Sunday, May 30, 2004

Long Weekend, Short Blogging

Finally we've got some nice weather this weekend in Western New York. So I'll be spending most of today outside; there is lots of work to be done in the yard! Last night we had a great party for the couple who's wedding we went to in the Virgin Islands last month; instead of everyone hauling wedding gifts on the plane ride, we decided to have them open gifts here. It was a complete success!!

All of that, I guess, is the long way of saying that I probably won't be doing a lot of blogging this weekend. But then, I'm not sure that anyone's going to be doing a lot of blog reading this weekend.

If you do stop by and are looking for something to read or comment on, please joins the long (for this blog) comment thread on my post below about a supposed letter from a young Marine I found in the Wall Street Journal. Please join the conversation on "Some on the Left..."

I hope that you all have a wonderful long weekend; have fun, be safe.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The End of The Storm

We've been getting some really bad thunderstorms here in Western New York. There's been very heavy rain, winds gusting over 50 mph and lots of lightning and thunder of course. Luckily we haven't had the hail or the tornadoes that others in the Mid-West have had, but for this area it was bad enough.

Last night, after the latest round had gone through, the sun broke out at the same time that we had a very light rain shower. The conditions were just right...

I don't often mix politics with my photography, but I couldn't help thinking that perhaps, like the upcoming elections, this double rainbow was a portent of better weather and better things to come. Enjoy.

"Some on the Left..."

A letter in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye this morning. One of its readers was perpetuating the myth that those who oppose the war are disrespectful of the military and the sacrifices they make in these troubling times. Here's the letter in its entirety:

When our son, a Marine Corps corporal, calls home from Iraq, he always asks the same question -- "Dad, do you think the American people are turning their backs on the military?" My response is always the same. "Some on the left, who hate President Bush more than they love liberty, and many in the mainstream media, perhaps, but not the people."

Ed Johnson
Lumberton, N.C.
I know that neither Mr. Johnson, nor his son will ever read this blog. And perhaps there aren't many conservatives who stop by here either. But, let me state that Mr. Johnson has it exactly wrong. We on the left do not despise the military. Many, like myself, are ex-military and have a deep respect for the men and women who serve in far away places in very dangerous situations. Even more of us have no military experience, but have no doubt about the valor and selflessness of our military.

Some of us do, indeed, "hate" Bush; we hate what he's done to our country's standing in the world, hate what he's done to all of our civil liberties, hate that he's allowed himself to be distracted from the primary goal of protecting us all from terrorists (a generous reading of the situation), and hate what he's allowed to happen to our soldiers. We are not blind to history, we are not blind to the trouble that lurks in the modern world. We are just convinced that there are better ways to do things and much better people to do them.

Mr. Johnson, please let your son know; we have not, we will not "turn our backs on the military."

Who's on First?

If you experienced a little cognitive dissonance when John Ashcroft announced that "credible intelligence from multiple sources" indicated that al Qaeda is planning an attack in the US in the next few months and later in the same news cycle Tom Ridge said that the information didn't justify raising the alert level from yellow to orange, you're apparently not alone.

From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

The different conclusions and poor communications are symptomatic of turf battles that have emerged since Homeland Security was created a little more than a year ago. Those battles are a growing source of concern to some in Congress and the administration, who worry that the lack of consensus between the two departments sends mixed signals that undermine the credibility of the terror-alert system and the government's ability to make people vigilant. One administration official said yesterday that Homeland Security is suffering from "growing pains" as it sorts out its role in the administration.

[snip]

Wednesday was not the first time that the two agencies have come to different conclusions on whether to warn the public of a terrorist threat. On March 24, the FBI issued a warning to law-enforcement agencies and industry officials about a potential terrorist threat to Texas oil refineries. But Homeland Security did not participate. In April, Rep. Cox and Rep. Jim Gibbons (R., Nevada), wrote Mr. Ridge to ask why his department and the FBI did not issue a joint threat advisory.

Mr. Ridge's office responded last week that prior to the FBI's March 24 warning, it had reviewed the intelligence and "deemed the information regarding this issue to be of little credibility." The FBI, however, went ahead and issued its advisory. The letter to Rep. Cox also stated that at this time there is no "formal Memorandum of Understanding between DHS and the FBI with respect to the issuance of advisories."
That's right... "no formal Memorandum of Understanding." It appears that BushCo. comes to a complete halt if the paperwork is not done; but as long as the paperwork is properly completed and filed, the job's done. Think back to Condoleeza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission; she wrote all the right memos, gave all the required briefings - she did all she could.

This administration is coming apart at the seams. Inernicine sniping and back stabbing - while likely happening for a while now - is becoming embarrassingly public. If it were just a matter of BushCo. self-destructing right before an election, I would be overjoyed. Unfortunately as we've seen over the past several months, it's becoming dangerous. If the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are not coordinating on the release of warnings, what else are they not talking about?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Not So Preposterous...

I'm a bit of a geek. There I admit it and I feel better.

How much of a geek? I read Scientific American for fun. I've had a subscription to Psychology Today Magazine. I've read nearly everything ever written by Stephen J. Gould. I wish I would have been able to study quantum physics in college. I slog through articles and books on physics and genetics (as long as they are short on equations and long on exposition).

All that to say that one of my favorite (mostly) non-political blogs is Preposterous Universe. The blog of Sean Carroll, a physicist at the University of Chicago. He explores "ideas on culture, science, politics," and he doesn't dumb things down (too much). If you are at all interested in modern physics and how it affects and intersects "real life" and you still want a smattering of intelligent progressive political thought, you really should head on over and see what Sean has to say.

Additional Specifications Before the Hague

In his post "Nukes, Glorious Nukes," The Yellow Doggerel Democrat reveals the most horrific speculation yet on the activities of a second Bush term. The resumption of nuclear weapons testing in the Nevada desert.

Steve is horrified, as we all should be:

George W. Bush is roughly the same age as I am. I cannot imagine that he has not run across some of the publications on the subject, and found someone to read them to him. If indeed he plans to resume nuclear testing despite what is known, he must indeed be as cruel as any ruler in the history of the planet. And I think he likes being that way.
Read the rest of the post. It'll send shivers down your spine...

UPDATE: Steve let me know that credit should go to Amy at BlogAmy for uncovering this little gem.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Always Low Expectations. Always.

It's been a while since I posted anything about Wal-Mart, but I haven't forgotten about them. Nor have I been in one of their stores. But an article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription) caught my eye this morning.

Seems that the company is up to its usual tricks. This time they are having low-level managers perform the work of hourly employees so that they don't have to pay overtime. So these "managers" are working as much as 75 hours per week with no overtime, no comp-time, no extra vacation. For between $30,000 to $45,000 per year.

Wal-Mart, a retailing giant with about 3,500 stores and 1.2 million workers in the U.S., and a well-known focus on lean margins, already faces 30 overtime-related suits on behalf of hourly workers in 28 states. Assistant managers who filed suit in Michigan and California, seeking back pay and damages say they spend much of their days on the same tasks assigned to hourly employees entitled to overtime.

The suits claim there is very little difference between the job duties of the hourly workers and assistant managers, especially the nighttime assistant managers, who, "in most cases, are simply glorified stockers who unload trucks, move products into the store and stock shelves," according to legal documents.

[snip]

Wal-Mart tries to hold labor costs to a slim 8% of sales, according to legal documents, compared with 9% to 10% on average at other large-store retailers. The company also encourages store managers to reduce their labor costs each year by about 0.2% or 0.3%, according to legal documents. Last year, Wal-Mart posted sales of $256 billion and net profit of $9 billion.
$9 billion. It boggles the mind. And yet they will squeeze their employees of overtime, vacation or even enough hours to be considered full-time. All for wages that ought to outrage anyone who knows how much it costs just to buy groceries for a small family.

Do us all a favor. The next time you think about stopping in at a Wal-Mart, go somewhere else. Anywhere else.

Secure, Undisclosed Location

No, I haven't found where Dick Cheney's been hiding out for most of the last 3 years. In our back yard we have a large propane tank - for our furnace and stove and clothes dryer - buried. Only the small refueling dome sticks out above ground. The lid to the dome has a small hole in it, maybe 2.5 - 3 inches across. Plenty big enough for a starling to get through apparently. When I saw one poke its head out and fly away, I thought I'd investigate.

Here's what I found:


I peeked in again a couple days after I took this picture, there are now 5 eggs.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Osama bin Who?

He's public enemy number one. Then he doesn't matter.

Afghanistan is the center of the War on Terror. And then it's Iraq.

Invading Iraq was supposed to protect us from more terrorist attacks by creating a stable, democratic country in the heart of the Middle East. Now, as we've feared, it's making the world a more dangerous place.

Al-Qaeda remains a viable and effective "network of networks" and has been galvanised by the war in Iraq, according to the London-based think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

US forces in Iraq present al-Qaeda with 'iconic' targets, the report says
It says that recent attacks in Spain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia show that the group has fully reconstituted itself after the loss of its base in Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden's network has set its sights firmly on the United States and its closest Western allies, the report says.

It would ideally like future operations to make use of weapons of mass destruction.

According to conservative intelligence estimates quoted by the IISS, the group is present in more than 60 countries and has "18,000 potential terrorists at large".

The IISS says the war in Iraq has focused the energies and resources of al-Qaeda and its followers, while diluting those of the global counter-terrorism coalition.
For this, you can thank the neo-cons and their Sock Puppet-in-Chief.

Media Self-Criticism

It's either a sign that our national media, those we on the left have for so long called Media Whores and the So Called Liberal Media (SCLM), are waking up to their true purpose or a sign of the impending rapture. I'll leave it to the reader to decide. But what else are we to think when senior MSNBC correspondent Michael Moran writes what can only be described as a blinding flash of the obvious:

A report released Monday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that most journalists feel the Bush administration got a free pass after the attacks of Sept. 11. In a poll of journalists and news executives, Pew reports that “the poll finds that many journalists —­ especially those in the national media — believe that the press has not been critical enough of President Bush. Majorities of print and broadcast journalists at national news organizations believe the press has been insufficiently critical of the administration.”
The circularity of the poll makes my head hurt, pollsters asking reporters about reporters reporting on politics. But I just have to say: "No kidding!" and "It's about damned time!"

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.