Saturday, December 30, 2006

Follow the bouncing ball

Related to my post from a couple of days ago about how the world is not waiting for US leadership anymore, here is Richard Clarke writing the Washington Post about all of the world crises which the US should be doing something about, but isn't -- global warming, Russian retrenchment, Latin America's "leftist lurch", wars in Africa, arms control, international crime, and problems with the Pakinstan-Afghan border. Clark blames the Bush administration's distration with Iraq:
. . . with the nation involved in a messy war spiraling toward a bad conclusion, the key deputies and Cabinet members and advisers are all focusing on one issue, at the expense of all others: Iraq.
National Security Council veteran Rand Beers has called this the "7-year-old's soccer syndrome" -- just like little kids playing soccer, everyone forgets their particular positions and responsibilities and runs like a herd after the ball.
But on the other hand, given the Bush administration's record of failure, maybe we're safer if they all stay distracted.


I've been trying to decide on my response to the news that Saddam Hussein is dead -- he loomed so large in the US reasons for their invasion, yet in the end he was such a ridiculous figure.
So what does his death mean? Should we be glad? indifferent? hopeful? fearful? Will it lead to more violence or less?
Here is one response which will likely turn out to be accurate, from Juan Cole in Salon:
Saddam's hanging is just one more occasion for a blood feud in a country that now has thousands of them.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Greatest talking point ever!

It's the most billiant spin ever twisted, the best talking point ever produced. It's a phrase so fiendishly useful that we'll be hearing it again and again, from every government and corporation on earth.
Crooks and Liars quotes Homeland Security spokesperson Fran Townsend talking about the US failure to capture Osama Bin Laden. And really, it isn't a failure at all:
"It's a success that hasn't occurred yet."
Amazing! In one quick turn of phrase, a miserable present reality is converted into a glorious future achievement. How could anyone criticize this? Likewise, I suppose, one could describe just about any government or corporate failure.
Overspending? Government deficits? Naahh, those are just balanced budgets that haven't occured yet.
Election promises ignored or broken? Not at all, just fulfilment that hasn't occured yet.
Business decline? Inventory overstock? Real estate tanking? Nope, just a strong economy that hasn't occured yet.
Corruption and scandal? No such thing, just unimpeachable ethics that haven't occured yet.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Decline and fall of the American empire

Steve Clemons writes:
What many Americans fail to understand, is that George W. Bush's swaggering pugnaciousness and invasion of Iraq justified by the president with contrived and false excuses made much of the world very, very angry with us. That anger has been measured by the well known Pew Global Attitudes Project but by others as well.
While Bush scoffed at this global reaction, it has since hardened into power strategies -- and global leaders know that they can achieve greater legitimacy at home now by thwarting American preferences -- like in the latest UN sanctions against Iran.
American diplomacy needs to take this into account. Everything we want in the world is more expensive now -- not only because of a weakened dollar -- but because of our deteriorating political position and the anger that so many have at this country and our president.
But we do need to win some battles, or at least put things on hold, until there is someone in the White House who can begin turning around the tattered state of America's foreign policy position.
What Steve Clemons fails to understand --or perhaps just doesn't want to mention because its too upsetting -- is that the rest of the world is not going to wait around for the United States to take over again.
Nobody is going to let Commander Coo-coo Bananas and President Cheney "win some battles". Nor is the world going to "put things on hold" waiting for the American electorate to come to its senses and vote in a president who isn't a warmongering moron.
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
We waited for the American people to come to their senses in 2004.
They didn't.
And we have no guarantees for 2008 either.
It was really all mostly smoke and mirrors anyway -- all the stuff about how America was the shining city on the hill, the world's only superpower with the world's best military and the world's greatest democracy, and the president was the world's natural leader. It's really only been since FDR that America took on this reputation for world leadership anyway -- Woodrow Wilson was an oddball exception, but Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover were happy enough to let Europe entangle itself in Africa and Asia and the Middle East; they wanted America to remain aloof and independent.
After World War II and during the Cold War, FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy really did seem to think the US could run the world. But since Vietnam, American presidents had realized that American exceptionalism was more myth than reality.
In reality, America was actually more like The Emerald City, and the President was more like the Wizard of Oz -- hiding a Rube Goldberg machine behind the curtain, pushing and pulling levers and setting off fireworks and puffs of smoke, making unearthly groaning noises and calliope music.
It was a useful myth while it lasted, valuable at keeping everybody else in line, particularly after the Cold War ended -- nobody dared challenge the US because, after all, it might be true. So the nations of the world continued to tip their hats to the American president.
Now the world has watched as America elected a meglomaniac ignoramus as President. Twice. Who has demonstrated that the American military is apparently still incapable of winning a war against a bunch of teenagers making bombs in their basements.
We've all seen that behind a curtain is just a deeply flawed man who doesn't know what he is doing.
So now the world is shaking itself loose from the American myth.
Maybe this will turn out to be good for the world, when everyone has to stand on their own.
Or maybe not.
But either way, the world won't go back.
The American empire has fallen and it can't get up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Great photo of the day

In this great AP photo by Jeff Topping, we see Booger the dog, Kitty the cat, and Mousie the mouse, all waiting outside an Arizona restaurant for their owner.

Stepping up

Following up on this story from two weeks ago about the terrible conditions at Pikangikum, I'm happy to note that the Guelph Tribune reports the Rotary Club of Wellington South has donated $12,000 to provide a reverse osmosis water purification system for the school.
At least its a start.
And I missed this at the time, but the federal Conservatives are acting to repeal a section of the Indian Act which prevents Aboriginal people from making discrimination complaints against band councils and the federal government. Some Aboriginal leaders are afraid of the potential impact on band councils. But it sounds to me like this change in long overdue and I applaud it:
Grand Chief Stan Beardy of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political group representing 49 First Nations across Ontario, hopes the bill may ultimately bring relief to people living in the kind of squalor most Canadians can only imagine.
His communities include Pikangikum, 250 kilometres north of Kenora, where most homes have no running water.
“In many areas there are minimum standards of what is acceptable and what isn't,” Mr. Beardy said. “And it's only recently that my young people have started to put pressure to make sure that those same rights are afforded to them.
“I think they'll demand that they have access to universal rights like everybody else.”
You know, whenever we are extenting human rights to a group that doesn't have them yet, we are told the same things -- that we can't do it, we mustn't rush, we need more time, society just isn't ready, and besides, we can't afford it.
Well, tough. We've got to do it anyway.
At least its a start.

Bush tries The Martingale

There's a betting system called The Martingale that if you lose, you wager double the next time and the next time and the next time, until eventually you win and so get all your losses back.
Sounds like a plan -- after all, you're bound to win eventually, aren't you?
It is the Gambler's Fallacy to think that you're ever due to win any time, no matter how many in a row you 've lost - cards have no memory and neither does the roulette wheel. After doubling your bet a few times, you are risking a huge amount of money against a miniscule benefit -- even if you do win, all you have is your first investment back.
But the Bush administration appears bound and determined to try a Martingale in the Middle East -- either by escalating the war in Iraq, or widening it to Iran, or both.
They're playing Viva Las Vegas with real people's lives. The Martingale doesn't turn losers into winners, it only makes bigger losers.

Great line of the day

From Attytood via Today in Iraq:
. . . it all gets intellectually tangled when you try to compare a one-day terrorist attack, which deliberately targeted civilians in a way that any civilized human should find repulsive, with three and a half years of combat and collateral damage.
Tangled -- and yet I do believe in my gut that the killing fields in Iraq flow directly from the senseless violence of 9/11, and so I believe that stories and blog posts that compare the death tolls are worthwhile -- because for one day they make us think, a little harder and a little more out loud than usual, what Americans should be thinking every single day.
Just what in God's name are we doing over there?
Emphasis mine.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Stick with Canada

Reading about war on today of all days, one thought occured to me -- America should stay out of any war that Canada doesn't want to fight.
Look at the record-
WWI, WWII, Korea, Gulf War, Kosovo: Canada supported, and the allies, including America, won.
Vietnam, Iraq: Canada did not support, and America lost
Afghanistan: Still a toss-up.
But if Canada pulls out, it's likely safe to assume that America will lose that one, too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Great line of the day

Speaking for everyone who has ever had to work with the public, hairy fish nuts says:
I love all my clients and not just because they pay me but because they're human and that means one day they'll die.
And ya just gotta love anonomyous blogging, too.

Rhetorical bullets

Our Steven, another Profile in Courage:
Harper told a Calgary-based radio program that the United Nations and the entire international community want Canadian troops in the war-torn country. And he said the soldiers still believe in the mission. "If they're willing to take the real bullets, we can take the rhetorical bullets back here at home," Harper said.
Meanwhile, Canada's own General Hillier is firing a few of those rhetorical bullets himself, making statements about how he is apparently shivering at the prospect of another federal election. God forbid, I guess, that the Canadian people might vote this time based on their feelings about our Afghanistan adventure.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I read the news today, oh boy

What a balls-up this turned into. The player was kicked off the hockey team for not signing a Canadian flag, but now he says he never intended not to sign it. Now the coach has been suspended for kicking the player off the team and for making rude remarks about him. But the league commissioner now says the player was suspended for his poor performance on ice -- apparently he's not actually the team's top scorer, he's only tied for that title. It all makes perfect sense, doesn't it. But here's the kicker:
The Sea Dogs are last place in the east division.
And no wonder.

And another front has opened in the War on Christmas, this time in Ontario's courts. Of course Justice Cohen shouldn't have made such a dumb ruling, but everyone else needs to just chill out -- remember "peace on earth and goodwill to men"?

Why does Bush act like it was someone else's idea to send 20,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 more troops to Iraq? Now he's reassuring everyone that of course he couldn't possibly do it "unless they have a specific mission".
I don't think "win the war" is specific enough, George.

Apropos, The Onion reports "Thousands More Dead in Continuing Iraq Victory".

BAG News Notes has an interesting take on how Hezbollah is spinning its image in Lebanon. This is a website I don't read often enough -- it analyzes the sub-text behind news photos, demonstrating how they are easily worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Loyalty to a culture

For the story behind these treasures and the personal courage which saved them -- a true story more fascinating than any Indiana Jones movie ever made -- read Galloping Beaver's The Keyholders of Afghanistan and follow the links at the end.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ask the farmers what they want

Imagine, after 32 years, being fired by a man who won't even talk to you.
That's what happened to Wheat Board president Adrian Measner:
Measner said [Agriculture minister Chuck] Strahl never spoke with him directly about his firing. "It isn't a very professional way to operate, but it is the method of operation that the minister has chosen," he said from his home near Winnipeg.
Now we'll see whether Strahl, who has never been a farmer, is also afraid to seek farmer opinion about ending the Wheat Board marketing monopoly. Will he hold a plebicite -- or if he is so ideologically driven that he doesn't care what the grain farmers want?
Here's another surprising quote from this story:
Carl Siemens, who grows grains and oilseeds near Rush Lake, Sask., said Tuesday's announcement could cost the Conservatives votes in the next election. "Although a goodly number of (farmers) actually voted for the Conservative government in the last federal election, they did so with no knowledge that this government was going to move in this fashion to remove the Canadian Wheat Board," he said.
Have they been living in caves? Why would any farmer not know already that the Conservatives wanted to dump the Wheat Board? They're been talking about it for years.
Of course, maybe they just assumed that the Conservatives wouldn't dare do such a thing without a producer vote.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yeah, right!

Bushistas are saying that Bush can copy the success of Vietnam with 40,000 extra troops.
Sorry about the mess on your computer -- I should have waited for you to swallow before I told you that.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Great line of the day

Suburban Guerrilla:
Does anything say Christmas quite like giant inflatable snow globes?

I read the news today, oh boy

Brisk market for burial shrouds in Iraq holy city -- well, as least there's one growth industry in Iraq.

The Bush administration might as well call their proposed troop increase Operation Big Swinging Dick, because that is whose idea it was and that is the idea behind it -- to prove to all the Dirty Fucking Hippies that the US military can win against a bunch of teenagers in Iraq. When will Harry Reid learn that you simply cannot give Bush bi-partisan cover? You say its OK to send more troops to Iraq provided this helps them all come home sooner -- but why would you believe that Bush ever intends to bring troops home?

August writes:
Congratulations to Time for actually thinking of something even stupider than Rudy Giuliani in 2001 . . . Person of the Year isn't the Special fucking Olympics. The entire point of the exercise is that everyone doesn't get a medal for participating. The purpose of the issue is to address the person or persons who, for bad or worse, most affected world events of that year. So they picked... everyone? Well of course everyone affected world events the most, fuckwits.
I mentioned Giuliani because I think most people who used to care about this would agree that 2001 was the year that without any argument Time blatantly copped out on the entire point of the issue. Osama bin Laden was clearly the person who, like Hitler in 1933, affected world events the most that year. But bin Laden wouldn't sell magazines and American readers would be too stupid to realize it's not an award. So now, five years later, Time's given in and decided that Person of the Year is, officially, an award. Congratulations, Time Magazine is now Everybody Gets a Trophy Day.
Wake me when we have journalism in America again.
And with the side-benefit that Time could avoid giving the award to either Al Gore or Nancy Pelosi. Time Canada gave it to Stephen Harper -- I guess Canadians just aren't "you"-worthy.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Enjoy what the Poorman calls The Greatest Webpage in the Known Universe

Donny we hardly knew ye

Bill in Portland Maine treats us to a Rumsfeld tribute, to the tune of "Memories":
Mem'ries, light the corners of my mind...
"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
Misty water-colored memories, of the way we were...
"There's another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence."
Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind...
"Needless to say, the President is correct. Whatever it was he said."
Smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were...
"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. Stuff happens."
Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time re-written every line?
"We do know of certain knowledge that he [bin Laden] is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country. Or dead."
If we had the chance to do it all again tell me, would we? Could we?
"As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns---the ones we don't know we don't know."
Mem'ries, may be beautiful and yet, what's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget...
"I don't do quagmires."
So it's the laughter we will remember...
"Now, settle down, settle down. Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."
Whenever we remember...the way we were...
"I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty."
The way we were...
"If I said yes, that would then suggest that that might be the only place where it might be done which would not be accurate, necessarily accurate. It might also not be inaccurate, but I'm disinclined to mislead anyone."
No matter what happens, sir, we’ll always have Tikrit and Baghdad. And areas east, west, north and south somewhat.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

All about Frasier

I love the Internets! Here's the story behind the pilot episode of the greatest sitcom of all time, as told by one of the show's creators Peter Casey: How FRASIER came to be, More FRASIER, and FRASIER starring Lisa Kudrow??.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Great line of the day

From Maccabee's diary at Kos - Bush Has No Idea How Much Trouble He Is In:
[Neocons] fought no wars, worn no uniforms beyond Cub Scouts, know no Arabic, and are truly impressed with their knowledge of history. . . . These folks are exactly like the anti-Communists after McCarthy. They cannot let go of their addiction to boogymen philosophies: Communism ...Atheism ...Homosexuality ... and now ... Islamism.
Emphasis mine

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It is shameful

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

This story made me weep.
Why can't Canada do better than this? No Christmas lights or indoor plumbing make for grim Yule on reserve:
. . . "The conditions in Pikangikum would not be tolerated in our suburbs or rural areas," said Dr. Pete Sarsfield, medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit based in Kenora, Ont. "It simply would not be allowed."
"What are they reviewing, the font?" he asked in an interview Tuesday when told that Indian Affairs is still studying the damning 18-page report dated last September.
The report included photos of a frozen outhouse smeared with overflowing human waste, and the plastic containers many of Pikangikum's 2,200 residents use to store untreated lake water for cooking and bathing. Many people can't get to taps for clean water from the reserve's treatment plant because they live too far away, says the report.
Just 43 of the 431 homes located 250 kilometres north of Kenora have running water or indoor toilets, says Susan Bertrand, a spokeswoman for Indian Affairs.
Work to connect the remaining homes has been stalled since 2001. That's when the former Liberal government took over the band's finances - which were in order - citing its failure to deal with a daunting range of social problems. The Federal Court later ruled in Pikangikum's favour but the matter is still before the courts.
And, of course, God forbid any bureaucrat could ever provide some project funding for septic tanks or portable toilets until every last court case is settled -- why, the Auditor General might complain!
Here are some photos of this reserve and its people -- they're working hard to resolve some awful social problems, like high suicide rates, while also trying to promote economic development.
Wouldn't it be nice if the people of Ontario and of Canada could stop getting in their way and give them a bit of a hand for a change, eh?

Here is the photo credit for the last photo

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Milgaard case

There are three problems with this wrap-up story about the Milgaard inquiry -- problems I fully expect to see repeated in the final report:
In the late 1990s DNA proved that the rapist, Larry Fisher, was indeed the real killer. Fisher had lived in the basement of the home Milgaard was visiting on the morning of the attack.
The inquiry has heard how police originally considered that the then unidentified rapist could have killed Miller, but when one of Milgaard's friends came forward pointing the finger at Milgaard, that lead was never followed through.
Well, it was perhaps a little more than just not following up on a lead.
When Fisher was caught for the Saskatoon rapes a year later, he was put on trial. In Regina. For an inexplicable reason that nobody at all, at all can remember.
And as a result, the Saskatoon media never knew that Larry Fisher existed or that he had raped several women around the same time that Miller was killed or that he lived near the murder scene or that his apartment was in the basement of the house where Milgaard had been visiting that day.
Then there is this:
[Milgaard's lawyer ] Wolch's comments were dismissed by lawyers representing police and prosecutors at the inquiry.
They have consistently "dismissed" the Milgaard side. This has been seen from the beginning as an adversarial proceeding -- two years ago, the Inquiry was almost derailed when it began, in effect, to try to put Milgaard on trial again, just to demonstrate how awfully guilty he looked and how the police and prosecutors really couldn't be blamed for thinking Milgaard was guilty.
And finally, we're supposed to feel sorry for the prosecutors and police, rather than for Milgaard:
Knox called it a "campaign of character assassination." Most of the allegations [of police and prosecutorial targeting] have not been borne out in the evidence brought forward at the inquiry.
Garrett Wilson, the lawyer acting on behalf of Serge Kujawa, the director of public prosecutions who handled Milgaard's original appeal, also took issue with Milgaard supporters and their "shotgun approach" to criticizing justice officials as they tried to get the case reopened.
"That (prosecutors) could be accused of deliberate deception in the conduct of their responsibilities as members of the justice system of Saskatchewan is horrendous, monstrous," Wilson said.
If Milgaard's mother hadn't made her explosive accusations of cover-up and malfeasance, the media wouldn't have played up the story the way they did. And I don't think Milgaard would ever have been freed.
It was Milgaard who spent two decades in jail for a crime he didn't commit. So, no, I don't feel any particular outrage at the "horrendous, monstrous" accusations which the Milgaard supporters made over the years. Comes with the territory, folks.
And we still need an explanation for wisking Fisher down to Regina for that trial.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I read the news today, oh boy

So the Pickton trial is supposed to last a year? How ridiculous, for six charges -- what possible justification could there be to take any more than two weeks per murder, 12 weeks tops, to hear the evidence? He only has to be found guilty of one or two anyway. Prosecutors better watch out that they aren't being played here, with the goal of being able to appeal based on the jury being prejudiced against the defendant.

Here's a 'pot calls the kettle black' story -- Bush Aides Seek Alternatives to Iraq Study Group’s Proposals, Calling Them Impractical. Yeah, like Bush's plans for the war have been the height of rationality and focus. And here's an analogy I've never seen before:
The report’s authors say their strategy will work only if taken largely as a whole; Mr. Baker warned against treating it like a “fruit salad,” picking the juiciest pieces. The White House, however, appears to be groping for the right fork to do exactly that.
Rick Salutin calls it Canada's own "hanging chads" scandal -- the emerging storyline that the RCMP used a big public announcement of the income-trust investigation last December to make sure Paul Martin's Liberals were defeated and Steven Harper's Conservatives were elected.

Colbert responds to the news that "truthiness" is dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's word of the year:
"Though I'm no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honour me. And what an honour. Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like 'squash', 'merry', 'crumpet', 'the', 'xylophone', 'circuitous', 'others' and others."
Wasn't truthiness also some linguist association's word for last year, too? The way the world is now, I guess it could stand for more than one year.

Finally, how about this? Now, I've been to the occasional restaurant that I WISHED was darker, but...
The Coolest 8 Year Old In The World Talks About O'Reilly

This was from Al Rodgers' diary on Kos. It's passing strange but strangely fascinating.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Great Line of the Day

From Meteor Blades:
. . . If the current fatality rate holds [in Iraq], more Americans will die this month than any previous month since the war began.
If Russ Feingold’s August 2005 proposal for withdrawal had been adopted, the last American troops would be leaving Iraq in a couple of weeks. . . . But Feingold’s, and the proposal by Brian Katulis and Larry Korb, and John Kerry’s, and Jack Murtha’s and Wes Clark’s have all been ignored. So, the skulls are stacked, American, Iraqi and others, the bloodbath goes on, and the dithering ceases not. With no end in sight.
Emphasis mine.

Friday, December 08, 2006

It was 26 years ago that John Lennon died

For me, this was the day the music died. Read this Kos diary about that terrible night.
Don't you wonder what songs he would have written?

To the barricades!

In his post titled The principal sin of the Baker-Hamilton Report, Glenn Greenwald says it took less than a month for the Washington Gang of 500 and the Wise Old Men to repudiate the November election results and decide that the US should stay in Iraq -- ignoring the fact that six out of ten Americans want the American troops out of Iraq by next June.
. . . They now recognize that Americans have given up on the war but they believe that that view is rash, uninformed, emotional -- "precipitous," to use the condescending label assigned to that view by the [Baker-Hamilton] Report. The crazed and lowly masses need the steady, sober hand of the Washington Establishment . . . before the ink was dry on the Report, all of the entrenched propagandists for the Washington Establishment fell all over themselves praising its great wisdom and pronouncing it to be the solemn duty of all serious people to endorse it.
. . . We just had an election where Americans repudiated this war and made clear that they want to withdraw. Yet somehow, within a matter of weeks, Washington power circles were able to shoo that election result away like the annoying mosquito that it is and supplant their own pro-war judgment as the "mainstream" view to which all serious people, by definition, pledge their allegiance.
Its time for 60s deja vu -- when the "establishment" won't listen, man, ya gotta hit the streets -- again!

Photos from Marcin Fuchs' archive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Depends what the meaning of "temporary" is

The US military bases in Iraq are the 800 lb gorilla -- no matter how bad things get for Iraqis, no matter how violent the civil war becomes, no matter how disfunctional the government, no matter how much the war costs or how many US soldiers die, the Bush administration simply does not want to give up those bases.
LiberalOasis notes the little dance that the Iraq Study Group is doing around the military base question -- "permanent" bases bad, but "temporary" bases OK:
RECOMMENDATION 22: The President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base or bases, then the U.S. government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.
In the context of a report that does not envision any sort of timetable for withdrawal, and does envision the "imbedding of substantially more U.S. military personnel in all Iraqi Army battalions and brigades, as well as within Iraqi companies," for "some time," "temporary" can easily be perceived by the Iraqi people as a cloak for "permanent." . . . back in March, AP described what the Americans are doing:
The concrete goes on forever [at Balid air base], vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that's now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a "heli-park" as good as any back in the States.
At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq's western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.
And this pool at the Balad air base north of Baghdad is certainly not an inflatable:

Move along, move along

Coming soon to a peaceful demonstration near you -- the US military's new 'Goodbye' weapon which makes you feel like your skin is burning up thus forcing you to run away from the police as fast as you can -- but, they tell us, don't worry; its all completely harmless -- hey, didn't somebody say that about the taser, too?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I read the news today, oh boy

Pressure mounts on RCMP chief -- as well it should. Mahar Arar's attorney says:
“. . . If [RCMP commissioner Zaccardelli] knew [that Mahar Arar was innocent], he remained silent and didn't do anything to protect an innocent man for over a year. But if he didn't know, which is what he's saying today, then this leads to a whole series of questions. Who's running the RCMP?”
Over at the Wheat Board, Measner's firing is a not-subtle message to every civil servant in Ottawa -- if you want to keep your job, you must back the Conservatives ideologues, especially when they are lying to the public. The Conservatives pretend to be the party of principles, but they can't defend their policies. Stahl can fire Measner in a fit of pique, but if he tries to abolish single-desk wheat marketing without a producer vote, he'll be tied up in court for the next five years.

Vancouver health clinic wonders how to pay bills without charging patients. Well, I'll just bet they're wondering now -- the tone of this piece implies we should all feel sorry for this medical clinic, but shouldn't the clinic owners have checked this out a little better before they bought all that state-of-the-art equipment?

Looking south, Swopa writes about Cheney's recent summons to Saudi Arabia and points out that the United States is between a rock and a hard place in Iraq --
So the Saudis (and the Sunnis they back in Iraq) say X is unacceptable, and the Shiites (backed by Iran) say that anything besides X is unacceptable. Good luck finding a solution to that problem, Dick.
And does anyone else agree that Bush Sr. seems to be cracking up?

"Strategizing" equal rights?

If Dion lets the Conservatives win any vote on same-sex marriage, no matter how harmless the motion appears to be, just because he is trying to pander to his caucus -- well, then, he might as well quit right now.
For the Liberals to throw gay rights under the first bus to pass them by would mean either that the Liberal caucus members are gutless when faced with any kind of organized lobby group, or that Dion himself is too gutless to lead the caucus in a controversial question. Either way, they're toast.
The Liberals are running the "free vote" idea up the flagpole as a "strategic" question. This is fine, I guess, as long as gay marriage itself doesn't lose in the process:
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is poised to allow his MPs to vote freely on the question of reopening the same-sex marriage debate, musing that imposing party discipline would only hand the Conservative government more leverage on the issue . . . if the question was strictly on striking down the right of gays to marry [Dion]would in fact insist on voting the party line.
But Dion said for now it's important to think strategically.
"If we have a party vote, he'll say that I muzzled my MPs and that if I had let them vote freely the motion would have passed," Dion said of Harper.
"Maybe from a strategic point of view, it would be better to have a free vote."
Dion is doubtless also trying to avoid conflict on his first week on the job. A handful of Liberal MPs are in favour of revisiting the same-sex issue, and would have to be disciplined if they acted out of step with a whipped vote . . .
. . . there seems almost no chance the vote will pass in the Commons, with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP both imposing party discipline, and the vast majority of Liberals against reopening the debate.
A number of Conservatives, including cabinet ministers John Baird, Jim Prentice, Loyola Hearn and David Emerson are also expected to vote against the motion, along with a number of other Tory MPs.
But how much "leverage" would Dion and the Liberals have if a majority in the Commons actually did vote to re-open the gay marriage issue -- just because everyone was too busy strategizing and pandering and triangulating and all that, and didn't get an accurate count?

Great line of the day

From Ken Levine:
I read where clown Emmet Kelly Jr. passed away, a sad event, and my heart goes out to his family and friends. But I just can’t help imaging the funeral procession – one hearse filled with two hundred mourners.

I read the news today, oh boy

Police identify woman, child in deadly plunge -- It is a tragedy when society cannot intervene in time to stop a person from committing suicide, but I sometimes wish we could start a group or a movement or a poster campaign or something called "Don't Take Your Children With You".
Tori Spelling To Pen Memoirs -- that will be a short book, won't it?
Bush: 'I'm not happy' about Bolton's resignation -- well, I am. The "quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" and "serial abuser" of subordinates is toast. And some of the news stories aren't just mindlessly repeating the White House lie that the Democrats cost Poor John his job; they are actually reporting the truth, that his nomination was derailed by several key Senate Republicans. The Galloping Beaver has a good take on the whole thing, too.
3 members of missing family found alive -- so they drove off through mountains in the winter with a toddler and a baby, and no extra food or water or clothing, and apparently without telling anyone their route. But its hard to be too critical, I guess -- they were from San Fransisco, and may not have realized that winter weather kills unprepared people. Even here in Saskatchewan, it seems like somebody freezes to death every winter just because they took off driving somewhere without giving the weather a moment's thought.
Echidne of the snakes writes about the Fear of Insufficient Womanliness Test and the Fear of Excessive Womanliness Text applied to women in politics. "Just imagine if men like Tony Blair or George Bush would have to pass a similar Excessive Manliness Test where they'd have to prove that they won't suddenly go all red-faced and bulgy-eyed with anger, that they won't get carried away with penis-comparisons, that they won't fail to see social cues in the behavior of VIPs from other countries." Or, I suppose, start any illegal, unprovoked and unnecessary wars just to prove what Real Men they are...

Great line of the day

Over at Peace, Order and Good Government, Eh?, Kevin Brennan writes about Stephane Dion -- He Soft Rocks My World
Frankly, I've never understood why either Ignatieff or Rae were being presented--and viewed--as "pragmatic" choices for the Liberal leadership. Both were high-risk candidates . . .
[The Ignatieff campaign] was troubled and prone to serious gaffes . . . Candidates without real campaigning experience quite frequently make these kinds of mistakes. It's why they should never be put into leadership positions until they've survived a couple of campaigns and know how not to shoot themselves and their parties in the foot . . .
Rae has experience but was a failure as premier of Ontario. Most people I've asked about him consider Rae t be a decent enough guy but could never imagine voting for him again . . .
Given these choices, Dion seems like a safe enough bet to me. He's been in politics for over a decade. There's no evidence linking him to scandal. And most of all, he's a strongly federalist Quebecker. For the last forty years, the Liberals have won elections when led by a federalist Quebecker and lost elections when led by anyone else.
Exactly. Emphasis mine.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I read the news today, oh boy

Herewith, I'm starting what I hope will be a regular feature on my blog, some "short takes" on the news stories of the day -- as I troll through the daily news, I sometimes find I want to make just a couple of comments about individual news items and other people's blog posts -- in the tradition of Cursor and The Sideshow, though nowhere near as good.

Christmas Stories

Here's one from Whiskey Fire:
The first year after we moved up here to chilly upstate NY from sunny Florida we were pretty broke, so we put off buying a Christmas tree until the last possible minute. We picked one up from some Boy Scout sale in the parking lot of a Methodist Church, because it was cheap. Since it was so late in the year we didn't have a lot of choices; we ended up buying one that looked a lot like the Charlie Brown model, only it was about 20 feet tall and had these evil branches that stuck out like swords. The needles were dry and hard, and when we picked the damn thing up they showered down on us like tiny little razor blades. One needle got under my glasses and stabbed me in the eye, and I was bloodshot for the holidays.
Needless to say, getting the thing stood up in the living room was a pain in the ass and a half (thus a pain in three cheeks total). Now, let me warn any Whiskey Fire readers who do not already know this: no matter how much you love and respect your Soul Mate or your children, if there is any hitch in the process whatsoever, putting up a Christmas tree together will make you want to kill them. Christmas trees can cause deeper and darker and more savage Instant Hate than even Being Late and Lost and Arguing Over Directions.
So that first year, the Christmas tree buying was kind of a total disaster. We resolved to do much better the following year: we swore we'd get the tree earlier, we'd get a better Christmas tree stand, we'd hide the kitchen knives, and so on.
Of course, we screwed this up. We got to maybe December 21st. No tree. The financial picture had improved, but our semesters go right up close to the holidays, and we were buried in papers and so on. We were exhausted and wanted to rest: the 7-Year-Old was then just a 4-Month-Old, and we weren't getting a lot of sleep. On top of everything else, the whole Florida recount fiasco was in progress, and we were appalled at, uh, how absolutely freaking appalling that was.
So it was about 6PM. We were both grouchy and bleary-eyed, annoyed and irked. We climbed into our economy Saturn and went out to get a tree. NYMary said she'd seen or heard of a place selling good cheap trees out by our small regional airport, way out in the countryside. The night was dark and cloudy and wet; there was snow on the ground but it was a relatively warm day, which meant some melting, which meant a ton of fog. Driving the road out to the airport was like driving through some B horror movie scenery, only more sullen. And, of course, when we finally got there, the place we were driving to was missing: we just could not goddamn find it. The wind howled, the darkness crowded in, and then the Saturn started to make a strange noise under the hood, like a cat got its tail caught in the fan belt or something. It was really kind of a bleak moment.
I mean, it sucked ass. Emotionally, it was even worse than the previous year, when we'd wanted to kill each other. Now we just wanted to kill ourselves.
But this is a Christmas story, so it ends well. As we drove through the fog, suddenly we saw a hand-painted sign: "Christmas Trees," with an arrow leading up a long, curving driveway. I turned the car suddenly. There was this guy sitting outside his garage, with a really well-laid-out selection of trees in his yard, all nice and full-branched. He was friendly, talkative, very upstate, and twenty minutes later we had a perfect-sized tree bundled up on the car. And when we got home we discovered that the new Christmas tree stand we bought at Lowes was actually really easy to use. Even the horrible noise under the hood simply... went away.
It was a god-damned Christmas miracle
Maybe it's dumb, but I've never gone from feeling really, really bad to feeling wonderful and warm and happy quite so fast in all my life. Sometimes, life smiles. Sometimes, that Christmas tree farm shows up out of nowhere, and you get to remember that there are still good people alive in this world. Even if you can't always see them in the fog.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dion's first victory will be same-sex marriage

Showing that terrific grasp of timing that will undoubtedly serve him so well during the upcoming election, too, Stephen Harper is apparently still going to hold the same-sex marriage vote for the week after the Liberal convention.
Did he actually schedule it this way on purpose?
Harper has given his new rival, Stephane Dion, a success in the House for his very first high-profile vote.
Talk about great optics -- Dion wll be able to show his leadership on a Liberal core issue, equal rights, during his very first vote in the House, and it will be a vote he will win.
Told ya Harper would regret bringing up same sex marriage again.

The WYSIWYG leader

When Liberals voted for Dion, they were voting against the kind of political shenigans described in this story -- the trickery, triangulation, manouvers, optics, spin and all those other words that basically are just political synonyms for "lying":
Of all the sweaty palmed shakedowns, the not-so-secret pacts and the unseemly convention floor shoving matches, a whimsical decision late Friday by a half dozen or so of Gerard Kennedy's ex-officio delegates to throw their support to last-place contender Martha Hall Findlay on the first ballot turned out to be pivotal.
They felt confident Kennedy could spare a few votes and hoped they might be able to boost the lone female contender ahead of seventh-place Joe Volpe.
But those few votes made all the difference. Kennedy wound up slipping into fourth, just two votes behind Dion. The psychological impact of those paltry two votes on the 5,000 delegates turned out to be huge.
Dion was suddenly the guy with momentum, however slight, and Kennedy's campaign effectively stalled.
So basically, guys, ya shoulda voted for the person you actually wanted to win. And you didn't.
Dion is not, of course, an idiot, and he can probably spin with the best of them. But he doesn't come across as a trickster.
With Dion, what you see is what you get.
He is sincere, open, earnest, likeable, and a person who inspires great loyalty -- Canadians all across the country will see this as they get to know Stephane Dion. And in the end, without even seeming to try, Dion will contrast pretty well with the hectoring tone and imperial court approach of Steven Harper.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Laugh --

We just watched this great performance by Otis Lee Crenshaw (aka Rich Hall. Enjoy.

Great line of the day

Rick Mercer:
At the end of the day though, watching Dion on stage, I couldn’t help but be amazed at his physical presence. The Liberals went into this convention with a host of choices. They could have gone with a battle-tested politician, a former athlete, a world famous academic or a food bank founder from the West; at the end of the day they choose the nerd.
That's pretty Canadian.
Emphasis mine.

Dion momentum

The "politics-in-the-raw" of the Liberal Leadership Convention is pretty fascinating. Particularly ineresting this time around are the blogs, like
this one from CBC and this one from Jason Cherniak.
I'm rooting for Stephane Dion -- what a Liberal leader he would make! Cherniak is supporting Dion too. Dion is winning the CTV poll (though hasn't been freeped by anyone yet.)
If Dion wins, the key to his victory will prove to be Kennedy's move to him after the second ballot -- it came at just the right time, I think.

UPDATE: He did it! Won with 2500 of the final 4500 votes!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Great lines of the day

About New York Times war-mongering columnist Tom Friedman --
Jane at Firedoglake:
My first clue that the Baker Group was completely full of shit came when I learned that they had spent an hour listening to what Tom Friedman had to say.
Glenn at Unclaimed Territory:
. . . Tom Friedman is a morally bankrupt narcissist whose only devotion is to the self-love of his own genius . . .
But tragically, there is nothing unique about Tom Friedman. What drives him is the same mentality that enabled the administration's invasion of Iraq and, so much worse, it is the mentality that is keeping us there and will keep us there for the indefinite future. We stay in Iraq in pursuit of goals we know are fantasies, because to do otherwise requires the geniuses and serious establishment analysts to accept responsibility for what they have done -- and that is, by far, the most feared and despised outcome.
The invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake. But the behavior of our political and media leaders after that, and now, reveal that they are not just bereft of judgment but entirely bereft of character.
Emphasis mine.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

So what's new?

Gee, you miss a couple of days blogging and the world turns inside out.
Or maybe not -- did you know that the US failure in Iraq is not the Bush administration's fault at all?
Nope. Apparently the conventional wisdom among the Washington pundits now is to blame it on:
a) the craven Iraqi people
b) the cowardly American people
c) Both

Fired by fax

for telling the truth:
. . . [In]a recent speech to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce . . . [Wheat Board president] Measner warned of the dire economic consequences for the board, the City of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba if the government allows competition.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

They've lost it

The Americans who supported the war in Iraq are now going completely crazy.
Tristero reports Rush Limbaugh says, "Fine, just blow the place up" while leading liberal hawk Jonathan Chait says, "Bring back Saddam Hussein!" Crooks and Liars reports that NYT's Tom Friedman wants to declare a mulligan and start over. And Bush says its all Iraq's fault -- he's going to ask the Iraq prime minister "What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?"
Yglesias explains the motivation behind this hysteria:
The primary question facing America's pundit class today is how to avoid responsibility for the situation in Iraq, which is almost certain to get much worse over the next two or three years . . . Anyone who defends Bush's strategy is going to wind up looking bad, because after continuing to fail for a while it will be abandonned in favor of withdrawal. Anyone who advocates withdrawal is going to wind up looking bad, because eventually it will be implemented and bad stuff will happen down the road. Consequently, what you need to go is suggest a pony hunt in some territory where you're sure the administration won't go looking (calls for a regional conference are the center-left version of this) that way when the stay-the-course-until-eventually-you-leave cycle plays out, you get to claim that if only they'd followed my advice the war would have been won. Meanwhile, blame for defeat will be located primarily not on George W. Bush, but on the stab-in-the-back crowd on the left who made it politically impossible for Bush to find the pony.
Funny? Why yes, yes it is -- as long as we try to forget that there are hundreds of thousands of real people dying over there.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Great line of the day

Finally, the Cindy Sheehan question is being asked -- just what are Americans supposed to achieve in Iraq?.
Juan Cole writes:
. . . What is the mission? When will it be accomplished?
At what point will the people of Ramadi wake up in the morning and say, 'We've changed our minds. We like the new government dominated by Shiite ayatollahs and Kurdish warlords. We're happy to host Western Occupation troops on our soil. We don't care if those troops are allied with the Israeli military, which is daily bombing our brethren in Gaza and killing them and keeping them down. We're changed persons. We're not going to bother to set any IEDs tonight and we've put away our sniping rifles.'
(You could substitute Tikrit, Samarra, Baquba, and other Sunni Arab cities for Ramadi).
It is not going to happen. In fall, 2003, 14 percent of Sunni Arabs thought it was legitimate to attack US personnel in Iraq. Now over 70 percent do. Isn't it going toward 100 percent? . . .
What is the military mission? I can't see a practical one. And if there is not a military mission that can reasonably be accomplished in a specified period of time, then keeping US troops in al-Anbar is a sort of murder. Because you know when they go out on patrol, a few of them each week are going to get blown up or shot down. Reliably. Each week. Steadily. It is monstrous to force them to play Russian roulette every day unless there is a clear mission that could thereby be accomplished. There is not.
Emphasis mine.

Super Dogs

Here are some great photos from the Super Dogs Carnival in Japan.
Australian Shepherd

Miniature Poodle

Jack Russell Terriers

Toy Poodle

Boston Terrier

Reality vs. fantasy

First, the reality.
As Iraq descends into what will be one of the world's most violent civil wars, British MP Boris Johnson writes a story in the Telgraph newspaper, I remember the quiet day we lost the war in Iraq:

. . . I was wandering around Baghdad, about 10 days after Iraq had been "liberated", and it seemed to me that the place was not entirely without hope.
OK, so the gunfire popped round every corner like popcorn on a stove, and civil society had broken down so badly that the looters were taking the very copper from the electricity cables in the streets. But I was able to stroll without a flak jacket and eat shoarma and chips in the restaurants.
With no protection except for Isaac, my interpreter, I went to the Iraqi foreign ministry, and found the place deserted. The windows were broken, and every piece of computer equipment had been looted. As I was staring at the fire-blackened walls a Humvee came through the gates . . . . a figure begin to unpack his giraffe-like limbs from the shady interior of the Humvee. He was one of those quiet Americans that you sometimes meet in odd places. . . .
he walked slowly towards the shattered foreign ministry building, stroking his chin. Then he walked back towards us, and posed a remarkable question. "Have you, uh, seen anyone here?" he asked.
Nope, we said. All quiet here, we said. Quiet as the grave.
"Uhuh," he said, and started to get back in the Humvee. And then I blurted my own question: "But who are you?" I asked. "Oh, let's just say I work for the US government," he sighed. "I was just wondering if anyone was going to show up for work," he said. "That's all."
And that, of course, was the beginning of the disaster. Nobody came to work that day, or the next, or the one after that, because we failed to understand what our intervention would do to Iraqi society. We failed to anticipate that in taking out Saddam, we would also remove government and order and authority from Iraq.
We destroyed the Baathist state, without realising that nothing would supplant it. The result was that salaries went unpaid, electricity was not generated, sanitation was not provided, and all the disorder was gradually and expertly fomented until it was quite beyond our control.
And what we had failed to see in advance was that almost from the outset the Iraqis would blame us – and not just the insurgents – for every distress they experienced.
It is now commonplace for people like me, who supported the war, to say that we "did the right thing" but that it had mysteriously "turned out wrong". This is intellectually vacuous. It is like saying British strategy for July 1, 1916 was perfect, but let down by faulty execution. The thing was a disaster from the moment we invaded . . .
Yes, well, I would argue that it has been a disaster BECAUSE America and Britian invaded.
Because they never had the right to invade Iraq in the first place.
Second, here is the fantasy - William Pfaff describes the fantastical war which the US leadership thinks it is fighting:

At Harvard a few weeks ago, Gen. John Abizaid, head of the American Central Command, responsible for operations in Iraq, said that if a way is not found to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, there will be a third World War.
I do not understand from where in the labyrinths of Pentagon and Washington think-tank deliberations, grounds are found for such sensationalist forecasts by people in responsible positions in and out of American government. Henry Kissinger has made the same forecast, while readjusting his personal position from support for the war to a prediction that the war can't be won, but that it nonetheless should continue.
Who is going to fight this third World War? Presumably Islamic militants against the United States (with such allies as remain, now that Britain is leaving). That is not a World War.
It is war of American intervention in foreign countries to stamp out movements supported by at least a part of the people there. We are doing that in Iraq and it's not working, nor did it work in Somalia or Vietnam.
Why go on with it? These movements or countries cannot invade or overthrow the government of the United States. Hijacking airplanes, blowing up the Sears Tower, anthrax in the reservoirs, nerve gas in the New York subway, or even a rogue nuclear explosion at the Super Bowl would not cause the U.S. government to totter and fall, sending masses of Americans to adopt Islam, install Sharia in the place of the U.S. Constitution, while putting 300 million Americans into beards and burqas. Surely Osama bin Laden and his colleagues are clever enough to know they can't win a World War.
Ah, the promulgators of the new World War theory say, the terrorists have already told us that they will first seize power in Iraq (and Iran), proclaim a new universal caliphate, and take power with the support of the masses in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan and the Maghreb.
Then Western Europe, enfeebled by welfare governments and cowardice, in need of oil and subverted from within by Islamic minority populations, will submit to al-Qaida, or appease it (Europe's people turning themselves into "Euarabs," as one recent American scenario has it). That will leave a heroic America standing alone, battling the Islamic hordes.
This is puerile fantasy. Yet Abizaid said to his Harvard audience: "Think of (today) as a chance to confront fascism in 1920. If we only had the guts to do it!" More fantasy and misinformation. There was nothing to confront in 1920. The Fascist party did not exist until 1921, and Mussolini did not form a government until 1923, when it won general praise in America and Britain for its spirit and efficiency.
But enough of this. The third World War that the Pentagon, Kissinger and the administration warn would follow U.S. failure in Iraq is a reverse reading of the bloated claims of the leaders of one radicalized group of Islamic activists, a tiny minority in an Islamic world of a billion people, claiming that they can return their fellow-Muslims to the practices of the late Middle Ages, so as to purge modern Islam of what they consider its corruption. They might believe this, but why should Kissinger and Abizaid?
. . . The only way there now can be a "third World War" is for the United States to insist on staying on in Iraq, and go into Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other states as well, no doubt allied with Israel. Even in that case, it would not be the great clash of ideology and geopolitics that Gen. Abizaid foresees. It would be a narrow war of illusion and ideology which most American allies would wish to avoid.
It would be a struggle by the Islamic people to get the United States out of their countries and out of their lives. American intervention in the Islamic world started long before 9/11. The United States is fighting the ignored legacy of its own past policies. It is time to call an armistice, and go home.
The US leadership is inflating the Iraq insurgency into some kind of global fighting force led by Worst-Than-Hitlers for two reasons -- they have a deeply ingrained belief that the Most Powerful And Well Equipped Military In The World simply cannot be losing a war against just a bunch of 'rag-heads' making bombs in their basements. And they try to justify this illegal war by giving themsevles a High Moral Purpose, to Defend The World From the Caliphate -- which is, of course, Worse Than Hitler.
The US people, I think, know the difference between fantasy and reality.

UPDATE: Bill Scher's Sunday Talkshow Breakdown is back, and this week's talk shows were all about Iraq. Scher provides a frame to view the reality vs fantasy question:
. . . That is evidence of further momentum for the idea of regional talks including Iran and Syria [but] would that amount to a fundamental shift in foreign policy -- away from the unilateralists and neocons and towards the internationalists and realists?
By itself, no. . . . Heed the warning from former Carter-era National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, offered on CNN yesterday, flagged by Think Progress:
The Baker commission will probably come out with some sound advice on dealing with the neighborhood, with Iran, with the Israeli-Palestinian issues, which is relevant but essentially will offer some procrastination ideas for dealing with the crisis.
The fact of the matter is, the undertaking itself is fundamentally wrong-headed ... This is a mistaken, absolutely historically wrong undertaking...
If we get out sooner, there will be a messy follow-up after we leave. It will be messy, but will not be as messy as if we stay, seeking to win in some fashion.
In other words, unless actual foreign policy objectives change, mere tactical shifts won't solve anything.
The crystallization of the current objectives is the permanent military bases.
Trying to exert control over Iraq's political system and natural resources via permanent occupation is the main destabilizing force -- strengthening terrorist organizations and giving incentive to Iran and Syria to be counterproductive.
If you don't renounce the bases, and the plans for further "regime change" that go with them, then talks with Iran and Syria will be nothing but a show.
Much like how the six-party talks involving North Korea have gone nowhere. Because Dubya's Asia policy still centers on constraining China, China has no incentive to help out.
So when sizing up the final product from the ISG -- and more importantly, Bush's actions thereafter -- watch to see if they renounce and begin to dismantle the permanent bases.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Update from Afghanistan

The Independent newspaper provides us with a summary of the latest news from Afghanistan.
First, of course, there aren't enough NATO troops -- well, we already knew that.
Other than that, the recent news is OK:
A series of truces at local and national level, produced by informal talks between Hamid Karzai's government with the Taliban and its Islamist ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, appear to be holding for the time being. Sources close to the Taliban admitted to The Independent on Sunday that the insurgents had suffered during Nato's recent offensive in the Kandahar region, Operation Medusa.
There is also the traditional Afghan break from campaigning during the winter, and the fact this is the poppy planting season. The Taliban, like others in Afghanistan, profit from heroin and do not want to disrupt production.
But the news for the spring is more ominous:
The British commander of NATO's forces in Afghanistan, Lt-Gen David Richards, sought to speed up development work when he took over in mid-2006, believing it was essential to win public support. He also helped President Karzai set up an action group to co-ordinate security operations with aid work. But his tenure is due to end early in the new year, and the Pentagon has successfully lobbied to replace him with an American who is expected to take a far more aggressive stance. . . .
The Taliban may also return to confrontation as winter recedes. According to Islamist sources, Mr Hekmatyar's tentative talks with the Afghan government have run into opposition from his al-Qa'ida allies. The most active of the Taliban commanders, Mullah Dadullah Akhund, is strongly against any truce, and it will be easy to replace the fighters lost or killed during the summer from madrasas, or religious schools, across the border in Pakistan.
I hope our Canadian soldiers won't be cannon fodder in a confrontation between an aggressive American commander and a hostile Taliban one.
UPDATE: Hmmm, may have spoken too soon.

Corner Gas

Corner Gas is coming to the world. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Great line of the day

Does anyone still remember how Linus was shocked and appalled to discover that his beloved Miss Othmar actually accepted money for being his teacher?
Of course, this happened in 1961 -- and in another world.
Driftglass has a post on the military which also includes some comments about the attitude in our society now toward working in any kind of service-type job where you don't get particularly well paid:
. . . we have done far, far too good a job in this country explaining to people in every social class, using words of one syllable, that if you do your thing for love or the common good, you’re a mush-skulled hippy idjit destined for a work farm . . . We don’t have hero teachers and RNs here. I profoundly wish we did, but we don’t. We have “Wall Street” heroes. We have rock star pro athletes and CEOs who are paid like pashas for what are basically culturally irrelevant skills, and then celebrated for their salaries.
We honor privilege and bling, not service.
We tell people here, in no uncertain terms, that you aren’t what you do; you are what you’re paid, regardless of what iniquities you may commit to make your nut . . . It is a perfect, brutal little downward spiral that makes us less humane and more bestial every day.
Emphasis mine.

Tis the season

Chaos Theory gives us a list of gifts for people you don't like very much. Here are some that made me laugh:
- A beautiful piece of clothing that is either several sizes too big if the recipient is thin (implying that the person looks fatter than they are) or several sizes too small if the recipient is overweight. If the latter, perhaps write in the card insinuating that the recipient should aspire to fit into it.
- The DVD of Charlotte's Web for someone with arachnophobia
- Darling, I knew you wanted a blender!
- One year my aunt and uncle got me a supersoaker without getting my little brother one. The next year, my parents got my cousin a slingshot.
- I had a rabidly homophobic acquaintence that had a big birthday party. Some friends and I bought him a nice tee-shirt, from the International Male catalogue, and had it delivered to his home. This simple act placed him on many a GLB mailing list.
- My brother, who is now a vet, got an inflatable love sheep for his last birthday. I didn't tell him about it, so he opened it in front of his girlfriend's relatives.
- A very long, dry book that you've raved about. Ask them every two days if they still haven't finished it, with a look of outrage and pity.
- For Christmas of my third and fourth year alive, my uncle sent (respectively) a gumball machine and a mini drum set. We didn't see much of him for the next few years.
- Thick wool sweaters for people living in Florida, Hawaii, etc.
- I gave the boy next door the Masters of the Universe Mutant Slime Pit for his birthday one year. It was this great toy that let you strap a He-Man action figure into it and then dump a jar of green goo on his head. Though it has long been obvious to me why his parents never invited me to another birthday party, it has only just now occurred to me that my parents MUST have known the effect the gift would have. I mean, I was maybe 8 years old--they must have approved and even paid for the thing.
- A friend's parents received a large, perpetually angry parrot for their wedding. from the groom's brother. without warning, without ever having expressed the desire for one. a) wtf parrot? b) those things live to be like 150 years old -- their grandkids will be able to hate this bird as much as they do.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Avoid history at all costs

Dana at Galloping Beaver says It's Not News That Harper Supports Breakup of Federation:
Harper continues to work toward achieving what he has always said he wants to achieve, that being the elimination of the federal government's presence in the lives of citizens.
He's just starting with Quebecers.
My Blahg has more reactions to Harper's "nation within a nation" motion.
My opinion? Harper has grabbed a tiger by the tail. He has inadvertently achieved an "historical" moment in Canada -- he has made the kind of statement which may well be used in the future to justify or explain or excuse a great number of unforeseeable actions both within and outside Quebec -- maybe in five or ten or 15 years we will be saying "the separatists were revitalized when Harper said..." and "all this violence began when Harper said..." and even "the first step toward the dissolution of Canada happened when Harper said..."
And he did it thoughtlessly, not for any noble purpose or to achieve any long-term vision for the country, but just because he was trying to embarass the Liberals and flip off the Bloc at the same time.
The day before, the Harper government was were talking about military cargo planes and the next day, they were pandering to the law and order types by talking about bail reform.
I hope Canada doesn't rue this day. But I am reminded of what Gary Kamiya wrote in Salon in March, 2003, when he predicted that the invasion of Iraq showed every sign of being a profoundly disasterous decision:
. . . we have gone from being in a political moment to a historical one.
I use the words somewhat eccentrically, to distinguish between events that are simple enough to be fully explicable ("political") and those that are too complex to be defined ("historical").
The war against Afghanistan took place in what I am calling the political realm: It had a clear, limited and achievable goal, one understood by all -- and widely supported around the world. The impending war against Iraq, on the other hand, is a historical event. It cannot be explained or defined. When it comes, it will simply exist, with the opacity of history. Its outcome is not foreseeable.
The distinction also has a moral dimension. To exist in history is to have passed beyond the pieties and slogans of the political. History is tragic: politics is not. History is glorious. It is also fatal.
. . . The lesson every government should have learned from the bloody 20th century, one written in blood across the tortured soil of old, very old Europe, is very simple: Avoid history at all costs. History is too big, too abstract, too dangerous. Avoid men with Big Ideas -- especially stupid men with Big Ideas. Take care of politics: let history take care of itself. In a word, don't play God.

As God is my witness

I thought turkeys could fly -- click for Tbogg's comedy gold.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dying to save a buck

When it comes to being cheap, the American HMOs have nothing on our homegrown Canadian social service bureaucrat bean-counters.
This poor woman is only 30 years old, and she is dying. And she gets to spend her last days fighting with the Nova Scotia government to pay for the pills that keep her alive a little longer.
Adding insult to injury is this --
Ms. Larkin-Hickman says even if she qualifies for her other drugs, she will have to re-apply every three months.
-- yes, lets make her fill out a whole bunch of forms every 90 days because its just so very important that those entitlements for those lazy welfare bums be calculated right down to the penny. God forbid, if her huband should maybe get a raise, that the Nova Scotia taxpayers should pay an extra few dollars for an extra few pills, for six months instead of three.
Because how else, except by being tightfisted with the dying, is Nova Scotia ever going to pay for the industrial incentives they have announced in the last week, payroll rebates of $1.5 million for one company and $7 million for another, to produce more jobs in Nova Scotia.
Maybe Larkin-Hickman's husband can get a second job with one of these outfits, to keep her alive a little longer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pundit Hall of Shame

Here is Hilzoy's list:
Jonah Goldberg: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business"
Tom Friedman: "We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind".
And today from Richard Cohen: "In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic."
As Hilzoy then notes:
Richard Cohen: resign. Resign right now. . . . Go visit the families of soldiers who have fallen in the interests of what you considered "therapeutic", or the families of any of the of thousands of people who have been kidnapped off the streets of Iraq for no reason, tortured with electric drills, and then found dead behind some abandoned building or floating in the Tigris. Ask them whether they think that the war in Iraq has been "therapeutic". . . .
Why do any of these people still have jobs? Who listens to them anymore?

Great line of the day

In a post titled Blame the damn Hippies…, Johm Amato concludes:
It really burns them up that the flower people were right.

The Ugly Canadian

That's our boy!
After having offended Europe by abruptly cancelling a summit with leaders there, Prime Minister Stephen Harper this past week turned his attention to undermining Canada's relationship with China. The only relationship he appears to take seriously is with the Bush administration in the United States.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Great line of the day

From the Freewayblogger: "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam"

Ah, the good old days

Digby writes about the newest front in the anti-abortion movement -- glorifying childbearing and trashing birth control:

As I wrote earlier, we have the DLC hiring crackpot sociologists to write articles about liberals outbreeding the conservative movement, David Brooks talking about "natalism," Newsweek writing respectful articles about the Kooky Quiverfuls and now state legislatures connecting immigration to abortion and suggesting that the white women aren't breeding enough. Anybody feeling the hot breath of a new conservative meme on their necks?
Good luck with that. . . .
I do have a good idea how these people can lead by example, however. Every woman who belongs to the forced childbirth movement should sign a contract agreeing to birth at least four snowflake babies and homeschool them. This way they could assure that each woman fulfills her patriotic duty by raising at least four children (more if she wants to pass on her own very special genes) and the nation will have a nice homegrown uneducated workforce to exploit with low wages and bad working conditions. They wouldn't even have to fuck, which I'm sure would be a great relief for all concerned.
You know, the birth control pill was only developed 50 years ago, but I guess people have already forgotten what it was like when women had baby after baby, sometimes spending the years between 20 to 40 either pregnant or nursing.
If they lived through it.
Up until 1960 or so, birth control was unreliable and complicated and the techniques were mostly secret. But women did what they could to avoid pregnancy anyway -- rhythm or withdrawal or condoms -- not because they "hated children" or "wanted to find themselves" -- it was because they wanted to live long enough to raise the children they already had.
In the community where my grandfather homesteaded in 1905, just a hundred years ago, people used to talk about men "going through" two or three or four wives -- because the combination of hard work, pregnancy complications, and repeated forced childbearing would kill them, one after the other.
I don't think we want to go back to that, do we?

Bullfights aren't funny


Will anyone hear the sound of one right wing flapping?
Fox News Channel might air two episodes of a "Daily Show"-like program with a decidedly nonliberal bent on Saturday nights in late January, with the possibility that it could become a weekly show.
The half-hour show would take aim at what executive producer Joel Surnow, the co-creator of "24," calls "the sacred cows of the left" that don't get made as much fun of by other comedy shows.
Well, its pretty difficult to make jokes about dying without health insurance, but have at it, guys. People used to laugh at Amos and Andy, too.
But when I read this story, what I thought of was Mel Blanc's famous anecdote about how Bully for Bugs got made -- maybe it was the "sacred cow" reference that brought this to mind.
According to Chuck Jones, the idea for this cartoon came about one day while he and the writers were trying to come up with a new story for a Bugs cartoon. The producer in charge admonished them, "I don't want no gags about bullfights. Bullfights aren't funny". The thought of putting Bugs in a bullfight hadn't even occurred to Jones, who immediately hit upon it as a great idea, and this resulting cartoon proved to be of the most successful in the Bugs Bunny series.
So maybe somebody at Fox can make Not Having Health Insurance funny. But I don't think Fox News would put up with anyone as subversive as Chuck Jones was.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Science marches on

Non Sequitur:

Who let the Dogs out?

Great news -- Huskies earn home field in Vanier Cup:
"'It's something we've dreamt about all year,' Huskies head coach Brian Towriss said after the game, 'but we've stayed focused on one game at a time."
The Vanier Cup is next weekend in Saskatoon.

Great line of the day

August J. Pollak on women who trash feminism:
I always find women like [Ann] Coulter who spew nonsense about the evils of feminism and women's rights to be hilariously precious. Coulter is a childless, never-married lawyer who reached the highest point of her professional career in her 40's as a self-sufficient freelance social commentator. Sixty years ago, there is not a single part of that previous sentence that would be considered even remotely plausible as an aspect of a successful American female. Coulter, and career anti-feminists like her, have only one honest statement deserving of any feminist's time, and that statement is "thank you."
Emphasis mine.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Great line of the day

Matthew Yglesias writes about how the neocons still believe their beautiful war would have gone just great, except that the Iraqis messed it up:
The neoconservative approach to Iraq has always been marked by a remarkable combination of overoptimism about social and political conditions in Iraq with a not-so-well-veiled racist contempt for Arabs. Obviously, however, one of the major elements of Iraqi society that's made reconstructing it into a democracy under our tutelage is that Iraqis have not felt that it would be a good idea to surrender supreme power over their lives to a foreign occupying force led by people who, rather transparently, don't give a damn about them.
Emphasis mine.

Its because she's a woman

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi is being attacked by the Kewl Kids Washington press corps.
I wish I could revise Wes Clark's "It's because of Iraq" video to say "It's because she's a woman".
I just hope Pelosi knows about the great quotation from the first female mayor of Ottawa, Charlotte Whitten:
"Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.
Luckily, this is not difficult."

Leonid Meteor Shower Sunday

The annual Leonid Meteor Shower may be visible in North America just before dawn on Sunday morning.
This photo is from 2001.
It was, I think, in 2002 when I stood out in our backyard peering upwards to watch a meteor shower that was being billed as the shower of the century -- I couldn't see that much because we have too many streetlights around about. But I just wanted to be a part of it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Do as we say, not as we do

The Conservative government is proposing to open a loophole in its vaunted accountability act by declaring that party convention fees not be counted as political contributions under the law . . . the Conservative party [is] under investigation by Elections Canada for failing to declare almost $2 million in fees paid by delegates to the party's 2005 convention . . . "The Tories seem to be now admitting that they have broken the law," said Steven MacKinnon, national director of the Liberal party. . . . [NDP Pat Martin] said. "I guess that's the advantage of being the ruling party - you can correct your mistakes by statute after the fact. We won't support it."