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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

No fops allowed 

The Daily Howler is getting set to explore the question of why conservatives outshine liberals in the US spin wars. Howler writes "Why do liberals fail in our nation's spin wars? Over the weekend, we thought about that problem as we watched Woody Allen's Interiors . . . As we watched, we were mainly struck by the self-involved foppishness of all the central characters . . . right to this day, liberal interests have often been fronted by these very same foppish folk, by the deracinated Manhattan types who thought Interiors showcased great tragedy—the tragedy of a “mediocre novelist” who is furious because his wife, “an embittered poet,” gets better reviews than he does. Why do conservatives often do better in the nation’s endless spin wars? In part, it’s because liberal interests are often promoted by a wide array of self-involved fops."
Reading this, it struck me that we simply do not have this problem in Canada -- here, everybody speaks up.
We frequently see Chantal Hebert and Alan Gregg and Andrew Coyne and Rex Murphy on The National, articulating leftish and rightish views; we watch Harper and Martin and Layton in Question Period. We read Rick Salutin and Jeffrey Simpson and Margaret Wente in the Globe. There is nary a shrinking violet in sight.
Maybe its because so many of our left wingers came out of the union movement while our right wingers came out of the oil patch, but here both sides are tough, and ready to give as good as they get.

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I love it when this happens 

I love it when this happens:
So the Washington Post was going to run a couple of big articles smearing Bill Clinton -- with the expectation that all the TV pundits would be blathering for the rest of the week about how Beltway society thought Clinton was awful.
And Bush held a press conference this morning to prove he is still important -- with the expectation that all the TV pundits would be blathering for the rest of the week about how American society still thinks Bush is wonderful.
And POW -- blown out of the water, deep-sixed, stop the presses, get me rewrite -- Deep Throat identity revealed at last.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Miss Universe 

Miss Canada is new Miss Universe
I am posting this because so many Canadian bloggers are men.
No, no! Not that.
Being enlightened men, they cannot post a picture of a beautiful woman or else everyone will think they are sexist pigs, etc.
So, here she is...

Miss Canada Natalie Glebova, who just won the Miss Universe contest. Congratulations.

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Fiddling while Rome burns 

Hmmm -- while I am fiddling along posting snarky posts about Martin and Harper and Bush and Iraq and all the usual suspects, Dem from CT posts some material at Daily Kos about the bird flu and the possibility of a world wide epidemic.
First, here is a collection of daily links where the epidemic is being tracked: The Coming Influenza Pandemic?
Second, here is an update entitled What is Really Going On in China:
Reports coming out of Qinghai suggest H5N1 infections in humans and birds are out of control, with birds distributing H5N1 to the north and west, while people are being cremated and told to keep quiet. Reports from Chinese language papers detail over 200 suspected infections in over two dozen locations in Qinghai Province. In the most affected 18 regions, there are 121 deaths, generating a case fatality rate above 60%.Even if only a small fraction of the deaths are H5N1 linked, the cases would move the bird flu pandemic stage from 5 to the final stage 6, representing sustained human-to-human transmission of H5N1. The high case fatality rate suggests the H5N1 in Qinghai has achieved efficient human transmission while retaining a high case fatality rate. If confirmed, these data would have major pandemic preparedness implications. These cases began almost a month ago and are now spreading via people who have previously entered the high risk area. The official media comments coming out of China appear to be carefully worded, describing "new cases" being brought under control, inability to "see" human cases, or lack of "pneumonia" cases. Several reports from Qinghai have cited limitations on discussing or reporting details. All nature reserves in China have been closed.

Third, here is a public health discussion site, Effect Measures, where preparedness issues are covered.
I think it's worth bookmarking some of these sites, and checking in occasionally to see what is new.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

So, its all the Iraqis' own fault 

Well, finally -- an explanation for why US troops were not greeted with flowers when they invaded Iraq to bring peace and democracy -- U.S. general defends Guantanamo procedures: "Myers said he did not think the United States should have used more troops in the Iraq invasion but acknowledged that progress has proved slower than Pentagon officials had hoped. "I don't think we understood that people had been suppressed, and their spirit had been suppressed to the point where it wasn't just going to naturally blossom once they had the opportunity," Myers said on CBS' Face the Nation." -- so, you see, the explanation is that it is the Iraqi's own fault. THEY were to blame because they had been so suppressed that they could not "blossom".
Well, I said it was an explanation.
I didn't say it was a GOOD explanation.

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Remember "You're either with us or against us"? 

Review May Shift Terror Policies
The article starts by saying that the US has basically declared victory in the global war on terror (cutsy nickname, GWOT) because Al Quaeda has mostly disintegrated.
So one would think that a kind of vigilant peace could now be declared and the US could move on to other things.
But not so fast, Kemo Sabe.
The Bush administration is now admitting what everyone has been saying for the last two years, that the war on Iraq has radicalized Muslims. The article notes that the Bush administration now "[has to] deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe."
Now, I think this is a little silly -- the people who came to Iraq to fight the US are either dead or are still there, fighting.
However, what concerns me most is this -- the Bush administration now may be using the radicalization they themselves caused as an excuse to begin a new war against an enemy even less clearly defined than "terrorism" was. Their new war would "target . . . broader support in the Muslim world for radical Islam."
In other words, it really will be the Christians vs the Muslims.
And in a paranoid moment, I now wonder how long with it be before they widen it again -- to define as 'radicals' anyone anywhere in the world who objects to the Bush administration itself, or who is trying to overthrow the dictators who are now allied with the Bush administration, or who elects governments which do not want to ally with Bush.
I guess we could call it the "You're either with us or against us" War.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Place the blame where it belongs 

Slate has a new Torture Feature web page here
It summarizes everything that has happened since 9/11 to turn America from the world's leader into the world's tyrant.
The article does use the "C" word, war crimes, and notes that "There are few slopes more slippery than that the one from small war crimes to large ones; any wartime action, however heinous, can always be justified by some perceived necessity. Once discipline is lost, it is nearly impossible to restore."
But I fault the conclusion. Instead of laying the blame for torture where it belongs, it wimps out and adopts a "collective guilt" conclusion.
First, the article blames the torture on Congress, becuse they haven't stopped it. ". . . the elected branches of government have exercised almost a total lack of oversight . . . Lawmakers have not taken any steps to ensure, for example, that if extreme measures are to be taken, this step occurs only after the White House and the Pentagon have directly authorized it and Congress has been notified, as it is about other forms of clandestine activity. Nor has Congress asked for more transparency at the detention facilities . . . The story of extreme interrogation practices is a story of a Congress asleep at the switch . . ."
Then the article blames the American public, apparently because they haven't protested enough. " . . . a slow slide from coherent, consistent standards for interrogation and treatment of prisoners to a sometimes ad-hoc, occasionally brutal search for information at all costs — should warrant public outcry. That it has not suggests either that this shift doesn't interest us because it affects outsiders, or that we no longer consider torture or near-torture to be beyond the bounds of civil conduct. "
Sorry, Slate -- I think you are the cowardly ones for refusing to lay the blame directly where it belongs -- on America's bloody-minded leaders Rumsfeld, Cambone, Meyers, Gonzales, Rice, Cheney and Bush.

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Conference? We don't need no stinking Conference! 

Well, here's another example of a sensible reality-based analysis which doesn't make sense anymore in Bush's Bizarro World.
In Daily Kos: No progress made after month of nuclear talks a Kos blogger named Plutonium Page writes a sensible update on the recent nuclear treaty UN meeting, noting that not much progress was made because the US didn't take it seriously. The piece ends is a rather odd way: "Hopefully they will make more progress at the IAEA meeting in September."
PP, you must have been joking -- surely you cannot seriously expect that John Bolton and the Bush administration will actually want to make progress in any UN initiative to reduce nuclear proliferation?
What they want, with intense longing, is to go to war with Iran.
And the UN is acting all obstructionist. The Security Council is not going along with sanctions on Iran, the organization is not dumping Kofi Annan and the IAEA's ElBaradei was reconfirmed over US objections. Therefore, as a secondary goal, the US wants to discredit the UN as an effective decision-making organization.
So of course there will be no cooperation or progress made at any UN-related conference. Not ever.

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Sticks and stones 

will break my bones but names will never hurt me.
They are pretty funny, though.
I've seen some good ones lately for George Bush:
The Simpson's Commander Cuckoo Bananas
Frogsdong's Horse Fluffer
WTF's The Smirking Chimp, Presnit Privilege, Smirking Sockpuppet, Idiot in Chief, Smirking Moron, Squinting Numbskull and - wait for it - Bunnypants.
And POGGE is having just as much fun with Paul Martin, calling him (affectionately, of course) "Mr. Dithers" in many posts.

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The Second Writing 

From "The Poor Man" Poetry corner by Phoenican:
Turning and turning in the parking lot
The driver cannot steer the Lexus;
The Left falls apart; the Centre cannot hold;
Mere Rightism is loosed upon the wheel,
The brain-dimmed metaphor is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of intelligence is drowned;
The best lack all publication, while the worst
Are full of verbose columnisity.
Surely some deadline is at hand;
Surely the Great Comparison is at hand.
The Great Comparison! Hardly are those words thought
When a vast surge out of my gall and stomach
Troubles my gorge: somewhere on a computer screen,
A piece with a hollow body and the head of a dodo,
A jeremiad blank and witless as the moon,
Is plonking its slow phrases, while all about it
Reel shadows of the reality-based community.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of hard-won reason
Are vexed to nightmare by inane business-babble,
And what rough screed, its hour come round at last,
Witters towards Washington to be read?

(apologies to WB)

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon 



An AP photo from a Ballon competition in Hungary.
Once when we were driving west into Edmonton, on that long, straight stretch of divided highway which goes for miles and miles outside the city, we saw dozens of balloons floating above the highway -- it must have been some kind of competition too. This was at least 20 years ago, but I have never forgotten it.

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Harper continues to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory 

Frogsdong found this article in today's Globe and Mail: Christian activists capturing Tory races which says that "Christian activists have secured Conservative nominations in clusters of ridings from Vancouver to Halifax -- a political penetration that has occurred even as the party tries to distance itself from hard-line social conservatism. At least three riding associations in Nova Scotia, four in British Columbia, and one in suburban Toronto have nominated candidates with ties to groups like Focus on the Family . . . organizers say many more will be on the ballot during the next federal election, a feat achieved by persuading parishioners, particularly new Canadians, to join the party and vote for recommended candidates."
I thought the federal Conservative Party was smarter than this, to get so distracted by Ottawa events that it let its nomination process be hijacked by these people.
Now hear this -- the majority of Canadians WILL NOT VOTE for a federal party dominated by ideological activists, whether they are left-wing or right-wing. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt (the one that says "I Heart Broadbent" and "Eberhart for PM")
Even Tommy Douglas, the most beloved ideologue in the nation's history, the man who gave Canada Medicare, could not make the NDP a significant federal presence.
Why is this? Canadians have seen ideological activism in action, from Social Credit in BC to the separatists in Quebec. We will sometimes let them run a province, but not the country.
And why is this? Because ideologues DO NOT LISTEN. In fact, they pride themselves on not listening. They would think they were elected to do what THEY wanted to do, not what WE wanted them to do. When we send a federal politician way off to Ottawa, we want someone who won't forget who he is working for. In a federal politician, Canadians want to elect people like Chuck Cadman, who listens to his constituents regardless of what his party in Ottawa is telling him to do.

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Cynical, what? 

I guess my whole family is getting a little cynical these days. I just asked my husband where our son had gotten to, and he said, "He's upstairs watching the Decline And Fall Of The American Empire -- otherwise known as the news."

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The problem with self-indulgent war 

Daily Kos :: Army recruitment crisis.
In summing up the impact of the Iraq war as it relates to the US army recruitment crisis, one of the things Kos notes is this: "The perception of US invulnerability has been shattered. After the US and its Northern Alliance allies routed the Taliban, the world quivered in the face of US military might. Saddam caved on every demand presented him -- destroy his missiles, allow inspectors back in. The US could've used that perception to push for meaningful concessions in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere. Instead, we're bogged down in an unecessary war in Iraq, our military spent and depleted, and with Americans unwilling to replenish the ranks. The diplomatic fallout is obvious, but our inability to use force as a tool is a bigger casualty."
Absolutely -- as I have said before, the world needs a strong United States to project a vision of civilization and democracy, and to deter rogue states from starting trouble. But the US elephant has to tiptoe, not stomp.
Previous presidents realized that the only way the United States could maintain an image of invulnerablility was by resisting the temptation to engage in self-indulgent wars of choice -- Kennedy didn't resist the Bay of Pigs, and the US looked pretty weak and foolish after that one. Korea and Vietnam could be portrayed as righteous proxy defensive wars against communist expansion -- the domino theory, don't you know. Afghanistan was defensive, too in the sense that it was a legitimate response to an attack.
Iraq was a war of choice. And the Bush administration is reaping what it sowed -- the US public will neither support a draft nor let their sons and daughters enlist. And if Bush tries to goose the nation to another war, the public won't believe him again. THEY know "fool me once", even if Bush does not.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Rest now, in peace 

Fallen Canadian soldiers hailed as heroes:
"It's not a political gesture. This is coming from the men on the ground. This is coming from the heart." -- Lloyd Smith
"Marc fought with his brothers and now he's with his brothers. It means an awful lot to me to understand that." -- Richard Leger
"Our son fought side by side with the Americans and he was proud to do so. So for them to at least recognize that is really heart-warming. He was proud and I'm glad they are proud." -- Claire Leger.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Good, bad, ugly 

Good
Or, at least, funny --


Bad:
US to consolidate forces into four huge bases in Iraq: "Top US military officials in Iraq confirmed Monday that they are planning to consolidate the more than 100 bases where US personnel are now stationed in Iraq into four huge, more permanent bases."

And Ugly:

If Stalag 13 Had Been Like Bagram Hogan would not crack. He would not give up the names of anyone who had collaborated with him to enable the Allies to stop so many attacks, so many Nazi plans. By the time they threw him into the freezing cold cell, near the cells where LeBeau, Kinch, Newkirk, and Carter cowered, all naked, all chained into forced kneeling positions, Hogan had been beaten repeatedly, he'd had electrodes attached to his nutsack, he'd been half-drowned over and over, but he wouldn't give them a name. Even when they raped him with Klink's swagger stick, Hogan stayed true to his men, his mission

Thanks to Steve Gilliard's News Blog for the link.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

The heart of darkness -- in a single-source scoop 

News junkies like me, and like the people who comment on this blog, sometimes forget that many, many people pay virtually no attention at all to politics and political news.
These people are the Skimmers -- they skim a newspaper in the morning and listen with half an ear to the radio news on the way to work, but they're not really paying close attention. They just develop a simple, generalized impression about what is going on in the world, and then they start thinking about the next sales call or project or meeting or task and that is it. The Skimmers are not going to follow the ins and outs of a lengthy, controversial and complex news story. No criticism here -- we are all Skimmers of one kind or another. For myself, I am a skimmer for most of the sports and entertainment news, only paying attention when Canada or a Canadian does something extraordinary or when the next plot twist for Desperate Housewives is leaked.
The Skimmers are the people for whom the sound bite was invented.
Now, over the last week, us news junkies have been following Newsweek vs. White House Koran abuse story and questioning its contradictions -- the Pentagon had said the week before that the Muslim riots were not caused by the Newsweek story, but then this week suddenly the party line changed and everybody was blaming Newsweek's "lies" about prisoner abuse. The White House and the syncopant pundits piled on with solemn intonations about the danger of single-source stories, saying the "scoop" mentality was outmoded -- just too, too last-century, you know. And the 101st Fighting Keyboarders piled on with their "Newsweek lies and people die" outrage.
I started to wonder whether there was actually an agenda here -- with the Bush administration, it seems like we're often waiting for the other shoe to drop. Did they want to intimidate the news media about running any more prisoner abuse stories? Or were they trying to give Skimmers the impression that prisoner abuse stories are just media lies?
Well, guess what? It's both.
On Friday the New York Times posted an old-fashioned single-source scoop. The military investigation file into detainee deaths in Afghanistan was leaked to them "from a person involved in the investigation who was critical of the methods used at Bagram and the military's response to the deaths". And the Times had the guts to go with it: In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths. It's the kind of story which, depending on where it leads, could win author Tim Golden a Pulitzer. It is the Pentagon Papers for the Bush administration's Muslim wars.
I do not doubt that the White House knew this was coming, because the Times would have been calling the military leadership for comfirmation and comment, as well as searching out the military torturers named in the story.
The Bush administration couldn't stop the Times from publishing. Now they can only try to deter other news media from picking it up. And try to persuade the Skimmers that it is a media lie.
I think -- I hope -- that they will not succeed.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

This tells it like it is 

In his post Galloway Spares No One Gazetteer writes: ". . . we have to realize what we are really fighting for here. It is not just Left vs Right. It is not just New Labour vs. Old Labour. It is not just the CRAP vs. the NDP. It is not just Republican vs Democrat.
No.
This is a cage match, for all the marbles, between Corporate Fascism and Liberal Democracy. . . . there is no room in the ring for the rhetorically squeamish."

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Carolyn is the one who they should be thanking 

The Globe and Mail credits Chuck Cadman for saving the Liberal government. And, yes, he did.
But so did Carolyn Parrish.

The Globe story Liberals Survive Key Budget Vote dismisses Parrish rather abruptly. I thought: "Thursday evening's momentous vote rested on Mr. Cadman, who ended up being the sole MP to ensure the vote would pass. The MP, who has cancer and who flew into Ottawa especially for the vote, said afterward that he decided only 30 minutes before which side he would support, but in the end went with what the constituents of Surrey told him -- that they did not want an election right now . . . The votes of the other two independent MPs basically cancelled each other out . . . Earlier in the day, independent David Kilgour said he was disturbed by the government's assignment of new Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, who crossed the floor, to a cabinet post. He also said he could not, in good faith, back the NDP amendment. A third independent, Ms. Parrish, came and voted in favour of the Liberals despite the fact that she was suffering from severe stomach pains."
Now, Kilgore left the Liberals, so his vote against Martin wasn't surprising. And Cadman was denied the Conservative nomination in his Surrey riding when another candidate hijacked his nominating meeting -- and Harper didn't step in. Cadman won anyway as an independent, but I could understand that he might not have any particular affection for this party.
But Parrish had good reason to dislike Martin, yet she voted for him anyway.
Martin kicked Parrish out of the Liberal party in November after she kicked around a George Bush doll on This Hour has 22 minutes. Wikipedia writes ". . . Canadian Press quoted her as saying Martin . . . could "go to hell" . . . she had no loyalty towards the Liberal Party and that if it were defeated in the next election she "would not shed a tear" . . . (she also said)that the party under Martin had fallen into disarray and that Martin and his inner circle ran the party using guerrilla warfare tactics." Ouch!
But there never seemed to be any question that she wouldn't support Martin, and she didn't go around like Kilgore demanding troops for Darfur (which apparently they don't want anyway) then complaining it wasn't good enough. And, like Cadman, Parrish was also sick today too, and apparently she too had to drag herself into the House to vote.
Martin should thank her for putting her party's future ahead of her personal pique.

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Sauce for the goose 

1. Who said this: "It was a blow. I didn't see it coming . . . Never turn your back on your friends and your family and your colleagues like this. It's not the way you conduct yourself in an honourable fashion, I don't think."
2. Who said this: "[It is}an abomination, sired in betrayal and born out of deception."
Answers:
1. Peter MacKay
2. David Orchard

You know, I have always liked Peter MacKay, but I found his TV interview tonight a little creepy -- an uncomfortable mixture of self-pity and robotic repetition of Conservative talking points.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A calmer head but not wiser 

Tories backpedal -- sort of So the Tories are going to support the budget after all.
If he had announced this sensible approach two weeks, Harper might not have lost Stronach.
But even though he finally did the right thing on the February budget, it seems he still cannot control his temper. In the middle of what was an awful day for the Conservatives, Harper goes and picks another fight.
Here's the background: not surprisingly, the Maritimes premiers were agitated about what would happen to the Atlantic Accord if the budget didn't pass. But now that Harper has announced the Conservatives will support the budget, I would think that this problem has been resolved, right?
So what does Harper do? When he is annoucing that he will support the budget after all, he seizes the opportunity to throw a hissy fit and wag his finger at Conservative premier Danny Williams in Newfoundland.
"Flanked by [Nfld MPs] Hearn and Doyle, Harper lashed out at Williams on Tuesday. "They stood by Danny Williams, they stood by Newfoundland, they always will," he said of the MPs. "And it's about time Danny Williams stood by some of his boys down here too. That's the only way Newfoundland and Labrador is going to get anywhere in this country." He insisted a Conservative government would ensure the province would get its money. "Danny's going to get his money. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are going get(their) money," he said. "And I don't care whether Danny likes me today, or doesn't like me. We'll give the money to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because they deserve it, and it's the right thing to do."
Harper seems to have forgotten that Danny Williams holds the Canadian Hissy Fit National Championship.
In an area of the country where the Conservatives need to pick up some seats, Harper threw away the chance to see some stories in tomorrow's papers praising Harper. Instead, the voters will be reading Williams trash-talking response to Harper's needlessly indignant remarks.

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Oops! 

Well, considering all the comments on the post below, I am intending to look into the questions raised about Canadian defense and blog on this some more.
But in the meantime, I got a kick out of this story: Man Admits 'Bad Judgment' in Raze Blaze
Sounds amazing I know, but it reminded me of the time we watched the dentist across the street do something similar.
He was trying to kill some weeds in the walkway next to his garage, see. But instead of going to the garden centre and getting some weedkiller, he though it would be simpler to just put some gasoline on them and set them on fire. From across the street we noticed him pouring something on the weeds, but we didn't realize what it was until he lit the match.
Well, you can guess what happened. The flames shot up about 15 feet and he almost set his hair and his garage on fire.
He got the fire out -- but then, of course, he had to repair and repaint the garage!

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Americans surrender in Iraq 

New York Times: Some Sunnis Hint at Peace Terms in Iraq, U.S. Says: "The Bush administration, struggling to cope with a recent intensification of insurgent violence in Iraq, has received signals from some radical Sunni Arab leaders that they would abandon fighting if the new Shiite majority government gave Sunnis a significant voice in the country's political evolution, administration officials said this week."
This, of course, is total bullshit -- neither the US military nor the embassy have any contacts with the insurgency except for the 9.000 Iraqis they have arrested and thrown into concentration camps throughout the country, without trials or hearings or habeus corpus. And, as in Guantanamo, they have no idea who most of these people are or whether they are with the insurgency or not.
So, not knowing who the insurgency is, the US in now trying to negotiate with them through the New York Times.
It's not the insurgency which is suing for peace here, it is the Bush admistration. I think this article is actually a declaration of surrender. It offers the insurgency leaders a trade-off - we'll give you political power if you will stop shooting at our troops.
As you read further down the article, the truth becomes more apparent:
-- The US has realized that their so-called anti-insurgency strategy (of capturing or killing insurgents, training more Iraqi forces, etc) is not producing results and so they now say that "quelling the insurgency would also require an effective political strategy to stabilize areas where insurgents have been most active, including Baghdad and Mosul, two of Iraq's biggest cities." In other words, surrender.
-- The problem is finding someone to negotiate surrender with: "American officials, two years into the war, acknowledge that they have little understanding of who the leaders are, apart from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi" and of course possibly some of those 9,000 detainees
-- So the US wants the Iraqi government to do the negotiating instead: "the United States is urging Dr. Jaafari, the new Iraqi leader, to renew talks with a coalition of Sunni Arab groups known as the National Dialogue Council, which has links to elements in the insurgency who it says are ready to explore openings toward a political settlement" even though there are "doubts that the council has the influence with the insurgents that it claims",
-- But they're having a hard time bullying the Iraqi government to not sabatoge these negotiations before they even begin: "the [National Dialogue] council's leaders have been deeply angered by raids by Iraqi forces on its Baghdad offices in the past 10 days. The raids resulted in the arrests of more than a dozen people, including some who had played a role in earlier contacts with the Shiite leaders."
-- So, even though Bush promised to stay until Iraq was stable, the US going to declare victory and leave, by blaming the continuing violence on the Iraqi government itself: "many [Sunnis] wanted to join in the political system, including the writing of a permanent constitution. But the political feuding that delayed the formation of the government for nearly three months after the elections has so far blocked the kind of concessions the Sunnis are demanding" and the article later quotes a "US military official" as saying "The Iraqis are going to have to figure this out for themselves".
And in the meantime, we're outta here!

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Hero dogs 

I love heroic dog stories.
Meet Shannon

She is the Missouri dog who won a Hero Award for 2005. Shannon's owner Ted Mandry was unloading debris about a quarter-mile from his house when a parked tractor popped out of gear, rolled down a ravine and toppled into a 10-foot deep gully. The tractor's front end loader trapped Mandry's right leg. "I was calling for help and whistling for two hours, but no one knew where I was," he said. Peggy Mandry, who thought her husband was out mowing hay, stepped out for a while and Shannon, a border collie/golden mix, was locked inside the house. When she returned, Shannon was howling and scratching at the door. When she was let out, Shannon bolted from the door, dragging Peggy Mandry through the pasture and into the wood. "I was bleeding, I began to get weaker. I reached a point where there was either going to be a minor miracle or this was it for me," said Ted Mandry, 65. "At that point, my wife and my dog came to the edge of the gully."
And some previous Hero Dog winners:
Here's Rocky's story - During a late Sunday night while the Staples slept in their Hatboro, PA home, they were startled by the screams of their 8-year-old daughter, Laura. An intruder and known sex offender had snatched her from her bedroom and was carrying her down the stairs as he covered her mouth trying to prevent her from screaming. All Laura could do in the midst of her restrained horror was to kick her bedroom door as the intruder carried her out. It was this hard sound that woke Rocky, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, from a deep sleep on the third floor and alerted him that something was wrong. Rocky flew down two flights of stairs and threw his massive body against the man. The would-be kidnapper then dropped Laura and ran with Rocky in close pursuit. Rocky managed to bite the intruder numerous times before racing back to check on Laura, who frantically screamed in the comfort of her parent's arms. The intruder had managed to escape, but was soon found by police in a nearby park, bleeding from multiple wounds. "Rocky has spared our family an unspeakable horror," says Joan Staples, Laura's mother. "There's no way we can overstate our gratitude for his bravery and quick response."
And Shadow This story reports that Alaskan wilderness guide Don Mobley was gathering firewood on a sandbar of the Nakochna River when he found himself between a grizzly sow and her cub. The sow growled and charged. Mobley, convinced he was about to be mauled, ran. The bear was within 10 feet of him when Shadow, his 3-year-old German shepherd mix, zipped out of the woods and lunged at the advancing bruin. Barking madly, Shadow chased the bear and cub into the woods. "The only thing that saved me was my dog," Mobley said.
And Brutis a seven-year old golden whose owner Fram Oreto said she was picnicking with her grandchildren in September when Brutis snatched a 6-inch-long snake that was just five feet from them. Brutis suffered a bite and was taken to an animal emergency hospital, where he received antivenin more than three hours after the attack. "It's quite an amazing feat that he survived at all," Oreto said. "He was a strong enough dog to pull through."
And Shilo also received a Courage award because she followed her companion, 11-year-old Sarah Irmen of Littlerock, Calif., when a kidnapper forced her into a car in June. When the kidnapper tried to get Sarah out of the car, Shilo bit him and the girl escaped.
Heros all.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Remember the budget? Anyone? 

Well, I see the columnists in today's Globe and Mail agree with me -- What a jerk! I cannot, of course, actually link to these columns, because the Globe now charges extra for online access to these parts of its newspaper, and I refuse to pay it because I already subscribe to the paper version of the paper.
So here I am actually complimenting their columnists, whom I often criticize, but they cannot benefit from being quoted directly in my widely-read blog --oh well, their loss.
Anyway, several Mop and Pail columnists do write about how it would be the height of arrogance and stupidty for Harper to defeat the budget next Thursday -- the most popular budget in a decade and one that a huge majority of Canadians want to see implemented.
Remember the budget? I think Harper, in particular, has forgotten all about it.
Here is what we will lose if the budget is defeated.
From the February budget:

PLUS the Liberal/NDP accord in April:

So irregardless of whether every single Tory turns up in Ottawa on Thursday, I am hoping that Harper will arrange for a few of them to get the flu or to develop "urgent family emergencies" by which means they would be unavoidably delayed in reaching the Commons in time to vote against this budget.


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So much for the meek 

Here is a website posting about The Forceful Men Of FORCE Ministries.
The goal of FORCE Ministeries is "equiping military personnel for Christ-centred duty."
And as one of the comments said: "Man, the meek are fucked. They're NEVER going to inherit the earth now." So true, so true.

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Good, bad, ugly 

Good:


Brian Gable, The Globe & Mail

Bad:

M. e. Cohen, New Jersey, Freelance

Ugly:

Marshall Ramsey, Jackson Mississippi, The Clarion Ledger

And just a note to say I get most of my weekly "good,bad,ugly" cartoons from Daryl Cagle's cartoon index on Slate. Its a great site.

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"Nice little military base you've got here, Senator. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it" 

Democrats should beware of false hope.
I am concerned that the Senate Dems and the progressive bloggers have talked themselves into believing a fairy tale -- that they actually have a serious chance to stop Bolton, and to retain the filibuster, and to stop those seven awful judges.
This Financial Times article about the Bolton nomination Bolton set for long battle on Senate floor says that "questions from [foreign services ] committee Republicans could pave the way for more opposition when the Senate takes up [the Bolton nomination]"
Well, yes, that may well be true -- the discussion may well go on for a week! Or ten days even!
But in the end, the Democrats will most likely lose.
The White House has turned all these votes into a do-or-die situation, a 'you're either with us or with the terrorists' kind of vote. So the chances that six republicans will actually risk their careers to vote against the Wnite House are miniscule -- three, maybe four, is possible; six is highly unlikely.
The American people may be lukewarm now about Boy George, but they aren't angry enough at the Bush administration to cheer Senators who would vote against him. But the Christian Right and the right-wing media/blogosphere, who have wholeheartedly accepted the do-or-die framing, would crucify any senator who voted against Bush (and they are also the ones who wouldn't forgive Bush unless he pulls out all the stops to win). On the filibuster and judges issues in particular, there is the added pressure from prolifers who think they can eliminate abortion if they can eliminate the filibuster and get some anti-abortion judges in the lower courts and then get a Supreme Court which would overturn Roe v Wade.
While presidents in the past would have realized that appointees like Bolton and the Ridiculous Seven will be seen as biased and ineffective in their positions without a bipartisan majority in favour of their appointment, the Bush administration has demonstrated repeatedly since the election that they don't care whether any vote is 90 to 10 or 51 to 49. they only care about winning in whatever way they can.
Finally, the announcement about those military base closings is suspisciously well-timed -- as in "Nice little military base you've got here in your state, Senator. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it."
Chances are that well before the 2006 midterms, the filibuster will be gone and Bolton will be in and the Ridiculous Seven will be in and so will at least one, or maybe two, anti-abortion Supreme Court justices. And Cheney's fishing buddy Scalia will be Chief Justice.
Though democrats should, and must, keep fighting on every vote, they also need a Plan B.
I just have no idea what that could be.

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Rick Salutin nails it 

Rick Salutin's rabble column: Embrace Ottawa's dysfunction tells it like it is.
I tried to cut it down, but I have ended up posting almost all of it below -- its just that good:

. . . some of our political traditions are being desecrated. The question is: Do you care? . . .the Martin-Layton deal . . . provides childcare, housing, urban relief, and a balanced budget — exactly what voters say they want! Finally they get it — and Parliament is dysfunctional? Paul Martin was dithering. Now he's acting. So it's time to pull the plug on him? As for democracy, the Liberals and NDP polled a majority of votes last election: 52.4 per cent, versus just 42 per cent for Conservatives and the Bloc. So their deal makes democratic sense. Chantal Hébert wrote in her column for the Toronto Star, “There is no longer any question about how far Paul Martin is willing to go to avoid a snap election.” How far is that? Well, he's actually giving citizens what they say they'd like, and what he promised to do. Why must he be punished for it? So what if fear made him do it? Stephen Harper got pressured into backing off on abortion. That's politics — in fact, that's democracy . . . Motives don't matter. At least not for most people.
Columnists may be exceptions. They live by their opinions, they hate backing down, maybe it means more to them than the benefits of public childcare or urban renewal. They are incensed when voters indicate they might be willing to be “bought off” or “bribed with their own money.” Excuse me, but isn't that the point of taxes: to spend on behalf of the taxpayers for things they couldn't purchase by themselves?
Poor voters. They may be disgusted by the sponsorship mess, but must weigh the temptation to voice their rage, against the dire effects if they replace a Martin with a Harper. Do it and you will not get childcare or urban transit or tuition relief. And all this at a time when the system is finally starting to deliver for citizens. Me, I'd string the catastrophe out as long as possible. A dysfunctional Parliament may be as good as it gets. . .
Lies? Peter MacKay, Conservative deputy leader, lied with gusto and signed a pledge not to merge his party in order to become PC leader, then reneged and didn't even look sheepish. Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer's head seems ready to explode in Question Period; but he had an
aide impersonate him on radio and lied about it when he got caught. They're outraged? I'm outraged that they're outraged! This is the worst scandal in our history? Canada was born in scandal. Ever hear of the CPR? . . . from this scandal voters may gain a little ground in areas that matter to them. If this be dysfunction, make the most of it!


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Friday, May 13, 2005

Winning hearts and minds 

Afghanistan: Protests on insult to Qur'an spread:
Over the past three years, Rumsfeld and the military have been able to intimidate the American media into accepting a brazen stream of lies about Iraq.
Remember these whoppers? "things are getting better every day in Iraq", "why aren't you reporting the good news, like the schools?", "we don't torture people, its just a few bad apples", "extraordinary rendition? of course we would never send people to places where they will be tortured!", "we know exactly where the WMD are", "we're very close to capturing XXX - we almost got him last week", "Iraqi oil will easily pay for the costs of the war", "they'll greet us with flowers in the streets" -- and the greatest one of all: "we can't wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud".
So now they think they can just leak this ridiculous spin and all of the Muslim outrage will go away: "Military officials said privately this week that they believe some former detainees are embroidering tales of abuse to stir anti-American passions."
Oh sure, guys -- the Guantanamo interrogators beat people and drowned them and shaved their beards and sexually humliated them and smeared them with menstrual blood to shame then. But of course they didn't tear up the Koran and flush it, nope, never happened -- these spooks are such devout Christian men and women, they just have too much respect for the Muslim religion ever to do such a thing.
Or if it DID happen, why then it must have been the prisoners themselves who did it -- manipulative Koran-injurious behaviour.
So maybe this talking point will shut up the American media and the pro-republican bloggers and the talk show hosts and the Christian Right.
But the rest of the world just won't believe it. And Google news now lists more than a thousand stories about the riots, from newspapers and media outlets all over the world.

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He just doesn't get it 

How to demonstrate your fitness to govern:
First, paralyze Parliament
Second, demand that the Liberals resign because Parliament is paralyzed.
And you know what this is all in aid of, don't you?
Harper himself is actually the one who is paralyzed -- paralyzed with fear about how his restless MPs will react when they realize that their leader's hysterical tirades against the Liberals have boxed them into an impossible position -- they can either vote in favour of the budget, after a month of pontificating about how the Liberals have lost the authority to govern. Or they can vote against the budget and bring down the government, leaving all those Conservative MPs. and candidates, to explain to their constituents why they didn't want Canadians to get all that extra money for the military, for cities, for day care. for equalization.
It sort of limits your campaign options when you cannot make speeches about how a Conservative government would spend extra money on the military, on cities, on day care and on equalization.
Oh well, I guess your MPs can always make speeches about how you stopped that awful gay marriage bill. That will go over well, particularly in Ontario and BC.
Steve, smarten up -- remember you cannot get any more seats in Alberta, that where you need them is in Ontario and BC.
All this demonstrates is that Harper seems to be incapable of thinking strategically or acting responsibly. Harper's over-the-top rhetoric had narrowed his options now to one -- to try to force a non-confidence motion before the budget bill can be introduced. And how is he trying to do this? By announcing he is going to adjourn the house every day between now and then. Huh?
Oh, Steve, if your're trying to prove to Canadians that you can do a great job of boxing your own party into a corner. where your MPs will continue to get paid for refusing to work, you've certainly done it with this tactic. Commons grinds to a halt
But Harper's problem could still be solved -- that Globe story points out that "The NDP has offered to pull one or more of its MPs on Thursday so that MPs battling cancer can miss the vote without affecting the final result. Conservative House Leader Jay Hill said the party will consider the offer, which is called pairing." Well, of course, this is the solution.
He should graciously accept this pairing arrangement for his ill MPs, which shows how mature and parliamentary and caring he is. Then all he has to do is hope and pray that the NDP and the Liberals pull a dirty trick and break their word.
This would get the budget passed and out of the way, so he could defeat the government later on a less popular bill when people would no longer care how his MPs voted on the budget. And it would also give the Conservatives an absolutely great campaign issue - the Martin liberals claim they have already cleaned up their party but look how untrustworthy they really are!
But no. He is resolute in rejecting any strategy which could help him or his candidates during a campaign. "Mr. Harper said he would prefer that the ailing MPs be allowed to cast their own votes. 'I am told, though, that [former prime minister] Joe Clark lost the vote in 1979 because people said they would pair and then they reneged on that commitment in the last minute,' he said."
He just doesn't get it. That's what he WANTS to happen this time.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Framing the fillibuster 

Hey, the democrats are finally "framing" the fillibuster issue in the simple, clear language that ordinary Americans will hear and understand -- the ones who don't have time to read a Harper's-style article, but who can understand the basic problem if it can be framed in a way which is meaningful to them.
Here's one example from a Harry Reid speech quoted in Daily Kos Reid to Frist: Let's vote:
Instead of accepting that success and avoiding further divisiveness and partisanship in Washington, the President chose to pick fights instead of judges by resubmitting the names of the rejected nominees. (emphasis mine)
And NAACP's Julian Bond yesterday on Hardball also described the whole fillibuster issue clearly and easily:

The precedent in the Senate is, they have operated by the same rules and the same standard for all these many years. And President Bush has enjoyed unusual success. He‘s had more of his judges confirmed than his last three predecessors. Now, all a sudden, because they can‘t win under these old rules, under the present rules, they want to change the rules. Why don‘t they work on changing the votes?" (emphasis mine)


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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What a jerk! 

Budget vote set for May 19
But this isn't good enough for His Arrogance Mr. Harper. Oh, no, no.
Waiting a week to demonstrate the nation's contempt for the liberals by a descisively crushing vote of 153 to 152 just isn't good enough. He wants to vote on a confidence motion NOW, NOW, NOW!!!
The fact that this unseemly partisanship will screw up the Queen's visit to celebrate Saskatchewan's centennial means nothing to him, nothing at all.
Nope -- its just so much more important that the Conservative Party NOT be placed in the uncomfortable position of having to vote against Martin's budget, which is the best budget the nation has seen in more than a decade. So Harper doesn't want to have to campaign in an election which his party can be said to have instigated by voting against the budget. And obviously, Harper's political manouvering is just so much more important than measely old Saskatchewan -- we only have a few hundred thousand votes, and our government is NDP, so why should he care about us anyway?
He might as well have told us to "fuddle-duddle".


This photo from the Globe and Mail shows Harper glaring at Martin yesterday in the Commons.

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Here's some good news - for the Chretien liberals 

PM's honesty an issue as Tories lead in poll
I haven't followed the Gomery Inquiry testimony, except for reading the Globe coverage and hearing occasional testimony on the evening news. But its been my impression that the 'sponsorship liberals' who are testifying are happy to smear themselves as long as they can also skewer Paul Martin and his supporters as well -- with the long-term goal, I suspect, that Martin will lose the election and have to resign and then they can get one of Chretien's people into the leadership. Now, who this would be, I wouldn't have a clue, though I also suspect that people like Tobin and Manley would be happy to come in out of the cold if they thought they had a chance. Sorry, Tobin is a quitter, and Manley still looks too much like Beeker on the Muppets.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

The Hollow Men 

Here it is, in a nutshell -- the basic problem with the Bush administration.
At an event in Holland, Bush was asked whether there would come a day when the Patriot Act was not needed any more. He said "[We] must balance the government's most important duty, which is to protect the American people from harm, with the civil liberties of our citizens."
He has said this type of thing before -- he has used this description of his job to justify every post-911 monstrosity from the Patriot Act to the preemptive strike doctrine to the Iraq War to Guatanamo.
But he is wrong. Here is the oath that each president takes as he is sworn into the presidency: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
His duty as president is not to the people but to the Constitution. It is only through his commitment to protect the Constitution that his people can also be protected.
But Bush just doesn't get it, and neither do the people around him. "Protecting the people" is the corrupt justification for illegal acts that we hear in the speeches of every tin-pot dictator from Stalin to PolPot to Idi Amin. The idea that one person is actually responsible for protecting an entire nation is romantic megalomania. It leads to the pretense that the country is surrounded by and infested with enemies who must be beaten regardless of any illegality. Without the Constitution, in fact, the very concept of illegality becomes hollow. Thus Bush turns Americans into a nation of hollowmen who promote the demonization of Muslims and pregnant women and gay people, deny the legal authority of judges, support religious zealots, and justify torture.

. . . Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men . . .

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper


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Yay, Steve! 

Victoria's Steve Nash, at only 6'3", is not a dominating figure on the court -- until the tossup. Then his absolute DETERMINATION to get the ball kicks in. It is a joy to watch.
We always knew he was the best player in the NBA; now the sports world has recognized this too.
The Reuters story describes the Canadian reaction -- joy, joy, joy:

News of Nash's selection received unprecedented coverage in Canada, knocking the country's bid for a third consecutive gold medal at the ice hockey world championships out of the spotlight. His honor was compared to golfer Mike Weir's victory at the 2003 U.S. Masters and Jacques Villeneuve capturing the Formula One drivers' title . . . Leaked news of his selection made the front pages while the official announcement was broadcast live on national sports channels and radio.


And the story ends with this tidbit: "Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Nash is not afraid to express his opinion and wore an anti-war T-shirt to a news conference during the 2003 NBA all-star weekend." Way to go, Steve.
UPDATE - Height is now correct!

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Gravity and evolution - both 'just theories" 

Thanks, Phong, for telling me about this terrific article - UBC geneticist proves evolution:
Here is how it ends -
Since Darwin published Origin of Species in 1859, many religious leaders have gone to great lengths to convince the public that the concept of evolution is a theory, not a scientific fact. Their reasons for this are understandable: evolution stands in direct opposition to Biblical mythology. When I asked Darren Irwin whether his research had established evolution as a fact, his answer was enlightening: "Scientists are never able to completely prove any theory. Science is a process by which incorrect theories are shown to be incorrect, leaving us with the theories that are most consistent with the evidence. The theory of evolution is one of the most successful theories ever, in the sense that it is highly consistent with abundant evidence. We understand the mechanisms by which evolution operates, and these mechanisms have actually been observed on short time scales. This establishes evolution as a more successful theory than the
theory of gravitation. The theory of gravitation is also consistent with evidence, but we don't yet know how it works. The theory of gravitation, however, does not contradict religious doctrine, and so is universally accepted. "

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Born to be gay 

Gay Men Respond Differently to Pheromones
Let's stop pussyfooting around the main question, like this article does. Yes, its genetic, goddammit! Pretending that it isn't so you can continue to discriminate against gay people is just vile, vile behaviour.

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Stupid is as stupid does 

In Kansas, A Sharp Debate on Evolution: ". . . a strategy letter from a Kansas Citizens for Science member . . . said the way to defeat the anti-evolution forces was be to portray them as political opportunists, evangelical activists, unprincipled bullies and ignoramuses."
Yes, that sounds about right.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Good, bad, ugly 

Good:

VE Day in Ottawa, 1945

Bad:

Mike Keefe, Denver Post

Ugly:

Andy Donato, Toronto Sun




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Picking a fight with Russia to avoid facing the truth in Washington 

Hmmm -- people like Armando are asking WTF is Bush doing talking about who did what to whom 60 years ago and how freedom is on the march in Eastern Europe and how, by the way, the left-wing hero Roosevelt sold out the Baltic states. And Steve Gilliard is explaining here and here the backstory and how right-wingers have been mad at Roosevelt for years about this supposed sellout. All this has pissed off Putin to the extent that he is appearing on 60 Minutes to attack Bush
But it still didn't make any sense -- why is this coming up NOW, including the last minute plan for Bush to drop into Latvia and Georgia for a couple of needlessly inflammatory speeches? The only explanation I have seen is that Bush is paying back the Baltic states for their support in Iraq. But this still doesn't explain why this is happening right now, when Bush could have said these things anytime in the last three years or the next three.
But I just realized one other thing -- picking a needless fight with Russia over events of 60 years ago means that now everybody is completely distracted from this story about the events of three years ago: 88 Members of Congress Call for Immediate Answers about Secret Bush/Blair Pre-War Deal .
The Bush/Blair deal is, of course, an impeachable offense, involving the high crime of lying to Congress and the American people to start an unjustified war just to gain control of Iraq's oil and to protect Israel. By sucking Russia into attacking Bush, the Bush administration also tricks the American public into a knee-jerk patriotism which requires that the real story of Bush's betrayal of the trust of the American people will continue to be ignored.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Got milk? 

Is there some double secret code word in these Louie Louie lyrics that I cannot find? A Michigan school superintendant says they are too "raunchy" for 12 to 14 year olds. But at least these lyrics don't refer to "milking" stallions.


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Friday, May 06, 2005

Stop, please, in the name of humanity! 

Bride reveals why she ran away
I have one comment about the latest revelation in the year's top non-news story:
Try to imagine how little I care.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Kent State - 35 years ago today 


Photo by John Filo, May 4, 1970

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio

(Neil Young; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

One soldier 


A photograph posted at the Democratic Underground website.
". . . he observed mutilation of the dead, trophy photos of dead Iraqis, mass roundups of innocent noncombatants, positioning of prisoners in the line of fire—all violations of the Geneva conventions. His own buddies — decent, Christian men, as he describes them — shot unarmed prisoners." From an interview with an Army reservist posted at the Online Journal website.

Do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowing, come the judgement day.
On the bloody morning after, one Tin Soldier rides away.

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Strange days indeed 

Does anyone agree with me that we've seen some seriously creepy stuff lately?
George Bush and the bald man fetish.
Rush Limbaugh and 'Abu Ghraib Day' -- "The Democrats, that is who we need to get presents for. One thing, have you thought about handcuffs? . . . A whip. You know, to go along with the handcuffs . . . you might give them a little pyramid game, something that is in the shape of a pyramid . . . Jumper cables. A pair of jumper cables . . . Give them a German shepherd . . . Obviously, at the top of the gift list has to be women’s underwear . . . remember all of the pictures of Abu Ghraib prisoners with bags on their heads, with eye holes cut out. Give them some of those. Those are cheap. Go to the grocery store, get groceries, then give them the empty bags with the eye holes cut out . . . Then, of course, there is a leash. A leash can be found at any pet store and it goes along with the German Shepherd that you are going to give away to a democrat here as they celebrate the one year anniversary of Abu Ghraib Day . . . We forgot, a water board would be a great gift. For some libs, if you could find a naked Iraqi inflatable insurgent doll that would be a thrill . . . "
Laura Bush and George's most memorable hand job: ". . . Laura had jabbed at her husband for not reading books, had suggested he was no powerhouse in bed, and had encouraged everyone in the room . . . to envision George W. Bush pulling on the penis of a horse. . ."
Pat Robertson and how judges are a worse threat than AlQaeda because the US has "controlled" AlQaeda but so-called liberal judges "are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together".

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This explains it 

So this is why the Bush administration was in such a panic to confirm the Bolton nomination -- ABC News: Global Nuclear Meeting Opens
I suspect Bolton was supposed to make a big splash at this conference.
The US delegation told the conference that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is "facing the most serious challenge in its [35-year] history. We must confront the challenge". But the fearmongering didn't generate the coverage in the US media which Bolton's first appearance leading the US delegation at a major UN conference would have garnered.
Now logically, one might assume that the US is talking about Pakistan, whose top nuclear scientist sold nuclear technology to rogue states.
Or about how Israel, India and Pakistan need to be brought onside with the treaty.
Or about the danger posed by the old Russian nukes and the risk that they will be sold to terrorist groups or nations.
Or about North Korea, which was the first country ever to pull out of the treaty two years ago and now says it has already built nuclear weapons.
Nope, none of the above.
It's Iran of course. Ooooohhh!
The buildup to declaring war on Iran has started, kicking off with the attempt to bully the UN into demonizing Iran instead of continuing to try to negotiate. So the theoretical danger of Iran must be inflated, while the incidents and issues listed above are minimized. So much for world leadership.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Don't get your tits In a wringer 

Women beware: Can you trust your mammogram? Thousands of women across Canada are screened on equipment of questionable quality
This kind of health scare story really annoys me -- the story is NOT about the trustworthiness of the mammograms or the quality of the machines, in spite of the subhed. Its actually about whether or not mammogram machines have been accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiologists.
The article does not list any missed diagnoses or false positives, even by the radiologists who are complaining. There is not a single oncologist who is quoted as blaming a poor mammogram for a missed diagnosis -- in fact, there aren't any interviews with oncologists at all. Instead, the article includes a lot of complaints from mammogram clinic operators about how the accreditation process is unnecessarily costly, difficult, and inflexible.
What concerns me is this: a mammogram is one of the most unpleasant medical procedures that women undergo -- plainly, it hurts, and the test requires that the pain be repeated at least four to six times, and while the pain is brief, its is pretty intense (men, think of the first burst of pain you experience when kicked in the balls, and you'll be about right) Women will seize on just about any excuse to avoid this test, so even the possibility that the equipment might be defective and therefore the test useless might be enough to convince some women not to bother. But the story doesn't identify any machines anywhere in the country as actually defective at all -- some may be, of course, but the article doesn't give us any clue about this.
Its hardly the kind of health panic story which justifies front page treatment in the Globe and Mail -- unless its the Saturday edition of a slow Canadian news week, and you want a lot of women who are out shopping to see the big, black headline and buy the paper.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

They're coming now for the teenage girls . . . 

It's starting.
Remember the German anecdote about how first they came for the communists and then they came for the Jews etc, etc, and then they came for me?
Well, first, the Christian Right came for the gays. They spent four years racheting up the attacks, and now have established the anti-gay hatefest as the mainstream, conventional view in American culture.
Next, they're starting on the teenage girls. And they're obsessed with sex, again. I wonder if maybe they are thinking - or hoping, in a secret wishful-thinking wetdream kind of way - that all teenage girls are really just lusting to emulate the Britney Spears baby-Lolita act and only the Christian right can stop them
This week the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act was approved in the House of Representatives. And the Republicans were incensed that Democrats would even try to amend the bill. Not only does the bill violate a Supreme Court ruling that requires such laws to include alternatives, it also actually endangers teenagers who are impregnated by incest.
But danger to teenage girls is not a concern of the Christian right. They also don't want teenage girls to be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer. Why? Because the Christian right is thinking, in a secret wishful-thinking wetdream way, that then these young girls might think the vaccination is a license to have sex. And better they should continue to risk dying than that they should think that having premarital sex is OK.
And certainly they should never be permitted to chose abortion on their own, even if they are so young that a pregnancy is a serious health risk. A 13-year-old foster child and frequent runaway was prevented this week from terminating her pregnancy when the Florida Department of Children and Families took her to court -- the very agency which is supposed to be protecting her. In court, a witness from the DCF was babbling about her risk of "post-abortion syndrome", but then had to admit that this so-called condition isn't recognized by the AMA or the APA. The case may well turn into another Schiavo media storm, too. Newsweek writes "The clash raises the prospect of another showdown between Florida state agencies and the judiciary. And yet again, a vulnerable individual lies powerlessly in the middle."
And who will be next? Should we have a pool?
High school science teachers aren't much of a target anymore because they have already mostly given up on teaching evolution whether its still in their textbooks or not. So maybe the next devils will be all those librull college perfessers.
Or how about immigrants -- the Minutemen are going after Mexicans in particular, but why be chosey, just go after them all!
Or how about a group which no one has thought of targeting since the Reagan administration. I'm talking about those lower-middle class people who live in cities (and who often vote Democrat -- there are the places where most of the vote suppression occurred in the last election.) They're already been marginalized as their factory jobs disappeared, their streets deteriorated, they lost their health care benefits, and their schools turned into dumps. But this is the group whose children are needed in the military, so if they can be demonized than a draft aimed at them could be brought in with much less uproar. Just a thought.

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War crimes 

Remember how the Pentagon was able to contract out the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib by saying how "private contractors" couldn't be charged with any military crimes?
Well, now the news is starting to come out about the other crimes these contractors were committing -- embezzelment, fraud and murder. U.S. contracting firm accused of bilking millions and running wild in Iraq The "running wild" part in the headline makes it sound like they were just having loud parties; actually, they were killing people for the fun of it.
I blogged about this a year ago, when I said "various news reports over the last couple of months indicate that mercenaries from all over the world are also flooding into Iraq as well, to act as "security" for all of the private contractors there. Its a new gold rush for thugs of all kinds . . ."
Can you imagine how Iraq has suffered under these yahoos? And can you imagine the depth of anger and disgust they feel toward the American occupation which inflicted these people on their country?

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