Saturday, March 31, 2007

"...we will have to choose whether we believe in the rule of law or the rule of the terrified."

The David Hicks story exemplifies the time in which we live. He seems to be an Australian counterpart to our own John Walker Lindh, a post-adolescent young man who in his early twenties made some very poor choices that will stain the rest of his life. I was about to put together an extended post about his story and that of John Walker Lindh, but it's too much trouble. Readers are able to do their own homework and come to their own conclusions.

It is my conclusion that both are examples of how misguided our children can become, but also how misguided are the systems charged with dealing with miscreants. The post heading comes from a comment by one of the writers at Cernig's blog.

The other angle of this story is that congress and the Supreme Court are both likely to substantially alter the Military Commissions Act that the GOP rammed through in the closing days of the last congress. My guess is that when everything is said and done, Hicks' conviction will be erased, at least according to his own government, and the lasting sanctions in his sentence (no profit from his story) will be ignored. He probably also can't be compelled to testify against others because of his irregular treatment, but we'll have to see what the ultimate shape of the rules of evidence is in the tribunals.

My guess is that in a fair court, the testimony of a person who was held in Guantanamo conditions for five years would be considered tainted. God knows who he implicated and why, but a defense lawyer should--in a fair court--be able to raise doubts about the origins of his claims in light of the evidence of torture at the facility.

And this is not to suggest that Hicks doesn't have valid testimony to give against others. That's the problem with what we've done at Guantanamo and other prisons around the world. We have dangerous criminals in our custody; we have evidence that can be used to build cases to keep those people in legal custody for the remainder of their lives in many cases. But we've tainted the elements required to such an extent that we will have to choose whether we believe in the rule of law or the rule of the terrified.

I know where I stand, even if I hate the outcome.


"...the potential to kill Osama via a crushing overload of joy."

Disclosure: This is a re-post from last November (11/18) when the famous "surge" was getting underway in Iraq. As we approach half a year later it looks as though events may be unfolding along lines outlined here. The US is in bed with some of the most unsavory characters in the country, people are still being killed by the score -- civilian and uniformed alike -- and the news is only different because the specter of an Iranian conflict seems more imminent. OBL, of course, is not the point. He may very well be dead by now. But if that is the case, his power, like that of all martyrs, is even more difficult to defeat.

It is easier to kill an individual than to kill an idea. In fact (and the war in Iraq is a recent illustration) killing individuals may spread an idea more than making it weaker. The "idea" in this case is that of America as occupier rather than liberator.

The seeds have been planted and nourished by the blood of many good Iraqis and Americans. But in a misguided effort to make the seeds grow, we are over-doing the "nourishing" part. As in gardening and farming, seeds cannot be made to germinate and grow overnight. In a few cases there may be more than one growing season until fruit is produced. Efforts to rush the process are apt to kill the plant before any fruit is harvested.


Wonderful image. Killing Osama with an orgasmic surge of happiness because the war in Iraq finally led to a development that would pour petrol into the already hot al-Qaeda recruitment fire.

That was the image painted by Eric Martin in yesterday's comment posted at American Footprints (Blake Hounshell/praktike's blog) and his own (total information awareness).

As the US finds its way out of the mess in Iraq, there are serious indications that at the last minute our policy may very well be to climb into bed with Shiite forces in one final effort "to once and for all neutralize the Sunni insurgent groups." If that happens it could be the most catastrophic of all possible decisions. The implications are breathtaking.

Osama would be afforded imagery and accounts of an all out, no holds barred Shiite/US alliance vanquishing a once-dominant Sunni population. The scenes of death and destruction would be graphic. The blame would shift to the Sunni regimes with friendly ties to the US. The narrative would be compelling. A true propagandist's coup, making the Christmas gift of the Iraq invasion itself appear a mere stocking stuffer.

It would set the passions of neighboring Sunni populations ablaze with ferocity. There would be little chance to contain the sectarian conflict within Iraq's borders. A larger regional war would likely catch a fire, with all its destabilizing permutations.

Although international relation is one of my passions my blog is not dedicated wholly to IR issues, and I imagine most readers have already left by this time. But for those who are still with me, go to the links and get informed.

Just because the US is about to end the occupation of Iraq (which will amount to hunkering down in the Green Zone in Baghdad, furnished with a lifetime supply of military and technical resources, keeping troops there in significant but less visible numbers and trotting them out from time to time to remind whoever purports to be in charge what might happen if they fail to show proper respect...) it is still not too late to make matters even worse.

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

That's from the Guardian and elaborated on by Swopa, yet another very smart group of blogger/commentators who follow these matters. I am no longer surprised when developments like these occur. I'm simply disappointed.
Getting older is not helping my attitude. I heard an interesting interview two nights ago with an author who has written a biography of Andrew Carnegie whose "Gospel of Wealth" made him an out caste among his super-rich peers. He held to the solid belief that wealth came from the community and it was incumbent on anyone who because rich to return to the community before he died whatever wealth he had accrued during his lifetime. He considered dynastic wealth, passed on children, to be an aristocratic notion that would not do anything to raise the standards of mankind.

It was an interesting interview, making me want to learn more about this man whose name is still a household word. But what made me remember him was something the writer said toward the end. Carnegie was a little man with a big mouth, a textbook example of how a very short person (he was under five feet) displays a Napoleonic personality. He talked, wrote and travelled endlessly. He was also a dedicated peace activist (another quality that marginalized him among his peers...silly guy, thinking that peace was better than conflict...) but for the last three years of his long life he simply stopped talking altogether. He gave up. He was disillusioned with mankind and seemed to come to the sad conclusion that he could say nothing that would make any difference to the world.

I can relate. Whether it's urging someone to do a better job of stewarding resources, working hard, getting better organized, moving from a credit economy to a cash economy...or striving to advance unpopular political causes...I find myself getting tired. When employees "call in" for whatever reason, or drivers behave more like children than adults, or (fill in here your own favorite example) I am no longer surprised. Politics is only the same expression of human folly writ large. It just makes me feel disappointed.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sabre-rattling with Iran

I only hope these are just threats, not plans...
Via A Persian's Perspective...

The long awaited US military attack on Iran is now on track for the first week of April, specifically for 4 AM on April 6, the Good Friday opening of Easter weekend, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli.” Uglanov cites Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff for his account.
The attack is slated to last for twelve hours, according to Uglanov, lasting from 4 AM until 4 PM local time. Friday is a holiday in Iran. In the course of the attack, code named Operation Bite, about 20 targets are marked for bombing; the list includes uranium enrichment facilities, research centers, and laboratories.

Via Judith Weiss...
The very public diplomatic game going on among England, Iran, and America, masks a deadly covert war that does not make the front pages of your newspapers.
Why have the Iranians chosen this moment in time to kidnap these British troops?
First and foremost, Iran's economy is in shambles. The mullahs are desperate to divert restless public attention from domestic troubles: lack of basic services, food and gas — to the "foreign devil." It's a reliable Communist ploy that the Islamic tyrants find most useful. Hence, all the sound and fury regarding Holocaust denial in Tehran. It's the oldest playbook in the world: scapegoat the evil Jooz!
Several weeks ago, to slow the march of this genocidal plan, Israel's Mossad assassinated an Iranian nuclear scientist.
In retaliation, in Paris, David Dahan, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry Mission to Europe, was assassinated by Iranian agents, the MOIS. The Israelis put out the cover story that Dahan committed suicide, but it is quite clear that this was a MOIS hit. Dahan died in service to his country. Baruch Dayan Emet.
Ali Reza Asghari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister, defected to the West while visiting Turkey. He is now being questioned by US intelligence. Asghari is a most valuable asset. The West will use his information to analyze the Iranian nuclear defense capabilities.
This is a tremendous threat to Iran's nuclear establishment. You can be sure that Israeli and American pilots are, at this very moment, punching in new coordinates, and flying practice missions with ferocious bunker-busting payloads that are just right for their newly acquired targets.

The cheerleaders are getting their act together...

Hugh Hewitt: Now let’s get to the first major issue of the day, which is Iran. Mr. Speaker, if the United Kingdom feels obliged to use force, if diplomacy fails to get their people back, will you applaud?
Newt Gingrich: I think there are two very simple steps that should be taken. The first is to use a covert operation, or a special forces operation to knock out the only gasoline producing refinery in Iran. There’s only one. And the second is to simply intercede by Naval force, and block any tankers from bringing gasoline to Iran…
HH: Would you do, would you urge them…
NG: And say to the Iranians, you know, you can keep the sailors as long as you want, but in about 30 days, everybody in your country will be walking.
HH: So how long would you give them, to give them that ultimatum, the Iranians?
NG: I would literally do that. I would say to them, I would right now say to them privately, within the next week, your refinery will no longer work. And within the following week, there will be no tankers arriving. Now if you would like to avoid being humiliated publicly, we recommend you calmly and quietly give them back now. But frankly, if you’d prefer to show the planet that you’re tiny and we’re not, we’re prepared to simply cut off your economy, and allow you to go back to walking and using oxen to pull carts, because you will have no gasoline left.


HH: I agree with that 100%. Would your recommendation to the United States President be the same if Iran seized our forces?
NG: Absolutely. I mean, the reason I say that, it is the least violent, least direct thing you can do. It uses our greatest strength…you know, the mismatch in Naval power is absolute. And so you don’t have to send troops into Iran. Everybody on the left is waiting for conservatives to say things that allow them to run amok and parade in San Francisco, and claim that we’re warmongers. I want to avoid war by intelligently using our power to eliminate the option of sustaining an economy, so that the Iranian dictatorship will be shown to be the hollow dictatorship it is, so the people of Iran decide they’d like to have a decent government with real electricity and real gasoline, so they overthrow it. And I want to do that without risking a single American life, or being engaged in a single direct confrontation. And Naval power lets you do that.

"I want to avoid war," he said. But that was Part Two of the plan after using covert or special forces operations to disable Iran's only gas refinery. "Covert" in this case may mean having plausible deniability.
Somebody blew up your only gas refinery!
We're shocked, shocked!
Who might do such a thing?
That's too bad. Well I'll tell you how to avoid having to deal with US troops on top of whatever other problems you have...
Got it? Boy, that's what I call a real exercise in diplomacy.
One of Mao's most famous lines was "Political power grows out of the mouth of a gun." Oh, well. it was a later Chinese leader who added "It makes no difference what color the cat is as long as it catches mice."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bloggingheads TV

Wanna see how some bloggers look and talk?
Bloggingheads TV is the online place to go.

Garrison Keillor joked once that he was better suited for radio than television because of his looks. (I think he looks fine on TV but it makes for a great line. His looks show...shall we say, character.) I can see how bloggers as a group might be advised to stick with their keyboards, but there is a home-movie/YouTube quality to Bloggingheads TV that is refreshing.

There may still be a few technical wrinkles to be ironed out, but I'm having no problem. I added a link to the blogroll and Bloglines will pick up new material as it is posted.

→►As an aside, I am still amazed that the Blogger spellchecking feature still refuses to recognize words like bloggers, blogroll or Bloglines. Ain't technology great?◄§

Background reading HERE
and HERE.

H5N1 Watch -- Experts Are On the Job

This summary from the NY Times is not easy reading for laymen. Too many references to the particulars of biochemistry and such. But I find scanning it to be reassuring. Despite the hype smart people all over the world are keeping watch on the spread of this deadly virus, waiting to react swiftly when a mutation occurs jumping the species barrier to humans, triggering a human-to-human strain. When that happens, the much talked about pandemic will be underway.

...even though the human death toll from H5N1 is still below 200, scientists around the world are racing to study the ways in which it might mutate to spread easily among humans.

The 1918 Spanish flu, they argue, was not even noticed until it had killed thousands. It might have been gathering virulence for years, hidden in the background of seasonal flu deaths.

Today’s H5N1 flu is probably changing more slowly, because health officials have been vigilant about attacking clusters of cases, which presumably wipes out the most dangerous strains. Whenever several human cases appear, even in remote villages in Indonesia or Egypt, local officials and World Health Organization teams move in to kill all the local poultry and dose all the humans with antiviral drugs — the so-called Tamiflu blanket strategy.
...flus mutate incessantly wherever they move, and in viral samples from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, many individual changes that look potentially dangerous have been spotted.

In May 2005, for example, the virus in China escaped in migratory birds going north and traveled across Russia, Europe and Africa. It became known as the Qinghai strain after the lake in Northern China where thousands of ducks and geese were found dead. (The older strain in Southern China and Southeast Asia is sometimes called the Fujian strain.)

The Qinghai strain has a mutation known as PB2 E627K. (The abbreviation can be read this way: at position No. 627 on polymerase basic protein 2, the amino acid called glutamic acid, abbreviated by scientists as E, has been replaced by lysine, known as K.)

The change helps the virus grow at the temperatures found in human noses, which are cooler than the insides of birds’ intestines.

It is “characteristic of a gene that’s been in mammals,” said Dr. Robert G. Webster, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “It says to me that it was in a mammalian species in China, and got back into ducks. But what species? We don’t know.”

The Qinghai strain has now reached about 50 countries.

Thanks H5N1 Blog for the link.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Autism File -- Echolalia and other things

One of my many posts about Amanda Baggs popped up in the referrals and led me to drill back into the links. Among the comments at the CNN link I found this...

My daughter also showed signs of autism right from birth, and the doctors dismissed it, at the time. She isn't non-verbal, but the opposite.

Combine ADHD with echolalia, and you get a child that repeats everything non stop. As she has grown and come to understand her environment a little better, she has, more and more, progressed to using the correct "pre-recorded" phrases for the situation. I am not around other children her age often enough that I notice constantly that she speaks a little differently, but I do notice it when I spend time around other children.

Sometimes, her unusual turns of phrase are actually more appropriate than what would be considered the 'norm'. She has always believed her middle name was Caffeine (Kathleen) and with the ADHD, it is often more appropriate. She asked if a boxing ring was the same as a bathtub ring, and says 'buckle me out' as the opposite for 'buckle me in', and asks us to 'take her a bath' instead of give. It makes sense, and I have often described her way of speaking as someone who did not learn English as a first language.

I love how she has brought a fresh new perspective on things I had become used to. I ache to see how loud silence is for her, and how frightening things we all take for granted are. (sensory integration disorder seems to twine through autism, silence can be loud, visual things can taste, light can hurt, and so on)

I applaude you, Amanda, for having the drive to do what you have done, even though as you say, communicating in words is not your natural state. Thank you for expending the effort to teach.

I suppose I am lucky to have been born with an open minded personality, my first experiences with someone who could not communicate as I did, did not make me think they could not, but made me think - how can i? Thus I met my best childhood friend.

I am still not convinced that autism is a disease that needs to be cured, but perhaps more of an evolution into a new way of communicating.

Lots more to read at the link. Inspiring and enlightening. Life-changing, perhaps? Consider this...
Amanda, I watched your video and the news piece about you and read your blog, and I love what you say about people with autism and other differences being treated as "real people". I believe all people (and beings, like you said about cats) are in a spectrum and all are valuable. I am bipolar. A lot of my friends, my spouse, and my child are bipolar. I've been chastised by doctors for choosing a bipolar donor and having a bipolar child, and then marrying a bipolar spouse, like i am doing some horrible thing by "creating more broken people" and valuing a bipolar family. but we are not broken. we think and feel and communicate differently from what you called
"nuero-typical". i love that term. We bi-polar people take medication to function in the "normal" world, but it costs us. it costs our creativity and our brain-speed and our intensity. i value you and i wish you a wealth of experience communicating in your own way and interacting with the world in your own way. it is valuable and special and REAL. - Toby

Reading these comments reminds me of that wonderful film, Benny and Joon. I've only seen it two or three times. In my estimation it is one of the great movies of our time. Very smart. There are tons of great moments, including this...

Benjamin and Juniper are discussing Sam's cooking. Sam is played by Johnny Depp. His character is nearly as uneven as Joon. He used an electric iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
J: He can really cook, can't he?
Benny: Yeah, although for grilled cheese, I might use the wool setting.
Joon: That's what I told him.
B: Really? What did he use?
J: Rayon. Silk would have been too soggy. Cotton would have...
B: Would have burned it.
J: Right. Fortunately, he consulted me before giving it steam. I was four square against it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Video - The I-Rack

You're gonna see it sooner or later.
You might as well see it now and get it over with.
H/T Lindsay. Thanks.

Women Soldiers...Another View

I came across this disturbing piece in Salon soon after it was published and I can't get it out of my head. Initially it struck me as one of those muckraking articles like Mother Jones prints, based on solid facts but so focused on the solid facts that the reader is led to believe that there are no other solid facts that might counterbalance the thesis being advanced. But in this case something rings true about the thesis, that women in uniform, in combat, are more than likely subject treated with the same atavistic impulses by the men around them that drive the whole enterprise of being good warriors.

Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. As a result, the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. The military's definition of sexual assault includes "rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts."

Unfortunately, with a greater number of women serving in Iraq than ever before, these measures are not keeping women safe. When you add in the high numbers of war-wrecked soldiers being redeployed, and the fact that the military is waiving criminal and violent records for more than one in 10 new Army recruits, the picture for women looks bleak indeed. Last year, Col. Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark. The Army has called her charges unsubstantiated, but Karpinski told me she sticks by them. (Karpinski has been a figure of controversy in the military ever since she was demoted from brigadier general for her role as commander of Abu Ghraib. As the highest-ranking official to lose her job over the torture scandal, she claims she was scapegoated, and has become an outspoken critic of the military's treatment of women. In turn, the Army has accused her of sour grapes.)

"I sat right there when the doctor briefing that information said these women had died in their cots," Karpinski told me. "I also heard the deputy commander tell him not to say anything about it because that would bring attention to the problem." The latrines were far away and unlit, she explained, and male soldiers were jumping women who went to them at night, dragging them into the Port-a-Johns, and raping or abusing them. "In that heat, if you don't hydrate for as many hours as you've been out on duty, day after day, you can die." She said the deaths were reported as non-hostile fatalities, with no further explanation.

So afraid to pee after dark that they died of dehydration because they failed to drink enough liquids in the desert heat! That's unbelievable. One instance would be bad, but the reporter says the situation is chronic, not acute.

Since the story was published there have been a couple of "corrections" to the text, which leads me to think that subsequent to the publication some of the sources came under pressure to say they "misspoke" or relied on second-hand information. Sorry, but I'm not persuaded. I've had too many hours sitting in conflict resolution sessions to believe that where there is smoke there can be no fire.

This is not a short piece but the style is clear and easy to follow. Interested readers are urged to sit through the Salon ads at the beginning and read the entire piece.

I'm hoping that someone who knows otherwise will come forward to argue the case against this report. I have been reading and listening since it was published and all I hear is a deafening silence. That's not a good sign.


Learn about Nour al-Khal, Steven Vincent's translator.

Posted February 23 (Hyperlink dated to remain at the top for a month.)

The murder of journalist Steven Vincent was two and a half years ago. And Nour al-Khal, his translator who survived their horrible ordeal, is stuck in Iraq, hiding for safety, unable to get permission to come to America, despite continuing efforts on the part of Vincent's widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent.


Readers are invited to read my posts about what happened to Steven Vincent. I ask in advance that you excuse whatever anger may show through my writing. I know that rage and frustration are counterproductive to a calm and reasonable remedy for any problem. Do your own homework and decide what action, if any, will be appropriate for you. Email spamming comes to mind, but I hate spam as much as anyone. Constructive suggestions are welcome.


Thank you for reading.




February 27:

Lisa Ramaci-Vincent has left an MP3 link in the comments to an interview by Dick Gordon of American Public Media with Nour, who is hiding for safety. He speaks with both Lisa and Nour in detail about what happened at the time of the kidnapping and what has happened since. It is the first thirty-eight minutes of a fifty-minute radio program trvealing a vivid portrait of the people involved. There are hopeful toward the end of the narrative, but the story is ongoing.


Dick Gordon: There has been a change. Just in the last few weeks people in Washington say they are now turning their attention to Iraqis who are in danger for having worked with Americans. Nour al-Khal has been told she should expect she'll be interviewed by State Department officials.


I have sent emails to a few key people from my blogroll but the response has been tepid. In the interview Nour tells how after the incident that took the life of Steven Vincent and left her wounded she stood bleeding in the street where they had been dumped, trying in vain for some time to get someone to stop and give assistance. The story is yet another first-person account of the indifference of most people to what has been termed the "banality of evil." In some way the same indifference continues at the official/quasi-public level.


I take away from this interview that Lisa Ramaci-Vincent's efforts are at the moment yielding some results. I hesitate to do anything that might rock the boat. The best that anyone can do at this point seems to be to become informed, spread awareness of this "case" and put in a good word where ever possible.


Readers are urged to download this piece and give it a listen. No one can come away from this interview unaffected. Well, I say "no one" carelessly, knowing there are some individuals immune even to the most compelling situations. I should say "no one with whom I care to be associated."


Update, June 29

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Lisa, Nour is now in New York.

"It is also time for the Congress to assert itself."

"It is also time for the Congress to assert itself."

That was the last line in the testimony of Zbegniew Brzezinski (PDF) when he testified to Congress a few weeks ago. It looks as though enough members of the House got the message to send the appropriations bill to the President mandating a withdrawal of US forces by next year. In typical political fashion, of course, lots of our public servants had to be bribed into compliance by larding the bill up with enough pork to supply Campbell's beans for the next two generations, but in the end they did what they had to do.

It's been a while since I looked at the CSIS website. Before my regular morning reading today I found this piece of the puzzle. I noticed that Sam Nunn is also Chairman of the outfit, whose membership roll reads like a Who's Who of experts in international relations. Brzezinski's statement is noteworthy for it's clarity. He's not being ugly, just precise, when he opens with the following remarks.

It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

He comes quickly to the point next, saying "If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a 'defensive' U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan."

His statement is only five pages long, ending with the line heading this post, and in that short space he lays out the falacies and pitfalls that official policies have both caused and fallen into, warning that without a meaningful change of direction the future is apt to be worse than the recent past.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Reminder: Don't forget to vote.

The Pajamas Media widget in the sidebar is re-set weekly. If readers have not voted elsewhere, they may do so at the, the Hootsbuddy's Place precinct.

This may be the smallest of the precincts, so your vote will seem more important here than if you cast it elsewhere. And you don't have to vote for only one candidate. You get to pick one each of the Democrat and Republican lists.

No write-ins, though. You have to choose among a limited list of least-undesireables. Ralph Nader is not among them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Verdi's "Va Pensiero" [no longer] in Polish

So someone is having a Hebrew Slaves Party at work!
How crazy, insensitive and politically incorrect can you get?
But this is America and we can get away with anything but the N-word...and you can even say that it you're black.

So I got to thinking...You Tube! Right. I never go there just to browse, but this time I have a mission. I want to enjoy hearing the famous chorus from Verdi's Nabucco, one of the most memorable choruses in all opera. Makes the hair rise on your neck if it's done right.

So what do I find?
This wonderful Polish rendition, in Polish already, with festive psychedelic costumes and a BOOM-Chuk-Chuk cadence that is as irresistable as a beer hall sing-along.

Sorry. That video got pulled from You Tube.
Too bad.
This one is not as much fun, but you get the idea. This is the ending of the 2006 Winter Olympics with children singing...

[Okay, then. Embedding disabled. What a crock!
Here's the link to the You Tube site directly. I can never figure out how anyone thinks they will go viral if embedding is disabled. Goofy thinking.]
This is not your Mama's grand opera.
This is opera for the next generation.
Compare with this stiffer, cleaner, more formal rendition.
Lots of versions available on You Tube. Va pensiero seems to be a cult pop song in Europe.

I'm a stickler for class, but I prefer the rowdy version myself. Too much exposure to modern praise music, I suppose.

The story of the introduction of Verdi's Nabucco is one for the books. Verdi was not sure if his new production was ever going to get to the stage, and if it did how well it would be received.
His personal description is one of the great accounts of all time. I can't find it at the moment but he describes how everything seemed to be going to hell the day before the dress rehearsal. Musicians were in a foul mood, workmen were making noise with the sets and the scene looked like a sure catastrophe was about to happen. But when the chorus started to sing "Va Pensiero" the workmen stepped to listen. The whole place got quiet as the chorus continued. At the end the entire crew of workmen and others who were present burst into applause and went wild. Verdi knew at that moment he had a winner.

Iraq Refugees and US Policy

Of Iraq's 27 million prewar population, about 1 in 8—some 3.4 million people—have left their homes since the invasion, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (unhcr), and more than half of those have ended up abroad. Refugees International labels this the world's fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. Yet the Bush administration has refused to so much as acknowledge the refugees' plight, let alone help them get to safety or even provide basic humanitarian aid.

Link here to a Mother Jones piece about the dangers faced by Iraqis who have been most involved with the US mission. H/T Iraq Slogger.

I feel like a broken record. The fallout from the Iraq invasion continues to pile up and little is being done to ameliorate the problems. Am I alone concluding that if the situation in Iraq were improving these people would be trying to return, not leave?

All this talk about "winning" rings hollow to me as long as millions of people continue to flee their homeland. Add to that the official policy refusal to protect this population and I can only shake my head in disbelief.

A brief but hard-hitting assessment of the failure of US policy in Iraq has been released by a group of emminent political scientists. I got the link from Dan Nexon at Duck of Minerva.
Policy errors during the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq have created a situation in Iraq worse than it needed to be. Spurning the advice of Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki, the Administration committed an inadequate number of troops to the occupation, leading to the continuing failure to establish security in Iraq. Ignoring prewar planning by the State Department and other US government agencies, it created a needless security vacuum by disbanding the Iraqi Army, and embarked on a poorly planned and ineffective reconstruction effort which to date has managed to spend only a fraction of the money earmarked for it. [5] As a result, Iraqi popular dismay at the lack of security, jobs or reliable electric power fuels much of the violent opposition to the U.S. military presence, while the war itself has drawn in terrorists from outside Iraq.

As I read these remarks I am left wondering if anyone in authority ever bothers to do any reading at all. These are not the words of nut-cases or conspiracy theorists, yet the whole lot of them will be dismissed entirely with a sweeping phrase like "liberal professors." Have they been wasting their time all these years studying politics and foreign policy?

I am reminded of people with good intentions who tell me about the food business. I wonder if I might have wasted the last thirty or forty years.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Albert Einstein on Racial Prejudice

Radio blogging here...
I learned something the other day listening to Speaking of Faith.
Albert Einstein spoke out against racial prejudice in 1946.

In the United States everyone feels assured of his worth as an individual. No one humbles himself before another person or class. Even the great difference in wealth, the superior power of a few, cannot undermine this healthy self-confidence and natural respect for the dignity of one's fellow-man.

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the "Whites" toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: "Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability."

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man's quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

Popular You Tube links from Hootsbuddy

My time is limited this morning, but just noticed something my little handful of readers might enjoy know about. Some thirty percent of hits are now looking for You Tube videos. The phenomenon is like a forest fire in the Internets. And that doesn't reflect all the private messages being exchanged that never make the big time.
Here in no particular order is a list of posts from Hootsbuddy's Place that have been hit by searches in just the last 24 hours or so...

Tow Chinese Boys Singing "My Way"
Nina Simone: For all We Know and Others
Ray Bethell flying kites...Unbelievable!
ABBA -- Dancing Queen
Fun Two, Guitar Whiz, with Pachelbel’s Canon (This one got ten hits. Kid may be going places...)
Russian Climbing Video -- Parkour (My personal favorite set of three videos...)
Chris Bliss, Fantastic Juggler Video
Edith Piaf Returns
Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting - 1997 (Yesterday. Profanity advisory. But his profanity is nothing compared to the profane war in Iraq.)
Yet another animal video from You Tube

There are a couple more, but I'm out of time. That list can keep you busy for the rest of the hour. Unless, of course, you stay out of YouTube which case you might get hooked for longer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting - 1997

Let's see...
That would be a decade ago, about four years before the WTC attack. Long before we got into a war in the Middle East.
Those Massachusetts libruls are always talking nonsense, ya know?

Children with PTSD -- the Mother of all IED's

Preeti Aroon is an assistant editor at FP, which she joined in January 2007. She holds a master's degree in public policy from Duke University, where she was an opinion columnist and editorial page associate for The Chronicle, the university's student-run newspaper. A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Ms. Aroon was previously a copy editor and contributing columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, and she holds bachelor's degrees in Spanish and chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky. [LINK to Foreign Policy Blogger Bios.]

This post from FP is one of the most important and ominous warnings I have read concerning the real legacy of the war in Iraq. Thoughtful readers are invited to read it fully, exploring every supporting link.

I wish I had more words of hope than I do. All I can say is that the sooner the madness is brought to an end, the sooner the traumatizing of children will diminish. Unfortunately, if peace came tomorrow morning it would still be too little, too late for many.

There's a time bomb ticking in Iraq, but it isn't made from chemical explosives. It's made up of traumatized children.

U.S. newspapers have given extensive coverage to the mental health issues faced by U.S. veterans of the Iraq war. Most recently, the New York Times published a lengthy account of women's struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),and earlier this month, we blogged about a video-game treatment for traumatized troops.

If grown adults who are in Iraq for just a few deployments suffer such mental health problems, then what about the children there who have grown up surrounded by nothing but war and violence?

A recent CNN report brings attention to these "silent victims." CNN cites a World Health Organization study that found that 30 percent of children surveyed in Mosul, and 10 percent of those surveyed in Baghdad, showed signs of PTSD. Examples of traumatic experiences children have suffered include a fourth-grader whose father and uncle were killed before his very eyes, and a 16-year-old girl who was abducted, raped, and forced to sleep next to a dead body.Traumatized children grow into very troubled adults. What does that say about the future of Iraq? In the coming decades, it will become a nation run by psychologically damaged people, if the country isn't stabilized soon.

For a preview of what to expect, just look west to the children of the second intifada. Today, they are a nihilistic generation of young adults, filled with little hope and much despair.

The Middle East is filled with demographic time bombs. The latest may be the Iraqi trauma time bomb.

It isn't just Iraqi children, of course. To some degree everyone is affected...
I'm thinking about our own children now in uniform whose character scars sometimes remain long years after their uniform has been left behind.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two New Blogs: Hippy Gourmet and Ketchup Art

I can't believe it. In the short space of a few hours surfing I have come across two delightful spaces in the Internets that appeal to my geriatric Sixties-era heart. Well actually only one is an echo of the Sixties. The other is more or less timeless. You'll see which is which in a moment. Three and a half decades in the food business set me up to be a sucker for both.

First, here is a video from the Hippy Gourmet. I found it via Motion Abbey. Their video pick, also worth a look, is a short documentary about the solar-powered chariot. Surely the name alone is enough to prick your interest. Meantime, here is a recipe for Roasted Mixed Nuts Snack Mix. My favorite line: "I'm smellin' that nutty flavor again...I think my nuts are toasted!"


The other site, the timeless one, is also food related.

It's a photo blog consisting of, can see for yourself.

When you go to the site the first image will be a random selection from what is apparently a growing collection of creations.

There is no archive that I could find and little in the way of credits or explanation. My guess is that it's a fairly new site which will swell as people all over the world start messing up public eating places even more than they have in the past, this time with digital cameras (or cell phones that take pictures) in hand to capture various creations.

My work in a retirement community dining room has spoiled me. I remember well how often we had to clean jello off the carpet, dropped by unsteady toddlers and unnoticed (I will be charitable) by their busy parents who then were able to step in it on their way out, insuring an indelible trace of their dining experience would remain until the carpet finally got irredeemably nasty and had to be replaced. I shudder to think how this new trend will impact the dining set, especially if kids start doing it to be cute.

Hurry, retirement. Come quickly!

Here, thanks to 3Quarks, is "Mao Tse Tchup."

Monday, March 19, 2007

GPS-Microchip Shooting Rifle

Here's a neat little number to add to police inventories.

This ID Sniper from Empire North is used to implant a GPS-microchip in the body of a human being, using a high powered sniper rifle as the long distance injector. The microchip will enter the body and stay there, causing no internal damage, and only a very small amount of physical pain to the target. It will feel like a mosquito-bite lasting a fraction of a second. At the same time a digital camcorder with a zoom-lense fitted within the scope will take a high-resolution picture of the target. This picture will be stored on a memory card for later image-analysis.

So what is the use of ID Sniper? As the urban battlefield grows more complex and intense, new ways of managing and controlling crowds are needed. The attention of the media changes the rules of the game. Sometimes it is difficult to engage the enemy in the streets without causing damage to the all important image of the state. Instead Empire North suggests to mark and identify a suspicious subject on a safe distance, enabling the national law enforcement agency to keep track on the target through a satellite in the weeks to come.

The ID Sniper rifle was presented by Empire North in Beijing at the China Police 2002 exhibition.

Amazing. Not the technology, the impulse. And the obvious questions: Who's buying them? What's the nature of the market? I can't decide which is more sinister, this or roving bugs.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

CFR on the Iran / Saudi Struggle for Leadership

This piece from the Council on Foreign Relations outlines the emergence of Iran and Saudi Arabia as the two countries compete for leadership in the region. It includes these remarkable lines...

Sunni Arab fears of a rising Shiite Iran have only strengthened Saudi Arabia’s position. It has also helped lessen the tension Saudis feel toward Israel. With Iran now the “evil empire,” writes Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Israel almost stops being an enemy and perhaps becomes an ally."

They have managed to knock out half a dozen paragraphs without mentioning Syria. Issues are never as easy to simplify as we would like.
There is a Byzantine complexity to international politics. Most Americans don't have a clue. We can carp all we want about the president's shortage in the articulamation department, but this is not a problem as long as he holds on to power. Political power, not bullshit, is what makes the difference in most of the world. Like it or not, the Vice President and the president's advisors know how to play their cards. This snip is from the link above.
We might be witnessing a transition to the ambitious crown prince and long-serving defence minister, Sultan, one of the so-called Sudairi Seven princes (who have been reduced in number to six since the death of King Fahd in 2005). He has the backing of his full brothers (all sons of a mother from the Sudairi tribe, hence the sobriquet) including Interior Minister Prince Nayef and Governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman.

Such a shift in political fortunes might be of limited significance but for the advanced age of the crucial players. King Abdullah is 84 years old this year; Sultan, his putative successor, is 83 years old. (Other published ages are wrong, particularly for Sultan, who has a Zsa Zsa Gabor-like reputation for trimming years.) Both men have ailments reflecting their age -- Sultan successfully battled colon cancer a few years ago. Both probably have only months, rather than years, to live. (If Abdullah survives this year, he will become the longest-living son of the kingdom's founder, Ibn Saud.) What happens after him is a matter of conjecture: a system of succession announced by Abdullah in October 2006 is, as yet, untested. Senior princes will gather to choose in secret. Given his uncertain health, and a reputation for being grossly corrupt, Sultan's accession cannot be assumed. Indeed, he might pre-decease Abdullah.

As the events and probable dramas of the year play out, remember that the real players in the consensus-driven, decision-making of Saudi Arabia are Abdullah, Sultan, Nayef, Salman et al, the sons of Ibn Saud. Not formally educated and not necessarily intelligent, they have, however, acquired the wisdom of statesmanship over the years. (Nayef's wisdom is questionable, which is why he appears to have been sidelined to some extent.) The likes of Turki, Saud and Bandar, despite being so often in the news, are only grandsons of Ibn Saud. Although they each have years of public service, they are really only advisers. (Oil Minister Naimi is merely a technocrat and has zero power.)

In watching Riyadh, remember that Riyadh is also watching Washington DC, apparently disturbed by Democratic advances in Congress and the growing sharpness of the daily political sniping at the Bush White House. The United States and Saudi Arabia have had their problems over recent years, but the current Saudi leadership appears happier with this administration rather than any alternative prospect. Hence the sudden November invitation to Vice President Cheney to visit Riyadh for a tete-a-tete dinner with Abdullah. It was one hell of a long way to go for a meal. But Abdullah wanted to know Cheney's mind and Cheney found the Saudi monarch "on top of his game" on the issues discussed. Given the year's impending crises, and Saudi Arabia's centrality, it was probably vital. Keeping the kingdom away from any temptation to dabble in the quiet support of any al-Qaeda operation, provided the House of Saud itself is not targeted, would also be worthwhile.

Fareed Sabri Interview by Mahan Abedin

Saudi Debate is a forum publishing a " range of views about life, society and reform in Saudi Arabia. Business people, academics, political figures and journalists both within the kingdom and around the world have contributed to these discussions, and reached the conclusion that open and constructive debate is vital if issues of importance are to be addressed and better understood."

Mahan Abedin, former editor of the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor, is the director of research at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism, a London-based organisation studying Islamism, democratization and extremism in the Muslim world. Born in Iran but raised and educated in the United Kingdom, he writes regularly on Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Islamic movements and terrorism.

In this very candid interview one of Iraq's leading political figures, no special friend of the occupation, speaks clearly about the situation in Iraq. This is not the language of spin. The man advances cold, hard facts.

MA: Some American military commanders have claimed that the “surge” could last as long as 12 months, and maybe well into 2008. Is this possible?

FS: I don’t think it is viable to sustain an operation on this scale for such a prolonged period. I don’t envisage this operation lasting for more than 4-5 months. The Americans need to use the improving security situation to build something politically. Because if there are no breakthroughs on the political front then this operation will fail and the Americans will have to come up with a new strategy.

MA: But I thought you said this was the last chance to save Iraq!

FS: I meant this is the last chance for the Americans to stabilise the situation so as to save the political process which they established in Iraq after the invasion. I did not mean this was the last chance for the Iraqis to work together to save the country. But if the Americans fail again they will have to come up with a radically different strategy.

MA: What do you mean by a radically different strategy?

FS: If they fail they will probably reduce their forces, withdraw into their bases and just let Iraqi society implode. They will effectively be spectators to a civil war. I don’t think the Americans are going to leave Iraq anytime soon as some people envisage.

The entire interview is worth reading.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Climate Alchemy -- Turning Hot Air Into Gold

No, I haven't read the details.
I'm an essential Luddite about the issue.
The post title says it all.

Yet another animal video from You Tube

No excuse for posting this.
I just had to grab it before it got away...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Amanda Baggs on Drug Withdrawal

If the reader is not familiar with Amanda Baggs, this post is not going to make a lot of sense.
So if you don't know who she is, first do a bit of homework. Check out this link and come back and finish reading here.
I'll wait.


Okay then.
NOW go to this most recent post by Amanda and read her account of the variety of medications to which she has been subjected and her various responses. Sounds like she's been there, done that...

Many years ago, I was on a neuroleptic. I was found to be toxic on that neuroleptic (very toxic, in fact) and put on another one instead. That one was heavily sedating (among other things). Instead of doing anything with the dosage of the neuroleptic (Zyprexa, which they’d cranked up to 45 milligrams in their continuing tradition of overdosing me on things by prescription), they added Wellbutrin (lots of it) to the mix. I immediately felt deliriously and unreasonably happy, started believing all sorts of weird and grandiose things (and I’d been recently exposed to a lot of New Age crap, so that had a heavy influenced on what weird things I believed), and had way too much energy.

Now, when you have this kind of side-effect on Prednisone (and I have had an extremely similar one on that recently), it’s considered a side-effect of a drug. An unpleasant one, and one that needs to be watched out for and guarded against, but a side-effect, not something innate. When you have a side-effect like this on a psych drug, the assumption is too often that you had this all along as an “underlying issue” and that the proper thing to do is to “treat that issue” rather than to reduce or eliminate the psych drug.

So the next thing I knew I was being put on Lithium for either bipolar or schizoaffective disorder depending on who you asked. And I was beginning to think that maybe they were right about me being out of touch with reality for real, and becoming far more likely to want to take every drug they shoved at me, because even I was aware that something was a little “off” here.

She's just getting warmed up at this point.
Go to the link and read the rest.
This remarkable young woman is changing the way I look at people, medicine and just about everything else.

The "O-Word" Lifting its Ugly Head

It only took two or three years and several thousands of dead or wounded US and Iraqi men and women, but a diplomatic effort finally got off the ground, sort-of, aiming at negotiating an end to hostilities. It's not polite to say it out loud, but it seems clear that unless and until they cried "Uncle" our policy was to keep their feet to the fire for a good deal on behalf of Big Oil. No need to be prissy about these things. After all the fluff is blown away the term "interests" translates more into economic realities than humanitarian impulses to be charitable.

Comes now the Senate with an eye on the bottom line...
Do we really want to get our troops out and bring an end to the war in Iraq, or do "national interests" link our commitment to the profit margins of the petroleum industry?

The Iraqi Cabinet's approval of a draft law privatizing the country's oil industry was hailed as a political milestone by the Bush Administration last month, but critics are now blasting a House bill that makes the law a precondition for continued U.S. military support.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) called for the removal of the Iraqi hydrocarbon law, as it is called, from a supplemental war appropriations bill to be considered on the House floor next week, saying that the law "is a concerted effort to ensure that American oil companies are granted access to Iraqi oil fields."

The hydrocarbons law, which must still be passed by the Iraqi parliament, is one of six "performance measures" that Baghdad would have to meet in order to receive more funding from Congress this year, UPI reports. Failure by the Iraqi parliament to meet these benchmarks would result in redeployment of U.S. troops.

Kucinich called for reconsideration of the benchmark in a Monday letter to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and plans to propose an amendment on the House floor next week that would remove it from the supplemental. By requiring enactment of the law by the Iraqi government, "democrats will be instrumental in privatizing Iraqi oil," his website quoted him as saying.

Kucinich's amendment "in all likelihood is not going to get past the Rules Committee," a congressional staffer told, adding that the Congressman had not actively sought his colleagues' support for the amendment.

As Iraqslogger reported previously, the draft hydrocarbon law empowers Iraq's regional governments to negotiate production contracts with international oil companies, while calling for national distribution of oil revenues on a per capita basis.

But other provisions in the law undercut this revenue-sharing plan, opening Iraq's oilfields to foreign control, writes Antonia Juhasz in a New York Times op-ed:
"The law would transform Iraq's oil industry from a nationalized model closed to American oil companies except for limited (although highly lucrative) marketing contracts, into a commercial industry, all-but-privatized, that is fully open to all international oil companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of just 17 of Iraq's 80 known oil fields, leaving two-thirds of known — and all of its as yet undiscovered — fields open to foreign control."

The draft legislation is expected to encounter stiff opposition in Parliament from the Iraqi Accordance Front and the Iraqi National slate, as well as Iraq's oil unions, which represent tens of thousands of workers, UPI reports.

The Bush Administration "has been aggressive in shepherding the oil law towards passage," writes The New York Times' Juhaz, and has made the law a performance benchmark for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

It's not clear whether Kucinich's proposal to strike the law will garner much attention on the House floor, as no one in Congress has yet publicly supported him. Robert Naiman writes in the Huffington Post, "It's quite plausible that with a little public attention and lobbying, this amendment could pass."

Love that term: Iraqi hydrocarbon law.
Makes it sound like some kind of clean environment effort on the part of tree-huggers, doesn't it? Reducing greenhouse emmissions, maybe?
When I read stuff like this it makes me want to throw up.

"Oil Spot" Pacification and Economics

New term for me: Oil Spots, as in cleaning stains out of a garment one spot at a time, presumably before washing the whole thing. This clever little image is used to explain how the famous "surge" is being applied to peace-making and counterinsurgency in Iraq. John Robb explained last year in plain English.

A simple rendition of the oil spot process is:
►isolate (cordon off) an area,
►cleanse it of insurgents, and
►provide it with political goods (the process is then repeated in a new area while maintaining a cordon around the first and so on until the country was pacified).

He links to a Foreign Affairs piece explaining the process in more detail. It is very much like an approach I thought about two years ago, after Saddam was taken out but before a couple thousand US casualties and many more thousands of Iraqis were sacrificed to a very different wrong-headed approach. In other words, before we pissed all over our feet.

Whatever other drawback the plan may have (such as too-little, too-late), the economics of the approach seems to be the worst fly in the ointment.
...the oil spot approach to counter-insurgency is running into a major problem: it will likely wreck what's left of the Iraqi economy. Here's why. Oil spots require extreme restrictions on movement. That is Ok when the people that are involved are dirt farmers. However, in big cities like Baghdad, cars are needed to shuttle workers from home to job and back, everyday. Hence the problem. According to Iraqslogger, with the security plan in place, commutes that used to take 30 minutes now take 3 to 4 hours.
File this under "When will they ever learn."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Doc Searls Prophecy

Not to put to fine a point on it (I will leave that to others better informed than I) this caught my attention this morning.

We have to stop believing what our phone and cable bills tell us: that the Net is gravy on top of telephony and television, when it should be obvious that the Net is a base public utility while voice and video are just two forms of data that can ride on it.

Trust me: This will be a cause you care about sometime in the next two years.

It should be already.

This is why I try to keep up with this man.
He's the most well-informed source I have found not trapped in some little corner of cyber-space or sailing the nose-bleed heights of technology, never to be understood by ordinary mortals.
A few people still look at the big picture and see the forest as well as the trees.
Make a mental note when this comes to pass that you read it here first (presuming that you did...).

Foreign Policy Magazine -- What's going on this morning?

Blake Hounshell is a regular part of my morning reading.
This morning I can't get a connection, either through Bloglines or a Google search.
Instead the browser gets a message I have never seen...

"Too many connections"

What the heck is that?
I thought at first this new IE7 browser had too many tabs open, so I closed all but one. Still it didn't work.
I tried putting the simple address directly into the address field and that isn't working.
There is an old link that returns something, but trying to access anything on the sidebar gets a bunch of crazy clicking noises or the same "too may connectins" message.
I'm not very techno-savy, but is this what a DOS attack looks like?
I dunno.
I just hope it is taken care of soon. The preview window in Bloglines had a couple of stories that I wanted to read, but alas that window cannot be retrieved...
Is Blake Hounshell trying to spill some beans on someone and getting hit with a DOS attack to slow him down?
I'm no conspiracy nut, but some stories make me suspicious about people in high places.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Atrorney General Alberto Gonzalez Notes

Deborah White is one of this blog's most durable and on-task contacts. I've known her since before she started to work for the New York Times. (Betcha didn't know is a Times property; scroll to the end of the page and check out the fine print.) This morning's comments on the attorney general is a bundle of links that illustrate both his deficiencies and Deborah White's diligent homework.

I'm already in the choir, so I don't listen too closely when this kind of preaching begins. But for someone shocked that anyone these days would not only admit to being Liberal but says it in your face, this might be a good place to start reading.

In my opinion, this man's influence on U.S. policy has been nothing short of evil incarnate. Furthermore, Gonzales has not the slightest interest in democracy as a form of governance, and has routinely disregarded Americans' constitutional liberties.

For a refresher on what Mr. Gonzales is all about, see my article The Strong-Arm Ideology of Alberto Gonzales , in which I reviewed his judicial rulings (when he was a Texas judge) and stances on many key issues.

The sooner George Bush loses Alberto Gonzales, the better off our country will undoubtedly be. And the sooner the United States can commence healing from the terrible damage wrought by the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Gonzales triad.

I'm admittedly prone to holding strong views... but I'm not alone in this one.

On March 11, 2007, the New York Times unequivocally stated, "Mr. Bush should dismiss Mr. Gonzales and finally appoint an attorney general who will use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution."

And Tom Head,'s Guide to Civil Liberties and author of many reference books on civil liberties, American history, and international human rights, gives three primary reasons Why Alberto Gonzales Must Resign.

I say dump Alberto Gonzales now, and let the healing commence!

hilzoy puts in her two cents as well.


Friendly reminder...
Check out the Pajamas Media straw poll in the sidebar. Anyone can vote every week from now til they take it away, both Democrat and Republican, at the same time.
I'm looking forward to finding out if I have more than one or two readers and how their political proclivities are reflected in this little precinct.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pajamas Media Presidential Candidates Straw Poll

It's a trend.

They say almost three hundred sites have the widget now. So I'm on the bandwagon.

Imagine that. Old turkey librul like me with a PM feature in the sidebar! Makes me feel like an observant Jew with a shabbat goy. I heard once that Colin Powell did that in his younger days. That's why he was able to carry water for the boss up to the last minute. He had practice.

Who knows? Maybe I'll learn to justify the war and argue with Brzezinski when he grades this administration's foreign policy as "historically catastrophic" after giving the first George Bush a "B" and Bill Clinton a "C." That would be about one minute into tonight's seven-minute NPR interview.

The Crucial Importance Of Personality In Politics

Tom McMahon is a very smart man.
That's why I'm stealing his post and title vebatim.

An excerpt from the Irish AtlanticBlog:

It continues to surprise me that some people can survive and even prosper with what appears to be a complete lack of tolerable personality. Bill Clinton has it in spades, Hillary a lot less, Kerry none. Similarly in Irish politics. The Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, is charming. But I offer a story from a friend here in banking. An Irish TD (basically the same as a British MP) walks into a bank to cash a check. He is fairly well-known, but the teller is fairly young and does not recognize him, so asks for ID. Instead of showing it to her, he starts getting upset, doing the whole "Don't you know who I am?" routine. An older teller who recognized him rushed over to settle his ruffled feathers, leaving the young bank teller upset and embarrassed. I won't say who it is, because I do not want the legal hassle, but I will note who it is not. It was not Bertie, obviously. Bertie would have shown her ID, and then spent five minutes, Bill Clinton like, persuading her that it was all his fault, and he would have left the bank with her worshipping him to the end of her days.

This is the very reason, my friends, that it really doesn't matter that Barack Obama had 17-year-old parking tickets, or that his church is a tad too Afro-centric.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Halliburton CEO moving to Dubai

Veeery interesting...

Halliburton Co. is making a big push to expand its presence in the Middle East, with Chief Executive Officer Dave Lesar spending a substantial part of his time running the company from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Lesar said that from his Dubai office he will be concentrating on building the Houston-based oil-services company's business with national oil companies in the Eastern Hemisphere, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East. "Growing our business here will bring more balance to Halliburton's overall portfolio," Mr. Lesar said in a statement. ...

That would be "Dubai," as in "Dubai Ports?"
Wasn't that the outfit we didn't want running our North American ports?
The Vice-President's previous affiliation with Halliburton is probably a coincidence.
Got it.
USA Today puts this into the middle of their story...
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Iraq Dick Cheney Mideast Dubai Oil United Arab Emirates
Why would they mess with Cheney like that?
Cernig noticed...
I presume Halliburton will pay its taxes in Dubai after the move - that is to say, no taxes at all.
Somebody at UAE Community Blog sure noticed.
Love this comment...
Quick - let's move our IP offshore to a sharia law tax-free haven before our protector Bush gets out of office! I guess that it's closer to their main income source of Iraq.
Timing of the announcement was perfect. AFTER the Sunday talking heads but at the start of the week. Plenty of time for steam to blow off before next weekend.
Heck, this weekend is already an hour shorter thanks to the time change, and on St. Patrick's day everybody's gonna be drunk on green beer. These things take planning, you know.

Sorry. This was too good to pass up. I'm a sucker for chocolate and cheap shots.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Edith Piaf Returns

According to a feature by Anita Elash on this morning's Weekend Edition yet another generation is discovering the magic of Edith Piaf. A movie of her life has been released in France and will come to America in June.

Although her short life ended about the time I was finishing high school, the sound of her voice echoed through most of my development years and the decade following. There is in her singing a tragically romantic quality (Romance is often a spin off of tragedy, it seems.) that may fade but never disappears. Few readers will not immediately recognize the melody and voice timbre of this video, even if they don't know the meaning of the words or anything about the singer. Such is the imprint of Piaf's reputation and gift for singing.

Wikipedia lists ten films that include Edith Piaf, from 1936 to 1959. Her repertoire was short but impressive. My guess is that everything she ever sang is embedded somewhere in the memory of anyone over the age of sixty, even if they didn't like her singing. But who would ever admit to being such a Philistine? provides a comprehensive litany of an uneven but unstoppable rise to fame. Was she saintlike? Puh-lease.
Did she touch a lot of people? Read for yourself.
Did she really ever hurt anybody? As far as I can tell, only herself. Maybe that's why she is still loved. Even among the ruins of her many love affairs, my guess is that her lovers would all be willing to say it was better to have loved and know the rest.

As an interpretive singer, Piaf was at the height of her powers during the mid-'50s, even in spite of all her health woes. Her international tours were consistently successful, and the devotion of her massive French following verged on worship. She scored several more hits over 1956-1958, among them "La Foule," "Les Amants D'un Jour," "L'homme à la Moto," and the smash "Mon Manège à Moi." During that period, she also completed another stay in detox; this time would prove to be successful, but years of drug and alcohol abuse had already destabilized her health. In late 1958, she met another up-and-coming songwriter, Georges Moustaki, and made him her latest lover and improvement project. Teaming once again with Marguerite Monnot, Moustaki co-wrote "Milord," an enormous hit that topped the charts all over Europe in early 1959 and became Piaf's first successful single in the U.K. Later that year, she and Moustaki were involved in another car accident, in which her face was badly cut; in early 1960, while performing at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, she collapsed and began to vomit blood on stage, and was rushed to the hospital for emergency stomach surgery. Stubbornly, she continued her tour, and collapsed on-stage again in Stockholm; this time she was sent back to Paris for more surgery. Piaf was soon back in the recording studio, eager to record a composition by the legendary French songwriter Charles Dumont. "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" became one of her all-time classics and a huge international hit in 1960, serving as something of an equivalent to Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Piaf went on to score further hits with more Dumont songs, including "Mon Dieu," "Les Flons-Flons du Bal," and "Les Mots D'Amour." She staged a lengthy run at the Olympia in 1961, and later that year met an aspiring Greek singer named Théo Sarapo (born Theophanis Lamboukis), who became her latest project and, eventually, second husband. Sarapo was half her age, and given Piaf's poor health, the French media derided him as a gold digger. Nonetheless, they cut the duet "À Quoi Ça Sert l'Amour" in 1962, and performed together during Piaf's final engagement at the Olympia that year.

Despite her physical weakness -- on some nights, she could barely stand -- Piaf had lost very little of the power in her voice. Piaf and Sarapo sang together at the Bobino in early 1963, and Piaf also made her final recording, "L'Homme de Berlin." Not long afterward, Piaf slipped into a coma, brought on by cancer. Sarapo and Simone Berteaut took Piaf to her villa in Plascassier, on the French Riviera, to nurse her. She drifted in and out of consciousness for months before passing away on October 11, 1963 -- the same day as legendary writer/filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Her body was taken back to Paris in secret, so that fans could believe she died in her hometown. The news of her death caused a nationwide outpouring of grief, and tens of thousands of fans jammed the streets of Paris, stopping traffic to watch her funeral procession. Her towering stature in French popular music has hardly diminished in the years since; her grave at Père-Lachaise remains one of the famed cemetery's most visited, and her songs continue to be covered by countless classic-style pop artists, both French and otherwise.