Saturday, May 05, 2007

Special Saturday Edition: Friday Music Blogging

My favorite Peter Gabriel video ever. That's Kate Bush with him.

Simple. Elegant. Just listen to the words and imagine a man who's worked for GM or Ford all his life.

Imagine the one thing he would want in his whole life at that final moment, as he stands on that bridge.

I've Had My Fill Of Patience!

The trope that Bush used to veto the funding bill (and deny our troops the armor and ammunition they need) was that to set a date certain would give our adversaries comfort, and allow them to withdraw until we leave. "All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq," he said.

Possibly true, although they don't seem to care all that much. This war isn't about "us v. them" as much as it's about "them v. them" and we're just occupying space. But an article at Reuters today made me formulate something that has been bugging me for a while now:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wearied by steady losses and few tangible signs of progress in the war in Iraq, the U.S. public is running out of one resource America's enemies appear to have in abundance -- patience.

Impatience with the war, now in its fifth year, was reflected in the elections that drove President George W. Bush's Republicans out of power in Congress in November. Since then, Bush named a new secretary of defense and new military commander in Iraq charged with implementing a new strategy.

But despite repeated appeals from Bush for patience while more troops arrive in Iraq to carry out the new strategy, opinion polls show that pessimism runs deep and most Americans favor a deadline for the withdrawal of troops.
Now, Bush has always said he doesn't govern by polls (despite the numerous flipflops that his administration has done based at least in part on, well, polling), and that might be an admirable trait for someone who has a grasp of reality.

But here's the truth: the insurgents, Al Qaeda, Iran, Syria, Sunnis and Kurds all DO read the newspapers, Mr. President, and believe it or not, they actually own calendars!

They know two things:

1) The American people stand three-quarters of the way out of the door of Iraq.

2) In 626 days, the next administration will take over. No one, despite what people are saying on the campaign trail to pander for right wing votes, will continue this war of yours much beyond that date, and that's assuming Congress hasn't figured out a way to take the widdle cap gun out of your hands and drag you home for supper, young man!

So they figure, "Eh! In 627 days, there will be another 3,000 American killed. No biggie. Then the fun begins anyway."
Judging from Islamic fundamentalist Web sites, there is no shortage of patience on the side of America's enemies. The insurgents appear confident they can draw on a seemingly endless supply of new recruits.

"Although ... we have killed some huge number of enemy combatants (perhaps 20,000+), without fail the armed insurgents, militia and Al Qaeda in Iraq apparently regenerate both leadership cadres and foot soldiers," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in a memorandum to U.S. military leaders after a visit to Iraq in spring.
See where I'm going with this?

It doesn't matter if we set a date certain or not, the insurgents and the occupied are perfectly willing to wait us out. They know the American people won't allow you unlimited use of force, they know the army that's there already is exhausted, and worse, they know you're losing allies by the day.

My sense is that Bush is terrified. He's like the kid who got a failing grade in history, who doesn't want to show his dad the report card because he knows he'll be beaten (I should know the feeling; I was that kid...nevermind that I got the grade because some girl cheated off my test). So rather than own up to his mistakes and admit there has to be a better way, he's going to stubbornly stick to a path that can only lead to further death and destruction, hoping that some exit presents itself.

Praying the problem goes away, in other words.

There are plenty of plans on the table now that allow us to take some of the pressure off our troops, while protecting those precious few areas of Iraq that seem to be in pretty good shape, like the Kurdish north. For example, the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton report, suggested perhaps partitioning the country into three autonomous regions, with equal shares of the national oil revenues going to all three. We could modify this to include American troops in the Kurdish north, allied troops in the Shi'a south, and the middle would effectively be labelled a "no-fight" zone, where we would enforce peace only when we had to, lightning fast strikes and back out. No more occupation.

Oops! I forgot. That was one of my "NotPresident" policies that I wasn't going to announce until I became NotPresident...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Herb Alpert - Rise

One of the sexiest songs ever written, in my opinion.

Friday Kitten Blogging

In ur tUb, cLoggging uR drainz

Some Good News On Global Warming

The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released this morning and it contains some good news, for a change:
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Humans need to make sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 50 years to keep global warming in check, but it need only cost a tiny fraction of world economic output, a major U.N. climate report said on Friday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in the third of a series of reports, said keeping the rise in temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius would cost only 0.12 percent of annual gross domestic product.

"It's a low premium to pay to reduce the risk of major climate damage," Bill Hare, a Greenpeace adviser who co-authored the report, told Reuters at the end of marathon talks that ran over their four-day schedule to finalize the document.
So let's say you make $50,000. The cost, on that scale, would be $60.

Cheaper than a cup of coffee a week.

This places the responsibility for cleaning up global carbon emissions squarely in the lap of the developed world, to both clean up their acts as well as assist the developing world in leapfrogging fossil fuel technologies to more efficient energy production methods.

Naturally, as this report is the result of over 100 countries having their say in it, it's a barely legitimate assessment of the costs and benefits of these expenditures, but hell, it's a legitimate start and may help enough to avert devastation and tragedies worldwide.

Too, there will undoubtedly be some bleatings on the right, as this tactic will pretty much ensure that new technologies to replace antiquated ones will be introduced. Privatization of utilities, for example, means that it will be more difficult to exchange older coal-based power generation with cleaner technologies, since there will be enormous pressure from short-term investors to keep the status quo.

Hey, I'm sure that extra buck or two in their annual dividends can help them reduce greenhouse gases, right?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I'm not a big fan of rap...I do have a couple of Run-DMC and Eminem tunes on my iPod, but I've always like Busta Rhymes as a personality, so it's sad to see him battling what looks like a very serious substance abuse problem, complicating what appears to be some anger management issues. Good luck, dude.

2) This looks like just the ticket for society today. It's funny how we revel in our shortcomings, but feel a need to cover them up.

3) Which leads me to today's thought: Truth is never profitable. Think about it (and yes, I'm brushing up on my Bokononism). The most profitable ventures in history have been about deceit and illusion.

4) This is a sea serpent found off the coast of Florida in shallow water. It's about seven feet long. The head appears to be just out of frame on the right hand side. I'll see if I can dig up the video for you. UPDATE:

5) Even the folks down in Texas don't want to wall off Mexico!

6) It's nice to see the New York Post being true to form as a homophobic sounding board. They even managed to side-slip the knife into the Catholic church pedophilia scandal, linking it to gay men.

7) Ten Little Indians.

8) Five dollar a gallon gas is just around the corner.

9) "Where In The World Is Matt Lauer?" is taking place this week on the Today Show. For once, it hasn't sucked. He's been to a Boeing plant in Seattle, Bhutan, Ireland, and today, Dubai, all newsworthy places, and has discussed real issues with people who know stuff. Tomorrow: South Africa. (prediction)

10) The weird winter we had --first we had a cold snap, then mild temperatures for nearly two months, followed by an extended cooling down-- has wreaked havoc in gardens all over the place. Tulips and lillies are blomming side by side, and the azaleas are not far behind. All this is happening as both cherry and apple blossoms begin to fade and fall to the ground. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

11) Needless to say, I think my allergies are hammering me, which is why I can't be bothered to think today and post some long screed about Condi Rice's Syria visit, and Bush's offhanding of any Iranian encounter. We really do have children in charge.

12) Martini Republic asks the burning question: which high school classmate has sodomized more people? It may take you a while to realize who the person on the right is, so let me give you some clues: add about a hundred pounds, mounds of body hair, and imagine a 14" dick. Let me know if you can't get it, still.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Monty Python explain the choices of the Bush Iraq plan

...Then Let's Break Him

While reading this article, please consider the concept of "karma" (the Wiccan Three-Fold Law, not the Hindu precept):
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With his Iraq strategy mired in chaos, his inner circle besieged and a hostile Congress asserting itself, there is still one thing President George W. Bush can depend on -- his own refusal to bend.

Even with fellow Republicans increasingly questioning the wisdom of his policies, he shows little sign of wavering, reflecting a single-mindedness that has become a defining trait of his presidency.

Bush's supporters call it the mark of a principled leader, while critics see it as symptomatic of a reckless worldview that mistakes intransigence for resolve.

What it means in practical terms, however, is no end in sight to political gridlock in Washington.
It is at the very least feckless and reckless behavior. Presidents who have stood on principle without making some pass at compromise have found themselves on the very bottom of the food chain when the time comes to assess history.

This intransigence is not a signal of strength, but rather a fear of being wrong. That's fine for an umpire in a meaningless baseball game, whose authority must remain unquestioned in order to be effective, but for a President dragging 300 million of his countrymen down with him, it's not just suicidal, altho there are clear overtones of suicide in this thinking.

And suicide is borne out of fear: of pain, fear of loss, fear of suffering, fear of humiliation. Just ask Cho Seung-Hui. Fear becomes anger, anger becomes stubborness, and stubborness becomes an almost religious righteousness.

This is partly a calculated strategy on Bush's part: by engaging in gridlock, he hopes to effectively kill the Federal government. The problem is, the things that trouble America will still be there when he's gone and his successor, be she Republican or Democrat, will almost instantaneously transform the shabby, dark gray landscape Bush leaves in his wake into a vibrant world of laws and rules and nuance.

One hopes. It could go either way, now that Bush has opened the door of evil and allowed the US into the Garden of Gethsemane for his betrayal of our nation and its values, a place to prepare for our sacrifice. And what a sacrifice we face, if this evil is allowed to perpetuate, even until January 20, 2009, for his successor could just as easily exploit the weaponry Bush leaves in his wake (assuming he's adult enough to give up power that day) for her own purposes, and benign tyranny is tyranny still.

I am deeply troubled by this intransigence on his part. I believe it is time we broke him, if he will not bend.

I call on Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to ignore his veto and his whining threats and to simply not offer up another appropriations bill for consideration: Make sure the blame is squarely on Bush's shoulders that he will not get to run out the clock, and thus lay blame for the tragedy that is the Iraq invasion onto the next President's shoulders.

Make sure the message gets out that Bush denied funding to his own troops fighting his own war, created within his own administration and lost on his watch.

Make sure that Republicans who seek to succeed him know that the Democrats will not roll over the way the 109th Congress did. This is a preventable catastrophe, unlike September 11 or Katrina. There will be no need for subpoenae and oversight after the fact if you apply the tourniquet now.

It is only in this way that President Bush, hat in hand, will come to the table and really talk. He may not, hell, he probably won't, do it, but at least the world will know that America now speaks with one voice and it is a voice of reason and sanity.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Women On Women

A very interesting study was released yesterday by the Associated Press:
An AP analysis of data from the 2006 American National Election Study Pilot Test found that when it came to selecting a candidate for president, gender matters more for women than for men. But it's a two-way street: Women are more likely to vote for a candidate because she is female, and also more likely to dismiss a candidate because of her gender, according to the analysis.
Meaning that while Hillary gets a first look by women because she's "one of us," women are also much faster to dismiss her as a candidate because she's a woman.

Interesting. Why, do you think, this would happen?
It's in part because some expect the first female president to be a reflection of them, only better, said Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, a group that aims to encourage women to lead in business and politics.

"We look at them and we say 'We want them to be perfect. ...' We hold them to a higher standard because they do represent us," she said. "Most of the male candidates running wouldn't be running if they were women. A woman John McCain's age would have a hard time, a woman with Barack Obama's experience would have a hard time."
Very interesting.

Granted, there's an idealization factor at play here. Whenever an unusual candidate runs for wide-range offices like Senator or President, we expect them to be like Caesar's wife: above reproach. This may not be a reflection of reality, but who said perception was reality? Remember, this current administration ran as "adults," yet turned out to be petulant children who believed in magic and fairies and miraculous solutions.

When John Kennedy ran as an Irish Catholic candidate, he took great pains to reassure middle Americans that he wouldn't be beholden to the Pope. He won, barely, against a sitting Vice President who had been handicapped by a notorious scandal while Vice President.

It should have been a walk in the park, but for the Catholicism issue (among other smaller issues).

Too, just this year, as Barack Obama has mounted what many consider the first serious contention for the Democratic nomination, we've seen an idealization factor at work, as noted by Senator Joe Biden: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, ... I mean, that's a storybook, man."


This is a deeper issue than just a woman running for President. The newness factor is inherent in many aspects of our culture, and we tend to set up our idols so high on the pedestal, it's impossible for them not to fall.

But with each fall, it makes it easier for the next one to climb a little higher on the pile of debris.

May Day! May Day!

Here's an excerpt from Armed Madhouse, Greg Palast's Most Excellent Book, now out in paperback goodness Plus! it's updated and expanded!
(More great investigative journalism-the real kind-including articles, podcasts, BBC-TeeVee newscasts, etcetera here.)

May 1st - Mission Accomplished

THE FEAR: Including Marines in a tube, learning to speak Terrorist, Bush’s Khan job, National Security Document 199-I and Osama’s Mission Accomplished.

What are you afraid of? Our Fear Salesman-in-Chief has something for everyone.

So, Osama Walks into This Bar, See?

…and Bush says, “Whad’l’ya have, pardner?” and Osama says…

But wait a minute. I’d better shut my mouth. The sign here in the airport says, “Security is no joking matter.” But if security’s no joking matter, why does this guy dressed in a high-school marching band outfit tell me to take off my shoes? All I can say is, Thank God the “shoe bomber” didn’t carry Semtex in his underpants.

I’m a bit nervous. It’s an “ORANGE ALERT” day. That’s a “low threat” notice. According to the press release from the Department of Homeland Security, low-threat Orange means that there will be no special inspections of passengers or cargo today. Isn’t it nice of Mr. Bush to alert Osama when half our security forces are given the day off? Hmm. I asked an Israeli security expert why his nation doesn’t use these pretty color codes.

He asked me if, when I woke up, I checked the day’s terror color.

“I can’t say I ever have. I mean, who would?” He smiled. “The terrorists.” America is the only nation on the planet that kindly informs bombers, hijackers and berserkers the days on which they won’t be monitored. You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to get a jump on George Bush’s team.

There are three possible explanations for the Administration’s publishing a good-day-for-bombing color guidebook.

1. God is on Osama’s side.

2. George is on Osama’s side.

3. It’s about the oil.

A gold star if you picked #3.

Osama’s Mission Accomplished

On Thursday, May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Forgetting to undo the parachute clips around his gonads, our President walked bowlegged on the ship’s deck in a green jumpsuit looking astonishingly like Ham, first chimp in space. The scene was so exciting that the media failed to notice that the War on Terror had ended on the previous Tuesday.

On that day, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld quietly acknowledged that he was withdrawing America’s armed forces from Saudi Arabia.

I’m always surprised at the debate over “What drives Osama? What does Al-Qaeda want?” There should be no confusion: Al-Qaeda states its mission, like most enterprises, on its Web site. Osama had it written out in English, in capital letters, so it wouldn’t be difficult to miss the point.

DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST THE AMERICANS OCCUPYING THE LAND OF THE TWO HOLY PLACES—EXPEL THE INFIDELS FROM THE ARAB PENINSULA The “two holy places” are Mecca and Medina, and their “land” is Saudi Arabia. That’s what Osama wanted: U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia.

Bin Laden issued his demand on August 23, 1996; and on April 29, 2003, the Tuesday before the President was chauffeured by fighter jet onto the deck of the Abe Lincoln, Mr. Bush gave bin Laden exactly what he wanted: U.S. troops sent packing from the Land of the Holy Places.

That’s astonishing. Until George W. Bush, the United States of America has never, ever, removed all our military bases from a foreign land no matter how much locals bitched or moaned. We even keep troops in Okinawa over the island’s strong objections, and World War II ended sixty years ago.

Am I accusing George Bush Jr. of being the first President of the United States to cravenly accede to the demands of terrorists? No, Reagan got there first, in 1984, when he gave in to Hizbollah’s demand and ordered our Marines to retreat from Lebanon.

No matter, President Bush was correct in announcing, “Mission Accomplished.” However, it was not America’s mission that was accomplished. It was Osama’s.


Greg Palast is author of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, released this week by Penguin.

Monday, April 30, 2007

(In)Action By Committee

So, I sees this headline, EU-U.S. Summit To Call For "Urgent" Climate Action, and says me to myself, "Hmmmm, maybe finally something is going to start happening.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The European Union and United States will agree at a summit on Monday that climate change is a central challenge that requires "urgent, sustained global action," according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, making her first trip to Washington since assuming the presidency of the EU, hopes the joint statement will lay the groundwork for a broader deal on combating global warming at a June G8 summit she will host in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm.
OK, so it's not pulling the fire alarm, but let's face facts: no multilateral agreement ever happened overnight, did it?

So what's this "call" going to entail? so much, it turns out. See, America and the E.U. have different regulatory standards, so the agreement to be announced this week will create:
A council led by EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen and White House economic adviser Allan Hubbard will be set up to monitor progress in aligning regulations and present annual reports to EU and U.S. leaders.

Oh dear lord, save us from those who stand in our way! Or to put it in the words of Queen Amidala:
I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!
People will die. People are suffering.

Let's make this very simple: the E.U. environmental standards are barely more acceptable than America's, and do just slightly more than nothing to assist the environment and mitigate the damages of global warming.

New standards, tougher even than Kyoto's, are required now, thanks to the hands-sitting-on by the Bush administration and more important, the European Union, who should have pressured Dumbya much harder to accept Kyoto and get with the program.