Friday, October 20, 2006

Good Metaphor
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Cursor begins today with the following paragraph:

With "stay the course" coming to the end of the road, and the alternatives "unpalatable," the temptations of a coup in Iraq are considered, and Thomas Ricks raises the prospect that Iraqis might find "a younger, tougher, more vicious person than Saddam Hussein, who unites the country under an anti-American banner."
The Looney 109th
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Jurassic Port offers a "top" 25 list: the looniest members of a not-all-that-sane-to-begin-with Congress. Enjoy.
Managed Care
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The Boy Shrub is starting to literally defy the odds--you'd think that every once in a while the sheer law of averages would mean that he'd stumble upon the right thing to say, or the truth, or even just something not appallingly, mind numbingly stupid.


“I define success or failure as whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves. I define success or failure as whether schools are being built or hospitals are being opened. I define success or failure as whether we’re seeing a democracy grow in the heart of the Middle East,” he told ABC News.

Only hours after his statement Major-General William Caldwell, spokesman for the US forces in Iraq, said that the results of a vast security operation to secure Baghdad — the key to this war — had been “disheartening”.

And there is little more heartening news from the results of the $30 billion (£16 billion) to $40 billion American reconstruction effort. Since the invasion not a single Iraqi hospital has been built, according to Amar al-Saffar, in charge of construction at the Health Ministry.

In fact, no hospital had been built since the Qaddumiya hospital opened in 1986 in Baghdad, he said. When the war started it had 20 intensive care unit beds. Now it has half that, with many patients forced to buy their own oxygen supplies on the black market.

The only significant attempt to build a hospital was a project promoted by Laura Bush, the First Lady, in Basra. She frequently praised the $50 million paediatric hospital being built in the southern city. But Mr al-Saffar said that through financial mismanagement — the bane of postwar reconstruction across the country — it had never been completed.

Another senior Health Ministry official was surprised that Mr Bush had latched on to healthcare as proof of progress in Iraq. “It is the worst situation that the Ministry of Health has been in in its entire history,” he said. Healthcare had become so dire that half of those who died of injuries from terrorist attacks might have been saved, according to Bassim al-Sheibani, of the Diwaniyah College of Medicine, writing in the British Medical Journal.

Patrick Cockburn has more (both links courtesy of WIIIAI)

And, as for the schools? New paint, but not much else:

Teachers and parents say that the work carried out after the war was often shoddy and superficial, sometimes no more than a paint job.

“They rebuilt my children’s primary school after the fall of the regime but it was done very badly. They only painted it,” Abu Abdullah, a father of two, said in central Baghdad, hinting that the school was defrauded by the contractors. “Me and my friends evaluated the cost of construction at about two million dinars (about £900) but the contract was for 20 million.”

Abu Abdullah has to escort his children to school every day for fear of attack or kidnapping, and he says that the quality of teaching is so poor that he and his wife give them extra classes after school.

Luna, 28, a Sunni teacher, had to leave her primary school in a Shia part of town. She is too frightened to discipline her students or hand out bad marks for fear of retribution from their families. “Our generator is always broken so we don’t have enough electricity. Students sit in hot, unlit rooms.”

Mission Accomplished.
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Team Bush has lots of "choices"--but they're still putting lipstick on a pig:

The acknowledgment by the United States Army spokesman in Iraq that the latest plan to secure Baghdad has faltered leaves President Bush with some of the ugliest choices he has yet faced in the war.

He can once again order a rearrangement of American forces inside the country, as he did in August, when American commanders declared that newly trained Iraqi forces would “clear and hold” neighborhoods with backup support from redeployed American forces. That strategy collapsed within a month, frequently forcing the Americans to take the lead, making them prime targets.

There is no assurance, though, that another redeployment of those forces will reduce the casualty rate, which has been unusually high in recent weeks, senior military and administration officials say. The toll comes just before midterm elections, in which even many of his own party have given up arguing that progress is being made or that the killing will soon slow.

Or Mr. Bush can reassess the strategy itself, perhaps listening to those advisers — including some members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the advisory commission charged with coming up with new strategies for Iraq — who say that he needs to redefine the “victory” that he again on Thursday declared was his goal.

One official providing advice to the president noted on Thursday that while Mr. Bush still insists his goal is an Iraq that “can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself,” he has already dropped most references to creating a flourishing democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

In other words, they'll try to patch it up as best they can, splash on a fresh coat of paint, and hope some sucker will either buy or otherwise take it in trade...Mission Accomplished for the deeply cynical, and barely a mention of the death and destruction wrought for a sole purpose: so Shrub Boy could prance around, puff his puny chest out and bellow/smirk "I'm a war preznit!"

Nice going.

Again, though, why is anyone surprised? Shrub has a HISTORY of this sort of behavior. Only, in the past, his daddy could bail him out when shit and fan made their inevitable encounter. Daddy can't fix the mess this time.

And we're the ones who will have to pay.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Those Boys Judges Were Like My Children, Mandrake Shrub. Now they let me down."
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Oh good god, now I've got an image im my head of Big Time explaining how he came to develop his "theory."*

Anyway, I wonder if he'll go to the mattresses with over this (h/t Scout Prime at First Draft):

A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to release information about who visited Vice President Dick Cheney's office and personal residence, an order that could spark a late election season debate over lobbyists' White House access.

The Washington Post asked for two years of White House visitor logs in June but the Secret Service refused to process the request. Government attorneys called it "a fishing expedition into the most sensitive details of the vice presidency."

U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled Wednesday that, by the end of next week, the Secret Service must produce the records or at least identity them and justify why they are being withheld...

The Secret Service had no comment on the ruling Thursday. In court documents, government attorneys said releasing the documents would infringe on Cheney's ability to seek advice.

So, that's what they're calling it these days..."advice."
"Scary Contest?"
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This is what these dimwits came up with? Ha--here's something scary:

The guy pictured above is, at least nominally, in charge.
Playing the Dozens
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Oyster has 12 links up that perfectly capture the shattered remnants of what was once Mission Accomplished (oh, and as the latter site points out, "Mission Accomplished" might have been scrubbed from Shrub's carrier speech, but the dauphin just as stupidly announces that coalition troops have "prevailed in Iraq."

If you'd like 12 examples of why that's NOT the case, YRHT helpfully compiled them for you.
"If You Look at the Overall Situation..."
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Deadeye Dick considers this a sign of success:

A Vancouver soldier is one of ten killed this week by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Ron Paulson spent 14 years in the Army and then another 13 years as an inactive reservist. At 52 years old, he was called up for active duty.

When Paulson finished his service in 1992, soldiers were given a choice - take a lump sum of $30,000 and be done, or take an annual payment of $7,000 with a catch.

He said he went for the annual, but that meant he had to stay in the inactive reserve to get it, which is why he ended up getting called back in to service.

Paulson said that roadside bombs were his biggest concern. His family confirmed his death Wednesday.

Link from Billmon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Like a Peckerwood Faustus
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I'd like to think the bill is finally coming due for the Mayberry Machiavellis, and the decayed, putrified remnants of their collective souls will become fodder for Lucifer and his realm:

"It's a helluva mess" says consigliere Baker, re: Mesopotamia, where eleven more US soldiers were killed, making the grim total 70 deaths in October--thus far. Meanwhile, those Iraqis who can are expressing their opinion of Shrub's clusterfuck by fleeing the scene in droves.

The four soldiers who participated in the brutal, horrible rape/murder of an Iraqi child--and the murder of her family--have been indicted. I dunno, maybe Shrub believes that the Iraqi "tolerance for violence" will somehow mitigate any outrage...but I doubt it. In fact, I'd say Team Bush aided and abetted this horrible act with their own horrible act: engaging in a war of choice for political gain.

Oh, and while there still might be a school here or there showing off a fresh coat of paint, you can forget about them being able to cut on the lights.

And finally, over here, I guess everyone stopping by has seen or otherwise heard about the murder/suicide on Rampart St. And, you know, I'm just speculating here, but the alleged (albeit with strong evidence) perpetrator was a military veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe that had nothing to do with his vicious, savage act...but maybe it did. I've noted before, though, that Tim McVeigh and John Mohammed both served in the first Gulf War, which wasn't nearly as hellish as the present conflict, and the possibility of military veterans snapping and doing lord-knows-what is certainly a troubling notion. Add in the stress of having lived through the flood/destruction of New Orleans, and it's possible Bowen was a walking time bomb.

Way to go, Team Bush.

(and sorry for the slow posting day: it's been a busy one here at work, and I've got more to do--posting-wise, I'll catch up with y'all tomorrow, reading-wise, I'll be prowling the usual websites later today).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

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Spocko has a top ten list of "Rejected Torture Bill Taglines." I think the picture above could maybe go with Reason 7...

Have a look.
Fighting for Peace
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A very good article by Michael Schwartz titled 9 Parodoxes of a Lost War (link from Cursor). Here they are in brief:

The More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You Are
The More Force You Use, the Less Effective You Are
The More Successful Counterinsurgency Is, the Less Force That Can Be Used and the More Risk That Must Be Accepted
Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Best Reaction
The Best Weapons for Counterinsurgency Do Not Shoot
The Host Nation Doing Something Tolerably Is Sometimes Better Than Our Doing It Well
If a Tactic Works This Week, It Will Not Work Next Week; If It Works in This Province, It Will Not Work in the Next
Tactical Success Guarantees Nothing
Most of the Important Decisions Are Not Made by Generals

However, I encourage you, if you've got the time, to check out the entire story.
Your Government, or a Box of Rocks?
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I think I'll take the box of rocks...

From Hullabaloo.'d think that, given the stakes, given the resources taxpayers are furnishing, given the freaking salaries we pay these assclowns, that they'd maybe, just maybe, awaken long enough from their stupor and, oh, I don't know, LEARN A LITTLE BIT? I mean, c'mon, this doesn't even require lifting their lard asses from their overstuffed chairs. It's something they could assign to a low-level staffer or intern for research/briefings. Wikipedia has an entire section devoted to it, and if you're too intimidated to use Wikipedia then maybe you shouldn't BE in government/counterrorism then use GOOGLE for chrissakes...and yes, it's important:

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” ... far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?...

A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.’s temperature again. At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets are.”

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. “The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following,” he said. “And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.”

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”


Al Qaeda? “Sunni.”


AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islam’s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

“Do I?” she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. “You know, I should.” She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda’s leaders follow?

“Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” she replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right.”

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials’ puffery when they came up to the Hill?

“Oh, I think it’s very important,” said Ms. Davis, “because Al Qaeda’s whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you’ve got to understand, and to know your enemy.”

It’s not all so grimly humorous. Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my “gotcha” question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting. And that’s enough to keep anybody up at night.
Don't You Just Love Celebrations?
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As usual, a number of dignitaries were on hand today for the "signing ceremony" that featured Shrub scrawling his "X" on legislation (shamefully) passed by Congress.

I suppose the next step is for Arlen Specter to shepherd through a bill authorizing Trial by Ordeal. Next, they can dignify the House and Senate Chambers with impassioned debate over the merits of reintroducing the rack, breaking on the wheel, impalement, thumbscrews...hell, why not bring back crucifixion or punishment in the arena while they're at it?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Phoning It In
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Can you look someone in the eye if you're on the phone--or just peer into their soul? Oh, and I guess it's a good thing that there's no deadline (no pun intended) on having the Iraqi government stop the violence:

Four days of sectarian slaughter killed at least 91 people by Monday in Balad, a town near a major U.S. air base an hour's drive north of the capital. Elsewhere, 60 Iraqis died in attacks and 16 tortured bodies were found.

The U.S. command said seven American troops died in fighting a day earlier. That raised the U.S. toll to 58 killed in the first two weeks of October, a pace that if continued would make the month the worst for coalition forces since 107 U.S. and 10 British soldiers died in January 2005.

Iraqi deaths also are running at a high rate. According to an Associated Press count, 708 Iraqis have been reported killed in war-related violence this month, or just over 44 a day, compared to a daily average of more than 27 since the AP began tracking deaths in April 2005.

A surge in sectarian bloodshed and jump in U.S. casualties coincide with the run-up to the American midterm elections in which the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war has become a key issue.

Ah, yet another election...that will have absolutely no effect, unfortunately, on the mind numbing chaos and violence that the administration's brought about in Mesopotamia.

Enjoy your legacy, Shrub: as Billmon recently said, it takes "a rare combination [of ignorance, arrogance and incompetence] to take a situation like Saddam's Iraq and make it worse."
Excuses 'R Them
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If it's Monday, then "it's just a comma."

Funny, I thought "The Decider" didn't like "revisionist historians":

President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq, moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.

Initially, the rationale was specific: to stop Saddam Hussein from using what Bush claimed were the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction or from selling them to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

But 3 1/2 years later, with no weapons found, still no end in sight and the war a liability for nearly all Republicans on the ballot Nov. 7, the justification has become far broader and now includes the expansive "struggle between good and evil."...

After Saddam's capture in December 2003, the rationale became helping to spread democracy through the Middle East. Then it was confronting terrorists in Iraq "so we do not have to face them here at home," and "making America safer," themes Bush pounds today.

"We're in the ideological struggle of the 21st century," he told a California audience this month. "It's a struggle between good and evil."

Vice President Dick Cheney takes it even further: "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us," Cheney tells audiences.

Uh oh--anytime the "hopes of the civilized world" rest with a couple of assclowns like Shrub and Deadeye Dick, it's time to be more than just a little worried.

Oh, and I guess the whole Andrew Card bullshit about not "introduc[ing] new products in August" might actually have a ring of truth:

For a while last summer, Bush depicted the war as one against "Islamic fascism," borrowing a phrase from conservative commentators. The strategy backfired, further fanning anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world.

The "fascism" phrase abruptly disappeared from Bush's speeches, reportedly after he was talked out of it by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant now with the State Department.

Of course, Rice and Hughes being the voices of reason are even MORE reason to be more than a little worried.
Science Monday
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OK, I'm straying off the usual topics for just a bit here, but I normally have a quick look The Astronomy Picture of the Day, and today's pic, was, well, pretty spectacular, IMHO. The caption notes that you can just spot Earth in the picture above (between the rings, to the left), and links to this Wikipedia entry describing another image of Earth as "pale blue dot." On that page is as good a description of our home as any by Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Back in a bit, with more of the usual stuff.
GOP: Well, the Box is Already Open...
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(and they're the ones who opened it.)

Or, as I almost titled this post, you can't unshit the bed...the now daily, grim headline pretty much says it all: Iraq Sectarian Spree Kills 83 in 2 Days. In the body of the article, the deaths of four more US soldiers--and a Marine--are dryly noted.

Sounds like a certain administration--nominally led by a Connecticut Texan idiot--has a level of violence that they're willing to tolerate, too...although it appears that some in Shrub's political party are finally saying "enough."

Or maybe I should say that they've been saying "enough," but the media is finally realizing that reality can only be denied for so long.
Update: So much for the myth of the reality-based wing of yer GOP--Glenn Greenwald eviscerates that notion here.

(Note: article links courtesy of MediaNeedle)

Speaking of reality--I guess most folks have already seen John Murtha's WaPo op-ed, but for those who haven't, here's a link.

Meanwhile, over here, Scout Prime found a GAO report (.pdf) saying that the government simply doesn't know how or where it spent $88 billion dollars of Katrina funds. Talk about throwing money at the problem--well, no, just throwing money...because very little has actually made it to the region.

I'd bet though, that more than a little has found its way into the grubby paws of Big Time's favorite "charity:" Halliburton.