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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Superheros of 2005 

This site is priceless -- Apropos of Something - Apropos Comics.
Here's an example:

I found this site by following a link on Oliver Willis.

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Thanks, Bob Geldof 

In honour of the Live 8 concerts this weekend, we watched History Television's Turning Point tonight, which was about the Ethiopian famine of 1984 and the Band Aid and Live Aid events which Bob Geldof invented. Though a depressing subject, it was ultimately a story of success and achievement.
It never made sense to me, as a child, to be told that I had to eat up because people somewhere else were starving -- my reaction was, OK, then please send them my corn soup because I hate it.
When I was a child, and on into adulthood through the 60s and 70s, the general attitude among just about everybody I knew was that conditions in Africa were simply not solveable. The only people who seemed to care about Africa were some aid agencies and church ministers. We watched the clumsy "teach a man to fish" public service spots on TV at midnight, but they didn't seem to relate to our lives. Basically, there didn't seem to be anything that we could do about it except give a few bucks to Oxfam every now and then. In the 60s, we thought we were all changing the world, but we weren't really having much effect.
Those attitudes changed when Geldof did his record and his concerts.
It was unheard of in 1984 that a rock musician should care so much about Africa, and that he should be able to organize such extraordinary events, and that he could singlehandedly raise so much money. Now, its almost unheard of that musicians and artists would not devote some of their time and talent to fundraising for various causes.
In the interviews for the TV show we watched tonight, Geldof displayed a broad and deep knowledge of what is necessary to help Africa and what the world needs to do about it. Not only has he raised hundreds of millions, but he also has made sure it is being spent properly, and directly on aid projects.
I am impressed, too, that the United States is also showing some leadership here -- Bush seeks to double aid to Africa . The attitude I grew up with -- that Africa is hopeless -- is no longer an acceptable approach for anyone in the west to take -- and that is remarkable progress.

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What will happen next? 

When I saw the silent, staring troops at last night's speech - and watched some half-hearted handshakes and unsmiling faces in several of the officers near the stage after the speech -- I wondered what they might be thinking of what they heard.
So I looked up North Carolina's main newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, to see if they had any comments. Here is what their editorial said in Bush's dodge
Rising insurgent violence, conflicting accounts of the facts and a steady stream of American deaths have sharply heightened anxiety. That's reflected in recent polls that found eroding support for the fighting in Iraq.
Even in North Carolina, home to four major military bases with more than 10,000 troops in Iraq, a new statewide poll conducted by The News & Observer and WRAL-TV found 42 percent of active voters think the war has been worth it, but 49 percent say it has not. That's a sharp dip from January 2004. Two points in particular demand specific responses from Mr. Bush.
- Last weekend, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Americans that insurgencies often persist for 10 or 12 years. Given that, what kind of U.S. involvement will be required over that long haul?
- Gen. John Abizaid, the top Middle East commander, has said he expects Iraqi security forces to be able to lead the fight against insurgents by next summer. Will the White House begin withdrawing troops at that time?
Fort Bragg, home to the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces, would have been the ideal place for straight talk. Of the 1,740 men and women who have died in Iraq, an estimated 174 -- one in 10 -- came from North Carolina military bases. Tar Heel families have been asked to carry a heavy burden to support the war in Iraq. They have responded with courage and sacrifice. Yet, understandably, the killing and dying have worn on their resolve. North Carolinians -- like all Americans -- need to know to what to expect. What a shame their president would not level with them when he had the chance.

There is one problem with demanding truthful answers from the Bush administration. They don't have any.
They cannot describe what Americans can expect, because they don't know.
In 1968, following the Tet offensive I am not sure whether anybody in the US could envisage what failure in Vietnam would look like. In actuality, it did NOT consist of the US military losing significant battles and retreating, like the Germans did in WW2. And it did not consist of a long military stalemate and a ceasefire, like Korea ended. Instead, there was escalating bombing and escalating death tolls without any progress on the ground, followed by gradual brutalization of the troops and dissolution of the US army as an effective or respected fighting force (fragging, drug addiction, draft dodging, anti-war marches), accompanied by increasing corruption and lack of credibility in South Vietnam's government leading to the general belief that this was not a government worth supporting, and finally, the gradual turning of the South Vietnamese peasants and villages toward support for the Viet Cong, whether willingly or unwillingly.
It was only after the US pulled most of its soldiers out in 1972 and 1973 that the South Vietnamese army began losing battles and territory, to the point that the North occupied the South in 1975 and the last Americans flew out on the helicoter from the embassy roof.
Billmon today writes a lengthy post Failure is an option, which discusses some of the aspects of failure in Iraq:

. . . Bush has managed to make himself right at last: Iraq indeed has become the central front in the war against Al Qaeda (although the eastern front in Afghanistan is heating up quickly, and there's always the risk of a breakthrough on the Southern front -- Saudia Arabia -- or the Western front -- the Maghrib and/or Europe.) But saying that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terrorism is neither an argument nor a strategy. At the moment, it's pretty clear the Cheney administration and its pet military commanders don't have a strategy, other than to pin their hopes on a political process that is going nowhere slowly, and that in any case is extremely unlikely to break the insurgency's base of support -- at least, not before it breaks the American volunteer army. It's not at all clear that sending more troops to Iraq would make the situation any better . . . the U.S. military has made itself enormously unpopular in Iraq -- even among those who reluctantly accept the need for its presence. It's hard to see how putting more jittery, haji-hating American soldiers on the streets of Iraq is going to help peel away the insurgency's "soft support" or induce more Sunnis to cooperate with a government led by Shi'a fundamentalists. However, without more troops, it seems inevitable that Iraq will continue to descend into chaos and (ultimately) something close to Hobbes's war of the all against the all . . . the mindless chants of "failure is not an option" are starting to sound like the desperate prayers of the terminally ill. Failure is always an option -- particularly for morons who launch a war of choice under the impression that they can't possibly lose it. Is the war hopelessly lost? I tend to think so, although I'm realistic enough to admit that I don't have all the facts, and couldn't interpret them all correctly even if I did. I know there are some military analysts whose opinions I respect who think the war is lost . . .

Billmon goes on to discuss several sane and effective options for the US to get the troops out while protecting its flanks, though of course he notes at the end of this discussion "A sane, effective strategic response is probably impossible as long as the current gang remains in power. But you already knew that."
So what is the scenario for failure in Iraq? Here is what I think might be how failure will happen in Iraq:
- There will be a loss of 'civilization' throughout Iraq as people are forced out of the cities and into refugee camps due both to the disentegration of municipal services (water, power, sewer), the decline in living standards as the economy disappears, and the Fallujification of more cities in retaliation for insurgent attacks.
- Though the facade of a central government in Baghdad may continue, the existing government is too corrupt to be effective. Most of Iraq will be governed by religious and tribal dictators and their local militias. At some point, these militias may start fighting each other for territory or resources.
- And I think there could be a US military 'mutiny' unless Cheney and Rumsfeld start listening to the US military leadership in Iraq, who are trying to negotiate with the insurgency, to calm things down long enough to start getting their US troops out. At some point, the UN or Europe or Iraq's neighbours may also have to step in to persuade the US to get out.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Things I noticed 

Things I noticed in Bush's speech.
This strikes me as a terrible idea. " . . . we are embedding Coalition 'Transition Teams' inside Iraqi units. These teams are made up of Coalition officers and non-commissioned officers who live, work, and fight together with their Iraqi comrades. Under U.S. command, they are providing battlefield advice and assistance to Iraqi forces during combat operations. "
Considering that the Iraqi recruits are apparently riddled with insurgents who join to ferret out plans and steal equipment, who is going to protect these American lieutenants and sergeants from sharing the fate of the Iraqi recruits? An awful lot of Iraqi troops-in-training are getting blown up or shot in the head.
So are they ever leaving or what? One of the main points in Kerry's OpEd in the New York Times today was that Bush should declare that the US had no intention of staying in Iraq. So I watched the speech to see if Bush would make this promise. He said "a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting and our troops can come home" and "We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed - and not a day longer."
Iraq as the new Gettysburg? And note the next umpteenth rationale for war -- not WDM, not regime change, not democracy, nope, now its because the terrorists are there -- "we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens - and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there ... we will fight them across the world - and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.' I'll bet that is news to Iraq 'But, but, but -- the terrorists weren't here until YOU were here, so if you'd leave, THEY would leave, and we could get on with building our country again and . . . oh well. . . '
The Lincolnesque tone was just a little over-the-top" . . . to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces. We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves. Those who serve today are taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our Nation's uniform. When the history of this period is written, the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom." And so that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.

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'I'm not sitting at the back of the bus anymore" 

I phoned my daughter tonight to celebrate with her about the gay marriage vote. She said "Mom, I feel like I'm not sitting at the back of the bus anymore."
Exactly. Yes, exactly.
Not that gay marriage was actually banned anymore in eight provinces anyway, because of the court cases.
But its one thing for a judge to declare that gay marriage is constitutional, and its another thing entirely for the elected leadership of the country to demonstrate in such a concrete way their support for gay rights, their recognition that gay people are fully Canadian.
The Globe story, Same-sex marriage bill passes says:
It was [Pierre Trudeau] the late Liberal prime minister who decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, and whose Charter of Rights and Freedoms became the legal cudgel that smashed the traditional definition of marriage. Barely two years ago the Liberal government was still fighting same-sex couples in courts across the land. It changed its tune amid an onslaught of legal verdicts in eight provinces that found traditional marriage laws violated the charter's guarantee of equality for all Canadians. "(This) is about the Charter of Rights," Prime Minister Paul Martin said earlier Tuesday. "We are a nation of minorities. And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights. A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Open mouth. Change feet. 

Harper under fire for same-sex comment: Harper does it again -- he just cannot seem to squelch his 'inner Reeeformmm'.
This time Harper said "Because [gay marriage] is being passed with the support of the Bloc, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians. The truth is most federalist MPs oppose this. It's only a deal with the Bloc that's allowing it to pass."
So who did he think he was going to win over with this line? Quebecers? The majority of the country that supports gay marriage? Former Progressive Conservative voters? He derides the Bloc, yet he himself was quite willing to defeat the Liberal/NDP budget bill with a Conservative/Bloc alliance.
This remark sounds like the Conservatives are experiencing a resurgence of the get-French-off-the-cornflakes-box crap which doomed the old-line Reform supporters in central Canada.
Needless to say, Quebec will not be forgetting this one quickly. Here's the Commons reaction:
Giles Duceppe: "We're elected. Our mandate is every bit as legitimate as any member who sits in this chamber. That's what they call democracy." The Conservatives could help end the Bloc's influence by supporting Quebec independence, Duceppe wryly suggested.
Jack Layton: "Mr. Harper is essentially saying that Quebecers' votes don't matter - aren't on an equal par with the rest of Canadians. So he wants to deny equality to same-sex partners, and he wants to deny equality to Quebec voters. Maybe Mr. Harper should think about why people aren't listening to him by just simply looking at what he says.' "
Scott Brison: "This is another case of Stephen Harper trying to divide Canadians and pit one group against another. For him to imply that federalists are not as supportive of human rights and equality as separatists is truly offensive."
And Joe Clark, who was Grand Marshall of Calgary's 2001 Gay Pride Parade , might well be heard muttering "I told you we shouldn't have done it. I told you".
UPDATE: I realized today, hearing Harper still harping on this, that he is actually saying this just so that he can tell his Reform/Christian right/Focus on the Family supporters that he "won" because gay marriage wasn't supported by a majority of what he terms "federalist" MPs. Its just a pathetic political spin game so his fundraising won't suffer. What he and the rest of the conservative party don't seem to realize (likely because they have no Quebec members) is how seriously angry Quebecers are about his remarks -- take a look at Scott of Montreal's comments in the "Comments" to this post.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Gay Pride Worldwide 

Thirty five years of Gay Pride:

Toronto


Los Angeles


Calgary

The Unitarian Church banner

Rio de Janerio


San Salvador


Berlin


Paris


Phuket, Thailand


San Francisco

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It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world 

Hmmm -- I hadn't realized that the US Department of Agriculture was now being run by the same people who used to manage the drug testing for the US Olympic Team.
AP is reporting that that US cow first tested positive for Mad Cow LAST NOVEMBER. But a second test was negative and the USDA for seven months refused the demands of consumer groups and scientists that a third test be done to settle the case. Finally, the USDA's inspector general, an official whom AP describes as the department's "internal watchdog," ordered the third test -- and the Secretary of Agriculture was pissed. The test was underway before he knew about it -- and, presumably, before he could stop it. The third test was positive. And now, to put a better spin on it, the USDA has announced it will do the third test on any other conflicting results it finds in the future.
But I think the Inspector General should watch her back.
The AP story describes the chain of events: "Troubled by the conflicting test results, the department's inspector general, Phyllis Fong, ordered the Western blot test this month. By the time an aide notified Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, the testing was under way . . . Johanns, amid an uproar from the cattle industry, was irked that she did so without his knowledge or consent. 'From my standpoint, I believe I was put there to operate the department and was very disappointed,' he told reporters Friday morning. By that afternoon, the verdict from Britain was in: The cow had mad cow disease . . . Johanns, who took over the department in January, said the government will use both the IHC and Western blot tests from now on when initial screening indicates an animal may have the disease."
The whole story still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, methaphorically speaking.

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Take it to Karl 

Here's a new blog, started on Friday and has already had 16,000 visitors: Taking the Fight to Karl: American Service Men and Women Mad at Karl Rove
Oh poor Karl, what tiger have you unleashed?
And here's what the New York Times had to say, too.
UPDATE: Q makes a point in Comments that needs to be posted:

As Basil Fawlty would say, "thank you N.Y.Times, thank you so bloody much".
When Richard Clarke (ex. terrorism czar) walked out of the mad house saying 'I told the president invading Iraq made as much sense as invading Mexico, as neither had anything to do with 911 or terrorism'... no concern to the N.Y.Times.
They chose to side with the nut house while hundreds of blogs were reporting the truth and countries like Canada and the anti war movement and the democrats etc. and the professionals on the ground, the U.N weapons inspectors were all cautioning that something was very wrong here....The N.Y.T and other corporate media chose to fan the flames of a war with unnamed source reporting and all of the the white house bullshit they bought into.
They could write a thousand of these honest op-ed pieces now and not make up for their blame in the greateast con in American history. One that has caused untold suffering and distraction from the real culprits behind 911, who are dead or are recuperating in Pakistan( where sovereign borders are mysteriously respected while the C.I.A steals "suspects" throughout Europe without permission or invades Iraq, a sovereign nation etc.......but it was a nice article anyway.
And Roger Ailes makes the same point, though not as well, in his post: "Number Four - We share moral responsibility for the deaths of Americans and Iraqis in Iraq by publishing the lies of William Safire and Judith Miller."

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More straws in the wind 

Well, about once a week now I see another news story that convinces me the US is trying to surrender in Iraq so they can get their military bases built in peace.
Here is this week's version -- today's AP story Report: US Secretly Met with Insurgents
This report quotes the Times of London saying that a Pentagon representative met with Anwar al-Sunnah Army, Mohammed's Army and the Islamic Army in Iraq "and declared himself ready to find ways of stopping the bloodshed on both sides and to listen to demands and grievances" . The paper goes on to say "The U.S. officials tried to gather information about the structure, leadership and operations of the insurgent groups, which irritated some members, who had been told the talks would consider their main demand, a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq . . . During the June 13 talks, the U.S. officials demanded that two other insurgent groups, the 1920 Revolution and the Majhadeen Shoura Council, cut ties with the country's most-feared insurgent group, al-Qaida in Iraq, according to the report."
That the US is negotiating with four or five insurgent groups sounds perhaps more promising than it is. In a column at the end of May, Gwynne Dyer noted some of the problems that would arise with any negotiation, like for instance that there are 75 insurgent groups in Iraq:
At the moment, the Sunni Arabs do not have a credible collective leadership with whom the government could negotiate even if it wanted to, and there's not much point in trying to negotiate with the insurgents, either: some 38 different groups have claimed attacks against US troops. Nor will sealing the frontiers help, as the great majority of the insurgents are Iraqis moved by some combination of nationalism, Islamism, and/or Baathism. (The International Institute for Strategic Studies recently estimated that there are between 20,000 and 50,000 insurgents, organised in some 75 separate units.) Another election might ease some of the strains if substantial numbers of Sunni Arabs chose to participate next time, but it is far from clear that they would, and in any case the timetable is slipping fast. Current deadlines foresee completion of the new constitution by 15 August, a referendum on it in October, and new elections in December (assuming that the referendum says 'yes'), but three months were lost in haggling between Kurds and Shias over government jobs and now that schedule is most unlikely to be met. In fact, it will be surprising if they can even agree on a new constitution by the end of the year -- and Sunni Arab views will scarcely be represented at all. So the violence will probably continue at around the current level for the next six to nine months at least, and beyond that the future is simply unforeseeable. Whether you choose to call this a civil war or not, the fact is that almost all of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs, while the new Iraqi army and police forces are overwhelmingly Shias and Kurds. So long as the insurgency continues, the Shia leadership is unlikely to demand the immediate departure of American troops -- and so far, the US still seems determined to stay.

The 400-lb gorilla is this: no matter what is negotiated and with whom and how many elections are held and what constitution is adopted, the insurgency will not end until the US army leaves. And if those 16 'enduring'bases are an indication, the US is not intending to leave.
At what point will the world step up to the plate, and tell the US and Britain that they have no right to continue to occupy Iraq?

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

The lost boys 

The General doesn't do this very often, but yesterday he spoke out in his own voice:

When you're the father of two beautiful daughters, your house becomes a gathering place for young men. That was certainly the case when my daughters were in high school. We were lucky, most of them were good kids. I spent quite a bit of time with them and got to know them very well.
Now they're coming home from war. The all American boy with a heart of gold talks of his hate for 'hajis' and wishes we could nuke the place. The class clown sits in his room all day staring at the Cartoon Channel while self medicating with pot and booze. The nice liberal Jewish boy who melted my wife's yenta heart tells us in a dispassionate, far-away monotone that 'killing those animals was like stepping on ants.' Our 'son' screams at night. My heart breaks for these boys we adopted in their teenage years. They've lost their souls. And for what?
War does this to people. That's why it should never be entered into unless there is no other alternative. That wasn't the case for this war. As far as I can tell, we invaded Iraq because Bush and the necons wanted to be remembered as great men like Roosevelt or Lincoln, or perhaps more accurately, Augustus. It's there in the subtext of PNAC papers for all to see. The oil is just gravy. That's evil.
And people wonder why parents won't let their boys enlist.
I disagree with the General in one respect. I don't think that it is war itself which does this to young soldiers, it is killing civilians.
And American soldiers have been killing civilians in Iraq for the last two years.
These young men are shooting up cars full of women and children at checkpoints. They're breaking into homes and manhandling screaming grandmothers. They're arresting thousands of prisoners and they have no way to tell which ones are actually enemies, because they have to think of every man they see as their enemy. Whenever they walk along a street, they have to be ready to kill. These soldiers have to develop a brutal, callous disrespect for every single person they see who isn't American. Soldiers also targeted civilians in Vietnam -- and that war brutalized soldiers to the point that ordinary American boys committed the My Lai massacre and how many others.
In a righteous war these soldiers and their families can find some solace and healing in the belief that the sacrifice of their basic humanity was worthwhile. But Iraq is not a righteous war and the soldiers know it.

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Best. 


Cam Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen


Patrick Corrigan, The Toronto Star


Brian Gable, The Globe & Mail


Brian Gable, The Globe & Mail


Steve Benson, United Media

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Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? 

Bush, Bush, bring 'em back. They're not your bitches in Iraq!

What Wolcott says:

Historical parallels have lost their spine-stiffening efficacy. We're all Churchilled out, this isn't 1939 or 1865 or 1776, the disaster is unfolding here and now and in front of our eyes and if Republican conservates want to perservere despite eroding support then they should pull all those future lobbyists and leeches out of the Heritage Foundation dorm and march them over to a recruiting station, where they can learn how to shoot off something besides their Rush-quoting mouths.
Here's what I'm wondering. Bush is making a major national address on Tuesday about Iraq. With each speech he masticated about Social Security 'reform,' approval for his non-existent program sagged. His sixty-day sales tour was a Willy Loman flop. Suppose he makes a rallying call on Tuesday and his poll numbers subsequently drop even more? I recall when LBJ would go before the nation with a televised address to shore up support on Vietnam, and it was too late, the nation had had enough. I'm not saying that will happen next week--Bush's speechwriter may whip enough eloquence for a temporary boost in the polls--but suppose it does? If Bush comes forward, and the American people recoil, I suspect a line of perspiration will begin to form even along Bill Kristol's thin upper lip.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

You get the idea 

This interview transcript is titled Bartlett defends Rove's comments But it doesn't sound like it to me. White House press secretary assistant Bartlett sounds more like he is parsing and dicing Rove's remarks to imply now that they didn't actually mean what Rove clearly had meant. "Well Norah I must say I'm at a loss why some of these top Democrats in the Senate have made these accusations, in fact, if you look at Senators Clinton and Schumer and others, who responded after 9/11, did so in support of President Bush's pursuit of the war on terror. What Karl Rove was pointing out -- and he was quite specific I might add -- in his speech, was that MoveOn.org, a liberal organization, that put out a petition and a statement right after 9/11 saying don't respond militarily, show restraint, that's exactly what he was talking about."
Funny, that's not the way it came across at the time.
That said, no political party should miss the meta-narrative accusation, the overall frame for a specific attack. The Democrats miss this in the US and the Conservatives miss it here.
Democrats seem to feel they have to respond to an attack with some kind of detailed, academic statistical analysis -- like when Kerry's people said "How dare you say he voted to raise taxes 600 times; it was actually only 180, maybe 200 tops!" So now Rove says the Dems were wimps after 9/11, and the Dems sputter about how they all voted for some congressional resolution. Instead they should have a reply that shows their pride in being democrats and their willingness to lead. Try something like this: "We gathered outside on the steps of the Capital on that terrible day and we led the singing of God Bless America, even though we did not know whether Washington might continue to be attacked. We've been demonstrating ever since our commitment to make Americans safer by persuading President Bush to establish the Department of Homeland Security and the 911 Commission . . . ' You get the idea.
The Conservatives here fall into the same trap. After last night's vote, instead of wallowing in their own anger, they should have recognized and dealt with the meta-narrative accusation -- that Conservatives don't know how to run a government. Dealing with that narrative would have required a response 'more in sorrow than in anger' about such unseemly shennigans, and a focus on the future "Yes, the Liberals tricked everyone tonight to sneak their budget through, but in the long run this budget will be a bad deal for Canada . . . " You get the idea.

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Just another pit bull EA 

Over at The Blogging of the President, Glenn Smith, the founder of the Texas organization DriveDemocracy, puts Karl Rove in perspective:
Karl Rove's un-American attacks on those who disagree with him deserve the condemnation they're receiving. I've known him for 20 years, and I'm not surprised he said them. He's a socially inept but patient thug whose willingness to haunt the nation's dark political alleys for years, waiting for the right time and the right victims, is too often taken for unparalleled political intelligence. Being attacked by Rove is a little like being criticized by the Boston Strangler. At least you know you're alive . . . Rove's a hack. His strength comes from his immorality. . . . I've been on the road in America for much of the last two years. I'm asked all the time about the need for Democrats to find their own Karl Rove. If we ever find such a monster in our midst, we should exile him. . . . it troubles me that so many people believe he really is a political genius. He's just pathological. For years I've suspected that Rove is stuck in an adolescent rage, taking revenge upon the Civil Rights marchers (whose courage he couldn't match), the anti-war organizers (who beat him), and those who believe in and struggle for democracy (who drove off Nixon). I don't recommend therapy for Bin Laden. But Rove might give Dr. Laura a call.
I have worked in lots of offices over the years, and its a common phenomenon -- the bitchy executive assistant, constantly "on guard" to protect the boss, manipulative, fiercely partisan, who thinks that promoting the interests of the boss is an acceptable excuse to trample over everyone in their path.
I wonder why some people are like this. The only other place I have seen this type of person is when I was a zone commissioner for children's softball. Some of the parents acted like cheering for their own child gave them a license to be rude, offensive and abusive to the children on the opposing team.
So maybe these are both just examples of how some people will indulge their inner pit bull as long as they can justify their abysmal behaviour with the excuse that they aren't doing it for themselves, oh no -- its all for my boss, or my child - or my dear leader.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bring out the faba beans 

The Globe and Mail: Liberals win surprise budget amendment vote
Well, I can't quite understand how the Liberals did it, but apparently they held a quickie budget vote at midnight, and forced through the NDP-Liberal budget amendments. And the Bloc supported them. And it was all in aid of getting the gay marriage vote done next week.
So the Bloc is on the side of the angels as far as I am concerned on this issue -- I'm still a tad pissed at the Liberals for their hesitancy last week.
Anyway, back to our story -- just this morning, it looked like we were heading for another one of those death-of-a-thousand-cuts budget showdown votes like last month's squeaker.
But wiser heads prevailed, I guess, proving that the ONLY people in the WHOLE COUNTRY who wanted a summer election were the 99 Conservative MPs.
For some reason, the Tories were just a tad pissed to lose this vote: The Globe says they "reacted with unfiltered rage."
First, they started in with the sexual metaphors "Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay described his foes as a menage a trois between separatists, socialists and power-hungry Liberals." Of course, I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that the Conservatives even know what a menage-a-trois IS.
Then they brought out the big guns -- they used the dreaded fictional serial killer comparison.
The Globe quoted MacKay as saying "We have to start thinking that Hannibal Lecter is running the government and they'll do anything they have to do to win."
Needless to say, "Liberals could barely contain their glee in response. 'Its not surprising that Hannibal Lecter should spring to mind for Mr. MacKay given the growing number of Conservatives who believe the party should soon eat its own leader,' said Scott Reid, the Prime Minister's spokesman."
With faba beans and a nice Chalbis.

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The Paranoid View 

Lots of posts today at Daily Kos and across the blogosphere about the Karl Rove's declaration of the White House's Great War on Liberals (catchy acronym GWOL). Particularly good was this one by Hunter -Daily Kos :: Karl Rove, Traitor - reminding us how happy Rove was when he or one of his boys traitorously outed a CIA agent.
Anyway, the speculation is that the White House is just attempting to distract everyone from what is going wrong in Iraq and Gitmo.
As Oliver Willis says:

What do you do if you’re the political group in charge of a nation during its worst terror attack ever, and still haven’t brought the main perpetrators to justice 4 years past? What do you do if you’re the party that has deceived a nation into war, causing the deaths of over 1700 men and women soldiers, and now have the opinion polls turning against you? What do you do? If you’re the Republican party in America, you attack your political opponents for being insufficiently patriotic. You appeal to the worst McCarthyite instincts that form the bedrock of your support in order to demonize the opposition and distract from your utter failure to provide even the most basic defense and protection of the people you represent.
And this may well explain it, of course.
But I wonder if the GWOL campaign is a little more forward-thinking than that.
Here's the Paranoid View --
Suppose America wakes up, round about July 4, say, to find out that Bush and Blair have launched an air attack on Syria, supposedly to stop their covert help to the Iraq insurgency. Or maybe the attack will be on Iran, to take out their nuclear facilities?
Having just been smeared as "cowards" all over the media, will Democrats object? And if they do object, will anyone listen?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Alternate alternate history 

Here's the setup -- in an alternate history world, Al Gore won the 2000 election - so in this world the WTC attack was stopped, there was no war in Afghanistan, no war in Iraq, etc etc.
So now, Will Shetterly's It's All One Thing blog, which is also located in this alternate reality universe, speculates about an alternate alternate history What if George W. Bush had been elected president?
Get it? Well, anyway, read it and laugh or weep, your choice.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight . . .  

Lions rescue beaten Ethiopian girl
Oh, sure.
You know, if one of the searchers who found the Utah boy scout today had announced that he found the boy living in a cave with some friendly bears, people might think that perhaps the rescuer was stretching the truth just a little.
But maybe because its Africa -- deep, dark, mysterious, etc etc -- news services all over are carrying this story today.
Did you hear the one about the choking doberman? Well, there was this guy, see . . .

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Breaking News 

"Just days after they both inked big-money publishing deals for their memoirs, "Runaway Bride" Jennifer Wilbanks and "Deep Throat" W. Mark Felt announced today that they are engaged to be married . . . The marriage between the two headline-grabbing memoirists could create a perfect storm of publicity for their soon-to-be-published books, publishing insiders said "
Read all about it -- The Borowitz Report .com:

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A day in the life of Baghdad, with decades to come 

I didn't have such a great day, really -- my husband left today for a three-day roadtrip and I hate it when he is out of town. Then I forgot about the road construction on my way to work and so had to backtrack and take a detour which made me late. Then at the presentation I went to this morning they didn't call a coffee break. Getting back to the office after lunch, I got a phone call asking why the heck I hadn't yet finished revising a web page (answer: I'm DOING IT NOW! I had to STOP doing it to answer the phone! Oh, well...) -- and then, of course, I couldn't get it finished before I had to leave for a co-worker's retirement party. Just one of those ho hum days.
Then tonight I read Riverbend's description of the daily grind in Baghdad these days, and I didn't feel so bad anymore at all --
The electrical situation differs from area to area. On some days, the electricity schedule is two hours of electricity, and then four hours of no electricity. On other days, it’s four hours of electricity to four or six hours of no electricity. The problem is that the last couple of weeks, we don’t have electricity in the mornings for some reason. . . . Detentions and assassinations, along with intermittent electricity, have also been contributing to sleepless nights. We’re hearing about raids in many areas in the Karkh half of Baghdad in particular. On the television the talk about ‘terrorists’ being arrested, but there are dozens of people being rounded up for no particular reason. Almost every Iraqi family can give the name of a friend or relative who is in one of the many American prisons for no particular reason. They aren’t allowed to see lawyers or have visitors and stories of torture have become commonplace. Both Sunni and Shia clerics who are in opposition to the occupation are particularly prone to attacks by “Liwa il Theeb” or the special Iraqi forces Wolf Brigade. They are often tortured during interrogation and some of them are found dead. There were also several explosions and road blocks today. It took the cousin an hour to get to work . . . he has to navigate between closed streets, check points, and those delightful concrete barriers rising up everywhere . . . The least pleasant situation is to be caught in mid-day traffic, on a crowded road, in the heat- waiting for the next bomb to go off. What people find particularly frustrating is the fact that while Baghdad seems to be falling apart in so many ways with roads broken and pitted, buildings blasted and burnt out and residential areas often swimming in sewage, the Green Zone is flourishing. The walls surrounding restricted areas housing Americans and Puppets have gotten higher- as if vying with the tallest of date palms for height. The concrete reinforcements and road blocks designed to slow and impede traffic are now a part of everyday scenery- the road, the trees, the shops, the earth, the sky… and the ugly concrete slabs sometimes wound insidiously with barbed wire.

Riverbend continues to describe what is now happening in the Green Zone and what Iraqis think about it:
A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor . . . inside of the Green Zone explained that [the Green Zone] is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government . . . welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone . . . if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you’d know that [the Americans] are going to be here for quite a while. The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.

Now just consider the implications of this description.
Ever since the Downing Street Memos were leaked, people around the progressive blogosphere have been asking why the Bush administration wanted so badly to go to war in Iraq that they "fixed" the intelligence and the facts to promote the war.
Well, I think I may have figured it out, and no wonder there is no exit strategy.
They're not leaving. They never intended to leave.
Even the original Iraq War resolution quoted by Digby in the above link says as much in its final Whereas paragraph: "Whereas it is in the national security interests of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region . . . " And maybe this is what Condi was referring to this weekend when she said that the Bush administration had told everyone long ago that America had made a "generational commitment" in Iraq.
I think the Bush administration wants the American military to stay in Iraq for decades, like they have stayed in Germany for the last 60 years, in permanent, fortified military bases in Iraq and in the region. Secure in these bases, with their air superiority and weapons superiority and easy access to America's own weapons of mass destruction, the American military could make damned sure that no anti-American government could ever again take root anywhere in the Middle East, so that never again would such a government threaten the stability of US oil supplies, bully Israel, or destabilize the region.
It won't work, of course -- none of the Bush administration schemes work because they are ideological rather than realistic, poorly planned, and incompetently executed. The bases will, in themselves, destabilize the region, just as resentment of the US bases in Saudi Arabia was the motivation for 9/11. A permanent American military presence in the Persian Gulf would bankrupt the US, undermine any local government which cooperated with the US, and ensure that America and all things American would continue to be hated and despised by millions of people throughout half the world. Not to mention how questionable it is that China and Russia would be willing to put up with such a nearby threat either. But this won't stop the Bush administration from trying.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Rigging the mid-term vote 

What's Their Real Problem With Gay Marriage? answers my question from a few days ago, about where the next anti-gay marrage votes will be held to make sure that Republicans win the midterm congressional elections in 2006 -- : "There are grass-roots battles going on now in Pennsylvania, Maryland, California, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, Arizona, Washington, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. In May, conservative groups in California and Arizona announced petition drives that would force a referendum in those states."
If the Democrats expect to take control again of the Senate or the House in 2006, they had better get busy -- there will be lots and lots of Christian Right voters turning out -- they love Bush now and they will love him then, too.

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The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation 

RossK made a comment in Comments about some cross-border minutemaidman group being trained with powerpoints.
And that reminded me of this -- The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.

And now please welcome President Abraham Lincoln. Good morning. Just a second while I get this connection to work. Do I press this button here? Function-F7? No, that's not right. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to reboot. Hold on a minute. Um, my name is Abe Lincoln and I'm your president. While we're waiting, I want to thank Judge David Wills, chairman of the committee supervising the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery. It's great to be here, Dave, and you and the committee are doing a great job. Gee, sometimes this new technology does have glitches, but we couldn't live without it, could we? Oh - is it ready? OK, here we go:











Speaker Notes [Transcribed from voice recording by A. Lincoln, 11/18/63] These are some notes on the Gettysburg meeting. I'll whip them into better shape when I can get on to my computer: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Everything that is wrong with powerpoints is shown in this presentation -- its author Peter Norvig writes in a related essay: "Imagine a world with almost no pronouns or punctuation. A world where any complex thought must be broken into seven- word chunks, with colorful blobs between them . . . "

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Best. 

In the United States, the "liberal" media is still alive, hiding on the editorial cartoon page. Here's a sample from Slate for this week:

Clay JonesThe Freelance-Star, Fredericksburg, Virginia


Steve Greenberg The Ventura County Star, CA


Don Wright, The Palm Beach Post, FL


Steve Benson, United Media

Jimmy Margulies, New Jersey -- The Record

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Its the wrong war, in the wrong place . . . 

I always read Stirling Newberry's posts on The Blogging of the President because I always learn something.
And when I read his writing, I also find that he articulates my own incoherent thoughts -- the ones I didn't know I was thinking until I read his writing (get it? got it? good)
Here is his latest "The Wrong War":
. . . the cost of Vietnam was not merely the cost of the [Vietnam] war, but the cost of the [Six Day] war that occured because the United States did not have deterent capabilities. There is a vital reason why many military planners do not favor using military capacity at every opportunity: namely, the threat is often more powerful than the realization. A nation at peace can threaten many nations with attack. A nation at war cannot . . .
The US . . . is bogged down [in Iraq]. . . at the very moment that the next war is taking shape. The next war is over the control of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the means to deliver them . . . The players in this next war are China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Iran. The consequences of failure to contain proliferation could quite well be as severe as the failure to contain the 1967 tensions in the middle east. Military force is an essential component of state craft. Most specifically, correctly understanding that the military instrument is both blunt, and easily tangled in the weeds. The great statesmen are great because of their understanding that avoiding unnecessary wars is as important as fighting necessary ones.
Vietnam was an unnecessary war, Iraq was an unnecessary war. It is a matter of when, not if, the lack of US strategic flexibility because of Iraq will be exploited. Just as it was a matter of when, not if, the US quagmire in Vietnam was to be seen as a chance to be exploited by the Soviet Union and the Arab states of that time. It might well be that those who seek to use this gap will be mistaken, and they will pay heavily for their folly. That will be very cold comfort in the new geo-political environment that the attempt will bring on.
I would only add one point to Stirling's comment -- the world has been better off over the last century because the United States could speak softly but carry a big stick. We needed the US to persuade bullies to back down, to settle potentially disruptive disputes, and to quietly shift the balance of power toward the rule of law.
The US didn't always do the right thing, of course, but the world always knew that it COULD act if it wanted to.
Not anymore, unfortunately. The US administration now speaks loudly -- Bolton bullying, Condi whining, Rummy pontificating, Bush lecturing, Cheney lying -- but Iraq has shown the world that the US doesn't have much of a stick to wave around anymore. It's very sad, and scary too.

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I read the news today, oh boy 

Things move so quickly down the Kos front page that you may miss this one -- Daily Kos :: The Downing Street Minutes may be old news
All I could think, after reading it, was "what a waste!"

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Wanker 

Same-sex bill will be put off until the fall, PM indicates
So it looks like we will all have the pleasure of listening to Harper crow all summer about how he "stopped" the gay marriage bill. Wanker.
And it's Paul Martin's fault. There is absolutely no excuse for this, Paul.
You had the votes. "Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton both said Mr. Martin is to blame for the continuing delay over C-38 and both said they would agree to sit until the legislation is approved. 'That Mr. Martin would say it's up to Stephen Harper whether or not human rights are finally, after so many years, extended to lesbians and gays . . . talk about an abdication of leadership,' Mr. Layton said. 'That means that all of his song and dance and expensive advertisements that he ran in the election meant nothing.'"
You had support for this across the country. Your civil rights argument had convinced hundreds of thousands of people, who believed that Liberals would stand up for everyone's civil rights. More fools we, I guess.
What you didn't have, Paul, are the guts to stare down those turncoats in your own party. You cannot strike a bargain with these people -- they will NEVER be satisfied with the bill no matter how many ammendments are made. Here's Tom Wappell today - "the battle is beginning to be joined and the other side will do everything it can to ensure that an opinion that views homosexuality as anything but normal is bigotry." Well, Tom, homosexuality IS NORMAL. Anyone who thinks homsexuality is not normal is ipso facto A BIGOT.
And this is the kind of person that our Prime Minister thinks he must listen to now. Wanker.

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How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 

Terry Moran vs. Scott McClellan on 'Last Throes' of Insurgency in Iraq
Read this whole transcript, where Moran tries to pin down Cheney's last throes" remark. And here's the best question of the bunch: "Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?"

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Right to the heart of the matter 

CBC had a good story on tonights news summarizing the Downing Street Memos and covering today's Washington hearings. As is usual with the CBC, the story was an excellent summary about what is happening and why people should care. Here's the led: "Senior Democrats are calling for a full investigation into a memo that appears to accuse U.S. President George W. Bush of misleading Americans into backing the war with Iraq. Bush has always maintained that "the use of force has been and remains our last resort." But the memo, called the Downing Street Memo, could be the first documentary proof that Bush deceived the American people."
There -- does everyone get it now?
Joe Conason does. In Salon today, he briskly dispatches any lingering media excuses for not covering the Downing Street Memos, in A press coverup: "How foolish and how sad that all these distinguished journalists prefer to transform this scandal into a debate about their own underachieving performance, rather than redeem mainstream journalism by advancing an important story that they should have pursued from the beginning . . . they are proving once more that their first priority is to cover their own behinds. "
Then he proceeds to briskly dispatch any lingering public belief that the DSMs are not newsworthy: "Deciding what constitutes news is a subjective exercise, of course, with all the uncertainty that implies. Yet there are several obvious guidelines to keep in mind . . . a classified document recording deliberations by the highest officials of our most important ally over the decision to wage war is always news. A document that shows those officials believed the justification for war was "thin" and that the intelligence was being "fixed" is always news. A document that indicates the president was misleading the world about his determination to wage war only as a last resort is always news. And when such a document is leaked, whatever editors, reporters and producers may think "everyone" already knows or believes about its contents emphatically does not affect whether that piece of paper is news."
And he ends with a brisk summary of all of the columns and editorials and opeds which appeared across the US in the months before the Iraq War, which yap-yap-yapped about how poor widdle hard-working Bush was trying with all his might to avoid going to war.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Just how unprincipled can they both be? 

Not much time to post on this story now, but here's how it looks to me:
In order to stop same-sex marrige, the Conservatives are willing to support the NDP budget, which they said before was just soooooo terrible as a Canadian economic issue.
And in order to implement the budget, the Liberals are willing to stop same-sex marriage, which they said before was just soooooo important as a civil rights issue.
What are you both thinking?
Is governing Canada some kind of f*cking CONTEST? Just to see which of you can be more corrupt and unprincipled than the other?
A pox on you both!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Oh. My. God. 

The people I thought were wingnuts -- the hysterical vaccines-cause-autism writers on the medical newsgroups I read in the late 1990s - were RIGHT.
And the coverup has been going on for years.
Robert Kennedy writes in Salon that there is credible and substantive evidence that the explosion in childhood autism. as well as in speech delays, ADD and hyperactivity, is being caused by a mercury-based preservative used in childhood vaccines. The preservative is particularly devastating to brain development in infants and small children. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants -- in one case, within hours of birth -- the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.
The link between neurological disorders and this ingredient has been suspected in the past, but the studies cited were ones which did not show links. The ones that did, as described in this article, were suppressed.
And it isn't even a necessary ingredient for the vaccine itself. Single-dose vaccines don't use this preservative, but the cheaper multiple-dose vaccine packaging needs a preservative to prevent contamination from multiple needles.
Read the article -- Deadly immunity -- and weep.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

No news is bad news 

At Gitmo, still no day in court
Well, now that the Jackson trial is over, the media are looking around for another trial to cover. So its about time the media noticed that the US military has been ignoring an order of the US Supreme Court for the last year.

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WWWA-TV 

Rapidly spreading around the progressive blogosphere are references to "WWWA-TV" and you may be wondering what it means.
Well, it stands for "Where the White Women At?" television, as defined byThe Poor Man in a blockbuster story about a merger of NBC and CNN into WWWA.
The new network will consist of a WWWA channel, as well as WWWA Headline News, which will deliver all day's key missing white women developments every half hour. Most of WWWA's time will be devoted to covering current missing white women, but there will also be talk shows where groups of white men get together to discuss the significance of the day's missing or imperilled white women. Additionally, there are plans for a game show, hosted by Tom DeLay and James Dobson, where family member compete in trivia contests and gross-out physical challenges in order to determine whether or not their comatose white women relatives are kept on life support. For his part, FOX president Roger Ailes said the deal was no threat to his network. "WWWA will probably become the public's most trusted source for white women news, but we at FOX view this as an opportunity. While WWWA is focused on white women, we will be able to satisfy the public's curiousity about shark attacks, babies falling down wells, and celebrity murders, as well as the latest stories of Beloved Leader's brilliant triumphs over terrorists, Frenchmen, and their villianous Democrat allies.

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Beautiful 

Canadian military marks first gay marriage
Two servicemen . . . exchanged vows May 3 at the chapel at Canadian Forces Base Greenwood, N.S., in front of 45 friends and a United Church minister. Lt.-Cmdr. David Greenwood, the base's head chaplain, helped arrange the ceremony but couldn't preside over it since he is an Anglican. "I think there was a sense that many people thought they would never have seen something like this in their lifetimes - and not in a negative way, but in a positive way," Greenwood said Tuesday from his base office. "So they might be able to provide some comfort and solace to someone who might be in fear or in peril." The couple, one a sergeant and the other a warrant officer who are both in their late 30s, approached the chaplain about the possibility of holding the ceremony on the base. They went through a marriage preparation course and a United Church minister was found to conduct the service.
Greenwood said there was no resistance by military or religious officials to the wedding. He added it was simply a matter of time before someone made the request. "It was something that I was very proud to be able to be involved in," he said after describing a service that included scriptural readings, gospel music and an exchange of rings.
So I guess now the sky will be falling in Canada any day now - fire and brimstone will rain down from the heavens, and the booming wrath of God will . . . 0ops, sorry, this happened more than a month ago - I guess I missed the thunderbolts.
Never mind.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Gay Americans -- get here as fast as you can 

I think all gay people in the US had better move to Canada as soon as they can.
I was doing some searching tonight to find out how many anti-gay marriage initiatives are going to be on the 2006 mid-term ballots. Now, maybe I didn't look hard enough, but it surprised me that I could not find any list on pro-democratic sites, though there was mention of 10 or 15 state initiatives. As you will recall, the 11 anti-gay initiatives in 2004 got Christian activists out to the polls all fired up: this won the election for Bush and Republicans. They all passed by a significant margin. So I do not doubt that the Republicans are already planning that any states where they are vulnerable to Democratic challengers in 2006 will also feature an anti-gay ballot initiatives. I just hope the Democrats are organizing to deal with this.
Anyway, back to my warning. While searching, I noted a chilling new article from the Southern Poverty Law Centre which argues that targeting and demonizing gays has been a deliberate focus of the Christian Right over the last 30-years. Its not just gay marriage -- it is the gay person's right to live in the United States that they are attacking, or to live at all. The article describes Christian 'reconstructionists' as wanting the death penalty for homosexuality. "Ten Commandments" judge Roy Moore is quoted in a 2002 custody decision, describing gays as "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature . . . [t]he State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit [homosexual] conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle."
Here are some other recent statements by so-called Christian leaders:
"Homosexuals . . . want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the earth." "Our great nation is under violent attack from within. We are now at the 11th hour, a point of no return." "What's at stake here is the very foundation of our society, not only of America but all Western civilization." "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain: if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."
Alternet reprints this LA Weekly article The New Blacklist about the anti-gay boycotts and how they connect to the whole Christian Right agenda. It quotes investigative journalist Chip Berlet's summary of these connections:

What's motivating these people is . . . an incredible dread, completely irrational, of a hodgepodge of sexual subversion and social chaos. The response to that fear is genuinely a grassroots response, and it's motivated by fundamentalist Christian doctrines like Triumphalism and Dominionism, which order Christians to take over the secular state and secular institutions. The Christian right frames itself as an oppressed minority battling the secular-humanist liberal homofeminist hordes . . . The re-election of Bush was a sort of tipping point for these people, who take it as a mandate from God -- they see that the leadership of America is within their grasp, and when you get closer to your goal, it's very energizing. It reaches a critical mass, in which the evangelicals feel they have permission to push their way into public and cultural policy in every walk and expression of life.

All together now, everybody sing --
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Card trick 

51st State of the Union: Now This Guy Is Good Want to see a neat card trick? Look at this one that Angus found and posted on 51st State.

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Why not? 

So they're finally found a drug that helps people lose weight. It apparently also helps prevent diabetes. Drug helps prevent type 2 diabetes
And at the end of the story, here's the killjoy: "Dr. Despres cautioned that rimonabant is not intended as a quick fix for those who want to pop a pill to shed a few pounds, saying it should be prescribed only for those at risk of diabetes and heart disease who have not responded to other means - such as diet and exercise - to improve their health. "It has to be said loud and clear, this won't be a weight-loss drug, it won't be a miracle drug. This is really, really the wrong approach."
Well, I am using a drug to quit smoking. So can someone please tell me why is using a drug to lose weight "the wrong approach"?
Party pooper!

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Thanks again, Jean 

The international illegality of 'regime change' is being noted across the blogosphere today. Here is Informed Comment : ". . . As Michael Smith reports for the London Times, 'regime change' is illegal in international law without a United Nations Security Council resolution or other recognized sanction (national self-defense, or rescuing a population from genocide). "
Regardless of how sleazy the sponsorship scandal proves Chretien to be, or how much I dislike his propensity to undermine Martin, I will always be grateful that Chretien did his job as prime minister.
He kept Canada out of an illegal war. He said in 2003 that the US stated goal of regime change in Iraq was illegal. Here's the Reuters story of March 1, 2003: "Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Friday strongly criticized U.S. calls for the removal of President Saddam Hussein and told the United States to limit its ambitions in Iraq to disarmament. "If you start changing regimes, where do you stop, this is the problem. Who is next? Give me the list, the priorities," Chretien said on a visit to Mexico City. He said there was nothing about ending Saddam's rule in U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, the legal and diplomatic basis for much of the international pressure on Baghdad. "I think that if I read 1441, it's talking about disarmament of the government of Saddam Hussein. That is the resolution that we are working on. If you read it it is not talking about a regime change," he said. Speaking to reporters at his hotel in the Mexican capital, Chretien was visibly agitated. He clenched his fists and held them in the air while speaking."
Oh, and from the same news story, here is Ari Fleischer saying "The president has made it clear his policy remains to settle this peacefully. He hopes it can be done peacefully, but the goal remains disarmament and regime change."
Just one more proof that the "Everybody always knew the US was going to war" line is just another convenient lie.

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Well, I was one of the millions who didn't know 

Atrios refers to Kevin Drum's rather astounding statement about the Downing Street memo:
"Was the Iraq war a foregone conclusion by early 2002? Of course it was. These new memos provide further evidence of that, but I'm not sure there's anyone who really doubted it in the first place."

Atrios continues:
Look, this is just bullshit. There are two sets of people here. One consists of inside the beltways types and assorted news junkies and the other consists of The Amerkin Public. The former knew the Iraq war was a foregone conclusion by early 2002, but didn't bother to tell the Amerkin Public. They still haven't . . . The American press did not bother to tell people. And, now, they still don't want to bother to tell people. This isn't about attacking Drum, I've fallen into this trap before myself. Everyone should've known this in 2002. But, they didn't. It's just like Russert calling the Downing Street Memo the 'famous' Downing Street Memo? Famous to whom? To all the fuckers who didn't give a shit enough in 2002 to tell us what was obvious to anyone who was paying attention.

Well, I WAS paying attention, but I didn't know in 2002 that the US was determined to go to war against Iraq.
I actually believed that Bush still was making up his mind.
I actually believed that whether Saddam accepted the inspectors back actually mattered, that what Iraq reported about its weapons actually mattered, that whether the UN supported the war actually mattered.
And I thought that the anti-war demonstrations in September and October of 2002 and in January 2003 actually mattered too -- the millions who marched in these demonstrations around the world must also have believed their opinion would make a difference.
Well, I guess we were all just fools. Of course, I do keep forgetting that I am hopelessly naive. I think I was the only person in North America who also believed "I did not have sex with that woman."
Kevin Drum, you should be ashamed of yourself for falling for this spin. The idea that "everyone" knew in 2002 that the US had decided to go to war is ridiculous -- its an RNC talking point, designed to spread the blame around and let Bush off the hook for all his lies.
UPDATE: I guess The Editors were in the Coalition of the Shilled too: "Bush lied to us. Stood up there, pulled his most serious face, and lied to us. Chumped us. Played us like chumps. And now God knows how many people are dead, and Iraq is shaping up to be a bigger, bloodier Lebanon, and American power and credibility has been pissed away. All the while he lied to our chump faces. At what point does this become intolerable? At what point do people start saying 'enough'?"
UPDATE II -- THE BEGINNING: Americablog points to this New York Review of Books article "The Secret Way to War" which explains the backstory about why these Downing Steet Memos are important.
(And I promise to quit with the updates now!)

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Silent night/ 7 o'clock news 

When I looked at Antiwar.com tonight, I suddenly thought of this -- anyone remember it?

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Here was the evening news* in 1966 . . .
. . . In Washington the atmosphere was tense today as a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American activities continued its probe into anti-Vietnam war protests. Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans. Former Vice-President Richard Nixon says that unless there is a substantial increase in the present war effort in Viet nam, the U.S. should look forward to five more years of war. In a speech before the Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S.

And here is the evening news today:
Army Recruitment Crisis Deepens
34 Iraqis, 2 US Marines Killed in Iraq Attacks
US Says Air Strike Kills 40 Insurgents
Iraq Hardliners Fear Defeat in Election
Diverse Afghan Groups Behind Unrest
Israeli Soldiers Denounce Revenge Attack
Support for Gaza Pullout Slumps as Threats to Sharon Rise
Disputed Iraq Raids Blamed on Bad Intelligence
Poll: 42% Say US Headed to Vietnam-Like Situation in Iraq
Poll: Bush Job Approval Dips to New Low
Iraq Sunnis Reject Compromise on Constitution
Iraq Bomb Kills 5 US Marines
Iraq Shootings May Lead to Curbs on Private Guards
Contractor Alleges Abuse by Marines
CIA Didn't Tell FBI About 9/11 Hijackers
Iran Has Frozen Work at Nuclear Site
US: Syria Out to Kill Beirut Politicians
Nuclear Warrior Replaces Bolton as Arms Control Chief . . .

That's the 7 o'clock edition of the news. Goodnight

Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

* select the first song on Player One - show controls - play.

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Good, better, best 

Good.

One of Nick Anderson's Pulitzer prize winning cartoons.

Better.

Brian Gable, Globe and Mail

Best.

Brian Gable, Globe and Mail

PS: By the way, it is the cartoons themselves, not the events they protray, that are good, better or best, IMHO.

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Sunrise, sunset 

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

As a parent, it's often hard to decide where your pity for your child's pain should stop, and your obligation to your child's future should begin.
I thought about this while watching the coverage of the 13-year-old Texas girl with Hodgkins in remission who wanted to refuse the radiation treatments which her doctors recommended to try to prevent recurrance of the cancer.
First, the tone of the coverage surprised me. The law says that no 13-year-old is considered to be sufficiently independent and mature that she can make her own decisions about medical treatment. The law also says that the state is obliged to care for children who are in danger. Any time society wants to change these laws, it can certainly do so. But the TV news last week adopted the tone that the 'state' was just being a big, bad meanie, ripping this child away from the loving arms of her family who just didn't want her to suffer anymore.
Well, sure, who would want more radiation treatments? Of course she didn't want to go through this again. But that's not the point. Sometimes being a parent means making the hard decisions on your child's behalf, and being strong enough to deal with her tears.
We had a miserable case like this here a few years ago -- a 12-year-old boy had bone cancer in his leg, and the boy didn't want his leg removed. So the parents tried to go the alternative medicine route and the doctors tried to stop them. After an ugly legal fight lasting some weeks, the court ruled that the doctors could remove the leg. Well, of course, by that time the cancer had spread and amputation would no longer have offered any hope of cure. So the boy died about two months later.
Now the Texas girl's cancer has also recurred.

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Isn't there someone who will let us surrender? 

A month ago, I titled a post "Americans surrender in Iraq", based on a NYT story which said that the insurgents were ready to negotiate a surrender. To my eye, it appeared that America was using the media to declare its own intent to surrender, but saving face by implying it was merely responding to an insurgent initiative.
Now, here's another straw in the wind showing that America is giving up -- this Boston Globe story Decisive victory doubtful in Iraq says that "Military operations in Iraq have not succeeded in weakening the insurgency, and Iraq's government, with U.S. support, is now seeking a political reconciliation among the nation's ethnic and tribal factions as the only viable route to stability, according to U.S. military officials and private specialists."
So it looks to me like America is still trying to surrender through the media, but this time saving face by implying that the Iraqi government wants to negotiate peace and America is merely supporting them.
But perhaps I need to make a significant revison in my surrender thesis.
Perhaps it isn't actually "America" which wants to surrender, but rather just the American military. Maybe they're trying to get their boys and girls out of Iraq before the military collapses again as badly as it did after Vietnam. But the Bush administration isn't listening.
The Globe article points out that "despite US estimates that it kills or captures 1,000 to 3,000 insurgents a month the number of daily attacks is going back up . . to at least 70 per day", that the insurgents have "steady streams of funding and weapons", that they are "mounting an effort comparable to where they were a year ago", that in the first five months of 2005, almost 1.000 Iraqi police and security have been killed, that more than half of the attacks now involve suicide bombers, and that an average of two US soldiers day each day "and untold thousands of Iraqi civilians are being caught in the crossfire." And we've all heard the stories about how miserable the military recruiting numbers have been lately, to the point that they are recruiting less qualified candidates, and refusing to discharge people who shouldn't be in the military anymore. And fragging may be making a comeback.
So how can Dick Cheney say that the insurgency is in its "last throes"?
The article quotes a military specialist on the Cheney remark - 'There is simply no basis for making that statement". He's obviously forgotten that the Bush administration thinks they do not have to deal with actual facts -- they can create their own reality by wishing it to be so.
So as the military gets weaker and more desperate to surrender, how long can the Bush administration sustain its mythical but comfortable belief that freedom is on the march? How long will they continue to believe that the combination of tough talk and Tinker Bell clapping can suspend the laws of time and space and physics, so that they can continue to think that things are going exactly according to plan in Iraq.
If the military is trying to surrender, will the Bush administration let them? Or will the military be forced to stay on and on in Iraq, hunkered down in their bases year after year, seeing thousands of soldiers and ten of thousands of Iraqis die? The Bushies are, after all, a bunch of chickenhawks, backed up by the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. They've always thought they knew better than the military how to win a war -- yeah, just talk them to death!

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

A short history 

Neddie from American Street points to this great art-essay, Robert R. Crumb's "Short history of America", which was reprinted in the Guardian recently.
Neddie asks: If you could wave a wand at one of those frames and magically make the destruction stop at that moment in time, which frame would it be?


Yes -- what IS next?

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"If you could see her through my eyes . . . 

. . . she wouldn't look Jewish at all" -- Joel Grey in Cabaret.
I just wanted to remind everybody else that once upon a time, anti-semitism was pretty common. I myself was reminded of it when I read the gratuitously bigoted language in this Canadian Press story.
So here is a test.
See if you can figure out which word I have replaced in this news story:
Cotler might amend Jewish bill
. . . [Justice Minister Cotler said] it's beyond his legal reach to protect provincial marriage commissioners or religious organizations who turn away Jewish couples . . . "That's right," Cotler said, when asked if his hands are tied by jurisdictional limits. Ottawa has the authority to define marriage, but provinces have the power to solemnize weddings. A range of conflicts has already emerged. Human rights challenges are underway in cases where religious groups refused to rent halls for Jewish celebrations. Marriage commissioners in several provinces, including Manitoba and B.C., have stepped down after receiving provincial orders to perform Jewish weddings against their beliefs. A couple in Prince Edward Island shut down their bed-breakfast rather than rent a room to a Jewish couple. "These are very significant issues," says Conservative justice critic Vic Toews, a vocal opponent of the bill. "We are opening up a Pandora's box, and this minister has steadfastly refused (to concede) that there are any problems." . . . The bill is expected to pass the Commons in a vote as early as next week . . . If it becomes law, Canada would be just the third country in the world after the Netherlands and Belgium to legalize Jewish marriage. Toews and other critics say crucial details must be worked out before the bill is enshrined in law. He says Cotler must "deal with each of the provinces in terms of enacting corresponding legislation that will protect religious organizations and those who object to Jewish marriage for reasons of conscience." Derek Rogusky, spokesman for Focus on the Family Canada, says those who oppose Jewish weddings are uneasy. "Faith-based groups are not all that confident if their rights are going to be left up to the courts," said the senior vice-president of the conservative family values group. Equality protections tend to trump religious freedoms in legal fights over Jewish rights, he said. The divisive debate continues to expose deep rifts among political parties and Canadians in general. Nearly three dozen Liberals are against changing the definition of marriage to allow Jewish weddings. Former Liberal Pat O'Brien's decision this week to bolt the party because of his concerns about the bill pushed the minority government to consider amendments. Cotler says any changes must be consistent with the need to balance equality rights and religious freedom. Still, he supports the bill as it is and suggested there will be little more than tinkering with language to calm fears over its impact.

Sorta jumps out at you, doesn't it?

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Words CAN hurt them 

The Poor Man writes about the basic brilliance of Amnesty International calling the American ghost prison system a gulag:

. . . a lot of techniques have been tried to make Republicans care that they, and their party, are supporting torture. Reporting facts has been tried, unsuccessfully. Releasing graphic photographs was also tried, to no avail. Asking nicely didn't work, begging didn't work, and guilt-tripping didn't work either. But there was one thing that hadn't been tried yet, not really, not until Amnesty tried it the other day: name-calling.

Childish? Can be. But effective. Report, photograph, explain, analyze, moralize - all useless. But it the post-modern world of the modern right wing, where objective facts are social constructs and the endlessly mutable text is all that really is, there is still one thing that has the power to inspire a reaction: words. Pick your word carefully, like, say, the word “gulag”, and watch the fun begin .

. . the moral degenerates who are the postmodern Republican party [are] fundamentally only concerned with words, appearances, and the power both can wield . . . Amnesty’s use of the word “gulag” in reference to Republican policies weakens the Republican party, a group that cares nothing for human rights, only power, and has substantially strengthened Amnesty, a group that cares only about exposing powerful violators of human rights, and has no fear of making enemies, with a decades-long record to back it up.

This is a very significant post -- the realization that words can actually hurt the American right wing is an insight I have not seen before.
On the whole, progressives try to deal with "reality". We pride ourselves on making a conscious effort not to be tricked by orwellian language. As a result, perhaps, we have not understood the crucial importance of this same orwellian language to the right wing. We attack what we think is their "reality" problem, but the right wing isn't listening because we're not dealing directly with the pseudonyms and talking points through which they can quell any vestige of uneasiness about what they are actually doing.
Offensive, unjustified and unprovoked war becomes "the Bush doctrine".
Protests against American agression becomes "they hate our freedom"
Bugging the security council becomes "reforming the UN"
Intolerant creationist bible worship becomes "intelligent design"
Threatening judges and picketing hospitals becomes "culture of life".
Demonizing gay people becomes "protecting the sancity of marriage"
The wrongfully imprisoned and possibly innocent people in Gitmo are "enemy combatants"
Locking people up without charge or trial or legal process becomes "protecting the American people"
As long as they continue to frame the world with poorly-defined but comforting pseudonyms, the right wing (and I include the Canadian right wing too) can continue to think of themsevles as morally upright, Christian people.
One thing I remember reading about Watergate was this -- that the worst thing about it was realizing "the nut at the end of the bar was right" -- you know, that blowhard guy who was ranting about conspiracies and bribery and crooks and liars and cover-ups.
Well, now we progressives may well be the 2005 version of the "nut at the end of the bar" -- and maybe people will listen if we use the language they understand.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Book tag 

Thanks for the tag, Timmy G at Voice in the Wilderness I have added you to the blogroll.
I googled "book tag" and got 15,000 hits, so I couldn't track down where this started, but its growing exponentially all over the blogosphere.
Here are my answers:
1. Number of books I own: probably about 400 at this time. I try to keep mainly the books I will likely want to reread someday, but the others do pile up, too. Last summer we did a major book clearout and at least we got some of the bookshelves opened up.
2. What was the last book you bought? Well, I buy a lot of mysteries -- John Grisham's The Last Juror was probably the most recent one I bought. Grisham is one of those big-name, prolific authors who gets trashed by the hoity toity -- until you read some of his books and you understand why he is a big-name author. The quality varies a bit too much with Grisham, but I liked the pacing of The Last Juror -- its a bit of a mystery, but only at the end. Most of it is just a gently paced story about a small-town Mississippi newspaper editor and the stories he writes and the people he meets and what it is like to work at that kind of journalism and live in a small southern town in the 1970s.
3. What was the last book you read? Interspersed with other reading, I am rereading my way through Michael Connelly, so I am in the middle of Trunk Music right now. I often prefer to have a book I have already read for my pre-sleep reading, just so that I don't get so interested in the book that I never get to sleep.
I have liked the Harry Bosch series since the beginning. The series character can be both a writer's greatest strength and greatest weakness -- the strength of a series character is that the author can build the character's personality and experience from book to book; the weakness is, when the author gets bored then the series can get pretty boring too. As a general rule, the very best series character book is book two or book three; the slow decline can set in as early as book four, though with Connelly, his Bosch books have stayed pretty interesting all the way.
4. Five books that mean a lot to me.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read these for the first time about 35 years ago, and I have been rereading them every two years or so, ever since. When I broke my leg a few years ago, and went through multiple surgeries and a two year recovery, it was Frodo's journey that helped me keep going.
Smiley's People. Fascinating characters, complex plot, subtle writing, not as dark as some of LeCarre's other books because Smiley finally wins in the end.
The Day the Universe Changed. James Burke's 1985 book gave me a unique perspective on history and on human progress, making me realize that human societies did not necessarily progress onward and upward, but sometimes could go sideways and backwards (as, I think, American society is going now under Bush.)
Chaos: The Making of a New Science. When I read James Gleick's book in 1989 it was just about the first "science" book this humanities major had ever read. It was the first time I saw that science has as many fascinating stories as English literature does, and that science theories, like chaos theory, could be useful and applicable in other disciplines.
The Blue Castle by Lucy Maude Montgomery. When I was a lonely teenager, this book gave me hope that I could have happiness one day. And I have.
Now I tag a whole bunch of people whose book stories I want to read about:
Sean Incognito
Canadian Cynic
RossK from Gazetteer
Edward T Bear in Blankout Times
Mike at Rational Reasons
Trucker Bob from Over the Road
People's Republic of Seabrook
And just to spread this across the pond, UK's Albion's Alchemist

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