Friday, August 11, 2006

Call It What It Is

You know, aside from the bullshit, aside from the cynicism, aside from the nonsense...well, maybe it's just me, but, isn't it just plain weird to listen to all the bloviating, when you consider that "national security" or "protecting the American people," or whatever you want to call it, is simply part and parcel to the job of "chief executive?" I mean, it's not like it's charity work.

The fact that there are "rules and regulations," not to mention a "Constitution," simply underscores that it's NOT a job for idiots, juveniles, war/fear mongerers, or scoundrels of any type. At least part of the idea, IMHO, is to set the bar high enough to weed out the riffraff, for chrissakes.

So when Team Bush and the Twitnuts chortle, crow, speechify and hold press conferences about an operation they had LITTLE OR NOTHING to do with, and which happened to DIRECTLY REFUTE all the "thinking" and/or "theorizing" that's brought us the Twin Towers of Clusterfuck in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Clusterfuck 7 in Lebanon)...well, I think there's one term that's an apt descrition:

They're trying to benefit from the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.
For God's Sake, Be Careful...

They've got a 7-Up...and Chap-Stik!

Thanks to Jeffrey and my sister.
Is the Kool-Aid FINALLY Starting to Wear Off?

Maybe check for an expiration date...


For Cheney - and other Republicans like GOP National Chairman Ken Mehlman - to suggest that those Americans are encouraging terrorism is reprehensible.

Cheney's comments came out a day before British intelligence officials announced they had thwarted a major terrorist attack. Surely Cheney was aware of the plot and the work to thwart it, and was no doubt aware of the timing of yesterday's announcement.

To exploit a very real terror threat that could have led to major casualties, and to even indirectly implicate Americans who were exercising their democratic right by going to the polls and making a choice borders on the criminal, to say nothing of the insane.

Has Cheney completely lost it?

The latest terror scare is upsetting enough: It is bound to lead to havoc and chaos both domestically and internationally. It could damage the economy if fears on flying are sustained. It reopens the profound wounds of 9/11, a scab we should figure by now will never completely heal.

But the real terror is this: While our Vacationer- in-Chief and his vice president shut down dissent, and discourage questions about the way our government has directed our intelligence and military resources toward a single target in Iraq, we are no closer to understanding or dismantling the threat of al Qaeda.

Cheney's remarks underscore just how unsophisticated our understanding of terrorism is. We have no more understanding of the global forces at work that lead so many to want to bomb and destroy innocent lives than we did five years ago.

America's latest crisis is not what happened in Connecticut; it's what was going to happen in airplanes over the Atlantic.

The immoral and ridiculous claims coming out of the Bush administration's reign of error could ultimately be responsible for the kind of casualties that al Qaeda can only dream of.

To use a word they might be familiar with: Amen.
Blame the Victims, Part MCLXVI

According to FAUX, NOLA citizens comprise a potential fifth column.

Triple Hat Tip (Hat Tip Trick?)

World Class, Scout-Prime and YRHT.
"Planet Beltway"

Their own little world...

Nonsense and Sensibility

After Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut, I saw a number of commentaries describing Joe Lieberman not just as a “centrist” — a word that has come to mean “someone who makes excuses for the Bush administration” — but as “sensible.” But on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible?

Take a look at Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” the best account yet of how the U.S. occupation of Iraq was mismanaged. The prime villain in that book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose delusional thinking and penchant for power games undermined whatever chances for success the United States might have had. Then read Mr. Lieberman’s May 2004 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, “Let Us Have Faith,” in which he urged Mr. Rumsfeld not to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because his removal “would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.”

And that’s just one example of Mr. Lieberman’s bad judgment. He has been wrong at every step of the march into the Iraq quagmire — all the while accusing anyone who disagreed with him of endangering national security. Again, on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered “sensible”? But I know the answer: on Planet Beltway.

Many of those lamenting Mr. Lieberman’s defeat claim that they fear a takeover of our political parties by extremists. But if political polarization were really their main concern, they’d be as exercised about the primary challenge from the right facing Lincoln Chafee as they are about Mr. Lieberman’s woes. In fact, however, the sound of national commentary on the Rhode Island race is that of crickets chirping.

So what’s really behind claims that Mr. Lieberman is sensible — and that those who voted against him aren’t? It’s the fact that many Washington insiders suffer from the same character flaw that caused Mr. Lieberman to lose Tuesday’s primary: an inability to admit mistakes.

Imagine yourself as a politician or pundit who was gung-ho about invading Iraq, and who ridiculed those who warned that the case for war was weak and that the invasion’s aftermath could easily turn ugly. Worse yet, imagine yourself as someone who remained in denial long after it all went wrong, disparaging critics as defeatists. Now denial is no longer an option; the neocon fantasy has turned into a nightmare of fire and blood. What do you do?

You could admit your error and move on — and some have. But all too many Iraq hawks have chosen, instead, to cover their tracks by trashing the war’s critics.

They say: Pay no attention to the fact that I was wrong and the critics have been completely vindicated by events — I’m “sensible,” while those people are crazy extremists. And besides, criticizing any aspect of the war encourages the terrorists.

That’s what Joe Lieberman said, and it’s what his defenders are saying now.

Now, it takes a really vivid imagination to see Mr. Lieberman’s rejection as the work of extremists. I know that some commentators believe that anyone who thinks the Iraq war was a mistake is a flag-burning hippie who hates America. But if that’s true, about 60 percent of Americans hate America. The reality is that Ned Lamont and those who voted for him are, as The New York Times editorial page put it, “irate moderates,” whose views are in accord with those of most Americans and the vast majority of Democrats.

But in his non-concession speech, Mr. Lieberman described Mr. Lamont as representative of a political tendency in which “every disagreement is considered disloyal” — a statement of remarkable chutzpah from someone who famously warned Democrats that “we undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril.”
The question now is how deep into the gutter Mr. Lieberman’s ego will drag him.

There’s an overwhelming consensus among national security experts that the war in Iraq has undermined, not strengthened, the fight against terrorism. Yet yesterday Mr. Lieberman, sounding just like Dick Cheney — and acting as a propaganda tool for Republicans trying to Swift-boat the party of which he still claims to be a member — suggested that the changes in Iraq policy that Mr. Lamont wants would be “taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England.”

In other words, not only isn’t Mr. Lieberman sensible, he may be beyond redemption.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Mandrake, Have You Ever Heard of a Thing Called Fluoridation?"

So is the new slogan going to be "Better tooth decay than terrorist? Who needs whiter teeth and fresher breath, when you're facing terrorist death?"

Passengers are being told to pour out liquids before they board planes. That includes bottled water, toothpaste, shampoo, cologne, lotion and hair gel...

Better stink than sink? Better flaked than raked?

I'll tell you what stinks: Team Bush...playing political games with serious issues.
Infinite Regression, Obsession Retardation

Geez. I figured Ned Lamont would get tarred, feathered, and/or tattoo'ed with the mark of the Howard Dean Beast (and I wasn't THAT far off), but going all the way back to 1972/McGovern/Hippies, etc.? Jeez...

Who's obsessing? Not us, and I'm damn sick and tired of the idiot class who call themselves pundits--and their chickenhawk cohorts in the GOP--making feeble attempts to turn back the clock, as it were, and deny THE PRESENT, which is that THE CHENEY-BUSH-ROVE "policy," if it can even be dignified as such, is a massive, ugly, open sore.

This infinite regression into essentially retardation--with more than a bit of encouragement from the chattering class--would be more than a little pathetic IF it were mere navel gazing, but in the real world, where there are real issues, it's downright criminal. These days, of course, it's getting difficult to distinguish between "criminal" and "Team Bush Republican," but you'd think the mix and match of stupidity and arrogant, egotistical smarminess would generate enough of a stench to wake at least the brain dead.

But I guess they're ALL too worried about their grandkids' college funds...and, unlike the unwashed public, THEIR kids MUST go to "a good school," not the local State U., or, heaven's forbid, the community college. And I suppose, when they're not blathering about their now 40 YEAR obsession to prove that THEY were really the kewl kids--no, REALLY they were--they probably complain about how hard it is to get good help these days, with the INS and all...

HEY ASSHOLES--wanna obsess about what things were like 40 YEARS AGO? I'll link again to YRHT citation, and spell it out, REALLY SLOWLY:

Hardesty remembers Johnson reaching out to the thirsty crowds.

“People were in the shelter and he asked what they needed and they said, ‘We need water.’ He looked at the officials and said, ‘You have a Coca-Cola bottling plant here, don’t you?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You have a 7-Up bottling plant here, don’t you?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ Then he said, ‘For God’s sake go out there get some soda and bring it back here.’”

Johnson returned to Washington, D.C., that same day and immediately called Robert Phillips, director of the Government Readiness Office of the Office of Emergency Planning, to begin the process of delivering aid and knocking down obstacles.

“We’ve got to cut out all the red tape,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to work around the clock. We’ve got to ignore hours. We’ve got to bear in mind that we exist for only one purpose and that’s to the greatest good for the greatest number.

“Bring to these people the kind of assistance they need in this emergency which is worthy of a great government and a great country.”

THAT was 40 years, the ones in charge can barely do more than dole out cash by the boatloads...but only for their political and business associates (emphasis on "ass"). Talk about regression.

If only they'd actually fade to an old TV screen when you cut it off. For those who might be a little on the young side, on old televisions, the image would shrink and fade, eventually down to a dot...before disappearing entirely.

Now, THAT'D be progress.
"If Not Chaos, Chaos's Friendly Next-Door Neighbor"

YRHT points to a very good article about post-Katrina NOLA from CNN/Fortune.

As Mark notes, it's not just a couple of paragraphs...but it IS worth looking at.

The hype begins, and P.T. Dick just can't resist:

The thing that's partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task. And when we see the Democratic Party reject one of its own, a man they selected to be their vice presidential nominee just a few short years ago, it would seem to say a lot about the state the party is in today if that's becoming the dominant view of the Democratic Party, the basic, fundamental notion that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't -- we can't be.... That they'd play politics with something like this is, on its face, appalling...that they'd IGNORE their prior rhetoric about how their splendid little clusterfuck war was supposed to prevent these things, which itself is a lie, of course, but...makes it even worse.

Maybe Big Time and Tony Snow crack open a cold one and share a hearty laugh at the end of the day, provided Dick's shotgun is securely stored. Maybe they chuckle about how they pulled one over on the public, who, for the most part just don't have the time to follow, much less comprehend, the global political economy...because they're trying to keep the bills paid, the car fueled, the kids fed and clothed (those along the Gulf Coast have the added bonus of HOURS on the phone arguing with insurance companies, or FEMA, while also doing their best to locate licensed, reliable contractors, and so on).

And maybe, deep down, they actually have a small measure of remorse--well, no, I doubt that--but perhaps they justify their sheer assholery by thinking to themselves that they're really just doing what they have to so for the sale of their own families, and, after all, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the grandkids need a college fund, and...

Well, it's STILL BULLSHIT, Messrs. Snow and Cheney--and all you other assclowns participating in this VERY, VERY SICK GAME. If the Gulf Coast in 2005 proved NOTHING else, it's that the public is generally safe IN SPITE OF, NOT BECAUSE OF you and your policies. Today's news and the cynical election season ramping up of the terror color nonsense code is, to reiterate, BULLSHIT. And you know it is.

Actually, I doubt souless fucks like youselves lose even a millisecond of sleep--if the death count from your useless wars overseas, the same from the Gulf Coast while you sat with a finger firmly planted up your backside...hell, and your being asleep at the wheel on 9/11...2001... hasn't shamed you into at the very least resigning from office and begging for forgiveness, well, I guess nothing will.

But don't think you've fooled everyone, and don't think you'll get away with it forever.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Raising the Rapture Stakes

I thought Christians generally disapproved of gambling, Bill Bennett notwithstanding (although I suppose Bennett has at least one argument up his sleeve in his defense: he's less a "gambler," and more a plain old "loser"). But it seems as if they, and their secular wingnut cohorts don't mind rolling the dice when it comes to...the fate of the fucking world:

To some of the leading lights of the right-wing commentariat, what we’re seeing unfold is no mere crisis. Instead, it is literally World War III, a clash of civilizations in which everyone everywhere will have to take a side and take up arms. And they couldn’t be happier about it.

It will surprise no one to hear that this argument is coming from certain fundamentalist Christian quarters, where premillenial dispensationalists see signs that the coming Rapture is accelerating toward its glorious end. But it is also being heard from more mainstream voices...

So just why is it that so many conservatives are so eager to characterize the current conflict as another world war? The answer lies in a deep, abiding need among conservatives to exist in a state of war, the bigger the better. It need not be a war in which actual shots are being fired, but it must be defined as a war so that our political reality, both in practical terms and with regard to our discourse, can be ordered in a particular way...

World War II remains the “good war,” something we can all agree on, despite the fact that many of the things the Allies did during its course were unspeakable. Any debate about the morality of American tactics is relegated to the status of historical esoterica, subsumed deep below the war’s moral clarity. Sure, somebody mentions Dresden or Nagasaki now and then, but they do almost nothing to alter the image of World War II as America’s finest hour, when we saved the world from the greatest evil it had ever seen. And what’s more, the American hegemony that followed was actually welcomed by populations everywhere.

The longing for a repeat of this heroic course of events is palpable in the conservative dreams of World War III. For almost two decades, there has been an empty place in their hearts where global conflict used to be. When the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Berlin Wall fell, the enemy the right used to define itself—communism—disappeared almost instantly, save for a few lonely outposts in various corners of the world. And without an enemy, conservatives are nothing.

This is particularly true with regard to the enemy within. In a state of war every utterance by your domestic opponents can be called treason, and their very opposition to you makes them a fifth column in league with the enemy. And with the inherent ambivalence of the War on Terror, the charges that liberals are not just wrong but actually in league with terrorists have gotten more frequent, shriller and more desperate.

Defining the current conflicts as all part of a world war also raises the stakes. But the idea that Islamic radicalism poses a truly existential threat to the United States in the same way the Soviet Union did is so absurd that no one who suggests it can be taken seriously. The Soviets had the power to kill each and every American many times over, and though a communist takeover of the United States was never a serious possibility, at times it appeared as though it might be. But no sane person could argue that if al-Qaida plays its cards right and we make too many mistakes, America could actually become a Taliban-style Islamic theocracy.

Many of our own home-grown Taliban, the fundamentalists who see moral cataclysm in every sex ed class and gay commitment ceremony, are eagerly awaiting the Rapture. They pray desperately that events in the Middle East mean it really is coming this time, with the godless and the apostate cast to their deserved fate in the lake of fire. To the nominally more reasonable conservatives whose voices emanate from airwaves and op-ed pages, the prospect of World War III brings its own kind of rapture, the return of a time when they were free from doubt, when their thirst for the blood of foreigners could be quenched, when anyone who opposed them could be tried for treason. When they knew they were right, and it all made sense.

You know, I'd like to take these twits--and their notions of some sort of romantic doubt-free era and plunk them down in the midst of New Orleans...or any other devastated community along the Gulf Coast. Let them, and their families, experience the "thrill" of a post-apocalyptic existence up close and personal. And if they're STILL itching for more, well, they can always move to Iraq, though they might want to invest in a good life insurance policy first.
By the Numbers

Similar to the graphic that ran a while back in the Pic, the Environmental Defense Fund has a page where you can link to demonstrations of Category 2, 3, and/or 4 hurricane effects on selected coastal cities. It's well worth a look.

That said, I've been noting with frustration that my browser's "back" button doesn't work on any of the pages, but you can always right-click and open in a new window, which is what I've been doing (maybe Firefox works a little better, but I won't know until I try it from home later this evening).

A LOT of people in this country live in at-risk areas for hurricanes/tropical storms...or other disasters. Add in a government that's been proven as either uncaring or incompentent...or both...and that makes for a precarious situation, at least until 2009.
Seeing Devastation Day in and Day Out Can Take Its Toll

From AmericaBlog, a link to two E&P articles about John McCusker, a Pic photographer and part time NOLA tour guide:

[McCusker] was arrested Tuesday after trying to get police to shoot him to death. Police said he claimed he was depressed after he found out he didn't have enough insurance money to rebuild his Katrina-damaged home.

And it certainly doesn't help things when the government continues to apply a "put-it-on-the-back-burner" approach, particularly when you consider that it was, well, a failure of government that got us into this situation in the first place.

Even MORE amazing to consider is that this same administration, which couldn't be bothered with rules, regulations, and other such nicieties when it was one of THEIR pet projects (Iraq, warrantless wiretaps, etc.), became such strident advocates for the same...when it was "those people" suffering (note: by all means check out the link to this story contrasting the government's response to Hurricane Betsy in 1965--over 40 YEARS AGO).

Well, at least I can close with some slightly good news: our fellow CITIZENS haven't forgotten the plight of those along the Gulf Coast, nor have they 'run out' of sympathy or empathy. Instead, the public, to paraphrase Congressman John Murtha, is "way ahead" of the government--and the pundits--on this, and probably a whole host of other issues.

Doing the right thing evidently is alien only to Team Bush and his beltway apologists.
Little Joe

I haven't posted at all, I'm pretty sure, about the Lamont-Lieberman primary election...not that I haven't been watching, but there are plenty of bigger, better bloggers out there, and even MORE bloggers and other websites they link to. But yeah, I've kept an eye out, and it's damn refreshing to see Lamont win.

Of course, I'm guessing Lamont will now receive the Howard Dean treatment--regardless of his actual positions on the issues, there will be a non-stop offensive to firmly affix all sorts of "extremist" labels on the candidate...Holy Joe himself took up a bit of Swift Boat duty, both in his very Nixonian "concession" address (except that we WILL have Joe to kick around) and in statements made today as he filed for an "independent" run.

Watch for the usual buzzwords, designed to elicit sort of a sub-logical reaction/revulsion: references have already been made to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, bloggers, whatever...and I'm betting this sort of attack will continue, at least from the right. Today I've already seen, and apologies for not remembering where, a wingnut assertion that the Lamont victory demonstrates how the extremists of the Democrat[ic] left have taken over the party, or words to that effect, while, over in wingnuttia, they've managed to keep THEIR extremists "at bay."

Really? Well, thank heavens--because otherwise said 'nuts might just GO NUTS and demand we invade Iraq for no reason...oh, wait a minute...

But...I really think Joenertia is oddly symbolic, and as such his refusal to accept reality (hmmm...sort of like a certain cretin from Crawford) is, well, as fitting a putting a baby rattle in his grubby little fingers. Watertiger got it dead-on accurate, and I was thinking much the same last night while watching the returns and listening to the reactions:

...this is about Lieberman's ego, his unwillingness to let go of all the lovely perks of his office, not the least of which, apparently, is the right to ignore the wants and needs of his constituents who pay his salary and who held him accountable for his decisions last night, and the extent to which 18 years inside the Beltway have clouded his "judgment" and made him fat, rich, and lazy.


Joe Lieberman, the DLC, the wingnut, neocon GOP, and their assorted supporters are actually a most peculiar case: they claim to be about "freedom," when, in actuality, they couldn't be more AGAINST the concept. No, it's NOT freedom that defines them--it's PRIVILEGE. And there's your problem right there.

In a broader sense, "privilege" also defines a segment of the public that insists upon national policy as a reflection of their particularly narrowminded point of view--and watching THEIR reaction to Lamont's victory is a bit troubling, particularly given their propensity towards violence as a "solution" to pretty much everything. It'll be interesting to see what happens come November.

After all, they seethed over eight years of centrist government Bill Clinton, then let loose a very ugly tantrum in Florida 2000, THEN cynically seized upon a national tragedy to ramrod through a pre-existing war agenda...and last night, at least on C-Span, they seethed a little more.

They--AND public officials like Holy Joe--consider governance THEIR right. They are willing to go to great lengths to preserve their painting A MAJORITY of the public as "extremist," if necessary (and their pals in the media are MORE than willing to play along). To them, we're no longer even "people," but "consumers." They expect consumers, if they bother to vote, to go along without question.

But perhaps the public has seen enough: Iraq was a lie, the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita a textbook example of pathetic, criminal incompetence. We've seen potential intrusions upon basic expectations of privacy...and ACTUAL, unbelievable intrusions as in the case of Terry Schiavo's final days and hours.

Finally, when told we've had quite enough, thank you, their reaction is pout, throw more tantrums, fling blame about like monkeys flinging short, to do just about anything except look in a mirror. Typical privileged brats who don't understand.

Yeah, it could get extremely interesting come November...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Somebody Contact the Secretary of State

I've got a new metaphor for Sec. Rice--instead of "birth pangs of the new Middle East," maybe you can go with "it's like watching a corpse flower bloom:"

The plant emits a stench to attract decaying flesh-eating beetles, flies and sweat bees for pollination. Once it blooms, the odor lingers for about eight hours, then it takes several more years before the plant has enough energy to bloom again.

How bad does it smell?

"It's like several days old road kill on a hot, sunny day," Wiley-Vawter said.

She said she went home shortly before midnight Friday and returned about 8:15 a.m. Saturday and could smell the plant from her parking spot about 100 feet from the greenhouse.

"Inside the greenhouse it was quite overpowering," she said.

Too bad we couldn't sequester the entire executive branch in the greenhouse for the duration of the remind them of what they've managed to "accomplish."
Platitudes and Nonsense

Reading one of Billmon's latest posts--and the link to the Asia Times article--should make it even more clear to anyone who isn't batshit insane that Little Lord Shrubleroy and his band of synchophants really ARE, at this point, exhibiting traits best described as, well, psychopathic:

Through the course of a single week, the US and France came as close to a bitter split over Middle East policy as they had on the eve of the Iraq war. At issue in the confrontation was a US insistence that an international force (led by France) be deployed to Lebanon prior to the declaration of a ceasefire - a requirement the French thought ludicrous. They weren't the only ones.

"The position that we're taking in the UN is just nuts," a former White House official close to the US decision-making process said during the negotiations. "The US wants to put international forces on the ground in the middle of the conflict, before there's a ceasefire. The reasoning at the White House is that the international force could weigh [in] on the side of the Israelis - could enforce Hezbollah's disarmament."

"the international force could weigh [in] on the side of the Israelis..." or could just as easily find themselves caught in a quagmire not at all unlike what Jon Stewart calls "Mess 'o Potamia," with similar best.

This, by the way, is supposedly Dubya's--or, perhaps more honest, Team Bush's biggest "asset,"--that is, ultimately relying on some sort of "gut decision" from Shrub (if I recall, the "gut decision" is usually a reaction to the last person who catches his ear), and sticking with it regardless of the consequences.

Sort of a "let's keep slamming our head against the wall" approach. Because that's certainly what we're doing in Iraq...well, to an extent.

Because, let's be real: the folks who's heads are getting slammed against the wall--over and over--AREN'T in any position to relay their feelings to the inner circle in Crawford. Besides, even if they WERE, I doubt the boy-king would have much of a reaction.

Have you ever noticed how ANNOYED Shrub sounds when forced to consider the consequences of his actions? It's become rote: "America mourns the loss of innocent life", almost exasperated...sort of a pre-emptive "shut up." A candid admission of both complicity...and total lack of remorse. That lack of remorse extends to the soldiers who've been killed as well--the usual cliche is something like "we mourn their loss and honor their sacrifice," again, with a distinct LACK of evident appreciation of what that actually means:

"The Bush people have never heard a shot fired in anger, and it's apparent," an official in the UN Secretary General's Office noted. "The French were quite fearful that one miscalculation, one stray rocket could set the region on fire. No one in Washington seemed willing to admit that as a possibility."

On the other hand, plenty of folks HAVE heard shots fired in anger--most have managed to, amazingly, keep a more or less level frame of mind...but not all, as we seem to find out far too often to dismiss as "isolated instances." And even when NOT wondering what the latest overt atrocity might be, the truth is that the "freedom" this ever-more-distant-from-reality pResident barks about is anything but, both for native residents AND anyone else:

Baghdad as I knew it is dying. No doubt there will be a city of that name on the banks of the Tigris in the future. But its special magic, the fact that gave the city its peculiar allure, was its complex ethnic and religious mix of Shia, Sunni and Kurds. It is this diversity of cultures that is disappearing. Small Christian sects present in Mesopotamia since the second century after Christ are finally being dispersed. They know they are the targets both of Islamic fundamentalists and kidnappers who see Christians as being rich and defenseless, a fatal combination in present-day Iraq.

And what's the reaction from Washington--or Crawford? When there IS a reaction, it's either platitudes or nonsense. Or a mix of both. As if the unfolding events were mere dots on a distant horizon, lacking in any particular meaning.

Which might well be the case for someone who, when asked to name his proudest accomplishment as president, cited catching a 7 and a half pound bass...that had been stocked in his lake.
Freshly Painted Phones?

Photoposting is dead--again--and of course there's no explanation, so I'm forced to post without any visuals...oh well.

This morning's NY Times tries their best to focus on "the good news" coming out of Iraq:

The cool kids in Iraq all want an Apache, the cellphone they’ve named after an American military helicopter. Next on the scale of hipness comes a Humvee, followed by the Afendi, a Turkish word for dapper, and a sturdy, rounded Nokia known as the Allawi — a reference to the stocky former prime minister, Ayad Allawi.

Even more telling are the text messages and images that Iraqis share over their phones. From all over the city, Baghdad cellphones practically shout commentary about Saddam Hussein, failed reconstruction and violence, always the violence. One of the most popular messages making the rounds appears onscreen with the image of a skeleton.

“Your call cannot be completed,” it says, “because the subscriber has been bombed or kidnapped.”

Cellphones have long been considered status symbols in developing countries, Iraq included. But in an environment where hanging out is potentially life threatening, cellphones are also a window into dreams and terrors, the macabre local sense of humor and Iraqis’ resilience amid the swells of violence.

The business here is booming. According to figures published last month by the State Department, there are now 7.1 million cellphone subscribers in Iraq, up from 1.4 million two years ago. In an economy where jobs can be as scarce as rain, billboards for phones are among the only advertisements updated regularly in the capital.

Of course, you might want to contrast this with Riverbend's latest post--in it, she reminds us that the latest cellphones come with a heavy price not necessarily measured in cash.

Still, the article does provide examples of "the macabre local sense of humor...and resiliance" that in some respects remind me of New Orleans' residents own fortitude in the face of a catastrophe brought about by Team Bush and his Neocon Wackos:

But mostly, people here use their cellphones for commiserating, searching for laughs among the tears or trying to knock the powerful off their pedestals. Over the past year, American soldiers, Saddam Hussein and the current Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, have all been the subjects of humorous clips passed from phone to phone.

“In Iraq, there is such an accumulation of frustration,” said Fauwzya al-Attiya, a sociologist at Baghdad University. “If an Iraqi does not embrace humor in his life, he’s finished.”...

Electricity and gas are...popular topics. One doctored photograph claims to offer an explanation for why Iraqis still have only a few hours of electricity a day: Two transformer towers are flipping a wire in circles like a jump-rope while a third tower bounces up and down.

And in another video, a young, bearded Iraqi dances with abandon after successfully refilling his propane gas cylinder. With a spiraling Arabic song as the soundtrack, he wriggles and smiles, shaking the cylinder over his head like a trophy. He also kisses it.

Other videos have, well, more local themes:

In one amateur video, a masked man, pictured at dusk with a knife, threatens to behead a fish because “all the fish did not come out of the sea.” With an exclamation of “God is great,” he bends over and slices off the fish’s head, laying it on top of the scaly body.

Another video captures young men trying to decapitate a victim with a fake, dull knife and failing; like Hans and Franz, the muscle-bound weightlifters famously mocked on Saturday Night Live, the supposed killers are all talk, dense and incompetent.

Of course, the horrific, daily toll of violence might have some influence. Violence that, by international agreement, an occupying force should be countering, pResident Bush.

Oh--and another item is also selling quite well these days in Iraq: suitcases. And not because folks are looking for extra storage in the house.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Under the Weather

Nothing serious, but I'm definitely not one hundred percent today, so I've decided to do the plenty of rest, lots of fluids routine, and hopefully tomorrow I'll be a bit better.

That said, I'm not feeling nearly as bad as this poor guy in Iraq who raised seeing things to a whole new level...though, on the other hand, reading these stories puts a real damper on my mood.

And, as for this--well, I guess reality and Shrub parted ways some time ago.

Further proof of that parting can be found here.

Catch y'all tomorrow.