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.