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30 September 2007

Condemn Limbaugh, Too

by: Foiled Goil

AP misrepresented context of Limbaugh "phony soldiers" comment

From Media Matters:
A September 28 Associated Press article about comments made by Rush Limbaugh on his September 26 radio show -- in which, as documented" by Media Matters for America, he called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers" -- reported: "In a transcript of Thursday's show posted on his Web site, Limbaugh said the comment followed a discussion of Jesse Macbeth, who was sentenced to five months in prison earlier this month for collecting more than $10,00 [sic] in benefits to which he was not entitled." In fact, the "phony soldiers" comment did not "follow a discussion of Jesse Macbeth"; Limbaugh did not mention MacBeth on the September 26 radio show until 1 minute and 50 seconds after his "phony soldiers" comment, as Media Matters noted.

Full article here.
Democrats Denounce Rush Comments

Dems unite to slam Limbaugh, GOP silent

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) asked whether those who condemned MoveOn would now "hold Rush Limbaugh to the same standard":
Soldiers may question the war, but it does not mean that they’re any less committed to their mission, and now I wonder if Republicans who showed so much outrage towards yesterday will hold Rush Limbaugh to the same standard — and I wouldn’t hold your breath.
On Monday, Congressman Mark Udall will be introducing a resolution to condemn Rush:
On Monday I will introduce a resolution honoring all Americans serving in the Armed Forces and condemning this unwarranted attack on the integrity and professionalism of those in the Armed Forces who choose to exercise their constitutional right to express their opinions regarding U.S. military action in Iraq.

Draft of resolution here,

and here.
Kerry blasts Limbaugh over 'phony soldiers' remark:
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Thursday demanded an apology from conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who called soldiers who oppose the Iraq war "phony. "

"This disgusting attack from Rush Limbaugh, cheerleader for the chicken-hawk wing of the far right, is an insult to American troops", Kerry said. "Mr. Limbaugh owes an apology to everyone who has ever worn the uniform of our country, and an apology to the families of every soldier buried in Arlington National Cemetery."
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), HuffPo:
Someone should tell chicken-hawk Rush Limbaugh that the only phonies are those who choose not to serve and then criticize those who do.
Limbaugh's 'Phony Soldiers' Quote Draws Fire:
Campaigning in New Hampshire, John Edwards called on Republicans to denounce Limbaugh in the same way they came down on Democrats after MoveOn ran its ad.

"All these Republicans went running to the mic and the TV cameras when MoveOn ran their ad about General Petraeus. Now let's see if they really mean it," Edwards said. "Let's see if they'll speak out against Rush Limbaugh. Let's see if they'll challenge him about men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States."

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq veteran critical of the war, scolded Limbaugh in a Thursday column on the Web site.

"When someone like Rush Limbaugh says that soldiers who disagree with the failed strategies of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are 'phony soldiers,' you have to consider the source," he wrote.
Democratic leaders call Limbaugh comments 'beyond the pale':
In a letter prepared Friday by Senate leaders, Democrats continued to blast conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's description of antiwar troops as "phony soldiers", setting up a parallel to Republican outrage over's recent Iraq ad.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), both veterans, condemned Limbaugh on Thursday. The Senate's Democratic leadership followed up with a letter to Clear Channel Chief Executive Mark Mays, calling on Limbaugh's broadcaster to disavow his comment.

"Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted," the Democratic leaders wrote to Mays. "It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale. "

The letter will be sent early next week by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Caucus Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Caucus Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.). An accompanying statement noted that the letter would not be sent Friday so that other senators, "including those who have recently spoken up against attacks on our troops' patriotism," still have time to sign on.

That strategy mirrors a growing call in the liberal blogosphere to push Republicans to repudiate Limbaugh’s comments. If GOP lawmakers who excoriated for its "General Betray Us" ad fail to create distance from Limbaugh, the reasoning goes, they would be exposed to charges of hypocrisy.
Senate Democratic Leaders Demand Apology:
ThinkProgress has obtained a letter being circulated on Capitol Hill today by the Senate Democratic Leadership that calls on Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays to repudiate its employee Rush Limbaugh's "phony troops" remark.
" internet ad telling Rush Limbaugh that he's a vile windbag."
(Tip o' the hat to Minstrel Boy, from the Dark Wraith's The Tragedy of Asymmetric Umbrage post.)

The Real Phony is Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh Outrage Amplified! Limbaugh’s response is to name Jack Murtha!

A Challenge For Lawmakers Who Voted To Attack MoveOn Ad: Will They Now Condemn Limbaugh?
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

~ Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
Yahoo search.

Google search.

· · · ·

NY Woman misses her flight home - freaks out - is hand cuffed - put in holding cell - and DIES

by: Jersey Cynic

OMFGoddess above!!!!

I know I don't have all the facts - I really hope they have all of this on tape. I'm sure they must.

I think I can relate. I don't fly much, but as a mother of three, if I missed a flight back home (it was still outside the gate ready to go) I know for sure I would be totally irate and be doing a really good freaky deaky dance/jig in the airport. I can just see myself reacting like her. THEN -- throw some handcuffs on me and really watch me lose it.

I don't know. We'll have to see how this unfolds. Supposedly she may have possibly choked herself trying to get the handcuffs over her head.

WHY on earth would you leave a woman in this state alone. Don't you think these "holding cells" would have a two-way mirror? Did they actually just throw her in there, shut the door, and walk away?



· ·

Horse Crazy

by: Minstrel Boy

The day is still very young, Medskoolgirl, the son and I have just finished breakfast when the buzzer at the gate sounds, setting off a rousing chorus of dog barking. I hit the open switch and go out to meet our guests.

Larry, is dressed in total urban cliche cowboy gear. Dark indigo jeans, most likely first time worn, brand new everything else all the way to the hat. I say "Nice hat" and we shake hands. His family is stunningly beautiful. His wife is a lovely Vietnamese woman. During the introductions I hear the unmistakeable lilt of her accent and immediately switch to Vietnamese myself. I introduce myself and welcome her to my home. She is wearing an expression poised between shock and delight, the kind that isn't quite sure which side of the fence it will fall toward yet. I assure her that all is well. She introduces their twin six year old daughters. They are delightful. The first thing they say to their father is "He talks like grandpa!" They are treasures. I invite them all into the house and introduce them to my kids. The daughters are entranced by all the musical instruments, I show them a few of the different ones, let them pluck at a few of the harps before asking them if they would like to go and meet the horses.

I am told that this is the best idea they've heard in a long time. The girls are literally skipping on our way out to the barn. On the way I'm going over what will happen with their dad. I tell him that we'll turn them out into the round pen and spend some time getting to know one another. Larry does notice that I'm wearing basketball shoes, not boots, he asks about it and I tell him "My left ankle is fused, I can't point my toes to get into boots, plus shoelaces are a lot easier for the EMT's to cut off." Then he asks about the mountain bike singlet that I'm wearing under my Wranglers. I tell him that "There's no inseam, after a few hours in the saddle that becomes important and the padded ass is a big plus too." He sees the clip on spurs that I have on the Reeboks and says "I suppose that's another cross cultural statement?" I laugh and say that's just practicality and nothing more.

One by one we greet each horse, pass out treats and I show Larry how to put on a halter and how to lead the horse. At first he is hesitant, after all, if you aren't used to them the first thing you notice about a horse is how big they are. Then you start to imagine all the very easy ways something that big could do great damage to you. Pretty quickly though he slides right into it. In that very short amount of time I can see that Rosalita is the best choice for him. She's easily the calmest, and certainly the most tractable of the herd.

Once we have them all in the pen we spend some time just walking around with them. Easing into the whole thing. The girls are perched on the fence and are full of questions. Like "Why is this corral round?" "So nobody will ever feel cornered." Stuff like that. I tell them that the two grey horses are Arabians and one girl asks "Are they Muslims?" I chuckle at that and just say "Probably. The Koran says that this kind of horse was especially beloved by the Prophet."

After a bit, I toss a lead rope to Larry and tell him to bring Rosalita over to the fence. Hilarity ensues. I don't let it go on all that long. I just tell him that there are two games which a person will never win with a horse. Chase and Tug 'o' War. He give me a look that says "OK asshole, then how am I supposed to get this rope on that horse?" I give him a licorice bit and say "Hold out your hand and call her." He does, she comes. Good sergeant, good horse. I clip a rope on Sally and bring her next to Rosalita. Then it's time for Casey to go into his stall. He doesn't really want to go, so I holler to the house for Medskoolgirl to come and handle him. I show Larry how to curry the dirt on the horse's back up and then flick it off with a brush. Then we go over picking out the hooves, and checking the shoes for fit and tightness. I say "Let's go get you a saddle trooper."

In the barn we pick out a big, roomy western rig, with lots of padding. Wide and comfy. I snatch up a little aussie, and a couple of bridles and we head out to the horses. It takes a while because I'm walking him through the process, step by step. It's something that is natural and automatic for me, breaking it down into single steps is a chore. I goof it up almost as much as he does but we manage to get it done. Medskoolgirl has been dancing around the ring showing off for the gallery. We get all mounted up and begin to work in earnest. I'm trying to pass as much information as I can, trying to put something I've done my whole life into understandable language. I can see though that we're getting places. He's into the whole heels down and erect posture. He's keeping his hands still. I also see the things we need to work on. He keeps trying to "steer" the horse. That's not how it works. He also needs to relax. There's nothing better than being relaxed and allowing gravity to work its magic for keeping somebody on the back of a horse. I figure that relaxation will come with time. For now, we've been at this a bit over an hour. I call time. Larry wants to keep going and I tell him that horse muscles are totally different from all other activities and that he will thank me in the morning for calling this now. Besides, I point out how wonderfully patient his daughters have been while he rides and they watch. It's time to change that.

I take the big saddle off of Rosalita and put on a little one, built for kids. Rosalita adores kids, probably because they don't weigh all that much, but I also think that she knows and understands the extreme trust that is put in her when she carries a child. Since their twins and they both are equally excited about being on horseback I flip a coin and hoist the winner up on Rosalita's back. The first thing that I notice is that she was paying attention while I worked with her dad. She tries to do all the things that I told him to do without me saying a word. I say "You are a naturalborn rider darling." We start doing circuits around the ring and Rosalita is working like I have her on a lunge line. I ask "Are you ready for the merry go round?" I'm rewarded with a beaming smile and vigorous nod so I cluck Rosalita up into her signature gait, the walking canter. That's where she reaches and canters with her front legs while walking with her back legs. It is a smooth rolling gait that is a joy to sit. The girl starts to laugh out loud because its so much fun.

I holler out to my son to get ready to start riding this girl double on Sally while I put the next girl on Rosalita. This is because Medskoolgirl is off with Casey taking jumps.

The next rider does exactly the same as her sister. She's been paying attention to both of the previous riders and I have the pleasure of sitting back and watching her do everything right. At just about the same time in the ride she tightens up her legs a tiny bit and clucks Rosalita into the walking canter. As she passes her face is a study in joy and triumph. The mother wants no part of riding for now. She's not scared for her husband or her girls, but she's not at all interested in giving it a try.

After a bit we all decide (well, actually I decide the girls would still be riding today if they could) it's time to put the horses up. I tell Larry that it's back to lesson time. We take the horses back to the barn and go through putting the tack away, then picking the hooves again, giving them a brush, then a wash, then another brushing and comb out on the mane and tail. He's really starting to relax around them now. I ask if anybody's hungry. They are.

We barbeque some burgers around the pool and Larry and I sit down for about the deepest conversation we have ever had. He's seen some of the pictures I have in the hallway from Vietnam and he says "I knew you were a veteran, but I didn't know you were a SEAL." I say that I don't much like playing it up, that it was a long time ago. I also tell him that if I hadn't been injured to the point of not being able to physically stay on the teams that I probably would have ended up as a lifer myself. I tell him that I'm worried about the way the current state of affairs is having a harmful effect on the proud military that I gave my service and dedication to. He says that a lot of things are changing, just like they always change. I say "No matter what else I want you to know that I would rather do things to help out rather than just go on and on about how I support the troops and shit like that." I hate folks that say how much they honor the sacrifices and then don't do anything. I also say that I am impressed with him as a man, not just a soldier and that he and his family are welcome in my house anytime. His wife chimes in that the girls have two weeks off of school and would absolutely love another chance to come riding. In Vietnamese I say "You bring those beauties out anytime you want, you don't need the foriegn devil for protection." She giggles demurely and Larry gives me the raised eyebrow "What did you just say to my wife" look. I tell him to learn Vietnamese if he wants to know what I said.

All in all, a very good day. Larry is coming out again in a few days (when his muscles are a bit less sore) and we will go over the drill for putting on cavalry tack.

el rancho harpo
29 September 2007

U.S. Senate agrees to raise U.S. credit limit (53 agreed - 42 did not)

by: Jersey Cynic

Does anyone know how I can get a hold of each senator's voting position on this? I would sure like to know who the 42 nay votes were and why they voted that way.

I thought this site would have it, but it's just a brief story:

Now before the Senate is a resolution raising the ceiling on the government's debt limit. By $850 billion! Baucus (MT) says that the Senate has no choice but to approve it; that if the Senate does not raise the limit, the U.S. Treasury will default. This will be the fourth increase under W. The Treasury Debt is something like $10 trillion.

Baucus says that raising the debt ceiling is like paying our credit card bill. "The bill's due, you gotta pay it." Except most bills are paid with cash whereas this one is paid with debt (in the form of federal reserve notes, a.k.a. dollar bills).

WTF???? If 42 senators voted against this, then 42 senators were ok with letting the US Treasury default - yes? Do these senators feel it's time to pay up? Well....I do too! It took hubby and I almost 20 years to get out of debt (except for the house) and it took a lot of hard work and "sacrifice". I don't know about you, but I'm done working my ass off to pay for my stupid (totally unecessary) spending habits of the past. I sure the hell don't want my kids working round the clock when it's their turn in the real world -- especially when their cost of living will be a direct result of this generation's out of control consumption and our government's constant feeding of the war machine

Nothing makes sense. If I can't pay my debt - nobody gives me more credit. Do you know that ever since my 17 year old HS senior signed up for the SAT last year, he gets more credit card approvals and offers then he does college info. MAKES ME CRAZY!

Here's the full(?) story from reuters.

"We have no choice but to approve it. If we fail to raise the debt ceiling soon, the U.S. Treasury will default for the first time in its history," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

"Plainly, especially in this credit crisis, we cannot let that happen," the Montana Democrat added.

But Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, urged lawmakers to reject the debt increase and concentrate on spending cuts instead.

"Families across America don't have the luxury of loaning themselves any money when they've maxed out their credit. But that's what we're going to do," Coburn said


crossposted from Blondesense

· · ·
28 September 2007

The Phone Rings

by: Minstrel Boy

And the caller ID shows that it is the Sergeant Major. My heart drops. I leave the room and figure on letting it go straight to voice mail for me to deal with later. I'm just not up to hearing about another young Arizonan getting cut down this morning. I have stuff to do in the barn, corn to hoe, stuff.

I putter around and avoid shit for a while, then when I'm back in the kitchen I notice that there are three messages in voice mail. I figure two of them might be money calls that I should take and so I cowboy up and check the messages.

The first is the Sgt. Major. He says "Nobody's dead, Minstrel, not today anyway. I'm making this call as Larry, I need to talk to you about a favor."

I whip through the next two messages and they are things that can wait. I make the call and get right through.

I say "What's the favor you need Larry?"

He says that he's heard that I have horses and am pretty good with it. I say "I have horses, and I ride better than I walk."

He says that there is a ceremonial unit that does parades and stuff around the state. They dress in the uniforms of the Buffalo Soldiers who used to be stationed at Forts Apache, McDowell, Hauchuca. They have asked him to join them. Then he tells me that he's never been on a horse in his life and he doesn't want to show up to his first gathering wearing Sgt. Major stripes and not knowing shit.

I ask if he wants to come out tomorrow morning early. In the indian way horseback riding starts with cleaning out the horse poop and doing all the other maintainence chores. He laughs and says that it sounds like fun. I tell him that I like it and ask if he's got any kids.

He has two little girls and I tell him to bring the whole family out. We'll make a day of it.

I also tell him that I refuse to take any responsibility if his little girls leave the place with a bad case of "horse crazy."

Sounds a lot better than another funeral doesn't it?

el rancho harpo

The Tragedy of Asymmetric Umbrage

by: Dark Wraith

LimbaughRight-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh says men and women in the armed services who oppose the American-Iraqi War are "phony soldiers."

Boy-o-boy, just you wait: any minute now, the Congress of the United States is going to pass a resolution condemning that man just like it did when mocked Bush's uniformed spokesbot General Patraeus with the unflattering play on words "General Betray Us."

Yessiree, any minute now, the outrage from Congress is going to come spilling out in another overwhelming vote of umbrage. Surely, if the highest legislative body of the greatest empire ever can attend to a noisy group pulling a rather juvenile publicity stunt at the expense one REMF guy in uniform, it simply must be ready, willing, and quite able to damn a national spokesman for the extreme Right, a man who has just called tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of veterans and active-duty soldiers "phony."

Just you wait. Any minute! Here it comes. Yep. It's right around the corner. Hold them hats, people...

Okay, it's not going to happen. Too many of those folks in Congress—Democrats and Republicans—are nothing but grand-standing, craven, publicity-seeking cowards who grovel on their hands and knees to the extremist bullies of the American Right, along with other anti-American interests, mostly those with envelopes full of money.

That, of course, isn't the real tragedy; the real tragedy is that a whole lot of people are going to vote for those congressional cowards next time they're up for election. That's not just tragic; it's pathetic.

Cross-posted from Quoth the Dark Wraith at The Dark Wraith Forums.

· · ·
27 September 2007

Death of Rational Thought

by: Gary

I think the "dumbing" down of America is complete.

The question is whether we will ever be able to return to a place in this nation where critical thought rules our decisions and opinions, rather than rumor, conjecture, or speculation?

I am not sure if this will ever happen, but it kills me to hear so many people who are thought to be otherwise intelligent, be so woefully out of touch with America, the party they pledge allegiance too, and the political system that protects, defames, defends, demoralizes , enables, disables, and spies for and against them.

Yes, our Constitutional system is the best, and even at it's best it's not perfect...But it would be closer to perfect if those that participated in it actually understood it, and used their brains to question both the system and those who are actively involved in it.

Instead we have devolved into an impatient nation, wedded to the crawl. A nation of citizens to lazy to read a newspaper. A nation of drones glued to a TV and enthralled by a personality and the "news" they share. We are a judgmental nation without hard information that reacts in reality like the shows were are so driven to watch. Our reality is sad. Our reality, just like the reality shown daily, is born of rumors, feed by suspicion, and manipulated by frothed up fears. Our reality is a false sense of knowledge based on information we are willingly fed by an info-taner, a lying politician, and a loud coworker in the break room.

We are a nation that is message rich, and information poor.

Our beliefs are marketed to us. We buy-in to lies for the same emotional reasons we buy and eat boxes of Twinkies. We are manipulated. We know it's true. Yet we are too lazy to take the time to challenge what we are told. We are too jaded to trust anyone, yet we listen to our poison of choice, and take the hosts opinion for fact. Some are better than others. Some are no worse than others. All are still driven by one machine, a machine where opinion is more palatable, and more profitable than mere fact. Facts are dull. So instead of coming to our own opinions, the majority are more comfortable becoming mini-talking heads. Disciples of the tube. Going forth into America to convert the faithless to the brand.

We live in a nation where labels are more important than substance; more important than our own humanity. We have been taught, programmed if you will, to distrust any under the opposing label. The liberals hate the conservatives. The Republicans hate the Democrats. The South hates the North. Whites hate the "color of the decade."

What we have forgotten, or perhaps were never all taught, is that the label American trumps all those. Our nation is great because of the conflicts of "us vs. them" but those lessons which brought unity have been perverted. Instead, we are born divided, and then manipulated by the vocal minority and those in power to stay that way. Division and fear lead to power for those pushing a loathsome agenda.

But the only reason it works is because we as a nation are either too lazy, or too stupid to keep it from happening. How hard is it to form an opinion? How difficult to pay attention? Why is it that so many are content to simply regurgitate what they heard, instead of questioning what they were told, and then speaking on what they think? Sure it's work to try to navigate and disseminate the information that is everywhere around us, but isn't that part of our duty as Americans?

If someone were taking pot-shots at your family, and you have to make the best decision to protect your children, wouldn't you take the time to gather every bit of information you could to make an "informed decision?" Of course you would.

Well, I have news for you Mr or Ms Joe American...Those are exactly the stakes!

You owe it to yourself, to your families, and to this land that we all love to defend her with your brain, and not simply your wrath, contempt, or manufactured opinions.

Rational thought...Is it dead? It may not be yet, but it seems to be on life support here in Central Pennsylvania. I can't imagine this part of the nation is unique on that score. Just last night I was presented with a person I respect, and who I think is smart, that says "Bill Clinton spent his Presidency creating a launching point for Hillary." I was mystified by this statement, and could only muster a "Really???" This person said "I will move to France if she becomes President."

My first thought was "WOW." The next one was bitchier. Why would you go to France as a Conservative Republican?I thought you guys only liked "Freedom Fries?" But I didn't go there.

This discussion was uncomfortable, and went on and on. The inconsistencies in the arguments were deafening to me, but I chose to leave well enough alone as soon as I heard "Hannity says..." I knew the opinions being thrown out to me were a mish-mash of sound bites designed to bully me into thinking this person knew of what they spoke. Alas, this American does pay attention...To both sides of the isle, and I know the baseless wrath of a label being defended when I see it.

I vote my social conscience, and I vote my financial beliefs. But I claim no sincere allegiance to a party or a "label." I pledge allegiance to the US Constitution, and the America that stands because of that documents wisdom. I shift from Democrat, to Republican, to Independent...Like a red, white, and blue leaf on the wind. Unlike a party, my beliefs are consistent, while those of the party are fluid. The parties, the labels, and those that wield them morph with every election cycle. They are free flowing; never static in definition, ideal, or purpose. That is why critical thought is so very important in this nation.

They greatest failing of any voting American is to assume that the GOP of 10 years ago is the same party, with the same agenda as it is today, or 40 years ago for that matter. Times change, and with the times, so do the power players. Economic visions change. Policies change. The culture of the nation wavers from loose to tight and back again like a see-saw. Everything is politically in motion, so we as Americans must pay attention and decide what is real, what is manufactured, and what is patently false.

To trust any party, politician, or organization is mistake number one. And it's the biggest mistake you can make. Power corrupts; it always has and it always will. Only with individual critical thought can power be kept in check. And that is why were are scared into parties, rallied into corrals of control for the sake of power. There is power in numbers, so our leaders keep us in well defined cells. Manipulated into beliefs, and given our talking points just as though they are marching orders. We are kept on a short leash, and never encouraged to think or question.

Critical thought and questions of authority are are dangerous to power. No matter the agenda, those that question it are seen as a threat to the mission. This is true on liberal issues, conservative issues, those of faith, and any number of other topics. There is a reason that the "intellectuals" and the artists are always the first ones rounded up when a nation is trying to seamlessly consolidate power. They are seen as the greatest threat.

So...For Americans to surmise that we have become a nation of sheep, is not such a far leap from the truth. Its the condition that those in power favor. They only want our allegiance, not our opinion. As theirs is the only opinion that matters.

So we sit before our TV's and the various crawls, victims of our own reality show. Blind to the truth because that is what is wanted for us. Our ignorance is what is paid for with taxes, commercials, and the blood of our fighting men & women. We are victim to our own ignorance, and that is how those in charge would prefer it stayed.

Message is everything. Rational thought is dangerous. So keep them afraid to think, and we win.

Question everything, your status as an American depends on it.

Verizon Rejects Pro-Choice Text Message

by: Shakespeares Sister

Because messages about abortion are "controversial or unsavory."

Verizon Wireless has rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.

…In turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group "that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users."
Given that people are required to sign up for the messages from Naral, that explanation seems a little weak. And it gets even weaker when the example of the message provided (which, by the way, is right in line with tone and content of emailed dispatched from Naral) is: "End Bush's global gag rule against birth control for world's poorest women! Call Congress. (202) 224-3121. Thnx! Naral Text4Choice." To the fainting couch!

Verizon is within its rights (if not its own best economic interest) to reject Naral's business. Of course, now Verizon is "rethinking its position" and reviewing their "content standards." Now that people actually know about their policy, in other words; now that they might lose some business over it.

I'd love to be able to take my business elsewhere, but I already did. Verizon has a monopoly on local phone service where we live, so we don't have a landline (which also precludes our having TiVo and includes our paying more for cable internet through another carrier). Kind of a pain, and the carriers we've got aren't loads better, but I'll be damned if I give stinking Verizon one red bloody cent.

UPDATE: That was fast.
26 September 2007

Warren Jeffs Convicted

by: Minstrel Boy

In a case of pure and perfect irony (something sadly lacking most of the time) he's being held in Purgatory Correctional Facility while awaiting sentencing.

There were two counts of conviction which the jury reached after a long and often contentious deliberation.

Here's the full article from the Salt Lake Tribune

There are many levels and cultural/social questions in this case. Utah is, by any practical assesment, a place with an established and entrenched state religion. The LDS church and the state government when the prophet had his revealation about discontinuing the practice of plural marriage all took the prophet's words as the revealed word of god. For those of you who are not familiar with the LDS church I will ask you to please understand that sects like the one here are aberrations. The bulk of my Mormon neighbors and friends are simply people who follow a different faith sincerely. They are some of the finest people you can know. I am not a big fan of organized religion, I have no pure or strong faith of my own. Folks like this have no relationship to the real and recognised faith as practiced in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and many other places in the west. No matter what else I might think about the Mormons, they found a family for me to live with so that I could attend a decent school in High School. They did that to help promote their faith and their viewpoint, but they also did it out of the goodness of their hearts. Most of the time when I'm looking into a Mormon heart I see a good one.

Simple historical facts say that the Mormons as a society were already experiencing many of these same results from the practice that we've seen with the "Fundamental" offshoots.

It still took a lot of gumption and dedication to duty on the part of the jurors to convict their neighbors. That's something we try to stay away from out here in the west. I figure my business with my neighbors pretty much stops at their side of the fence. They treat me with the same deference. If somebody's barn catches fire, I'm there to help and I can rely on the same help from them in my times of trouble.

There are eight charges against Jeffs still pending in Arizona.

For some true in depth reporting of this case check out this page of links from the Deseret News.

Personally, I'm glad to see that pinch faced beady eyed son of a bitch go down. I hope he gets more of the same from my own state.

el rancho harpo

· · ·
25 September 2007

Why Not Pass a Law Banning Customers

by: Konagod

Last week, the town of Riverside, NJ rescinded an ordinance that penalized anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

And surprise! It was because businesses suffered after the ordinance was passed.
Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.


“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”

I think if you can't look 3 years out as well as expecting the obvious outcome from passing an ordinance such as this, perhaps you don't deserve to be mayor.

Bush Chutzpah At The U. N.

by: Foiled Goil

Bush Bombs at the United Nations

by L C Johnson
Certainly not an earth shattering headline, but disturbing nonetheless. The lack of love between George Bush and the United Nations is an old "dog-bites-man" story.
But today's performance in New York set a new low even for the Bush Administration. Except for tepid applause when Bush was introduced and when he left the podium, no one clapped. Not even our allies. The world has caught on to the George Bush propaganda game and declines to show him a modicum of respect.

Bush's efforts to wrap himself in the aura of AIDS prevention, feeding hungry children, rescuing refugees in Darfur, and restoring freedom in Myanmar fell flat. There was a time when the United States could stand proudly before countries like Cuba, Myanmar, Sudan, and Iran and lecture them on human rights and democracy. But in the wake of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, secret renditions and kidnappings of innocent Arab men, flaunting the UN Declarations on Human Rights, the creation of a million-plus refugees in Iraq (and the deaths of hundreds of thousands), and the suspension of habeus corpus, America has pissed away its credibility.

America's moral authority is gone. Our credibility in talking about foreign threats and the need to respect human rights is zippo. What is truly appalling about this development is that we have aligned ourselves in practice with those very regimes we so vigorously condemn.
So the world sat largely silently listening to a crazed little man rant about the abuses in the rest of the world. But his condemnation of the war in Sudan and the creation of refugees in Darfur could not blot out the reality of his war in Iraq and the millions who have fled that hell hole.

Bush declared:

Every civilized nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship," the president said.
This was chutzpah. Just before Bush began speaking a series of car bombs swept Iraq killing and wounding hundreds. A country the United States has occupied for more than four years continues to be ravaged by violence. The Iraqi people themselves are denied the rights Bush extolled. Hell, the United States even protects mercenary armies --like Blackwater-- who operate outside of any law and kill innocent civilians without any consequence.

The rest of the world sees and understands our hypocrisy. Unfortunately, many Americans share the ignorance and vacuity of George Bush and do not realize how foolish and stupid we look on the world stage.

Full diary at KOS.

Text of President Bush's remarks at the U. N. General Assembly

Sixty years ago, representatives from 16 nations gathered to begin deliberations on a new international bill of rights. The document they produced is called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it stands as a landmark achievement in the history of human liberty.
The declaration opens by recognizing the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world.
Achieving the promise of the declaration requires confronting long-term threats. It also requires answering the immediate needs of today.
When innocent people are trapped in a life of murder and fear, the declaration is not being upheld.
This great institution must work for great purposes: to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and diseases, illiteracy and ignorance and poverty and despair.
First, the mission of the United Nations requires liberating people from tyranny and violence. The first article of the Universal Declaration begins, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

The truth is denied by terrorists and extremists who kill the innocent with the aim of imposing their hateful vision on humanity.

· ·

The Theme from TAXI DRIVER - you gotta take a listen - YOU - I'm talkin' to you.....

by: Jersey Cynic

have a listen here (click listen under first result next to Bernard Herrmann's name)

the song will load in a few seconds, so

sit back,

and get ready to be taken

anywhere you want to go.

This song is amazing

You talkin' to me?

Talk about making the perfect music for a film Mr. Herrmann! (I have a thing for movie soundtracks)

Taxi Driver -- A disturbing and intense movie going experience, but the music is absolutely to die for....

"Someone has to do something to him...he is the lowest kind of person on earth, He is the worst...sucking scum I have ever seen." ~Travis Bickle

Crossposted at Blondesense

Screen Capture Fun (at the Expense of

by: Dark Wraith

The first graphic below is a screen capture, taken at 5:38:50 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007, from Google Finance.

Screen capture at Google Finance at 5:38:50 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007

The next graphic, below, is a screen capture, taken just moments later, at 5:41:43 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007, from the flagship Website of Dark Wraith Publishing, The Dark Wraith Forums, showing the area where stock index quotes can be viewed.

Screen capture at Google Finance at 5:41:43 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007

Note that the closing values for the Dow, S&P 500, and NASDAQ Composite are in exact agreement, as they should be, even though Google and The Dark Wraith Forums aggregate from different feeds for quotes.

Now, below is the screen capture, taken at 5:40:14 EDT on September 24, 2007, from the main page of

Screen capture at Google Finance at 5:41:43 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007

Notice the rather remarkable discrepancy between the closing value of the DJIA as reported by both Google Finance and The Dark Wraith Forums and that reported by Google Finance and The Dark Wraith Forums were reporting that the Dow had closed at 13759.06, down 61.13, while at the very same time, seems to have been reporting that the Dow had closed at 13820.19, up 53.49!

Fortunately,—at some point in the later afternoon or early evening—corrected its erroneous report on the closing value of the DJIA, as can be seen from the graphic below, captured at 10:39:13 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007.

Screen capture at Google Finance at 10:39:13 p.m. EDT on September 24, 2007

All is good, yes? Minor mistake. No harm, no foul. Surely, genuine investors aren't going to be looking to the front page stock index reports at to make investment decisions. Those numbers are merely informational décor, just like they are at The Dark Wraith Forums.

Ah, but there's something telling in the two screen captures from Look carefully at the respective quote frames from 5:41:43 p.m. and 10:39:13 p.m. See if you can tell what's a little interesting... and perhaps a little telling about Here's your hint: it's not what's different; it's what's not different.

Of course, it's all much ado about nothing. No one should be taking stock quotes—much less news—from all that seriously, anyway.

The Dark Wraaith is just having some fun on a quiet Monday evening.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·
24 September 2007

What's Up With Widow Women (or #2* in my list of reasons why my mother drives me nuts)

by: Konagod

Today is my mother's 84th birthday. I called her this evening to wish her well and to explain that I've been too busy to send the letter I promised last week, and I happened to remember while on the phone with her that I bought her a card about 2 months ago and then forgot about it.

Work's a bitch.

But I digress. What is it with these widow women and their aversion to charity from males? There's a rich millionaire in my hometown who likes to take meals to the old ladies, give them things, etc. My mother has been complaining about this charity for many months now.

She can cook for herself and she can get around in her Lincoln. She knows how to get to Wal-Mart and Sav-Mart and stock up on groceries, and cook what she has procured. (I make a once a year pilgrimage to my motherland and I'm enthralled with the meals. I can't even do them and I'm almost half her age.)

Anyway, this rich dude has been trying to give her a new TV for months. My mother thinks TV is evil. And to be offered one as a gift from a married man, she probably thinks is sinful.

Besides, she likes her old TV with the antenna struggling to catch a signal from 85 miles up the highway.

The old millionaire sent my brother a check for something like $1,800 and told him to go buy her a TV and he'd pay for cable for a year.

Here's what we're doing. My brother has cashed the check, bought a TV (I hope for less than $1200) and put it all out on his living room floor to do a sort of reverse parental control, where you block channels you don't want a parent to see. Comedy Central comes to mind.

There are certain channels, that if she is exposed to them, will send her straight into the grips of hellfire.

So, my mother's birthday is today, and I was talking to her and she said my brother might be coming down for a visit tomorrow. I'm sure he'll have the TV in tow. I just emailed him to ask him what the "story" was so we could be on the same page.

The last time I talked to him we were either going to say we went halvsies on it (fat chance since he can't afford it, and I don't want to afford it) or that he won it in a contest.

That's a pretty big variation in excuses, so we need to be on the same page.

Meanwhile, my mother gets this Wal-Mart gift certificate today for her birthday for $300 from same millionaire. She doesn't want it (she shops at Wal-Mart ALL the fucking time!) and told the guy. He said give it to either of your two sons.

I didn't say I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart so give it to my brother. He needs it more than I. She intervened by saying she's giving it back to the giver.

But that's all beside the point. She doesn't want the card, and she's returning it.

What is wrong with this woman?

I would take the damn thing, and go buy $300 worth of food and give it to a homeless bank. (txrad's idea)

She'll give it back to the giver, and he'll give it to another greedy old white woman who will go to Wal-Mart and squander the thing on worthless nick-nacky shit.

Who deserves it?

Another thing txrad said tonight which makes perfect sense. The rich can take care of the world. If they want to.

*List is NOT in sequential order.

Crossposted at konagod if I dare say so myself.
23 September 2007

Big, Mad, Props to Seventh Sister!

by: Minstrel Boy

Over at her blog, Shimoda's Dream, she has a day by day account of making the Crystallized Ginger that I posted a while back.

She lists the steps of making it, starting with day one

all the way

All the way to realizing that the four day process I described was really five days.

She also said the time invested was worth it.

harp and sword

Bush: Anti Kids, Pro War

by: Foiled Goil

Not compassionate:

Bush: Kids' health care will get vetoed

Associated Press

President Bush again called Democrats "irresponsible" on Saturday for pushing an expansion he opposes to a children's health insurance program.

"Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed," Bush said of the measure that draws significant bipartisan support, repeating in his weekly radio address an accusation he made earlier in the week. "Members of Congress are risking health coverage for poor children purely to make a political point."

In the Democrat's response, also broadcast Saturday, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell turned the tables on the president, saying that if Bush doesn't sign the bill, 15 states will have no funding left for the program by the end of the month.

At issue is the Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, mostly children, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. It expires Sept. 30.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a proposal Friday that would add $35 billion over five years to the program, adding 4 million people to the 6.6 million already participating. It would be financed by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.
But Bush has promised a veto, saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, extends government-covered insurance to children in families who can afford private coverage, and smacks of a move toward completely federalized health care. He has asked Congress to pass a simple extension of the current program while debate continues, saying it's children who will suffer if they do not.
Rendell said thousands of children will lose health care coverage if Bush doesn't sign the bill.

"The administration has tried to turn this into a partisan issue and has threatened to veto. The health of our children is far too important for partisan politics as usual," he said. "If the administration is serious about solving our health care crisis, it should be expanding, not cutting back, this program which has made private health insurance affordable for millions of children."
Not conservative:

Iraq war budget jumps for 2008

Bush plans to increase his request to nearly $200 billion.
The troop buildup and new gear are the main reasons.

Los Angeles Times
After smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq, President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure -- totaling nearly $200 billion -- to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.

If Bush's spending request is approved, 2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war.
When costs of CIA operations and embassy expenses are added, the war in Iraq currently costs taxpayers about $12 billion a month, said Winslow T. Wheeler, a former Republican congressional budget aide who is a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information in Washington.

"Everybody predicts declines, but they haven't occurred, and 2008 will be higher than 2007," Wheeler said. "It all depends on what happens in Iraq, but thus far it has continued to get bloodier and more expensive. Everyone says we are going to turn the corner here, but the corner has not been turned."

In 2004, the two conflicts together cost $94 billion; in 2005, they cost $108 billion; in 2006, $122 billion.
The new spending request is likely to push the cumulative cost of the war in Iraq alone through 2008 past the $600-billion mark -- more than the Korean War and nearly as much as the Vietnam War, based on estimates by government budget officials.

· · ·

Conservatism My Way, Blunt and Hard

by: Dark Wraith

When I call myself a conservative, I mean that I'm a real conservative. I'm not a paleo-con, and I'm sure as Hell not a neo-con. Both of those phony breeds make me sick.

I won't hold it against you if you have no idea what a real conservative is, considering the miserable phonies who've been strutting themselves around the Republican Party for the last thirty years or so. If you call yourself a conservative and love yourself some George W. Bush, get the Hell away from me. I don't know what that ignorant wimp is, but he's not a conservative by any measure I ever used. And if you think William F. Buckley is the intellectual soul of conservatism, you're off your rocker: Bill Buckley is nothing but a pseudo-intellectual who, like a whole lot of arrested-development Right-wingers, needed an authoritarian daddy, and he finally found a darned decent surrogate in Dear Authoritarian Leader Georgie. That, or he thinks he found a genuine, life-like authoritarian boob to suckle.

Find some place else to use the word conservative for yourself if you like authoritarians, repressive government, and stupid leaders. As I hinted above, I have no patience with paleo-cons and neo-cons. They've disgraced conservatism, and it's going to take years to rebuild the intellectual base of the movement, if there ever really was one considering conservatism's repetitive fascination with crazies all the way from McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover on through to Schlafly, Buckley, and Kristol.

The bright leaders of tomorrow are running in droves to the liberals waiting with open arms to suck them into the bleak authoritarianism of the loons on the Left, and there's no one to blame for this mass migration away from conservatism except the conservatives, themselves, who got suckered into the "Republican Revolution," complete as it was with scum-bags like Newt Gingrich; sleaze-bags like Tom Delay; and, finally, the embodiment of all that is moron in George W. Bush, his mentally ill, paranoid sidekick Dick Cheney, and his metro-weirdo fan boy, Karl Rove.

Yeah, there's a real legacy we can sell to the kids. Step right up, boys and girls: you, too, can be part of the wildest economic and military fiascoes of American history.

So, if you're some loser looking for a rah-rah for George W. Bush and his neo-connies, beat it. You've got plenty of sites that cater to that crap.

The same goes if you're into the paleo-con racism and all its variants. I have no use for bashing people who aren't like I am, provided, that is, they don't want me to be what I'm not. I don't want to be a Pentecostalist; that stuff's weird as Hell, but I don't begrudge people the right to make fools of themselves by speaking in tongues in front of their friends. More seriously, what the Hell does real conservatism have to do with homophobia, for God's sake? A real conservative finds it utterly unconscionable that the government thinks it has the right to dictate which adults of sound mind can and cannot enter into otherwise well-establish, state-sanctioned, wholly productive contracts. It just boggles my mind that the Party of "limited government" is the same Party of stick-their-noses-in-private-matters. It's like having a bunch of liberals cracking their O-So-Socially-Necessary whips in the air.

(And for God's sake, don't wave that Libertarian, Ron Paul, at me: in my life, I swear I've had to deal with way too many Libertarians who were nothing but weenie jerks waiting to get a swirlie while dreaming of rising to become Butch-Survivalist Him-Dong of the Post-Apocalypse. You might not be one of those kinds of Libertarians, but be on notice: the swirlies are free here at Big Brass Blog.)

And don't get me started on the religious whackos. Good God, back in my day, we rolled our eyes at people who went around testifying for Jesus and shaking their fingers at everyone. Somewhere along the way—and I blame the liberals for this one—we started treating the mentally ill as if they didn't—indeed, couldn't—be put away; and where did this get us? Religious zealots who can't control themselves, who are now socially acceptable, waving their religious zealotry around like it's something other than the insane nonsense it is. We mainstreamed 'em, and look what we got: they're on television and radio, now.

Don't get the idea that I'm soft of Lefties. I'm not. If you take the time (well spent time, I should point out) to visit this place regularly, you'll see plenty of fire-breathing at the Leftists, especially the ones who made life so miserable for people that they turned to the charlatans on the Right. The only thing that makes me despair more than the bunch of dumb-asses running for President on the Republican side are the dumb-asses running for President on the Democratic side. Lord, looking at the Dems, we've got our choice of Jackboots in Pumps Hillary; Vapid Smile with a Damn Fine Haircut Edwards; and Crooked as a Corkscrew Obama. Gee, let me grab a couple vats of ketchup to make that menu sound appetizing.

Here's how it is. Eisenhower was the last great Republican President of these United States of America. Richard Nixon was a far better President than history made him out to be; he screwed up big time, he took the fall (finally, anyway) like he should have, and the liberals wet themselves every chance they get to keep history from recognizing his many achievements. Ronald Reagan is overrated, especially in his first term, when he surrounded himself with hot-headed dumb-clucks; but he did a lot better in his second term, maybe because he was getting soft in the noggin and other people, including Nancy, were running the show. George H.W. Bush was not all that bad; he had the misfortune of ending up in a reelection fight right when the economy was tail-spinning, thanks in no small part to Federal Reserve actions to fix problems it had started while saving Reagan's butt several years earlier.

If you claim you're a conservative, but you can't bring yourself to acknowledge that Bill Clinton was an excellent (not perfect, but excellent) President, then you're deluding yourself. He kicked the asses of the Republicans, and the Republican Party would do really well for both itself and our country if its members would learn from Clinton how to survive, win, and even get some head without resorting to treachery.

Here's some more of how it is. I'm an economist, and I'll tell you right now that this economy is in one helluva mess. It's the kind of mess that scares me to death, and it's all because of the fiscal recklessness of the Republicans. This one can't be laid at the feet of anyone but the Republicans. Spending money on stupid-ass wars that have nothing whatsoever to do with killing the people we really need to kill is just plain bizarre. So is round after round of tax cuts that hand tens of billions of dollars to rich people. I'm not rich, and I don't give a tinker's damn about how hard it is for rich people to get by when marginal tax rates are high for multi-millionaires. That whole "supply-side economics," "trickle-down" theory crap is Mr. Stupid on Stilts, and anyone who believes that stuff deserves every bit of the misery the filthy rich hand out like they're gods of the pink slips, the outsourcing, the unsafe work environments, and the shabby food processing for big profits.

I want government off my back, and I want it off yours, too, if you're an average person. I don't want creeps listening to my phone calls like I'm some kind of terrorist; I don't want airport security perverts using their high-tech machines to look under women's and girls' panties; I don't want the government's massive law-enforcement screw-ups being used as an excuse to make my life less free; I don't want wars that don't kill the people who need to die (while killing lots of people—including American soldiers—who don't deserve it); I want law enforcement to be a hammer on bad people, while knowing the difference between bad people and the vast majority of us who aren't bad people; and I want the government to tax adequately without going mad, while spending carefully without hurting good programs and needy people, especially kids.

That's not too much to ask; but, God knows, I haven't seen it being offered up lately. All I see from the Republicans are a bunch of lousy, fiscally reckless fools who fall all over themselves for nutty religious people and lobbyists.

I'm a conservative, a real one. I want this country back. I want it back from the neo-cons, I want it back from the religious whackos, I want it back from the nosy cops, I want it back from the fatted rich boys, I want it back from the cowardly draft-dodgers, I want it back from the whining liberals, I want it back from the Chinese, the Israelis, the Saudis, and all the other foreign countries jerking our chains.

I want it back, and I want it back now.

If you don't agree with me, go to Hell; but, please, don't take me with you. Take Dubya and Hillary, instead. They know the way.

If you do agree with me, I welcome you. You're pretty darned smart, and you might find there are a whole lot of other pretty darned smart people in this country.

Of course, if there really aren't that many of us, we'll just have to fake it until all the authoritarian followers decide we're the authoritarians they should follow. That shouldn't be too hard, though: look how many people voted for Bush, and look how many people are going to vote for Hillary.

There's a whole lot of work to be done. We have a country to take back.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

· · ·

Marcel Marceau 1923 - 2007

by: Minstrel Boy

Marceau as "Bip."

Le silence est d'or mon vieil ami.

harp and sword
22 September 2007

Courtesty of Sully

by: Minstrel Boy

This is from The Daily Dish
by Andrew Sullivan.

I thought it too snarky to pass up.

harp and sword

side note: ASU has a homegame tonight, even though she's a rabid UofA basketball fan, and loyal to her school, MedSkoolGirl has consented to attend with me. We're both wearing Pat Tillman jersies. Go Devils!

Death Count Methodology

by: Foiled Goil

Exclusive: Petraeus' Sectarian Death Count Methodology

Spencer Ackerman — September 21, 2007:
Earlier this month, David Walker of the Government Accountability Office testified that he could not "get comfortable" with General David Petraeus' methodology for determining sectarianism, considering it too inferential to be reliable. His report, echoing objections from senior intelligence officials, instead tabulated the pace of attacks on civilians and found the surge didn't appear to have a significant effect on civilian-targeted violence. However, relying on data interpreted through the MNF-I methodology, Petraeus testified that sectarian violence had fallen in Iraq to mid-2006 levels.

The actual methodology MNF-I employs has remained unknown. Until now.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed two weeks ago, MNF-I has provided TPMmuckraker with its criteria for identifying ethnic and sectarian violence. We've added the methodology to our Document Collection, and you can read it here.
Pentagon Report Gives Lie to Surge Success

Juan Cole — September 22, 2007:
The report also has two graphics that should make us very suspicious about all the declarations that the troop escalation or 'surge' has significantly reduced violence in Iraq. I cut the graphs in half, so they show only 2006 and 2007 and relabled them, but you can scroll down at the pdf link above to see the originals. I did not modify them in any other way.
The Pentagon is trying to give us the impression that August was a 'trend', but statistically that is silly, since it was just one month and what came before it was pretty horrible. The dip in attacks in August does not seem to have come with much of a dip in casualties, in any case. And if all that is happening is that fewer US troops are being attacked, but similar numbers are being wounded or killed, I'm not sure that is even significant. Since some of the attacks were on the British in the south, changes in the way they were deployed could have had a small impact on these statistics.

The Pentagon tells us that violence in Baghdad is back down to the levels of summer, 2006. But whether that is true or not, the generalization cannot be made for Iraq, by the Pentagon's own statistics. If you do a three-month rolling average for months prior to September, whether you look at numbers of attacks or numbers of casualties, there has not been a significant improvement with regard to violence in the country as a whole.

· · ·
21 September 2007

Pre-performance Note

by: Minstrel Boy

If there is a particular section of hell for musicians it will probably consist of a two hour rehearsal where it feels like I am the only person there who ever even heard of the headliner, much less bothered to run through the sheet music that was so conveniently faxed to my home two weeks ago. The task at this level of hell is to not throw things at these dipsticks, or tell them how fucking unprofessional it is when they ask stupid questions on subjects they should already have down. I know it's a benefit and it will be hard to piss anybody off, they've spent their money for this good cause and will walk away full of banquent chicken in glue sauce and satisfaction for their devotion to charity.

Still, I think that as professionals there are certain standards that must be upheld.

I also know that anytime I feel I have surmounted and transcended this level of hell the endless hell of soundchecks awaits.

(puff! puff!) (tap - tap) check . . . check. . .check mic one. . .

(puff! puff!) (tap - tap) check . . . check . . .check mic two . . .


Ahhhh, can I please get a level on the harp?

Me: Which one?

DVFTDA: Ahhhhh, what to you call the big one?

Me: the big one.

DVFTDA: Ok, let's start there.

Trust me folks. It only goes downhill from here.

Although I'm meeting my daughter MedskoolGirl for dinner in about half an hour. Life will be pretty damned good from then on. She's going to be backstage at the show and will be coming home for a five day visit afterward.

I still hate rehearsals and soundchecks.

el rancho harpo

The Man Who Should Be President

by: spyderkl

Yes, Dennis Kucinich is the man who should be President. Here's a good reason why, in case you need just one:

“When you consider that this war was based on lies, when you consider that Iraq did not attack the United States, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, it is an urgent matter of national morality to determine what the appropriate response is,” said Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

“It is time for us to start talking about the legal responsibility of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and all the other war architects who built a case for the war based on lies.

“The very essence of America’s credibility in the world is at stake. Our highest elected officials should be held accountable for actions that resulted in the deaths of more than a million innocent people, particularly when those deaths were based on demonstrable lies."

Are any of the other Democratic candidates saying that? I suspect they're too worried about their standing in the polls. Will they back Rep. Kucinich's proposed resolution?

“I am preparing a resolution that requests the House meet in the Committee of the Whole to investigate the matter of civilian causalities as well as U.S. troop casualties that have occurred in Iraq. The resolution will recount that the war was based on lies. It will ask the House to consider action, including possibly preferring criminal charges against individuals who in the Administrative conduct of office were directly responsible for the war and the consequent loss of life.

I hope so, but I wouldn't be holding my breath.

Kucinich was my candidate in 2004, and he remains my candidate today. Nothing that he's said in the past few months have changed that. On the contrary; it merely bolsters my belief that I've gone with somebody who will champion my views and my values. Someone who, instead of merely hemming and hawing when asked a question, has answers and well-thought out opinions and is unafraid to express them.

Crossposted at Evil Mommy.

Prezidiot of Hypocrisy

by: Foiled Goil

Prezidiot — Bushspeak video clips:
I remind people that, like when I'm with, Condi, I say she's the Ph.D. and I'm the C student and just look at who's the president and who's the adviser.
You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people's money.
I thought an interesting comment was made -- somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, "Now, where's Mandela?" Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.
* * * * *

Hypocrisy — Keith Olbermann, Special Comment:

President of Hypocrisy

Deliberately, premeditatedly, and virtually without precedent, you shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman -- and now you're complaining about the outcome, and then running away from the microphone?
Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you?

The Republican Hamstringing of Captain Max Cleland and lying about Lieutenant John Kerry met with your approval?

But a shot at General Petraeus -- about whom you conveniently ignore it is you who reduced him from four-star hero to a political hack -- that merits this pissy juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television?

Your hypocrisy is so vast, Sir, that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq you could realize your dream -- and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.

The line between the military and the civilian government is not to be crossed.
Mr. Bush, you had no right to order General Petraeus to become your front man.

And he obviously should have refused that order and resigned rather than ruin his military career.

The upshot is -- and contrary it is, to the Move-On advertisement -- he betrayed himself more than he did us.

But there has been in his actions a sort of reflexive courage, some twisted vision of duty at a time of crisis. That the man doesn't understand that serving officers cannot double as serving political ops, is not so much his fault as it is your good, exploitable, fortune.

But Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General's skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of 'the planted last question' at a news conference, to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond.

That, Sir, is not only un-American -- it is dictatorial.

And in pimping General David Petraeus, Sir, in violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military, and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it.

You did it again today, Sir, and you need to know how history will judge the line you just crossed.

It is a line -- thankfully only the first of a series -- that makes the military political, and the political, military.

It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a Military Junta.

Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous transgression, for a call to further politicize our military.


Good night, and good luck.
Text of Keith's Special Comment is here, and with MSNBC video here.

Crooks and Liars has it, too.

· ·

All In

by: Shakespeares Sister

In the comments at Shakesville, Jay in Oregon linked to a story that is truly one of the worst things I've ever read. It happened in Hartlepool, England—but it could have happened on just about any street in just about any town in the UK, or the US, which is part of what makes it so terrible.

Christine Lakinski, a 50-year-old physically and mentally disabled woman, was returning home with some parcels when she fell ill and stumbled into her doorway, losing consciousness. One of her neighbors, 27-year-old Anthony Anderson, and two of his mates, noticed her lying there; Anderson first kicked her feet to try to rouse her, then dumped a bucket of water on her. When she still failed to respond, he urinated on her and covered her in shaving foam—all of which was captured on a mobile phone. On the video, Anderson is heard to shout "This is YouTube material!" as he degrades Lakinski while she slowly dies of pancreatic failure. This bit of vile revelry attracts a crowd, all of whom "were said to have laughed at his actions."

Anderson, who has pleaded guilty to "outraging public decency," will be sentenced next month. Prosecutor Lynne Dalton, who recommended an enhanced sentence at yesterday's hearing, explained: "Although his actions did not contribute to her death it was appalling behaviour that robbed her of any dignity in the last hours of her life."

Lakinski's brother Mark said: "We will await the outcome and just hope he gets what he deserves." And what does Anderson deserve? A fate no civilized society would ever give him. There are laws designed to preserve his dignity, if he yet retains any, and to spare him from cruel and unusual treatment, though he did not extend his victim the same courtesy.

At least he will go to prison. He will be punished for his brutally callous victimization of Christine Lakinski. That is certain. Even if it is unthinkably inadequate, it is certain.


Naomi Klein is Back - YOU GO GIRL!

by: Jersey Cynic

The secret history of the free market -- It wasn't born in freedom and democracy. It was born in shock

Information is shock resistance


"Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas lying around"

Naomi Klein is an award-winning Canadian journalist, author, documentary filmmaker and activist......

Her newest book just out is "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" that explodes the myth of "free market" democracy. It shows how neoliberal Washington Consensus fundamentalism dominates the world with America its lead exponent exploiting security threats, terror attacks, economic meltdowns, competing ideologies, tectonic political or economic shifts, and natural disasters to impose its will everywhere. Wars are waged, social services cut, and freedom sacrificed when people are too distracted, cowed or bludgeoned to object. Klein describes a worldwide process of social and economic engineering she calls "disaster capitalism" with torture along for the ride to reinforce the message - no "New World Order" alternatives are tolerated.

Watch a great piece here: Riz Khan interviews Naomi

This video is linked in the alternet article below and is a short documentary explaining the thesis of Klein's book (it plays better than the one in the article)

This excerpt from Naomi Klein's controversial new book, "The Shock Doctrine," explains how the U.S. set about to destroy the Iraqi national psyche and then push through a disastrous privatization of its economy.

any today from alternet, a phone interview by Jan Frel with Naomi:

Why Can't the U.S. Have the Debate about Naomi Klein's Book That Europe Has?

In Europe and Canada debate is raging about Naomi Klein's new book on disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine. This interview with Klein considers why U.S. public debate is unable to ask fundamental questions about our economic system. .....

Frel: A lot of what you're taking on in The Shock Doctrine, is a concept that is fused in deep into a big part of the American psyche -- that "the free market" and "free enterprise," which we don't typically debate or condemn in the mainstream but are to blame for a lot of the things the public does discern as problems, like our health care system. But how do you get people to see that they are being screwed by their own dominant economic beliefs?

Klein: It's actually not that hard. The hard part is getting past the media wall.......


and ANOTHER "well said" piece by Naomi last month:

The real problem, I want to argue today, is confidence, our confidence, the confidence of people who gather at events like this under the banner of building another world, a kinder more sustainable world. I think we lack the strength of our convictions, the guts to back up our ideas with enough muscle to scare our elites. We are missing movement power. That’s what we’re missing. “The best lacked all convictions,” Yeats wrote, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Think about it. Do you want to tackle climate change as much as Dick Cheney wants Kazakhstan’s oil? Do you? Do you want universal healthcare as much as Paris Hilton wants to be the next new face of Estee Lauder? If not, why not? What is wrong with us? Where is our passionate intensity?

What is at the root of our crisis of confidence?: Lost Worlds: Is Another World Possible?
by Naomi Klein

(Hard when your working 2 jobs)

JerseyCynic wants to know if it's possible to blend capitalism AND socialism.....

There's got to be a way - yes?

Hard to change the world when it will ruin the current one -eh?

crossposted at Blondesense

· · ·

Notes From a Tough Day

by: Minstrel Boy

Things went pretty well at the funeral. There were a couple of surprises that I thought you might like to hear about.

First, "God Bless America" went fine. As a matter of fact, it was a highlight. Before the service I was talking with the young man's mother. I suggested to her, since she wanted the song played that when she gave her eulogy part that she try to get everyone singing the song with her. I told her that I would be right there to pick up and keep it going in the case of her faltering.

She talked about the way she had come to this country seven years ago. With two children from El Salvador. Then two more children came along, the husband left and she has been raising the kids all by herself working as a maid at one of the many resorts in the Phoenix area that cater to the filthy rich. She talked about her son joining the army to get the educational benefits, but also so that he could send the bulk of his paycheck home every month to help her out. She talked about how joining had put her son on the fast track for citizenship. Then she said that she had become an American citizen herself. She said that she was proud of her family, and proud of her country.

All of a sudden the rah-rah bullshit I had been associating with "God Bless America" was beginning to look a little petty. I felt a wee bit good that I had managed to hold my tongue around her. She asked the people there if they would sing with her. I hit a chord, and we sang. It wasn't stupid. It was sincere. I might have been coming in to fake my way through it, she didn't, and in the face of her honesty, I wasn't able to fake it either.

The other thing that was notable I noticed right at the beginning of the service. I usually start something like that with a small 10 or 15 minute prelude type of thing. I just warm up and pluck out some classical and celtic stuff on the harp while people file in and take their seats. I was waiting for one of the ushers to give me the high sign to let me know that they were ready to bring in the casket with the young man.

The sign came and I picked up the pipes, I started in to play "Garry Owen." Although I was playing it very slowly, stately, with a rolling kind of rhythm. I watched the honor guard enter and saw that the Sgt. Major himself was in command of them. It was the first time we've met face to face. All of our interactions to this point had been on the phone. I didn't know that he was an african-american for instance. He's a big guy. Imposing and erect. I must say that today he certainly looked every inch a soldier. Of course, he's the kind of man that I think would look every inch a soldier first thing in the morning. He really gives off that lifer vibe.

After the final ceremonies at the graveside I shook hands with the mother and went over to introduce myself to the Sgt. Major. He was looking me up and down, sizing me up. We shook hands. He commented on my wearing an all black outfit. I said Jena 6, lots of people are wearing black today. He asked about the golden eagle feathers that I decorate the drones of my bagpipes with and I told him that the apache name for the golden eagle translates as "truth eagle" and that it's an expression of my cross cultural identity. He nodded gravely and said: "I know that if we were spending time having to be around each other there would be a great many subjects we would not see eye to eye on. I will say this. You have heart and style. I'm both grateful for the way you help us out with this, and proud to be able to call on you."

I said "Sgt. Major, I've been shoulder to shoulder with men I didn't see eye to eye with many times. We held our own and did our duty. Even if we didn't take long warm showers together we reached a place of respect and affection. I can see that you are a complete soldier. I do respect that greatly. Why did you choose to attend this particular funeral?"

He said "I know this family. We attend this same church. I helped to recruit this young man. There was no other place that I could be today."

I said "Tough duty indeed Sgt. Major." He said "Call me Larry."

I said "As you wish, Sgt. Major." (waited about four beats)

"Larry, please don't hesitate to call upon me anytime I might be of service."

He said "Thanks again."

I said "You're really into this whole last word thing aren't you?"

He said "Hoo-rah troop."

I left it at that.

harp and sword
20 September 2007

Last Call, for awhile

by: blackdog

Tonight I'm catching up with the rest of you as best as I can and trying not to think about the next week. When four of my toes were crushed by a steel pole one night I finally ended up at a hospital, with insurance coverage and all that. The X-ray tech, who had a strange inflection in his voice congratulated me on how I wasn't bitching much about the pain. I told him I didn't think it would do much good. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder. But it did hurt like pure hell. Imagine your big toe bigger than a small apple...

Tomorrow I have to tie up some loose ends, utilities, someone to take care of the Woof, mow some gawddamned grass and all that. Then I have the distinct pleasure of making a brew in a 1-gallon polyethelene container with about 1 inch of a crystal substance in it, mix it with luke-warm water, mix it well and chill it down. Then on Sunday, drink as much if not all of it while giving my stump, ur, what's left of my lower unit several forced injections of a fluid that is supposed to clear me out. The lawn chemical I will imbibe is supposed to clear out my upper remaining GI. If I emerge from the facility where I give my lower vestigal part a cleansing with a smile I want to be shot. It's just that I don't agree with messing with that part of my anatomy damn it.

It's supposed to be self cleaning, like ammunition for a frigging riflle or most anything else, damn it. But no, I have to become much more intimate with aspects of myself than I ever wanted to understand.

The easy part comes when I succumb to the machine that is the hospital, the professionals that i rely on to do their best, everyday, and not just for me but for everyone. And I have met several really good ones at UAMS. When the IV is threaded into my arm I can relax somewhat, as pain goes i am a real chicken but this one isn't so bad. Used to be a time when I didn't know what it even was.

Can't figure why my I's are not caps, worry about that later. Just want to mention that it is fine to be here with the rest of you, sometimes reading the best, sometimes less than that, but always getting a better understanding from all of you based on your posts. You guys are really important to me.

Hold that Wraith down and get that bicuspid taken care of, he can howl better then. And if you hear outside your window the next few nights a "cluck-cluck-cluck... Well then that might be me. I ain't no damn hero, and I'll do the best I can, I only hope that the situation and the doktors are in the same mode.

"Vould the Doktor care for a brandy?"

"NO, thank you".

"Some varm milk perhaps?"

"No, I'm tired".



"Then I vill say, goodnight".


I'll be bak!!!!!!

I do so much care about you guys. Thanks for letting an idiot be here.

"To the lumberyard!!!"

This Started Out

by: Minstrel Boy

as a comment over at the fine blog Ranger Against War.

I'm dragging myself through the morning today. Muttering to myself. Slouching and bitching through the chores. In three short hours I will be playing yet another funeral for a fine young man who has fallen due to the misguided policy and schemes of George W. Bush and also because of the craven cowardice or callous cynicism of the Congress that refuses to do their duty and stop this shit.

I'm doing this because it fucking hurts. That's right. I'll say it again, I'm doing this BECAUSE it hurts.

It hurts to see that another young person has been brutally killed. It hurts to see the faces of the surviving family. It hurts to stand with honor guard and play sad songs on the harp and pipes. It hurts even more when it is the child of a neighbor, it hurts even more when it was a kid that I knew.

Want to know something else? It hurts even more when I'm going to or leaving something like that and realize that most of this country doesn't even know, or much care, how bad it hurts.

I have had friends, on the phone, in my house, through concerned emails, tell me that they see the toll this is taking on me. Fuck! The republican pukes have had the gall to tell reporters that they will tow the line and stay with the president until the primaries are over and they are certain to make it to the general election, then they'll come to the "Stop this fucking madness" camp. They are more concerned with keeping their pissant jobs than the fact that we are losing two or more soldiers a day while at the same time not accomplishing a goddamned thing other than losing two or more soldiers a day.

Here's my challenge to you. Find a way to make this personal. Do like Jersey Cynic and Liz did over at BlondeSense did. They got out in the street to protest. They even got Jim Yeager of Mockingbird's Medley to join them. You know Jim. He used to blog as Mimus Pauly, now he's just doing it under his name.

Make it personal. Find a way to make this shit mean something deep inside you. Make it hurt. Then Do. It. Some. More. Feel the pain, feel the sadness when a 20 year old kid gets rolled over in a truck wreck. Then go to the next one. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Keep. It. Personal. Do that and you might find a way to ensure that this madness stops. Drag people along with you so that they know how much it hurts.

My cousin and his partner are coming to the funeral with me today.

That's two more people.

Maybe we won't stop this war. It has the distinct potential of stopping itself. The military can simply break down and cease to function like it did with Alexander. Of course, it just might get worse. Still.

I'm keeping it personal. I'm going to walk through the hurt, the grief, the pain and do what I can to make something, some fucking where a little better.

That's what I'm doing.

How about you?

harp and sword
19 September 2007

The Advertising Industry Is Fucking NVTS

by: Konagod

NUTS I tell ya. Nuts.

I have this friend I've known 10 years. I met her when I supervised her when I first moved to Austin. We soon parted ways and she went in a new direction, but still in the industry. We have mutual friends so were able to stay in touch.

Recently after I started my new gig, I learned that she worked at a station in one of the television markets I handle San Antonio, and my sales rep and her were very good friends.

Small world.

Then, I informed the sales rep today that it was going to be a "tequila night" and I said "tell JB." Because I knew "JB" would appreciate it. I got a reply that "JB" had packed up her shit and moved to Dallas and was now working for a firm that handles television advertising sales on behalf of the stations.

I still had JB's cell phone number and, under the influence of tequila, I decided to give it a shot (no pun intended). I called her, and after an elaborate series of announcements and strange music, and thinking I was headed straight into voice mail hell, I heard this voice say, "Well, hello {konagod}!"

We had a nice chat, and after trying to exchange new contact information, we realized we were both too fucked up to transcribe anything. She was heavily working over the Crown Royal, and of course I said I had done a shot for her. She said do another and she'd do the same.

We'll do it and probably already have.

Small world.

I'm sure we'll be working together again soon.

FYI, the main reason this person is so important to me, is because she's the bitch who broke my 7-year sobriety, and started me smoking. But hey, the company we worked for then was going down the crapper fast, and we knew it.


Anyhow, the advertising industry is just GRAND. I love it.

I gotta go. txrad just found a baggie with a bud, and I told him it was his birthday present, which is tomorrow. I had no idea it was there but I'm trying REAL hard to take credit for it, since I have nothing else to offer. My credibility is ON THE LINE.

God, I sound SO much like Mitt Romney.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (see? told ya i'd get to it)

by: Minstrel Boy

Let me begin by telling you that this is a recipe for a bread machine. I love mine. I've had it for nearly 20 years and it just keeps chugging along turning out beautiful loaves of homemade bread.

The smell of a fresh loaf of bread baking merrily away is one of the things that will instantly put a smile on the face of everyone who comes through the door. It's better stuff. Oh, I forgot, you have to actually slice this yourself. Wah-wah-wah. No preservatives used here. No xanthan gum or any other laboratory stuff that gets thrown into commercial loaves. Just good solid food.

This one is a perennial favorite here. The kids love it. It's great in the afternoon, lightly toasted and smeared with cream cheese and home made jam or preserve.

You can easily substitute any kind of dried fruit (or for a little slice of heaven use crystallized ginger) for the raisin and the food police will not track you down, at least not yet.


1 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered milk (or use 1 1/4 cup skim milk)
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons sugar (I use the vanilla sugar that's in the pantry)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/3 cup all purpose flour (bread flour works fine too, so does whole wheat, just not stone ground stuff for this recipe)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins

Put the first eight ingredients into the baking pan of the bread machine in the order listed.
Set it for Sweet Bread
Pick your crust color (mine's stuck on dark)
Turn it on.
When the first mix and kneading is finished add in the raisins. (mine beeps twice for this stage)
Walk away for three and a half hours.
Cool in the baking pan for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cool another half hour before slicing.
Dig in.

harp and sword

Republicans Block Restoration of Habeas Corpus

by: Foiled Goil

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes

On the Cloture Motion
(Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Specter Amdt. No. 2022)

Vote Result:
Cloture Motion Rejected

Statement of Purpose:
To restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States.

Vote Counts: YEAs 56 – NAYs 43 – Not Voting 1


Current History, Revisited

by: Foiled Goil

A War to Destroy Iraq as a Regional Power,
The U.S. Strategy, A New World Order for Oil

Excerpts from Brian Becker's
"U.S. Conspiracy to Initiate the War Against Iraq"
How the U.S. conducted the war shows that the permanent weakening of Iraq is a key part in the New World Order.
The basic premise of U.S. policy has been to eliminate or severely weaken any nationalist regime that challenges U.S. dominance and control over the oil-rich region. The military strategy employed against Iraq not only aimed at military targets, but the "bombing raids have destroyed residential areas, refineries, and power and water facilities, which will affect the population for years."
That the U.S. sought to permanently weaken or crush Iraq, as a regional power capable of asserting even a nominal challenge to U.S. dominance over this strategic oil-rich region, fits in with a longer historical pattern.
The way U.S. policy shifted is quite revealing; it bears all the signs of a well-planned conspiracy.
The Bush administration has never presented any evidence whatsoever…
Rather it has simply repeated the charges over and over in the press.
The authors of that study conclude that the charges were false but used by the U.S. government to change public opinion toward Iraq.
If the first part of the strategy was to create hostility and economic hardships, then the war was the second phase. The massive bombardment of Iraq coupled with the continued economic sanctions after the war completes a two-part strategy designed to leave Iraq both in a weakened state and dependent on western aid and bank loans for any reconstruction effort. [snip] …the Bush administration assumes that a war-ravaged country that is economically dependent on the U.S. and European capitalist powers or on UN humanitarian aid will be forced into a subservient position.
We believe that the real goal of the United States war against Iraq is to return to the "good old days" when the U.S. and some European countries totally plundered the resources of the Middle East.
In recent decades U.S. companies no longer directly own the oil fields of the Middle East, but they still get rich from them. That is because the royal families of the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, who were put on their thrones by the British empire and are kept there by the U.S. military and the CIA, have loyally turned their kingdoms into cash cows for Wall Street banks and corporations.
The New World Order that Bush has in mind is, in fact, not so new. It is an attempt to turn the clock back to the pre-World War II era of unchallenged colonial domination and plunder of the land, labor, and resources of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East by a handful of industrialized capitalist countries.
This is based on grand geopolitical strategy that flows like water from Pentagon-sponsored think tanks in Washington. It leaves out the most important factor in the equation of the Middle East - the broad mass of the people whose hatred for foreign domination and capacity to struggle remains as powerful as ever.

The U.S. and its imperialist allies have won a temporary victory in the Middle East. But their policy of military domination to stop the natural progression of history - for people to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonialism - cannot succeed.
Sound familiar? It should. This article is from the 90s.

It's just like déjà vu all over, again.

And those who study history are doomed to know it's repeating.

· · ·
18 September 2007

My Financial Strategy

by: Konagod

Stocks soar today.

OK, that's enough for me. I've been waiting on this day for weeks. I'm cashing out for portfolio before Friday. And I'm going to hold on to CASH throughout the month of October.

And then, if there are rumors of another rate cut by the Fed before the next meeting, I'll buy back in. And then cash out again after the next rate cut.

I figure I can do this 3 or 4 times and make out quite well compared to how I have been doing over the past 6 months.

At some point though, I'm going to have to find the threshold at which I just stay out indefinitely. This mortgage thing sounds nasty and late into next year it appears it might get worse as adjustable rate mortgages are going to toss another large segment of society into the "I can't pay my mortgage" blues.

I am crossposting this from konagod to Big Brass Blog because, like any sensible American (how few of us there are), it's always nice to get the opinions of an economist and/or financial expert, and/or guru.

Personally, I don't see how I can go wrong. But then again, I've had that attitude in the past and look where I am now.

Sgt. Major Says

by: Minstrel Boy

to me on the phone: "Do you know 'Garry Owen'."

I say "Of course I do. Harp or pipes?"

Sgt. Major: "Our young corporal ***** was 1st of the 7th."

Me: "Garry Owen it is. When do you want it played?"

Sgt. Major: "I talked to the mother and said it should be played on the pipes when we bring him into the church."

Me: "And going out?"

Sgt. Major: "I told her that the tradition is to play 'The Skye Boat Song'."

Me: "It's not a tradition that I know of. It's just a song I started playing because it's pretty, and it made a statement to me personally. It was also one of the only songs I knew when I started playing the pipes last year."

Sgt. Major: "I'm the Command Sgt. Major of this outfit, if I say that something's a tradition it is a tradition. Am I clear?"

Me: "Yes, Sgt. Major. Perfectly clear. We'll do the traditional 'Skye Boat Song' on the way out of the chapel."

Sgt. Major: "I want to thank you for this. It means a lot to us all."

Me: "It means a lot to me too Sgt. Major. I'm proud to be able to give this service."

Sgt. Major: "It's traditional to allow the Sgt. Major to have the last word."

Me: "Hoo-rah Sgt. Major."

Sgt. Major: "Dismissed dammit." (click)

harp and sword
17 September 2007

Secret Robot Air War

by: Foiled Goil

U.S. Secret Air War Pulverizes Afghanistan and Iraq

Conn Hallinan, September 14, 2007
According to the residents of Datta Khel, a town in Pakistan's North Waziristan, three missiles streaked out of Afghanistan's Pakitka Province and slammed into a Madrassa, or Islamic school, this past June. When the smoke cleared, the Asia Times reported, 30 people were dead.

The killers were robots, General Atomics MQ-1 Predators. The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles they used in the attack were directed from a base deep in the southern Nevada desert.

It was not the first time Predators had struck. The previous year a CIA Predator took a shot at al-Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but missed. The missile, however, killed 18 people.
These assaults are part of what may be the best kept secret of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts: an enormous intensification of US bombardments in these and other countries in the region, the increasing number of civilian casualties such a strategy entails, and the growing role of pilot-less killers in the conflict.

According to Associated Press, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007 over the same period in 2006. More than 30 tons of those have been cluster weapons, which take an especially heavy toll on civilians.
Besides increasing the number of F-16s, B1-Bs, and A-10 attack planes, Predator flight hours over both countries have doubled from 2005.
The result of the stepped up air war, according to the London-based organization Iraq Body Count, is an increase in civilian casualties. A Lancet study of "excess deaths" caused by the Iraq war found that air attacks were responsible for 13% of the deaths -- 76,000 as of June 2006 -- and that 50% of the deaths of children under 15 were caused by air strikes.

The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan from air strikes has created a rift between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States.
It has also opened up the allies to the charge of war crimes. In a recent air attack in southern Afghanistan that killed 25 civilians, NATO spokesman Lt. Col Mike Smith said the Taliban were responsible because they were hiding among the civilian population.

But Article 48 of the Geneva Conventions clearly states: "The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants." Article 50 dictates that "The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilian does not deprive the population of its civilian character."

The stepped-up air war in both countries has less to do with a strategic military decision than the reality that the occupations are coming apart at the seams.

For all intents and purposes, the U.S. Army in Iraq is broken, the victim of multiple tours, inadequate forces, and the kind of war Iraq has become: a conflict of shadows, low-tech but highly effective roadside bombs, and a population which is either hostile to the occupation or at least sympathetic to the resistance.
Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

Full article.

16 September 2007

America's Culture of Death

by: Konagod

I'm not sure why I pay $55.00 monthly for a New York Times subscription when the news is routinely depressing. Part of me would just prefer to remain ignorant.

On the other hand, I'm glad they cover state executions with such excruciating detail. People need to understand how this works.
He looks almost like a young child buckled into a car seat, with his closed eyes and freshly shaved head, with the way the black restraints of the electric chair crisscross at his torso. He yawns a wide-mouthed yawn, as though just stirring from an interrupted dream, and opens his eyes.

He is moments from dying.

Daryl Holton was the first person executed by electrocution in Tennessee since 1960. And in my opinion, the details of his execution are equally as grisly as his crime of killing his four children by shooting them in the heart.
Two corrections officers step forward to place a sponge soaked in salted water on Mr. Holton’s bald scalp to enhance conductivity. Next comes the headpiece, which the procedures describe as a “leather cranial cap lined with copper mesh inside.” Finally, a power cable, not unlike the cable to your television, is attached to the headpiece.

The copper mesh pressing wet sponge sends salty water streaming down the inmate’s ashen face, soaking his white cotton shirt to the pale skin beneath. When officers try to blot him dry with white towels, Mr. Holton says not to worry about it, “ain’t gonna matter anyway.”

Damn right, it's not gonna matter. But it gets worse.
With the push of a button on a console labeled Electric Chair Control, 1,750 volts bolt through Mr. Holton’s body, jerking it up and dropping it like a sack of earth. The black shroud offers the slightest flutter, and witnesses cannot tell whether they have just heard a machine’s whoosh or a man’s sigh.

Fifteen seconds later, another bolt, and Mr. Holton’s body rises even higher, slumps even lower. His reddened hands remain gripped to the arms of the chair, whose oaken pieces are said to have once belonged to the old electric chair, and before that, to the gallows.

SCOTUS is dead wrong on this one. While it may not be unusual in the United States, it certainly is in the civilized world, and it's absolutely cruel to the core. A civilized nation does not proclaim murder to be a crime and then murder the murderer.

If I believed in hell, I'd swear the prosecution, the jury, and the fucker who pushes the button on the ECC would all burn there eternally, as well as the politicians who refuse to condemn the brutality, and the assholes who continue to elect them.

Crossposted from konagod

What Matters

by: Minstrel Boy

I am playing for the funeral of a young man who was killed in Iraq on Thursday. I've been talking with his mother to work out the songs. We were on the phone and she asked if I would play "God Bless America."

I'm glad we were on the phone so she couldn't see the pain on my face as I said "Certainly ma'am, what ever you want."

I do this because it is something I can do. I know that it has a benefit, both to the family of the young man, and, according to the Command Sergeant Major, on the honor gaurd, when they know that I myself served and am willing to do this out of respect for the fallen and my own sense of duty and honor.

Robert E. Lee once wrote either in a letter or his journal (I'm thinking it was his journal kept while in West Point but I'm too damned lazy to look it up) that

Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.

I will do my duty. To this young man's memory, to his comrades, to his family and certainly to myself.

His mother will never know how hard it is for me to do this. She will only know that she asked me to do something and I said "Of course."

harp and sword

If You Watched Football

by: Minstrel Boy

Then you'd know that Keith Olbermann was rushed to the hospital with acute appendicitis. He's going to be on injured reserve for at least a week.

Get. Well. Keith.


el rancho harpo

Random Thoughts

by: blackdog

I freely admit it, I am a creature of comfort, at least when I can find it. Due to some of the difficulties that some here are facing I feel fortunate to not yet be in that vein.

Just watched the end of "The Natural", where Roy Hobbs wins the penant with a blast that takes out the lights, Then "Charly" is on something or other, a great study of what to do with intelligence when you have it, and when you don't.

In spite of my fears, I feel well. When the IV is inserted in my arm I may realize what is coming.The reality of the event. Thank gawd for distraction.

I wish I could be Roy or Charly, but I'm stuck with being me. I will spend the next few days in escape with some books.

From my spirit I thank all of you here and wish to continue to learn more.

And Wraith, get that damned oral problem repaired.

Publisher's Addendum: Christ Almighty, Dog, do try a different choice of wording, next time: '...oral problem' indeed. People are going to think I'm some kind of damned Republican.
— DW

DC Prostest a Success!!

by: Jersey Cynic


I guess that's what it takes, eh Liz and Red? We should have "Blonded" the Capitol instead of running the other way when we were there earlier this year.

Let's see how much "air time" this wild and unruly protest gets in the news today. Please drop a link in the comments if you come across some "good coverage" of this "out of control" situation in DC.

WASHINGTON - Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested.

The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."

Army veteran Justin Cliburn, 25, of Lawton, Okla., was among a contingent of Iraq veterans in attendance.

"We're occupying a people who do not want us there," Cliburn said of Iraq. "We're here to show that it isn't just a bunch of old hippies from the 60s who are against this war."

Counterprotesters lined the sidewalks behind metal barricades. There were some heated shouting matches between the two sides.

The arrests came after protesters lay down on the Capitol lawn in what they called a "die in" — with signs on top of their bodies to represent soldiers killed in Iraq. When police took no action, some of the protesters started climbing over a barricade at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Many were arrested without a struggle after they jumped over the waist-high barrier. But some grew angry as police with shields and riot gear attempted to push them back. At least two people were showered with chemical spray. Protesters responded by throwing signs and chanting: "Shame on you."

The number of arrests by Capitol Police on Saturday was much higher than previous anti-war rallies in Washington this year. Five people were arrested at a protest outside the Pentagon in March when they walked onto a bridge that had been closed off to accommodate the demonstration, then refused to leave. And at a rally in January, about 50 demonstrators blocked a street near the Capitol, but they were dispersed without arrests.

The protesters gathered earlier Saturday near the White House in Lafayette Park with signs saying "End the war now" and calling for President Bush's impeachment. The rally was organized by the ANSWER Coalition and other groups.

Organizers estimated that nearly 100,000 people attended the rally and march. That number could not be confirmed; police did not give their own estimate. A permit for the march obtained in advance by the ANSWER Coalition had projected 10,000.

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan told the crowd is was time to be assertive.

"It's time to lay our bodies on the line and say we've had enough," she said. "It's time to shut this city down."

About 13 blocks away, nearly 1,000 counterprotesters gathered near the Washington Monument, frequently erupting in chants of "U-S-A" and waving American flags.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.

"Congress, quit playing games with our troops. Terrorists, we will find you and kill you," he said. "And to our troops, we're here for you, and we support you."



Way to go!

Crossposted at Blondesense
15 September 2007

Caduceus of the American Way

by: Dark Wraith


The problem with my teeth has been with me for years. Truth be told, one of my baby molars had not come out when it was supposed to, so a dentist had to pull it when I was about 11. The thing had a root that hadn't dissolved. The molar that replaced it would start bothering me again in the late 1990s. I did what I could for it. Several times, the left side of my face swelled up with a knot the size of a softball. I'd brush the infected area, and I'd even hack at it with a sterilized knife. I would get people to give or sell me pain killers and antibiotics, and eventually, the infection would retreat. Once, when I was making decent money, I went to a dentist. I wasn't making enough to pay for him to pull the tooth, but I got him to believe that this was my intention. He gave me a prescription for penicillin, which was what I really needed, and I made an appointment to come back in two weeks to get the tooth pulled out.

I never went back, of course. Even in the late-'90s, the cost of the extraction would have been more than I made in a week. I'm a low-level college teacher. I usually don't make more than about eighteen to twenty-two grand a year. After deductions, including either Social Security or some state teachers retirement deal, I don't make enough to pay all my bills and eat. That's my choice, though. I'm a hack. I play a hard-core, individualist card: I don't want tenure because it's a system that corrupts the very essence of those who grovel for it; I don't want a corporate gig because it's an even more corrupting system; and I don't want fancy titles, awards, chairs, grants, giveaways, or oodles of benefits. I just want to be paid a living wage for what I do. If the education system can't do that, I'll still teach anyway. It's something at which I am reasonably good, and it makes me strong of mind and resolute of spirit. The times in my life when I did other things, things that made me more money, I became pale in principles and weak of valence. To be perfectly and brutally honest, though, it's pretty easy for me to say I don't want things when I know very well I'm not going to have them offered to me. Still, it makes me feel pretty butch to talk about how fiercely independent I am. I had a few chances to live a better-financed life: several, I blew; a couple, I walked away from; and a few more, I couldn't manage to hold onto.

Fate can bite me. So can I.

I teach economics, among other things. Early in the first principles course, I explain to students that one can be magnificent at what one chooses to do, but that means nothing in terms of monetary reward. The very best hamburger cooker will be very unlikely to make any more than a hamburger cooker who is no better than competent. Fabulous artists and writers get nothing because fabulous artists and writers are worth nothing; wealth and fame accruing to a few is the illusion of esteem Western civilization provides as a veneer to a handful of randomly chosen hacks among the legion of the talented. That's just how the world works. Get lucky, and our society might make you the proof of how high-minded we are as a people; but have no illusion: it's just a show, and if you attain fame and fortune, it's because society needed another cute pet.

I'm a good writer, by the way; in fact, I'm better than most. I make not a single damned dime writing, and believe me, I've tried. At least I used to, until my own economics lessons soaked into my thick skull.

Choose your destiny and spare the world your lamentations about its unfairness; otherwise, lead a rebellion to some workers' paradise where you'll still be nothing more than you are now. Freedom isn't an illusion; it's a bitch.

Eventually, I got that horrendously painful molar of mine extracted. It had almost killed me before I got the wherewithal to face the problem and take care of it. Pain is magnificent in the way it focuses and prioritizes human action. I had always wondered why pain persists after it has made a problem known to a sufferer, but I finally came to understand that I, like most people, will set aside any problem that does not nag me to the point of distraction. So it is with toothaches: they don't quit unless something effective is done to remedy the source of the pain.

After getting rid of that pesky molar, I realized right away that the tooth in front of it—a bicuspid—had some infection underneath it. I was sort of hoping that, with the totally messed up tooth behind it gone, the breathing room would allow the bicuspid to heal up nicely; and so it did, at least for a while. A few months ago, my hope of permanent salvation for that tooth began to fade. At first, it was the usual, minor aching that would last a few hours, then go away: nothing that a good dousing with generic Listerine and a fierce brushing wouldn't solve. A couple weeks ago, though, things got really bad.

It used to be that I could easily score on some antibiotics. People were always wanting to be helpful. Even a friend who knew a dentist could get me some. That all changed, ostensibly because of the hype about "overuse" of antibiotics. That's nothing but a ruse. Dentists hand the stuff out like candy to patients who have "heart murmur" issues, whether or not the patients really do. The connection between a heart murmur and prophylactic antibiotic therapy is beyond me. Then again, I'm not a doctor; I just play one when it comes to my own body and health. I certainly can't be trusted to know when I've developed an infection that might kill me without a simple medication no doctor or dentist will prescribe unless I pop the fifty to one hundred bucks for him to first have a five-minute look and then say, "Oh, you need an antibiotic."

Whatever. The bicuspid infection had gotten out of hand by last weekend. The pain was still not persistent, but it was getting more so, and it was getting more mind-bending with every session. Monday was the last straw. The pain wouldn't go away, and the analgesics weren't doing anything. Worse, I had no clue as to how the root was seated, so pulling it out by myself was risky. If the root was not straight—a possibility, I thought, given how that old molar had been making a crowded mess back there—I could end up breaking the upper portion of the tooth clean off, leaving an infected root in place about which I could do nothing but head to a dentist, anyway.

For about six months, I'd been getting ads in the mail from some new dentist in town. The ads were nice, and I'm always a sucker for an entrepreneurial approach others in a business won't try. I'd never had a dentist actually solicit my business. There was a phone number I could call to schedule an appointment and ask any questions, so I decided I'd see how much it would cost me to have a simple tooth extraction done. I knew I couldn't afford hardly anything. The way pay schedules work at my college, I'd just gone five weeks without any paycheck (two weeks between semesters, then three weeks into the new semester). On a good payday, after bills, I'd have maybe a hundred and fifty dollars left over to last two weeks to the next payday; but last Friday hadn't been a good payday since I was having to catch up on bills I hadn't paid because of the five-week dry spell.

Twenty-five bucks was all I had, but if I knew how much a dentist wanted, I could hock some stuff. Maybe I could put together two hundred pawning my video camera I use for recording lectures, my pay-as-you-go cell phone, and a digital camera. The pain was getting wild enough that I was prepared to hock my computer and printer if need be.

I called the dental clinic on Tuesday morning. The lady with whom I spoke there was so nice. She started off with something like, "I promise, we'll make your pain go away." She said the doctor could get me in on Wednesday, and I would leave feeling wonderful compared to how I felt going in. Considering that, by Tuesday night, I was going positively bananas with pain, those were comforting words. I still can't believe I'd taught classes in that condition; but, then again, sometimes I can be at my best when I have the motivation of brain-crushing pain. Funny how that is.

Anyway, I got straight to the issue with that lady at the dentist's office: How much was this going to cost? She hemmed and hawed. Lack of pricing transparency is the spearpoint of how competition is consistently frustrated in healthcare. There's always an excuse for why doctors and dentists are simply too special to be forced to publicly display or otherwise reveal prices. It's the same whine other retailers have made when faced with legislation requiring price disclosures: it just can't be done; there are too many complicating factors; it's another regulatory burden; etc. Medical professionals treat humans like so many assembly line machines, yet they, themselves, want to be treated as something other than car mechanics, who are required to give estimates.

I explained to the woman with whom I was speaking that I was of insubstantial means. I just had to know if I could afford to even so much as walk in the door. After a few more excuses, she lowered her voice and said that it usually comes out between $150 and $200 for a simple tooth extraction. I was relieved: between what was in my account and what I could take to the pawn shop, I could have that much on me, so I asked her to make me an appointment. She scheduled me for Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., which was great since Wednesdays are when I don't have classes until the afternoon. I'd be able to get the tooth pulled, and I'd have a few hours afterward to get my head back together.

Wednesday morning came, and I was just a mess of pain and nausea. I was shaking all over, and I had a fever of almost 103°. I showered; made hot, brutally strong coffee; and headed out. I should have known this wasn't a good idea as soon as I realized how far I was having to drive to get to this clinic. It was clear on the other side of town, the part where all manner of housing divisions comprising McMansions and Medium-McMansions had sprung up by the thousands. It was way away from the bad side of town I live on.

The clinic was nice inside, and the lady with whom I had spoken the day before greeted me from her reception station. She was still being very nice. She asked me to fill out some forms, and I explained to her that I was in very bad shape, so I might need her assistance. She told me not to worry; they'd get me into a room and get me feeling all better right away.

I filled out the forms as best I could, and a dental hygienist came up to get me. She looked vaguely familiar; as it turned out, she'd been a student at the college where I teach, and she recognized me right away. That was somewhat embarrassing to me: I'm not of a mind to have students see me when I'm in such bad shape that I can barely walk.

I was put in one of those dental patient chairs, and the hygienist started to work. She had a very cool, tiny little fiber-optic device she put in my mouth so she could take pictures. She panned around, and I saw all of the years of damage, from one side of my mouth to the other. I even got a good look at the cancerous lesion that had been growing for quite a few years on the inside of my lower lip, something I really didn't need to see in such detail, given that I know very well that thing is going to be what kills me someday. It almost makes getting tooth extractions entirely moot. Fortunately, she took my word for it when I told her I was well aware of that awful thing, and I wanted to hear no more about it. She didn't fuss about all the other broken teeth, missing fillings, and periodontal disease, either. She went to the infected tooth and took some pictures.

I was at once impressed and rather appalled. The bicuspid was black and disgusting in the middle; there was nothing left of white on the side facing where the molar had been, although there was otherwise a fairly thick ring of white enamel still intact. I told her I would be glad to have that gross mess out, but she informed me that the dentist was in the business of saving teeth, not extracting them.

"O God," I thought to myself. "This dentist is going to try a root canal on that thing." Like, to begin with, I could afford a root canal; and like a root canal is even indicated when there's that much necrosis.

She took an X-ray and then turned on a video for me to watch. Sure enough, it was a video about how a root canal is done.

Just great. I hate watching television—no, no; I loathe watching enforced electronic narratives—and there I was having to watch some pedantic, animated infomercial about how easy and fun root canals are, what with o-so-modern, "painless" dentistry, and all.

When she came back in, she shut off the video. "Doctor says we'll have to extract that tooth. There's too much damage to save it."

"Ah, good," I said.

The dentist came breezing in shortly thereafter. He was an affable man, muscular, fairly handsome in a balding sort of way. He wanted to be folksy and friendly. He asked me what I did for a living; then he asked me some other trivial stuff. I got him to start talking about himself, instead. After a few minutes, he explained to me what he was going to do. He said I had come not a moment too soon. He pointed to the picture of my tooth and said, "That used to kill people."

Indeed. It was about to do it to me. He then showed me the X-ray of the tooth. The infection was all clear down at the bottom, right under the point of the root, at the base of the nerve and going straight up the nerve, itself. That explained why I couldn't hack the gum line and get the pus out: it was way too deep, and it was in the core of the tooth.

By this time, I was very excited about getting the tooth out of my face as quickly as possible. They were obliging dentistry-type people in that regard: the dental hygienist had already prepared the Novocaine shots and the benzocaine pretreatment. Lord! but that stuff hurt. Within a matter of a minute, though, all the pain was gone. It was like Heaven. I swear, the relief was about as wonderful as anything I'd ever felt in my life; and I knew that the misery wasn't going to return because, by the time the anesthetics had worn off, the tooth would be gone, the infection would be cleaned out, and I'd be like a new man.

And that's where I was all wrong.

It didn't strike me as odd right away that both the dentist and the dental hygienist left the room. I sat there alone for about a minute, enjoying the numbness wafting across the left side of my face, and then this nice, older lady came in with a clipboard. On it were some papers. She introduced herself as the billing person, and told me that she had some paperwork for me to sign before the surgery. There was the bill: $408. She told me that, if I had dental insurance, she'd submit the claim so I could get reimbursed (which is common these days; the clinics don't want to have to fight for their money with the insurance companies). She told me that she had given me a $50 first-time patient discount. She asked me to sign the bill and let her have my credit card so she could ring it up.

I was in a good place: no pain; but my mind was somewhat fuzzy. I took out my debit card—it's one of those pre-pay deals I get at a truck stop. I told her there was nowhere near $408 on it. To my surprise, she said that was okay; she'd run it anyway, and if it didn't clear, she'd bring back a little form for me to sign to make monthly payments. I was so relieved. She left with my card and the signed bill.

A few minutes later, she came back and told me I was right; there wasn't enough on the card for a charge of $408, so she had the payment agreement for me to sign. Unfortunately, it wasn't some contract with the dental clinic; it was a loan agreement with a lender called One Care. I knew exactly how that loan application was going to turn out, but I acted like everything was okay, and I signed the short little form so she could take it back to her office and get it approved by the lender.

She left, and I immediately got out of the chair. I took off the silly bib they'd put on me, and I shook my head as hard as I could to clear the fog. I straightened myself up and grabbed some tissue paper to wipe the drool off my face. She came back in, trying as best she could to still be happy. She explained that One Care had declined my loan application. I told her I knew they were going to do that, and I told her it was okay. She explained that as soon as I could get the money together, I could come back and get the tooth pulled. She also said she'd billed my debit card only for the initial visit and the X-ray; the Novocaine shots were on the house. I thanked her sincerely for the slack.

The dental hygienist came back in with two sheets of paper: photocopies of prescriptions, one for a painkiller, the other for an antibiotic. She said I should get the antibiotic prescription filled right away to stop the infection from getting any worse, and she told me I should come back in as soon as I possibly could.

I departed quickly. The situation was quite uncomfortable all the way around. I thanked the billing lady and the dental hygienist for everything they'd done. The billing lady handed me another piece of paper to sign, a bill for only the services actually rendered: $61. Below it, she'd hand-written another number: $284. She told me that's all she'd charge me when I came back. I signed the bill and said, "I can't tell you how grateful I am."

As I left, the woman with whom I had originally spoken at the front desk cheerfully said good-bye to me and asked, "Are you feeling better, now?"

Of course, with all that Novocaine in me, I was feeling absolutely excellent, and I told her so. She said, "See, I told you we'd make you all better!"

I swiftly exited the nice building and the weird irony.

Walmart was right on the way to the college, so I stopped there to get the prescriptions filled. Amoxicillin, $14.99; generic Vicodin, $5.99. The prescriptions took almost 40 minutes to fill, which meant I wasn't going to have enough time to drive clear back to my flat, where I could have pulled the tooth out myself while the Novocaine was still in full force. I'm still kicking myself about that missed opportunity. The X-ray and picture I'd seen showed me exactly what the situation looked like back there in my mouth: there was a lot of solid enamel to grip, and the root was straight as an arrow. It would have been a clean pull, and I could have done it if I'd had enough time. As it was, though, I had to get to campus.

I taught like an animal. No pain, and even the fever wasn't bothering me. I roared and raged, knowing as I did that the amoxicillin would start killing off the infection very soon; and when the anesthetic had worn off, that Vicodin—something I'd never had before—would surely be good enough to hold the pain down until the pressure was off that tooth nerve.

The next day, Thursday, I wasn't feeling any better. In fact, I was feeling worse; but I finally realized it was that stupid Vicodin, yet another modern drug that might very well have some efficacy, but at a ridiculous price in terms of side effects. I was dizzy, lethargic, nauseous, and altogether confused. Literally, between when my one class ended at 11:50 a.m. and when my next class began at 1:00 p.m., I sat in a quiet place on campus and went into something like a semi-coma. I roused myself just in time for class, and on the way, I threw that bottle of Vicodin in the trash. Aspirin is just fine for me. Taken in rotation with acetaminophen, I can manage pain as much as necessary without turning myself into walking broccoli.

Strange thing was, though, that the pain and the fever weren't abating by Thursday night. Usually, at least back in the old days when I'd used amoxicillin to deal with tooth infections, it would take about 24 hours for the infection to get beaten down to where the pain and fever would let up; but that wasn't happening this time. I began to worry that Walmart had given me bogus medicine or that something else was keeping the drug from getting its job done. I was relieved when I awoke Friday morning without as much pain and a fever that had dropped to less than 100°. I figured everything was going to be fine. Then something strange happened.

By the time I'd finished teaching Friday afternoon, I was simply exhausted, tired in that bone-weary sort of way. The fever was back up, but the tooth pain was still not too bad, nothing that a good hammering with a couple of aspirin couldn't put down to tolerable level.

I went back to my flat and lay down on the couch. I awoke about 45 minutes later with raging fever and pain that was driving me out of my mind. I cursed myself for throwing away that Vicodin stuff.

All I could postulate was that lying down on my back must have allowed the pus sac at the base of the root to move in such a way that it was putting some kind of new pressure on the root nerve. Still, why the amoxicillin hadn't gotten things under control was a mystery. I tried about everything I could: benzocaine (generic Ora-jel), generic Listerine, a sterile knife, heating pad. Nothing was working. I figured I had to pull the tooth, minus the anesthetics, minus anyone around to call an ambulance if something went really wrong.

Then, something occurred to me: I have a dentist, now! Sure, things hadn't quite worked out with the Wednesday visit, but I paid my bill, and I promised to reschedule to get the tooth pulled. Dentists have emergency numbers where their patients can reach them after hours, so I could call the clinic to get information about how to contact him.

It was a little after 8:00 p.m. The answering machine at the dentist's office picked up. It was that nice receptionist's voice, first providing office hours and all that, and finally, the number to call for an after-hours emergency. I almost felt better as I was simply dialing the dentist's emergency voicemail. The recording indicated that I should leave my name, phone number, and the nature of the emergency. I tried my best to be calm, although I'm sure I came off sounding pretty desperate. I asked him to contact me and let me know what I should do. I gave him the number of the Walmart pharmacy so he could call in a prescription, hoping as I did that he would prescribe something like Tylenol 3 to beat back the pain until whatever had caused the problem could pass of its own course. I thanked him and said he could call at any hour, given that I wasn't going to be able to sleep until the pain had gone away.

He never called.

I honestly understand. He's not going to stay in business dealing in charity work. I didn't have the money to pay for what he had to offer on Wednesday, and he wasted his time and the resources of his clinic on what turned out to be a failed business transaction that collapsed because of my financial situation. He's under no moral obligation to go out of business spending time with patients on whom he cannot make a living and pay his office expenses.

As for me, at about three in the morning, I got on my couch with the front half my body hanging over the edge, suspended nearly straight down. Maybe half an hour later, I fell asleep. At 4:30 in the morning, I awoke, and the pain was much less. It seems I had been right: the pus had slid into a place where it was causing all kinds of trouble; and by getting myself into a position nearly opposite to that which had started the trouble, I had managed to move it out from where it was inducing so much pain. I slid onto the couch and lay on my stomach, and I fell back asleep. I awoke again a little after 8:00 a.m. My cat was sleeping right beside me.

I felt like a new man. Although the pain wasn't gone, it was trivial compared to what it had been. I felt so rested.

The remainder of the day was an ebb and flow of pain, although none of it was as severe as it had been Friday night.

About three hours ago, I broke out in a profuse tirade of perspiration. I got in the shower and found myself actually singing. There's still a lot of pain, but only when the aspirin is wearing off.

I sat down and built the graphic at the beginning of this article; then I wrote this narrative of my most recent intersection with the country's healthcare system. It really is the very finest in the world, and I mean that in all sincerity: were it not for that amoxicillin, I'd be dead tonight. Instead, I am alive, and I shall stay that way long enough to write a few more articles. Maybe among them will be some wherein I address all the conservative politicians who praise the "free market" approach to solving the healthcare crisis in this country. To them, I shall say, "You and your mythical 'free markets' can go to Hell; you wouldn't know a free market if it bit you in your sneering, rich asses."

Of course, if I am to do that, I must also take the opportunity to say to the liberal politicians who "understand" the suffering of the poor, "You, too, can go straight to Hell; you wouldn't know the suffering of the poor if it bit you in your phony, rich asses."

The Dark Wraith is definitely feeling better.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·

Dublin Odds

by: Minstrel Boy

The Irish will bet on anything. Irish bookies are some of the cleverest and quickest odds merchants out there. They've also been far, far ahead of the pundits when it comes to picking the winners. After all, they have real money on the line.

Here's the official Dublin Line from Paddy Power "Lord Mayor of Dublin Bookmakers"

Rudolph Giuliani 11 - 10
Fred Thompson 2 - 1
Mitt Romney 3 - 1
John McCain 12 - 1
Ron Paul 20 - 1
Newt Gingrich 20 - 1
Mike Huckabee 25 - 1
Sam Brownback 33 - 1
Condoleezza Rice 33 - 1

Rudy's the clear favorite at about as close to pick'em as you can go.

Now for the Dems

Hillary Clinton 2 - 5
Barack Obama 3 - 1
Al Gore 7 - 1
John Edwards 9 - 1
Bill Richardson 20 - 1
Evan Bayh 25 - 1
Joseph Biden 33 - 1
Tom Daschle 40 - 1
Wesley Clark 50 - 1

Gore's doing better than Edwards on the Dublin line and he's not going to run. Usually in Dublin if you want to make your own bet, all you do is walk up and say "I want to put a fiver on Wes Clark" and the dodger will cadge the odds for you on the spot. Clark officially endorsed Clinton this morning. Expect a SecDef or SecState position to spring from that early tap.

So, there you have it. I think I'll keep visiting Paddy to keep an close eye on the latest movements. Like I said, the Dublin Line had George W. winning against all the best predictions and fervent wishes of the few sane people left in the country.

harp and sword

Ginger Beer and Root Beer

by: Minstrel Boy

Here at El Rancho Harpo, especially since I sobered up, we take things like our soda fountain seriously. There's nothing to match a homebrewed ginger or root beer. If you want a taste of heaven try a root beer float when both the ice cream and the root beer are home made.

You can buy the bottles at any respectable homebrewing supplier. Which is also the best place to find things like hops, sarsaparilla, and sassafras root. I like the spring top bottles, but the thing to remember is to always make certain that the rubber seals are new and pliable. We don't want explosions. If you want to invest in a capper and some blanks that will work fine too, as long as you go for thick, brown or green glass to prevent light damage.

Because the carbonation here is achieved by the action of yeast there will be very trace amounts of alcohol. Because the fermentation is stopped quickly the alcohol content will be well below 0.005% which by any definition is a "soft" drink.

These are both tried and true recipes which are fairly easy.


1 gallon water
10 ounces peeled fresh ginger cut into thin medallions
2 cups sugar (I often use the vanilla sugar I keep in the pantry)
2 lemons, washed well and sliced about 1/4"
1/2 teaspoon fresh brewer's yeast

Put the ginger, the sugar, and the water on a high flame in a stout pot. Bring to a boil and boil, covered, for about an hour. Uncover, and add in the lemons, boil uncovered for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once it is below 85° you can add in the yeast. Allow the yeast to work overnight. I cover during this stage loosely with a cheesecloth. Skim off the yeast scum and strain through a fine mesh screen into the sterilized bottles. Cap tightly and let the bottles sit for at least 12 hours to carbonate further, then refrigerate. Once refrigerated they will keep up to two months. This makes about 12 Grolsch Lager sized bottles.


2 gallons of water
3 tablespoons ground sarsaparilla
1 tablespoon ground sassafrass root
1 1/2 cups honey (desert sage is what i prefer for the smokiness)
1 heaping tablespoon hops
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon wintergreen extract
1/4 teaspoon fresh brewer's yeast

Put the sarsaparilla, sassafrass, hops, and coriander into a slow cook crock pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil on high setting. Reduce to the lower setting and simmer, covered, for 12 hours. You might need to add in some water from time to time to keep all the ingredients wet. This is a great step for overnight.

Next morning turn off the slow cooker so that the ingredients can all cool to room temperature, proof the yeast in 2/3 cup of warm water. Boil the 2 gallons of water in a large non-reactive pot for ten minutes and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain the stuff from the slow cooker through a fine mesh strainer so that the liquid is joined with the 2 gallons of boiled water. Stir in the honey, the wintergreen extract and the yeast slurry and mix well. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minimum of 12 hours. Skim off the yeast scum and strain into the sterilized bottles. Cap tightly and refrigerate. This makes about 24 full sized bottles. They will last up to two months if refrigerated, but as soon as the kids figure out how good it is two months will not be in the cards.

These are great winter projects for kids stuck inside by inclement weather.

el rancho harpo

14 September 2007

Crystallized Ginger

by: Minstrel Boy

This is great stuff. It is a great way to preserve fresh ginger. Far more fun than dousing it with sugared vodka, and the resulting syrup begs you to make waffles.

This is the flavoring for my niece Jenna's namesake chocolate truffle. She eats it out of hand as a candy, likes it chopped over ice cream, in fruit cake, and as a substitute or an addition to her beloved, indulgent uncle's homemade cinnamon raisin bread. (damn every time I ramble before cutting to the chase I end up with another recipe to post)


1 1/2 pounds fresh, peeled ginger, cut into medallions (should be about a quart by volume)
3 cups sugar
1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded
1 cup light Karo® syrup (usually when I use a brand name it is because I've tried another label and not have had good results. Go ahead and use an off brand if you want, but there's something about the Karo® that works in this one)
large granule sugar for dusting

In a large, heavy stainless steel pot put the ginger along with enough water to completely cover with a few inches to spare. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for about twenty minutes until the ginger is to a place where a fork will enter but not skewer. A piece picked up should be pliable but not limp.

Stir in 1 cup of the sugar, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and store covered at room temperature overnight.

Day 2 - Uncover and bring liquid to a boil again. Add the Karo® and the lemon slices. Reduce heat to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and store at room temperature, covered, overnight.

Day 3 - Uncover and bring to a boil again. Stirring often, add in 1 cup sugar and reduce heat to a simmer and stirring often, simmer 30 minutes. Bring heat back to a boil slowly, add in the last cup of sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Remove from heat, store covered at room temperature overnight.

Day 4 - Uncover, and bring slowly up to a simmer, stirring intermittently until the ginger is mostly translucent, this should take about 45 minutes to an hour. Slower is better here. The syrup should be reduced to a point where it almost balls on the side of the spoon. I look for when it begins to make one big drop on the side rather than dripping.

Take the ginger slices out of the syrup and place them on a rack (hose this down with cooking spray!) over wax paper to catch the drips. Dry over night. Run the syrup through a sieve to remove all the lemon slices and any chunky things, store tightly covered.

Shake the dried slices in a bag with large crystal sugar (Sugar In The Raw® works great for this) and store in a large, airtight jar.

This ginger has far, far more bite than anything you might buy from a store. The syrup can also be used 2 tablespoons to a large tumbler of club soda and a lemon slice, for awesome ginger ale. Over buckwheat pancakes it has to be tasted to be believed.


I forgot to add that this recipe can be made completely using a crock pot or other slow cooker. Alternate between the settings. When the instructions call for increasing the temperature slowly it is pretty damned close to perfect.
harp and sword

5700 Carrots on a Stick

by: Jurassicpork

(Crossposted at B@B and Out of Iraq Blogger's Caucus.)

That’s about what I’d call Bush’s speech tonight.

What kills me is how Bush is completely blowing off the healthy skepticism he heard in Congress on the 10th and 11th regarding the efficacy of his “surge” and is assuming because Petraeus and Crocker announced that the surge is working, well, by golly, it must be working and we can continue apace.

This part is so fucking divorced from reality, it ought to be getting alimony and even child support from it:


More Damn Problems: Dams

by: Foiled Goil

We have another damn problem with our country's infrastructure: a damn dam problem. There are damn more than 87,000 dams in need of damn repair and that's too damn many dams headed for potential disaster.

Back in 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated bridges with a "C" grade, but the dams earned a damn "D" grade, which may be a damn generous dam rating as an analysis of the damn data on dams shows.

There are too damn many "high-hazard" dams and too damn many dams rated in a second category of "significant-hazard" dams because they threaten damn substantial property loss. Too damn many people are living and working near dams which, as the damn risks increase, the dam experts call a damn "hazard creep."

It's a damn major dam issue.

The damn dam problems are rising faster than states can do any damn dam rehabilitation work and there are too damn few dam inspectors. Even though states have increased their own damn dam funding, it is in contrast to the damn federal dam spending budget, which has not been fully funded for the last five damn years: it's only about $5.9 million, and that is damn well below the $9 million budgeted for the damn federal dam-safety program.
Problem dams on the rise in US

Since 1999, the number of "high-hazard" dams rated "deficient" has more than doubled, according to data from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) in Lexington, Ky. High-hazard dams are those whose failures could cause fatalities. In 1999, the US had 546 such dams rated deficient. By last year, it had 1,333.

A second category of "significant-hazard" dams (so-called because they threaten substantial property loss) saw a rise from 339 to 949 deficient dams over the same period. In all, 2.6 percent of the nation's dams are deficient, according to the ASDSO.

"The growth of deficient high-hazard dams in this country is a major issue," says Brad Larossi, legislative chairman for the ASDSO, which represents dam-safety inspectors in all states. "The trend is rising at such a steep slope, much faster than states can do [dam] rehabilitation. Without question the overall trends are clear."
If you live or work near a dam, you damn well better increase your dam awareness.

13 September 2007

Standard Orbit, Please?

by: blackdog

Since my debacle with diverticulitis in order to get my mind back I have been reading. It has helped. For the longest my sense of time and memories were affected until I began a program of forcing myself to read. Many of the books I had read before, but some were new. It was an attempt to rejoin the human race in the only way I could, I had no coach or mentor besides the limited contact I have with you sorts here on the web, pardon me, those tubes or them internets.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had many visitors while I was debilitated who tried to make connections with me, but I was somewhere else, I can't right now tell where that was, I will soon. But once again, I was fortunate and continue to be so. Oh, shit. The shrub is on the radio screaching it's path to whatever. Strength Man! Overcome idiocy and mediocracy!

I admit to being a lightweight here, but I'm not totally stoopid even though I was not too recently classified as being such by a bonified test over at BS.

Having said that, with no admission to any truth or rumor of the facts as seen by more lucid members of this or any other blog, I now make a bold claim.

Many people really are stupid, unable to obtain or absorb information and in the face of that, openly defiant of any challenge to their interpretation of the world around them. I'm not speaking about an idiot's raving, these are in most ways "normal" americans.

Their view of the greater world comes from a more limited view, with more limited options than some have. They have fallen into the trap that Western Civilization has fought for so long. The fight continues and is not limited to westerners. They and I have succumbed to the easy and wide path of accepting authority whatever the hell it says, since that allows the individual to not make choices on their own.

Thank gawd, the shrub has retreated into it's own hole and my mind is slowly returning.

To attempt to bring a measure of continuity to this I have finished a most interesting book sent to my by one of the posters here. For that I thank that individual and apologize for taking so long to read it. It was "Infidel". I think a great read, and a primer for anyone who wants to know more about life in parts of the world that westerners do not understand, we are on different planets but we can now interact with each other in ignorance due to our ease of transportation. But can we interact on our understanding or our acceptance of other cultures?

I had read 2/3 of this book and attempted to tell others in my immediate family that I thought it was a really good read, I got as far as Holland when my most significant other locked onto Holland and interrupted, reminding me that that blond white girl abducted?? in Aruba was most likely sent on her way to hell by the Dutch government, and sold into slavery to Venezuela with the insinuation that Hugo Chavez had a direct hand in it.

I quit.

As long as faux news has the attention of the idiots in this nation truth and reality are in question.

Might as well get on a UFO and do whatever.

Talk about a wet fish in the face.

On the plus side, I got to see an old friend recently, I feel that he has a similar view of ridiculous bullshit.

Ginger Ice Cream

by: Minstrel Boy

I find myself at a loss today. I had a great breakfast/farewell meeting with Rez Dog who is leaving our dry, dry, and very hot area of operations for the 325 days a year rain of the Pacific Northwest. Desòkah'iyue yexaidela go deh yaa jooni shik'isn. (having been prepared, walk a journey of beauty my brother)

I tried to go off on a rant about what smarmy, disingenuous bastards Crocker and Petraeus are. I saw them both on the PBS News Hours. Maybe if they keep spouting that same bullshit line enough they will reach a point where their own fucking eyes buy into it. The problem with that is while I was wanting to rant I had Julie London singing "Don't Smoke In Bed" in front of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra which destroyed my angry.

The bottom line is that unless Congress suddenly decides that things have gone far enough. We are not going to achieve any discernable goal except to keep over 100,000 troops in Iraq so that Bush can had off the mess he created to the next administration. Then he plans to hit the lecture circuit and make beaucoup bucks.

Rather than lapse into total blank staring despair I figured I'd hit the kitchen and make one of my favorites.

I developed this recipe my very ownself. I have a beloved uncle who lives in San Diego who adores a little Thai joint in Ocean Beach. They make a great ginger ice cream which is the perfect capper to a spicy Thai meal. I asked them for their recipe and they politely refused. So, being as he's a favorite uncle and all that I went to work.


1/2 cup Baker's sugar
1 vanilla bean split in half lengthwise
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup water
4 large egg yolks
pinch kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups manufacturing cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Canton ginger liqueur (optional but it really helps with the consistency)

In a small, nonreactive saucepan, take 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the vanilla bean, scrub the inside of the bean with the sugar to remove as much of the little tiny specky looking seeds as you can. Leave the pod in the pan, add the ginger and the water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Heat over medium flame, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stop stirring, and simmer for five minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Have a fine mesh strainer suspended over a medium size mixing bowl nearby.

In a heavy, non-reactive saucepan, using a wooden spoon, stir together the yolks, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the salt until well blended. In a small pan, scald the cream and the milk. Temper this into the egg yolk and sugar mixture a little at a time. Heat this gradually, stirring constantly until it is just below the boiling point, 170 - 180° (I would hope you've gotten an instant read thermometer by now). Steam will begin to appear, there will be small bubbles forming around the perimeter, and when your finger (scrupulously clean as always) is run along the back of the wooden spoon a well-defined track will be left. Immediately remove this from the heat and strain it into the mixing bowl, making sure to scrape the thickened cream from the bottom of the pan and force it through the strainer with your wooden spoon. Cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Before freezing, strain the ginger syrup, remove the vanilla pod, and put the ginger into the mini-chopper and purée with a tablespoon of the syrup until it is very fine. Tiny chunks are acceptable, lumps are forbidden. Add this to the ice cream base with the rest of the syrup, stir in the Ginger liqueur and do a normal freeze job. This is very creamy stuff, so allow to ripen a little more in the container in the freezer before serving.

This is a great compliment to pear, peach, nectarine and persimmon pie. All by itself it can brighten up one whole day.

harp and sword
12 September 2007

Keith Olbermann: "Where are they now?"

by: Foiled Goil

Six years later, where are those to blame now?
Iraq and 9/11 stand connected and we are suffering the consequences

Watch video

Sept. 11: Keith Olbermann takes a look at the instrumental figures of the Bush administration who helped link 9/11 to Iraq.
To this day, millions of Americans believe we invaded Iraq because of 9/11. Thirty-three percent still believe there was some interconnection between Saddam Hussein and the nightmares here and in Washington and in Pennsylvania. Iraq, of course, had nothing to do with 9/11. Six years later, that has changed. Iraq has distracted us from punishing those responsible for 9/11. If another 9/11 comes, our focus on Iraq will surely have been central to that nightmare. How did we get here? What consequences have been paid by those who brought us here? No one person is to blame. And only some of those who are recognize it.

Where are they now?

• Colin Powell • Donald Rumsfeld • Richard Perle

• Doug Feith • Stephen Hadley • Condoleezza Rice

• George Tenet • The president's advisors • Karen Hughes

• Vice President Cheney • Lewis Libby • Osama bin Laden

* * * *

American Forgetting

Anna Quindlen, Newsweek

Six years ago there was a moment. How long did it last? Long enough to seem indelible and authentic. After the greatest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania, there was a moment when it seemed that the sheer scale of the event would evoke a response of answering enormity, in thought, in action and in behavior.

That is not what happened.

Instead we launched a war, a cheap bait-and-switch by an administration that figured it could simply replace one Middle Eastern bad guy with another in the public mind, trade an Osama bin Laden card for a Saddam Hussein. Our so-called leaders knew that the most terrifying thing about a War on Terror was that it was a war without borders, nationality or country. They decided to pretend otherwise by invading Iraq. Today it may be that things are better in one part of that country, not so good in others, but the bottom line is that there remains no compelling reason why the United States should ever have invaded in the first place, and certainly none that can be linked to the events of September 11.
There was a moment when it seemed that what had happened to this nation would result in an unparalleled display of those things that make America great: audacity, community, a sense of the future as a broad plain upon which this country could make its mark for good. Instead, at almost every turn, our government and, yes, many of our citizens took the narrowest road. Instead of expanding, we contracted. Instead of a new juncture, we retreated to old ways.
It's all there at the construction site.
If the spirit of the day had prevailed, the sense that this was a moment like no other and demanded a gesture in kind, someone would have had the guts to leave this national graveyard solemn, empty and still. Instead there is a sign there that says that the job now is "to recover the 10 million-sq. feet of commercial space lost in the attacks." How American. It's all about the real estate.

· ·
11 September 2007

Bush's Tin Ear To The People

by: Foiled Goil

Officials: Bush to announce troop cut

AP Press Writers
President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.

In a 15-minute address from the White House at 9 p.m. EDT, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the troop buildup on Friday, they said.
In the speech, the president will say he understands Americans' deep concerns about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the troops home, they said. Bush will say that, after hearing from Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce the U.S. military presence but not abandon Iraq to chaos, according to the officials.

The address will stake out a conciliatory tone toward Congress. But while mirroring Petraeus' strategy, Bush will place more conditions on reductions than his general did, insisting that conditions on the ground must warrant cuts and that now-unforeseen events could change the plan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush appears poised merely to bring the country back to where it was before the election that put Democrats in control of Congress — with 130,000 troops in Iraq.

"Please. It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people that that is a new direction in Iraq," she said. "We're as disappointed as the public is that the president has a tin ear to their opinion on this war."
In Congress, cracks in Republican support for the Iraq war remained, as epitomized by heated questioning Tuesday of Petraeus.

"Is this a mission shift?" asked Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "Are we continuing down the same path that we have laid out before, entirely reliant on the ability of the Iraqis to come together to achieve that political reconciliation?"

Sen. Norm Coleman said he wants a longer-term vision other than suggestions that Petraeus and Crocker return to Capitol Hill in mid-March to give another assessment. "Americans want to see light at the end of the tunnel," said Coleman, R-Minn.
The two days of testimony seemed to turn the debate away from the list of 18 benchmarks by which the White House and Iraq's government had said earlier this year that they preferred to measure progress. The administration has protested more recently that the benchmarks offer an unrealistic or incomplete look at the situation.

The National Security Network presents:

"Crisis in Confidence"
The Politics & Policy of the Petraeus Report

Top national security experts, interviewed prior to the "Petraeus" report.

· ·

What Patreaus Doesn't Know

by: Minstrel Boy

Is whether or not all this wonderful fucking progress he's claiming to have made in Iraq is doing a lick of good for our country.

Know what dude?

I don't fucking know either. But then I'm not giving the goddamn orders that result in the deaths of young soldiers.


WARNER: I hope in the recesses of your heart that you know that strategy will continue the casualties, stress on our forces, stress on military families, stress on all Americans. Are you able to say at this time, if we continue what you have laid before the Congress, this strategy, that if you continue, you are making America safer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe that this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objections in Iraq.

WARNER: Does that make America safer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I don’t know actually. I have not sat down and sorted out in my own mind. What I have focused on and been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the Multinational Force in Iraq.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, every time you assholes use the phrase "Multinational Force" I throw up in my mouth a little.

harp and sword

and now?

by: astraea

In Nazi Germany, good people kept expecting a sanity to break through that never did (philoctetes-complex-no-2.html). I see that again. I see it here, in our opposition to this war, to much of the policy of the last seven years.

Even without a responsible, truth-driven press, we have a populace that HAS more or less awakened (see below*). Yet we can do nothing to change our lack of representation: realistically, Congress -- our only hope, the only hope "the people" ever have -- is still hamstrung. The votes aren't there, leadership or no, though ground and time and maybe some history and even future justice have been saved by wrestling back the leadership of the committees.

But We The People? We who are not represented by this regime? We are silenced. Impotent. There is Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the Blackwater storm troopers and the ability to call out the Nat Guard of one state against another -- over the wishes of even the Governor. Things no one asked you about giving the power to do. There are now stun guns that do crowds. Guns that turn innards to gel. Machines that seek and destroy, the later two already in use in Afghanistan and Iraq. (The line is crossed. What "morality" in such warfare? Who are the terrorists now? )

This is more than Jefferson bargained for, an informed public incapacitated by a diabolical messianic corporate-fueled and stockholder-fed regime.

AND YET -- it could all be turned around if those last -- those stockholders -- developed a conscience, an awareness, a knowing-what-they-do. Intellectually and morally bankrupt (what more proof could there be that morality is not the exclusive province of religion?), inflated, they fuel it all -- are the very foundation of it -- most of them doing it by simply not making a decision, not finding their place in the scheme, their responsibility it it.

A mirror:
The worst excesses of the Bush regime have stemmed directly from its leader's character- that is, its rampant cronyism; its arrogance and egotism; its peremptory, bullying tone and methods; its refusal to brook criticism from within or without; its frighteningly authoritarian impulses; its need to create enemies as a means of governing; its impulsiveness and naivete: its outright contempt for the law; and its truly staggering ability to substitute its own versions of what it wishes the world to be for any recognition of objective reality. ~Kevin Baker, HARPER'S Aug 2007, pg 39.
Realty. That's what's missing in individuals so ready and willing to be blind (that image, the baby eater in Pan's Labyrinth), living unexamined lives, blindly believing in the honor of this (just another) honor/shame culture.

NOW is the time to speak out. You don't need a megaphone. Ask youself, ask everyone: Look at your own portfolio. What does it fuel? Who owns it? What are you buying? Every dollar you spend empowers something. Please, please -- know what it is and act.



The entire Iraq war debate is now just a Washington insider game. The country has decided.

Just 36 per cent in the AP poll said the troop increase has helped stabilise Iraq, only slightly more than the 32 per cent who said they thought it would in February as the build-up began. Voicing that view were almost two-thirds of Republicans, about one in seven Democrats and about a third of independents.

In addition, 59 per cent said they believe history will judge the Iraq war as a failure, including 28 per cent who said it would be viewed as a complete failure.

Asked if the United States made a mistake going to war in Iraq in 2003, 57 per cent said yes, about the same number who said so in April.

Six Years On

by: Debra

It's that day again. The one where people gnash their teeth, rend their clothes and cry over people they never knew while mewling about how terrible the world is and how we should be monitored from birth to death to make sure it never happens again. For the families and friends of the victims, my heart goes out to you. The rest of you need to get a life and quit using a tragedy to prevent you from enjoying what is here. Too much television has pickled the national brain into believing that this was the defining moment of our nation's history. It wasn't.

Our defining moment happened hundreds of years ago and it wasn't televised. When the signers of the Declaration of Independence gathered, they knew what they were doing and what the eventual cost could be. Many of the believers paid with their lives in order to give future generations freedom from the tyranny of an out of touch leader who felt that the colonies were his personal line of credit. Nathan Hale, John Paul Jones and Patrick Henry fascinated me as a fifth-grader. Their reported sayings energized my interpretation of history, inspiring me to believe in the freedoms that were later written down as our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The current generation is willing to give up everything that these people fought and died for, because they are scared that something bad might happen to them. Some people need to get a grip on reality. Do people honestly believe that there that many terrorists who could destroy us? Do people honestly believe that there that many terrorists who could destroy us? There are more than 300 million of us spread out over 3.7 million square miles. If you live in Ottumwa, IA, the only people coming to get you are people who didn't like Radar. Why are we running around scared of every little shadow and any dissent from the official line is called treason? Americans are supposed to be braver than that. And smarter.

What the heck happened to my country?

Crossposted at Debsweb

· · ·
10 September 2007

Headed For A Fall? How The U.S. Can Avoid Collapsing Like The Roman Empire, by Rod Dreher

by: Jersey Cynic

Rod Dreher is a writer for the Dallas Morning News, where this first appeared in the July 30th opinion section. I just read the same commentary which appeared in The Hartford Courant this past weekend. According to my google search, it hasn't appeared anywhere else. Too bad, because it is a great read. Mr. Dreher has a blog called beliefnet, and this post from June 8th titled "ARE WE ROME?" is most likely where his recent commentary came from.

In his June 8th post, he discusses a new book "Are We Rome?" by Cullen Murphy, which he refers to in the newspaper articles also. His post goes into much more detail about the book. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING HIS POST

In The Hartford Courant commentary, he outlines
how the U.S. is like Rome:
*Both see themselves as the center of the world, divinely appointed to lead.

*Both have unusual capital cities where government is the main industry.

*Both let the private sector exploit public goods.

*Both are successful multi-ethnic empires, though with increasingly porous borders.

*Both have militaries stretched too thin to maintain imperial power.

*Both are unmanageably complex.

How is the U.S. unlike rome?

*The U.S. is a socially mobile, middle-class democracy; Rome was a rigid aristocracy.

*Americans are reluctant to be an empire; Romans accepted it.

*Rome was economically static; America is economically transformative.

*Romans were self-satisfied by nature; Americans strive for improvement

*Romans committed to ruthless perseverance; Americans lack staying power

How Can we avoid Rome's fate?

*Accept that change is inevitable and that adaptation is necessary.

*Instill an appreciation of the wider world

*Stop treating government as a necessary evil

*Fortify the institutions that promote assimilation

*Take some weight off the military

Well my friends, the only thing I have to say about all of this is:


crossposted atBlondesense

Dinner Menu

by: Minstrel Boy

I started trying to listen to General Petreaus, then they couldn't figure out how to get his mic working, and as you might know from reading my performance chronicles, I'm a big stickler for production values. Also there were ladies from Code Pink there. Way to go ladies. No minds are going to be changed one way or the other, might as well let them know in the room that you're out there and you're pissed off.

Here's what I served for the double anniversary dinner.

I started out by cleaning out the deep freeze in anticipation of my son's return from the wilds of Wyoming in time for us to hit the mountains for Black Powder Elk season.

Ingredients for Elk Roast

1 whole elk tenderloin (about 3 lbs)
2 big yellow onions sliced
6 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
1 cup dry red wine
salt, pepper, cayenne

Brown the elk loin on a big griddle. This won't perform the fabled "seal in the juices" function, but it will provide a nice crust beginning. It's more of an esthetic thing. Then put it into a large roasting pan. Season well with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Put the crushed garlic cloves and the onion slices all around the roast and dump in the wine. Cover and place in a 320° oven for 3 hours. Keep checking the liquid level and if it starts to look sludgy don't be afraid to glug in some more wine or water. When the roast is done to your liking (an internal temperature of 130 is a nice medium, where the roast is thoroughly cooked through with just a little tease of pink in the center) allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing thin and dousing with:

Ingredients for Cumberland Sauce

3/4 cup ruby Port
1 Valencia Orange
1 Meyer Lemon
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon dry mustard (I use Coleman's but follow your bliss)
4 tablespoons Red Currant jelly
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Ginger

Squeeze the juice from the orange and the lemon, zest them both. Combine, in a heavy saucepan, the Port, the juice, the zests, and the shallot, adding enough water to totally submerge the zests and shallot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered, without stirring until reduced by 2/3's. Cool. In a sauce boat add in the jelly and the mustard, then use the ginger and cayenne to taste.

Ingredients for Farmer Charlie's Famous Carrots

Enough carrots to serve as many folks as you're serving
peeled and sliced on the bias. Reserve the tops and greens.
Sweet butter
fresh chopped sweet basil

Put an inch of heavily salted water in the bottom of a large pot and bring to a rapid boil. Cover the bottom of the pot with the tops and greens of the carrots to create a steamer effect. Place the sliced carrots on top of this and cook, covered until nicely al dente.

In a serving bowl toss the cooked slices with the butter and basil, salt lightly and serve.

It's about 2 p.m. General Patreaus has spent nearly thirty minutes of his testimony so far explaining that the data isn't cooked and he's not a liar. If he's not a liar I feel bad for him. Still, the data is suspect merely because of the administration that has generated it. If this General is the first honest man we've seen in five and a half years we're all fucked. But, hey, we knew that.

harp and sword

Standing Down and Standing Up

by: Foiled Goil

As the Iraqis Stand Down, We'll Stand Up

Frank Rich, NYT
09 September 2007

It will be all 9/11 all the time this week, as the White House yet again synchronizes its drumbeating for the Iraq war with the anniversary of an attack that had nothing to do with Iraq. Ignore that fog and focus instead on another date whose anniversary passed yesterday without notice: Sept. 8, 2002. What happened on that Sunday five years ago is the Rosetta Stone for the administration's latest scam.

That was the morning when the Bush White House officially rolled out its fraudulent case for the war. The four horsemen of the apocalypse - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice - were dispatched en masse to the Washington talk shows, where they eagerly pointed to a front-page New York Times article amplifying subsequently debunked administration claims that Saddam had sought to buy aluminum tubes meant for nuclear weapons. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said Condoleezza Rice on CNN, introducing a sales pitch concocted by a White House speechwriter.

What followed was an epic propaganda onslaught of distorted intelligence, fake news, credulous and erroneous reporting by bona fide journalists, presidential playacting and Congressional fecklessness. Much of it had been plotted that summer of 2002 by the then-secret White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a small task force of administration brass charged with the Iraq con job.

Today the spirit of WHIG lives. In the stay-the-surge propaganda offensive that crests with this week's Congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, history is repeating itself in almost every particular.
As always with this White House, telegenic artificial realities are paramount.
No doubt General Petraeus, like Dick Cheney before him, will say that his own data is "pretty well confirmed" by classified intelligence that can't be divulged without endangering national security. Meanwhile, the White House will ruthlessly undermine any reality-based information that contradicts its propaganda, much as it dismissed the accurate W.M.D. findings of the United Nations weapon experts Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei before the war.
What's surprising is not that this White House makes stuff up, but that even after all the journalistic embarrassments in the run-up to the war its fictions can still infiltrate the real news.
When the line separating spin from reality is so effectively blurred, the White House's propaganda mission has once more been accomplished. No wonder President Bush is cocky again. Stopping in Sydney for the economic summit after last weekend's photo op in Iraq, he reportedly told Australia's deputy prime minister that "we're kicking ass."
Comptroller General David Walker said there was a "significant difference" of approach between the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which he heads, and Pentagon evaluations of violence in Iraq.

"The primary difference between us and the military is whether or not violence has been reduced with regard to sectarian violence," Walker told the Senate Armed Services committee. [snip]

Walker was unable to go into further details, as the rest of the GAO's conclusions in the report on sectarian violence have been declared secret by the Pentagon, and urged senators to read the classified version of the study.

Democratic Senator Jack Reed asked why such vital information to assessing the state of US policy in Iraq was such a closely guarded secret.

"This may seem like a dumb question - why is this classified? I mean, who are we trying to keep this information from: the American people?" Reed said.

* * * *

In vertical bars of blue, green, gray and red, a briefing chart prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency says what Gen. David Petraeus won't.

Insurgent attacks against Iraqi civilians, their security forces and U.S. troops remain high, according to the document obtained by The Associated Press. It is a conclusion that the well-regarded Army officer who is the top U.S. commander in Iraq is expected to try to counter when he and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, testify before Congress on Monday and Tuesday. [snip]

The defense intelligence chart makes the point, with figures from Petraeus' command in Baghdad, the Multinational Force-Iraq. Congressional auditors used the same numbers to conclude that Iraqis are as unsafe now as they were six months ago; the Bush administration and military officials also using those figures say that finding is flawed. [snip]

"There's a difference of opinion — a strong difference of opinion — as to whether or not sectarian violence has decreased," David Walker, who heads the auditing agency, said last week.
John Kerry:

"It unfolds with maddening, enraging regularity: the Administration claims goals for their policy, they gradually back off of those goals and substitute smaller, less easily measured goals, and then muddy the waters hopelessly on whether even those modest new goals have been met. Time and again we've been through this."

· · · ·
09 September 2007

Migrations, Urgency, and a Contemplation Precedent to Joy

by: Dark Wraith

GOP StampedeSenator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has announced that, not only will he not run for President, but he'll be retiring from the Senate at the end of his current term in 2008. The well-respected, old-time Nebraska conservative is just the latest in a slate of prominent and not-so-prominent Republicans calling it quits. Powerhouse Senator John Warner (R-VA) is packing up, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is hanging it up, long-time Right-wing yes-girl Debbie Pryce (R-OH) is slithering away, and others are headed out the door.

Let bells ring raucously, let bellows fire the furnaces of freedom, and let blessed baritones blow from the bowels of all who have damned the melancholy and unfree place from which we are about to emerge.

But let us first—before moving those bells, bellows, and bowels—pause, if only for a timely, if trivial, admonition.

Should you ever see a herd of giant animals all heading south in a stampede, resist the temptation to ask, "Where might they be headed?" Indeed, they could very well be heading to extinction, but that's beside the point.

Much more important for the concerned observer is to look north, since it is from that direction that they have come.

Whether or not looking north reveals anything particularly noteworthy, once the behemoths have passed by on their hurried way, it might be worth your while to ask yourself this: "Who in the Hell would be stupid enough to still be standing here?"

The world is full of wonders worthy of persistent hope and great opportunity; yet, for all the reasons for optimism in God's gift of Creation, death remains the fate of all creatures, and extinction stands firmly as the fate of all species.

As a broadly applicable rule for all time, both death and extinction come far more quickly to those too stupid to take seriously the open invitation to join the occasional stampede.

The bawling of the bells, bellows, and bowels may now begin.

Thus has the Dark Wraith decreed.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·

Whistleblower Site Releases Secret Report on Military Equipment

by: astraea
Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 9, 2007 updated 12:25 pm EDT

The whistleblowing Web site has unveiled secret military documents detailing the complete equipment register for all units managed by the American Army in Afghanistan.

The records - which are believed to have been leaked by an unnamed government official - list most of the equipment held in that country as of last April by American and coalition forces, and possibly even the CIA. According to Wikileaks officials, the authenticity of the material has been confirmed by military sources.

"The leaked documents help us to understand how war money is being spent and the nature of operations in Afghanistan," the site's administrators wrote on a Wikileaks page devoted to commentary and analysis of the leaked documents. "They provide a completely objective window into the functioning of various U.S. units from psy-ops (psychological operations) to Kabul headquarters."

Wikileaks was founded to provide a way for ordinary citizens and government officials to shed light on corruption by anonymously leaking confidential materials to the public. Though the Internet site has not yet made its official debut, this is the second time in just a few days that the site has released a leaked document to the press. The first instance involved a report related to a $3 billion Kenyan government corruption case, which has been subsequently covered in international news outlets, including a front-page story in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"Wikileaks has not yet publicly 'launched,'" the site's staff wrote in a press release sent by e-mail. "However, we feel we would be remiss in our obligations to our source to sit on this material any longer."

The newly released Afghanistan documents indicate that the America is using two types of chemical weapons in that country, including 72 M7 grenade dischargers - gas grenade launchers - and eight FN303s, "which can fire pepper-spray impregnated projectiles," according to the unsigned Wikileaks article.

In addition, Wikileaks wrote: "Half of all equipment purchases have been diverted to dealing with homemade mobile phone and radio bombs. Not since the U.S. 1945-1951 nuclear buildup has there been such a decisive shift in military purchasing priorities."

The site administrators are encouraging visitors to examine the documents in even greater detail and to post their comments.

"There is much more to be found in this [equipment] list: huge numbers of vehicles, trucks, security equipment, radio equipment, detailed in some cases right down to the level of screws and washers," Wikileaks wrote. "This list, in fact, is a perfect example of the sort of leaked document that would benefit from a global analysis: Everyone can examine it, make comments, discuss what the various units, what their items are, and what they do, and come to conclusions about their strategic, political, and human rights significance."

The Wikileaks article on the leak is available here:

Advisors Favor Staying The Wrong Course

by: Foiled Goil

Bush advisers favor current war strategy

Matthew Lee, AP
President Bush's top two military and political advisers on Iraq will warn Congress on Monday that making any significant changes to the current war strategy will jeopardize the limited security and political progress made so far, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has been less forthcoming than Gen. David Petraeus in advance of his testimony, will join Petraeus in pushing for maintaining the U.S. troop surge, seeing it as the only viable option to prevent Iraq and the region from plunging into further chaos, U.S. officials said.

Crocker and Petraeus planned to meet on Sunday to go over their remarks and responses to expected tough questioning from lawmakers — including skeptical Republicans. But they will not consult Bush or their immediate bosses before their appearances Monday and Tuesday, in order to preserve the "independence and the integrity of their testimony," said one official.
Both Crocker and Petraeus will say the buildup of 30,000 troops, bringing the current U.S. total to nearly 170,000, has achieved some success and is working better than any previous effort to quell the insurgency and restore stability, according to officials familiar with their thinking.
At the same time, officials close to Crocker pointed out that any revisions to the military strategy will have a profound affect on the political side.

"Clearly, the political, economic and diplomatic elements are directly related to what happens with security and our involvement in it," one official said.

The officials disputed suggestions that either Petraeus or Crocker would recommend anything more than a symbolic reduction in troop levels and then only in the spring.

Petraeus offered some insights into his testimony on Friday. In a letter to troops serving in Iraq, he cited "uneven" but quantifiable progress in the security situation and acknowledged that the political side "has not worked out as we had hoped."

"We are, in short, a long way from the goal line, but we do have the ball and we are driving down the field," he wrote. It was perhaps the clearest indication he favors carrying on with the troop increase.

Officials said Crocker is focused on trying to do the best he can with the tools available to him now before completing his tour in Baghdad and retiring. More is at stake for Petraeus because he is believed to have higher ambitions, including possibly elected office.
The testimony will set the stage for an announcement by Bush on how he will proceed in the face of widespread public unhappiness with the war and criticism from congressional Democrats, especially senators seeking the party's 2008 presidential nomination.
To that end, the presidential advisers will press lawmakers to recognize achievements at the local level and argue that such results will force Iraq's national leaders into action.
In their testimony, Petraeus and Crocker are expected to repeat the assertions made in the White House's July report that progress is being made, official said. A new updated report is due Sept. 15.

They also are expected to make the oft-stated case that an independent report by congressional auditors, who found only three of 18 benchmarks fully met, set unfair standards for judging success, the officials said.
Here are some achievements at the local level:

Iraqi Deaths* since January 2005: Military, 7417; Civilian, 37,240

* Note: Iraqi deaths based on news reports. This is not a definitive count. Actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site.

Live Streams - This week on C-SPAN:

Monday, Sept. 10
House Armed Services & House Foreign Affairs Cmte. Hearing on Iraq War
On C-SPAN3 at 12:30pm ET

Tuesday, Sept. 11
Senate Foreign Relations Cmte. Hearing on Iraq War
On C-SPAN3 at 9:30am ET

Tuesday, Sept. 11
Senate Armed Services Cmte. Hearing on Iraq War
On C-SPAN3 at 2pm ET

· ·
08 September 2007

Why the Democrats Won't Stand

by: Dark Wraith

It just keeps happening. The Democrats appear to be standing firm against the Bush Administration, but then they collapse into line behind Right-wing policies clearly contrary to the will of the majority and, in some cases, anathema to essential constitutional principles. Before the recent August recess, 16 Senators fell in line and voted for the Protect America Act of 2007, effectively certifying the the Bush Administration position that its spying operations need no judicial or congressional oversight. In so capitulating once again to the extremists who control the Executive Branch, both the Senate and the House of Representatives rewrote law to make the lawless untouchable. In the majority, the Democrats are not repudiating the venal work of their Republican predecessors but are instead building upon it, in the process making any future effort to dismantle the operational power of a unitary executive progressively less feasible.

Resolve to use the congressional power of the purse to rein in Bush's uncontrolled war in Iraq collapsed in May, when Democrats could not impose even so much as a non-binding timetable for withdrawal of American troops from that miserable, already-lost Mesopotamian quagmire.

Prior to that, the Attorney General of the United States lied to and otherwise misled congressional committees investigating improprieties at the Justice Department, and the Democrats could not muster the wherewithal to seek punishment of him for his crimes, much less those of all the others in the White House and at DoJ who had conspired over more than six years to thwart constitutional rights of American citizens.

Current and former Bush Administration officials treat subpoenas and requests for documents with contempt; minor officials testify that their loyalty is to Bush and not the Constitution. Significant and minor White House officials spin congressional investigators into the ground by feigning to negotiate terms of unsworn, secret testimony instead of complying with lawful orders to render public testimony under oath. War plans are developed without so much as a hint of interest in Congress' exclusive authority to declare war. Senators and Representatives are taken on Potemkin village tours of Iraq designed to make them believe that progress is being made there when, in fact, the situation is worsening with every day that passes.

And now we have Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama actually calling for a larger U.S. military, even as some of these same politicians ostensibly, if opportunistically and belatedly, declare their opposition to the counter-productive wars we are waging. Yet some of these Johnnie-come-lately anti-war heroes now seem to be softening their opposition to Bush's troop surge, as supposedly "liberal" (read that, "neo-con") pundits at The New York Times and editorial board shills at the Washington Post once again churn the mainstream media Republican propaganda machine in advance of General Patraeus' much-anticipated, if completely predictable, report—which will not even exist on paper—of the success of that troop surge.

And finally, we are again on the verge of yet another preemptive, unlawful war of aggression, the difference this time being that, unlike in Iraq—where the military was crippled by years of sanctions and where large parts of that fighting force had been bluffed into standing down with the promise of inclusion in the nation's armed forces after the invasion—we shall face a vicious, well-armed enemy that can, even after a withering first strike, use weaponry that could literally take down whole aircraft carriers with single missile battery volleys.

Why won't the Democrats stop the madness of the Bush Administration? From young, inexperienced, religiously obsessed zealots like Monica Goodling to old, maniacally paranoid chickenhawks like Dick Cheney, the men and women of the Bush Administration have no use for the rule of law, much less for Congress other than as a rubber stamp. These are people, pervading the agencies of government, who have collectively and individually demonstrated time and again their willingness and, more ominously, their ability to use the instrumentalities of government, itself, to the purpose of wrecking the two-party system of the United States of America.

What could possibly make the Democrats act in any manner other than to the purpose of destroying Mr. Bush, his policies, and the people around him?

Theories abound, some quite logical, a few downright conspiratorial.

Writing at Pam's House Blend, contributor Radical Russ suggests that Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is the reason: he's a war-hawk, but still caucuses with the Democrats. Along with Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Lieberman gives the Democrats a razor-thin 51-49 majority in the upper chamber. If Lieberman switches allegiance and caucuses with the Republicans, the Senate ties 50-50, and Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role as President of the Senate, breaks the tie, handing majority control back to the Republicans.

Going to the full-blown, conspiracy theory side of possible explanations, one that would seem entirely ridiculous were its central player not known for his utter viciousness and willingness to do anything has former White House aide and close personal Bush confidante Karl Rove blackmailing a large number of congressional Democrats. In its fully fleshed-out form, this theory asserts that, in 2001, Rove saw to it that certain Bush loyalists were put in charge of highly classified FBI files that included dossiers on a number of congressmen. The story goes that Rove compiled from these and other resources sufficient dirt on enough elected officials, both Democrat and Republican, to ensure that there would never be too much trouble from any of them. Even many congressmen on whom Rove has nothing are swept into the bag because they know that their colleagues could be destroyed if they cause too many problems for Bush and his team.

Sounds completely insane? Taking a slight edge off the craziness of the possibility, though, one might ask the following question: Knowing what you know about Karl Rove, if he could pull off getting the dirt on elected officials to blackmail them into years of compliance with Bush Administration policies, is he the kind of person who would do it?

Again, though, theories abound. Maybe the Democrats really are nothing but a bunch of gutless cowards. On the other hand, perhaps they're actually principled fighters who believe that it is best to simply let the Republicans destroy themselves with policies and actions so flawed that they simply must collapse, at least eventually, under the weight of their sheer stupidity.

Or maybe there are a whole lot of Democrats who, in their heart of hearts, actually agree with Mr. Bush and have to put on a show to the contrary for their constituents. More pragmatically, many Democrats in Congress could be so desperate for the huge amounts of money needed to successfully campaign that they have to be willing whores for the lobbyists from powerful corporations and shadowy foreign governments with a history of interference, some of it illegal, in American politics.

What's the truth of the matter? At The Dark Wraith Forums, readers may express their opinion in a poll that asks the salient question:

What is the biggest reason the Democrats will not stand up to Bush and his Republican allies?"

Readers here at Big Brass Blog are invited to participate. Have your say. The Democrats in Washington might like to know what the Electorate thinks of the way they've been conducting themselves. Of course, whether or not those congressional Democrats care enough to rectify their conduct and start acting like leaders and defenders of a free people is entirely a matter of speculation.

The Dark Wraith thanks readers who choose to participate in the poll and express their opinions on the matter here.

· · · ·

Stuck On Stupid

by: Debra

Robert Baer of Time leaps headfirst into the gaping maw of stupidity this morning with his article entitled "Bin Laden Fights to Stay Relevant", proving that some people are still determined to drink the kool-aid. Even after it's been proved to be tainted with Caliciviridae. He thinks Bin Laden was "maundering" when he brought up corporations, global warming, and the inability of the Democrats to do what the American people want, which is to end the war. Bin Laden sounded like he was more on top of things than the crew without a clue and their pathetically clueless enablers.

Not content to leave stupid alone, Baer then proceeds to blame Bin Laden for the destruction of Iraq and the displacement of Muslims. Que? Now that's the equivalent of a drunk's best roundabout reasoning. One should never argue with a drunk or a fool, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

So, let me get this straight. Bin Laden inspired terrorists to pull off a successful attack on American soil, the US attacks Afghanistan in retaliation in what was presented as bringing Bin Laden to justice, supposedly "dead or alive", but then gets distracted from this goal by invading a country that had nothing to do with September 11, deposing its ruler because he was a "bad man" and had something called weapons of mass destruction which turned out not to exist, destroying everything in the country up to and including its quality of life by wrecking the fragile stability that had been maintained for years and having nothing to put in its place but continued violence, and now it's Bin Laden's fault that the country is in explosive ruins. And that's only paragraph three of the propaganda article.

According to Baer, Bin Laden has failed to change anything in the Middle East, because Saudi Arabia isn't a caliphate and Iraq isn't a supranational Islamist state. That's okay, they aren't democracies either and that was supposed to happen when we liberated a sovereign country of its rightful ruler. Democracy was going to spread through the region like a popular YouTube video. Instead it turned into a fatal form of the norovirus.

Baer goes on to blame the internet for the availability of bomb making materials and the ability to find religious guidance, no matter how suspect. I wonder if he's been to Fred Phelps (no link, those people are certifiable) page lately? Europeans are not going to blithely sweep away their objections to secret prisons, no matter what happens. They aren't as easily terrified by the boogeyman as Americans are, England and Spain have both shown us that. Germany just proved that police work is an extremely valuable tool against terrorism and you can forget the Swedes, Norwegians or the Finns suddenly giving up freedoms that they treasure.

Yeah, Bin Laden is a bad Muslim. He practices a fringe branch of the religion, somewhat along the lines of what Jim Jones or David Koresh (batshit crazy) did for Christianity, but I wouldn't be so quick to describe him as irrelevant. It's interesting how he is able to wave hello at all, but then he doesn't look like he's been missing as many meals lately. Or showers. He just sent us his three finger anniversary wave and he's wondering if we can read between the lines. Baer needs to go back to huffing and puffing in a retirement home.


· · · ·

One More Thing

by: blackdog

I apologize to all for being so intent on my own situation without realizing that so many others suffer so much more. It's all to easy to forget objective reality. And that reality is that millions of others are in a much worse predicament than I.

This has been naging my mind for several weeks, but being a bit of a fool I ignored the reality of it until just recently, and for that i do apologize. Even if I were to carry this bag forever it would be better than the situation so many find themselves in, some of them have carry so much more.

I am not nuanced to the point of being obtuse but I do realise now that my condition pales to nothing compared to others.

From the depths of my heart I give my best to all of you who suffer so. In the future i will attempt to consider my place in the order of things. I never meant any harm but realized that by omission i had done such.

I am in your debt.


Take a Stand

by: Foiled Goil

Time to Take a Stand

Paul Krugman:
Here's what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he'll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq - as long as you don't count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.
There are five things I hope Democrats in Congress will remember.

First, no independent assessment has concluded that violence in Iraq is down. On the contrary, estimates based on morgue, hospital and police records suggest that the daily number of civilian deaths is almost twice its average pace from last year. And a recent assessment by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found no decline in the average number of daily attacks.
Second, Gen. Petraeus has a history of making wildly overoptimistic assessments of progress in Iraq that happen to be convenient for his political masters.
Third, any plan that depends on the White House recognizing reality is an idle fantasy. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, on Tuesday Mr. Bush told Australia's deputy prime minister that "we're kicking ass" in Iraq.
Fourth, the lesson of the past six years is that Republicans will accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic no matter what the Democrats do. Democrats gave Mr. Bush everything he wanted in 2002; their reward was an ad attacking Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam,
Finally, the public hates this war and wants to see it ended. Voters are exasperated with the Democrats, not because they think Congressional leaders are too liberal, but because they don't see Congress doing anything to stop the war.
And six or seven months from now it will be the same thing all over again. Mr. Bush will stage another photo op at Camp Cupcake, the Marine nickname for the giant air base he never left on his recent visit to Iraq. The administration will move the goal posts again, and the military will come up with new ways to cook the books and claim success.
Heads up. Get up. Stand up.


Tick, tock...

by: blackdog

Not much to say except the real blackdog, Woof just came to my leg as I type this stuff , leaned on it and burped. He loves doing that. Always looks up at me with a smile and a laugh, I laugh too. Grab the Woof and pet him with aplomb.

Just answered some e-mail, one from a special friend who likes to go to baseball games. If I had my rathers correct, I would court her, she is something sweet and I have known her for about 47 years. Guess we could sit around and see if my ED medication ever worked. Tick, tock...

Not that I really have ED as a problem, when I was much younger I had an erection for about three years, and was not told to call a doctor, much less a girlfriend. It finally passed.

Now for me to even speak this way amounts to a renewed feeling of amore, or maybe just stinkin' thinkin'. But... if I ever get reconnected... damn if I won't try to rejoin the human race with all its foibles and bullshit, after all I know I'm full of it.

Reading and thinking about what was read on this and some other sites gets my juices flowing some. At the ripe old age of 52!!! I still should have some good times still to come, at least I hope, but this bag has to go. Amore withers in the face of a bag of this. Romance at a distance stinks.

Lookout October, here I come!
07 September 2007

War: No End In Sight

by: Foiled Goil

No End In Sight:
NO END IN SIGHT alternates between U.S. policy decisions and Iraqi consequences, systematically dissecting the Bush Administration's decisions. The consequences of those decisions now include 3,000 American deaths and 20,000 American wounded,* Iraq on the brink of civil war, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, the strengthening of Iran, the weakening of the U.S. military, and economic costs of over $2 trillion. It marks the first time Americans will be allowed inside the White House, Pentagon, and Baghdad's Green Zone to understand for themselves what has become the disintegration of Iraq.

The first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq's descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality and anarchy, NO END IN SIGHT is a jaw-dropping, insider's tale of wholesale incompetence, recklessness and venality. Based on over 200 hours of footage, the film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003) as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts.

* US dead, 3760; injured, 28,308 — as of 9/07/07

· · ·


by: blackdog

Seems like my surgery is now scheduled for the 24th. Yesterday was just a pre-war planning session with the Doctors explaining to me what the X-ray had shown along with the usual warnings of what could go wrong with my options. I was impressed. They actually spoke with me. I made a few jokes and questions, got a few of them laughing and when push became shove I asked if we could do this ASAP.

Told one of the med students that all of my patients were never alive unless you count 480V power, but that I had killed some of them (pumps, motors and such). His laughter was refreshing.

Today I hear that one of the latest reports states that employment is down. Wow. They didn't even ask me. They also carefully mentioned the "r" word about the economy, and the DOW is down about 240 points.

Sitting here today catching up with the rest of you, or at least trying to. We've actually had significant rainfall, so that means I get to do my least favorite task, mow the friggin' grass. Somehow I feel that the fan is still spinning and the shit is ever closer.

The shrub is in Australia making the rest of the world wonder how the usa ever got to where it was, they are now aware that any nation chock full of idiots can have a nuklear or aerospace program. So what about the starving masses, we want to be players at the big table.

What a legacy we leave as the 'stuporpower' of the world. We can't even be good badguys.

I'm tired of this bag, and I'm even more tired of this statue quo.

Just listened to a program about the illegal alien situation as it relates to labor in the good 'ol usa. I thought that the talking heads were somewhat out of touch, the issue of keeping wages down because you could fill all of these slots with folk who would accept them was definitely skating on thin ice.

Don't know about the rest of you but I have been in numerous chicken and pig slaughter plants, even worked in one for about 5 weeks. These are profitable operations sometimes owned by billionaires who fight tooth and nail against any sort of union organization. The product they produce for consumption is debateable in the quality it affords and they are all guilty of fighting any environmental or safety regulations, even oversight from federal inspectors.

Makes one want to learn to eat dirt, if clean lithosphere can still be found.

In a good mode, I visited Farmer Bob yesterday for the first time in a while and had a great time. I think all of you would really like Bob, he's one in a million. I count myself lucky to count him as a great friend. I flew from CA back to Arkieville for his wedding to G. (sweetheart) and that would be a tale to tell all by itself. Mark L. Another incredible guy with a mind and imagination to match.

Yep. I'm damn lucky.

Now I'll shut up fo a while.

06 September 2007

Ass-Kickin' with the Prez

by: Dark Wraith

Ass with a WAccording to The Sydney Morning Herald, during a meeting with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile, President George W. Bush asserted that "We're kicking ass" in Iraq.

Indeed. Unfortunately, the President apparently didn't mention that it's our own ass we're kicking; but he can be forgiven for leaving out that detail, what with the way just about everyone else in Iraq seems to be kicking our ass, too.

Needless to say, the President of the United States has once again reached out to an American ally, speaking bluntly of that which occupies his mind, no doubt impressing his foreign hosts with the true and high-minded character of the American people.

The Dark Wraith trusts that the entire world has come to understand through our President that America isn't just about ass, but far more importantly, about the kicking of it.

· ·

Essence of Issue: Republicans Debate American Policy for Iraq

by: Dark Wraith

Wednesday night's Republican debate in Durham, New Hampshire, featured exchanges between candidates far more blunt than much of what is passing for serious dialogue among Democrats running for President. Rather strong ideological differences were on display, and even minor matters of terminology magnified from nuance to virtual indignation. After roundly taking on Fred Thompson, who just announced his candidacy after months of unofficial campaigning, the Republican candidates turned to the issue of Iraq, which is clearly emerging as a central issue for the 2008 race to the White House.

Mitt RomneyThe sharp dispute started when former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney used the word 'if' to qualify the success of President Bush's so-called surge of American troops in Iraq: "[I]f the surge is working, then we're going to be able to start bringing back our troop levels slowly but surely."

John McCainSenator John McCain (R-AZ), known for his claims the surge is working, responded directly to Romney: "I can assure you, it is more than apparent it is working and we have to rally the American people... I want our troops home with honor, otherwise we will face catastrophe and genocide in the region."

Ron PaulThat opened the door for Libertarian anti-war Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), who lit into McCain: "The people who say there will be a bloodbath are the ones who said it will be a cakewalk or it will be a slam dunk, and that it will be paid for by oil. Why believe them? They've been wrong on everything they've said."

Mike HuckabeeWith applause still reverberating for Rep. Paul's retort, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee jumped all over Paul: "Congressman, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is a discussion for historians, but we're there. We bought it because we broke it. We've got a responsibility to the honor of this country and the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq and our military to not leave them with anything less than the honor they deserve."

With Huckabee's fans applauding loudly, Rep. Paul shot back: "The American people didn't go in. A few people advising this administration, a small number of people called the neoconservatives, hijacked our foreign policy. They are responsible, not the American people."

In a stern voice, Huckabee then virtually lectured Paul: "Congressman, we are one nation. We can't be divided. We have to be one nation under God. That means if we make a mistake, we make it as a single country."

With the audience loudly approving of Huckabee's smack-down, Paul responded: "When we make a mistake, it is the obligation of the people, through their representatives, to correct the mistake, not continue the mistake. We have dug a hole for ourselves and we have dug a hole for our party. We are losing elections, and we are going down next year if we don't change it."

As the crowd went as close to bananas as Republicans can, Huckabee loudly barked back at Paul: "Even if we lose elections, we should not lose our honor."

It was a strong exchange. Although Ron Paul in the moment was able to seize the spotlight by forcing policy disputes to surface, he also shared that spotlight with several other Republican contenders, some of whom revealed resolve, others hinting at nuances of doubt, and still others to some extent still unable to alter position in the face of a changing electorate.

No small or insignificant part of that new sentiment of the electorate—so different now from what it was just three years ago—was represented by the Republican audience members in Durham on Wednesday night: they clearly and loudly delighted in an argumentative engagement long absent from the GOP, which has for years enforced upon its politicians a uniform, lock-step compliance with the will and whim of a President whose current unpopularity could prove the ruin of any who now, in this late hour of the Bush Administration, try to ride the coattails of his tattered and soiled legacy.

The Dark Wraith trusts the Democrats understand that the eventual Republican victor will have come through a fight that might very well create a formidable candidate.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · · ·

A Gesture Nonetheless

by: Minstrel Boy

Which is a line from Archibald MacLeish's brilliant play "JB" where a character talks about "pissing at the stars to put out their fire, a meaningless gesture, but a gesture, nonetheless."

I received this email from VoteVets this morning. I have been holding off on the political donation, in part, because I haven't made my mind up about who I will support, or even if I will bother to vote at all. My disillusionment runs that deep lately.

I kicked down for this though. I encourage you to do the same.

Dear Supporter,

As you know, the next month is critical in terms of where we go on the war in Iraq. Next week, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be testifying about the White House report on Iraq, and shortly after, Congress will again vote on whether we change course, redeploy troops from Iraq and take the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or if we're going to just do more of the same.

We are going to take our message directly to politicians and pundits in Washington, but we need your help.

Donate to send an Iraq veteran to Washington, DC, here

The week after General Petraeus testifies, we plan to bring 40 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to Washington, DC. Among our activities are plans to blanket Capitol Hill and stress that the troops and veterans know it's in America's best interest to change course in Iraq, and hold a press conference to talk about the disastrous effect this war is having on our military. That's not all, though. Our veterans will receive media training and a crash course in how to effectively talk to lawmakers, from top professionals in the field. In this way, will have even more ability to take our message to local town halls and media outlets, from coast to coast.

We're planning to bring in some of our best and brightest veterans. But, because they are scattered across the country, this is going to take a lot of airline and train tickets. As you can imagine, accommodations in Washington aren't cheap either. Add to that the costs to properly train our best guys to do media and lobbying, and this effort will take $25,000.

Don't doubt, we're being as stingy as possible with the money you give, and are working to keep costs at a bare minimum. So, not a single dime you donate will be wasted. And, therefore, every dime counts.

Can we count on you to help bring an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran to Washington, DC? Donate here.

This is a make or break time for the country, and for Your donation will help ensure that when we do this trip to DC, we do it right, and we do it professionally. Your donation will have a long-lasting impact, as well, because the skills, training, and experience that our veterans gain on this trip will be used in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, as we fight for the Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots!

Thanks for all of your support.


Peter Granato
Iraq War Veteran
Vice Chairman

I have been a contributing member to these guys since they started up. They are having an impact. I admire the calm and unruffled manner that their main spokesperson Jon Stoltz displays in his appearences. I'd be ripping out throats and lungs. I'm glad they found these guys. I support their work. I hope you find a way to do the same. This is a great idea.

harp and sword

The Group News Blog Nails It

by: Minstrel Boy

Do You Understand Where You Are?

A brilliant, scathing work by Lower Manhattenite. Touching a harsh surface that touches us all.

Don't forget to read the comments.

harp and sword

Luciano Pavarotti - RIP

by: Foiled Goil

Legendary tenor and celebrated Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, 71, died earlier today at his home in Italy after a year long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
Et in hora mortis nostrae.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now,
And in the hour of our death.

05 September 2007

Best Casino Ploy for Traffic

by: Konagod

Ahhh, I used to love Las Vegas and went every year.

I finally broke the habit and I'm very glad I did. Especially now that they destroyed the Stardust and those lovely sexual squirting fountains which were one of MY highlights on the Strip. Fuck the Bellagio and their obnoxious gushers.

Sperm shot!

(txrad didn't duck. Brave man!)

I guess I finally came to the conclusion that I'd have much better luck taking $3,000 and giving it out to the homeless in hopes of instant good karma rather than dropping it 25-cents at a time into a big noisy machine which makes farting noises while teasing the hell out of me. A homeless person never did that.

Of course, I haven't given $3,000 to the homeless, but it's a far more noble endeaver than blowing the same wad of cash in a casino.

On one of my last few visits to Vegas I took these photos. This last one I found particularly amusing.

I guess the 99-cent shrimp cocktail just wasn't getting enough folks in the door.

Crossposted at konagod
04 September 2007

Bush Is Lying, Still

by: Foiled Goil

Tonight on Countdown, Keith Olbermann delivered a special comment regarding the president's surprise trip to Iraq over the Labor Day weekend:
As he deceived the troops at Al-Asad Air Base yesterday with the tantalizing prospect that some of them might not have to risk being killed and might get to go home…

Mr. Bush probably did not know that, with his own words, he had already proved that he had been lying… is lying… will be lying... about Iraq.

He presumably did not know, that there had already appeared those damning excerpts from Robert Draper's book "Dead Certain."

"I'm playing for October-November," Mr. Bush said to Draper.

That, evidently, is the time during which, he thinks he can sell us the real plan.

Which is, to quote him: "To get us in a position where the presidential candidates, will be comfortable about sustaining a presence." Comfortable -- that is -- with saying about Iraq, again quoting the President, "stay... longer."

And there it is, Sir.

We've caught you.

Your goal is not to bring some troops home -- maybe -- if we let you have your way now;

Your goal is not to set the stage for eventual withdrawal;

You are, to use your own disrespectful, tone-deaf word, playing at getting the next Republican nominee to agree to jump into this bottomless pit with you, and take us with him, as we stay in Iraq for another year, and another, and another, and anon.

Everything you said about Iraq yesterday, and everything you will say, is a deception, for the purpose of this one cynical, unacceptable, brutal goal -- perpetuating this war indefinitely.

War today, war tomorrow, war forever!

And you are playing at it!


A man with any self-respect, having inadvertently revealed such an evil secret, would have already resigned and fled the country!

You have no remaining credibility about Iraq, Sir.
While the reality is, we know from what he told Draper, that the President's true hope is that they will not come home; but that they will stay there, because he is keeping them there now, in hope that those from his political party fighting to succeed him, will prolong this unendurable disaster into the next decade.

But, to a country dying of thirst, the President seemed to vaguely promise a drink from a full canteen -- a promise predicated on the assumption that he is not lying.

Yet you are lying, Mr. Bush.

You can hold that canteen up and promise it to the parched nation.

And the untold number of Americans whose lives have not been directly blighted by Iraq -- or who do not realize that their safety has been reduced and not increased by Iraq -- they will get the bullet points: 'Bush is thinking about bringing some troops home. Bush even went to Iraq.'

You can fool some of the people all of the time, can't you, Mr. Bush?

You are playing us!
"I want to tell you this about the decision, about my decision about troop levels. Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground -- not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media."

One must compliment Mr. Bush's writer.

That, perhaps, was the mostly perfectly crafted phrase of his Presidency.

For depraved indifference to Democracy, for the craven projection of political motives onto those trying to save lives and save a nation, for a dismissal of the value of the polls and the importance of the media… for a summary of all he does not hold dear about this nation or its people -- nothing... could top that.

As if, Sir, you listened to all the "calm assessments" of our military commanders --rather than firing the ones who dared say The Emperor Has No Clothes, and The President, No Judgment;

As if, Sir, your entire presidency was not a "nervous reaction", and you yourself, nothing but a Washington politician;

As if, Sir, "the media" does not largely divide into those parts your minions are playing, and those others who unthinkingly and uncritically serve as your echo chamber, at a time when the nation's future may depend on the airing of dissent.

And as if, Sir, those polls were not so overwhelming, and not so clearly reflective of the nation's agony... and the nation's insistence.

But this President has ceased to listen.

This President has decided that night is day, and death is life, and enraging the world against us, is safety.
Mr. Bush, our presence in Iraq must end.

Even if it means your resignation.

Even if it means your impeachment.

Even if it means a different Republican to serve out your term.

Even if it means a Democratic Congress -- and those true Patriots among the Republicans -- standing up and denying you another **penny** for Iraq, other than for the safety and the safe conduct home of our troops.

This country cannot run the risk of what you can still do to this country... in the next 500 days…

Not while you, Sir... are playing.

Good night, and good luck.
Full text here.

C and L has the video.

· · ·

A billion and a half heart beats

by: Jersey Cynic

That's all we get in this lifetime, according to three scientists at the Santa Fe Institute in northern New Mexico.

This is just about the coolest NPR segment I have listened to. They really did a fabulous job explaining. Have a listen, it's not too long: Size Matters: The Hidden Mathematics of Life

From the link:

The reason an elephant lives longer than a shrew is not because its heart beats longer. It's because its heart beats slower. So it takes a few more years for the elephant to complete his or her up to one and a half billion beats.

Now comes the subtler question: Why do big things use up energy more slowly?

Nature goes easy on larger creatures so they don't wear out too quickly.

After all, an elephant has trillions more cells than a shrew and they all have to connect and communicate and distribute energy and keep the animal going. In a little animal, the job is easier. In a big animal, there are so many more blood vessels, moving parts, longer pathways, there is so much more work to do, the big animal could break down much more quickly.

So Geoffrey West, Jim Brown and Brian Enquist discovered that nature gives larger animals a gift: more efficient cells. Literally.

The cells in an elephant slow down and do more work than the cells of a mouse. An elephant cell, lumpity-dumpities at a slower rate than the rattatat-tat of a mouse cell. They both wear out by a billion and a half beats, (yes, cells have metabolic or energy-using beats, too) but the elephant does it more slowly, all the way down to the cellular level.

When Professor West first saw this deep unity among living things, he was amazed.

Human beings used to fit into this pattern, but now that we have learned to drink safe water, wash and bathe and create medicines, we last longer than our size would predict.


So, by my calculations, well actually, according to The Straight Dope: we humans are living waaaaaay past nature's plan -- "Since the solar year consists of 525,948 minutes and 48 seconds, a quick calculation at the rate of 80 BPM gives us a ballpark figure of 42,075,904 beats per year, give or take a couple mill. A reasonable estimate for the number of heartbeats in a lifetime is about three billion."

A billion and a half beats, divided by 42+ million beats per year equals 35 years. 35 YEARS! Life expectancy is now around 70 years.

Maybe that's why we're fucking up the world so fast......


And what about all that exercise? Could this be my case for NOT exercising? They say a good aerobic exercise goal is 130 heart beats per minute. What am I missing? I know strong athletes tend to have a slower heart rate, but would'nt they be taking away from their total billion and a half? Everytime I see someone jogging, I think to myself - man-o-man why the hell are you doing that to yourself? Maybe it's those endorphines? While I was searching for some insight into this, I came across another post on the NPR segment which kind of ties in with what I was also thinking:

"Many years ago, astronaut-legend Neil Armstrong sat down for an interview with news-legend Walter Cronkite. It was just after the time of the Apollo project, which was coincident with the beginning of the jogging craze.

Cronkite asked Armstrong for his opinion on jogging. Armstrong thought about it for a second, then responded:

"I believe that the Good Lord gave us a finite number of heartbeats and I'm damned if I'm going to use up mine running up and down a street."

Lots to think about!

Crossposted at Blondesense
03 September 2007

Sa Bataille Finale, Sa Dernière Défaite

by: Dark Wraith

His Final Battle

This graphic may be reproduced with attribute.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· ·

The Second Coming - W.B. Yeats

by: Jersey Cynic

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

What's YOUR interpretation?

Crossposted at Blondesense

How Roman Of Us

by: Debra

Last year PSoTD posed the question "what does Labor Day mean to you?' I missed that one and haven't a clue as to how to answer this year's, so I thought I'd combine Random Flickr Blogging with my feelings on the subject.

Backhoe... or something like that

Labor Day has become one more of an endless and worse than that, meaningless, string of holidays trivialized to evoke artificial happiness but in reality designed to market wares that people can't afford and don't need, at a so-called discounted price.

When I was a little girl, the holidays had individual atmospheres, they all looked, felt and smelled different. The great part was you occasionally got a day off on odd days of the week, which was a big thing to a kid. It broke up the monotony of school, sort of like a snow day. Then they combined Lincoln's birthday with Washington's and it became President's Day, occurring only on Mondays, no matter what the real birthdays were. Now everyone that wasn't a boss could have an occasional three day weekend. Wasn't that thoughtful? It also meant that everyone was now competing for for the same vacation spaces at the same time. At that point all the holidays started to run together into one big yearlong shopping extravaganza.

We start with January, a month that was barren until it got its token holiday a few years ago. February has the delicious shopping whammy of Valentines Day ($ and guilt), closely followed by President's Day. They can hardly switch the ads fast enough, six o'clock on Valentines Day and now you're looking at the linens on sale instead of diamonds. March has St. Patrick's Day with Easter making an occasional appearance. April starts with Othe Fool's Day, which technically doesn't count. Yet. It's getting bigger every year.

Advertisers would prefer it if Easter showed up about the second week of April because depending on a holiday that is based on the first full moon after the vernal equinox, has a little too much variance and the distance to Mother's Day in May can be almost two months. That's a long time in the advertising world. Now, I'm rather fond of May since it contains my birthday, but that is the weekend that all the prices for everything from vacations to movies increases in price. No discounts for me.

Memorial Day kicks off the summer with the first big barbecue, not that anyone remembers why, but you can wear white shoes without Miss Manners getting upset. Flag Day used to be a big thing before it was discarded in favor of the shopping highest day for collect calls opportunity called Father's Day. But it's okay because they get to wave the flag a few weeks later on July 4. Independence Day is one of the big three, it gets celebrated on its day. Like it was Christmas or New Year's except there aren't as many parades and you get hot dogs.

August has no individual holidays, it's considered the vacation month, but that would have changed if it had been August 11 instead of September 11. A new national holiday would have been created because they had the space. Have no fear they are able to market the back-to-school sales without a disguise. It used to be just clothes and supplies but now it includes expensive electronics and new cars. Plus as a bonus, they start with the not so subtle pre-Christmas sales such as artificial white trees with orange and black decorations.

Oh my, it's Labor Day. The holiday that is supposed to celebrate the "common" workers and all they have done to make this country great. Well, since the majority of the people don't "labor" and even after watching the recent coal mine tragedies they still don't comprehend the work that goes into keeping this country on its feet. It has become the excuse for the end of the summer party and the last official day for those white shoes. And nothing else. Labor is for those who get dirt under their nails and if they know their place, they aren't seen in town.

It's a long time until the next holiday which isn't all that big, imagine what could happen if Ramadan and Rosh Hashana counted. Oh, the opportunities they are missing. Instead they have to wait for six weeks until the kids celebrate Columbus Day, a fake holiday if there ever was one. Meanwhile, the adults rev up for Halloween. It used to be a kid's holiday, but now it is more of an excuse for adults to run around in costumes all day long since it isn't safe for kids to go trick-or-treating and nobody gets home at five anyways.

On to the buffet, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. Yes, I know that Veteran's Day is in between, but it doesn't mean as much as it used to, it's just an excuse for banks and school kids to play hooky. Besides those veterans are dying off and since they don't have any money to spend it isn't really a holiday anymore. Support those troops. Back to Thanksgiving, where families get together and stuff themselves with rarely the slightest thought as to how precious that food would have been to the original settlers.

Finally! It's the last big push towards Christmas. Shop till you drop. Diamonds, toys and car commercials everywhere you turn. Everyone you know must receive a gift, Santa says so. Never mind that it used to be a religious/pagan holiday, now it's the holiday that determines the retailers whole year.

Only seven more days, which now include a new holiday called Kwanzaa, until the last/first holiday of the year. Guess what? There are still the end-of-the-year sales before you start drinking champagne. Everything that hasn't sold needs to go because they don't want to count it for tax purposes and they want to downsize all the extra help they brought in for the shopping season.

Just like the guy who used to operate the equipment above.

Random Flickr Blogging
is a project of If I Ran The Zoo.

Crossposted at Debsweb.

· ·

A Song For Labor Day(playing it as written this time)

by: Minstrel Boy

This is a great old labor song. It is very appropos today.

Here's the tune: Click here

Here's Pete Seeger:

Sing folks, it's not illegal. . . . .yet.

Which Side Are You on?
(Florence Reese, 1946)

Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I'll tell,
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell.

cho: Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner,
And I'm a miner's son,
And I'll stick with the union,
Till every battle's won.

They say in Harlan County,
There are no neutrals there.
You'll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J.H. Blair.

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab,
Or will you be a man ?

Don't scab for the bosses,
Don't listen to their lies.
Us poor folks haven't got a chance,
Unless we organize.

Copyright Stormking Music, Inc.

harp and sword
02 September 2007

Prelude to the 73rd Hour of Nightfall

by: Dark Wraith

Nuclear BushAt the same time George W. Bush's Persian soul-mate and twin, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is bragging that Iran's nuclear fuels processing program has attained a "goal" of operating 3,000 uranium centrifuges, the International Atomic Energy Agency is reporting that Iran's nuclear fuel production is "well below the expected quantity," meaning that Ahmadinejad's claims are very likely nothing more than propaganda for his own domestic base of Iranian rednecks.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times is reporting that the Pentagon has drawn up plans for a massive strike on Iran that would wipe out not just its nuclear fuels program, but the entirety of its military capability. The Pentagon planners think the armed forces of the United States can do this with 1,200 strikes over a span of three days.

You read that right: three days. Air and naval firepower plus 72 hours: presto!—another international problem solved.

Literate observers of this looming scenario might wonder if a word even exists for people so thunderously, impenetrably, persistently, consistently, howlingly ignorant that they simply cannot learn either from history or from their own mistakes.

For those in search of the mot juste, here it is: Neo-Conservatism.

In all its thunderous, impenetrable, persistent, consistent, howling ignorance, Neo-Conservatism is once again calling its acolytes to the game table of war without end; and once again, Empire will issue forth the treasures of its gold and young to be wasted for the designs of men and women who will not be disabused of their plans even by the ruins in which the ugly monuments of their prior follies of world domination lie.

The Dark Wraith sees a history written before it has happened.

Update September 3, 2007, 1:48 p.m. EDT — The Sunday Times article about the plan for a massive U.S. strike on Iran was dated September 2, 2007. On September 1, 2007, a post by "Maccabee" at Daily Kos described a conversation the writer had had with a Landing Signal Officer (LSO) in a battle group in the Gulf of Hormuz: Maccabee's account of the LSO's description of war preparations was relatively detailed and entirely consistent with the subsequent, more general article in the Sunday Times. (It was also entirely consistent with scuttlebutt I've been hearing.)

Daily Kos has deleted Maccabee's article, apparently affirming that the Right-wing smear-job artists who went on the attack against Maccabee were correct, and Maccabee had made up the conversation with an LSO.

Maccabee's post is still available in cache from Google: click here to read Maccabee's expunged article, "We Are Going to Hit Iran. Bigtime."

Decide for yourself: Is Maccabee credible?

(We shall leave for another occasion the question of whether or not a certain meta-blog, itself, has crafted mainstream respectability at the cumulative price of credibility.)

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·

Work And Play

by: Foiled Goil

What does Labor Day mean today?

On Monday, September 3, Americans will celebrate Labor Day. This annual national holiday was created more than 100 years ago as a tribute to the American worker. To most Americans these days, however, Labor Day seems to be more about end-of-summer picnics, beach excursions, and an extra day off from work.

The average American isn't the only one who has lost sight of the contributions and sacrifices of the workers of this nation. Over the past couple of decades, American corporations have been ignoring the needs of the workers in order to focus instead on stuffing the bottomless pockets of the CEOs. And the U.S. government has been giving them all the help and support they need.

It wasn't always this way.

* * * * *
"Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is."

~ Mary Anne Radmacher
If you've got the day off, I hope that you do take the time to kick back and just be, because:

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

"Every path has its puddle."


Words by Robert Hunter - Music by Jerry Garcia

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
Perhaps they're better left unsung.
I don't know, don't really care,
Let there be songs to fill the air.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again.
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night.
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

You who choose to lead must follow,
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.
"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."

~ Kahlil Gibran

01 September 2007

Never, Ever, Go To War With Republicans

by: Minstrel Boy

The way the Republican leadership and rank and file have turned on Larry Craig sent my head back to Viet Nam for a moment.

My team and I had been out in the boonies (the far boonies) roaming around the various spots on the famed Ho Chi Minh Trail where they would cache fuel, ammo, and food. We'd find stuff like that and try to boobytrap it, or simply render what we could unusable. We were mainly seeking targets of opportunity, things like mountain passes we could choke off, bridges that were built a few inches below the surface of the water to avoid being visible from the air. Clever stuff like that. We were not seeking enemy contact of any kind.

Contact came anyway. That can happen when you have various groups of scouts and recon all sneaking around out in the back of beyond. It was a brief contact, but for me it was devastating. I caught a rifle round high on the hip. It blew off a chunk of my iliac crest and cracked my pelvis. Because we knew that they had help they could call for and we didn't we figured our best option was to light a shuck the hell out of there as fast as we could. We knew they had called for help because they were keeping near enough to fix our position, but never closing for another fight. Our only hope was to outrun the bastards.

After some very rudimentary first aid I was being carried on an improvised stretcher made out of rain ponchos and some bamboo. I was in hellish pain. Every step that was being taken jarred my pelvis. Being shot hurts bad enough. It's like being hit with a red hot cast iron cooking pan. There is not only the impact trauma, all the area around and into the wound is burned. My team was stalwart though. By switching off on the carrying chores they were managing to not only hump me through the bush, they were making pretty good time. We figured that we had about twenty five miles to go before we could reasonably expect any air cover or chance of an extraction. Even that would be dicey as hell if we couldn't manage to lose the folks behind us.

There were many times out there that our superior conditioning and nutrition carried the day. We were all marathon quality runners who could keep up a murderous pace all day and all night. What made us even more dangerous is that we were totally capable of running a marathon under pack and then turning to fight in decent shape. It turned more than one tide of folks that thought they had us.

In my pain and fear, and also my shame at being a weak link I began to pester my guys to leave me at a decent vantage point with an M-60, a couple belts and some grenades. I told them that I would hold the bad guys up long enough for the rest of them to get away. Part of it was my wanting to get the team out safely but a big part of it was I really, really wanted to quit bouncing the fuck up and down on those goddamned ponchos. The pain was really unimaginable. It wasn't a question of endurance, they weren't putting me down.

Finally, I thought I had gotten through to one of my buddies. A big huge guy whose given name was Bear. He and I had been together in boot camp in San Diego, BUDS at the Strand, Jump School, all of it side by side. I figured if anybody would understand where I was coming from it would be the Bear.

He called a halt. But instead of setting me up and leaving me to save themselves the team started to dig in all around me. I said "Hey, wait a second, you guys are supposed to go on and get the fuck outta here."

Bear just looked at me like I was the dumbest fuckwad that ever drew a breath and calmly said "If you die, everybody dies."

Those are the type of men that I went into battle with.

The Republicans not only desert each other at light speed, they are capable of eating the wounded raw. They are all up on the TV today talking about what a great leader and statesman Larry Craig is. If he's such a great guy, why didn't they try to help him get through his trouble? Huh? If Mitch McConnell had been in my unit they never would have bothered to pick me up in the first place. They would have all just run as fast as they could.

It shows the shallowness of their character, their total lack of a core belief in anything but their own little fiefdoms.

I didn't think it was something remotely possible but I respect them even less today.

They are not only hypocrites, they are cowards.

Fuck. Them. All.

harp and sword

Radiology and other assorted thangs

by: blackdog

Made it through one of the most uncomfortable techniques I have ever suffered through, contrast material being inserted into places where the sun don't shine, then receiving soft gamma, ur X-rays to see just what I might have that could impede the surgery to make me more human again.

Seems like I'm lucky, it seems a go for the 6th.

I would like at this time to celebrate most of you who have been better than I deserve. I will not list names, that would be too timeconsuming, and I am still officially stoopid, so to tax my abilities that way would be detrimental to my well being.

Besides, the shrub is speaking on my radio right now and my frontal lobes are rapidly shrinking. Funny but my testicles seem to be swelling. Inverse relationship? Maybe.

The shrub has stopped, it can't speak a continuous sentence for more than a few seconds, always shooting itself in the foot in the process. I feel better now. But I am aware that this aberation will still be here tomorrow and that the opposition is still in dissaray. Idiots.

I've never seen a better time to take on the 'conservative' assholes. Where is the opposition? Is the mighty dollar that damn great? Judging from a link from PofLT and the lectures from the DW reality seems absurd.

It must be nice to be stinking filthy rich, then you can be oblivious to reality.

Soon as I can take a real dump, no pardon here, I will return! Regardless. Watch your backdoor, it may be targeted by a neo-con type.


My best remarks to UAMS and a particular radiological tech, Arch B. What a great and impressive guy. Sometimes I wonder how I've been so damn fortunate to meet such capable people.

Susie Bright Injects a Note of Sanity

by: Minstrel Boy

And why the hell not? A little sanity would be nice here. I've had a lot of fun being snarky and snide about Senator Craig's self destruction. Still, I didn't think the penalties for his action should have progessed much farther than finger pointing and sniggering.

While the republicans are circling their wagons (talk about a circle of jerks) My hero, Susie Bright is going all academic on this.

Instead of waxing all poetic about the sin and immorality of bathroom sex, Susie goes Kinsey. Why not find out about how people actually behave? Instead of a blanket condemnation, why not find out where we are on this?

Great idea Susie. Here's the link for the survey

Added bonus: Susie Goes First in the comments.

harp and sword