bonfiglio, vice president of Blackwater West, "I see a tactical operation center for East County fires," said Bonfiglio, noting that Blackwater's proposal includes water tanks capable of holding 35,000 gallons. "Can you imagine how much of a benefit it would be if we were operational now?"

This takes great big balls. This is from the guy who takes orders from billionaire Erik Prince, whom Congressman Waxman is now investigating for tax fraud, among other abuses. It's from the same company that sent an email Tuesday asking its undoubtedly well-paid supporters to lobby congress for Blackwater and help promote a newer, softer logo.

Mr. Bonfiglio has learned at the Mark Penn School of PR, where George Orwell lives. As a reminder, Hillary Clintons' top advisor, Mark Penn, runs a huge PR firm called Burson Marstellar which was hired by Mr. Prince before he appeared before Mr. Waxman's committee.
The article continues:
Fires of historic proportion break out all over southern California, including an as yet to be contained fire in Potrero, hundreds of yards from where Blackwater wants to open its 824 acre base including eleven live fire ranges. As Courage Campaign and 10,000 others wrote to Senators Feinstein and Boxer weeks ago, one of the major concerns people have about such a mercenary training facility is the risk of fire. It already happened without Blackwater there; think what would have happened had Blackwater been there with tons of live ammunition? And what about a spark from a live round used in training? Blackwater would be required by law to have 35,000 gallons of water on such a facility as a minimal defense to prevent itself from blowing up the neighborhood. That's equivalent to just under three DC-10 tanker runs. It's taken hundreds of such flights and a shift in winds to begin to contain the fires. It is literally inconceivable that the wilderness and small towns near such a base would be safer by having Blackwater there.

But here's the Mark Penn/ George Orwell/Blackwater summation: Blackwater needs to build a base in an environmentally sensitive fire hazard area because we'll make you safer.

Heeyyyyy Big Spender

WASHINGTON — George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending — or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare — shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush’s first six years, Slivinski calculates.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Another front opens up

Turkish warplanes have bombed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets along the Iraqi border in southeast Turkey, the country's semi-official Anatolia news agency has said.

The agency said fighter jets from an air force base at Diyarbakir, the main city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, bombed and destroyed several PKK positions on Wednesday.

It said the bombings particularly targeted PKK routes in high mountainous areas.

The raids were said to have been conducted in four provinces, Sirnak and Hakkari, which border Iraq and neighbouring Siirt and Van, which abut the Iranian border.

Update: And Iraq acknowledges that al-Maliki is weak and cannot control the Kurds:
In Baghdad, politicians acknowledged that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki lacked the political and military muscle needed to fulfill his pledge to crack down on rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who last week killed 12 Turkish soldiers and captured eight in an ambush in Turkey.

Iraqi Kurdish officials indicated that they were unlikely to help in any crackdown, with the regional government's spokesman denying that there are PKK bases in northern Iraq.

"We believe that the statements of Mr. Maliki about closing the centers of the PKK don't apply to us because we do not have any centers," the spokesman, Jamal Abdullah, said.

Just what does it take to start a war around here?

[Insert country of choice] is involved with [weapons of mass destruction-related program activities; a big scary mustached leader; illegal immigration; brown people; voodoo] and even though we are using [all; some; none] of our [well-trained; partisan hack; not sure where the United States is on a map] diplomatic personnel, we need to keep [all options on the table; only one option on the table; total and endless war]:
The US today branded Iran's elite revolutionary guards as a supporter of terrorism as it imposed the toughest sanctions on Tehran since the Islamist revolution of 1979.

The al-Quds unit within the guards corps is accused of providing powerful bomb-making equipment to fighters in Iraq that has led to the deaths of US soldiers. The revolutionary guards as a whole, which have business interests ranging from newspapers to cars, were branded "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction" in reference to its alleged role in developing nuclear weapons.

Three major state-owned Iranian banks, which Washington claims help fund Tehran's alleged support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, Shia militants in Iraq, and Hamas and Hizbullah, are also targeted.

The unprecedented sanctions, which also target the country's defence ministry, will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the revolutionary guards.

The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said today: "What this means is that no US citizen or a private organisation will be allowed to engage in financial transactions with these persons and entities."

"These actions will help to protect the international financial system from the illicit activities of the Iranian government. They will provide a powerful deterrent to every international bank and company that thinks of doing business with the Iranian government."

Ms Rice said the US was "fully committed to a diplomatic solution with Iran" and had "no conflict" with the Iranian people.

But she added: "Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israeli off the map."
It's deja vu all over again. Now we get to watch how stupid the media really is as they fall all over themselves to agree with the catapulted propaganda.

Oh, it's just California, Dick.

Take your nap. I'll bet you'd be awake if it was Wyoming going up in flames:
During a cabinet meeting yesterday, Vice President Cheney fell asleep on camera while President Bush was discussing wildfires in California. A Cheney spokeswoman “laughed it off,” telling CNN that the vice president was “practicing meditation.” CNN’s chyron reported that Cheney was seen “meditating” — rather than sleeping — during the cabinet meeting.


We can fight back against their rodenty terrorism by making them fat!

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Dorset, England (AHN) - A grey squirrel had to be rescued from a bird feeder after eating so many peanuts that it could not squeeze itself out through the bars, the RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals) said Thursday.

A worried resident in Dorset, England, called RSPCA inspector Graham Hammond on October 17 after finding the squirrel stuck in the peanut-filled feeder.

According to Hammond, the squirrel had managed to get into the bird feeder easily to nibble at the peanuts but had soon lost its svelte figure after overindulging, making it difficult for it to come out.

Calling it "an unusual rescue", Hammond went on to say: "I think this squirrel had eyes bigger than its stomach but after it had stuffed itself with nuts, it had a stomach too large to escape the feeder - one which ironically, was designed to be squirrel proof", according to published reports.

The squirrel was unharmed and, once freed, ran away immediately.

Forget Mars! Forget the North Pole!

The moon is up for grabs! Let's take all our wars up there!:

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Beijing, China (AHN) - China is looking forward to India's orbiter launch in April, just as it blasted into space on Wednesday night a lunar probe that will spend a year exploring and mapping the moon.

The launch paves the way for a Chinese astronaut landing on the moon in about 10 years.

Japan is not far behind, when it sent a moon orbiter into space in September. India will send its version next April just ahead of the United States that will launch a moon probe next year.

"Japan began its lunar exploration research much earlier than we did," said China's top mission official Zhang Jianqihe, pointing it out it's not a matter of who made it first.

Japan's lunar probe launch a month ago was "very well done," said Professor Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist behind China's lunar probe, adding he was looking forward to India's orbiter launch.

The launch came four years after China became only the third country - after the US and Russia - to launch a man into space. Over the next two decades, Beijing aims to land an unmanned lunar rover on the moon, retrieve lunar samples, and eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

China doesn't participate in the International Space Station because the US is uneasy of having a crew from an authoritarian state onboard.
Authoritarian state? Didn't we let a Saudi go up a while back? So why are we allowed on the International Space Station then?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I said I want my money back.

From Enron, from Blackwater, from Cheney and Halliburton, from Georgie and his war debacles:
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - The total cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could reach $2.4 trillion by 2017, according to a Congressional report released Wednesday. Put into perspective, that amounts to approximately $8,000 per current American citizen, including those born today, or $21,500 per American household.

The Congressional Budget Office, a government agency that provides non-partisan budget analysis for the US Congress, compiled the figures.

The money includes $604 billion already spent on the conflicts, CBO Director Peter Orszag told the House Budget Committee. It also includes over $400 for interest payments, as the operations have relied heavily on borrowed funds.

The figure would keep 75,000 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2013 to 2017, just over a third of current deployment. The CBO estimates that reducing troop levels to 30,000 by 2010 would save $485 billion.

The figures include military operations, diplomatic operations, veterans' medical care and survivor benefits, among other costs. They do not include the Pentagon's normal spending, estimated at $450 billion for 2007.

The report was released just days after President Bush increased his 2008 defense spending request to $200 billion and urged Congress to approve the funds before it's holiday recess.
I want my money back.


Just practicing what Eli of Multi Medium is suggesting. It is so sickening to see time after time Democrats fold and crumple and apologize for things they never should apologize for. How many Republicans have apologized for the horrific things they've said?:
I’ve written a few posts about how Democrats need to start standing up for themselves, and stop validating dishonest criticism. I’m very fond of Paul Hackett’s “I said it, I meant it, I stand behind it” mantra, but I’m starting to think that it doesn’t go far enough.

When you are attacked by a hypocrite, by someone accusing you of the very thing that they themselves are guilty of, it’s not enough to simply stand your ground. You have to counterattack. You have to call them on their hypocrisy, remind everyone that their offenses against civility and decency are far, far worse than yours. I recommend that the Democrats memorize and practice these three little words, which must be incorporated into every response to phony Republican outrage:


Go ahead, try it. Who knows, you might even like it.

Thanks, Eli, I do like it. I want the Democratic idiots who represent me in Congress to stop collapsing in a faint and stand up to the bullies in the White House. Even taking a punch in the snoot would do us proud. Just fucking stand up to them, dammit!

Why don't they just tell us who is so totally patriotic and beyond reproach

That they can fly. Then give all the rest of us little yellow stars....
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - A senior FBI official has testified before Congress, detailing to Washington the current progress of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which was recently audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The TSC has combined 12 existing terror lists which were kept by different departments and agencies within the federal government, and compiled a consolidated Terrorist Screening Data Base (TSDB).

However, according to the GAO report, the number of names in the TSDB has reached over 755,000.

Civil liberties groups and some lawmakers have called on the FBI and the White House to impose stricter oversight measures in an effort to make sure the terror list doesn't grow to encompass innocent people.

"As the number of people on our global watch lists steadily gallops towards one million, we should reevaluate how effective these lists are. If we must live with these blacklists, the very least we should ask for is that they remain relevant and functional," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Senior Legislative Counsel Timothy Sparapani said. "Congress needs to intensify its oversight of these lists before we all become suspects in the eyes of the Terrorist Screening Center."

Nonetheless, TSC Director Leonard Boyle testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and explained their critical role "in securing our borders and the safety of the American people by providing to the nation's entire screening and law enforcement communities the identities of known and suspected terrorists."

Boyle told lawmakers that the TSDB has "a process for removing names from the watchlist when it has been conclusively determined they do not have a nexus to terrorism," as well as "a redress process for any individuals who believe they have been improperly delayed or otherwise inconvenienced because of the watchlist."

"The TSC has significantly enhanced interagency cooperation in the post-9/11 culture where information sharing is a must," Boyle said. "In fact, as the GAO report cites, 'The TSC plays a central role in the real-time sharing of information, creating a bridge among screening agencies.' The TSC has... provided a physical mechanism to ensure information sharing is done in an efficient manner."
You've gotta be fucking kidding me. It was ... what... two years ago that 60minutes ran their article about the ten Tom Johnsons (Thompson...Smith.. whatever) who CONTINUALLY were stopped at the airport. Nothing has changed. Nothing has been made more efficient, except maybe we aren't threatened by terrorist sippy cups.

The Bush administration likes corralling people and demanding papers, look at how they treated protesters. They like harassing citizens and making them cower. Maybe they even dream of dressing the airport security in uniforms and high black boots and dramatic insignias. The PNAC neocons love this kind of shit.

They're not going to change anything.

They tried to make a break for it

But now they will be just breakfast...
Stuttgart, Germany (AHN) - A group of crayfish almost successfully escaped from being served as a sumptuous meal for seafood lovers until they were captured by on-lookers.

According to a local paper, the crayfish were already scuttling down the street when they were noticed by authorities on-lookers who promptly informed authorities.

Police lost no time in rounding up the fugitive crayfish returning them to the Asian restaurant where they had escaped by squeezing through gaps in the grating at the top of the tanks.
Watch out. Just when you think you've caught them all, a few escape and alert their friends! Don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm thinking of the coal plant activated to process ethanol

Which adds to the CO2 levels in our atmosphere:
A new study by an international team of scientists has found that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the Earth's atmosphere have risen almost 35 percent faster than expected over the last few years since 2000.

Researchers at the Global Carbon Project, the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey said that the indiscriminate use of coal-firing stations and other fossil fuels accounted for a 17 percent rise in CO2 levels.

Coupled with this the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up excess levels of the gas declined leading to an 18 percent increase in the CO2 levels since 2000. The study says that natural sinks are no longer able to absorb excess CO2 released in the atmosphere.

"The decline in global sink efficiency suggests that stabilization of atmospheric CO2 is even more difficult to achieve than previously thought. We found that nearly half of the decline in the efficiency of the ocean CO2 sink is due to the intensification of the winds in the Southern Ocean," said report co-author Dr Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia and British Antarctic Survey.

How to destroy trust and alienate your children

By spying on them:
This company shows off the tools parents can use to spy on their children. You can get a keylogger that looks like just an extension to the USB keyboard. You can take their SIM card, transfer all the data to your computer, and then browse through all their calls and text messages using special software. You can install GPS in their shoes. You can use a handy little kit that easily and quickly detects the presence of semen on a surface.

It's not just about 'protecting' the children though, this stuff can be used against you as well. Good to know about it.
My daughter has a friend whose parents act like this. Of course her siblings and she use other teen's phones to make the illicit phone calls and use other people's computers to chat with creeps. And it is mainly because of the spying and the mistrust that they do it. Their parents also talk at their kids rather than with them, so in the end, more spy equipment will not help the parents connect.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If Georgie needs more money for his war

Why doesn't he just get it back from the mercenaries who can't remember what they did with it?:
(CNN) -- The U.S. State Department is unable to account for most of $1.2 billion in funding that it gave to DynCorp International to train Iraqi police, a government report said Tuesday.

"The bottom line is that State can't account for where it went," said Glenn D. Furbish, who was involved in putting together the 20-page report for the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR).

The Department of State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) "did not have the information needed to identify what DynCorp provided under the contract or how funds were spent," the report said.

As a result, the audit agency announced it has suspended its oversight of the agency's project until INL gathers the information.

"Their records are just not detailed," Furbish said Monday in a telephone interview. "From an audit perspective, we've identified the problem; they're working to rectify the problem."

They are working to rectify the problem? Uh huh. Riiiiiiight.

We want our money back.

If you think that Adam danced with dinosaurs....

Via Rook's Rant, the Evil Bible helps you identify whether or not you are a fundamentalist:
Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian

The sun is tinted red and all the sky is filled with smoke

As California is ablaze.

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It is the fire season because we've been in our drought season, soon to be followed by the flood season, where scorched and barren hills melt into mud flows during our brief rainy season. At any time we may suddenly celebrate earthquake season.

At least we don't have hurricanes....

More of the best

Of the worst. The top ten.

Maybe a little hat would look good

To celebrate David Horowitz's frantic attempt to stay on TV by his Islamo-fascism Awareness Week:

And a cake! A cake would be great...

The party seems to be fizzling out:
On college campuses across America this week, conservatives are gathering together to listen to right-wing luminaries such as Ann Coulter and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) as part of David Horowitz’s Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.

Horowitz is claiming that it will be “the biggest conservative campus protest ever” and “a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses” about “the enemy.” But on CSPAN’s Washington Journal this weekend, Kareem Shora, the Executive Director of the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, said that Horowitz was dramatically overstating the number of participating schools:

We contacted those institutions, alerting them to the fact that their name was being used, and wondering what exactly was taking place. … It’s important to note though, after we contacted those institutions, most of those institutions indicated that no such events is taking place on those campus. And many contacted the sponsors and told them, “do not use my institution’s name in your campaign,” including some very renowned universities such as Yale and Princeton.

Shora also said that the president of Liberty University, the evangelical school founded by Jerry Falwell, also had their name removed from Horowitz’s list.

A fantasy of empowerment

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Tom Engelhardt has written for the Asia Times a powerful article that addresses the Bush administration's obsession for torture and attempts to explain it. Something all of us could see was horribly perverted and wrong but had no way of challenging it. These people get off on torture and think it makes them powerful. As we can see, it is the coward's way of ruling.
Torture, along with repetitious, pretzled "legal" justifications for doing so, were bones that administration officials - from the president, vice president and secretary of defense on down - just couldn't resist gnawing on again and again. So, what we're dealing with is an obsession, a fantasy of empowerment, utterly irrational in its intensity, that's gripped this administration. None of the predictable we're shocked! we're shocked! editorial responses to the Times latest revelations begin to account for this.
In a sense, the Bush administration has confronted a strange policy conundrum. Its compulsive urge to possess the power to detain without oversight and to wield torture as a tool of interrogation has led it, however unexpectedly, into what can only be called a confessional stance. The result has been what it feared most: the creation of an exhausting, if not exhaustive, public record of the criminal inner thinking of the most secretive administration in our history.

Let's recall that, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the administration's top officials had an overpowering urge to "take the gloves off" (instructions sent from secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to the Afghan battlefield), to "unshackle" the CIA. They were in a rush to release a commander-in-chief "unitary executive", untrammeled by the restrictions they associated with the fall of president Richard Nixon and with the Watergate era.

They wanted to abrogate the Geneva Conventions (parts of which Alberto Gonzales, then White House Council and companion-in-arms to the president, declared "quaint" and "obsolete" in 2002). They were eager to develop their own categories of imprisonment that freed them from all legal constraints, as well as their own secret, offshore prison system in which their power would be total. All of this went to the heart of their sense of entitlement, their belief that such powers were their political birthright. The last thing they wanted to do was have this all happen in secret and with full deniability. Thus, Guantanamo.
The article is only three pages but is powerful, and tells us something we already knew: about the strange situation of an American president, who has, in so many backhanded ways, admitted to being deeply involved in the issues of detainment and torture - as, for instance, in a February 7, 2002, memorandum to his top officials in which he signed off on his power to "suspend [the] Geneva [Conventions] as between the United States and Afghanistan" (which he then declined to do "at this time") and his right to wipe out the Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War when it came to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That document began with the following: "Our recent extensive discussions regarding the status of al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees confirm ..."

"Our recent extensive discussions ..." You won't find that often in previous presidential documents about the abrogation of international and domestic law.
But American presidents didn't then see the bragging rights in such acts, any more than a previous American president would have sent his vice president to Capitol Hill to lobby openly for torture (however labeled). Past presidents held on to the considerable benefits of deniability (and perhaps the psychological benefits of not knowing too much themselves). They didn't regularly and repeatedly commit to paper their "extensive discussions" on distasteful and illegal subjects.

Nor did they get up in public, against all news, all reason (but based on the fantastic redefinitions of torture created to fulfill a presidential desire to use "harsh interrogation techniques") to deny repeatedly that their administrations ever tortured. Here is an exchange on the subject from Bush's most recent press conference:

Questioner: What's your definition of the word "torture"?

The president: Of what?

Questioner: The word "torture". What's your definition?

The president: That's defined in US law, and we don't torture.

Questioner: Can you give me your version of it, sir?

The president: Whatever the law says.

After a while, this, too, becomes a form of confession - that, among other things, the president has never rejected John Yoo's definition of torture in that 2002 memorandum. Combine that with the admission of "extensive discussions" on detention matters and, minimally, you have a president who has proven himself deeply engaged in such subjects. A president who makes such no-torture claims repeatedly cannot also claim to be in the dark on the subject. In other words, you're already moving from the Clintonesque parsing of definitions ("It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' ") into unfathomable realms of presidential definitional darkness.

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Update: General says Bush and Rumsfeld were closely involved:
Drawing almost exclusively from the documents, the authors say there is a stark contrast between the public statements of President Bush and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the policies those and others in the administration were advocating behind the scenes.

President Bush gave "marching orders" to Gen. Michael Dunlavey, who asked the Pentagon to approve harsher interrogation methods at Guantanamo, the general claims in documents reported in the book.

The ACLU also found that an Army investigator reported Rumsfeld was "personally involved" in overseeing the interrogation of a Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani. The prisoner was forced to parade naked in front of female interrogators wearing women's underwear on his head and was led around on a leash while being forced to perform dog tricks.

“It is imperative that senior officials who authorized, endorsed, or tolerated the abuse and torture of prisoners be held accountable," Jaffer and Singh write, "not only as a matter of elemental justice, but to ensure that the same crimes are not perpetrated again.”

Monday, October 22, 2007


Via Pygalgia, Riverbend weeps for her country:
After all, refugees are people who sleep in tents and have no potable water or plumbing, right? Refugees carry their belongings in bags instead of suitcases and they don’t have cell phones or Internet access, right? Grasping my passport in my hand like my life depended on it, with two extra months in Syria stamped inside, it hit me how wrong I was. We were all refugees. I was suddenly a number. No matter how wealthy or educated or comfortable, a refugee is a refugee. A refugee is someone who isn’t really welcome in any country- including their own... especially their own.

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.
I am so sorry, Riverbend. You must thank George and Dick and the rest of the PNAC gang for your predicament.

Ring a little harder, dear

I can't hear you...
This just in: Rudy Giuliani will not be taking any more cellphone calls from his wife -- or anyone -- during speeches.

"I have become technologically more proficient," Giuliani admitted this evening during a conversation on the Fox New Channel's "Hannity & Colmes." "I figured out how to put it on vibrate ... If anybody is offended by it, I won't do it again."

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Blackwater evades and degrades

Evades taxes? Via Sorghum Crow at Sorghum Crow's General Store,
Think Progress:
In a letter to Blackwater CEO Erik Prince today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) says he has obtained documents “which suggest that Blackwater may have engaged in significant tax evasion” by labeling their armed guards “independent contractors.” Due to the label, “Blackwater may have avoided paying millions of dollars in Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and related taxes for which it is legally responsible,” writes Waxman. DynCorp and Triple Canopy, “the two other major private military contractors providing security services to the State Department in Iraq,” classify their guards as “employees.”
Degrades the police force? Via Morse of Republic of Sestakastan, a Wayne Madsen report: (my bold)
The mercenary firm Blackwater USA is well known for the controversy involving its "shoot first, ask no questions" policy in Iraq. It is also known that Louisiana's Department of Homeland Security contracted with Blackwater to provide public law enforcement services in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina. Blackwater is also planning to establish regional training centers in Potrero, California and Mount Carroll, Illinois, billed as Blackwater West and Blackwater North, respectively.

These training centers, in addition to Blackwater's Lodge and Training Center in Moyock, North Carolina -- Blackwater East -- and a possible fourth rumored to be slated for the Pacific Northwest -- Blackwater Northwest -- may result in the establishment of a network of Blackwater-trained police, sheriffs, and other police units around the country. Given Blackwater's dismal record on human rights and brutality, this spells trouble for civilian control of police and paramilitary forces in the United States, from major metropolitan areas to small rural towns.
Finally Bill Moyers talks in depth to Jeremy Scahill. Watch or read the transcript.

Oh, the knickers that are getting in a twist

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Via Chet Scoville of The Vanity Press.

Love it! Thanks for your humor and your epic saga, J. K. Rowling!

Update: Mustang Bobby of Bark Bark Woof Woof has some choice words on the matter:
Rail on, supercilious twits. Your rants and outrage only point out how ridiculous and ignorant you are and prove once again that your predilection for focusing on irrelevancy pretty much confirms that you have no earthly business as literary critics or social commentators. And in an ironic way, making a big deal out of Dumbledore's sexual orientation will only sell more books.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Harry Potter series has already served as an allegory for misunderstood and demonized people -- witches and wizards -- and it's not too far a stretch to make the connection to the gay community. In Rowling's world, the wizarding community has to live apart, they have their own language and traditions, and they do all they can to conceal their true selves as they move through the Muggle world. As the story is told through the point of view of a teenager, the additional layer of adolescent angst and hormones makes it even more allegorical, and I daresay that there are probably legions of young readers who are already coming to terms with their own identity -- sexual or otherwise, gay or straight -- who felt an affinity towards Harry Potter as an outcast based on nothing more than who he was by birth and yet the rest of the non-magical world cannot accept him. The fact that "the gay character" in the story is Dumbledore and not one of Harry's contemporaries -- Ron or Neville, for example -- is understandable; these kids already have enough to worry about as teenage wizards. It also makes it clear that a gay man such as a teacher can be a mentor and a friend without any of the lurid overtones of pedophilia that is never far from the fevered imaginings of the Christian conservatives and their perpetual adolescent fixation with sex.

I have news for them: there is more -- much more -- to being gay than the basic matter of attraction, sexual or otherwise, to someone of your own gender. The fact that the fundies cannot get beyond that says a lot more about their hang-ups than it does about anything else.

Update 10/24:
Bill O'Reilly galumps up to put his two cents in:
On his Fox News show last night, Bill O’Reilly joined in the fray, asking if Dumbledore’s outing was part of the “gay agenda” of “indoctrination” of “children.” O’Reilly claimed that by dropping “the gay bomb,” Rowling is a “provocateur” who is “going to let all hell break loose”

Uh... right, Billo. Just what hell is that? Does it involve falafels, loofahs, phone sex and a huge mega-million dollar settlement? That kind of provocateur?

Update 10/25: Paul Croft's two foot tattoo of Dumbledore is a teasing point with his workmates, but Paul says:

The tattoo is about 2ft in length and shows Dumbledore played by Richard Harris – who was the original and best.”

He insisted: “I don’t regret it and I’m not going to get rid of it.”

Way to go, Paul! How about acknowledging that Dumbledore is one hell of a cool wizard, you guys?

You and whose army?

Just thought I'd ask...
LEESBURG, Va. — The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday."Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow them to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the U.S. and other nations are "prepared to impose serious consequences." The vice president made no specific reference to military action.

"We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

Cheney's words seemed to only escalate the U.S. rhetoric against Iran over the past several days, including President Bush's warning that a nuclear Iran could lead to "World War III."
Didn't Georgie have a saying about this? I mean, we all saw how well this rhetoric worked for Iraq...

Turkey advances on the Kurds

But such an action could wildly backfire:
The government acted after 15 soldiers were killed within two days last week, bringing the year's total to 200 such casualties, and public clamor for a strong military response to separatist insurgents.

Turkish troops and military hardware are amassed now along the Iraq border to the southeast.

The United States, the European Union and Russia have advised Turkey against unilateral military action. The Iraqi government has said any Turkish incursion would infringe on its territorial integrity.

For the time being, Turks are not in listening mode. Back in April, Chief of Staff Gen Yasar Buyukanit said a military operation was feasible and advisable, but the government shied away from any move in view of parliamentary elections on July 22. But now, with casualties rising, government spokesman Cemil Cicek announced after an emergency meeting: "Time for words is over."

Funerals of fallen soldiers often turn into rallies for revenge, and calls for a strong military response.
Professor Ilter Turan, a leading analyst of Turkish affairs and vice-president of the International Political Science Association, believes Turkey and the US can still work out differences in northern Iraq without a military move by Turkey. "With Turkey determined to crush the PKK, it is feasible that the United States will push Iraqi Kurds to capture and turn over to Turkey one or two top rebel leaders. It will placate Turkish public opinion and avoid a military move by Turkey."

In its approach to northern Iraq, the Turkish fear is that if an oil-rich independent Kurdistan emerges from an Iraqi meltdown, its own Kurds (up to 20% of the population of 72 million) may also make similar demands or at least press for more autonomy, or even a separate homeland entity within Turkey.

Sedat Laciner, head of the independent Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization, says that a Turkish move into northern Iraq would be seen outside of Turkey as "invasion" and "occupation" and could lead to increased trans-boundary Kurdish nationalism affecting also Iran and Syria, both with sizeable Kurdish minorities (four million in Iran, two million in Syria). Iraq counts five million Kurds in its north.

Laciner told IPS that the financial cost to Turkey of an attack into northern Iraq could be US$10 billion in flight of foreign capital, quite apart from the cost of the military operation. The move could also doom Turkey's controversial bid for full EU membership.
Update from the AP:
SIRNAK, Turkey (AP) -- Dozens of Turkish military vehicles loaded with soldiers and heavy weapons rumbled toward the Iraq border on Monday after an ambush by guerrilla Kurds that left eight soldiers missing and killed 12. Iraq's president said the rebels would announce a cease-fire later in the day.

Turkey's military said it had had no contact with the eight soldiers after Sunday's clash and said 34 guerrillas had been killed so far in a counteroffensive. A pro-Kurdish news agency said the eight were captured - a claim that would make it the largest seizure since 1995, when guerrillas grabbed eight soldiers and took them to northern Iraq.

The ambush on Sunday outraged an already frustrated public. Demonstrations erupted across the country and opposition leaders called for an immediate strike against rebel bases in Iraq, despite appeals for restraint from Iraq, the U.S. and European leaders.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Blackwater might drop the protection of diplomats but consider warring with drug cartels

Either way, it's a megabillion dollar industry that's NOT going away:

WASHINGTON — Troubled military contractor Blackwater USA is likely to be eased out of its role of guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq in the aftermath of a shooting last month that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, U.S. officials said Friday.

While no decisions have been finalized, Blackwater's role in Baghdad is likely to be taken over by one of two other contractors who provide security for the State Department in Iraq, the officials said. They are Triple Canopy and DynCorp International.

"There will be some sort of disengagement process, but it won't be that they're shown the door," said a State Department official. "As one builds down, another builds up."

He and other U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hadn't received an oral report from a four-person team led by Patrick Kennedy, the department's director of management policy. The team reviewed State Department security operations in Iraq.


In a related development Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who's been investigating State Department operations in Iraq, said in a letter that Blackwater attempted to transport two Iraqi military aircraft out of Iraq without official permission.

In the letter to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, Waxman said that an unnamed military official told his House Oversight Committee that "the Iraqi ministry of defense attempted to reclaim the aircraft, but that Blackwater would not comply."

Waxman also alleged that Prince had misled the committee in testimony earlier this month. Prince had said that the company's early contracts with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the State Department were competitively bid, when in fact they were sole-source contracts.

Waxman demanded that Prince turn over a wealth of company information to the committee, including contract documents, Blackwater's profit data and information about Prince's compensation.

In the letter, and in a separate one to Rice, he asked for details about payments that the company has given to the families of Iraqis Blackwater killed.
Will this hurt Blackwater's business? No:

The U.S. Defense Department has invited five contractors to bid on elements of a new multibillion-dollar effort to combat the global flow of illegal drugs allegedly used to finance terrorism.

Awarded by the Pentagon’s Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office (CNTPO), Dahlgren, Va., the contract vehicle has a potential value of $15 billion over five years. One participant is ARINC, a Maryland-based provider of airline communications systems.

“This gives us the opportunity to bid on this work,” said Linda Hartwig, an ARINC spokeswoman. “We don’t have a lot of details yet, but we do know that this is an expansion of what [the United States] is already doing to fight drug trafficking, and that 80 percent of the work will be overseas.”

Hartwig said the other participating vendors are defense giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, and security contractor Blackwater USA. Blackwater confirmed its participation, but the other three vendors did not respond to inquiries.

The vendors will compete for a series of task orders covering a wide range of products and services. These could include anti-drug technologies and equipment, special vehicles and aircraft, communications, security training, pilot training, geographic information systems and in-field support.

According to ARINC, training elements could include instruction for border police, the construction of shooting ranges and the integration of aircraft-mounted drug-detection systems.

ARINC has assisted U.S. drug interdiction efforts since 2002, when it joined the State Department’s Air Bridge Denial program.

Within the Pentagon, the CNTPO is the lead agency for developing new technologies to “disrupt, deter and deny” narcoterrorism. Much of this work relates to prototyping new communications and sensor systems.

Stupid is as stupid does

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Can't we just give them a test BEFORE they take office? A personality test to check IQ, whether they believe in the Rapture and would attempt to facilitate its arrival, and if they like to take bribes?:

If there's a burning question that's arisen from Brent Wilkes' trial, it's not whether Wilkes is guilty. It's: 'Just how stupid is Duke Cunningham?'

According to testimony, Cunningham's (alleged) bribers were in agreement: his stupidity made him an easy mark. Wilkes' former employee testified that Wilkes told her Duke was "not the brightest congressman up there. We can work with him.”

And just think of how many more unchecked Congresspeople are running about with money and power going to their little pointy heads....

Maybe I'll have a beach front property....

If I'm not underwater...
Thailand(AP)-- Cities around the world are facing the danger of rising seas and other disasters related to climate change.

Of the 33 cities predicted to have at least 8 million people by 2015, at least 21 are highly vulnerable, says the Worldwatch Institute.

They include Dhaka in Bangladesh; Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro; Shanghai and Tianjin in China; Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt; Mumbai and Kolkata in India; Jakarta in Indonesia; Tokyo and Osaka-Kobe in Japan; Lagos in Nigeria; Karachi in Pakistan; Bangkok in Thailand, and New York and Los Angeles in the United States, according to studies by the United Nations and others.

More than one-tenth of the world's population, or 643 million people, live in low-lying areas at risk from climate change, say U.S.and European experts. Most imperiled, in descending order, are China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, U.S., Thailand, and the Philippines.

And speaking of new waterways:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 — For most of human history, the Arctic Ocean has been an ice-locked frontier. But now, in one of the most concrete signs of the effect of a warming climate on government operations, the Coast Guard is planning its first operating base there as a way of dealing with the cruise ships and the tankers that are already beginning to ply Arctic waters.
With increasingly long seasons of open water in the region, the Coast Guard has also begun discussions with the Russians about controlling anticipated ship traffic through the Bering Strait, which until now has been crossed mainly by ice-breaking research vessels and native seal and walrus hunters.
The Coast Guard says its base, which would probably be near the United States’ northernmost town, Barrow, Alaska, on the North Slope coast, would be seasonal and would initially have just a helicopter equipped for cold-weather operations and several small boats.
But given continued warming, that small base, which could be in place by next spring, would be expanded later to help speed responses to oil spills from tankers that the Coast Guard believes could eventually carry shipments from Scandinavia to Asia through the Bering Strait. Such a long-hoped-for polar route would cut 5,000 miles or more from a journey that would otherwise entail passage through the Panama Canal or the Suez.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Burn in hell

Take A Bow


Corrupt, you corrupt,
and Bring corruption to all that you touch.

Hold, you’ll behold,
And be holden for all that you’ve done.

Spell, cast a spell,
Cast a spell on the country you run.

And risk, you will risk,
You will risk all their lives and their souls.

And burn, you will burn,
You will burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell.
You’ll burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell for your sins.

Our freedom's is consuming itself,
What we've become is contrary to what we want
Take a bow.

Death, you bring death and destruction to all that you touch.

Pay, you must pay
You must pay for your crimes against the earth.

Hex, feed the hex
Feed the hex on the country you love

And Beg, you will beg
You will beg for their lives and their souls.

Burn, you will burn,
You will burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell,
You’ll burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell,
Burn in hell, yeah you'll burn in hell for your sins.