Sunday, December 30, 2007


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

Paying protection in Iraq

Nice little country you've got here, General Petraeus. Be a shame if something were to happen to it . . .
Dahr Jamail says that a more peaceful Iraq has been achieved by paying what could basically be described as protection money to the former resistance fighters:
Late in 2007, the U.S. military began paying monthly wages of 300 dollars to former militants, calling them now "concerned local citizens."
This explains some of the odd terminology I have been reading in the Associated Press and AFP cutlines for recent photos from Iraq:

Here are "security volunteers" checking vehicles entering the primarily Sunni Azamiyah neighborhood of north Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Dec. 23.

This AFP photo describes "A Sunni Arab awakening member" as he patrols a market in Baghdad's al-Adhamiyah district, 08 December 2007.

And here is a "concerned local citizen" standing guard over a weapons trafficking suspect during a joint patrol with U.S. and Iraqi troops in Hawr Rajab, a predominantly Sunni area of southern Baghdad, Iraq in this Oct. 9, 2007 file photo.
But it isn't going to be a permanent situation, oh no. The idea is that these "volunteers" are going to be disbanded just as soon as the security situation in Iraq allows it. Jamal continues:
While this policy has cut violence in al-Anbar, it has also increased political divisions between the dominant Shia political party and the Sunnis – the majority of these "concerned citizens" being paid are Sunni Muslims. Prime Minister Maliki has said these "concerned local citizens" will never be part of the government's security apparatus, which is predominantly composed of members of various Shia militias.
Its a civil war waiting to happen.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Synchronized Ironing

Is there anything that people won't turn into a sport? This is from the Extreme Ironing website, which a commenter on TRex linked to.

Nobody expected...

The hallmark of the Bush administration is its blundering approach to international affairs, an elephant swinging through a china shop and then wondering why things are getting broken.
And its catch phrase is "Nobody expected..." . Like 14-year-olds, the Bushies don't think they are subject to the normal rules of cause and effect, so the reasons for adverse events must be mysterious and unfathomable. In Bush World, nobody expected Bin Laden would attack the US and nobody expected planes to be used to fly into buildings and nobody expected that North Korea would develop nuclear weapons and nobody expected that Saddam didn't have any weapons and nobody expected Iraq to fight back and nobody expected Hezbollah to prevail in Lebannon and nobody expected Hamas to win the Palestinian elections -- even though some knowledgeable people did expect exactly these things, only the Bush administration was determined not to listen to them, its fingers stuck into its ears saying nah-nah-nah-nah.
And wait for it, within a few days we'll hear Condi say that "nobody expected" Bhutto to be assassinated....
As outlined in this Washington Post article, it was the US government who decided that Bhutto should return to Pakistan to be "elected" as their Prime Minister, so that Musharraf could stay on as President, so they could both run the country together and maintain its pro-US tilt -- even though Bhutto and Musharraf hated each other. But somehow, in some mystical and unknowable way, this odd couple was going to create stability in Pakistan, and it was all going to work out just fine because that's the way the Bush administration wanted it to work and it had all these diplomats and statesmen buzzing hither and thither around the world setting up meetings and working out deals and negotiating agreements.
So of course it can't be the Bush administration's fault that Bhutto got assassinated, oh no:
Xenia Dormandy, former National Security Council expert on South Asia now at Harvard University's Belfer Center, said U.S. meddling is not to blame for Bhutto's death. "It is very clear the United States encouraged" an agreement, she said, "but U.S. policy is in no way responsible for what happened. I don't think we could have played it differently."
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas dog blogging

Here's our labrador, Chillou -- I love how he lies with his paw tucked under. And I love how expressive his eyebrows can be.
It's hard to get a photo of him, because whenever I line up the camera, he leaps at it -- so I have to sneak in and catch him unawares, which makes for some pretty poor photos, usually.
This photo is a few months old -- he has lost some weight since. Labs are such chow hounds.

Great line of the day

TRex, formerly of Firedoglake, now has his own blog, and thank heavens I don't have go to FDL anymore to read him.
I suspect TRex will be visiting my place frequently in the Great Line category. Here's his brisk put-down of the know-nothing pundits who pontificate without bothering to do any research first*:
... But that’s our exalted pundit class. A bunch of know-nothing nitwits coasting toward retirement and spewing swill that’s the media equivalent of air-flavored cotton candy. Truly, people like Matthews and Joe Klein were built for a more politically agnostic time, when there weren’t people like us out here ready to turn on a dime and immediately give the lie to their fact-free pronouncements. The research isn’t that hard, but apparently, it’s more than these empty suits can be bothered to do.
Joe Klein recently announced his 2007 “Political Courage Awards”, which is kind of like Britney Spears announcing her 2007 Hygiene and Sobriety Awards.
*Yes, yes, I know EXACTLY what you are thinking, but at least my heart is pure and I'm not getting paid multiple thousands a month to write this blog and ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We just don't understand

So Prime Minister Harper thinks the only reason that seven out of ten Canadians are against continuing the Afghanistan deployment is that we just don't "understand" it.
What he just won't - or can't - do is just explain why we should stay.
Other than to please George Bush, I mean. Harper says:
"The government understands we took on an important international commitment for important reasons of international security that in the long run impact directly on our country"
Oh really? And how, exactly, will Canada's international security be threatened when the Taliban get back into power in Afghanistan -- which they will within the next few years? What difference do 2,500 Canadian troops make in a country the size of Texas, with 31 million people? But Harper continues by implying that anyone critical of the mission is just playing "politics" -- a real pot-kettle moment:
"We really have got to avoid - on this one - taking a decision for reasons of short-term politics. We must take a decision that is in the long-run interest of the country, its international reputation and the respect we should all show for the sacrifice our men and women have made to secure it."
Are there not better ways to respect 70 deaths than to leave troops in the line of fire?
I keep waiting for someone to publish a map -- you know, like the ones in every newspaper during every other war ever fought, that said our troops started fighting here and have won territory to there, or our troops are defending this territory here. Or a map that shows the public works projects which have been completed under our protection. Or, you know, a map or a statement that shows something? . . . anything?
The media advisories on the National Defense website talk about how the minister attended the Grey Cup. News you can use, that's for sure.
And I'm not even mentioning MacKay's water-carrying for Cheney's Iran warmongering -- pretty shaved ape and Dave give that fantasy the smackdown it deserves.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Just two more sleeps

I still get excited about Christmas.
Welcome Christmas while we stand heart to heart and hand to hand. Christmas Day is in our grasp as long as we have hands to clasp.

For my readers -- who have become my friends -- I hope your Christmas is merry and bright.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Al Gore

So I see Time magazine wimped out.
Quite obviously, the person of the year for 2007 was Al Gore.
Has any other person in history won an Oscar and a Nobel Prize and organized a world-wide rock concert, all in the same year? Has anyone else ever galvanized the world into action the way Al Gore has done? Bono writes:
He has an almost embarrassing faith in the power of facts to persuade both believer and skeptic. His enduring and overarching trait is, as it turns out, the pursuit of truth ... scientific truth, spiritual truth. That — and grace. Right now, he is an America the world needs to meet.
But I guess Time just couldn't do that to the Republicans and the oil companies and the car manufacturers who buy ads. They all would have been simply furious.
Not to mention how embarrassing it is for Americans every time they realize they could have had Al Gore as president and instead they got Mr. 24 Per Cent.
And how embarrassing for the media, who covered the 2000 election as though it didn't matter who won -- tell that now to the 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001 because the Bush administration couldn't be bothered to take terrorism seriously, or to the half million people who have died since in Bush's wars.
But picking Al Gore would have brought all this into the discussion and so, in the cowardly tradition of today's American media, Time picked Vladimir Putin instead.


One of the things I love about shopping for Christmas gifts is that I see things I would never have stumbled over otherwise.
Like this great mug I saw today. It said "I want to be just like you....only thinner and more successful".
Now, I can't think of anyone I could actually give this too -- most of the people I know already are thinner than me, and more successful too -- but I thought it was funny, all the same.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Great line of the day

Digby describes the increasing religiosity of the American presidential campaign and observes:
...I don't think it's too much to ask that if these candidates are all going to run as the second coming that they be able to heal the sick with a universal health care plan...
But that would cost money!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mecca becomes the shining city on the hill?

One of the tragedies of George Bush's America is that, for much of the world, America is no longer the shining city on the hill. Along with increasing hostility toward America comes increasing skepticism that democracy is the alternative to dictatorship. Onlookers around the world could well come to believe that "democracy" is just a tricky way of stealing people's oil and then killing them -- after all, America brought "democracy" to Iraq and more than half a million Iraqis died.
But people living under a dictator's heel must have hope. And if American democracy now appears hostile and fake, then they will look elsewhere -- perhaps toward an ideology like Islamic fundamentalism.
Meteor Blades writes a very interesting piece about Libya and Muammar Gaddafi in which he notes a significant trend within the underground opposition to Gaddafi's dictatorship:
There is a growing religiosity . . . Women who had begun in the 1980s to give up the head coverings decreed by Libyan tradition now wear hijab everywhere, even on the university campus. And jimar, the veil, which was never a part of Libyan dress, is becoming ever more common. Women meet in homes to study the Koran, and the opposition is said to be more Islamist in its focus than in the past. For many, this move toward fundamentalism reflects similar moves in other dictatorships, a kind of under-the-surface opposition to the regime with dangerous potentialities.
Musa Kusa [Libyian foreign intelligence chief] once boasted that he knew every man with a beard in Libya, hinting that he knew whom to arrest if any opposition to the regime appeared. No more. Beards, a symbol of quiet resistance, can be seen everywhere.

And a merry xmas was had by all

Now here's a family who will have a really great Christmas this year, I'm sure -- particularly when their son tells his mean, judgmental, egotistical father where to stuff his $9,000 and moves in with his "delinquent" friends.

Telling Canada where to go

Harry Hutton and his commenters are shocked! SHOCKED! at how mean Canada is being toward poor persecuted Mark Steyn.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What did I miss?

Turned into the week from hell at work -- sorry for the lack of posts.
One of these days, I'm going to retire and then western civilization will crumble, I'm sure.
So what could I have blogged about this week but didn't?
Well, of course, Teh Mulroney -- his fabled Irish charm is just so last century now, isn't it? Of course, money laundering and bribery and income tax evasion aren't particularly attractive traits.
Then there is the Great Isotope Shortage -- its interesing, isn't it, that the so-called Liberal hack is still employed while the actual Conservative hack is gone already.
And more election horserace coverage from the United States -- all this inside baseball stuff about their primaries is endlessly fascinating to Americans and just endless to the rest of us.
And speaking of baseball, the Mitchell report strikes me as just a little overblown -- and I get the impression that many sportswriters, who know BS when they hear it, are angry that the testimony of a batboy would be treated like gospel. Just goes to show that there are Curveball-types everywhere.


After ducking and bobbing and weaving and kowtowing to George Bush and trying to sabotage the whole conference, Canada grudgingly accepts Bali deal. Then our very own Fearless Freep, John Baird, demonstrated a firm grasp of up-is-downism when he said:
“There is a certain price of leadership, and I don't apologize for that.”
I guess the kind of leadership he is talking about is the lead-from-behind kind.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I try to avoid being a cranky old fart who goes around muttering about the good old days, but does everyone else hate Firedoglake's new format as much as I do?
The main page is chock-full of blue "read more" boxes and half the time I can hardly find the bylines of the authors I like and the beautiful photos that used to appear on the main page and draw you into the articles have mostly disappeared and please, please save me from any more website "communities" that I have to "join" and...
Oh, time for a coffee, I guess ...

Shop 'til you drop

Whew! Its not easy, singlehandedly keeping the Canadian economy going. But I keep trying...
Time to relax with three of my favorite Christmas videos -- enjoy!
First, the funniest version of We Three Kings ever done:

Next, the bells do Carol of the Bells

Finally, the oddest couple who ever sang together, from the oddest Christmas Special ever made:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Great line of the day

Digby on presidential candidate "character" issues -- first, she recalls Bush saying the CIA shouldn't give an accused terrorist any pain medication for a broken leg, then she continues:
...there is ample evidence that the Republican candidates for president this time, in different ways, have all shown a similar penchant for a nasty, simple-minded meanness or outright sadism. But the press is ignoring that once again in favor of predigested GOP spin which explores in detail such character revelations as Clinton's "brittleness" and Obama's "aloofness" and Edwards' "inauthenticity." Never mind the people who say they want to start deporting massive numbers of people because they are all diseased criminals or those who want to "double Gitmo." As far as the press is concerned, their biggest problem is figuring out which ones are the most Christian.
Emphasis mine.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The operative word is "control"

Chet at Vanity Press highlights this story about a deaf man who was tased by police because he couldn't hear their commands.
I noted one aspect of this story that I thought very significant -- the police explained their taser use by saying "The first few minutes getting control of the scene are very, very important."
And that's the key word - " control".
If you look at the recent stories about use and abuse of Tasers, it seems to me that they are not being used anymore just for safety or protection, or to deal with hysterical psychotics, or because police felt endangered. Nope, now they're just being used to control a scene -- the doctrine seems to be, if someone doesn't respond immediately to being yelled at, then tase 'em! That'll teach 'em!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Great line of the day

Joe Biden:
“Are you telling me a president who is briefed every single morning, who is fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the United States government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in ’03?” Biden said in a conference call with reporters.
“That’s not believable,” Biden added. “I refuse to believe that. If that’s true, he has the most incompetent staff in … modern American history and he’s one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history.
Emphasis mine. Of course, its not necessarily an "either-or" situation -- could be that Bush WAS told AND that he is incompetent.
I liked this line of Biden's too:
Bush told reporters earlier Tuesday that he was made aware only last week of a National Intelligence Estimate that described the stop to the Iranian nuclear program.
“I love presidents who parse words,” Biden said in response. “The NIE didn’t get written until a week ago.”
The 'Shorter' version would be: Depends what the meaning of "lie" is.


So now the US intelligence agencies think Iran shut down a nuclear weapons program four years ago. Well, sounds like that's that, doesn't it? Problem solved...
Not so fast -- here's the National Security Advisor's reaction:
Mr. Hadley said the latest intelligence estimate was ' positive news' and called for even tougher sanctions on Tehran. 'The international community has to turn up the pressure on Iran — with diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions, and with other financial pressure — and Iran has to decide it wants to negotiate a solution,' he said.
Why, exactly, would "even tougher sanctions" be warranted? What on-going problem are they supposed to be negotiating" a solution" to?

Monday, December 03, 2007

NFB animation for free

I guess this happened a year ago, but I just found out about it -- the National Film Board has 70 of its best animated short films posted on line -- so go enjoy Blackfly, The Big Snit, The Cat Came Back, The Sweater, Wind, etc. etc.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Do you recognize this?

Winter is here with a vengeance I guess.
I was just talking to my daughter who is spending her first winter in Toronto and they woke up to about 3 feet of snow, and some fellows on her block were complaining this afternoon that the city hadn't plowed their street yet.
Yes, you read that correctly -- within 12 hours of the snowfall, the expectation was that their residential street would be plowed.
And it was, later this afternoon.
Boy, things are sure different "down east", aren't they?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Great line of the day

Dave at The Galloping Beaver writes about the Ontario Deputy Coroner who is going around to conferences on Taser's dime to promote Tasers and the "excited delirium" myth:
Dr. Cairns might also want to tell his next TASER International hosted conference how many people who supposedly suffered from "Excited Delirium" actually survived.
Or is it only a condition found in dead people?
Emphasis mine.