Saturday, April 21, 2007
I'm thinking ThumbPer is getting back at me for lecturing him....teenagers...worse, a teenager who's a technophile and has more nimble fingers than I do...*sigh*
UPDATE: I bet I can even fix a rainy day. Sometimes I amaze even myself.
I found an interview at Internationalist Magazine yesterday that I wanted to share with you. Dr. Peter Phillips of Project Censored, a media watchdog and accountability group, said something that made me take a step back, because in a phrase, he summed up my anger at the mainstream media:
Q: When it comes to covering Anne Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, etc. would these mass media companies be remiss if they didn't constantly give the public what it supposedly wants?Now, Dr. Phillips and Project Censored make some pretty wild and inaccurate claims about what a "news story" is (as an example, Dr. Phillips cites Building 7 at the World Trade Center as a missed story, which it clearly was not), however, he has a point in that forests of paper were spent on Anna Nicole, but not few words were said about the Congolese genocide, which over the past ten years was as extensive as the slaughter in the Holocaust.
We could set up cocaine sales booths on campuses and they would be very popular as well. But we have laws against that. Corporate media has abdicated their responsibility to the First Amendment to keep us informed about what the powerful are doing. We need public financed media to fill the role.
Read the rest here. Internationalist Mag should get the bulk of your eyeball time on this.
Friday, April 20, 2007
I originally had a Fleetwood Mac song up dedicated to Alberto Gonzalez, but I stepped outside at lunch, and ran smack dab into a concert by Jon Anderson and Paul Green's School Of Rock band, so in honor of seeing some great music...
The only hitch in my regimen so far has been trying to shave the back of my neck, and I figure I'm going to need a shaving mirror that I can attach to the wall behind me.
In searching for this, I came across what has to be classified as a solution in search of a problem: Shav-N-Specs
Would that I could embed the video....
As my long-time readers know, I'm a wonk for economic stuff. Hazard of my avocation, I suppose, needing to stay on top of the economy and make decisions based on my observations. So I stumbled across this story, and started reading it, when I found a paragraph that I think can help explain and tie together some loose threads that have been floating on the periphery of your field of perception lately:
"The negative housing wealth effects on consumer spending could be more pronounced than anticipated," Zandi warned, estimating that a third of U.S. households tapped a substantial amount of home equity in recent years to support spending.The Consumer and Producer Price indices that are so heavily reported by the mainstream media purposely ignore energy and food prices, due to their volatility. Personally, I think that's a mistake: first, we have much better tools to measure these and to factor out volatility now, and second, these are two core purchases that consumers must make, so to say "inflation was only 3% last year," while food and energy prices were up together anywhere around ten percent is a lie designed to make the administration look good.
But with stagnant or falling home values, and rising mortgage delinquencies, consumer spending's sole support looks to be wage and income growth, and this at a time when households are being heavily taxed with higher energy prices.
Energy costs rose only 2.9 percent in 2006. But in the first three months of this year, they shot up at an annual rate of 22.9 percent, accounting for about 41 percent of the increase in U.S. consumer prices.
But I digress.
Take a closer look at the excerpt I posted: you'll note that the past several years' economic growth has been generated not by wage and income increases (which have remained stagnant to down. It wasn't until 2004 that the final leg irons of recession, consumer income, surpassed the levels at the end of the Clinton administration and even that's not factoring in inflation), but by borrowing against the equity in our homes.
An increase in debt, in other words. Debt can be defined as an advance against income you hope to receive in the future, and interest payments a hedge against the lender losing all that money if your gamble fails.
The optimistic presumption the average American lives on is things are going to get better: my company will make more money. They'll pay me a higher wage. I'll be able to pay off my debts.
Not so much, anymore. Wages have stagnated for nearly thirty years while the banking industry has gone to great lengths to fool consumers into believing they are worth more money than they truly are.
I suppose to a large extent, bankers can be blamed for this situation. Anyone with half a brain who spends a little time studying the overall economic state of this nation would have tightened their lending rules, not expanded them, in order to keep their balance sheets honest and their mortgages current. And banks are chock-a-block with MBAs from Ivy League schools who are trying desperately to learn the lessons I learned on the streets of Noo Yawk: don' lend someone money what can't pay youse back, unless youse is prepared to break deir bot' legs.
See, another side of this comes out in the quarterly earnings report that banks have to prepare for their shareholders. Obviously, if I'm Chase Manhattan, I have to keep my earnings higher than Citibank in order to keep my investors from moving their money there. New loans generate gobs of short term income. Old loans do not. The shell game is to keep those fees and surcharges rolling in (which is why the penalties on credit cards have also become so exorbitant: that's pure profit).
That "immediacy culture" pervades right down to the administrative level, as those Ivy League MBAs are thrown into competition with each other to come up with "the next insanely profitable cash cow." To the winner goes the spoils: make the bank the most money, and you get the corner office, the bigger bonus, the trips to Hawaii.
No one thinks long term, so no one looks long term, so in truth, no one saw this coming, but it is.
We're already in the soup on this, and there's not much to do to bail Americans out. The government could try but thanks to Bush and his tax cuts for the wealthy and his invasion of Iraq, the government has no money either and the money it has borrowed is not going to be allowed to go to its people who need it most.
In effect, we'll all be wage slaves to China. And we've seen what their standard of living is like.
After that, the future gets murky. Obviously, taxes on the wealthy will skyrocket. They have to, particularly as baby boomers retire in greater numbers each year and the pool of productive tax paying Americans dwindles. Taxes on all of us will go up, as well.
Suppose for a second, though, that they don't. Some political pressure keeps honest politicians from talking about tax increases. It becomes a political third rail.
We can't cut spending sufficiently to offset the loss in revenue. Aside from Social Security (which is funded separately anyway) and defense, there's not a whole lot the government spends money on that could scale up to free hundreds of billions of dollars for domestic spending programs that would now go from discretionary to mandatory, unless the sight of people dying in the streets is somehow magically made palatable to Americans. Events of the past week indicate Americans wouldn't want that on their TVs.
About the only places we could cut are defense. And defense. And homeland security.
I think we all know what that means.
So by destabilizing the American economy for decades if not centuries to come, Bush has created the single most dangerous breeding element for the domestic security of Americans: a weakened economy with not enough money to spend on protecting us all.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
"I read three histories on George Washington last year. The year 2006, I read three histories about our first President. My attitude is, if they're still writing about one, 43 doesn't need to worry about it," he said to laughter. Continued...Idiot.
"History...Ah failed that an look whar Ah am t'day! Y'all don't need no hhistory....heh heh heh heh..."
OSLO (Reuters) - The world will have to axe greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, more deeply than planned, to have an even chance of curbing global warming in line with European Union goals, researchers said on Thursday.80%.
Even tough long-term curbs foreseen by the EU or California fall short of reductions needed to avert a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) temperature rise over pre-industrial times, seen by the EU as a threshold for "dangerous change", they said.
"If we are to have a 50 percent chance of meeting a 2 Celsius target we would have to cut global emissions by 80 percent by 2050," Nathan Rive of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo told Reuters.
"Any delay in implementing emissions reductions will make a 2 degree target practically unreachable," he and colleague Steffen Kallbekken wrote of findings to be published in the journal Climatic Change.
That's a fairly large percentage, you might agree. Now, there is certainly an alarmist theme, to be honest: 40 or 50% might be enough to slow things down enough that we could conceivably correct things to mitigate the damage.
But an 80% cut in carbon emissions is a hard goal to achieve, to be sure:
An 80 percent global cut would mean rich nations, responsible for most heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels burnt by power plants, factories and cars, would have to axe emissions by about 95 percent below 2000 levels by 2050.Meaning, no more combustion engines. No more coal fired power plants. No more....well, you name it. You're talking about a complete change in the economy of the world. And political implications that would boggle the mind: wars with China and India and other developing nations. Periodic famines and pandemics.
Truly, an apocalypse. Energy is more than a way to heat your home: it's the lifeblood of the planet.
global climate change
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
85 Iraqis dead. At least 85 people were killed or found dead yesterday. Police in Ramadi uncovered 17 decomposing corpses buried in two schoolyards in an area that until recently was under al-Qaida fighters' control. One body had yet to be recovered as authorities feared it was booby-trapped with a bomb.And...:
Hit squads. In a sign Shia death squads are on the move after more than two months lying low, 25 bodies, most tortured, were found dumped in Baghdad. The three-day total, after weeks of much smaller numbers, was 67.[...]
13th U.S. death in three days. The U.S. military announced the death of a Marine from a "non-hostile incident" while on combat patrol in Anbar province Monday. It was the 13th American service member fatality reported since Saturday.
KANO, Nigeria -- Security forces in northern Nigeria battled gunmen blamed for a deadly attack on a police station a day earlier, with gunfire erupting around dawn Wednesday and witnesses reporting casualties.And...:
Hundreds of soldiers and police surrounded the area as entire families fled, with parents holding their children close as they rushed down Kano's dusty streets. Departing residents reported seeing numerous dead bodies, but said they made no firm count in their haste to leave.
MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Street battles in the Somali capital overnight left at least 11 people dead and dozens others injured, witnesses and health officials said Wednesday.But mostly...:
The fighting late Tuesday in northern and southern neighborhoods of Mogadishu between Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's fragile government and insurgents could be heard miles away. Some tank shells that Ethiopian troops fired in southern Mogadishu landed in the western part of the capital.
BAGHDAD -- Four large bombs exploded across Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 127 people and wounding scores as violence climbed toward levels seen before the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital began two months ago.We live in a dangerous world. I don't know what motivated Cho Seung-Hui . It may be that he reacted to what was going on in the world around him. It may be that his demons became too great to stop.
In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in a mostly Shiite area of central Baghdad, killing at least 82 people and wounding 94, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.
A police official confirmed the toll, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The attack was one of four bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday afternoon, which killed at least 127 people in total, officials said.
He was, however, one man on one college campus, and there are more terrifying things going on that will eventually affect us as well. It's well to focus our attention back on those. These incidents all have the Al Qaeda earmark about them.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
And sometimes, randomness prevails, and we struggle to form some basis of rationality out of it.
Ultimately, both of these scenarios collapse to a unifying theory of the world: control. There's an almost fracticality to our lives: the world sets limits to our achievements, and we set limits to a small part of the world's achievements. I can't fly on my own, but I can clear a forest and build a house.
In both instances, however, there's illusion at work. I can fly, if I get an assist from technology. Gravity still exerts influence, but it no longer controls me in this regard so long as I can keep my airplane up.
Likewise, I have to mow my lawn and weed & clear brush often, or my house will eventually be reclaimed by the forest. Not in my lifetime, of course, but the world operates on time scales that you and I cannot begin to imagine.
This is the ultimate fantasy for an intellectual being like a human, however, that there are controlling forces at work in some respect that have power over the entire world. We seek order where there is chaos, and we find it, because that chaos holds still for an infinitesimal moment on its scale, but for an entire lifetime or life of a civilization on ours. We build cities on multiple fractures in the earth's crust, complacent in the knowledge that it "can never happen here".
But it has. And it will. We just haven't witnessed it. Moreover, there's little we can do to prevent it. This is how life is: it is aggressive, violent to the point of catastrophic. The world responds in kind. Eventually, random events occur that prove the theory of evolution, and a dominant species falls and a subordinate species arises.
God blessed us with short attention spans (and cursed me with a slightly longer one). A man is arrogant enough to believe that history began twenty minutes before he was born, and then he learns (one hopes) about people, civilizations, and societies that preceded him. Man as a whole is arrogant enough to believe that history started twenty minutes before the first man-ape swung down out of the trees (or Adam was created, if you believe that). Man as a whole, including most major religions, arrogantly believes we have some special purpose on this planet, that God or nature put us here for a reason.
The most arrogant belief Man has is that God put him in charge of the entire planet. God may have the werewithal to control the planet (omniscience and omnipotence are advantageous here), but he did not invest Man with that power, and nor has he given us the keys to attaining it.
Yet, we act as if we had them already.
All this is a prelude to my thoughts on the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech yesterday. Many have called for better control of guns. Many others still have said "if only guns were more widely available".
Both positions are wrong, of course, in the context of what I wrote above. There is no reason to believe that if the entire college campus was armed, that there wouldn't be 32 students dead this morning. Likewise, there's no reason to believe that, if every gun in Virginia was taken away Sunday, those kids wouldn't be dead anyway.
None. Any presumption otherwise is flawed by the fact that this played out the way it played out, but in a different world based on the additional rule that either side wants to impose on this scenario, it would have played out differently. If the entire campus was armed, for example, who's to say this gunman wouldn't simply have gathered a posse of friends and together, 32 people die? Similarly, in a world where guns were banned from campus...well, a bomb in a crowded gymnasium could easily kill 32 people. Same outcome, different initial conditions.
It's the illusion of control, and the obvious lack of it, that has people grasping for explanations to support their viewpoints.
A gun is the illusion of control. There's a great line in the movie Grand Canyon:
Simon: Look, I don't know nothing about you, you don't know nothing about me. I don't know if you're stupid, or some kind of genius. All I know is that I need to get out of here, and you got the gun. So I'm asking you for the second time, let me go my way here.And yet, that gangbanger has no control, because he can just as easily lose the gun as get it, and even having it, there are bigger guns out there just waiting to be trained on him. And bigger guns on them, and so on up the scale. Eventually, you reach the biggest gun, but so? That gun, too, can be lost.
Gangbanger: I'm gonna grant you that favor, and I'm gonna expect you to remember it if we ever meet again. But tell me this, are you asking me as a sign of respect, or are you asking because I've got the gun?
Simon: Man, the world ain't supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don't know that yet. I'm supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.
Gangbanger: So what's your answer?
Simon: You ain't got the gun, we ain't having this conversation.
Gangbanger: That's what I thought, no gun, no respect. That's why I always got the gun.
Or Simon could decide, "You know what? Fuck it, I got a job to do, you want to shoot me, shoot me." Now the gun isn't control. If anything, it's just randomized the situation (if this had been a real life situation, of course. In the movies, Simon likely would get shot to advance the plot).
Essentially, tho, I suspect this is what was going through the gunman's head yesterday: he felt in control, and yet his actions tell us he was desperately out of control, to the point where he shot himself dead (at least that's the current version of events).
Likewise, our attempts to make sense of a senseless act are an illusion of control. None of us will ever know what went on in the gunman's head, so none of us will ever fully understand this horror. What demons lurked there? What pain, real or perceived, had he suffered?
We'll try to understand, because we must, because all the gun control in the world or for that matter, all the guns in the world, will not prevent a tragedy like this from happening again. We probably ought to replace the Second Amendment with a Second Suggestion, for all the good those legal guns have done and will do for this country.
Life is aggressive and violent, and will find a way to destroy what it has to destroy in order to create new life. And man is life, just as life is man. The difference is, in life itself, chaos creates a rearranged order.
Only man can destroy for the perverse pleasure of destroying. And we're armed to do it on mass scales
Monday, April 16, 2007
This is what comes up when you enter "From New York City to London" (hat tip Skippy)
1. Head southwest on Broadway toward Warren St 0.2 mi
2. Turn left at Park Row 0.1 mi
3. Slight right at Frankfort St 0.3 mi
4. Turn left at Pearl St 56 ft
5. Turn right onto the F.D.R. Dr N ramp 0.4 mi
6. Merge onto FDR Dr N 7.7 mi
7. Take exit 17 on the left for Triboro Bridge/Grand Central Pkwy toward I-278/Bruckner Expy 0.4 mi
8. Merge onto Triborough Bridge
Partial toll road 0.4 mi
9. Merge onto I-278 E via the ramp to I-87 N/Bronx/Upstate N Y/New England 0.6 mi
10. Take exit 47 to merge onto Bruckner Expy/I-278 E toward New Haven 1.9 mi
11. Take the I-278 E exit toward New Haven 0.3 mi
12. Merge onto Bruckner Expy 5.0 mi
13. Continue on I-95 N
Partial toll road
Entering Connecticut 62.1 mi
1 hour 12 mins
14. Take exit 48 on the left to merge onto I-91 N toward Hartford 36.8 mi
15. Take exit 29 for US-5 N/CT-15 toward I-84/E Hartford/Boston 0.4 mi
16. Merge onto CT-15 N 1.7 mi
17. Merge onto I-84 E
Partial toll road
Entering Massachusetts 40.7 mi
18. Take the exit onto I-90 E/Mass Pike/Massachusetts Turnpike toward N.H.-Maine/Boston
Partial toll road 56.0 mi
19. Take exit 24 A-B-C on the left toward I-93 N/Concord NH/S Station/I-93 S/Quincy 0.4 mi
20. Merge onto Atlantic Ave 0.8 mi
21. Turn right at Central St 0.1 mi
22. Turn right at Long Wharf 0.1 mi
23. Swim across the Atlantic Ocean 3,462 mi
29 days 0 hours
24. Slight right at E05 0.5 mi
25. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto E05/Pont Vauban 0.1 mi
26. Turn right at E05 5.7 mi
27. Take the exit onto A29/E44 toward Amiens
Toll road 27.8 mi
28. Take the exit toward Dieppe/Amiens/Calais/A151/Rouen
Toll road 1.1 mi
29. Merge onto A29/E44
Toll road 22.6 mi
30. Take the exit onto A28/E402 45.6 mi
31. Take the exit onto A16/E402 toward Boulogne/Calais
Toll road 44.3 mi
32. Take exit 29 toward Boulogne-Centre/Outreau/Le Portel 0.6 mi
33. Merge onto N416 1.1 mi
34. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto N1 0.4 mi
35. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on N1 0.1 mi
36. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on N1 0.9 mi
37. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit 0.6 mi
38. Slight left at Rue Ferdinand Farjon 427 ft
39. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit 0.4 mi
40. Slight right at Dover - Boulougne-sur-Mer 30.1 mi
1 hour 50 mins
41. Continue on Dover - Boulogne-sur-Mer 0.2 mi
42. Continue on Eastern Service Rd 0.3 mi
43. Turn right at E Ramp 0.4 mi
44. Slight right at Dock Exit Rd 0.1 mi
45. At Eastern Docks Roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto A20 0.6 mi
46. Slight left to stay on A20 0.3 mi
47. At Prince of Wales Roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto A20/Limekiln St 0.2 mi
48. At Limekiln Roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto A20 0.3 mi
49. At Western Heights Roundabout, take the 1st exit and stay on A20 7.0 mi
50. Continue on M20 (signs for M20/London/Ashford) 49.7 mi
51. Continue on A20 (signs for London (SE)/Lewisham) 9.7 mi
52. At Clifton's Roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on A20 2.2 mi
53. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit and stay on A20 1.3 mi
54. Slight left at A2 0.7 mi
55. Slight right at A2/Kender St 72 ft
56. Turn right at Kender St 0.3 mi
57. Turn left at A2 1.9 mi
58. At Brick Layers Arms, take the 1st exit onto A201/New Kent Rd 0.6 mi
59. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto A302/St George's Rd 0.4 mi
60. Turn left at A3203/Lambeth Rd 0.6 mi
61. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto A3203 0.2 mi
62. At Horseferry Rd, take the 3rd exit onto A3212 0.4 mi
OSLO (Reuters) - Droughts, floods and rising seas linked to global warming could spur conflicts in coming decades, experts said on Monday, the eve of a first U.N. Security Council debate on climate change.Estimates are that planet Earth can sustain roughly one-third to one-half the current population. The cynic in me says maybe this current attitude of "sustainable growth" is merely a way to commit planetary genocide.
And the poor in tropical regions of Africa and Asia are likely to suffer most, perhaps creating tensions with rich nations in the temperate north which are likely to escape the worst effects of warming widely blamed on use of fossil fuels.
"Global warming increases the potential for conflict," said Janos Bogardi, head of the U.N. University's Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn.
"The most imminent effect is probably desertification and land degradation," he told Reuters. His group has projected that climate change might force hundreds of millions of people from their homes in the long term.
Why do I say this? Here's a thought experiment (with apologies to David Suzuki):
Take a bacteria, one single cell, and put it in a vial that's filled to the brim with food. Let's say this cell divides every minute, creating an exponential growth: in one minute, there are two cells; after two minutes, four cells; after three, eight cells, and so on.If one of the bacteria was prescient enough at 55 minutes to say, "Hey, in like five generations, we'll be out of food!" most of the Republican bacteria in the vial would say, "Why, you're nuts! 97% of the world is still full of food!" and go on driving their food-guzzling SUVs.
Now let's assume that this closed system (important point) is just big enough to support this kind of growth for one hour. When is the vial half full?
At 59 minutes, of course. At 58 minutes, it's one-fourth full. At 57 minutes, it's one-eighth full. At 56, one-sixteenth, and at 55 minutes, it's 1/32nd, or roughly three percent, full.
Notice something else, tho: in a closed system, no matter how efficiently you were to recycle food, you will eventually reach a limit where you can no longer sustain growth, and in fact, will kill the world.
Now, you could make the case that the bacteria should just build new worlds. OK, let's give them the technology to do just that. Let's say that by the 59th minute, they've built three new vials (quite the accomplishment), and so in minute sixty, just in the nick of time, they send half their people to one of the new "worlds".
In just two further minutes, all four of the vials will be full.
Resources are a zero-sum game. Yes, the universe is infinite, but there are constraints on what we can do, so effectively, the universe is not infinite, and certainly, certainly, our planet is not.
Given recent news about our oceans particularly our coral reefs, about our polar ice packs and caps, our honeybees and about fish, we are in the fifty-ninth minute.
But hey, let's be worried about gay marriage and the hateful words of an idiot, shall we?
global climate change
Sunday, April 15, 2007
McCain said arguably the dumbest thing a politician has said all year (don't click the link, I'll copy excerpts over...it's a link to the chief cheesehead of right wing bloggers, the self-inflatable Cap'n Ed Morrison):
I took part in a blogger conference on my lunchbreak today with Senator John McCain on the topic of Iraq. McCain, who gave a speech on Iraq at the Virginia Military Institute earlier today, wanted to reach out to New Media sources for his perspective on the progress of the war, the critical nature of our effort there, and the need to persevere until we succeed.[...]OK, a couple of observations here....
I asked the Senator whether Moqtada al-Sadr's new orders for the Mahdi Army to attack American forces could cause a collapse of the Maliki government. McCain thinks Sadr is mostly bluffing; he waited too long and has not made a personal appearance for too long, and a defeat at the hands of the American and Iraqi forces would finish him. Joking that he was "digging for the pony here," he predicted that Sadr would back down as he has in the past rather than take that big of a gamble.
We will know within a few months whether the surge will succeed, McCain told us. By that time, we can see whether Maliki has the political strength and will to make the necessary adjustments. If the US cannot succeed in Iraq, McCain believes that David Petraeus has the strength of character to tell that to the President and then to the American people. Petraeus believes we can prevail, McCain told us, and that we must.
First, Cap'n Cheetos, when your "lunchbreak" lasts eight hours and includes mass quantities of alcohol, I think you really ought to reclassify it as a "job." And you might ponder applying to the NEA for a grant as performance artist.
Second, the most remarkable part of this amazing mess of a "briefing" is that the White Ring bloggers didn't point out a very glaring little piece of reality: April 12 was the day of this circle jerk-off. Here's what happened on April 11:
Najaf - Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shi'as burned and trampled on US flags in the holy city of Najaf on Monday at an anti-American rally called by firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein.Now, that doesn't sound like much of a "backing down." If anything, it sounds like a rally one might hold in advance of the return of one's leader, a saviour or messiah perhaps.
Large crowds of men, women and children holding Iraqi flags and anti-US banners massed in Najaf and the nearby city of Kufa to protest against what they said was an American occupation of Iraq.
The rally is seen as a show of strength for the cleric who has not been seen for more than two months, since the launch of a security crackdown in Baghdad aimed largely at reining in his militiamen accused of killing Sunni Arabs.
All that was missing were the palm fronds from the Shi'a.
It's true, al-Sadr left Baghdad in advance of the surge. After all, who's to know if President Dumbya really, really meant it this time? He's failed so many times before in his "progress in Iraq" attempts. Al Sadr probably figured, correctly, that like so many things in BizarroBushWorld, it would have the opposite effect: "Me send more troops in, help make fight bigger!"
Who wants to hang around a town where hundreds were already dying each week, and things looked like they could get worse? He might get hit with, you know, body parts, and unless you're a cast member of CSI, you sort of want to stay away from that sort of debacle.
And in truth, despite an initial adjustment period by the insurgents, things look to be getting worse in Baghdad. Already, some of the allegedly safest buildings in Iraq are being bombed again., and the insurgency seems to be spreading its terror to outlying cities like Karbala.
Ironically, making Bush's surge bigger. And I mean that in a totally nonsexual way, get your mind out of the gutter.
As with so many things this President has said, there's not only been a backlash that has played into his hands, but also a deepening anxiety across this country that, in fact, he's never intended for anything but a permanent military presence in that country (feel free to spout conspiracy theories long held in comments). And truthfully, many of his moves have been questionable for someone who's stated goal was to
Moqtada Al Sadr, make no mistake about it, didn't run from the surge so much as run from the distinct possibility that he might get killed accidentally in the crossfire (or not so accidentally). My suspicion is that Al Sadr has been in talks with Ayatollah Al Sistani about getting religious cover for a renewed and up front assault on the coalitin forces occupying his country. Clearly the negotiations we heard about weeks ago between the US and insurgents has broken down.
It's going to get really ugly this summer.
Oh...the "dig for the pony" note...Apparently, that other "cut and run" Republican, Ronald Reagan, once joked that he had to shovel so much shit, he kept digging because there "must be a pony in there."
Yea. That ought to inform you of the kind of people we're dealing with here. They revel in their stupidities...and you'll note McCain's rather cynical view of his past denialist lunacies when it comes to supporting this war.