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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Picture of the Day - 2

A hospital employee closes the eyes of a dead boy, killed in a shooting, at a hospital in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad,Iraq, Saturday Aug. 26, 2006. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a fleeing Shiite family after the family has received a death threat from insurgents, killing four and injuring 11 of them, police said.(AP Photo/Mohammed Adnan)

Petty poll watching.

Time Mag - Bush approval +3 at 38% (no disapproval?)

Newsweek - Bush approval -2 at 36/56.

We can argue whether the president is ticking up or down a point, but reality is that a president eighty days from midterms with an extended period polling under 40% (8 months?) is in a whole lot of trouble. If terror threats don't move the numbers, then .......?

(In the generic congressional races, Time - Dem 51/40, Newsweek 50/38.)

Also, more and more experts are seeing a Dem takeover of the House. Easily at hand, Rothenberg, Charlie Cook, Larry Sabato, Thomas Mann.

Most importantly, the trade associations, lobbyists, PAC's, and business groups are starting to place their business investments (donations) on the Dems.

We're still a long way from the election, and the president has the ability to actually make the news, but it's still notable that the smart money is beginning to flow left.

A little more on the politics of the UN Lebanon deployment

The UN resolution (1701) that was passed for the deployment of UN forces in Lebanon very intentionally left open the question of whether those troops would have the responsibility or mandate to secure the Lebanon/Syria border.

The way 1701 was written, the patrolling of that border by UN troops is left solely to the discretion of the Lebanese government.

Now, the Syrians, in an attempt to leverage Beirut, have threatened to seal off the border from its side which would functionally cut off the Lebanese from any overland trade except north through Turkey.

The Israelis have responded by saying that they will not lift the air and sea embargo of Lebanon until UN forces take up positions along that border.

Faced with this choice, the Lebanese government has chosen not to allow UN forces along the Syrian border, saying that "Only the Lebanese army is in charge of controlling the borders with Syria and it is out of the question to deploy the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL.)"

Finally, to add to the questions around the ceasefire, take a look at this quote from Kofi Annan yesterday, "The troops are not going there to disarm Hezbollah. Let's be clear about that."

I find all this interesting because of the games played around this ceasefire resolution in the first place. Remember the US stalled international efforts for weeks in pursuit of a resolution which would create "a sustainable peace."

Does this sound like a "sustainable peace?"

(It should be noted that the US only sought a ceasefire after it became clear that the Israelis wouldn't be able to meet their military goals. That was what the coded "sustainable peace" meant, that peace would only be sustainable after the Israelis had reached their goals.)

Picture of the Day


On the Dem discussion of reallocating chairmanships

There's a New York Times article this morning discussing the possibility that the Democrats may model after the Republicans on committee chairmanships if they retake the house, making seniority just one factor among many in choosing chairmen.

Reality-based points to one possibility in the comments, that this is an effort to defuse the Republican fear based talking point about "Chairman Conyers" etc, but I'm going to add a more cynical possibility.

One of the examples in the article from the Republican side is the appointment of Joe Barton to head the Energy and Commerce Committee despite more senior members. Being from Texas, perhaps I have watched Joe Barton more closely than most, but he is one of the most oil industry friendly reps in the house, and the Republicans used "merit" to put him at the head of the committee that manages energy issues.

How many donations did that appointment generate?

So, the question is, if the Dems are talking about going around the rigid seniority system, which frankly is a really good idea, are they doing it for competence reasons or to put industry friendly chairmen into key posts?

Just a question.

The US plan on Iran

On a day when Iran announced the opening of a heavy water reactor, US diplomacy on Iran has completely broken down. The Russians have refused to allow sanctions through the Security Council, probably with China's quiet backing, leaving the US with no real plan B.

The LATimes is reporting that the US may try to "forge an alliance" outside the UN to punish Iran, (Reuters summary) but looking at the shrinking "coalition of the willing in Iraq," the only real threat the US can pose is cutting off the Iranian's supply of fish from Tuvalu, or maybe the tube socks they import from El Salvador.

We are being outplayed on diplomacy in the middle east. The ideologues like Bolton and the Bush loyalists like Rice are just not very good. They're not respected; they're not feared. And with a black and white/good and evil foreign policy behind them, they have no power, no ability to negotiate.

I mean, look at this analysis piece at BBC. The UN Security Council resolution on the deployment in Lebanon was written to allow the policing of the Syrian border to be determined solely by the Lebanese government. A threat to shut down it's border with Lebanon may be enough to throw out that possibility.

The Syrians are winning. The Iranians are winning. The Russians are winning. The Venezuelans are winning. The Chinese are winning......

Friday, August 25, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

George, George Jr., and Jenna on a boat on a lake in Kennebunkport. Jenna sure looks like she's having fun.


State Farm Insurance destroyed and altered documents to avoid payouts on Katrina according to two whistleblowers.

Russia rejected sanctions against Iran outright. Tell me Condi is not being outplayed.

CNN is going to replay its coverage from 9/11/2001 in real time on the web. I think that could be really interesting. (They're waiving the "pipeline" fee for the day.)

McCain has offered this "clarification" about his comments on Bush and Iraq. How much pressure do you think it took for "the maverick" to back off. "We'll pull the donor list, John...."

Six flights were diverted just today out of terror fears.

A new appreciation of Gandhi

After watching all the violence lately around occupation, foreign policy, and influence, I have a newfound appreciation for the amazing thing that Gandhi did.

Certainly, the movement against the British in India wasn't bloodless, and there were many other factors within the conflict, but viewed against the actions and tactics of today's anti-imperial / anti-occupation folks, I find myself once again overwhelmed by the beauty of that stubborn little man.


Blogger keeps cutting in and out today, so posting is erratic.

Picture of the Day - 2

I had the purple surgically removed.

Target Rumsfeld

After all the moves by Republicans to "get the Democrats on record" through meaningless votes, I think this is a great move to turn the tables.

Would every Republican who thinks Donald Rumsfeld has done a good job please raise their hand? Could you take a step to the left Senator? I need better light if I'm going to put this in the campaign commercial.

The president's version of Katrina

Over the next week, I would expect to see alot of distortions about Katrina. So, without further adieu, the WaPo rewrites history,
Last year's month-long sojourn in Texas stirred anger among critics who complained that he was slow to cut short his vacation when Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans.

WRONG! Very few people were upset that Bush was at Crawford before Katrina hit.

The "critics" were incensed that days after the levees broke, when the problem was obvious to everyone with a TV set, that the president STAYED ON VACATION FOR DAYS, while New Orleans got worse and worse!!!

Also, it's very interesting to me that the Republicans gain political benefit by not talking about a natural disaster, Katrina, but by talking alot about a preventable terror attack, the worst in history, that took place on their watch.

How messed up is that?

(Especially with the growing evidence that the EPA put tens of NY residents at risk by hiding the true danger of the environmental fallout from 9-11.)


Turkish jets struck PKK bases inside Northern Iraq. Notice the difference in US coverage. Anything Iran does makes the front pages. Turkey has repeatedly violated the border and not a peep out of US officials.

Meanwhile, the PKK refuses to disarm.

The British have "abandoned" their base in the Shia Maysan province after repeated nightly mortar attacks. "While dismissing suggestions the British had been forced out of Amara, he acknowledged the attacks had been one reason for the decision to withdraw."

Sadr is claiming victory. "This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!"

Credit to the WaPo for actually writing stories about Sadr and his Mahdi army. There has been so little written about the "enemy" in Iraq. (Although this piece on Abu Diri, "the Butcher," seems a bit sensationalist. But, I guess we need a Shia Zarqawi.)

Iraqis used to cleaning up after carnage.

Under challenge for his seat, Rep. Chris Shays (R. - Conn.) calls for a timetable for withdrawal.

Nothing will happen

While I'm on media criticism, everybody's all gaga over the fact that the State Dept. has opened an inquiry into Israel's questionable use of cluster bombs.

C'mon now. This is a PR effort.

With the Bush administration in the background, nothing is going to change.

Picture of the Day

Triage at the New Orleans airport.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Are we any better prepared for terrorism?

After watching the horrors of Katrina, followed by the chaotic attempt to evacuate a small percentage my city when Hurricane Rita looked likely to hit Houston, I remember thinking very distinctly, "we're on our own." And then my mind turned to terrorism.

If, god forbid, there were some sort of major attack that required the evacuation of a city and the inflow of massive amounts of supplies and medical support, the situation would be remarkably similar to that experienced in New Orleans or in the disastrous attempted evacuation here in Houston. (Remember that during the Katrina disaster, New Orleans had only a small percentage of her people in the city.)

I've seen tons of reports examining the failures of Katrina, but almost all of them focus on the post-Katrina support and rebuilding operations. I have not seen any major work or substantial reporting around evacuation and immediate support.

Has anything changed? If something big happened suddenly in Houston or Chicago or Atlanta, would the immediate response be substantially different? In a terror attack(or an election year,) I doubt we would have the same five day lag as Katrina, but, in the case of a terror attack the underlying problems of evacuation and supply would be the same.

Does the government plan to send trucks of food and water into a radioactive city? Or allow people to leave willy nilly after a bioterror attack?

No. The plan is shelter in place. The DHS plan says to have food for three days.

As I loaded up the hurricane kit again a week ago, I just kept remembering that ominous feeling. "You're on your own."

Picture of the Day - 3

Baghdad. The US hospital in the Green Zone.

The myth of a handover to Iraqi forces

Remember that base that the British successfully handed over to a now fully capable Iraqi army unit? Remember, the "success" of the British handover of the province of Muthanna?
The first British camp to be handed to the Iraqis was looted almost bare within days of the army's departure.

The transfer last month was widely heralded as a signal that Iraq would soon be ready to run itself.

A British soldier said that, as the last men drove away, they saw pick-up trucks being filled with equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Most items that could be removed were taken, including air-conditioning units, water-filtration systems, chairs, bedding, and kitchen utensils. When the commander of British forces in southeast Iraq, Brigadier James Everard, discussed the matter with the province's governor, he was told that the camp had "largely gone."

Military sources believe off-duty Iraqi soldiers and government officials did much of the looting.....

Picture of the Day - 2

Remember in early 2004 when there was that push to send care packages to the soldiers in Iraq, wetnaps, cookies, that kind of thing?

I don't think this invalidates either the intent or usefulness of sending those items, it's just not the "Christmas morning" image alot of the senders had in mind.

Just came across this awhile back and found it interesting.

Frederick Fleitz reappears - Neocons at work on Iran

Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer and Bolton's "dirty work" man at the State Department, has reappeared working for Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich) on the House Intelligence Committee.

You may remember Fleitz as he was mentioned alot around the Plame leak, the Niger forgeries, the questionable Iraq intel, and my favorite, the Cuba biological weapons claim made by Bolton. Fleitz is one of the neocon footsoldiers. He is definitely in with the neocon "in crowd."

And, now, Fleitz has authored "stinging critique" for the House Intelligence Committee on the CIA's intel operations on Iran. The report was very unusually published before it was approved in the full committee.
The 29-page report, principally written by a Republican staff member on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran, fully backs the White House position.....

"American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran's nuclear weapons program" to help policymakers at a critical time, the report's authors say. Information "regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons and biological weapons programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive," and little evidence has been gathered to tie Iran to al-Qaeda and to the recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they say.

This has gotten big coverage all over the place (WaPo, NYTimes, USAToday.) I just thought someone should notice its neocon genesis and unusual publication.

(The giant two page NYTimes piece doesn't even mention Fleitz. It paints the discussion as whether intelligence officers are "gun shy" after Iraq. In other words, it buys the front story.

Oh, and don't miss this quote in the NYTimes article from Gingrich, “When the intelligence community says Iran is 5 to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon, I ask: ‘If North Korea were to ship them a nuke tomorrow, how close would they be then?”)

The hawks are coming out on Iran.

Later: Make sure to note these two bullet points from the report (.pdf). (My emphasis) "Iran likely has an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability. Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program."

Funny, there's no real proof to back up the "likely" or "probably" (that was the whole point of the report,) but Fleitz makes the unsubstantiated claim anyway.


I'm going to start today with the story pointed out by Newsguy in the comments that the US Congress has voted "to slash the budget of a government traumatic brain injury research." With that particular injury being so prevalent in this war, that is unconscionable.

They've held up their end of the bargain, we have to hold up ours.

Two more soldiers were killed south of Baghdad.

Iraq's Shia Interior Minister Bolani barely escaped a roadside bomb in Dora, one of the four neighborhoods targeted in the current US security operation. Two bystanders died including a 12 year old boy.

As a look at our future in Iraq (or at least the plan,) "A force of around 4000 British troops will stay behind in Iraq for an indefinite period even after all provinces controlled by the UK are handed over to the Baghdad government in nine months time."

And the Brits won't be the only Westerners staying in Iraq, "Oil Majors Maneuver for Prime Position in Iraq."

The Christian Science Monitor makes the observation, "
To some experts, the call-up of Marine Corps reservists indicates that the war is likely to last longer and be more hard-fought than earlier official predictions....."The call-up suggests the Pentagon envisions current troop levels in Iraq through the summer of 2008, with these guys going in the summer of 2007 for one year."

There's the excellent piece in the WaPo looking at Sadr and his strategy to consolidate power and simply wait out the US occupation, "Unless directly provoked, Sadrists will lay low, because they know the Americans' time in Iraq is coming to an end," he said. "Why would they risk another major loss of fighters if it's not necessary? Americans in their eyes are already defeated -- they're going to leave."

Last, Peter Baker slices to the marrow of the spin: Bush's new Iraq argument: It could be worse. (Or Froomkin's look at the language and reality of the Bush spin.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Bad blogging day.

Sorry, I'm not really feeling the fire today. It suddenly occurred to me what Bush's "we're staying in Iraq so long as I'm president" really means.

Loose math: 2 years and four and a half months left. That's roughly 865 days. At the current rate of 2 deaths a day, that would mean 1,730 more dead soldiers although it would likely be more as a pullout won't be instant upon his leaving office.

1,730+ soldiers that are alive today, walking around right now, that won't be when Bush leaves office.

(13,500 more wounded.)

Bush's NOLA supporter too good to be true

I've been busy today, so I didn't see this guy all over the news until just now. Will Bunch bursts the bubble. They must've had to dig hard to find this guy. I can't find the link, but earlier today I read that Bush's approval in New Orleans is below 10%.

(By the way, Cindy Sheehan parked outside Crawford for a month last year and has been virtually stalking Bush ever since. She was also impacted by his policies. No dinner for her.)

Later: Oh, and it's just a coincidence that this Bush supporter shows up at the White House expressing gratitude for all the Katrina victims just days before the White House begins its effort to whitewash the history.

Picture of the Day - 3

I just can't look away. This was the rally where,
Katherine Harris' attempt to boost her campaign with a series of high-profile endorsements wilted Thursday when none of the officials appeared at her campaign rally and one of them said Harris wrongly included him on her list of supporters.

(Since this rally, Harris has lost another "key staffer" because she lied and tried to blame this fiasco on him, and now she's started logging her staff's contacts. (I'm not kidding.)
"One of the lessons is that when you are in Congress and being advised by your staff, you need to know how they are getting their information," Harris said. "We are going to be keeping a log so that I know who my staff talked to and I can understand where their advice and decisions are coming from."

She's completely unhinged and still running a very public Senate race. The scale of it is mindboggling. It's like some bizarre literary plot, except that it's real, and latest polling still has her pulling about a quarter of the vote.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Welcome Home.

Success in the Baghdad crackdown

The Baghdad security crackdown does seem to be having some impact in the four neighborhoods targeted, although alot of that violence has simply been pushed out of those areas of Baghdad, and the regions from which the troops were pulled are experiencing heavy upticks in their violence. (Basra/Mosul, elsewhere) (It should be noted that in a recent attack, rockets were fired from one of the neighborhoods being targeted. So there still is some activity.)

The two key questions are, what happens when the US troops move on from these small successes? Will these areas stay quiet or will they return to previous levels of violence?

And, the successes in these neighborhoods are being achieved primarily by the 172nd Stryker brigades that were pulled out of Mosul and have already been extended three months. They're are exhausted and done. Will other units and configurations be able to achieve the same successes?


(Reuters) Security Developments in Iraq, August 22. (Always a partial list, but it offers snapshots.)

The BBC has a "voices" piece quoting people living in Fallujah and Samarra. It's eyeopening.

The Marines' call up of 2,500 soldiers from the IRR is being called evidence the military is stretched too far. My favorite bit of the story is the spin that these callups are only for certain "specialties." 3 of those specialties being "combat arms," "engineers," and "military police," all front line, on the ground, troops.

This USAToday piece starts out saying how great and independent a particular unit of the Iraqi forces have become, but later mentions their "reluctance to engage the enemy" and the fact that many of them moonlight for the militias. This is the Iraqi unit held up as one of the top successes.

On top of the already huge pressure of gas shortages throughout the country, Iraqi oil workers have gone on strike. (and the Gulf Daily News says Iraq faces stagflation.)

(From the AP blog) "One of the final rules is that if you're handing out candy or toys, make sure there's enough for everyone. These kids aren't sharing. It's easy to see why the children are so desperate for handouts. Most of them appear to be exceedingly poor, running through the sewage-filled streets with no shoes on and wearing old, tattered clothes. Employment in this area is about 40 percent, so their parents obviously can't buy them many special gifts."

Picture of the Day

By the way, how's that post-Katrina "war on poverty" going?

Did we win?

(Bush has a photo op custard on Tuesday.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Failing in Afghanistan on the front page

It's front page NYTimes so everybody probably saw this article on the "crisis in confidence" in the ineffectual Karzai government in Afghanistan, but what caught my eye was this bit on page two.
In southern Afghanistan the situation is so bad that people have begun turning to the Taliban for the swift, if severe, justice administered by mullahs, said Abdual Qadeer Noorzai, a human rights official in that region.

The Taleban offers a form of sure security and justice. In Lebanon, Hezbullah offers the people social programs and support far beyond anything supplied by the Lebanese government or the West. In Iraq, citizens support the militias and neighborhood groups because they are the only semblance of security.

People do not support these groups primarily because they are violent and anti-west. These groups gain support because they meet critical needs that are not being addressed.

Tell me again how we're going to defeat terrorism with bombing campaigns.....

(I also think there's another component in this equation that is rarely mentioned. Pride. These groups offer an example of strength from indigineous/local people who feel downtrodden and oppressed.

It's the grand mistake in the jiujitsu of counter-insurgency to not understand that every strike builds the insurgency's status. More force leads to more resistance. It's the fight itself that creates their legitimacy.)

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi boy, injured during A mortar attack, lies in a hospital in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Aug. 22, 2006. Two rounds of mortars exploded in a market Tuesday, wounding 11, police said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adnan)

Cluster bombs in Lebanon

I'm very critical of the media sometimes, but I want to give some credit to Jim Clancy and CNNInternational for doing a story on the left over cluster bomblets in South Lebanon. It's a big story and a big problem going forward. (Other sources 1, 2, 3, 4)

Think of a cluster bomb as a air dropped minefield. A single object is dropped which then releases hundreds of small, fist sized submunitions blanketing an area. It is a devastating antipersonnel weapon whose use in populated areas may violate the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks in international law.

Under "ideal" use, cluster bombs leave behind about 10% of the bomblets unexploded in the target area. Often that number is 20-30%. The unexploded submunitions are often set off by children. As of Aug 17, at least 16 people have been killed in S. Lebanon by previously unexploded munitions.

The UN estimates there could be 8,000-9,000 unexploded munitions in S. Lebanon.

(Apparently, I wasn't the only one impressed by Jim Clancy's story. Rawstory has a Youtube video up.)

Bush looking for Rumsfeld's successor

Laura Rozen has another frustratingly vague post. (This is all there is; it's her second such mention.)
Bush has put out a quiet feeler to replace Rumsfeld in recent weeks. He was politely turned down by at least one candidate he personally called. Unknown: is this one of many candidates Bush has sounded out? Is there a Bernacke-style search going on quietly in the background.

Politically, I can't see any such change coming before the election, and if it were right afterwards, everyone would ask about the politics of it, so I don't know.

Treat this as rumor at this point, but put it on the radar.

Diplomacy is about the little things

Iran tries to extend negotiations, throwing out the US plan, and adds this little snub.
He gave the reply to ambassadors from Britain, China, Russia, France, Germany and Switzerland, state-run television said, without disclosing details.

By the way, has anybody else noticed that the last 50 years of middle east conflict are being repeated in order, in reverse?

Iraq invasion (1991.)
Iraq/Iran war (84-88-Iranian backed civil war in Iraq)
Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (1982)
Diplomatic tension with Iran (1980-nuke program now.)

If four points make a line, the next event would be the Israel/Egypt peace accord followed by a repeat of the '67 Arab-Israeli war. (I don't really believe this, but it is an oddity.)

The one difference I would note is that none of these current repeats are turning out as well for the US as their predecessors.

Picture of the Day

US President George W. Bush listens to a reporter's question as he conducts a press conference inside the White House Conference Center across the street from the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Here's a search tip

Google is good for anything.

That is where North Carolina investigators looked for information about Robert Petrick after his wife's decomposed body was found in Falls Lake. Prosecutors in Petrick's murder trial told jurors that he had searched Google for the words ``neck,'' ``snap'' and ``break.''

Four days before he reported his wife missing on Jan. 22, 2003, they said he also researched the level of the lake, water currents and boat ramps.

Petrick was found guilty largely on circumstantial evidence, including the Google searches.

On the serious side, this article has quite a bit of info on the use of search engine data by prosecutors and law enforcement. "AOL was receiving more than 14,000 subpoenas a year, not including search warrants or other orders related to suspected criminal behavior."

Dick Armitage was Mr. X

Calendars released by the State dept through a FOIA to the AP seem to indicate that Richard Armitage was very probably the source who told Bob Woodward Valerie Plame's identity.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Is the Israeli present our future?

An interesting post by Josh Marshall speculating that the reason the Israeli forces performed so poorly is because their fighting skills have been blunted by extended "occupation" operations in Palestine and S. Lebanon.

Take heed great nation builder America.

(Rex points out in comments that my last statement is inaccurate since we haven't actually started building a nation.)

Picture of the Day - 4

4 US soldiers dead, and they're forgotten.

4 US soldier's deaths in Iraq were announced today. 4 in one day, and it's nowhere.

AP, AFP, Reuters? Nope. Not in the top 20 stories.

NYTimes? Nope. WaPo? Nope.

I even did a Google News search on "Iraq" looking for a headline. Nothing.

The only mention I found was on CNN (8th paragraph.)
Also on Monday, a U.S. soldier was killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the military said. The military also reported that two Marines and one sailor were killed Sunday during military operations in Iraq's Anbar province.

You know I don't cuss often here, but that's total bullshit.

These soldiers were fathers and sons and husbands and brothers and friends and uncles. They leave behind families with holes in them. Wives and children wondering what they're going to do, where they're going to live.

Mothers frozen at the sink, remembering. Fathers crying in the garage.

These were people goddamnit. They went out, and they died in service to their country. They are not 8th paragraph, buried in some off the front page story.

(They're talking about Jon Benet Ramsey on TV right now.)

Picture of the Day - 3

(R.I.P - Lance Corporal Michael Ford - Always Remembered)

Doesn't he have something more important to do?

Snark away.
But President Bush now wants it known that he is a man of letters. In fact, Bush has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50).

And, don't miss the partial list of books.

(Maybe I should make a partial list of books I've "read" in the last eight months. Hmmm... "Ulysses," "Finnegan's Wake," "Problems and Solutions on Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics," the Bible (twice,) Kierkegaard (in the original Danish,) "the Collected Plays of Ianesco," and a couple of books about Leibniz.)

UPDATE: Also USNews, different column.
He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

Picture of the Day - 2

A tip of the hat to the Newsweek CW folks who used the phrase, "Increasingly Queeg-like veep."

Freakin' hysterical.

Queeg: "Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic... that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I'd have produced that key if they hadn't of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers..."

Why is the military lying in Iraq?

For the second time in a week, the US military command in Iraq has released what appears to be bad information in direct contradiction to the statements of the Maliki government. (You may remember me losing it over now abandoned US claims that a car bomb attack was a gas explosion.)

Take a look at this relating to the sniper attacks on the Shia pilgrimmage yesterday.
The Iraqi government said 20 people were killed by the snipers who hid in buildings and sprayed bullets into Shiite religious processions Sunday. The U.S. military, however, said only five people were killed. The discrepancy in the toll could not be immediately reconciled.

Again, this is verifiable fact that the US military is contradicting. The commonality I see is that both cases are pretty horrific attacks by Sunnis on innocent Shia civilians.

Is the US lying is some sort of effort to tamp down reprisals?

How does that work with Maliki's Shia government telling a different story? And even if the Shia don't believe the government, there are a dozen Iraqi papers telling the story with details and eyewitnesses and pictures.

Does the US military command really expect the Iraqi Shia militants to believe the US press releases over all the other reports? Or is it meant for US consumption? I just don't get it.

Pointless Classification.

I can understand why you might want to attempt to reclassify bomb plans, but the number of US nuclear missiles in 1965?
The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.

So, as a my little act of civil disobedience, I'm going to link to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists list of nuke warheads worldwide from 1945-2006.

(1965 - US - 31,982 warheads, Russia - 6,129, Britain - 310)
(2006 - US - 10,104 warheads, Russia - 16,000, Britain - 200)

Am I in violation of the law for spreading classified information?


After all the crititcism for 'reluctance' in the seemingly ineffective Lebanon invasion from within the Israeli army and citizenry, is the Israeli government trying to restart the conflict by limiting the UN force and provoking Hezbullah into action?

Then there's this, (Haaretz)
Members of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff say that "round two" between Israel and Hezbollah could begin within months or even weeks, probably over the renewal of arms deliveries to the organization from Iran and Syria.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

A Mehdi Army militiaman secures al-Sarrafiyah bridge as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims cross the bridge, heading towards Shiite Imam Musa al-Kadhim's shrine in the al-Kadhimiah district north of Baghdad. (AFP/Wisam Sami)

Fanning the flames - How f***ing crazy is this?

After Nasrallah has achieved a new heightened status and an incredible level of support from the Israel-Lebanon conflict, the Israelis are now saying that they will break the ceasefire to kill him.

Foreign policy has consequences.

'You have created a monster and now you don't know what to do with it.'

The Observer has an interesting article discussing what the Pakistanis think of being represented as the epicenter of terror and some of their thoughts on why Pakistan radicalized.

There's the very rare mention of the US's support for the Afghan resistance in the 80's citing that as the turning point. (You just don't see that mentioned in the US press. EVER.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Bill Clinton visits with a Katrina evacuee. (Sept. 5, 2005)

(No connection to anything. Just struck me as a stark contrast.)


A link to the big WaPo editorial/outlook piece on the possible long term regional ramifications of the Iraqi civil war. Interesting.

A report today in the NYTimes about the Iranian shelling of Kurdish villages near the border. (but no mention of the Turkish ground operations in N. Iraq. I guess that's the difference between enemy and ally.)

The British army is in a financial crisis from its deployments which is leaving troops in the field underequipped. "The memo, written by the MoD's second most senior civil servant, has sparked fears that requests by commanders for vital equipment to save the lives of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq may not be met."

There was more killing in Iraq as snipers opened fire on the pilgrimmage to the shrine of Imam Moussa Kadhim. 17 dead and 250-300 wounded. Sure to exact retaliation.

Last, This from the bottom of an LATimes article.
Most of the U.S.-led security operation has targeted Sunni neighborhoods in western Baghdad. Frustrated American commanders say Sadr and his followers have become "untouchable."

We're in the civil war right now, and because of the politics of the Shia led government, we are, in effect, fighting the Sunni for them.

Quote of the Day

A group of headlined by Cindy Sheehan protested a Rove fundraising event in Austin.
One protester slipped inside the ballroom during the dinner but was escorted out after shouting about men and women dying, the Austin American-Statesman reported in its Sunday editions.

"Pat, did you get her check before she left?" Rove quipped to the GOP group's executive director, Pat Robbins, as the crowd of 300 laughed, the newspaper reported.

Asshole. I think the basis for the humor says alot about the room.

(Aside: I don't question her position or motives, but I find myself wondering whether Sheehan's presence has become counterproductive to the cause.

She was absolutely essential in bringing the anti-war position onto the news. Her presence at the ranch last year was absolutely vital to bringing the anti-war position into the national conversation. But I find myself wondering this morning, as the anti-war position has become the mainstream, whether a high profile Sheehan at this point attaches a stigma to the position and acts as a drag against acceptance among the center.

I'm not set on this. It's just something that crossed my mind this morning. Thoughts?)

Driving while Black

I don't know why this captured my interest so, but a flight was delayed amidst a "passenger mutiny" until two "Asian men" were removed from the plane.

It's come to this.

And this isn't the only incident.

(And notice the quote at the end. "These men had aroused suspicion because of their appearance and the fact that they were speaking in a foreign language thought to be an Arabic language.")

Picture of the Day

Laura Bush with Boombah, a character from the Indian Sesame Street. I don't know why. It's old. I'm tired and feeling a bit absurdist.