Monday, May 24, 2004

Seven Missing Steps

Like an alcoholic trying to kick the habit, BushCo. seems addicted to bad policies in Iraq. Failure to convince the world and at least half the US that Saddam was an "imminent threat," failure to find WMD, failure to plan for after the war, failure to secure weapons caches, failure to distance itself from Ahmed Chalabi, failure to ensure the security of the Iraqi people, and on and on...

So tonight, The Sock Puppet-in-Chief will stand up before the American people and the world and announce his five "concrete steps" to hand over power to the Iraqi people. Unlike an AA member, it seems that Bush has forgotten the final seven steps to his twelve step program; as usual he's going to shortchange those his policy is meant to help.

In a sign just how out of touch and just how much spin is being put on the whole Iraq situation, White House Communications Director, Dan Bartlett, says that Iraq is "a little chaotic" right now. Further evidence that Republicans have not learned any lessons from past failures to plan and execute is supplied by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): “It’s time to put some weight on the shoulders of the Iraqi military.”

Frightening Lightning

We had an incredible set of thunderstorms move through our area last night - as did plenty of other people in the country. Fortunately we had no damage, but the storms put on a truly awesome display:

Friday, May 21, 2004

It's Still Rock an' Roll to Me

Nick Hornby, in the New York Times writes about getting older and listening to Rock n' Roll. He writes with intelligence, but best of all, heart about a feeling I know well.

It's hard not to think about one's age and how it relates to rock music. I just turned 47, and with each passing year it becomes harder not to wonder whether I should be listening to something that is still thought of as more age appropriate — jazz, folk, classical, opera, funeral marches, the usual suspects. You've heard the arguments a million times: most rock music is made by the young, for the young, about being young, and if you're not young and you still listen to it, then you should be ashamed of yourself. And finally I've worked out my response to all that: I mostly agree with the description, even though it's crude, and makes no effort to address the recent, mainly excellent work of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Mr. Springsteen et al. The conclusion, however, makes no sense to me any more.
I'm only a couple years younger than Nick's 47 and while I've never really thought I should be listening to music "more age appropriate," I've often been asked or seen the look that asks the question, "you really listen to that stuff?" But Hornby's piece is more about finding the joy and the noise that ought to be in rock n' roll and is often missing in modern, commercial rock or the niche genres.

I've found my music taste goes in cycles. I loved the straight-ahead rock of the 70s, especially that music from my highschool years. During the 80s when music was just awful, I stayed with the 70s stuff. In the late 80s and early 90s when grunge and metal came on the scene, I was right there. Now, in the early 00s - or whatever we're calling this decade - I'm disenchanted again with most rock. So my computer and CD player are loaded with bits and pieces of new albums, when I find a track or two I like, but mostly I still listen to Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails and Bush and Nirvana.

But the cycle will continue. In fact, I'm starting to hear a few new things out there that I really like...

Railroaded

As though it were really surprising, all the news outlets today are screaming about railroad security (see, e.g., here and here).

Those who remember into the mist of time that is 2001 and 2002 will remember something about calls to protect airports and shipping ports and mass transit systems - including railways. Just as BushCo. resisted calls to form a Department of Homeland Security during those dark days, so, once that department was created, did they resist giving it free reign to secure those parts of the homeland that needed it most - including railways.

So now we find out that there are vague warnings about our rail lines, there are notices out about how to identify a "suicide bomber," and a small IR signaling device was found on a rail line "on the tracks near a rail yard in Philadelphia." This last has triggered, not an explosive device, but an investigation.

I wonder if that investigation will include the question of why it took almost 3 years to consider beginning to protect our mass transit systems. The safe money is on "no."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Lashing Out

Read the ever wonderful Josh Marshall on how and why the conservatives - now that their grand adventure is proving to be both costly and futile - are lashing out at anyone who opposes or ever has opposed them.

Let's be a little more clear about what's going on here. Having led the country perilously close to humiliation and defeat, the architects of the war want to shift the blame for what's happened to their opponents who either said the whole thing was a mistake in the first place or criticized the incompetence of its execution as it unfolded. They take the blame, the moral accountability, by 'wishing' for a bad result. That at least is Podhoretz's reasoning.

Foreign Fighters Wed in Iraq?

A late night wedding or a safe house for foreign fighters in Iraq?

The details are covered in all the news outlets and all over the blogosphere right now, so I have nothing new to add in that department. I do want to emphasize something I've been posting in comments at various blogs, especially over at Counterspin Central.

Distilled, it goes something like this: Abu Ghraib has destroyed any credibility we may have retained in the Middle East.

The upshot? Regardless of what really happened at 3:00am in the far desert of Iraq, the destruction of a safe house or the massacre of a wedding party, whatever BushCo. says about it has no currency with the Middle East press or the public. In fact it may have less currency here in the US as well as we've already seen the lengths the administration will go to make the issue of prisoner abuse go away.

Cover-up, denial, keeping the ICRC from unannounced inspections, and now trying to foist the whole thing off on a handful of low-ranking soldiers; this has all been disastrous to our attempts to show our best face in the region. Dissembling is too mild for what's gone on over abu Ghraib, the lies and the deception are spread widely throughout the upper echelons of the military and throughout BushCo. Now this. Where are the gun-camera tapes from the helicopters involved in this? Where are the Tactical Operation Center logs that would probably show the activity taking place just prior to and during the operation? Where are the pilots involved?

Not that these things need to be served up on a plate for every incident like this, but if they exist and the are exculpatory, why not use them? Why the dismissive denials when our credibility is so diminished? It can only make the Iraqis and the rest of the region suspicious. And we've certainly not given them any reason lately to not suspect something's amiss.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Poor Loser

Same-sex couples have won a battle in Massachusetts, But Governor Mitt Romney won't let them have their moment of victory in peace. Not that you'd expect anything less...

One day after the start of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, Gov. Mitt Romney demanded copies of marriage applications from four cities and towns that are defying his order not to marry out-of-state couples.

[snip]

For weeks, Mr. Romney, an opponent of same-sex marriage, has been saying that gay and lesbian residents of other states cannot marry in Massachusetts unless they intend to move here. He has said he does not want Massachusetts to become "the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage."

The governor has threatened to fine or criminally prosecute town clerks who issue licenses to out-of-state couples, and he has said that the state will not record those marriages and will inform the couples that their marriages are "null and void." The demand for the license applications on Tuesday appeared to be the first step in that process.

[snip]

Mr. Romney's stance on out-of-state couples is based on a 1913 law, adopted in part to bar interracial marriages. The law says the state cannot marry out-of-state couples if their marriage would be void in the couples' home states. The governor has interpreted that to mean that since no other state will marry same-sex couples, Massachusetts can marry only its own residents or those who swear under oath that they intend to move here.
Some wedding parties are probably still going on, the last piece of cake yet to be eaten, the cork in the last bottle of bubbly yet to be popped. Bigots, it seems, never rest.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Gas Pains

Maybe Kellogg, Brown & Root were just ahead of their time when they were gouging the Pentagon for gasoline earlier this year...


AP Photo from CNN.com

Piling On

Colin Powell has already begun distancing himself from BushCo., saying things and intimating others that show that he is as disgusted with them as the rest of us are. Now it's time for others to follow suit.

From the UPI:

Even worse for Rumsfeld and his coterie of neo-conservative true believers who have run the Pentagon for the past 3½ years, three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it's payback time.

Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate.
It is already accepted that the sources for Sy Hersh's latest expose on abu Ghraib were members of the Army and the CIA; what remains to be seen is whether the Senate Majority Leadership is willing, in its pique, to bring down a US President from their own party.

Stay tuned... oh, and you might want some popcorn for this one.

A Hero or A Pariah?

I never thought that Spc. Joseph Darby, the young soldier who exposed the torture of prisoners at abu Ghraib would be considered anything other than a hero. But I guess I should not have been so naive.

Rivka, at Respectful of Otters, reveals the ugly reality:

In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised Darby for his "honorable actions." But Washington is a universe away. "They can call him what they want," says Mike Simico, a veteran visiting relatives in Cresaptown. "I call him a rat."

[snip]

An Army spokesman confirmed that Darby is on leave in the United States but wouldn't disclose where he is.
Read the rest of the story, but be prepared to be saddened by the revelation of the worst of us as Americans and as human beings.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Clueless IV

Just to shine a little light on the troop redeployment from Korea to the Middle East:

For 90% of the soldiers in South Korea, the assignment is considered a "hardship tour." The duration is one year, with the opportunity to get one trip home paid for by the military. Families are not usually allowed to accompany the soldiers on this tour. The location of the units in Korea means that they would be very much on the leading edge of any mischief perpetrated by the North; which means being constantly on alert, spending lots of time on exercises. It is a very stressful 12 months.

One of the first things that soldiers acquire when reporting for duty in Korea is a "countdown calendar." They typically know, to the day, when they are going home. So from the first day, they are crossing days off the calendar.

In the middle of all of this, the separation from family, the high OPTEMPO (operational tempo), the unknowns across the DMZ, imagine getting notice that you must pack your bags and head off to Iraq or Afghanistan. For a year (maybe more).

Imagine what that would do to your morale. Imagine what that would do to your job performance. Soldiers hate to be jerked around more than anyone else. Mostly because they are jerked around more than anyone else.

I've done that tour in Korea. I can't even imagine the confusion and the fury making its way through the 2nd Infantry Division right now. I'm sure the exact brigade being redeployed has not been notified yet. So the entire division will be distracted from its primary duty. And will soldiers ready to return to the US after nearly a full year be held up to deploy with their units? Probably.

Watch for the shit to hit the fan on this...

Clueless III

The situation in Iraq has gotten so bad, the troops stretched so thinly that the Pentagon may redeploy 4,000 troops from front-line duty in Korea to the Middle East. Reserve units are said to be experiencing troubles with recruiting new members and some estimates claim that troop rotations will have to become longer and more frequent. Equipment is being so used so heavily, that the Army has "recalled" 4 howitzers loaned to ski resorts for avalanche abatement and may be placed on active duty. Worries over continued safe supply of petroleum - combined with OPEC gaming of the market - has driven crude to it's highest price ever, with attendant soaring gasoline prices. Spending on continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (anyone remember that place?) is resulting in the largest federal deficit in decades; if it continues at it's estimated pace it will be the largest in history very soon. Additional supplemental spending bills are already making their way through Congress.

Amidst all of this, BushCo. adamantly refuses to request even the smallest of sacrifices from the American people. Regardless of your position on the war, on Bush in general, you just have to admit that Bush's "mouth is writing checks [his] ass can't cover."

Clueless II

On ABC News this morning, there was a piece on the still increasing cost of gasoline at the pumps. Somewhere in California the price on the pump was $4.079 per gallon. What got my attention even more than the price were the vehicles lined up to get gas.

SUVs. Lots of them.

One man admitted - and seemed to be laughing about it - that this was the second time it had cost him more than $50 to fill up his SUV.

Americans really do have a short memory. And no sense of the future. We live in the everlasting "now." Where gas is always cheap and plentiful, where it's always better to drive by yourself than to car pool or take public transit. If there were effective public transit, that is.

There is an old story - apocryphal perhaps, but maybe true - that in the early days of the auto industry, many of the major car companies bought local train and trolley lines around the country through front companies. Then they systematically dismantled them and sold the rolling stock for scrap. Those were the days of robber barons and the American nouveau riche. It seems that even today, we are paying for their greed and avarice.

Full Disclosure: I have a Honda CRV that has a 4-cylinder engine that gets around 30 miles to the gallon on the highway. But it is considered an SUV.
My other car is a small Saturn sedan that gets around 35 mpg.

Clueless

Despite intense weekend clashes with Shiite militia, despite the continuing revelations about Iraqi prisoner abuse and, finally, despite the assassination(?) of the head of the Iraqi Governing Council - despite everything - BushCo. are lining up to tell us that none of this affects their plans for Iraq, none of this affects their timeline for handing over "power" to Iraqis at the end of June.

Nothing these morons have said about Iraq has been true: from WMD to being greeted as liberators; from "Mission Accomplished" to al Qaeda links. Not one word they've spoken has even been in the same neighborhood as the truth. And yet they keep spouting platitudes and guarantees as though we are just supposed to keep believing them. Sadly, it seems that somewhere around 45% of Americans do just that. They keep on believing in the face of obvious lies, in the face of dissembling and deceit.

Just another weekend in Bush Country.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Citizen vs Consumer

If you think of Americans as consumers, you want to sell them something, if you think of them as citizens, you want to teach them something.
Bill Moyers (paraphrase)
Fresh Air, NPR
May 13, 2004


And there you have the distinction between most Republicans and most of the Left. Republicans and their corporate backers think only in terms of what we can be sold. Whether it's a (New and Improved!) car, a (New and Improved!) environmental policy or a (New and Improved!) war. By and large, liberal thinkers tend to treat Americans as citizens, hence NPR, Public Television and voter registration drives.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm done with this week's training and meetings. We've had some of the best weather of the year this week and I've been stuck indoors on the 3rd floor of a hotel in downtown Rochester. At least I'll be getting outside this afternoon for a little golf - if the thunderstorms hold off...

But on Friday afternoon I'll be off to Canada for the weekend and not back until Sunday evening. I've really got my work cut out for me to make sure all my readers don't drift away.

James Inhofe (R-OK)

I'm sure you've all read his remarks on the Iraqi Prison abuse situation. I just have one thing to say to Senator Inhofe:

F*** you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Open Government

Additional photographs and videos of prisoner abuse in Iraq will be shown to members of Congress today in a highly secure, locked room and the photographs will remain under the control of the Pentagon. Members of Congress will not be authorized to remove photos or videos from the room, nor will they be allowed to make copies.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

While The Cat's Away...

Here's my first ever caption contest!

Since I'm too busy to actually post any real content; have a good time and give each other a reason to laugh during this time that makes us all want to rage. What is Rummy thinking in this picture?


Go ahead... make my day.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Limited Blogging Ahead

Starting this afternoon and extending through Thursday, I'll be extremely busy so my opportunities to blog will be somewhat limited.

Please have a look through my blogrolls, there are some wonderful writers out there. Expand your horizons!

By all means, please read my recent posts and leave some comments so that I know you've dropped by.

What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?

Even when apparently admitting to a mistake - if that's what you call the rather tepid admissions of Rumsfeld and the Shrub last week - BushCo. cannot keep from lying. Rumsfeld admitted that he knew about the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, but not until the photos were released. Or at least I think that was his latest sound bite. The Sock Puppet is pretty sure he knew about what was going on sometime just after somebody told Cheney.

Now we find out that evidence of prisoner abuse was reported by the Red Cross to the administration nearly a year before any previous admission of knowledge.

Even before the war in Iraq ended a year ago, and well before U.S. officials have generally acknowledged it, the Red Cross began periodically lodging complaints about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in allied custody, according to a confidential report by the organization.

In particular, the report says the Red Cross complained last October about the interrogations of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, site of the photographs of prisoner abuse that have erupted into an international scandal in recent days. Those Red Cross complaints came more than three months before a U.S. soldier complained to his superiors about the treatment of prisoners there, setting off an American inquiry.
And the first person to face real consequences for these heinous acts? Someone high in the administration? The SECDEF himself? Of course not.

How about a Specialist 4 Sivits "age 24 and a member of the 800th Military Police Brigade, ...charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees; dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; and maltreatment of detainees." Not his commander, not the commander of the MP Brigade, not the Commander of Central Command, not the SECDEF. No. The buck doesn't stop anywhere in this administration except at the lowest levels. This SP4, trained as a heavy truck mechanic will carry the weight of the mistakes of BushCo. At least until the next soldier is court martialed.

Accountability, apparently, is for chumps. And lowly soldiers...

Momma Don't Take My Kodachrome Away

I've uploaded some of the photographs I took during my trip to the Virgin Islands to my Webshots page. As promised, I've made the album public and available for anyone who might want to have a look. Additionally, I've added a permanent link to my albums page in the left sidebar under "About Me." I'm too lazy to create a separate photo-blog, so anyone who's interested can always check out my latest photographs there. Webshots allows comments in the Guest Book feature, so please, let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

"Pockets of Resistance"

I wonder if this is what Shrubby had in mind when he said that things were "stabilizing" and there were only "pockets of resistance:"

British soldiers beat back attacks by militiamen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric in southern cities Saturday, and U.S. forces stormed Muqtada al-SadrĂ‚’s stronghold in Baghdad.

[snip]

U.S. troops backed by armored vehicles and helicopters also stormed al-Sadr’s office in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City, a militia stronghold, and detained three people, witnesses said.

[snip]

A U.S. military convoy was attacked on the main highway Saturday near Abu Ghraib, destroying an SUV that burst into flames. After the attack, children cheered around the burning car, shouting “Long live al-Sadr,” until U.S. troops opened fire nearby.

[snip]

The uprising in Basra on Saturday was the strongest show of force in days, with hundreds of black-garbed and masked fighters massing on the streets and attacking passing British patrols. At least two Iraqis were killed and four British soldiers wounded, a British military spokesman said.

[snip]

The latest death brings to 764 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Of those, 556 died as a result of hostile action and 208 died of non-hostile causes.

Friday, May 07, 2004

First They Came for the Rocketeers, But I Wasn't a Rocketeer...

A stretch perhaps, that title. But not too far, I think.

Do you have a hobby (besides blogging) that might be of interest to some overzealous Department of Justice flunky? Think that's an overstatement?

Think again (WSJ - subscription req'd):

Since the passage of the initial post-9/11 antiterrorism laws in October 2001, hobby rocketry has been struggling to avoid regulation that enthusiasts say will destroy their sport, deter youngsters from pursuing an interest in science and waste the nation's limited law-enforcement resources. The Department of Justice says that federal agents need to keep an eye on who is buying model rockets because the toys are potentially dangerous and could be adapted by terrorists to attack airplanes and American soldiers.
The DoJ wants to do fingerprinting and background checks on anyone who buys more than a certain number of rocket engines - and that number is not very high. But rest assured, there is nothing too minor for BushCo. to completely screw up. Here's the closing paragraph:

One oddity of the government crackdown is the focus on rockets and not guidance systems. "The secret is in the guidance systems," says Arthur "Trip" Barber, a former captain of a U.S. navy guided missile destroyer, who is now vice president of the National Association of Rocketry. "I can build a rocket overnight but I couldn't build a guidance system in a lifetime."
Maybe the hobby rocket motor industry hasn't given enough money to the Bush campaign this cycle...

Catching Up

It seems that the world and the blogosphere were very busy while I was gone! I won't even attempt to catch up with everything that's happened here; if you read my blog, you read plenty of others that have done a great job of keeping up.

It appears, though, that one of the more interesting things to happen was the release of the prisoner abuse photos and the ensuing storm and the rather late apology. Or rather two apologies. Bush's was rather tepid and - as is his wont - vague, uninspiring and less than heart-felt. NTodd, at Dohiyi Mir, covers this rather well. Rumsfeld's apology was much more to the point; he apologized directly to the prisoners and, by his words (I didn't hear him), sounded more sincere. NTodd, again.

So what does all this apologizing mean? Since BushCo. has been so reticent in the past about taking personal responsibility for anything they've done or any of the repercussions, Rummy's apology is all the more surprising. While some in Congress are calling for his head on a platter, the Shrub has publicly defended him. And yet, the apology hangs there...

I wonder if poor Rummy is being hung out to dry in service to BushCo. He's old, he looks tired, and it's just possible that the rest of his co-conspirators think that a quick sacrifice to the gods of public opinion on this matter will help the incident pass into the dim recesses of public memory.

I'm Back!

I flew back into the Rochester Airport on Wednesday evening, thrust rudely back into the real world by the 48 degree temperature. We took Thursday off to catch up on work at home; laundry, mail, and yard work. Today we're back at work trying desperately to catch up on voice mail, e-mail and anything else that piled up while we were gone so that we can start next week more or less ready to go.

Having said all that, the Virgin Islands were absolutely wonderful! Lots of sun, sand, surf and rum! The pictures below don't do the place justice, and I will post some photos on my Webshots page for all to see. If I have time I'll also do a post about all we did and saw while we were there.

To give you a little taste (literally) for our trip, I'll leave you with the recipe for my new favorite tropical cocktail:

Painkiller
1/2 gallon pineapple juice
1/2 gallon orange juice
1 can Coco Lopez coconut cream
Gold Rum
Nutmeg

Mix the juices and coconut cream together in a jug and refrigerate. For each drink, pour at least one jigger of rum over ice in a glass. Top off with the pre-mixed liquids, sprinkle with nutmeg, add assorted tropical fruit pieces (pineapple, orange, maraschino cherries, etc.). Stir. Drink. Repeat.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

On Vacation

Very early on Friday morning, my wife and I are flying to the US Virgin Islands. Friends of ours are getting married and they were wonderful enough to invite us to join them. Since we never had the chance to take a honeymoon when we got married almost two years ago, we're taking this opportunity and will not be back until Wednesday.

The picture of the pool is from the Westin Resort on St. John, where we'll be staying. The resort looks out over Cruz Bay and as you can see, the water is just the most incredible mix of blues and greens imaginable. While I've never been to the Virgin Islands, I have done a bit of scuba diving in the Caribbean so I can't wait to see the crystal clear water and all the tropical fish and corals.

The other photo is of Trunk Bay, one of the many coves and bays that surround the island. One of the best things about St. John, as opposed to St. Thomas, the larger island, is that about 75% of the island is designated as National Forest. So much of it is relatively untouched rain forest. I will have my digital camera and an extra SD Smart Card, so I will bring back lots of pictures which I promise to share with you all.

I doubt I'll have any opportunity to blog while I'm away what with the beaches and the rain forest and...ah... the rum! So be good, leave lots of comments about how jealous you all are, and I'll see you when I get back!

Winning Hearts and Minds - Part MCXXIV

This is sure to make us even more popular than we already are in Iraq:

A US general has been suspended in Iraq over the alleged abuse of prisoners by US troops in jails she ran.

[snip]

CBS says the pictures it obtained show a wide range of abuses, including:


Prisoners with wires attached to their genitals

A dog attacking a prisoner

Prisoners being forced to simulate having sex with each other

A detainee with an abusive word written on his body.
The prison where the abuses are alleged to have taken place was a notorious torture centre during the Saddam Hussein era.
This also happens to be yet another bit of evidence that activities post-war were completely unplanned for:

"We had no training whatsoever," he [former guard] said.

"I kept asking my chain of command for certain things... like rules and regulations. And it just wasn't happening," he said.

He said he never saw a copy of the Geneva Conventions - which govern the treatment of prisoners - until after he was charged.

The Army investigation confirmed that reservists at Abu Ghraib had not been trained in Geneva Convention rules.

The Dick and Bush Show

So the Sock Puppet and the Puppet Master are sitting with the 9/11 Commission today.

No oath that they will tell the truth.

No cameras to capture this historic moment.

No recorders so that the country will know what is said.

Is there anyone out there who can honestly say that all the restrictions have some completely innocuous purpose? Is there anyone out there who really believes that these two don't have something to hide?

Anyone?

I AM A LIBERAL!

How did liberal come to be an epithet in modern politics?

It wasn't always so, but I was too young to really know what it was like when liberal wasn't spit like something foul from your mouth by so many people. I've always thought it was a kind of fear. Conservatives - by definition - try to keep things in stasis; they like the way things are or were. They look to the past for a better time, for better behavior, for a better life. Liberals tends to look to the future and to believe that government and technology (generally) and intellectualism can lead to a better life.

For most people, even liberals, the future is frightening with all of its unknowns, with its problems and opportunities unseen. Our primate brain, evolved on the predator filled savannahs of Africa, still tend to look with suspicion and fear at the shadows and places we cannot see clearly. Those who can see the past clearly and with longing, would be most afraid of a future seen at best through the haze and gauze of time so they fear not only the future, but those who would welcome and speed the coming of the unknown. And what conservatives and reactionaries fear, they hate.

I welcome a better future. I have learned from the past, yes. But I do not long to remain there. I am a liberal. Proudly so. But in this dangerous time for our country, how liberal is liberal enough? Steve Bates at The Yellow Doggerel Democrat asks that question today. It's what got me thinking about liberalism.

Go read the post, it will make you think, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bush in Wonderland

Read the news coming out of Iraq today. Go ahead. Read it all or just read some of it.

Now tell me how isolated, what level of denial, how insane would someone have to be to say this:

"Most of Fallujah is returning to normal, there are pockets of resistance."

Bringing Freedom to the World

As long as your press says nice things about us.

Colin Powell has had the unenviable task of showing the rest of the world, yet again, what BushCo. means by "spreading peace and freedom throughout the Middle East." Visiting Qatar, one of our closer allies in the region, Powell asked that the small country do something about the coverage of one of the few "free" media in the region; al Jazeera.

The United States warned the Persian Gulf state of Qatar yesterday that an otherwise strong relationship between the two nations is being harmed by "false" and "inflammatory" anti-American coverage of Iraq by the Qatar-based Arab television network Al Jazeera.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other U.S. officials delivered the terse warning to a delegation headed by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir al Thani - the highest level at which the subject has been discussed.
This administration is showing the world the worst face possible if its real goal is to spread freedom around the world. Detaining prisoners without due process and outside of the Geneva Conventions, restricting civil liberties at home and now attempting to get another government to muzzle its press. What a great representation of the best of America, no? Sure some of the coverage is "inflammatory," no doubt. But is this the way a country with a supposedly free press should act? Is this the face we want to show the world?

Semantics and the Medals - Coda

A final (I hope) word on John Kerry's medals from someone who actually has the qualifications to speak about such things. Please note that unlike the aWol President and the "Other Priorities" VP and all the other chickenhawks in BushCo., Gen. Wesley Clark is yet another decorated veteran. Clark call 'em like he sees 'em.

From the New York Times (via Hesiod):

...the Republican attack machine follows a pattern we've seen before, whether the target is Senator John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 or Senator Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002. The latest manifestation of these tactics is the controversy over Mr. Kerry's medals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Weekly Dose of Relaxation

I haven't been able to keep up regularly with the Friday Dog Blogging, so there's no telling how long I'll keep this up... But for your relaxation pleasure comes this week's peaceful and (I think) beautiful photo to remind us all that there is always a little bit of beauty to be found if you just look hard enough.



These hyacinths are growing beside the road just down from my house, they are taking over from an old tree that somebody cut down and dumped in the field.

Spooks to Spy on Blogs

Say hello to the men in trenchcoats!

Via Hesiod.

The Price of Arrogance

From MSNBC, via Hesiod:

You really need to read the entire article, but I warn you; unless you are dead, it will make you cry.

The neurosurgeons at the 31st Combat Support Hospital measure the damage in the number of skulls they remove to get to the injured brain inside, a procedure known as a craniotomy. "We've done more in eight weeks than the previous neurosurgery team did in eight months," Poffenbarger said. "So there's been a change in the intensity level of the war."

Numbers tell part of the story. So far in April, more than 900 soldiers and Marines have been wounded in Iraq, more than twice the number wounded in October, the previous high. With the tally still climbing, this month's injuries account for about a quarter of the 3,864 U.S. servicemen and women listed as wounded in action since the March 2003 invasion.

Political Cartoon or WMD?

Perspective seems to be missing in a lot of things these days.

Take, for example, this story:

Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about anti-war drawings he did for an art class, one of which depicted President Bush's head on a stick.

Another pencil-and-ink drawing portrayed Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war -- on terrorism."

The 15-year-old boy's art teacher at Prosser High School turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified police, who called the Secret Service.
There are just so many things I could say about this: the First Amendment issues, the lack of perspective, the lack of a sense of humor, the lack of better things for the Secret Service to be doing... But I think I'll let a friend of the unidentified boy put it into perspective:

"If this 15-year-old kid in Prosser is perceived as a threat to the president, then we are living in '1984'."

Semantics and the Medals - Redux

The Freepers and GOPers can lie and spin the story all they want, Thomas Oliphant was there.

In a voice I doubt I would have heard had I not been so close to him, Kerry said, as I recall vividly, "There is no violent reason for this; I'm doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all."

With that, he didn't really throw his handful toward the statue of John Marshall, America's first chief justice. Nor did he drop the decorations. He sort of lobbed them, and then walked off the stage.

[snip]

...I saw what happened and heard what Kerry said and know what he meant. The truth happens to be with him.

Private Matt Maupin

Anyone remember that name?

Private Maupin was kidnapped during an attack on his convoy in the first week of April, and a tape of him was shown on al Jazeera TV. Our government made the usual noises about not negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers and then PVT Maupin disappeared. He disappeared in the worst way - he was, apparently - forgotten.

I haven't seen any stories with updated information on him. There have been stories that mention his name, but that's it. No official word that the government is doing anything at all to secure his release or to find him. No word on who may have him or what they want.

Does anyone remember Private Maupin?

Monday, April 26, 2004

All Things, Great [or] Small

These are the things that BushCo. will lie about or spin.

Not content to lie about, then spin the aftermath of "the great," that being the Iraq War and all the reasons leading up to it, this misadministration is even trying to dissemble and spin "the small," a movie, by telling NASA not to talk about it - at least initially.

From the New York Times:

"Urgent: HQ Direction," began a message e-mailed on April 1 to dozens of scientists and officials at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

It was not an alert about an incoming asteroid, a problem with the space station or a solar storm. It was a warning about a movie.

In "The Day After Tomorrow," a $125 million disaster film set to open on May 28, global warming from accumulating smokestack and tailpipe gases disrupts warm ocean currents and sets off an instant ice age.

Few climate experts think such a prospect is likely, especially in the near future. But the prospect that moviegoers will be alarmed enough to blame the Bush administration for inattention to climate change has stirred alarm at the space agency, scientists there say.

"No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" the film, said the April 1 message, which was sent by Goddard's top press officer. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA."
NASA - and the administration - have backed off their strict embargo on information about the movie and the issues it will surely raise, but the official list of questions and answers that agency members will likely have to stick to has not been approved or released yet.

Says one anonymous scientist: "It's just another attempt to play down anything that might lead to the conclusion that something must be done" about global warming, one federal climate scientist said. He, like half a dozen government employees interviewed on this subject, said he could speak only on condition of anonymity because of standing orders not to talk to the news media.

Why confront those annoying, disturbing questions when "we" won't be around anymore anyway?

Semantics and the Medals

"It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Arguments over the finer points of semantics often leave people in confusion. I don't believe the current, manufactured, flap over John Kerry's "medals" should fall into this category of semantic hair splitting. But it does require a little bit of knowledge of "military-speak." Every profession has a jargon; the military's just happens to be one of the better developed and more arcane. In the official jargon, there is a big difference between a medal and a ribbon.

A medal is just that, a die cast bit of metal hanging from a short piece of ribbon that is uniquely colored and striped. Medals are worn on the most formal uniforms in the military - and sometimes on civilian clothing as well. A ribbon on the other hand is a small bar of that colored and striped ribbon with no medal hanging from it that is worn on less formal uniforms. (See the photo at left.)

I never had to buy that most formal of dress uniforms when I was in the military, so I never bought dress medals; although I did have the larger presentation medals that came with some of the medals, I never wore them. To me - and to most soldiers - in the more relaxed, unofficial jargon of soldiers, these were "medals." Or, if you had enough of them, "fruit salad," because of the mix of colors and stripes.

It would not have been unusual for Kerry to have spoken of medals and been specifically talking about ribbons. And it would be why, having to speak more specifically about the event years later that he could say that he threw out his ribbons, but retained the medals and not contradict his earlier statements.

But don't look for that kind of knowledgeable detail from the Rethugs, as they haven't ever had a medal pinned to their chests. Nor from the press, apparently, who no longer look beyond the talking points handed them every morning.

Bush Disrespects Living Soldiers, Too

How badly did the Bush Pentagon bungle the planning for post-war Iraq? The gyrations they are putting the military through right now to begin addressing the problems in Iraq give some clues.

From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

With security in Iraq deteriorating, the U.S. military is laying plans to increase by about 10% the number of National Guard forces moving into Iraq this fall as part of the next rotation of troops at the same time it retrains more than 100,000 soldiers so it doesn't run out of troops in more than a half-dozen critical specialties.

[snip]

If soldiers volunteer to stay on active duty longer, they can. To cover the gaps in key specialties, the Army Reserve will begin this week asking for volunteers to begin active-duty tours for two years. "We're going to be establishing provisional active-duty units with the volunteers," said Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve. Gen. Helmly said it is unclear how many volunteers among the Reserve's 211,000 soldiers will step forward.

[snip]

Most of the looming shortages will be covered by retraining soldiers. To address the shortage of infantry soldiers, for example, the army is reducing the number of heavy-armored-tank brigades and retraining many of those soldiers as infantry troops, which are more effective in peacekeeping operations.
Some of these ideas may sound relatively benign to non-military people; but believe me they are an incredible departure from "normal."

Retraining troops into new specialties (MOS - Military Operational Specialties) is no mean feat. Each MOS has its own training structure and schools; each has its own personnel management system. And all of that is basically doubled because there is one system for enlisted and non-commissioned officers and one for commissioned officers. So while "retraining [tank brigade]...soldiers as infantry troops" sounds easy, while "establishing provisional active-duty units" sounds like a mere paperwork exercise, they are unbelievably complex and disruptive.

The pressure to do these things quickly and - like every thing BushCo. has done in Iraq - cheaply, will mean that they will be more dangerous than necessary and will likely not work as planned. These "provisional units" will more than likely be made up of a mix of experienced and retrained soldiers, but with experienced units and soldiers needed for actual operations, we can expect that these units will wind up with a deficit of experience and - until they are better established - to have higher accident and fatality rates in battle.

This is a bad idea all around.