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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Great lines of the day 

Dave at Galloping Beaver writes a powerful post about war and Afghanistan -- You want support? Earn it
. . . I've got a chestful of useless gongs and some permanent shrapnel wounds to remind me of days which I would rather have missed in my life.
I've experienced the exhilaration of close-quarters battle and the years of remorse that follow because I had no choice but to kill the teenage soldiers in the fire-pit to my front.
I've been beside a good man, a highly competent marine, who suddenly dropped like a bag of shit while I got splattered with flesh and blood. The movies make it look so much more dramatic and heroic than it really is. The truth is just a bloody, fucking mess.
I've been on the right flank of a patrol when the man on point stepped on a landmine. And all we could do was watch as he lay there screaming, his viscera splayed over the ground, the lower half of his body gone. He lived for over five minutes while the medic did a drill on him - with morphine auto-injectors. It ended with a colour sergeant screaming, "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" because he had been unable to protect a good man.
I've watched kids die. It ends everything. Their personalities cease to be a part of the team; their humour stops; their dreams end; and, their death affects a hundred other people - permanently.
I've had to call fire down on my own position while I watched my men nod. They knew, as I did, that there was little chance we would get out of it alive, much less unscathed. It was necessary at the time and the cost of that act is paid for in year after year of nightmares.
I have a direct and long-service association with both British and Canadian militaries. I have an affinity for the people who serve in those militaries and I have an interest in how they are committed. My interest is in their welfare, how they're led and how safe they are. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, they are kids on an adventure. They won't come home that way.
I'm not "anti-war". I am, however, highly skeptical whenever troops are committed to combat. I expect that the real reasons for going to war will be clearly enunciated by the politicians who continue to live in comfort and convenience while others suffer and die.
To provide unreserved support for the Afghanistan mission is not only stupid, it is irresponsible. And, it is not contingent upon me to provide alternatives to the decisions of the self-styled warrior class, those who are prepared to waste lives while not risking theirs, be they prime ministers, presidents or keyboard commandos.
I will question everything about the Afghanistan mission. My support comes only when I receive rational, truthful answers . . .
most Canadians, after reading of another soldier killed in Afghanistan, ponder whether to return their empty beer bottles or shine up the motorcycle. Almost no one considers that there are 27 Canadians who can never entertain such mundane thoughts because they were blown away in a mission that appears to lack long-term definition and has gone on longer than the US involvement in World War II.
Emphasis mine. And my agreement, too.

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Where were you? 

A new ad campaign to raise money for a memorial asks "where were you?" on 9/11.
A national ad campaign being launched on Thursday features the stories of people who remember where they were when they heard of the 2001 terrorist attacks . . . A historian says the event will be remembered for life by the people who experienced it, in the same way that people recall the assassinations of President Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr . . . The foundation has compiled about 250 "where were you" oral histories . . .
Here's their ad:


John at Americablog says:
What the hell is our obsession with remembering September 11? We remember it, ok. I don't need a TV commercial to remind me of that day or how I felt. I was there. It took me a long time to get over it. And I most certainly don't need my politicians, or anyone else, trying to drag me back to that day kicking and screaming several times a year . . . Unfortunately we live in a country and a society where the dead aren't just eulogized, they're propagandized. You want an ad campaign? Here's an ad campaign:



And here is the picture I think Bush really should use:


If I could add a photoshop slogan, it would read: "Where was the President? Frozen at the switch...".
I wonder if the project has recorded Bush's own history of that day:
The President was seated in a classroom when,at 9:05,Andrew Card whispered to him: “A second plane hit the second tower.America is under attack.”The President told us his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis.The press was standing behind the children; he saw their phones and pagers start to ring. The President felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening. The President remained in the classroom for another five to seven minutes, while the children continued reading.

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Pathetic 

Steve Gilliard sums it up:
. . . the White House wants to call on the spirit and unity of the Second World War without any of it's sacrifices, no rationing, no draft, no restriction on travel, even a refusal to mention the war in any serious way, much less having their families participate in it.
Osama Bin Laden doesn't have Grossdeutschland and 2nd SS Panzer in some cave. He isn't enslaving a continent, he's not sinking the US fleet at Pearl Harbor.
He is not a threat to the stability of the United States. He cannot conquer the US. He is, at most, a threat to US interests. Yet, to beat Osama, the microchip militia and friends want to toss out the consitution and call anyone who questions them appeasers. It isn't us who is hosting Central Asian dictators who boil their opposition alive, or turn our back on repressive regimes or who has built a network of secret prisons.
If this was WWII, Barbara Bush would be in a uniform and not conducting tours of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Bush's bodyman would be training at Quantico or Benning for deployment overseas, not going to Harvard B School without the benefit of a BA. Jenna's boyfriends would be in uniform and not drunken louts working for daddy.
It's a pathetic comparison to the national sacrifice of World War II, and the only one which can be made by people who's knowledge of history doesn't go beyond a textbook.

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Great line of the day 

Arianna Huffington, in her post called What Keeps Don Rumsfeld Up at Night? Hint: It's Not the Body Count in Iraq, writes:

Forget the escalating sectarian violence. Forget the rising influence of Iran. Forget the 100-Iraqi-deaths-per-day. Forget the 2,638 American dead. For Don Rumsfeld the problem isn't that we are not winning the war in Iraq, the problem is that we are not properly spinning the war in Iraq.

Emphasis mine.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mr. Foot-in-Mouth 

This CP story lists a large number of Ignatieff gaffes while describing him as the "front-runner" in the Liberal leadership race.
Really? Could it really be true that a majority of Liberals think an arrogant expatriate who has never run anything except an academic think-tank will generate more respect from Canadians voters than Harper and Layton and May and Duceppe?
Well, I think I know four people who will be just thrilled if Ignatieff wins...

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Don't Panic 

The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy had "Don't Panic" written in large, friendly letters on its cover. Its a phrase we can apply now to Iran: Don't Panic!
Think Progress summarizes the hype and hysteria that Fox News viewers are seeing about how Bush is intending to start a war with Iran.
And if you can stomach it, check out the cheerleading at the National Review (h/t Wolcott) -- "Negotiation? We don't need no stinkin' negotiation. We want war! We want war! We want war!"
Over at Talking Points Memo, guest poster Matthew Yglesias has two excellent posts about the Iran panic, one about the hysteria and the other about the fear-mongering.
First, kibosh the hysteria:
. . .Iran [is]outgunned by its two leading religio-ideological antagonists, Israel and Saudi Arabia, in the region. One immediate neighbor is Pakistan, with a larger population base and a nuclear arsenal. Another immediate neighbor, Afghanistan, is occupied by soldiers under the command of an American president who has spurned peace offers and threatened to overthrow the Iranian government. A second immediate neighbor, Iraq, is occupied by a larger number of soldiers from the same country. The Iranian military's equipment is outdated and essentially incapable of mounting offensive operations. So Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Under the circumstances, wouldn't you? . . . somebody needs to call bull$#*t on the prevailing elite consensus about Iran. Of course it would be better to find a way to persuade, cajole, whatever Iran out of going nuclear -- the spread of nuclear weapons is, as such, bad for the USA. But there's no need -- absolutely no need -- for this atmosphere of panic and paranoia.
Second, quit with the Scary Hitler analogy:
I hope I won't rob anyone of their innocence by making this observation, but politicians lie. In particular, along with telling the truth about his strategic ambitions, Hitler lied about his strategic ambitions. One reason people underestimated their scope was that Hitler put some time into trying to deceive people. He said different things at different times . . . So the "lesson" people want to draw from the 1930s isn't that we should take people's statements more seriously. Rather, the "lesson" they've learned is that we should always adopt the most alarmist possible interpretation of every given situation. But, of course, they never put it that way. Why don't they? Well, because when you put it that way it sounds like a stupid lesson. Which, obviously, it is. If you want to draw lessons from history, you need to really look at history as a whole. Have countries, as a general matter, been well served by adopting maximally alarmist interpretations of events abroad? I don't think that's a remotely justifiable view. If anything, history teaches the reverse lesson.
Emphasis mine.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

$450 million slush fund? 

Alison alerts us to the flap going on at Daily Kos over this diary: Canada Forks Over $450 Million Donation to Repugs. The diary reports that the softwood deal "negotiated by Bush and his Canadian lackey, Harper will see $450 million funnelled straight past Congress and the US treasury, and will go instead, directly to the Bush Whitehouse".
Not surprisingly, some of the commenters were pretty skeptical about this.
So, I looked into it.
First, I found out that the accusation about the $450 million slush fund was made by Washington trade lawyer Elliot Feldman, who is one of the most highly respected trade lawyers in Washington -- "Elliot Feldman, of Baker & Hostetler. . . has a Ph.D from MIT, a J.D. from Harvard, has taught at four universities including Tufts and Brandeis, and knows NAFTA law thoroughly."
Not a nutcase, then.
Second, the claim was made in Feldman's testimony to the Standing Committee on International Trade last Monday (Aug 21).
Here's what he said (emphasis mine):
I want to talk for a few minutes about the genesis of this agreement, and one of its most important and least-discussed elements. There is a bit of Watergate in this story, and as in Watergate, it is essential to follow the money . . . First, on April 7, the United States Court of International Trade ruled that the U.S. industry was entitled legally to no money--none of it. It was not surprising, then, that 20 days later the U.S. coalition said it would take $500 million. . . Third, it was not quite as obvious in the two-and-a-half-page term sheet of April 27 that Canada would give away everything that the previous government had been defending in order to complete a deal, because political priorities had changed so radically. Fourth, the term sheet promised a major joint initiative to improve North American competitiveness. The "remainder” . . . would go to so-called "meritorious initiatives" in the United States.
Industry was troubled by this last development. It wondered why it was providing foreign aid to the United States, but it was also reassured that the sum would be small. More impressively, Minister Emerson told CEOs that as long as they were getting back 80% of their money, it was none of their business what would happen to the rest. He was, by all accounts, very blunt on this subject.
Meanwhile, we were advised by negotiators that the White House had taken a direct and active interest in this money but that Canadian industry ought to focus on other things; as the minister had said, it was not really their concern. The "remainder", then, became $450 million out of $500 million. That, honourable members, is a colossal sum of money. It's certainly got the U.S. government, as well as the coalition, getting the other $500 million committed to the deal. It's astonishing how little--nothing, really--the government got in exchange for it . . . So here we have the Government of Canada requiring that Canadian private parties sign over $450 million to an escrow fund slated to be conveyed to the White House. The agreement does not mention Congress, and the Bush administration says Congress will not be involved in any way with this agreement. The Government of Canada is thus making a gift of $450 million to be spent by the President. That was more than a belt buckle, even more than a stetson, on July 6.
There is only one date certain in the deal: the planned expenditure of the $450 million must be determined by September 1. . . . The entire Republican campaign war chest has less than $300 million. Canada will add to it by 150% in funds to be expended for meritorious initiatives. It does not require much imagination to foresee the strategic places where this money will be spent. . . .
Emphasis mine.
During question period, committee member Peter Julian (NDP Burnaby-New Westminster) returned to this issue:
Mr. Peter Julian: . . . I'd like to come back to what I think is quite a staggering revelation, that the funding—the $450 million—would, as I understand it, be under the control of the White House. Congress would have no say, and Canada would have no say as to the use of that money. In a sense, in a midterm election year we'd be giving $450 million to a massive political fund.
Dr. Elliot Feldman: . . . This is in my view an historic, unprecedented, astounding intrusion into American politics. We've researched all the way back to the revolution and found nothing like it in American history.
The question I came this morning to put was, will the Parliament of Canada accept responsibility for possibly tipping the balance in American politics, in preserving the control of Congress by the President's party? This softwood lumber agreement is an historic moment in part because of that proposition, and it's up to this Parliament to decide whether it'll accept the responsibility. That responsibility cannot be shifted, and indeed that money inevitably will go to shore up the electoral aspirations of the Republican Party through the President. It's not going to be touched by Congress; it's going through an escrow fund . . .
Mr. Peter Julian: So what you're saying is that we are not only providing money to the coalition to fight further legal battles--giving half a billion dollars to them--but we're also providing money that may go to political purposes, for the re-election of Republicans, many of whom have been most adamant against allowing free trade in lumber. It's ridiculous.
Dr. Elliot Feldman: The provision in article 13(A)(2) of the agreement, which lists the meritorious initiatives, contains language that could describe only a slush fund for the President.
Here is article 13(A)(2):
ARTICLE XIII Institutional Arrangements
A. Private Initiatives
. . . 2. By September 1, 2006 the United States, in consultation with Canada, shall identify meritorious initiatives to receive the funds that are to be set aside for that purpose under Annex 2C. The funds shall support meritorious initiatives in the United States related to:
(a) educational and charitable causes in timber-reliant communities;
(b) low-income housing and disaster relief; or
(c) educational and public-interest projects addressing:
(i) forest management issues that affect timber-reliant communities, or
(ii) the sustainability of forests as sources of building materials, wildlife habitat, bio-energy, recreation, and other values.
And here is Annex 2C:
4. At least 30 days before the Effective Date, the United States shall provide Canada or its agent with information identifying three separate escrow accounts whose beneficiaries are respectively:
(a) the members of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports;
(b) a binational industry council described in Annex 13; and
(c) meritorious initiatives in the United States identified by the United States in consultation with Canada as described in Article XIII(A).
5. Canada or its agent shall distribute $US 1 billion pursuant to the Irrevocable Directions to Pay to the escrow accounts referred to in paragraph 4 in the following amounts: $US 500 million to the members of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, $US 50 million to the binational industry council, and $US 450 million for the meritorious initiatives account.
Sorta vague, isn't it, about who is going to come up with the list of projects and who will approve them. All it says is they will be "identified by the United States in consultation with Canada" -- so does this mean Karl Rove and David Frum will figure out how they want to spend the money?
So who is outraged?
Well, ThinkProgress noted the slush fund possibility back in June (this story spotted at the time by the eagle-eyed Accidental Deliberations) and Bob Rae talked about the "presidential slush fund" back in July. This week, Bruce Campbell from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives writes about the fund as "an unprecedented campaign gift from the Harper government to the Republican re-election bid, paid for by the Canadian lumber industry."
And who is NOT outraged?
Well, I would suspect that any Republican political consultants who came north last winter to work for the Conservatives during the election campaign would be happy as clams about now.

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Yes, but can he parallel park? 



I thought they just played poker:
. . . a woman in Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia region, crashed her car while giving her dog a driving lesson. . . There were no injuries and both vehicles were only slightly damaged . . . The woman, identified only be her surname, Li, said her dog "was fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive," the news agency report.
"She thought she would let the dog 'have a try' while she operated the accelerator and brake," the report said. "They did not make it far before crashing into an oncoming car."
Actually, if you Google "dog driving" images, you get more than 3,000 pictures...

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Sometimes I feel this way too 



But I usually manage to babble on about something...

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"You've obviously mistaken me for someone who cares" 

This is a great story -- Oops: Impostor scams Louisiana officials.
I saw the Yes men documentary on TV recently and it was terrific -- they are completely plausible, totally corporate. And they only bullshit the bullshitters:
A man who pulled a hoax on Louisiana officials and 1,000 contractors by presenting himself as a federal housing official said Monday he intended to focus attention on a lack of affordable housing. "We basically go around impersonating bad institutes or institutes doing very bad things," said the man, who identified himself as Andy Bichlbaum, a 42-year-old former college teacher of video and media arts who lives in New York and Paris. "That would be HUD. At this moment, they're doing some really bad things."
Masquerading as Rene Oswin, an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bichlbaum followed Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to the lectern Monday morning at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
In a speech to attendees of the Gulf Coast Reconstruction and Hurricane Preparedness Summit, he laid out grandiose plans for HUD to reverse course.
. . . In his speech, Bichlbaum said the department's mission was to ensure affordable housing is available for those who need it. "This year, in New Orleans, I'm ashamed to say we have failed," he said. To change that, HUD would reverse its plans to demolish 5,000 units "of perfectly good public housing," with housing in the city in tight supply, he said. Former occupants have been "begging to move back in," he said. "We're going to help them to do that." . . . Bichlbaum said The Yes Men plan to release a movie about their exploits next year, but that commercial gain is not their goal. "The real reason we do it is what we're doing right now," he told a reporter. "You're paying attention to this issue of affordable housing and the absurd policies of HUD."
Now, do you think there is any chance that some local or national reporter will follow up on this story? Well, maybe -- now that the JonBenet Killer is no longer in the news...

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Great line of the day 

Avedon Carol reports on the latest supidities in fear and loathing. As Carol puts it:
This is the kind of crap right-wing bed-wetters are willing to give up their rights for. Well, sorry, but I'm not.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Say it ain't so 

Surely not. Not even in Alberta.
I haven't been following the leadership race in Alberta, but please tell me that this homophobic, ignorant,
divisive, mean-spirited pulicity hound blowhard named Ted Morton doesn't actually have any chance to follow Ralphie as Conservative leader.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Great line of the day 

Dave asks exactly what values are we promoting in Afghanistan?
Harper needs to explain how perpetuating and promoting a corrupt, inept government which sits by and allows the Taliban to expand and profit from opium poppy production is anything close to a Canadian value.
Yeah, I was starting to wonder about that myself.

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Fantasy 

Juan Cole has a few choice words for the republican congressional report on Iran.
The words are: "riddled with errors", "neoconservative propaganda", "wild fantasies", and "vastly exaggerates".
Ouch.
Cole also notes that the report was written by John Bolton's former assistant:
So this report is the long arm of Bolton popping up in Congress . . . John Bolton is just an ill-tempered lawyer who has no special expertise in nuclear issues or in Iran, and aside from an ability to scare the bejesus out of young gophers who bring him coffee and to thunderously denounce on cue any world leader on whom he is sicced, he has no particular qualifications for his job. Nor do the Republican congressmen know anything special about Iran's nuclear energy program. They certainly know much less than the CIA agents who work on it full time, some of whom know Persian and have actually done, like, you know . . . intelligence work. We are beset by instant experts on contemporary Iran, like the medievalist Bernard Lewis, who wrongly predicted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would attack Israel on August 22, based on Lewis's weird interpretation of his alleged millenarian beliefs . . . Pete Hoekstra, who is the chair of this committee, has a long history of saying things that are, well, disconnected to reality. Like when he made a big deal about some old shells with mustard gas found in Iraq left over from the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, and claimed that these were the fabled and long-sought Iraqi WMD over which 2600 of our service people are six feet under and another 8000 in wheelchairs. Nope. Bolton at one point was exercised about an imaginary Cuban biological weapons program, which even his own staffers wouldn't support him on, and at one point he was alleging that Iranian mullahs were sneaking into Havana to help with it. This congressional report is full of the same sort of wild fantasies.
Ouch.
But I particularly liked his description of Bolton as an ill-tempered lawyer...

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Who is listening to these people? 

Glenn Reynolds, April 2003:
. . . maybe we shouldn't rub in just how wrong, and morally corrupt the antiwar case was. Maybe we should rise above the temptation to point out that claims of a "quagmire" were wrong . . . And I suppose we shouldn't stress so much that the antiwar folks were really just defending the interests of French oil companies and Russian arms-deal creditors. It's probably a bad idea to keep rubbing that point in over and over again. Nah.
Mark Steyn, May 2003:
. . . It takes two to quagmire. In Vietnam, America had an enemy that enjoyed significant popular support and effective supply lines. Neither is true in Iraq. Isolated atrocities will continue to happen in the days ahead, as dwindling numbers of the more depraved Ba'athists confront the totality of their irrelevance. But these are the death throes: the regime was decapitated two weeks ago, and what we've witnessed is the last random thrashing of the snake's body . . .
Glenn Greenwald, today:
. . . The same people who were wrong about everything -- literally -- and who viciously mocked those who were right, now want to use the same mindset and assumptions to guide us into our next war . . . Democrats should make this election about this question because it is, in large part, what the election is about -- whether the country wants the same people who dragged us into Iraq to do the same in Iran, Syria and beyond.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Priceless! 

This is hilarious.
A Fox News interviewer cuts off Ann Coulter's ridiculous and ignorant blathering. And then, while she bleats and flaps and pleads for Sean Hannity to interrupt, both the interviewer and the other guest, a Democratic party strategist, calmly proceed to discuss Afghanistan and Bin Laden and terrorism and security. And they both completely ignore Coulter for the rest of the segment.
Priceless.

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Green party convention 

The Green Party convention is on this weekend in Ottawa, being broadcast on CPAC. Look close and you'll see a tall young man with longish blond hair, likely wearing a hoodie -- that's our boy!
I was watching the speeches tonight and I did catch a glimpse of him in the audience.

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Base Ball 

Noted in passing that a group of former ball players are trying to start up a vintage base ball league. Here are some of the "vintage" rules:
six balls for a walk, and a foul ball won't count as a strike — unless it's caught, in which case the batter will be out. A foul ball caught on a bounce counts for an out, and a hit batter is only a ball, with no base awarded.
Gloves will be tiny, bat handles will be thick and the ball — that's right, one ball will be used per game unless it falls apart or is lost — will be dead. There aren't any pitcher's mounds, and there's no such thing as a balk on pickoff attempts . . . umpires must be addressed as "sir." Fans — called "cranks" — will be encouraged to wear period costumes . . . .
The ball will have seams in the lemon-peel style, which was replaced by the current seam pattern designed by Albert Spalding, adopted by the major leagues in 1877. Pitching will be overhand, and games will average about 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Before each plate appearance, a batter will declare his "desired strike zone preference" — belt to knee or belt to armpits. If the umpire misses a call because his view is blocked, a team captain can ask for a "gentleman's ruling," in which players involved in the play are to truthfully say what occurred. If a dispute remains, the umpire may ask the cranks for their opinion.
Sounds like fun, but I just hope you can still yell from the stands.

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Great line of the day 

Well, August 22 came and went and nothing happened (or, at least, nothing blew up.)
The Poor Man alerts us to the next day of infamy:
I believe the calandar is free of apocolypses for the next six weeks, right until the Chinese Confucio-Nazis begin their long-planned Columbus Day weekend invasion of Missouri.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Requiem? 

We have spent the last two nights watching Spike Lee's `Requiem for New Orleans'. It is more than just the tale of slow recovery from a natural disaster. There is deep anger and resignation and betrayal, but also the people Lee interviewed were spirited and independent and committed to their city, and they were shaking their fists at engineers and insurance companies and FEMA and government at all levels.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Winning hearts and minds 

Juan Cole reports on the results of a recent opinion poll in Egypt:
a poll of the Egyptian public. . . found that Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, is the most popular politician in Egypt. In second place comes Khalid Mashal, the radical Hamas leader who operates from Damascus and has been implicated in terror attacks inside Israel. In third place? Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Funniest. Comments. Ever 

The Poorman post is funny enough:
Title:God Damn I Hate Working For Living
Text: If anyone has figured out a way around this particular problem, please email me. I promise I won’t tell.
There's something about The Poorman that inspires the funniest comments and this post has some great ones -- like these:
~I realize you were young and inexperienced at the time, but in hindsight you should have chosen your parents more wisely.
~Be chronically ill . . . and beg for donations, which grow fewer and fewer as time goes on. I don’t really recommend this one.
~If you send me 5 dollars, I’ll send YOU the secret to making money… the EASY WAY!!!!!
~Work - the curse of the drinking class.
~Work is a fucking scam. What kind of world is this that some people spend 60 hours a week pulling fries out of hot grease? What does a $300,000 car say to the cosmos? “Please, fucking wipe us out with a giant asteroid already”, is what.
~Don’t you get regular payoffs from kos in exchange for not mentining the scandal with his kittens? The rest of us do.
~Ooh, I know! Nobody ever went broke soliciting contracts from Republicans for pie-in-the-sky, never-gonna-reach-even-the-r&d-phase defense technology.
~I heard that if your roomate commits suicide, the government will give you money every year for the rest of your life.
~There is this guy in Nigeria who is looking for a business partner. I’ll forward you his e-mail.
~Get a dog or cat that can sing opera. It’s always worked for me.
~Hostages can be real money makers.
And finally, this one:
~Apparently, if you drink a lot, do a lot of coke, and crash your dad’s businesses into the ground, you can become President.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

What you can do with a jar of Nivea 

Harry Hutton:
I’m flying to the US this afternoon. I’m going to try to smuggle a jar of Nivea cream on board. Then, half-way through the flight I’m going to stand up and scream, “Look out! There’s a balm on board. Salve yourselves! Aarrrggh!”

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Great lines of the day 

From James Wolcott - who else?
First, a riff on Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's fall to 40 per cent in the Israel opinion polls:
. . . the bitter irony to those of us accustomed to the toasty crunch of bitter irony first thing in the morning is that even with Olmert's facedown splat he's still got better poll numbers than Bush! If Bush clawed his way back into the forties, the Note would form a conga line and bugger each other until they squeaked, Peggy Noonan would paint herself pink and roll downhill like an Easter egg, and Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss would make the rounds of the political chat shows to muse knowingly about Bush's Reaganesque Indian summer, and his durable bond with the American people (most of whom despise him. . .
Then onward to a discussion of the Bush 'legacy':
If Seymour Hersh's sources are creditable (and I think we can all agree Hersh's track record ), Bush has made up his one-track mind for the rest of us that he will not leave office without neutralizing the threat of Iran. Not having learned the lesson of Iraq about the danger of apocalyptic hyperbole, the media are already beating the bass drums like a corps of Michael Ledeens . . . I still have my doubts as to whether the US will attack Iran. As Emmanuel Todd writes in After the Empire, the recent US pattern-- evidence of its atrophied superpower prowess--has been to bomb countries much weaker than itself, while shying away from more formidable foes (such as North Korea). Iran is no pushover, and Hezbollah out-smarted and out-toughed Israel in Lebanon, making even an airstrike on Iran a more difficult sell. But one thing we've learned in the Bush years is never to anticipate that reason will prevail.
Lind: "For America, the question is whether Washington will continue to demand that we go down with the Israeli ship."
Or is it that Israel will go down with the American ship?
I suppose it's a distinction without a difference to the watery grave.
Emphasis mine.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

AIDS? Harper says Euuhhh! 



Foghorn says "There's something EUUHHH! about a kid who doesn't like baseball."
I was reminded of Foghorn's sneering distaste when I saw today's story about how Harper isn't going to make any announcements about HIV/AIDS funding during the Toronto conference.
So HIV-AIDS is too "political" now? Since when did politics ever scare Harper?
Nope, I think our Steve is actually saying, "there's something EUHHH! about HIV-AIDS". He doesn't want to be associated with it. Thus, he embarasses Canada before the world and displays his own incurably parochial "small town" attitude -- where the most important consideration is " oooh, what will the neighbours think?"
Well, so what do you suppose two of the world's most influential men, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, think about our prime minister now?
And here's what some others thought:
Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham: "this was an opportunity to show leadership and to genuinely help, and if the money comes, great. But it would be a shame that it couldn't be done in a way with the global community that's here, and so many young Canadians could've said, 'We're proud of you.' "
BC MP Keith Martin: "[Postponing the announcement] shows a complete lack of respect for this disease and for the people who suffer from it and for the people who work in it. The government has been missing here. They've showed no presence, no plan, no money."
Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy for AIDS in Africa: "It just shows the chaos of their activity, there's just no focus at all. . . . The Conservatives have known for many months that this conference was coming. They've left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. The entire activist, research, scientific world is now skeptical about Canada's intention and motives. So even when the announcement does come - no matter how good it is - it will be viewed skeptically. They've just done themselves damage."

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Safety, front and centre! 


From Crooks and Liars

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Is this actually news to anyone? 

Hmmm -- without a warrant, listening to the phone calls and reading the emails of US citizens is unconstitutional.
Is there anyone, anywhere in the world, who didn't already know this?

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Great line of the day 

Digby describes how the American government is war-gaming against the "terro-hippies" -- peace activists, anti-globalization radicals, eco-freaks, animal rights activitists and all the other long-haired weirdos who first exposed themselves at Woodstock and have been threatening the very foundations of civilization ever since:
. . . it's only a matter of time until one of these terro-hippies gets around to killing you in your beds and writing Helter Skelter in organic beet juice on the bedroom walls.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Calling Blair, Harper, Merkel and Abdullah 

It is time for the leaders of the world to step up to the plate and do something to stop George Bush from bombing Iran.
There must be a few world leaders that George Bush still gets along with and still might listen to -- the four I can think of are Tony Blair, Stephen Harper, Angela Merkel and King Abdullah.
Glenn Greenwald describes why neither American public opinion nor a congressional vote will stop the delusional Bush administration from attacking Iran if they want to.
Probably they will also ignore the 21 former US generals, diplomats and national security officials who are releasing a letter about how Iran is "not a crisis". A few other leaders have apparently spoken out so far as well: Hans Blix and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
So what is everyone else going to say? For most of the countries of the world, it doesn't matter because Bush and Cheney don't care what they think either. The Bush administration will ignore the Security Council, Russia, China, France, Mexico, Central and South America, Japan, the rest of the Middle East and the Far East. Even Olmert, having lost to Hezbollah, will have lost Bush's respect.
But I do think perhaps there is a chance that if Bush hears advice to back off Iran from the few world leaders with whom he still gets along -- I'm thinking of Tony Blair, Stephen Harper, Angela Merkel, and maybe also King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia -- that he might hold back.
Its a small chance, I agree, but it's likely the only one we've got.

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Adapting to "alternatives other than democracy" 

So is the US going to "win" in Iraq by "adapting" to dictatorship?
Stay tuned.
When you read a New York Times story about the Iraq war, you can usually get the real news just by reading the last paragraphs first. Here's today's example.
The story begins with 18 paragraphs about how awful things are in Iraq for the American military.
Paragraph 19 contains the news that even more American troops are going to die in Iraq next month because that's when the new street-by-street fighting in Baghdad is actually going to begin:
The Pentagon has decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the new military operation to restore security there is expected to begin in earnest next month.
Hmmm - a Baghdad offensive in September? Just before the congressional mid-terms? I wouldn't put it past Rove to try to spin the increased casualties into a demand for support for their "bloody but unbowed" Commander-in-Chief.
But be that as it may, here's the bombshell revelation that I started this post to write about, the final paragraphs of the story:
. . . some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive.
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month . . .
So maybe Chalabi will finally get himself installed as Dictator of Iraq after all?
I think it would be pretty hard for Bush to spin this one as just another part of the Bush administration's new "win by adapting" stragegy. But then again, "up-is-downism" is back, and Bush can convince himself of just about anything.

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Teach your children well 

Here are some photos from Yahoo news showing children of southern Lebannon -- who, with their families, appear to have ended the war just as supportive of Hezbollah as their parents are.
This doesn't bode well, I don't think, for the Israeli/Bush administration idea that the people of Lebanon will turn against Hezbollah as a result of the war. The photo cutlines in italic are from Yahoo News:


Aya Hussein Hayder, accompanied by her sister Mona, leaves the rubble that was her grandfather's house with a salvaged poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.


A Lebanese boy at the funeral procession of Hezbollah militant Moustafa Kamal Rakein.


Another Lebanese boy crying during this procession.


Children pictured in the back of a car flying a Hezbollah flag just metres from the Israel-Lebanon border.


A Lebanese girl waves a Hizbollah flag as she returns home with her family following the ceasefire, in the city of Tyre.


A Lebanese boy carries a Hizbollah flag as he walks along a road . . .


Three Lebanese youth sit in the street in front their destroyed building in the Hezbollah stronghold of the southern suburbs of Beirut.


A young boy recovers a Koran and a stuffed animal from the ruins of a house destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of Kfar Sir, a village near Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon.


A displaced Lebanese man carrying his son speaks with Hezbollah fighter in the Hezbollah strongholds of the southern suburbs of Beirut.


Lebanese people walk through a destroyed street, next to an anti-U.S banner, in the Hezbollah strongholds of the southern suburbs of Beirut.


A family drives past a destroyed building in a car decorated with Hizbollah and Lebanese flags in Beirut's southern suburbs.
Note from Cathie: See the professional quality of the printing on the "Made in USA" banners placed on these ruins. Nobody has to teach Hezbollah anything about PR and framing the debate, do they? And its not just in Beirut, either ---


An anti-US banner decorates the rubble of a building destroyed during the month-long Israeli offensive against Hezbollah, in the southern village of Abbassiyeh, close to the port city of Tyre.

And who is there, helping these people out? Why, Hezbollah ...

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters sweep the street in a destroyed residential area in the southern suburbs of Beirut.


Hezbollah social workers take information from residents in Beirut's southern suburbs . . . Hundreds of people went to Haret Hreik Public High School Wednesday to register the damage caused by Israel's one-month bombing and which the militant Hezbollah group promised to rebuild.

And on the Israeli side:

An Israeli man takes a picture of his son posing next to Israeli army tanks being loaded onto trucks at an army staging area near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Great line of the day 

Well, its about time. Glenn Greenwald says Americans are finally realizing that terrorism is a law enforcement issue.

If George Will can come out and say that John Kerry was right about how best to approach terrorism and the Bush approach does nothing but increases it, then perhaps we can soon reach the point where national journalists will understand that there is nothing "strong" about wanting more and more wars, and nothing "weak" about opposing warmongering and advocating more substantive, rational and responsible methods for combating terrorism.
You know, the law enforcement approach isn't very romantic.
But even a cursory glance at history would seem to indicate that the nations which try to make war on terrorists, like Russia with the Chechnyans or China with Falon Gong, principally succeed in making a lot of martyrs, while nations which pass democratic laws and gather evidence and build legal cases can be successfull in putting enough terrorists in jail to give the country enough time to deal with "root causes" so that terrorist tactics lose their appeal.

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Great lines of the day 

Juan Cole quotes Patrick McGreevy:
VL Day?
It’s 11 pm in Beirut, and honking cars and motorbikes are cruising the Corniche while their occupants discharge Kalashnikovs into the black air shouting “Allahu Akbar.” If only we had electricity and lights, the triumph might be more believable.
. . . The Battle of Lebanon was a rude little war that played like a blockbuster summer film. This, perhaps, was the fundamental mistake that Israel and its US backers made: they underestimated the articulateness of Lebanon—a multilingual country, connected to a global diaspora, with a history so compelling that novice and seasoned journalists are drawn to its stories by instinct.
Hezbollah’s tactics countered Israel’s brilliantly before the world’s gaze. As the vastly more powerful force, the IDF could have crushed Hezbollah, but only by conducting a genocide on the Shiite people of southern Lebanon who support its resistance. And genocide, on global TV, is the one sin Israel cannot survive. Hezbollah is a designer resistance force, shaped by repeated Israeli blows against Arabs—designed not simply to counter its powerful adversary’s field techniques, but to infiltrate its soul and seek its deepest pain. It finds this pain like a heat-seeking missile finds its warm target because Hezbollah’s resistance, too, is born of pain. This is the madness we confront.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

And the winner is . . . 

Bush is arguing that Israel defeated Hezbollah. But that's not what his former supporters think. Glenn Greenwald finds these quotes:
National Review Editors- In addition to winning in Lebanon, Iran has the upper hand both in Iraq and in the contest over whether it will be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. If current trends continue, the Bush administration’s project in the Middle East will require the same sort of expedient we have just seen in the Israel–Lebanon conflict: a papering over of what is essentially a failure.
Dan Riehl So, it turns out the lofty anti-terrorism rhetoric of Bush was little more than what some speech writer wrote to be read from a screen. . . . This will embolden the opposition in Iraq and could lead ultimately to the destruction of Israel. Our war President has turned out to be a disgrace.
Paul Mirgenoff, Powerline Blog Over at NRO's corner, John Podhoretz contends that this would mean the end of the Olmert government. I'm tempted to suggest that our government, having seemingly lost its will to oppose (or even to let others oppose) our deadliest enemies, deserves the same fate.
Michelle Malkin Israel and the West surrender to Hizballah.Terrorists and the U.N. win.
Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundation, NRO Symposium If there is a clear winner in this war, it’s Iran.
Soshana Bryen, NRO Symposium Thus far, the U.S. and Israel lose; Iran wins.
Anne Bayefsky, NRO Symposium Kofi Annan’s wide grin, as he stood side-by-side with Secretary Rice on Friday, said it all. He won. But America and freedom’s cause lost.
Jeff Goldstein Israel and the US have been defeated. Hizballah will grow emboldened. As will Iran.
Pamela "Atlas" Oshry, interviewer to John Bolton Bush Administration Betrays Israel and America
Daily Pundit [in a post recommended by Instapundit] . . . Bush's proud words of five years ago stand revealed as hollow and meaningless. What happened? What happened was one of the biggest failures of leadership in Presidential history. Bush supporters will claim that Bush was done in by a liberal media and the ferocious hatred of liberals and leftwingers, but that is one of the things true leadership is all about: Managing and overcoming opposition in order to achieve the necessary goals - in this case, the destruction of world Islamist terrorism and the regimes that support it.Bush turned out to be singularly ill-equipped for this task, both by skill and by temperament. His public relations management was curiously hesitant and badly timed, and, of course, his inabilty to speak effectively in public was a gigantic handicap. His temperament, it eventually became clear, was hesitant, overly calculating, timid, and "compassionate." Compassion has its place, but not in warfighting. The Bush we know would not have pulled the trigger on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He abdicated the hard decisions in favor of political maneuvering and meaningless gestures.
Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer both said this weekend on Fox that Hezbollah won and Iran has been strengthened.
Ouch! With friends like these...
Of course, these wingnuts want to see some warmonger like Cheney elected in 2008 -- someone who will gleefully "pull the trigger" on nuclear warfare just to kill a few hundred or thousand Arab teenagers and religious zealots who the American wingnuts have inflated into some kind of worse-than-the-Nazis-and-the-Cold-War- all-together threat to the very foundations of our civilization and to life as we know it, etc etc.
Actually, when I read these quotes, I was somewhat relieved that maybe, just maybe, Bush is NOT going to plunge the West into war with Iran. But likely I am living in a fool's paradise -- Seymour Hersch says the whole Israel-Hezbollah war was a dry run for a coming US-Iran war. Ths Israeli loss may delay this, but only if the Bush administration agrees that Israel actually did lose:
". . . the thought behind that plan was that Israel would defeat Hezbollah, not lose to it,” the consultant with close ties to Israel said. Some officials in Cheney’s office and at the N.S.C. had become convinced, on the basis of private talks, that [other Arab] nations would moderate their public criticism of Israel and blame Hezbollah for creating the crisis that led to war. Although they did so at first, they shifted their position in the wake of public protests in their countries about the Israeli bombing. The White House was clearly disappointed when, late last month, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, came to Washington and, at a meeting with Bush, called for the President to intervene immediately to end the war . . . some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. “There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this,” he said. “When the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran.”
And thus we come full circle, back to my first reference to Bush believing that Israel won.
So when will the rest of the world step up and declare that the US/British plan to attack Iran is both criminal and insane?

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"Criminal" rates of interest 

Considering the profits being made by Canadian banks, they should be helping out in our low-income neighbourhoods instead of just abandoning poor Canadians to companies like this:
A B.C. Supreme Court judge says a B.C. payday loan company was charging 'criminal' rates of interest to clients borrowing to make it through to their next paycheque . . . 21 per cent interest rate and a processing fee of $9.50 for every $50 borrowed . . . $75 fee if a cheque is returned and if the borrower wants put off a loan payment, [a fee of] $25 for every $100 deferred.
I'm not surprised that the judge said this was criminal. I know companies are not in business for their health, but this is abuse, because these customers don't have any other options.

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"The average Canadian has only one testicle" 

It's an example of how misleading it is to average polling answers -- half of Canadians (the men) have two testicles, while the other half of Canadians (the women) have none. So when you average them, you get the ridiculous "answer" that the average Canadian has one testicle.
This news story uses this example to describe a critique of recent polling results about Canadian attitude toward the Israel-Hezbollah war.
Here's the dispute:
. . . the Strategic Counsel firm is standing by a recent survey that suggested only one-third of Canadians shared Harper's staunch pro-Israel stand. In the other corner, the head of the Compas firm says the prime minister enjoys twice that much support and accused his rivals Monday of conducting a "misleading anti-Harper poll.". . . . . . Compas said its rival invited an anti-Harper response by asking about "Israeli actions" - a term it decried as a hostile-sounding statement that swayed respondents.
. . . But the Strategic Counsel defended its two-week-old findings, and several other industry observers agreed the company had conducted a solid survey.
You be the judge:
Compas arrived at its conclusion that Canadians supported Harper after asking the following four questions:
-Does Israel have a right to defend itself? (82 per cent responded in the affirmative)
-Was Iran wrong to arm Hezbollah and call for the destruction of Israel? (69 per cent agreed)
-Was Syria wrong to arm Hezbollah and disobey the United Nations resolution requiring Syria to keep guns out of Lebanon? (68 per cent agreed)
-Did Hezbollah in Lebanon start the war? (Just 38 per cent agreed)
Compas then took those four responses, averaged them out, and concluded that 64 per cent of Canadians supported Harper's policy.
One industry insider sneered at that methodology. "That's certainly stacking the deck," he said. "Those four policies can't be (averaged). That's like saying the average Canadian has only one testicle." . . .
The Strategic Counsel concluded that only 19 per cent of Canadians believed Harper's position was a principled one, while 53 thought it was designed to mimic the U.S. stand.
Compas came to a very different conclusion. The firm asked respondents whether they believed the government's policy was designed because:
-It wanted to earn U.S. goodwill and protect Canada's economic interests. (21 per cent agreed)
-President Bush is a role model (12 per cent)
-Israel has a right to defend itself (19 per cent)
-Arab extremism is a problem (12 per cent)
-Hezbollah is terrorist (12 per cent)
-Syria and Iran are problems (4 per cent)
Compas then proceeded to add up the final three of those responses and come up with the figure 28 per cent - while leaving separate the President Bush/U.S. responses, which would have reached 33 per cent had they been lumped together.
Butler concurred with the industry insider's view that such methodology was unorthodox: "I agree with that remark entirely," he said.
The other problem is that the Compas poll didn't survey as many people:
The Compas poll of 500 respondents is deemed accurate to within 4.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The Strategic Counsel polled 1,000 Canadians between July 27 and 30, and its findings are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
I wonder which firm will be hired by the Conservatives to do their next survey?

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Canada in the 2007 Rugby World Cup 

Hooray!
Canada earned a berth in the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France with an all-encompassing, 56-7, win over the USA Eagles in St. John’s Newfoundland on Saturday in front of 5000 passionate fans.
Canada took command of the game from the opening kick-off and never let the foot off the pedal until it had recorded its biggest win ever over the Eagles in this, the 41st meeting between the two.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Great line of the day 

The Green Knight has a list of things I've learned on the internet(s). Here's one I liked:
Andy Warhol was wrong: everyone is not famous for fifteen minutes. Rather, everyone is Hitler for fifteen minutes.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Great line of the day 

Cliff at AMERICAblog notes that the Republicans, Washington blowhards and pearl-clutching media pundits are quick to rail against the incivility of the public discourse . . .
. . . except when they’re smearing Ned Lamont, his father, ideas offered by people who’ve actually won an election, Daily Kos, those who were right all along about Iraq, Michael Moore, African Americans, George McGovern, George Soros, Moveon.org, Howard Dean, liberals, Connecticut voters, 60% of the country who oppose the war in Iraq and those of us who don’t need to project our middle-aged “issues” into support for firing rock-hard projectiles at people to prove we've still got it . . .

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

What a jerk! 

That's our Steve!:
. . . on a recent trip, the Prime Minister was asked by a flight attendant to turn off his cellphone and BlackBerry. Mr. Harper declined. The pilot then made a request, saying it was for safety purposes. The PM relented. But, at the end of the journey, one of his staffers gave the pilot some news: His services would no longer be required on prime ministerial trips.
I'm sure the pilot was just as happy not to be flying with him anymore. So the pilot and crew are supposed to risk losing their nagivation instruments during landing, just so Steve can check his next appointment? Does he think the laws of physics will suspend themselves at his whim?
What a jerk!
H/T to The Galloping Beaver

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They're here, they're there, they're everywhere, so beware 

It's "snakes bombs on a plane" season again.
So first we are told:
Anti-terrorist authorities in Britain and the United States declined to describe the bomb design in the foiled plot — whether it was primarily liquid or, more likely, contained liquids in a more complex ingredient list.
But as Peggy Noonan said in a different context, "Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to!"
So how many scary but incredible, unlikely and speculative bomb scenarios can AP pack into one little news story? Let's see:
...Even a battery-operated watch would provide enough power for a detonator. All you need is one shock ...
baby formula ...in powdered form, it can provide a good vehicle for masking crystallized explosives . . .
an Algerian man was convicted of possessing 25 computer disks detailing how to bring down an aircraft using, among other things, crystallized explosives hidden in a container of talcum powder.
During that trial, FBI explosives expert Donald Sachtleben testified he built and detonated three bombs based on the instructions found in the Algerian's home . . .
a likely terrorist scenario would involve a two- or three-member team boarding the same flight, each carrying a different part of the planned bomb . . .
Critical to conventional bombs is a power source to trigger a detonator. Clonan said cell phones could provide an ideal power-timer unit for a bomb . . .
to puncture an aircraft's fuselage would require an explosive charge "half the size of a cigarette packet," . . .
"liquid bombs" were not the most likely explosive. He said it was far more likely a terror cell would try to smuggle on an explosive in crystalline or powder form and to combine it with an acid-based compound . . .
terrorists might also construct an on-board incendiary bomb based on paraffin or gasoline, which if ignited in mid-Atlantic could destroy an aircraft before it could land . . .
Hands-on inspection is the only way to tell if a dark-plastic medicine vial really contains what it says on the label. "You'll have to carry your prescription and prove to security that the medicine really is what it is. But for 20 million people a year going through Heathrow? How do you do that?" Hatcher said, foreseeing a future airport arrivals hall with five-hour security checks.
Even that scenario, he said, could lead to terror attacks — detonating bombs in an airport terminal, not on a plane. "You can carry a bag into the center of an airport with thousands of people around you before you are ever screened. That, too, must change," he said.
Well, I guess we'll all just have to take the bus from now on. Er, maybe not ...

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" 



Here's something I just couldn't write about before on this blog because I felt it was just too negative -- though my slogan at the top hints at it.
I'm talking about "the dying of the light."
After the 2004 election, in my heart of hearts I believed that the United States was dying, that the light from the shining city on the hill was extinguished.
Now, I didn't feel this same despair about Harper becoming Prime Minister last winter, because even though I disagree with the Conservative party's policies, I do not feel they are aiming to destroy the Canadian parliamentary system and justice system and electoral system. Though Harper is stubborn and judgmental, he actually does mean well (I think) and he does listen (eventually).
But the Bush administration does not. They pride themselves on not paying any attention to people who disagree with them. And Bush himself is a mental case, not to mention Cheney...
So since 2004 I have believed that the re-election of Bush, even though by hook and by crook, showed that just too many Americans had drunk the neocon Koolaid.
And with another four years to consolidate the lies and ruin the civil service and start more wars and promote more divisiveness and hatred, I believed the Bush administration would by 2008 have such a stranglehold on the American psyche that ordinary Americans would, in a spasm of hopelessness and fear, willingly abandon two of the greatest and most inspirational documents ever written, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, without a backward glance in a pellmell rush toward the illusory safety of dictatorship.
And maybe this could still happen.
But beginning last summer, just one year ago, one grieving mother showed up Bush for a fool. Then a drowned city showed up the heartlessness of the whole Bush administration, the guys who had talked so big about being the grown-ups. Americans became increasingly uncomfortable about being spied on by incompetent religious zealots. After a century of thinking of themselves as the good guys, Americans also became increasingly uncomfortable about finding themselves on the bad guy side of torture and secret prisons and Guantanamo and judicial toadying and planted news stories. The Bush administration still hasn't found Bin Laden, and they still haven't won in Afghanistan. Finally -- and unforgiveably as far as Americans are concerned -- the Bush administration has blustered and talked big but has proven itself incapable of actually controlling or even influencing North Korea, or Venezuela , or Hezbollah, or Hamas, or Iran, or Israel. And the one country that America has tried to take control of directly, Iraq, has disintegrated into a grotesque horror show which is apparently only successful in turning American soldiers into inhuman monsters.
Today, 144,000 people in Connecticut said NO! "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take this anymore!"
It's not the end, or the beginning of the end. But perhaps it is the end of the beginning.

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Great line of the day 

From Billmon
Bye-Bye, mein Lieber Herr.
Farewell, mein Lieber Herr.
It was a fine affair,
But now it's over.
And though I used to care,
I need the open air.
You're better off without me,
Mein Herr.

From Cabaret

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Ogden would have loved this photo 


A one-L Lama is a priest.
A two-L Llama is a beast.
And I would bet a pink pajama
There's no such thing as a three-L Lama.


(AP photo)

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Great line of the day 

When I want military strategy analysis, I go to Galloping Beaver -- Dave sums up Israel's dilemma:
. . . they failed to assess the weaknesses of air power. The greatest of those weaknesses being that air strikes require high-grade intelligence to direct the pilot and the weapon to the proper target. And clearly, the intelligence isn't there, because if it was, the rockets which keep finding their way to northern Israel would have stopped long ago . . . It is now faced with another problem. It's army is much less prepared for a fight than it needs to be to take on Hezbollah . . . it appears the IDF relied less on good intelligence and more on the effect of less than accurate bombing in an attempt to bring Hezbollah to heel. All they have done is incur the wrath of the civilized world and driven large numbers of the Lebanese population into the arms of Hezbollah.
Emphasis mine.

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Who's sorry now? 

Billmon asks why Hezbollah is apparently ready to keep on fighting while it now appears that the US and Israel want to quit:
Two weeks ago Lebanon's Prime Minister was demanding an immediate cease fire while Shrub and company were insisting that only a "lasting cease fire," leading to a "permanent solution," would do. Now it's the other way around:
Speaking to reporters today at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., where he is on vacation, Mr. Bush said, “Everyone wants the violence to stop.’’
“People understand that there needs to be a cessation of hostilities in order for us to address the root causes of the problem,’’ he said . .
Mr. Siniora said he opposed the cease-fire resolution in its current form, saying it would not effectively halt the violence. “It barely leads to a cease-fire,’’ he said, with tears in his eyes. “We want a permanent and full cease-fire.’’
Obviously, something has changed -- that something being the completely unexpected outcome of the war (unexpected by everyone but Hizbullah I mean) . . .
Whether {turning down the truce agreement] is because Sheikh Nasrallah actually thinks his hand is so strong he can bluff the Israelis back across the border, or whether it's because he believes a long, drawn-out war of attrition with the IDF actually suits his interests even better than a ceasefire (and to hell with the agony and death it will inflict on the Lebanese people) I don't know . . . the spectacle of Israel's political and military establishment dancing anxiously on the diplomatic sidelines, hoping the U.N. Security Council will step in with a timely ceasefire, while their Arab enemy impassively declares his willingness to keep on fighting, is a sight I truly never expected to see.
Whenever anyone talks about who has the greater determination to keep fighting and willingness to die for a cause, I keep remembering of Robert X. Cringely's anecdote:
. . . [while in Teheran in 1986 for another story, Cringely] decided to go see the [Iraq-Iran] war since I had been in Beirut and Angola, but had never seen trench warfare, which is what I was told they had going in Iran. So I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man's Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that's exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers.
It was the most horrific event I have ever seen, and I once covered a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh that killed 40,000 people.
Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.
Now put this in a current context. What effective limit is there to the number of Islamic kids willing to blow themselves to bits? There is no limit, which means that a Bush Doctrine can't really stand in that part of the world.
Yes, I would say there is definitely a willingness to fight and die for a cause.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Great line of the day 

This is what makes Duncan Black (Atrios) a great blogger -- short, pointed, vivid and right.
Here he is writing about a NYT editorial which says the Dems shouldn't abandon Iraq but instead should urge Bush to get help from the Europeans and other Arab nations.
[Short pause while my reader stops laughing so hard.]
Black says:
But the choice will never be between Bush's 'pretend everything is okay' plan and the New York Times 'Pony' Plan . . . The choice is between Bush's 'pretend everything ok' plan and the Democrats 'Bush is going to keep fucking this up so it's time to start heading home' plan.
Exactly.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

T'was slithy 

In his post titled The Portmanteau Resolution, Billmon provides an interesting analysis of the UN resolution which aims to end the Israel-Hezbolla war. It's too complex to summarize here, but this is a part of the world that Billmon has studied for several years, so I think I'll go with what he thinks.

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Great line of the day 

DemFromCT, writing at Daily Kos:
. . . "muscular" foreign policy has its limits when the muscleheads running the place try to implement subtlety via cruise missle. . .

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A cautionary tale 

Oh that darned Canadian medicare -- just so inefficient and bureaucratic!
I can hardly wait until some Canadian politician privatizes medicine again so Canadians can also get service like this:
. . . Kaiser is a very large and old HMO, with a huge presence in the Bay Area and northern California . . . in 2002, a transplant surgeon . . . proposed to Kaiser that it could save money, and increase the utilization of its hospitals’ surgical capacity, by bringing the kidney transplant program in-house . . . As of mid-2004, Kaiser patients on the waiting list were informed that they would no longer be covered for transplants at UCSF or UC Davis, though they were free to go ahead and have them if they could come up with the money (roughly $100,000) . . . then Kaiser completely screwed up the program . . . [the Kaiser patients] looked like new names on the list, and so all of their accumulated waiting time, one of the main determinants of priority, would vanish . . . Losing seniority on the transplant lists wasn’t the only problem. Kaiser did very few transplants, compared to the number of organs which were available . . . in part because of what seems to have been mis-placed perfectionism or caution. These combined to the point of repeatedly turning down “zero mismatch” kidneys, ones where the likely compatibility over-rode considerations of seniority. This happened several dozen times at least — twice for one patient alone. Again, needless to say, patients weren’t told about this. In a “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” moment, Kaiser initially attempted to defend its program by pointing out how few patients had died after transplants — since they’d done so few . . . In most kidney transplant programs about twice as many patients receive transplants as die while waiting; Kaiser managed to reverse that ratio . . .
So if anyone is thinking that privatized health care invariably results in efficient, top notch service to everyone who pays their premiums, think again.

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Beirut then and now 

You have to see it to believe it:



From here via Juan Cole.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

I guess Iran won, and without firing a shot 

Tonight on Countdown, I finally heard an American media outlet give a straight story about what has happened in Iraq.
And the news is, Iran won.
It was Olbermann who said it. The transcript hasn't been posted yet so I cannot quote directly, but here is the summary from my memory:
The Bush administration and the American neocons were sold a bill of goods about Iraq by their so-called friend Ahmed Chalabi. They thought they were going to gallop into Baghdad in 2003 and watch Iraqis install Chalabi as Prime Minister. Now it has become apparent that Chalabi was working for Iran all along. So Iran tricked America into taking out Saddam, thus allowing Iraq to become a Shiite Muslim nation and new Iranian ally.

Raw Story also highlights additional news coverage on this same point, quoting from a former US ambassador, Peter Galbraith (John Kenneth's son):
. . . Galbraith further argues that the invasion of Iraq destabilized the Middle East while inadvertently strengthening Iran. One of the administration's intentions in invading Iraq was to undermine Iran, but instead, the Iraqi occupation has given Tehran one of its greatest strategic triumphs in the last four centuries.
Once considered to be Iraq’s worst enemy, Iran has now created, financed and armed the Shiite Islamic movements within southern Iraq. Since the Iraqi Parliamentary elections of 2005, the Shiites have made considerable political gains and now have substantial influence over the country’s U.S.-created military, its police, and the central government in Baghdad. In addition, Iraq is developing economic ties with Iran that Galbraith believes could soon link the two countries’ strategic oil supplies.
Galbraith says that, “thanks to George W. Bush, Iran today has no closer ally in the world than the Iraq of the Ayatollahs.” As a result, he argues, sending U.S. forces into Iraq, has in effect, made them hostage to Iran and its Iraqi Shiite allies and left the U.S. without a viable military option to halt Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons.
This story also notes that Bush didn't know the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni Muslim a month before the Iraq invasion. Well, neither did I, of course, but then I'm not the President of the United States....

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The offense is against all of us 

I've heard lots of criticism of Human Rights Commissions and overreach and all that, and to some extent I can sympathize. But I do believe these Commissions, with their authority to investigate and bring charges to tribunals, are the best way we have to stop people from continuing to do this kind of shit:
. . . Erica Sheppard and Debra Van Eijk were dedicated, hard-working employees, with 14 years of Burger King work between them. But shortly after Seacastle Enterprises took over the restaurant the women, both in their 20s, were fired. Their fellow workers later told the tribunal that one of the owners, Shawn Dhillon, stated women that age should be at home starting a family. The tribunal also heard Dhillon described other female employees as the "short, fat one," or the "short, ugly one." . . .
Sure, I know the women could sue individually for wrongful dismissal (if they can afford to, that is.)
But this kind of language and behaviour is an offense against all of us and against Canadian society, not just an offense against individuals.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yeehaw! is not a foreign policy 


This is what I have been afraid of -- that the Bush administration thinks Iraq and Afghanistan aren't enough. They want the whole Middle East up in flames.
John LeCarre said three years ago that the United States had gone mad. He was right.
And if the rest of the world doesn't tell them STOP, then we'll all go down in flames with them.
Sydney Blummenthal describes the nightmare scenario in Salon magazine:
. . . The neoconservatives are described as enthusiastic about the possibility of using NSA intelligence as a lever to widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war . . . Rice's diplomacy in the Middle East has erratically veered from initially calling on Israel for "restraint," to categorically opposing a cease-fire, to proposing terms for a cease-fire guaranteed to conflict with the European proposal, and thus to thwarting diplomacy, prolonging the time available for the Israeli offensive to achieve its stated aim of driving Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. But the neocon scenario extends far beyond that objective to pushing Israel into a "cleansing war" with Syria and Iran, says the national security official, which somehow will redeem Bush's beleaguered policy in the entire region. . . .
Emphasis mine.
See? A "cleansing war"? This is an insane concept developed by people who obviously watched too many TV commercials while they were growing up --You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pesodent! and Mr. Clean scours like a White Tornado! -- the very same people who have spent five years now losing wars.
Having failed in the Middle East, the administration is attempting to salvage its credibility by equating Israel's predicament with the U.S. quagmire in Iraq. Neoconservatives, for their part, see the latest risk to Israel's national security as a chance to scuttle U.S. negotiations with Iran, perhaps the last opportunity to realize the fantasies of "A Clean Break."
By using NSA intelligence to set an invisible tripwire, the Bush administration is laying the condition for regional conflagration with untold consequences -- from Pakistan to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Israel. Secretly devising a scheme that might thrust Israel into a ring of fire cannot be construed as a blunder. It is a deliberate, calculated and methodical plot.
The United States does not, of course, have the troops or the equipment or the airplanes or ships to fight such a large war. What they have are nuclear weapons. To "win", they will need to use them.

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Operation Freedom Eh 

Over at Daily Kos, "Bill in Portland Maine" has a suggestion -- and I sincerely hope that neither Rummy nor Steve read Bill's column:
Not that anyone asked, but, yes, I do know how to solve the Middle East crisis. Since our military is stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan, and two-thirds of our Army National Guard units are not ready for combat, we're out of the picture militarily. President "Yo" Bush and Condi Rice are preoccupied with their treadmills, so ixnay on the iplomacyday. That leaves one option which has the full backing of Bill Kristol and the service-dodging young Republicans:
The Pentagon must sub-contract Canada to invade Iran and Syria.
We did a little checking and concluded that this move is a slam dunk. According to our friends at Mightbeaccurateipedia, there are over 7 million Canadian males age 15-49 who are "fit for military service." With their 114 Leopard battle tanks and 98 fighter jets leading the charge, they could roll into Tehran by lunchtime and have the entire afternoon free to be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers. But wait...it gets better.
Once parliamentary democracy takes root in 6 to 12 days, they can then roll across the Jeffersonian democracy of Iraq (we'll waive the tolls) and swoop into Damascus. Then, with the two main supporters of Hezbollah and Hamas effectively neutralized, the terrorists in Lebanon will flee into the Mediterranean Sea and drown themselves.
Best of all, Operation Freedom, Eh will only cost $1.7 billion. So c'mon, Canada...it's time to step up to the plate and help us turn a few more corners.
If they told Emerson they would re-write the softwood lumber deal to our liking, Steve might even go along with it.

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Losing ground 

This is not surprising at all.:
A new poll suggests Tory support is sliding over voter concern that Canada has become too cosy with the United States on Middle East policy.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You gotta walk it by yourself, Mel 

So Mel Gibson thinks Jewish people are supposed to "help him heal"?
Mel, try to imagine how little anybody cares.
Mel Gibson acknowledged making anti-Semitic slurs during a drunken driving arrest and begged Jewish community leaders Tuesday to meet with him to find "the appropriate path for healing."
Why should any Jewish person care to meet with Mel Gibson anyway -- does he think he's something special, God's gift to Judaism maybe, that he now deserves personal help?
I think Mel better get busy solving his own problems.
I used to hear the same BS during the early days of the women's movement -- it was supposed to be a women's job to educate her man about how wrong his sexism was (as well as do the housework, I guess). If he continued to be a sexist pig it was somehow HER fault for not teaching him well enough or something.
Note particularly how this attitude lets the man off the hook for making any personal changes or doing any work or taking any responsibility for educating himself -- while woman's work is never done . . .
Well, its the same now with Mel and his anti-Semitism -- its up to him to do the work he needs to do to change his attitudes -- and if he finds out now or later that no Jewish person wants anything to do with him anymore, well, that's the penalty he pays -- this still wouldn't let Mel off the hook for changing his own prejudices.
Like the hymn goes:
You've got to walk that lonesome valley
Well you gotta walk it by yourself
Well there ain't nobody else gonna go there for you
You gotta go there by yourself

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