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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good kitty 


Alison connects the dots on Stevie's newest hobby snapping photos of himself withlittle kitties. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Let's just hope the cute little guy (the orange one) doesn't turn into any of these:


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Monday, July 30, 2007

It's Wizard of Oz time 



Hmmm... didn't the Wizard of Oz turn out to be just a little man hiding behind a green curtain?
The Washington Post is describing the situation between Iran and the United States as a new Cold War, complete with a "Green Curtain":
The Bush administration is now adapting the tactics of the last Cold War to the new one. In the 1940s, the Soviet Union lowered its Iron Curtain to shore up communism in Eastern Europe and prevent penetration from the West. The former Kremlinologists now running U.S. foreign policy, such as Rice and Gates, are trying their own version, with a Green Curtain designed to cut off the bloc of Iranian-linked radicals and protect U.S. allies in the Middle East . . .
But it sounds like they won't be finding a Yellow Brick Road any time soon:
The basic U.S. premise -- isolating regional foes behind the Green Curtain -- is in trouble even among Washington's closest allies. "The United States is trying to define the main line of confrontation as the extremist camp versus the camp of moderation, a division which does not exist," Pillar said. "It may be reflective of our rhetoric and the way Americans see the world, but it is not reflective of the realities in the Middle East."
The progressive blogosphere is suitably derisive. At Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy says:
We had the clever idea of ending several decades of successful containment of Iran by cleverly transforming Iraq from Iran's biggest regional counterweight into a chaotic failed state "led", if that is the right word, by people with close ties to Iran. In the process, we even more cleverly pinned our troops down right where Iran could get at them, and gave them every incentive to do what they could to keep us tied down there by hinting that as soon as we were finished with Iraq, it would be time to take down Teheran. We can't get out unless the Maliki government succeeds, and so even though it is led by Shi'as and friendly to Iran, we are funding and supporting it, and trying to do so without empowering Iran, which is, um, impossible. At the same time, we are trying to contain Iranian influence in the region and mollify our increasingly nervous Sunni allies by by selling lots and lots of weapons -- $20 billion worth -- to the delightful government of Saudi Arabia. But guess what? Saudi Arabia is arming -- of course -- the insurgents who are fighting against the Maliki government -- the very same government that we are trying to prop up!
This is what comes of having idiots in charge of our foreign policy.
I think this "Green Curtain" stuff is just another attempt to inflate the Bush administration's petulance and warmongering into some kind of Clash Of The Titans, so that Bush can continue to pretend to be Churchill rallying the Free World to defeat the Heathens, while Cheney plays William Stephenson.
All the Serious Beltway Pundits and Reporters will take all this Green Curtain stuff very Seriously, of course.

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Great line of the day 

Mikhail Gorbachev:
Gorbachev, who presided over the break-up of the Soviet Union, said Washington had sought to build an empire after the Cold War ended but had failed to understand the changing world.
“The Americans then gave birth to the idea of a new empire, world leadership by a single power, and what followed?” Gorbachev asked reporters at a news conference in Moscow.
“What has followed are unilateral actions, what has followed are wars, what has followed is ignoring the U.N. Security Council, ignoring international law and ignoring the will of the people, even the American people,” he said.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Great line of the day 

Scott Tribe updates us on the Conservative accountability reforms:
. . . this was another dog and pony show designed to try and curry favour with voters from Deceivin’ Stephen’s bunch by giving the impression of doing something to clean up politics in order to get that vaunted majority. In truth, the Conservatives have discovered they like appointing their friends and partisans as much as anyone else, and have made sure so far they aren’t hampered from doing it.
Emphasis mine.
Now personally, I never did think this election promise about making political appointments on merit rather than on party affiliation would ever actually be enacted.
An existing government that wins reelection might be able to get away with making some "bipartisan" appointments, but when a new party takes power, there is a pent-up demand from hundreds of their nearest and dearest friends and partisans for all those plumb government appointments, and no political leader can afford to just ignore their own supporters. Putting it politely, one could say that of course a government is going to appoint people who already have demonstrated they support the new government's goals.
Putting it crassly, a politician has to dance with the one who brung him.
But Scott is exactly right that voters wanted a different approach. They actually thought they might get it with Harper.
Fool me once...

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Go crazy? Don't mind if I do 

So now they're saying that smoking pot increases the risk of mental illness -- what, are they nuts?


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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chicken Little-In-Chief 

So the Bush administration has been ignoring the US wiretapping laws for the last six years.
They have been wiretapping illegally -- because, I think, no judge would have given them a warrant for the data-mining approach they were likely using, nor would any judge have approved listening in on journalists and Democrats and foreign diplomats, all of whom have been labelled by the Bush administration as terrorist sympathizers and fellow travellers, and if you think that label was just for show, well, what planet have you been living on?
But Bush and Cheney couldn't be bothered changing the US law, even though a compliant Republican Congress would have approved anything they wanted.
Now, its been a pretty bad July so far for the Bush administration -- the Abu Gonzales mess, the immigration bill collapse, the vote coming up to restore habeus corpus to the Guantanamo prisoners, and now the Tillman fragging.
So they're trying one more time to play the "terrorism" card -- once more into the breach, dear friends, once more.
Bush will announce in his Saturday radio address that he wants Congress to revise the surveillance legislation right away, immediately, right now. After six years of no action, its just so urgent now that Congress does what Bush wants in the next six days.
I think Bush and Cheney are trying once again to distract Congress and the media with something new and shiny, in the hopes that everyone will start talking about how important it is that the surveillance law be changed and that the Democrats are traitors if they don't go along.
But I don't think President 27 Per Cent can pull this off now. Not anymore.
So the sky is falling? Again? Yawn...

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Teh Gay 

In Canada, there have been more than 12,000 gay marriages since 2003. Apparently the country is going to fall apart any day now. Did you know that gay marriage means we have to support separatism in Quebec? Yep, just like the wingnuts have been telling us all along, gay marriage = the end of Canada. It says so in a book.
And here's more -- It's all because (The Gays Are Getting Married):


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That popping sound you hear is the bubble bursting 

French banker Jerome Guillet at Daily Kos describes the slow motion economic train wreck which is occurring in the US financial markets now. He concludes:
As the bubble unwinds (or pops), it is essential to make it clear that it should not be workers, or taxpayers, that end up paying for the recklessness of the financiers, and that those that gorged on the good times should bear the pain of the new, leaner times . . . The focus on financial profits over industrial ones, unable to provide the same instant returns, has skewed the economy ever more towards financial services rather than other "real" activities (except the finance fuelled construction sector). That may not prove to have been the most sustainable policy.
Altogether, the politics of individual greed over those of a collective future need to be blamed.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ninjas! 

Alison sends us to the Lolcat Bible, which was originally posted on Scarlet Words where I also found the Algorithm March, and this version is with Ninjas:



Don't ya just love the Internets!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The lone and level sands stretch far away 

Check out the videos at this site -- The World Without Us - Alan Weisman. It's sort of chilling, in the "My name is Ozymandias" sense.

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Are we there yet? 



No, not yet.
I think bloggers need to stop talking about impeaching Bush and Cheney and start talking about what exactly they have done wrong.
Half of the population of the United States did not vote for Bush and Cheney in either 2000 or 2004. Some statistics would appear to indicate that a quarter or more of Americans would now support impeachment.
But there will be no groundswell of support until a majority of people can see what illegalities have been committed. So far, its still sort of vague -- did they violate the FISA Act with the NSA wiretapping program? Did they violate the Geneva Conventions when they approved torture and rendition? Did they deliberately lie to start the war with Iraq?
But Bush and Cheney did it all with the cover of Executive Orders, they got some tame lawyer (AKA the Attorney General) to provide supporting opinions, and they even got some degree of Congressional support, back when Congress was majority Republican.
So the "high crimes and misdemeanors" still need to be identified and defined.
Nixon tried to cover up a crime (the Watergate break-in). Clinton lied under oath. In both cases, these were individual actions; they were done by the President without any legalistic "cover"; and they were done for a personal benefit -- neither Nixon nor Clinton could claim they did what they did to protect the nation. Also, it was pretty easy for the average person to understand what could be called "criminal" about these actions.
With Bush and Cheney, while their stupidity and incompetence and cowardice certainly disgust many Americans, this may not be sufficient to make a clear majority support impeachment. The specifics of the case have to be spelled out.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stunts 

This sounds like a stunt to me.
If the issue of allowing human rights complaints against band councils has been a problem since 1977, why the sudden rush to recall MPs to deal with it right now, over the summer?
Oh, yes, I forgot -- fall election coming up...

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Great line of the day 

Over at Canadian Cynic, pretty shaved ape expresses some shrill cynicism (quel suprise!) about our defense minister's recent Declare-Victory-And-Leave announcement:
"O'Connor was responding to new poll numbers that suggest support within Canada for the deployment is dropping while opposition is rising . . . During an appearance on CTV's Question Period that aired Sunday, O'Connor said those numbers are largely due to Canadians' lack of clear understanding of Canada's successes in Afghanistan, as well as the challenges faced there."
After half a freaking decade of action, as the mission steadily deteriorates and the liberation slowly decays into ineffectual occupation, as the will and patience of both the Afghan and Canadian populations erode, we just don't understand that our troops have Tim Horton's coffee. And according to big Steve our military just keeps getting better and better with every flag at half mast. Shame that Gordon O'Lobby can't seem to present a clearly understandable picture of our "success". So buck up anyway, whiners.
Hey, does anybody else smell a fall election being plotted?

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is everybody happy NOW? 

Huffington Post reports on an interview with US National Intelligence Director Mitch McConnell talking about the CIA's interrogation techniques and the President's executive order:
The executive order bans torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, sexual abuse, acts intended to denigrate a religion or other degradation "beyond the bounds of human decency." It pledges that detainees will receive adequate food, water and medical care and be protected from extreme heat and cold.
It does not, however, say what techniques are permitted during harsh questioning of suspects . . .
When asked if the permissible techniques would be troubling to the American people if the enemy used them against a U.S. citizen, McConnell said: "I would not want a U.S. citizen to go through the process. But it is not torture, and there would be no permanent damage to that citizen."
Bush's order is intended in part to quell international criticism of some of the CIA's most debated work.
Yeah, I'm sure that'll do it alright.
The international community will be just so supportive of interrogation techniques which are too brutal to be used on US citizens. At least no one is losing an eye anymore, I guess.
Or maybe we're only supposed to THINK that the US is torturing people, but really they're not:
The order specifically refers to captured al-Qaida suspects who may have information on attack plans or the whereabouts of the group's senior leaders.
"Because they believe these techniques might involve torture and they don't understand them, they tend to speak to us ... in a very candid way," McConnell said.
I guess someone waving a soldering iron in your face could be one of those 'misunderstood techniques'.
Maybe Jack Bauer should try that.

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My favorite commercial 


See here for more info.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Night still lives 

You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon and Chevy Chase

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Good, better, best 

Good

Mike Luckovich

Better

Jack Ohman

Best

Mike Luckovich

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Great line of the day 

From Ken Levin, writing about the 2007 Emmy nominations:
THE SOPRANOS was nominated for everything including best cartoon. Here’s what I hope happens. David Chase wins, goes up to the podium, starts to speak, and the screen just goes black.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Meeting Stephen 



From the Globe and Mail comes this awful photo -- the cutline says Harper "poses with Haitians" at a Cite Soleil hospital during a one-day visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. But they all look just miserable, don't they -- was it something he said?

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Do Ya Think She's Sexy? 



A number of bloggers are annoyed and upset about this trivial, stupid article talking about how sexy Hilary Clinton was in a V-neck shirt. And rightfully so -- as MissLaura at Daily Kos points out:
This story is so inappropriate on so many levels my mind can't stretch to encompass them all. The notion that the outfit the Post pictures Clinton wearing was worthy of a single sentence is a sign of the idiocy of the traditional media. The story that resulted from that notion is unconscionable and appalling, piling paragraph after paragraph onto the added burden women in the public eye already face.
Still, though, I think this article represents a sea change for Hilary.
Hollywood is high school for rich people, and Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. As far as the Washington media is concerned, sexiness is a virtue -- the Washington media regards all of the "serious" presidential candidates (like Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson and Barak Obama) are "sexy".
For years and years, it was the Clenis who was the Big Dog. Finally, its Hilary's turn now!


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Another Yalie 

So who is this Eric Edelman, the undersecretary of defense who accused Hillary Clinton of treason today? Here's his back story. A real prince of a fellow, isn't he?
I think Yale has a lot to answer for.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Great line of the day 

Dave at Galloping Beaver notes that Harper won't visit Cuba -- supposedly because of concerns about human rights -- but is OK with visiting Columbia, which actually does have the worst human rights record in the western hemisphere. Dave concludes
:
...when it comes to Steve Harper's neighbourhood, it seems he'd rather buddy-up to the local crack-house than the neighbour with the messy yard.

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So, is anybody surprised? 

The Globe reports on a new poll which shows that Harper is failing to win country over. Harper is caught between a rock and a hard place -- the more he pushes himself forward as the one and only government spokesperson, the less people like him. Yet he can't let his foot-in-mouth cabinet loose, either.
And now we also hear that the PMO is so hard-up for new ideas they actually had to ask their cabinet ministers for suggestions -- how pathetic is that? Hey, how about a national day-care policy? Or how about holding a meeting in Kelowna to establish a coordinated approach to Aboriginal issues? Or maybe we could develop a plan to meet the Kyoto targets?

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Great line of the day 

Tbogg makes some interesting observations about Harry Potter-mania:
Aside from those who truly love the books, and obviously millions do, I think this is part of the Big Event nature of our culture, the same thing that causes people who don't watch football to spend the day at a Super Bowl party and pretending to care who wins. We don't have many literary Big Events, since our Big Events seem to be limited to sporting championships and television season or series finales, so we should be happy about the Pottermania. More so, when you consider that the next literary Big Event is probably going to be the release of the Dan Brown's next book.
Oh dear. Kill me now.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

They're not "Al Qaeda" anymore, Toto 

This Air Force press release about a plane crash in Iraq uses a terminology I don't think I have heard before.
Lately, the preferred US military term for the people they are fighting in Iraq has been to call them all "Al Qaeda", a profoundly misleading term designed to make Americans think that the war is being fought against the 911 hijackers. And media criticism of this transparent tactic has been rachetting upward.
But in this press release, the US air force is now using the term "anti-Iraq forces".
Well, this may be even more inaccurate really, considering that these people are the actual Iraqis while it is the US military itself which could more accurately be described as an "anti-Iraq force".
Be that as it may, however, is "anti-Iraq forces" just another way of trying to switch the focus to Iran? Or does the US Air Force really believe that they are destroying Iraq to save it?

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I know you are but what am I 

How far around the bend are some conservatives? Dana at The Galloping Beaver links to Jonathan Hari's report on the National Review cruise, AKA Ship of Fools. Listen to some of the hysterical paranoia which Hari found:
A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she says. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."

I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

So, you're a European, one of the Park Avenue ladies says, before offering witty commentaries on the cities she's visited. Her companion adds, "I went to Paris, and it was so lovely." Her face darkens: "But then you think – it's surrounded by Muslims." The first lady nods: "They're out there, and they're coming."

[Norman Podhoretz] is a bristling grey ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." He waves his fist and declaims: "There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria ... This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn't have gone better." He wants more wars, and fast. He is "certain" Bush will bomb Iran, and " thank God" for that.

"The civilized countries should invade all the oil-owning places in the Middle East and run them properly. We won't take the money ourselves, but we'll manage it so the money isn't going to terrorists."[said by Jim O'Beirne, husband of right-wing nutcase Kate - he's the guy who hired 20-year-old Republicans for the Coalition Provisional Authority to run Iraq]
And here is the most bizarre story of the cruise, a disturbing but entirely credible juxtaposition.
First, Hari describes the cocktail party which started the cruise, at which he encountered retired Ontario judge Reuben Bromstein. Bromstein is president of Canadians Against Suicide Bombing, which aims to make suicide bombing a crime against humanity and which describes suicide bombing as "pathological bloodlust" :
I adjust and stiffly greet the first man I see. He is a judge, with the craggy self-important charm that slowly consumes any judge. He is from Canada, he declares (a little more apologetically), and is the founding president of "Canadians Against Suicide Bombing". Would there be many members of "Canadians for Suicide Bombing?" I ask. Dismayed, he suggests that yes, there would.
Yes, well apparently there are also a few "Americans for Suicide Bombing" and some of them are actually on the cruise. Hari next recounts a conversation at the first dinner on board:
To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. "You must live near the UN building," the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. "They should suicide-bomb that place," he says. They all chuckle gently.
And a good time was had by all.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

CNN is sicko 

CNN just can't stand it.
Michael Moore is right and CNN is wrong.
CNN, through their medical reporter Sanjay Gupta, tried their very best to do a big hit-piece on Moore by "fact-checking" his movie Sicko. But instead they made two gigantic clangers themselves -- first Gupta hammered Moore for a supposed error on Cuban health costs when it was actually Gupta which made the error, and then when Gupta interviewed a critic about Moore's film he didn't mention the man's employment in the American health care industry. Even most of the people commenting on Dr. Gupta's own blog about the Moore piece accuse Gupta of nitpicking.
So now CNN thinks it has had the last word -- an unnamed "spokesperson" from CNN has released a whiney "response" which purports to reply to Moore's reply by accusing him of creating controversy.
Well, it was the tone and language of Gupta's original report which created the controversy -- Gupta said that Moore had "fudged" his facts on the US health care system, but he didn't. It is CNN which is now fudging the fact that the US health care system is failing the American people.

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Decline and fall 

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note just got back from Europe and this is what he observed:
. . . the Germans are angry at Bush and America as a whole for so badly screwing up a number of collective efforts -- particularly on climate change -- but also in the Middle East. They are angry that Europe is not in a position to fill the void America is leaving and focus their frustration not on their own leadership problems but at the U.S. for undermining the dynamics of global order.
A widespread view among elite Germans and the non-elite normal types I spoke to is that America is in fast decline -- sort of like Britain after World War II. I think that the impressions foreigners have of this decline is "overshooting reality" as there are many substantive realities about America's ability to deploy force and purpose in the world that remain formidable.
But conversation in some serious circles is turning to what Europe can do to help America stabilize in some position of "lesser global stature." There is also a sense that the nation that is filling much of America's previous geopolitical space is China and that Europe feels tension in its strong alliance with U.S. power in decline and its strategic distance from China clearly ascending.
A few of the commenters to this post disagreed with what Clemons said.
But everyone from outside the US thought Steve got it just about all right -- they objected only to Clemons' assertion that America still remained "formidable" in some ways.

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Great line of the day 

The downside of going away was that I missed some good stuff on the internets.
Here's Rabble columnist Duncan Cameron, from Friday, talking about the Security and Prosperity Partnership:
The SPP is a poorly disguised attempt to remove economic decisions from public view and democratic oversight. Security does not mean improving pensions, or providing health care for all. Prosperity does not mean alleviating poverty, or improving access to public services. And partnership does not mean partnership.
It means whatever the U.S. decides, goes.
Alison at Creekside has more here and here.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm baaaack! 

Great holiday but also great to be home.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summer holiday 



Well, we're off on our holiday on Thursday -- flying to Victoria for a few days, then to Vancouver, then home on July 14th.
I don't think I'll be able to blog, or even keep up with reading anyone else's blog -- unless I happen upon an internet cafe.
So see you in a couple of weeks!

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Who ya gonna call? 

Here are some of the construction problems at the new US embassy in Baghdad:
... when the kitchen staff tried to cook the inaugural meal in the new guard base ... Some appliances did not work. Workers began to get electric shocks. Then a burning smell enveloped the kitchen as the wiring began to melt.
... The 252 prefabricated residential trailers, with either two or three rooms each, filled with formaldehyde fumes. The trailer manufacturer, a Saudi company called Red Sea Housing Services Co., confirmed to the embassy it had used the toxic chemical in preparing the housing. Red Sea told the embassy to keep the windows open and use charcoal in the rooms to absorb the odor, but "the fumes are still prevalent," the cable said.
...The embassy cable noted that five people had been identified at various times as the project manager, and that it was all but impossible for embassy officials to obtain information from them, with no one seeming to be in charge.
...fire hazards in the dining hall's wiring that were so serious that the few guards who had moved into the base's new residential housing were sent back to Camp Jackson.
"It was unknown as to whether similar wiring was present in the residential trailers," the cable said.
... KBR found that the reworked wiring "is still substandard," the cable said. The embassy also said that it believes it has discovered counterfeit wiring, labeled as 10mm when it was actually 6mm.
... First Kuwaiti provided only "minimal spare parts" for the power generators and "less than minimal spare parts" for the water-treatment plant, the cable said.
Finally, on May 25, a KBR hazardous-materials expert discovered that all 10 generators had developed leaks. The fuel tanks were installed without corrosion protection or leak detectors, and fuel had begun to saturate the soil around the tanks. The cable said that Teflon tape designed for water pipes had been used on the fuel tanks, and that such tape "will dissolve on contact with diesel fuel." KBR refused to operate the power generators unless its liability was waived.
How much does everyone want to bet that the largest and most expensive embassy in the world will turn out to be uninhabitable due to shoddy construction?
Here's who they're going to have to call:

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Great line of the day 

Oliver Stone, on being denied permission to shoot a movie in Iran about Iranian President Ahmadinejad:
"I wish the Iranian people well, and only hope their experience with an inept, rigid ideologue president goes better than ours."

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Shorter 

Shorter Gordon Campbell:
Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who.

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Music for the occasion 

Yankee Doodle Dandy


American Pie

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

War by PowerPoint 

Here's another one of the Scary Iran news stories. This time its about how the US military briefers in Baghdad are saying Iran is getting Hezbollah to kill Americans in Iraq. Apparently, the US has some documents or something, which they are allowing reporters to view in glimpses. McClatchy notes that:
...there was no way to verify the authenticity of the documents independently, some of which Bergner presented on a large-screen monitor.
I'll bet it was PowerPoint slides.
This reminded me of another US slide show back in February in which the US military briefers in Baghdad were saying Iran is supplying explosive devices to kill Americans in Iraq. The reporters got a better look at this presentation, and it apparently fell pretty flat.
I think its the slides -- the US military is apparently entranced with PowerPoint, which is really just a communications tool, sometimes not a very good one.
In Yale professor Edward Tuft's discussion page about powerpPoint and military intelligence, one of the commenters describes the military reliance on PowerPoint:
1. Briefings are often not created by the actual person who will deliver the brief. Subject Matter Experts are tasked with developing content, which then is briefed to a military officer who then is tasked with briefing up the chain of command.
2. When briefing up the chain, information must be put in "words a colonel can understand." And when a colonel briefs a general, the brief must be put in "words the general can understand." This is usually referred to in terms of elevations: from 10,000 feet, or the 50,000-foot view, etc. I've been told to "keep it out of the weeds" -- limit detail, only make general statements.
3. The expectation is that the handout is also simply a printed copy of the briefing slides themselves, so that while the PP slides are being projected on screen, the participants in the meeting are simultaneously reading the printed versions. The projection is used for debate reference once everyone reads the printed slide.
4. Since PP is often used for a "decision brief" only the words that will be approved are to be included in the slide.
Another commenter describes how a slide can become a military order. He refers to an excerpt from the Thomas Ricks' book Fiasco:
McKiernan had another, smaller, but nagging, issue: He couldn't get Franks to issue clear orders that explicitly stated what he wanted done, how he wanted to do it, and why. Rather, Franks passed along PowerPoint briefing slides that he had shown to Rumsfeld. . . . That reliance on slides rather than formal written orders seemed to some military professionals to capture the essence of Rumsfeld's amateurish approach to war planning. . . . It was like telling an automobile mechanic to use a manufacturer's glossy sales borchure to figure out how to repair an engine.

Here is one of those slides -- it shows how Iraq reconstruction was supposed to work:


Just flash on that for 10 seconds. With mythical faux-precision, the little marching arrows and stars show that every day in every way things are going to get better and better in Iraq until everybody reaches Strategic Success, at which point the Tooth Fairy will shoot an arrow down from heaven and...well, Phase Three.
Here's another one, from October, 2006


What could anyone make of seeing such a mess on a screen? Here are some of the things Tufts says about this slide:
The slide reports performance data--a list of phrases, with each phrase accompanied by a measure of performance. This is what the tables in the sports section, mutual fund page, and weather page of newspapers do very well. Those designs are much better for reporting performance data than the slide format here. In sports and stock market tables, each phrase is accompanied by multiple measures of performance, often over varying time-periods. All that won't fit on the slide; this suggests that we should use better reporting method than PP, instead of abbreviating the evidence to fit the slide. As the millions of readers of sports tables each day demonstrate, people can easily manage large tables of information. Thus those being briefed in the military should ask: Why are our presentations operating at 2% of the data richness of routine tables found in the sports section? Let the viewers read and explore through a range of material; different eyes will search for different things in the evidence. The metaphor should be the cognitive style of the sports section (or weather or financial newspaper pages) not the cognitive style of PowerPoint.
There is no cloud of uncertainty or error history associated with the editorializing color. At times, such color codings suggest an excess of certainty.
The Iraq slide above provides some relevant but thin and overly short-run time-comparisons: 2 arrows on the left showing "change since last week," and the "Index of Civil Conflict (Assessed)", which sort of compares "Pre- Samarra" with "Last week" and "Current". And there's a potent time-comparison in words: ". . . violence at all-time high, spreading geographically."
Then again, maybe its not just the PowerPoint. As one of Tufte's other commenters notes:
As someone who remembers watching US military briefings during the VN war, I can confidently state that PowerPoint is not a necessary requirement for producing obfuscated piles of meaningless crap.
There is a story in the biography of John Paul Vann by Neil Sheehan in which Vann's map of precincts in his district is returned by central command for having too few precincts colored in "white" (our side) and too many red (them) and pink (in issue). How's that for graphical information.
Speaking of who's winning, the British say they have lost Basra.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Ya think? 

Jesse Wendle at Group News Blog asks:
What would the response have been of all the Republicans (and Joe Lieberman) -- who in the days ahead will be saying what a righteous and proper move the President has made -- had President Bill Clinton pardoned the aide of Vice President Al Gore who'd been convicted of perjury over outing a CIA agent?
Did you have to ask?


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Hey, Mr. Minister 

Hey, Mr. Minister?
Hmmm?
Minister!
Umm -- yes, just a sec, I'm drafting another press release. So what is it, Deputy?
Can I get a supplement?
No, no, you don't need one, You're not being fired! Far from it, you've been a great Deputy -- you've done everything I asked you to do, even when it was pretty stupid . . .
Yes, Minister, I know. But now I'm going to retire and I want my supplement!
You're not really entitled to one, you know.
But Minister, all the other deputies are getting them!
Now, now, that's not really the case. Why there are only 20 deputies who qualify ... hmmm, well, actually, I guess its closer to 50... no, actually, I guess its 79... 79? Seems like a lot...
So, Minister, why can't I get one too?
Well, come to think of it, why not? You're a good guy and you've taken the blame when I screwed up, so sure, here's your supplement -- after all, its not coming out of MY pocket!

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blue Sunday 

So on Canada Day in Ottawa, Harper gave a very nice speech about Canada's role on the international stage.
But why, oh why, must he remain so incurably parochial?
You can take the boy out of the small town, but you can't take the small town out of the boy.
He just couldn't resist slathering Tory Blue all over everything:
The traditional red and white blanketed a sea of people on Parliament Hill, but there was also more blue than usual.
The blue of police uniforms peppered the crowd as security was stepped up for the celebration -- and there was also a blue presence on large banners that adorned the centre stage.
A spokeswoman for the National Capital Commission, which organizes Ottawa's annual Canada Day celebrations, says the colours were chosen from a number of designs.
Blue is the colour of the Conservative Party.
An Ottawa radio station pushed for a boycott of Sunday's festivities over the move.
"Show your support for Canada by avoiding Parliament Hill and its festivities," said an online statement by station Hot 89.9.
"There are hundreds of things to do besides attending this bizarre display of 'patriotism.' If you do attend, you'll be left feeling blue."
Conservative talk radio host Lowell Green at CFRA ridiculed the move.
"What, are we going to boycott the blue of the skies, too? There's red there, too (on the stage). There's as much red as there is blue."
Well, no, there wasn't.
Here's the photo now posted on Harper's website:



You can also see the stage in the CTV video clips -- it's all blue, blue, blue. Including the podium. The Toronto Star noticed too.
And now the Tories can all complain about how mean the media is, to criticize the Conservative party's campaign photo op the government's Canada Day celebration.

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Philosophy for the 21st Century 

Sorry for the lack of posts lately -- I've had another go-round with the flu -- but I've been getting a chuckle out of this.
So Jonah Goldberg has announced he has finished his magnum opus book -- and it will NOT be titled "Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton" but instead will be titled "Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods".
This news has provoked some great responses in the blogosphere.
First, here is TBogg with his suggestions for how Goldberg could compare Hegel to America's favorite philosopher today, Homer:
Hegel: "Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion”
Homer: "Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers."
~~~
Hegel: “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it”
Homer: "When are people going to learn? Democracy doesn't work."
~~~
Hegel: “God is, as it were, the sewer into which all contradictions flow”
Homer: "Flanders, it's no use praying. I already did the same thing, and we can't both win."
~~~
Hegel: “Truth in philosophy means that concept and external reality correspond.”
Homer: "It takes two to lie, Marge. One to lie and one to listen."
~~~
Hegel: “Poverty in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government.”
Homer: "Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American Dream?"
~~~
Hegel: “To be free is nothing, to become free is everything.”
Homer: "How come the bear can crap in the woods and I can't?"
~~~
Hegel: “Only one man ever understood me, and he didn't understand me.”
Homer: "Television. Teacher, mother, secret lover."
~~~
Hegel: "The History of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of Freedom... The destiny of the spiritual world, and... the final cause of the World at large, we claim to be Spirit's consciousness of its own freedom, and ipso facto, the reality of that freedom... This final aim is God's purpose with the world; but God is the absolutely perfect Being, and can, therefore, will nothing but himself."
Homer: "If the Bible has taught us anything—which it hasn't—it's that girls should stick to girl's sports like hot oil wrestling, foxy boxing and such and such."
~~~
Hegel: "America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World's History shall reveal itself”
Homer: "In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women."

Coming soon: Baruch Spinoza
Spinoza: “Desire is the very essence of man”
Homer: "I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
Then there is Jon Swift which his suggestion for Goldberg -- LOLcats!
Like many conservatives I can't wait for Goldberg to publish his book, which he promises will be "a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care." But the publication date keeps getting pushed farther and farther into the future. The first sign of trouble was when Goldberg asked for help from readers of The Corner. "I'm working on a chapter of the book which requires me to read a lot about and by Herbert Spencer," Goldberg said. "There's simply no way I can read all of it, nor do I really need to. But if there are any real experts on Spencer out there -- regardless of ideological affiliation -- I'd love to ask you a few questions in case I'm missing something." The idea that he would try to read any Spenser at all before writing about him already struck me as biting off more than he could chew. But the addition of Hegel to the new subtitle raises more troubling questions. Hegel is even more tedious and difficult to understand than Spenser and I'm afraid that finding someone who can explain Hegel to Goldberg is going to take up yet more precious time. After all, Hegel himself reportedly said, "Only one man ever understood me, and even he didn't understand me."
I don't know how Goldberg can possibly meet his deadline in time for the book to come out on the latest publication date -- December 26 of this year -- so I have an idea that will save Goldberg a lot of time writing and also spare the reader from having to plow through too much prose once it's finished. Most of Goldberg's ideas could be expressed much more economically, not to mention entertainingly, by using LOLcats, an Internet meme where pictures of cats and other cute animals (or "varmints," as Mitt Romney likes to call them) are captioned with grammatically challenged prose.
Here are some of Swift's suggestions:







Finally, however, it is necessary to note just how "tempting" that Totalitarian Temptation can really be -- it has snared poor Jonah himself! Glenn Greenwald reports on a recent appearance by Goldberg on Tucker Carlson where they were both panting over Dick Cheney:
In just two minutes of chatty, giggly Cheney worship, the following tough-guy cliches flew from their mouths:
* Cheney "doesn't bother talking the talk, he just walks the walk";
* he's "a politician who doesn't look at the polls. . . another Harry Truman";
* "love to have a beer with the guy";
* "a smart, serious man in American life";
* "Have you ever seen Dick Cheney give a speech? I mean, the contempt for the audience is palpable" -- "I know, I -- see, I love that. He looks like he should be eating a sandwich while he's doing it, eating lunch over the sink . . I love that";
* "I can just see him yelling, hey you kids, get off my lawn. I love it."
As always, the pulsating need among the strain of individual represented by Tucker Carlson and Johan Goldberg to search endlessly for strong, powerful, masculine figures so that they can feel those attributes and pose as one who exudes them. . .
Greenwald continues on to describe the most disturbing conversation of this interview, then Goldberg praises Cheney's secrecy:
GOLDBERG: And you know, but I do think that what Cheney has learned after a lifetime in Washington as a power player, is that the person who holds the secrets has power. And he is using that for what I would say, or probably what he believes to be certainly good ends. A lot of people disagree on that, but he's trying to do best as he can and he sees holding onto power as a tool to do that.
That, of course, is the defining mentality of the Authoritarian Mind, captured in its purest essence by Jonah. Our Leaders are Good and want to protect us. Therefore, we must accept -- and even be grateful -- when they prevent us from knowing what they are doing. The less we know, the more powerful our Leaders are. And that is something we accept and celebrate, for our Leaders are Good and we trust that the more powerful they are, the better we all shall be.
No inferences or interpretations are required to describe Jonah's mentality this way. That is precisely -- expressly -- what he said. And though it is rarely expressed in such explicit form, this is the mindset which, more than anything else, has enabled the rampant lawbreaking and unprecedented secrecy of the last six years.
...
Our government leaders know that they can act in complete secrecy -- and can act illegally -- because such a sizable portion of our population, and our press corps, not only accepts, but eagerly desires, such behavior in our Leaders. The authoritarian mind, by its nature, craves powerful government officials, the more powerful the better, because -- as Jonah made clear -- they place blind faith in the Goodness of those Leaders and crave an all-powerful figure whom they can follow and who, in exchange, will protect them.
And anything which diminishes that power -- whether it be the limits of the law, checks from other branches or the media, or even the basic obligation to govern out in the open -- will be opposed by the authoritarian follower, for whom maximizing the strength and power of the Leader is always the overriding goal. Conversely, anything which limits the power of the Leader is to be opposed.
I guess having just written a book about totalitarianism, Goldberg found it pretty seductive -- its always easier, of course, to let someone else make big decisions for you, and then if they turn out to be wrong it isn't your fault either -- so now he is ready to worship totalitarianism too. Maybe his title should be "The Last Temptation of Jonah".

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