Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why the "strategy" document in Iraq is a dud

The perils of too much Powerpoint and too little thought.

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The "strategy" document for Iraq.

The Washington Post provides highlights:

"No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one," said the document. "But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time."

Wars have most certainly been lost for not adhering to timetables; World War I would have been lost had defenses against the Germans not adhered to their timetables, and most notably Germany, in invading Russia too late in the year- violating its timetable- got trounced by General Winter.

The report says the administration expects the number of U.S. forces in Iraq -- currently about 160,000 -- will decrease over the next year as the "political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience."

So basically they're going to pull out, but not say so. Unless they don't.

"Failure is not an option," the document said, citing three principal reasons: Iraq would become a safe haven for terrorists, Middle East reformers would never trust U.S. resolve again, and the ensuing tribal and sectarian chaos in Iraq would have major consequences for U.S. interests in the region.

Can we be spared the clichés? "Middle East reformers" haven't trusted the US for decades. "Sectarian chaos" isn't going to be helped by the US presence, and, as I've already noted, our "interests," that is "oil" will only reliably flow when we're outta there.

"It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power," the report said.

Are they talking about the US or Iraq? I keep forgetting.

The report identified the "enemy" in Iraq as "diffuse and sophisticated" and a combination of Iraqis who reject democratic reforms, Saddam loyalists and al-Qaeda inspired terrorists.

What about people who've been screwed by circumstances? Whose families have become "collateral damage?"

The bad news is that this is more of the same. The good news is that hopefully these disastrous policies will be associated with the conservatives. But meanwhile, more death and destruction.

Hilary just lost the 2008 nomination


WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday defended her vote to authorize war in Iraq amid growing unease among liberal Democrats who could determine the potential 2008 presidential candidate‘s future.

At the same time, she said the United States must "finish what it started" in Iraq.

The 1,600-word letter was sent, mainly through e-mail, on Tuesday — a day before President Bush was to deliver a speech on his Iraqi policies. The president‘s approval ratings plummeted in recent months as the U.S. death toll and anti-war sentiments grew.

In her letter to voters, the senator cited prewar assurances from the White House that the United States would use the United Nations to resolve the issue of Iraq‘s purported weapons of mass destruction.

"Based on the information that we have today, Congress never would have been asked to give the president authority to use force against Iraq," she said. Clinton stopped short of saying her vote was a mistake, the political path chosen by two other potential Democratic candidates — former vice presidential candidate John Edwards and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

Clinton‘s allies billed the letter as her most comprehensive statement on the war to date.

Really, I can't believe the "I was too gullible" line.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When terrorists do REALLY stupid things


Arab satellite TV al-Jazeera has aired a video madeby a previously unknown militant group showing four Western nationalstaken hostage in Iraq.

A Briton, two Canadians and a US citizen were kidnapped in western Baghdad on Saturday.

The video claimed they were undercover spies working asChristian peace activists, and showed the passport of the UK man,74-year-old Norman Kember.

No demands or specific threats against their lives were made in the tape...

A US-based group which says it is involved inviolence-reduction programmes confirmed on Tuesday that four of itsmembers had been seized in Baghdad.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) said its teams of trained peacemakers "work in areas of lethal conflict around the world."

The organisation said it had been present in Iraq sinceApril 2003, "providing first-hand, independent reports from the region,working with detainees of both US and Iraqi forces, training others innon-violent intervention, and human rights documentation," according toa statement.

And just who are Christian Peacemaker Teams? Well...

International violence-reduction organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) confirmed today that the four human rights workers missing in Baghdad on 26 November are associated with their organization. One of the missing persons is Norman Kember, a member of the current CPT delegation to Iraq. The British Foreign office confirmed Mr. Kember's name on Sunday.

CPT has been present in Iraq since October 2002. The Team's work has focused on documenting and focusing public attention on detainee abuses and connecting citizens of Iraq to local and international human rights organizations. Iraqi friends and human rights workers have welcomed the team as a nonviolent, independent presence and asked that the team tell the their stories.

In a "Statement of Conviction," the long-term Team members stated that they "are aware of the many risks both Iraqis and internationals currently face," and affirmed that the risks did not outweigh their purpose in remaining. They express the hope that "in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening non-violently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation."

CPT does not advocate the use of violent force to save lives of its workers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation.

Christian Peacemaker Teams places teams of trained peacemakers in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world. These teams host regular delegations of committed peace and human rights activists to conflict zones, who join teams in working with civilians to document abuses and develop nonviolent alternatives to armed conflict. The CPT Iraq Team has hosted a total of 120 people on sixteen delegations over the last three years.

I suspect, just like with other conservatives, the contact of these people with the terrorists (and these are terrorists we're talking about here) will do much more for Iraq and its quest for stability than anything violent that would be done to "save" them.

I think these folks in CPT must have been at least dimly aware of the risks, and hope they can help change the situation. I also think "peacemaking" is the last thing the guys with guns - on either side- want any time soon at this point.

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It's about time somebody kicked the IRS into doing something about Dobson


Washington, DC – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today filed an Internal Revenue Services (IRS) complaint against Focus on the Family, a conservative, non-profit organization led by its Founder and Chairman James C. Dobson. The complaint asks for the IRS to investigate activities by the group which may violate IRS regulations and require a revocation of its tax-exempt status.

Although barred from electioneering, Mr. Dobson has endorsed candidates for political office several times. In early April, 2004, Mr. Dobson endorsed Republican Representative Patrick J. Toomey in his race for Senate in Pennsylvania. In addition, it was reported that Mr. Dobson actively campaigned during a rally for Rep. Toomey. Other candidates that Mr. Dobson reportedly endorsed in 2004 include North Carolina Republican candidate Pat Ballentine for Govenor and Oklahoma Republican candidate Tom Coburn for Senate.

“Mr. Dobson’s egregious violations of IRS code demand an investigation into his improper activities that break both the spirit and the letter of IRS law,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today....

And it's a biggie too, that complaint- it runs to 99 pages. I have said for quite some time that I believe that Dobson's tactics -even before FOTF was split into a political arm and a "non-political" arm- patently violated Federal election laws.

It looks like they have Dobson dead to rights on this.

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I like TBN-free zones

Appropos of the morality of "bling," evidently bling-hungry TBN wants to be everywhere:

"We don't just want to preach to the choir; we want to reach the unchurched," said Paul Crouch Jr. of Trinity Broadcast Network in Santa Ana. "The bottom line is that we want to be everywhere on cable."...

"A la carte
[allowing viewers to choose which channels they want to get without subscribing to a whole bunch of bundled channels] is a solution that will immediately address the issue of indecency on cable," said Tim Winters, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council.

The debate has created unusual bedfellows: religious broadcasters that want to keep getting their messages out, and free-speech advocates who are fearful that the unbundling of cable channels is being used by anti-indecency advocates as a tool against provocative shows. It also pits televangelists against their usual allies in trying to clean up language and sex on TV and radio.

Christian broadcasters, including such big names as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, worry that changing the current system will cut into viewership. If that puts them on the opposite side of where they usually stand in the indecency debate, Crouch said, "so be it."

But Winters contends that religious broadcasters oppose more cable choice because they "are very fearful of losing any market share."

To preserve viewership, big religious broadcasters such as Trinity, which owns 33 TV stations, and Daystar, operator of stations in San Francisco and 44 other U.S. cities, are pushing the government to expand regulations requiring that cable operators carry local, over-the-air channels such as theirs.

It would be nice - if rates don't rise dramatically- to be able to get the International Channel, BBC World Service and the like.

It would suck if they had to carry TBN programming.

Better to leave things as they are then have more creepy televangelists.

"Wait for the bling?"


Glorified prostitution indeed.

One of the continuing challenges of brining up a child in today's world has to do with how to deal with people who've been given "moral" messages such as these.

Suffice it to say, I try to encourage my son to be mindful and compassionate, and because others are not brought up in the same circumstances in which he lives.

But I still worry. It will be my son's burden to help clean all this garbage up.

HT: Atrios.

How I'd re-write "A Christmas Carol"

A More-Buddhist Christmas Carol:

"Scrooge" does these really material Christmases, perhaps outdoing himself over the years. But he can well afford it.

But Jan 2 always comes.

"Scrooge" doesn't get involved with ghosts, but does actually see what's right around him anyway, and does so as a result of some kind of reversal or confluence of several reversals: finanical, physical, comfort of day-to day.

"Scrooge" ceases to be attached to or lost in Christmas, and is instead generous and compassionate the year round.

No kidding...

Read this Washington Post article:

For several years now, corporations and other wealthy interests have made ever-larger campaign contributions, gifts and sponsored trips part of the culture of Capitol Hill. But now, with fresh guilty pleas by a lawmaker and a public relations executive, federal prosecutors -- and perhaps average voters -- may be concluding that the commingling of money and politics has gone too far.

After years in which big-dollar dealings have come to dominate the interaction between lobbyists and lawmakers, both sides are now facing what could be a wave of prosecutions in the courts and an uprising at the ballot box. Extreme examples of the new business-as-usual are no longer tolerated.

Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, are most vulnerable to this wave. But pollsters say that voters think less of both political parties the more prominent the issue of corruption in Washington becomes, and that incumbents generally could feel the heat of citizen outrage if the two latest guilty pleas multiply in coming months.

And then consider this relatively old (Sept.) post from Ruy Teixeira, quoting Ron Brownstein in the LA Times:

Because of diminishing returns, we know that a large investment in an expensive race will bring few votes, while a small investment in a cheaper race may bring many. Parties shy away from the latter on the grounds that hopeless candidates are hopeless causes. But the math says different. Suppose that we could increase the odds of twenty candidates from 5 to 10 percent for the same cost of helping two candidates with 45 percent chances get to 50 percent. By helping the twenty hapless candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 20 x 0.05 = 1 to 20 x 0.10 = 2. By helping the well-heeled candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 2 x .45 = 0.90 to 2 x .50 = 1. The first investment portfolio has an expected return of 1 additional victory, while the second one is just one-tenth of an additional victory.

That is a fairly realistic scenario. Seventy challengers in 2004 spent between $100,000 to $500,000, and 19 of them won at least 40 percent of the vote. Boosting their spending by as little as $50,000 or $100,000 would have a discernable effect on their chances, while increasing expenditures by $500,000 in an expensive race would likely have little effect. Parties ignore long shots because viewed individually no single candidate has a particularly good chance of winning. But as a group, long shots are ripe with possibility because of their numbers and because their low spending gives parties a chance to influence their chances. Targeting overlooks many potential winners....

The bottom line is that targeting does not help parties win elections. Instead, it impels them into high-spending races where the value of their contributions is minimal. The narrow group of targeted contests excludes many other elections where they have a distinct, albeit distant, chance of winning. By focusing so sharply on top-tier races, the parties effectively narrow the playing field in congressional elections, limiting their potential gains. And, all of their actions are predicated on their ability to predict which races will be close well before the election, an inherently dubious endeavor....

...Parties need to remember that for them congressional elections are an aggregate enterprise. Candidates think of themselves, but parties cannot afford to become too caught up in any single race. Their goals are aggregate and their strategy is national – maximizing their gains demands a disciplined and rational investment strategy that is truly national in its scope.

We can see a double-bind for the Repubs: their safe incumbents are potentially vulnerable (think that Blunt guy now "running" things for DeLay), and the more money they use the more open they are to the corruption charge.

It's too early- way to early to say "rout" yet, but 2006 should pick up more seats than the smart money is currently considering.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Such nice allies we have now...


The more freedom given to Iraqis, the more chance for further progress there would be, particularly in fighting terror," said Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Shiite Muslim religious party that leads the transitional government and whose armed wing is the most feared of Iraq's many factional forces.

Instead, Hakim asserted in a rare interview late last week, the United States is tying Iraq's hands in the fight against insurgents. One of Iraq's "biggest problems is the mistaken or wrong policies practiced by the Americans," he said.

In more than an hour of conversation at his Baghdad home and office, Hakim denied accusations that the Shiite-led government's security forces -- with alleged involvement by his party's armed wing -- have operated torture centers and death squads targeting Sunni Arabs...

His repeated assertion that the United States was being too weak against Iraq's insurgency, allowing attacks to mushroom, appeared to suggest that any future Iraqi government that included him would share his view. With Iraqis scheduled to vote Dec. 15 for the country's first full-term government since the U.S. invasion in 2003, some analysts predict that Hakim will come from behind the scenes into direct political contention.

Until now, Hakim has opted not to hold office; the highest-ranking member of the Supreme Council in the current government is Adel Abdel-Mehdi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents. But as head of the Supreme Council, which was founded by exiles in Iran as an armed Shiite opposition group to Saddam Hussein, Hakim commands the largest bloc of seats in Iraq's transitional parliament.

In addition, Hakim oversees the party's armed wing, formerly known as the Badr Brigade. Its fighters are widely feared for what even many Iraqi Shiites say are habits of torture and other ruthless tactics learned from Iranian intelligence and security forces. Now officially converted into a private security detail and political group, the renamed Badr Organization is widely alleged to control many command-level and the rank-and-file officers in the Interior Ministry -- police, commandos, intelligence agencies and other branches.

Yes indeed, this is such a good development for "freedom."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The oddball catalogs post

One would have thought at the end of the dot-com boom that all the boutique e-tailers would have gone the way of the dinosaurs except for

But one would be wrong to think that... Here's a list of oddball catalogs I've found...and some of their products...

  • has some (overpriced) things like triops growing kits, carnivorous plant kits, and so forth. The Megazooka's intriguing though. I'm not sure about the Ninjas; anybody deploying this in an actual office deserves any reduction in force they might get.

  • Monastery Greetings- it's not just fruitcakes! You too can burn incense the Orthodox way, with their very own Orthodox censers.

  • Monastery Greetings, alas, does not sell liturgical vestments, but F.C. Ziegler and Company does! Now, Raoul Duke could have re-enacted his Las Vegas trip - if the dummy hadn't offed himself- in style. "Ideal for summer or as concelebration vestments. In easy to launder "Dupion" fabric 70% polyester / 30% viscose."

  • But, getting back to the geek riff, the summum bonum of geek outlets of course is the Edmund Scientifics. Everything's here; lasers, optics, what-not.

  • has all your alternative energy needs, except possibly rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

  • is where you go for wagashi, traditional Japanese cakes. Not for the budget minded. Including me, regrettably.

  • And, continuing the Japanese theme, has outrageously priced sake, some of which is available elsewhere, and especially in Japan for less. Still, if I had an infinite amount of money, I would be intrigued enough to sample some sake made in an igloo in Hokkaido, just to say I did that.

Needless to say, it's gift certificates all around this year again.

I don't have much time and patience for Christmas materialism.

Friday, November 25, 2005

More on the New York Times and China...

Anybody who's been to China, or knows Chinese knows this:

While much of the world marvels at China's manufacturing prowess, what is more striking is the physical renaissance rolling across the urban landscape, led by city planners, architects, housing crews and construction companies.

Old urban centers - most of them frozen in time since the Communist Party took over in 1949 - are being demolished, millions of residents are being relocated, and construction crews are fanning out to build the cities of tomorrow.

In Shanghai, the government is clearing 1,300 acres of riverfront land and relocating about 50,000 residents and more than 270 factories, including the country's largest shipyard, to build a site for the World Expo to be held in 2010.

Out west, in the city of Kunming, there are plans to create three new areas that will ring Dian Chi Lake, doubling the city's size to five million by 2020.

In Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, the city hired a Japanese designer to develop a master plan for a new 58-square-mile town.

And in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province in the north, the city government and the central business district are also being relocated to a new city center.

"Every government wants to do big things, and they want them done fast, while they're still in office," says Eva Wang, who runs EWS, a Shanghai-based architecture firm. "They all want to get credit for creating something really astounding."

The whole thing reminds me of the Cisco campus in Silicon Valley both stylistically and in the way land was transformed there.

Which brings to mind: what do you think the Chinese would say when they see Silicon Valley? Would they say this?

Luckily there's bits of San Jose that haven't been demolished though, and unfortunately, much of really cool historical buildings in China are being demolished.

But it is true that the thing any visitor to China notices is that everything is so new.

"Who we thank"- breaking the legs of miracle workers

One of my relatives yesterday said, in a voice that indicated a bit of resentment, that it would be "interesting" to see "who we would thank" and who my guests would thank yesterday.

I was really surprised that one of my relatives would say such a thing.

People who are mindful and seek to understand how and why and that things are cannot but of appreciate things. I'd say it's the very definition of appreciation, in fact.

And I would have to say that if one thinks somebody else needs a deity that is removed, or external to the situation to do that -which is the quintessence of insisting that only their deity will suffice, I would say that the degree of appreciation cannot but suffer, because one's mind is distracted elsewhere, and thus there must be a moral objection to the insistence and "evangelization" of that deity. You cannot serve two masters, said one religious figure; and I say you cannot thank a deity and be truly thankful for something at the same time. It's like thinking about Los Angeles and Chicago at the same time. It can only be done by abstracting the two cities to the point where you're actually not thinking about either city specifically- in isolation from each other. There is a viewpoint at which the two cities are the same, certainly, they are not separate from that viewpoint, say, from some place in Andromeda (and I just did it to any number of places therein). But to return to my point, even if you believe in a deity, it's not possible, I think, to thank it apart from its permeation into that which is thanked. But it seems extra to me then. Just thank.

This, for no particular reason at first got me thinking: some folks say their deity performs miracles, which is the same word we use if we say Eminem performs or Penn and Teller perform.

Performance is demonstrative. They don't say their deity commits miracles, nor enacts them, nor delegates them, nor simply does them.

Like an exhibitionist, the miracle worker in this case commits his miracles to be seen. Ostensibly this is demonstration is made to demonstrate "love" or "power" or "authority" from the deity.

Yet the miracle must remain a rare event, else it loses its special privileged position for those who are in the know about the particular deity. Or so it seems.

These rare event miracles are appreciated by the devotees of the various religions in which the miracle accounts are ascribed, but again in so doing it seems that attention is drawn away from the very "non-miracle" of "thusness," that things are just so, that the convergence of existence and experience is far more important than any alleged deity walking on water or causing his prophets to be teleported one place or another.

And the problem with such miracles is that there is still so much misery in the world, that the premise of the miracle working deity or prophet implies a certain caprice on the part of the agent performing the alleged miracles; this is done to demonstrate the power of the deity, but that is left undone.

Better to care, better to simply be mindful.

This is why allegedly one Zen master said to another, "If I had known you were going to do that I'd have broken your legs," when the two had come to a river and considered how they would cross it.

The real "miracle" would have been getting a conventional conveyance across the river, and doing so without talking about it.

Update: A commenter, who cares for children who have had great difficulties, objected to the picture that was originally alongside this article, showing a baby with two heads; as I noted in the comments, the purpose of doing this was to show that there were things beyond what anyone would hope for in miracles, or in entreating outside agencies to enact. While I have utmost respect for the care that people such as that commenter provide, I do think that not enough of us know that such people indeed make such sacrifices, or that our existence is shared with those who experience horror from birth.

One can read about the original story here.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I tried to post something along these lines when I first downloaded Flock, which promptly ate the post.

I hope this one gets a better fate; I was reminded of this from another of Joe Carter's posts on movies.

Anyhoo, lots of us - ok, some of us- remember Alan Bloom's advocacy of the the literary canon, "The Closing of the American Mind."

Having recently seen Metropolis, I realized I was watching a film that was a motherlode of influence s for a host of films that followed it, including Blade Runner, 1984, and others.

Public Enemy is clearly an influence on a film like Goodfellas.

So, I think there's a list of films that if you haven't watched them and know about them - even if you hate them- you can't really understand lots of things being made today.

So, in no particular order is my list of films that one should watch (in my admittedly elitist view) to be "viderate."

  • The Public Enemy. One wonders if any other gangster movie would be the same, including things like A Bronx Tale, or Sleepers would have been anywhere near the same if this movie hadn't been made.

  • That Fatal Glass of Beer. This is the granddaddy of everything from Monty Python to Saturday Night Live.

  • Metropolis. An amazing work, it's like an entire civilization was created in a silent movie, with ballet-like choreography, and a story that is mythical and a critique of everything from political philosphy to Christianity. Awesome.

  • The General. Not to take anything away from Jackie Chan, but Buster Keaton did it first.

  • Duck Soup. Scenes in this have been stolen by everyone, including but not limited to Lucille Ball on multiple occasions. This movie is also a political movie, which, Joe Carter's list shows just how underrated it is as one of those.

  • Triumph of the Will. You can't watch a modern political convention- especially a Republican one- the same way again if you haven't seen this film beforehand.

  • The Seven Samurai.

  • Duck and Cover. You can't really get anything Michael Moore has done without knowing about this film.

There's others, too, but I that's at least a start.

My Thanksgiving....

It's 6 in the morning or thereabouts, and I've just realized that the dish I will be making for Thanksgiving, Fire Roasted Goose, evidently does not exist according to Google.

But having done the marinade prep yesterday I can most certainly assure you that not only does the dish exist (although I have only so far found dishes that allude to the existence of "fire roasted duck," and do not reveal the underlying recipe, which I have lovingly adapted for goose - one of those reasons I don't do turkey on Thanksgiving), but when fortune smiles on something as tasty as fire roasted goose, it seems like proof no other that not only does Dionysius exists, but you're doing his will...

I suspect - at least in English- my wife's duck recipe doesn't exist either, according to Google.

I guess there's a message in there about people taking Google as somehow authoritative, but regardless I've got to get my butt in gear soon to actually sew up the goose, get the giblets in a good place. I've got plans for them involving - going off the low carb thing for the day or so, involving sauteeing potatoes, mushrooms, onions in goose fat and foie gras, and adding a sprig of cilantro at the end to complement the dish...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I Guess My Son's a Cinch to Get into Harvard or, An Arlo Guthrie Thanksgiving

And I don't think he'll need his near-legacy status of his aunt to do anything special about it either.

At least that's what I conclude by reading - thanks to World o' Crap- this diatribe from this young man, one Ben Shapiro from "":

That cosmic mission -- to spread American values across the globe in order to protect American values at home -- is difficult, rife with pain and sacrifice. At the same time that we thank God for his beneficence, we must thank those fighting every day to secure the blessings God has granted us. To that end, I spoke last week with Charlie Daniels, the founder of the fantastic Charlie Daniels Band. Daniels is heading up Operation Heartstrings, a "plea to corporate America to help the dedicated men and women serving in the Armed Forces overseas … by providing instruments, albums, DVDs, CD and DVD players," according to Daniels' website. (You can learn more about Operation Heartstrings and give at

Daniels is a uniquely American figure -- his America is the America for which I am thankful. Daniels, whose new album, "Songs from the Longleaf Pines," is an uplifting mix of country, bluegrass, gospel and psalm-reading, described his vision of patriotism thus: "This country was founded on a Judeo-Christian principle -- it makes no difference what the ACLU says about it. Why would we deny our Judeo-Christian heritage? Why, after 200 years of prosperity and blessing, would we turn our back on the Almighty? Patriotism is about doing what's best for the country -- and the best thing for this country is to get back to God again. That's what's going to have to happen in this country if we're going to stay who we are and keep our place in the world."

Now I've alway been partial to Alice's Restaurant, as a nice Thanksgiving Day reminder of what we should be grateful for: a government which is ultimately accountable to us, the right and obligation to laugh and satirize authority figures, even when guilty of crimes, and the right to use humor to protest a war.

Unfortunately, I don't get WNEW FM here in Portland, and don't know if they still have a tradition of playing that song on Thanksgiving, like they did for decades when I lived there.

But if Mr. Shapiro really wants endorse a Jack Charlie Daniels Thanksgiving (wouldn't a Wild Turkey Thanksgiving be more appropriate?) he can just go down to his local recruitment center and sign up, and if he can't do that, maybe he ought to just go in, sing a bar of Alice's Restaurant, and walk out.

"Kids, this-piece-of-paper's-got-47-words-37-sentences-58-words-we-wanna-
officer's-name-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say", and talked for
forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had
fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there,
and I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it
down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the
pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the
other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on
the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the
following words:


I went over to the sargent, said, "Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to
ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm
sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench
'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women,
kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." He looked at me and
said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send you fingerprints
off to Washington."

And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a
study in black and white of my fingerprints. And the only reason I'm
singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar
situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a
situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into
the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get
anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out. You know, if
one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and
they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony,
they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them.
And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in
singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an
organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said
fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and
walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

And that's what it is , the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and
all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on the

Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826

And now the inventor of Stove-Top stuffing has passed on.

And there it is...the beginning of the crack...

Trying to meet the folks on the Murtha side 1/2-way, it seems the retreat's already begun, or at least the planning therefor:

Barring any major surprises in Iraq, the Pentagon tentatively plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces there early next year by as many as three combat brigades, from 18 now, but to keep at least one brigade "on call" in Kuwait in case more troops are needed quickly, several senior military officers said.

Pentagon authorities also have set a series of "decision points" during 2006 to consider further force cuts that, under a "moderately optimistic" scenario, would drop the total number of troops from more than 150,000 now to fewer than 100,000, including 10 combat brigades, by the end of the year, the officers said.

Despite an intensified congressional debate about a withdrawal timetable after last week's call by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) for a quick pullout, administration officials say that military and political factors heavily constrain how fast U.S. forces should leave. They cite a continuing need to assist Iraq's fledgling security forces, ensure establishment of a permanent government, suppress the insurgency and reduce the potential for civil war.

U.S. military commanders, too, continue to favor a gradual, phased reduction, saying that too rapid a departure would sacrifice strategic gains made over the past 30 months and provide a propaganda windfall to insurgents.

Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, the senior tactical commander in Iraq, indicated to reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that his staff had looked at shrinking U.S. force levels more quickly. But he made his opposition to such a move clear.

"A precipitous pullout, I believe, would be destabilizing," Vines said from Baghdad.

Another senior general likened an accelerated withdrawal to "taking the training wheels off of a bike too early," warning that a sudden removal of all U.S. troops would risk the collapse of Iraq's fledgling security forces. He and several other officers privy to the planning for force reductions said the process has not been affected by the mounting political pressure in the United States and among some Iraqi leaders for U.S. troops to leave.

It's still not there yet; no objective criteria for "success" (just when is the Iraqi forces "sufficiently trained," and how much is the lack of their being sufficiently trained is enabled by our continuing presence?)

But that- combined with the bombshell news that everyone in the Bush regime knew there was no Iraq-al Qaeda connection at least as far back as 9/21/01, indicates that this is only the beginning.

This will pick up.


Oil driven.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Yep, it was blood for oil...


Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year. A report produced by American and British pressure groups warns Iraq will be caught in an "old colonial trap" if it allows foreign companies to take a share of its vast energy reserves. The report is certain to reawaken fears that the real purpose of the 2003 war on Iraq was to ensure its oil came under Western control.

The Iraqi government has announced plans to seek foreign investment to exploit its oil reserves after the general election, which will be held next month. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the third largest in the world.

According to the report, from groups including War on Want and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment. Negotiations with oil companies are already under way ahead of next month's election and before legislation is passed, it said.

The groups said they had amassed details of high-level pressure from the US and UK governments on Iraq to look to foreign companies to rebuild its oil industry. It said a Foreign Office code of practice issued in summer last year said at least $4bn would be needed to restore production to the levels before the 1990-91 Gulf War. "Given Iraq's needs it is not realistic to cut government spending in other areas and Iraq would need to engage with the international oil companies to provide appropriate levels of foreign direct investment to do this," it said.

Yesterday's report said the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) was proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. "The current government is fast-tracking the process. It is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law," the report, Crude Designs, said.

Earlier this year a BBC Newsnight report claimed to have uncovered documents showing the Bush administration made plans to secure Iraqi oil even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US. Based on its analysis of PSAs in seven countries, it said multinationals would seek rates of return on their investment from 42 to 162 per cent, far in excess of typical 12 per cent rates.

Taking an assumption of $40 a barrel, below the current price of almost $60, and a likely contract term of 25 to 40 years, it said that Iraq stood to lose between £74bn and $194bn. Andrew Simms, the NEF's policy director, said: "Over the last century, Britain and the US left a global trail of conflict, social upheaval and environmental damage as they sought to capture and control a disproportionate share of the world's oil reserves. Now it seems they are determined to increase their ecological debts at Iraq's expense. Instead of a new beginning, Iraq is caught in a very old colonial trap.

Louise Richards, chief executive of War on Want, said: "People have increasingly come to realise the Iraq war was about oil, profits and plunder. Despite claims from politicians that this is a conspiracy theory, our report gives detailed evidence to show Iraq's oil profits are well within the sights of the oil multinationals."

Oh, here's a bit of interesting context:

No multinationals are operating in Iraq now because of the poor security situation.

So do you see the quid pro quo that I do?

HT: seesdifferent@Kos

Why do the folks who we liberated from Saddam Hussein hate us?

If the leaders of Iraq think violence against US soldiers is justified
, how much progress are we making over there anyway?

Exactly what political objective for the United States did that achieve again?
Or what political objective for the United States is gained by being there and being a target for the insurgents? And not having a withrdrawl timetable?

Please 'splain folks.

Like I said last Friday
, the Bush regime's position on this isn't holding.

HT: Atrios.

Who the hell are we anyway?

From the Washington Post:

People spend more of their lives online -- the average American Internet user spends 80 hours a month online at work and 30 hours at home, according to Nielsen-NetRatings -- and Web-based interactions are evolving to look less like word-based messaging and more like facsimiles of physical existence. Tens of millions of Internet users have online doppelgangers they design to act as their proxy online -- communicating, shopping and socializing on their behalf and expressing themselves through humanoid gestures, voices and facial expressions.

People meet and develop real relationships through their avatars, speaking to one another through instant-messaging systems, expressing joy by making their characters dance and expressing love by instructing their avatars to kiss. Some meet, date and even marry solely online -- without ever expecting to meet their mate in person.

In the virtual world, cartoon-like avatars appear with their screen names above their heads. Avatars breathe on their own but can be instructed to walk, run, sit or turn. As they encounter other avatars, they talk through messages that appear in bubbles above their heads, shaking their head when the user types "no" and laughing when he or she types "lol" (laugh out loud)...

Users invest in them, literally, spending real money in exchange for fake currency that allows them to clothe, house and accessorize their avatars. Eventually, experts say, avatars may become the primary way computer users recognize one another online, whether they are using instant messaging or surfing the Web...

Avatar, a concept from Hindu mythology that means "the incarnation of a god," is an age-old concept that entered computer lingo in the 1960s but only recently has become a mass-cultural phenomenon. Now, 90 percent of America Online instant messengers use some form of avatar -- either a static image or a more advanced, 3-D "super buddy" that moves, laughs, shouts or talks in response to what's being typed in the message systems...

Over time, avatars may follow their creators around on different programs, such as a name tag that pops up on instant messages, on Web logs...

I was thinking of doing a riff on George W. Bush- how, despite what we "know" about him, he is not the icon of liberty the right makes him to be, nor is he the incompetent Dr. Evil-demographic jackboot dictator the left makes him out to be (not that he's not venal, of course...)

George W. Bush, in other words, is an avatar we create with our own minds based on what people - some of whom have noble ends and some of whom have base ends- have constructed, and we've read, watched, seen commented on, etc. George W. Bush, of course, has played a big part in the creation of the "avatar" of George W. Bush, and holds primary responsibility for that character. (Is he like "Max Headroom" of the 80s? A real person? Could that not be done today?)

We can't will George W. Bush back into the more imaginary and fantasy aspects of maya; that genie's out of the bottle, and the cultural metaphors are inextricably mixed.

Yet all of this misses a point, that is, there's something left out both on my George W. Bush is an avatar riff and the WaPo's avatar riff: we all have a vested interested in presenting ourselves, pseudonymical or in flesh and blood and bricks and mortar, with a degree of versimilitude. When you bullshit folks all the time there's simply too many balls in the air to keep track.

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's so simple a 5 year old could understand it....somebody get me a 5 year old!


Mongolia, a little larger than Alaska, is landlocked between Russian and China, making it crucial territory for U.S. intelligence services. And it is a favored member of the coalition of the willing: Mongolia is supplying troops in Iraq in rotations of 160 soldiers, which according to the White House makes it the 14th largest contributor of troops to Iraq, and the third largest country per capita...

"Like the ideology of communism, the ideology of Islamic radicalism is destined to fall because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty," Bush said...
I assume that George W. Bush didn't exactly excel in post-Renaissance Western philosophy or psychology in school.

I do wish the right would stop cribbing from the John Birch Society.

From Salon:

Nov. 21, 2005 | In 1959, the recently formed John Birch Society issued an urgent alert: Christmas was under attack. In a JBS pamphlet titled "There Goes Christmas?!" a writer named Hubert Kregeloh warned, "One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas -- to denude the event of its religious meaning." The central front in this perfidious assault was American department stores, where the "Godless UN" was scheming to replace religious decorations with internationalist celebrations of universal brotherhood.

"The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand," the pamphlet explained. "They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda. What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations."

According to the JBS, this assault on yuletide iconography was "part of a much broader plan, not only to promote the UN, but to destroy all religious beliefs and customs." The pamphlet called on all Americans to fight back by informing department stores that those with improper ornamentation wouldn't be getting their business.

It's been about commericalization since Charlie Brown's Christmas anyway.

Useless factoid of the day

The first victim of the Blancmanges, from Monty Python's Episode 7 ("You're no fun anymore") was named Harold Potter. He was turned into a Scotsman.

Note to Atrios- and White House Staff

Atrios blogs a story out about the culinary incuriousness of some folks on the recent presidential trip. Outback is almost certainly not the same in S. Korea as it is in the US; it certainly is not the same in Japan as it is in the US.

They probably learned that the hard way.

They should have gone for the kim-chee.

I get links now and then

and I recently got one from Blogmandu...

Amadeus is a political researcher and consultant residing in Oregon. This week, in his blog dharma vision, he tackled the issue of Politics and Hatred.“Lately, I have begun to again study the notion of hatred.” he writes. “It really is a hard thing to understand. We often hold such deep feelings about issues that they could sow seeds of hatred within us. I know mine sometimes do and although I have become a little better at recognizing it, I still have a long way to go.”

Note: Tom's since updated what he wrote based on what I had originally written wbelow, and I present the updated stuff here:

Mumon of Notes in Samsara writes about Bush's miscues in Japan, where he is slashing back at domestic critics of his war, bumfuzzling his hosts. [In one stop on the island nation, Bush insisted he wasn't there speaking for the US government, while at another stop, he thanked the prime minister for sending troops to Iraq.] "Nixon [could handle diplomacy]; he was venal but talented." observes Mumon. "George W. Bush, miserable failure that he is, is venal but not talented."

Having said all that, and I didn't actually mean a criticism of what Tom wrote so much as an explanation of what I wrote, much of below still holds, I think:

I, for one, have always looked at blogs blogging things politically not as about hatred, but about recording what's happened, recording feelings, and attempting to see how an expressed idea, as expressed at various "places" in cyberspace propagates. Which is not to say my interest is purely clinical, but

  • If you don't understand the relationship betweeen Google, George W. Bush, and "miserable failure," I suppose you might mistake associating "George W. Bush" with "miserable failure" as hatred, when it's only innocent Google bombing, that is to propagate a relationship that's already been around for a while. For reasons.
  • I would think it's not particularly disputable at this point that yes, George W. Bush is one of the more venal presidents we've had, and indeed, Nixon was more competent.
  • I believe it was Soen Nakagawa that said that, in effect, tabloids could be read as sutras if viewed appropriately. I read neither sutras literally nor my own writing as holy writ.
  • Finally, we are all responsible for George W. Bush. And Saddam Hussein. And the Dalai Lama. And the guy down the street. And the guy starving. There are places in cyberspace that pretend this responsibility does not exist. I think it's axiomatic that it's a good thing - a helpful thing- to put cyberspace in a state that recognizes this responsibility.

Does Michelle Malkin hate? Powerline? Kos? Some on Kos undoubtedly do. Maybe Ehrenburg did.

Maybe it was just business.

These are indeed trying times, and that means, I think, we should mindfully try to find what works and get skillful at it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

There's never enough John F. Kennedy stories.

Nobody will ever be able to convince the American people that there wasn't a conspiracy, and there's still enough evidence around to show that it's more likely that it was a conspiracy than wasn't.

I am of course part of the conspiracy, having once worked on a government funded project to extent the research on "spectral subtraction" of background noise from voice signals that was originally carried on by one of the researchers who studied the acoustic evidence from the Kennedy assasination for the House in the 70s.

Yet another reason why I'm not impressed with "Southern culture"

And more reasons why I can't fathom a device that deep fries turkeys.

If you have a duck, or a goose, of course, you can brown it in your wok prior to roasting it. But forget about doing such things to turkeys.

HT: Crooks and Liars.

It's an insult to the American people that folks like Alito are even being nominated


The views that Samuel Alito expressed on reapportionment in a 20-year-old document could jeopardize his Supreme Court nomination and provoke a filibuster, a leading Democratic senator said Sunday.

"I think he's got a lot of explaining to do, and depending on how he does, I think will determine whether or not he has a problem or not," said Sen. Joseph Biden, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which plans confirmation hearings in early January...

The Warren Court, as it became known, ended public school segregation and established the election principle of one-man one-vote.

"The part that jeopardizes it (Alito's nomination) more is his quotes in there saying that he had strong disagreement with the Warren Court particularly on reapportionment - one man, one vote," Biden told "Fox News Sunday."

"The fact that he questioned abortion and the idea of quotas is one thing. The fact that he questioned the idea of the legitimacy of the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court is even something well beyond that," Biden said.

In the document, Alito wrote, "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause and reapportionment," he said.

Biden said the chances of a filibuster against Alito had increased because of Alito's assertions in the document.

"If he really believes that reapportionment is a questionable decision - that is, the idea of Baker v. Carr, one man, one vote - then clearly, clearly, you'll find a lot of people, including me, willing to do whatever they can to keep him off the court. ... That would include a filibuster, if need be," Biden said.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision in 1962 in Baker v. Carr, ruled that arbitrarily drawn legislative districts can be challenged in federal court.

Really, if there's anything that's "original" or "fundamental" in American law it's that government is ultimately accountable to the people, that government gains its legitimacy by the consent of the governed. If there is no ability for the governed to consent or withold their consent or then this government is illegitimate.

Alito would - or at least has in the past- favored radical, illegitimate government for the United States.

But then again, there's nothing "originalist" or "strict constructionist" about folks like Alito - or Scalia. Scalia, of course, is most famous for saying that innocence of a crime need not be a barrier to execution for that crime.

These folks are as odious as they come; they should not be admitted to the bar for moral turpitude, let alone be in a judicial position.



President George W Bush tried to make a quick exit from a news conference in Beijing on Sunday - only to find himself thwarted by locked doors.

The president strode away from reporters looking annoyed after one said he appeared "off his game".

President Bush tugged at both handles on the double doors before admitting: "I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work."...

Mr Bush answered a range of questions before one reporter said: "Respectfully, sir - you know we're always respectful - in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?"

The president answered: "Have you ever heard of jet lag? Well, good. That answers your question."

The reporter asked for a follow-up question but the president then thanked the attending journalists and said: "No you may not."

He strode from the lectern to the door, trying both handles and then breaking into a laugh.

An aide escorted him to the correct exit and on to dinner at the Great Hall of the People.
The good news though is that he has to breathe the air of Beijing.

Might make him think twice about favoring polluters.

"Ignorance" is not a "viewpoint."

The recent news about "viewpoint discrimination" against "evangelical Christians" by the University of California shows lots of things wrong, but not about discrimination against evangelical Christians. From today's NY Times:

They say the public university system, which has 10 campuses, discriminates against students from evangelical Christian schools, especially faith-based ones like Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, where Mr. Young is a senior.

Mr. Young, five other Calvary students, the school and the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents 4,000 religious schools, sued the University of California in the summer, accusing it of "viewpoint discrimination" and unfair admission standards that violate the free speech and religious rights of evangelical Christians.

The suit, scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 12 in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, says many of Calvary's best students are at a disadvantage when they apply to the university because admissions officials have refused to certify several of the school's courses on literature, history, social studies and science that use curriculums and textbooks with a Christian viewpoint.

he lawyer for the school, Robert Tyler, said reviewing and approving the course content was an intrusion into private education that amounted to government censorship. "They are trying to secularize private Christian schools," Mr. Tyler said. "They have taken God out of public schools. Now they want to do it at Christian schools."

A lawyer for the university, Christopher M. Patti, called the suit baseless. Acknowledging the university does not accept some courses, Mr. Patti said that more than 43 courses were recognized and that university campuses had offered admission to at least 18 Calvary students since 2002. "Calvary students are perfectly free to take whatever courses they like," Mr. Patti said. "All we are saying is that unapproved courses cannot be submitted to satisfy the requirements for entry."...

A lawyer for the Association of Christian Schools International, Wendell Bird, said the Calvary concerns surfaced two years ago when the admissions board scrutinized more closely courses that emphasized Christianity. In the last year, the board has rejected courses like Christianity's Influence in American History, Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and a biology course using textbooks from the Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, conservative Christian publishers.

The officials rejected the science courses because the curriculum differed from "empirical historical knowledge generally accepted in the collegiate community," the suit said. Calvary was told to submit a secular curriculum instead. Courses in other subjects were rejected because they were called too narrow or biased.

"What really lights the fire here," Mr. Tyler said, "is when you look at courses the U.C. has approved from other schools. In the titles alone, you can see the discrimination against us."

The university has approved courses on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and gender and counterculture's effects on literature, he noted. Ms. Poorsina said many courses on Christianity had been accepted, as have Bob Jones science books.

Well, let's see what they're talking about, shall we?
Here's the book the school in question, Calvary Chapel Christian School uses. Do a search on Amazon on "Zen," for example, and you'll find mistatements, errors, anachronisms, and downright sloppy work that Buddhists have come to expect from Intervarsity Press publications on religions other than evangelical Christianity.

Indeed, they use works from Bob Jones University, including evidently a biology text that denies that evolution takes place.

So in fact these folks want "special rights" to be able to attend normal schools without learning what's needed to attend those schools.

Useful investment tool

for analyzing fees and expenses of mutual funds from NASD.It's located here.

technorati tags:

Why Democrats don't like the New York Times


The struggle for supremacy in American politics is usually seen as a closely fought battle for the middle ground. The two parties compete to win over the unassuming but pivotal figure that political scientists call the "median voter" - the swing voter in the ideological center, who plays the decisive role come Election Day. The theory of the median voter is inspired by the analogy of two stores competing for customers: if consumers are evenly scattered in a region, the stores' best strategy is to locate right next to each other; otherwise, they take an unnecessary risk of losing potential customers. Political parties, too, should seek the center. Like a pendulum, politics swings back to the middle when governance strays too far to the extremes.

It hasn't been seen this way for quite a while, it assumes that "the center" is this static entity, that people or advertisers can't sway public opinion, and that this mythical "center" never becomes obsolete.

Since the late 90's, however, the pendulum has appeared to be stuck. Despite losing the popular vote in 2000 and facing one of the most closely divided electorates in United States history, George W. Bush has governed largely to please his base, allied with a G.O.P. majority committed to goals that were demonstrably out of line with middle-of-the-road voters' views on many issues.

Since at least the late 70's media such as the New York Times were playing a "he said, she said" kind of reporting that obscured or failed to report plainly when one side or the other was engaging in what can only be called "bullshit."

... For all their current vulnerabilities, Republicans still enjoy a number of formidable advantages, grounded in a favorable electoral map and the character of contemporary majority rule. What's more, while many Democrats are crowing about Bush's free fall, most of these Republican advantages rest in Congress, not the White House. And unfortunately for Democrats, even a significant shift in public opinion toward the Democrats may do little to loosen the G.O.P. Congressional majority's grip on power.

This is not because Republicans enjoy an overwhelming edge. Far from it. To capture Congress in next year's midterm elections, Democrats need to pick up 6 seats in the Senate and 16 in the House - a modest swing by postwar standards, especially in the sixth year of a presidency, when the president's party often loses ground. Yet the veteran election-watcher Charles Cook recently placed the odds of Republicans losing even one chamber in 2006 at just 1 in 5. Understanding why a party that's so battered can still be so favored reveals a great deal about how the G.O.P. has insulated itself from the traditional swings of the political pendulum.

To begin with, Republicans enjoy a lead right out of the starting blocks thanks to the geographic structure of American elections. In the Senate, Republicans have a tremendous built-in edge because small states, which lean Republican, are so overrepresented. As a result, Democrats can win a majority of votes nationwide and still not gain control.

It took them this long to say it, but the subtext is that even the House doesn't exactly work democratically.

Still, the Democratic party is aware of these things, and is in fact targetting candidates. De Lay, for one is pretty vulnerable. Blunt could be too, if a strong candidate were fielded. Folks - even Republicans- don't like corruption, they don't like being impoverished, and they don't like profligate spending.

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Why the Chinese are not fans of the New York Times


BEIJING, Sunday, Nov. 20 - President Bush began a one-day visit here on Sunday with a first set of meetings with President Hu Jintao of China t even as o defuse a host of tensions,many in Beijing argue that he will be able to apply little true pressure on the world's fastest-rising power.

We don't quite know who those "many" are who are arguing that Bush will be able to apply "little true pressure" but, evidently, from the first paragraph we see that you have to "apply true pressure" to "defuse a host of tensions," since, after all, why else would you place those two phrases in that context?

But wait; it gets better:

Mr. Bush arrived in Beijing amid evidence that China has little intention of speeding the decontrol of its currency, which Mr. Bush has said fuels the country's trade surplus, or of curtailing its crackdown on the media and on academic and religious freedoms. On Sunday morning, he underscored his concerns about China's crackdown on religion by attending a service at the Gangwashi Church, one of the few state-approved and state-monitored congregations in the country.

That visit was a highly symbolic one: His huge motorcade - more than 50 cars - took him to the church, off an alley near Tiananmen Square. He took part in a traditional Protestant service and signed the guest book with the words, "May God bless the Christians of China."

The church was carefully selected - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went there earlier this year - and emerging from it, Mr. Bush chose his words carefully: "You know, it wasn't all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty."

So, let's see, Bush goes to a state-approved Church. He gets to be able to go. Unlike his Saudi allies who forbid Bush from going to their only state-run church, and who tolerate absolutely no freedom of religion, the Chinese allow Bush to go to their state run church.

In a measure of the wariness felt by the Chinese, the government said that it could only guarantee television coverage for Mr. Bush's visit when he goes bicycling with Olympic athletes on Sunday.

He's an unpopular lame duck who's been a pain in the ass to most of the world, Americans included. Why should they give him the time of day, except to defuse nuclear tensions?

Can't we impeach him now

What Atrios said:
Bush administration needs evidence to support their war. They use torture techniqes designed to extract false confessions to obtain that "evidence," which they then use to sell the war despite knowing full well of the lack of reliability of the information.
This "intelligence" was certainly not shared with Congress I'd bet.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Holy cow, Cisco is buying Scientific Atlanta...

The Silicon Valley Pac-man returns to its nature.

More evidence of the coming Republican crack-up

It's really hard to see how they can keep in power right now, without moderating their policies:

Pentagon investigators have referred allegations of abuse in how the Halliburton Company was awarded a contract for work in Iraq to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation, a Democratic senator who has been holding unofficial hearings on contract abuses in Iraq said yesterday in Washington.

The allegations mainly involve the Army's secret, noncompetitive awarding in 2003 of a multibillion dollar contract for oil field repairs in Iraq to Halliburton, a Texas-based company. The objections were raised publicly last year by Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the chief contracts monitor at the Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that handled the contract and several others in Iraq.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 - Even among the ambitious Republican aides driving the Clinton impeachment case in 1998, Michael Scanlon stood out.

He was 28, preppy, athletic. Hired as a spokesman for Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, Mr. Scanlon charmed reporters with his easy manner and willingness to trade gossip.

But in private, Mr. Scanlon was ruthless. He attacked his boss's political opponents with ferocity. That instinct would help him go after adversaries - and earn tens of millions of dollars - as an associate of the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in just a few short years.

The day President Bill Clinton testified to the grand jury about Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Scanlon fired off an e-mail message to a colleague objecting to "this whole thing about not kicking someone when they're down."

"You kick him until he passes out," Mr. Scanlon wrote in an e-mail message that was published in the Clinton biography "The Breach." "Then beat him over the head with a baseball bat, then roll him up in an old rug and throw him off a cliff into the pound surf below!!!!!"

Less than a decade later, Mr. Scanlon is in legal trouble for his business dealings with Mr. Abramoff, with whom he used his ties to the Republican House leadership to build a booming lobbying and public affairs business.

Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff collected about $82 million in fees from Indian tribes over four years. Their dealings triggered the investigation that led to the criminal conspiracy charge filed against Mr. Scanlon on Friday.

The prosecutor in the CIA leak case said yesterday that he plans to present evidence to another federal grand jury, signaling a new and potentially significant turn in the investigation into the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Three weeks after indicting I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and declaring the investigation nearly complete, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald announced a new phase in the investigation after the disclosure this week that a senior administration official revealed Plame's CIA connection to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003.

Legal experts said Fitzgerald's decision to call upon a new grand jury is all but certainly because he is considering additional criminal charges in the case.

Two sources close to Karl Rove, the top Bush aide still under investigation in the case, said they have reason to believe Fitzgerald does not anticipate presenting additional evidence against the White House deputy chief of staff. Instead, lawyers involved in the case expect the prosecutor to focus on Woodward's admission that an official other than Libby told him about Plame one month before her identity was publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak.

Then there's the Frist SEC investigation.

You just can't bet against all of these and expect to win.

Friday, November 18, 2005

My next big fat market prediction...

I'm seeing the C-SPAN debate on the Iraq resolution, after watching the Nightly Business Report on PBS.

It's manifestly obvious to me - with Republicans speaking out on behalf of John Murtha- that the center will not - repeat will not- hold on maintaining the ridiculous status quo in Iraq.

The only choice that the Repubs have is to actually follow something like what Murtha is saying.

And that means:
  • Less budget busting for the hidden Iraq expenditures.
  • Less defense spending overall
  • And therefore the stock market will start to rise again.
There's a lot of ifs and risks involved of course; another terrorist act, delays in this, but it appears, that like Harriet Miers, the Bush regime is going to cave on this. You heard it here first. Forty Five per cent - that's 45%- of Iraqis polled support attacks against American troops. They don't want us there. Americans don't want us there.

And this can only mean that American money can go back into the private sector.

Yes, it's probably time to put some money back into the DOW or S&P.

But avoid GM.

You heard it here first.

Another screw up by George W. Bush & Handlers


Going abroad to burnish your image only works a) if you're not fighting a war, or b) if you are fighting a war and you're talented enough to carry out, you know, diplomacy, and haven't screwed around publicly with other nations in the past few years. Nixon could carry it off, because he was venal but talented. George W. Bush, miserable failure that he is, h is venal but not talented.

Reading this article in the context of the Post article below, one gets the feeling that foreign governments don't mind at all cooperating to get al Qaeda, especially through the Agency, but they do mind George W. Bush, and his team's idiotic rants at French and Germans.

Spies and spy businesses


This article from the Washington Post is actually something about the so-called "War on Terror" that in part seems rational; but consider the following points as you read this below:

  • The CIA has, and had, been under attack by people for "faulty intelligence" on WMDs in Iraq.
  • The CIA has been under attack especially by the wingnut fringe as "outing" Plame.
  • When you read what's here below the image that emerges is of a highly, highly competent CIA combatting terrorism, thanks to George Tenet.
  • Some of the countries involved are quite unsavory, and the rendition thing gets no prominent mention if any (haven't finished reading the darn thing yet).

If that doesn't make you go "hmmm...." I would say you're fundamentally incurious. As they used to say in the Soviet Union, these things do not get published by accident.

An excerpt:

The CIA has established joint operation centers in more than two dozen countries where U.S. and foreign intelligence officers work side by side to track and capture suspected terrorists and to destroy or penetrate their networks, according to current and former American and foreign intelligence officials.

The secret Counterterrorist Intelligence Centers are financed mostly by the agency and employ some of the best espionage technology the CIA has to offer, including secure communications gear, computers linked to the CIA's central databases, and access to highly classified intercepts once shared only with the nation's closest Western allies.

The Americans and their counterparts at the centers, known as CTICs, make daily decisions on when and how to apprehend suspects, whether to whisk them off to other countries for interrogation and detention, and how to disrupt al Qaeda's logistical and financial support.

The network of centers reflects what has become the CIA's central and most successful strategy in combating terrorism abroad: persuading and empowering foreign security services to help. Virtually every capture or killing of a suspected terrorist outside Iraq since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- more than 3,000 in all -- was a result of foreign intelligence services' work alongside the agency, the CIA deputy director of operations told a congressional committee in a closed-door session earlier this year...

George J. Tenet orchestrated the shift during his tenure as CIA director, working with the agency's station chiefs abroad and officers in the Counterterrorist Center at headquarters to bring about an exponential deepening of intelligence ties worldwide after Sept. 11.

Beneath the surface of visible diplomacy, the cooperative efforts, known as liaison relationships, are recasting U.S. dealings abroad.

The White House has stepped up its criticism of Uzbek President Islam Karimov in the past year for his authoritarian rule and repression of dissidents. But joint counterterrorism efforts with Tashkent continued until recently. In Indonesia, as the State Department doled out tiny amounts of assistance to the military when it made progress on corruption and human rights, the CIA was pouring money into Jakarta and developing intelligence ties there after years of tension. In Paris, as U.S.-French acrimony peaked over the Iraq invasion in 2003, the CIA and French intelligence services were creating the agency's only multinational operations center and executing worldwide sting operations.

The CIA has operated the joint intelligence centers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, according to current and former intelligence officials. In addition, the multinational center in Paris, codenamed Alliance Base, includes representatives from Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Australia.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sure to give pause to the Hugh Hewitts

this diary on Kos on the Thermidorian reaction to the religious right is good reading.

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You know, if I made a statue like that, they'd call me anti-Christian


Drive another quarter-mile up Interstate 75, past the billboards for Bristol's Strip Club and Trader's World Flea Market, and suddenly the image appears in all its full dimensions. Jesus, depicted from the waist up, is six stories tall and seems to burst from the ground, as if he might gather a tractor-trailer in his Honda-size hands and lift it to heaven.

After dark, the figure is illuminated by spotlights from below. "It sort of looms out at you, especially at night," said Aaron Andrews, a trucker from Milwaukee.

The statue, erected in 2003, was the inspiration of Lawrence and Darlene Bishop, evangelical Christian pastors of the 3,400-member Solid Rock Church here, which spent $250,000 on a project that did not go smoothly.

The image's steel frame was built in nearby Lebanon, Ohio, and the body, made of Styrofoam and fiberglass, on the beach in Jacksonville, Fla. The body was then trucked north. But when workers started installing the statue on an island in a man-made reflecting pool behind the church, they found that the head and arms were too small for the chest.

The builder, James Lynch, then spent three months ripping the fiberglass apart and recasting the outstretched arms and upturned face. The completed figure weighs 16,000 pounds and, at 62 feet, stands 20 feet taller than originally planned, though its skin is so thin that it bends to the touch of a finger...

There is also a running disagreement over the statue's name. Postcards for sale in the church's gift shop refer to it as the King of Kings. Many locals call it Touchdown Jesus, since, a bit like the famed mural at the University of Notre Dame, it resembles a robed and bearded referee signaling a score at the goal line. Others call it Super Jesus, MC 62ft Jesus (for the technomusician of a similar name) or simply Big J.

The image to me looks like Jesus is sinking in quicksand, and trying to get out.

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My wife will love this