Thursday, November 09, 2006

I've Moved

I've moved where I blog. This site is no longer in use (at least for now). I've created and write at a new site called Dislogical. Go there if you were expecting me here.

Friday, May 26, 2006


I haven't blogged much lately and it usually is because I'm busy off-line. Reading books can be a major reason for my lack of blog entries. I've been reading plenty lately, I'm on my third book in the last two weeks. I outlined one book in my last blog post, here was another one, this time fiction.
I have a major interest in non-fiction in the last decade or so, but ocassionally I return to the world of fiction just for fun.

Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory MaGuire has caught my eye at the bookstore a few times in the last few years, this time I picked it up. Boy, was I surprised.

The premise is simple enough, what brought about the Wicked Witch of the West? Who is she? Where did she come from? What made her "wicked?" Essentially, questions that the movie never answered much less posed.

I was intrigued by the politics of Oz that I never bothered to imagine. The movie has the Wizard of Oz in charge, but how did he achieve this superiority? Would not have at least some in Oz opposed such dictatorship? Were all Ozites just unquestioningly happy or did they not have problems never alluded to in the movie (and book by Frank Baum)?

All these years we assume that the Wicked Witch of the West was an evil tyrannt, yet with little substantial proof that this was true. This book gives us reason to wonder if that's true. I love the occassions in the book where the discussion of evil takes place. What is evil? Is evil real?

I won't spoil the book, but this book takes us through the complete life of the Wicked Witch of the West, Alphalba as she's named, from birth to death. You may think you know the end, but endings are known because of the point of view of who wins in real life. The "losers" ending is vanquished as untruth, not fact. This book will make you think a new ending.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

When The Rivers Run Dry

I just finished reading yet another book, When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce. This book was interesting as to the world's use and need for fresh water.

The author explores the Earth's rivers from the largest such as the Nile, Mississippi, Congo, Yangtze, Amazon to so many others that would seem unimportant yet in many ways are even more important than the giants of flows. He examines the uses and abuses that rivers are subjected to by humanity.

Rivers provide so many things for us, from drinking water to agricultural needs, from hydroelectrical power to transportation, from fishing to sewage. The manipulation of rivers by humans for our needs has as well produced major problems. We've engineered them to the point we can't control them at times of high rains, causing more flooding than they would have had before we built the dams and levees. Our dams destroy inhabited lands when built and destroy the river itself from being natural.

Mr. Pearce goes to places where these clashes between modern industrial ideas for rivers and traditional uses such as farming and drinking water meet with mixed results. Many places are returning to traditional ideas for fresh water in response. Beyond just rivers, the book covers other sources of fresh water, such as rain water, ground water and desalinzation plants.

As the world's population continues to grow the need for water becomes ever more critical. The battle for who rules the water increases. Questions are emerging that will beg for answers. Whose water needs are more important? How much will water cost? Do we want water intense crops more than water friendly agriculture? Is watering lawns more important than clean drinking water? Do industrial water needs have more importance than flushing toilets? The questions go on and Fred Pearce asks so many and tries to provide answers.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Weatherman Robertson

It seems Pat Robertson is at it again. Apparently he is now the weatherman for God as he is now predicting storms on the coast and even a tsunami for the West Coast.

The Rev. Pat Robertson says God has told him that storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America's coastline this year.The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network has told viewers of "The 700 Club" that the revelations came to him during his annual personal prayer retreat in January."If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8.He added specifics in Wednesday's show."There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest," he said.

I don't really see how some connection to God is neccessary to make these predictions. Increased hurricane activity has been predicted by real meterologists in the last few years attributed to either a repeating upward trend or global warming. A West Coast tsunami is inevitable some year in the future, the only question is when. So, I'll give Robertson some little balls for predicting it to happen this year.

The problem is that if no tsunami hits, Robertson isn't blamed for being wrong. He can just say God works in mysterious ways. And God can't be blamed for making a wrong prediction because Robertson could be lieing, he never heard God. But if you ask me for a prediction, I think Robertson will one day be committed to a mental institute or treated for mental problems.

By the way, I've written about the many earth science potential disasters that could happen and that FEMA is probably not prepared for. Pat Robertson should consult my list for further predictions he could make.

That Slippery Slope In Action

If you've ever heard that expression "slippery slope" here it is in action. For those who haven't understood the expression, here is what it means. Allowing something to override the Constitution because it supposedly protects us in someway, but critics consider it a step on a slippery slope that cause the Constitution to slide farther away from its' intent. And that slippery slope can continue to erode beyond that first step. Consider the following article.

Wed May 17, 11:34 AM ET

BLACK JACK, Mo. - The city council has rejected a measure allowing unmarried couples with multiple children to live together, and the mayor said those who fall into that category could soon face eviction.

Olivia Shelltrack and Fondrey Loving were denied an occupancy permit after moving into a home in this St. Louis suburb because they have three children and are not married.

The town's planning and zoning commission proposed a change in the law, but the measure was rejected Tuesday by the city council in a 5-3 vote.

"I'm just shocked," Shelltrack said. "I really thought this would all be over, and we could go on with our lives."

The current ordinance prohibits more than three people from living together unless they are related by "blood, marriage or adoption." The defeated measure would have changed the definition of a family to include unmarried couples with two or more children.

Mayor Norman McCourt declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that those who do not meet the town's definition of family could soon face eviction.

Black Jack's special counsel, Sheldon Stock, declined to say whether the city will seek to remove Loving and Shelltrack from their home.

So this is the second step on that slippery slope. This first step was banning gay marriage and/or civil unions. The third step, who knows? Maybe people will have to prove they didn't have sex until after they married in order to be able to own a home?

Now I don't know the history behind Black Jack's ordinance, how it came about, but it now is being enforced. So where does that slippery slope stop in Black Jack for instance and how many other communities are looking at Black Jack and thinking that they could have the same law and go even further down the slippery slope. What other laws will be made and enforced to discriminate against people's choices of living arrangements?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kremlin Rising

Another book read, more information consumed. I just can't go long without intaking words from book form. The latest was on the subject of recent Russian history entitled Kremlin Rising, Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution by Washington Post Moscow bureau chiefs Susna Glasser and Peter Baker.

I was somewhat startled by the information about Russia that we never seem to hear about in our media. Of course since Putin took over Russia has once again become a state-controlled media, thus independent Russian information is gone. Only reporters from the West can really report honestly these days, and I'm betting that that situation is going to fade as well. For one reason, Western media corporations have invested little in Russia, and probably have cut back on Russian reporting.

The book is quite extensive in reporting how democracy is fading fast under Putin. How he has quashed opposition parties and even orchestrated election results using the state-controlled media as an aid.

Several newsmaking events are covered in depth including the Beslan school siege, the Chechnya War, the Moscow theatre siege and the sinking of the Kursk submarine. Particularily interesting in all of these incidents is the handling by Putin using lies and disinformation.

The numbers held hostage in Beslan was vastly underreported by Putin's government. The submarine sinking was littered with lies that made it impossible for international help to be successful. And the Moscow theatre siege was "solved" by using untested sleeping gas that the Putin governmnet has still refused to acknowledge the dangers in the use and the cause of death and injury to the hostages. The Chechnya War is explained by Putinites as almost a copy of how American government explained Viet Nam.

Further interesting coverage in the book is Russia's growing AIDs problem and the lack of addressing it. As well as an alarming death to birth ratio. The country is dying faster than can be born.

But most interesting to me was how the remnants of the KGB is now becoming a powerful political force under Putin in the guise of a new agency called the Federal Security Service or in Russian initials FSB. If Putin continues Russia's conversion back to a totalitarian state we will be hearing of a new ominous three letter agency, the FSB.

And finally the George Bush/Putin love affair is covered. From the early stages of Bush looking into Putin's eyes and immediately trusting him to the handshake about Chechnya being a "war on terrorism" to an untrusting relationship now.

I certainly learned much about Putin and how Russia is moving along in the new millenium from this book. And now I'm perking up whenever I see or hear about Russia today.

Even Right Wing Hollywood Understands Bush

So it seems that even Mel Gibson has seen the light about the Bush Administration and the politics of fear. His latest movie is based on his observations of the Bush tactics. Read on...

Film star and director Mel Gibson has launched a scathing attack on US President George W Bush, comparing his leadership to the barbaric rulers of the Mayan civilisation in his new film Apocalypto.

The epic, due for release later this year, captures the decline of the Maya kingdom and the slaughter of thousands of inhabitants as human sacrifices in a bid to save the nation from collapsing.

Gibson reveals he used present day American politics as an inspiration, claiming the government callously plays on the nation's insecurities to maintain power.

He tells British film magazine Hotdog, "The fear-mongering we depict in the film reminds me of President Bush and his guys".

What seems interesting about this, is that Gibson was loved by the religious right (Bush's last supporters) for his film about Jesus, The Passion of Christ. I'm guessing that they won't be so happy with Gibson with this movie.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Why Does Bush Want Your Phone Records?

The recently revealed secret compilation of millions upon millions of Americans phone records by the NSA is simply beyond the pale for so many reasons.

First, all those phone companies just laid down and gave up the records, excepting Quest of all the major companies. They did this without letting customers know that they did and did it even though they didn't have to, ask Quest. In an interesting backlash, customers are deluging phone companies with questions, complaints and service switching. People are reading that fine print of their phone contract and finding that their providers are skipping a fine line. There may possible be lawsuits against providers that couldn't act as Quest did, and I'm betting Quest gets a big jump in business.

Second, how long before the Bush government renames the NSA, the KGB. That proverbial slippery slope is getting slicker almost every time we turn around. We have known about anti-war groups being spied upon. We found out about the domestic spying program that was initially denied by George Bush on his 2004 campaign trail, "we get warrants." And now we find data mining of our phone records. How many other spying programs are aimed at everyday innnocent Americans that are still being kept secret? I have to think plenty. And would you believe the Bush government if they said no more programs exist? I won't, Bush has lied about one of these intrusions, why wouldn't he lie about others?

Third, at what point is anyone held accountable for playing fast with our Constitution? When will we have investigations into the domestic spying program and now this phone record collecting? My immediate previous post pointed out that the NSA refused to give security clearance to the Justice Department to investigate the NSA. I suppose the NSA would do the same thing for this newest revelation. It's up to Congress to do the investigating, they do have security clearances, yet the Republican led body won't do their job. Is it any wonder that polls have the Republican Congress in the low 20% approval ratings? You have to wonder whether there is something being covered up by Republicans that an investigation(s) would reveal. They wouldn't languish with such low approval ratings if they could help improve those ratings by investigating these issues that many Americans, liberal and conservative, are alarmed by.

Fourth, almost the same time as Bush announces his new nominee for head of the CIA this phone record story comes out. Air Force General Michael Hayden who once headed the NSA was not truthful about the domestic wiretapping and doesn't think it should be illegal and even should be expanded, is Bush's choice. Immediately politicians from both parties were not happy with Bush's selection of a military man to head up a civilian agency. It's a line not often crossed in Washington simply because of shades of military rule. In America, civilians control the military, not the other way around. So Bush opts for a candidate that is sure to create controversy. You can assume this is a confirmation hearing that either might not even happen or that will be tough to pass for Hayden.

Fifth, our government has proven time and again that they can be inaccurate, mistaken, flawed, and even down right illegal in various matters concerning things we aren't aware of. We know that the terrorist watch lists have been nailing non-terrorist simply because their names were close to suspected terrorists, to include nuns and a 22 month old baby. It has been found clearing your name from these watch lists can be difficult. Would I think our government would be perfect in their analysis of phone record data? No, they've never proven they are perfect in anything except not being perfect.

Sixth, this so-called war on terrorism is more and more seeming like a ruse to keep tabs on all of us. Collecting so many millions of phone records seems an awful wide net. How many terrorists do we have in America anyway? And now it seems we are all suspects. Are you a terrorist? It seems the NSA thinks you might be. Americans are loosing freedoms faster than we can count them. Apparently our new first freedom is to always be suspected of being a terrorist.

I'm sure there are seventh, eighth and ninth points I could elaborate on, but six seems a good place to stop for now. Is collecting our phone records an outrage? Sure, particularily when combined with the other outrages of the Bush Administration. A touch more than half the country now believe that Bush should be impeached for one reason or another. Bill Clinton only induced about a third of polling desiring impeachment. What gives? To me this might be the biggest outrage of all, that Bush easily outpolled Clinton for impeachment, yet Bush just keeps going and going and going....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Can't Investigate?

Well it turns out that the Justice Department won't be allowed to investigate the warrantless wiretaps program because the NSA (National Security Agency) won't give security clearance to the Justice Department.

All I can think is "WHaaat???"

I shouldn't be all that surprised I guess that the NSA won't allow the Justice Department to investigate the NSA. I wish I had that power in my job. I could do anything I want and if the company wanted to check up on me I could say "no, I won't grant you the authority."

With all the spy agency news these days, I'm beginning to wonder whether spying should even be a function anymore. We have CIA director Porter Goss resigning and two of his aides resigning, apparently due to involvement in what is being referred to as the Watergate, hooker, poker, cigar scandal or something like that.
We have the news that millions upon millions of phone records are being data based.

But, I'm just perplexed that Bush could outright lie about the domestic eavesdropping program claiming they get warrants and apparently this is OK. We have a Republican Congress that refuses to investigate the NSA program and now the NSA refuses to allow Justice to investigate it either. All this lack of investigation desire leads me to highly suspect that there must be all sorts of dirt going on at the NSA. I think there is a good chance that dirty laundry is to stay dirty because Americans won't be happy if the laundry stink gets aired out.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Rumsfeld Questioned, Badly Answered

The other day after a speech in Atlanta, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was questioned by an audience member about Rumsfeld's claims about knowing where the WMDs were in Iraq. The video.

First, I can't hardly believe that over three years later this is the first time someone had the nuts to ask Rumsfeld this. Partly it was about opportunity, but mostly it's because reporters weren't asking this question.

Second, the CNN reporter (on audio) characterizes the man asking the question as a protestor. A protestor? For asking a government official a question in a calm manner during a question and answer segment? Complete horseshit! This is the attitude that anyone that doesn't agree with the Bush administration gets. Asking the wagers of the Iraq War questions about the war or what they said about the war is considered protesting rather than expecting answers to legitimate questions. If a reporter asked the same question, would the reporter be declared a protestor?!? As well there were people in the audience obviously vocally trying to shout down the questioner, but were they labeled protestors? Rhetorical "no" to both questions.

By the way, the "protestor" was former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. It's not clear whether the CNN reporter or Rumsfeld knew this.

Rumsfeld did attempt to answer, first denying he said he knew where they were, then glossing his prior statement. The questioner was nearly tossed out of the room. I'll have to give Rumsfeld credit for letting the man stay, although Rumsfeld may have been savvy enough to understand that the later story would have included that the man was forced to leave.

Rumsfeld then tells the man "You're getting plenty of play, sir," as if expecting an honest answer of our leaders is somehow a special treatment. That line is so telling. These press conferences are so controlled that even getting a follow-up question is amazing. But in this case just getting Rumsfeld to answer honestly still wasn't going to happen.

Further spin I noticed. Rumsfeld offers the question, "Why do you think the men and women in uniform everyday came out of Kuwait and into Iraq put on chemical weapon protective suits, because they liked the style? They honestly believed there were chemical weapons, Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people previously, he used them on his neighbor the Iranians, and they (the troops) believed he had those weapons. We believed he had those weapons."

The man then said "That's what we call a non sequitur. It doesn't matter what the troops believed, it matters what you believed."

Good response!!! Why? Because the troops didn't decide to go to war, the president did and Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense instituted the orders. The troops didn't decide to put on chemical weapons suits, they were ordered to. I watched the war on TV like many people did. I clearly noticed those chemical weapons suits were essentially discarded after a few days. I watched the vehicles roll into Baghdad with troops sans those suits.

Which brings us back to the original Rumsfeld quote. On March 30th, 11 days INTO the war, Rumsfeld said in an ABC interview when asked about WMDs, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." So why did I observe all these troops in the Baghdad area not wearing protective suits if Rumsfeld believed that?

Further, it was Rumsfeld that was photographed shaking hands with Saddam Hussein back in the 1980s. The US courted Saddam, helped build him up. Our country even sold materials that helped produce those chemical weapons that were used on the Kurds.

And finally, the US had no problem with the Iran/Iraq War. In fact we helped Saddam in that war, supplying him with satellite photos of Iran as well as military equipment. It's so like Rumsfeld and company to keep spinning that Saddam used WMDs against his own people and Iran like they didn't know it at the time and in fact tacitly approved of it.

These are the questions I wish Rumsfeld would answer. Why did you go to Iraq and shake hands with Saddam Hussein? Why did the administration you worked for deliver satellite photos of Iran to Saddam when you knew he was capable of using chemical weapons? And then why so long after that era have you now made this an issue you decide to care about when you didn't care then? But I wish I could have followed up Ray McGovern's questions and asked, how come the troops almost entirely DIDN'T wear chemical weapons suits even in the area you claimed you knew where the WMDs were?

Drug Test Politicians

Congressman Patrick Kennedy was involved in a car crash at 245am which apparently was involving the prescription insomnia drug Ambien. Kennedy said he didn't remember getting up, driving, or the arrest. Here's a version of the story.

May 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy said he will check into Minnesota's Mayo Clinic for treatment of addiction to prescription drugs after crashing his car into a security barrier near the Capitol yesterday.

Kennedy said at a news conference in the Capitol that he was in treatment for prescription pain medication during the congressional Christmas recess and will return for treatment because he doesn't remember the events surrounding the 2:45 a.m. accident.

``That's not how I want to live my life,'' said Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat and the son of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. ``This afternoon, I am traveling to Minnesota to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic to ensure that I can continue on my road to recovery.''

Kennedy, 38, said yesterday in a written statement that he took Ambien, a sleeping pill, along with a nausea drug, causing him to become ``disoriented'' shortly before the accident. He indicated today that he intends to remain in office, and didn't take questions from reporters.

In a police report about the incident, officers said that Kennedy first swerved into a wrong lane before crashing his 1997 green Ford Mustang into the security barrier. His car didn't have its headlights on, the report said, and he told officers that he needed to get to the Capitol for a vote, even though the House hadn't been in session for hours.

`Eyes Were Red'

Officers noted in the report that Kennedy's ``eyes were red and watery, speech was slightly slurred, and upon exiting his vehicle, his balance was unsure.''

Kennedy said in the statement yesterday that he didn't consume any alcohol before the accident. He said he has fought against depression and drug addiction since he was a young man.

Sanofi-Aventis SA's Ambien, the top-selling insomnia drug in the U.S., has been the subject of media reports suggesting the pill may cause users to drive or binge eat while sleepwalking.

``Ambien is safe and effective when used as prescribed,'' Melissa Feltmann, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Sanofi said today in a telephone interview. ``The prescribing information says patients should not drive a motor vehicle after taking Ambien, should not take Ambien with alcohol and should only take Ambien when the patient is able to get a full night's sleep.''

Kennedy yesterday denied that he sought special consideration from police. He said he offered to cooperate with their investigation.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that an official of the Fraternal Order of Police, the city's police union, said normal investigative practice would have been to offer the accident victim a breath test to determine his sobriety.

Instead, the union official said, a watch commander requested that officers give Kennedy a ride home, the newspaper said.

An idea of mine that has been swirling in my brain for a year or so is to have Congress and the White House undergo periodic drug testing. I began thinking this when Congress started having hearings into baseball steroid use and their drug policies. I wondered about all these high and mighty politicians scolding baseball (and other sports in later hearings) about drug testing when politicans themselves don't have to be drug tested. Considering that our Washington politicans are responsible for very important issues to all of us, wars for instance, I started to believe that if anyone in our society should be required to have mandatory drug testing it's them.

Most of us private citizens are subject to drug testing to get a job, politicians are never required pre-employment drug testing. If some of us mess up at work (have an accident, begin showing up late, etc.) we may have to be drug tested, yet politicians don't have this threat. Some private occupations require random drug testing, Congress and the White House don't. Military personnel have random drug testing, politicians don't. It seems plenty hypocritical for our politicians to allow so many of us to submit to drug testing yet they don't have this same implication on rights to privacy.

Kennedy has said that he is addicted to Ambien and is seeking drug treatment, yet was still making public decisions that affect us. Ambien has been accused of resulting in users driving a car in their sleep. I mean, WHAT? This is not good. Once Kennedy began his drug treatment, he should have been suspended from Congress until he beat his addiction, they'd do that for athletes and many of us. In fact plenty workers in the US might have been immediately fired for the Kennedy car accident under a drugs influence.

My Libertarian side is not in favor of mandatory and random drug testing, but my hypocrisy alert side is in favor of those that make and allow these drug testing policies be under those same policies. I'm not for drug testing even in athletics because of privacy rights, but some important occupations (airline pilots for one, politicians another!) should be monitored for drug use (including alcohol).

I would be willing to bet that if mandatory and random drug testing were to be applied to our Washington politicians and then the violators made public we would have plenty of cases to discuss. Never mind illegal drugs for a minute, alcohol and prescription drug overuse has often whispered about over the years.

I've often found that drug testing is filled with authoritarian hypocrisy. In corporations how many CEOs, board members, high level executives are subjected to drug testing? Probably a big fat zero. The business lunch drinking still goes on, but if a lowly employee gets drug tested and has been found to be smoking marijuana off the job, then termination is highly possible. Our law makers institute drug testing laws, then don't have to submit to them.

So until the drug testing hypocrisy has been changed, I fully believe those DC politicians should be treated the same as the rest of us and that includes our president, vice president, and White House appointees.

Many of us have to be drug tested to get a job, why are politicians not required one when running for election? Why are political appointees able to avoid drug testing to get their appointment?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Night Draws Near

I just finished a good book called Night Draws Near by Anthony Shadid. The book is an account of the Iraq War by a reporter working for the Washington Post but from the everyday Iraqi point of view.

Shadid travels throughout Iraq from before the "shock and awe" beginnings to mid-2004 and then returns for the first Iraqi election. He spends much time in Baghdad witnessing many pieces of the events as they occured. Shadid was the first to interview unknown (to Americans) cleric Muqtada Sadr, eventual leader of the Mahdi Army, post invasion.

The reporting has such a sense of how it would feel to be caught between Saddam Hussein and America's promises of freedom. To be in hiding for the first month of the war just trying to stay out of the way. To experience the electric power failures, the lack of water, food, medicine, and sewage.

Shadid takes you to various Iraqi's and asks how they feel at different points along the course of the war. Normal Iraqi's outraged at the total lack of control of their country by the American forces as the looting swept throughout the country following the fall of Baghdad. The fear of Iraqi's as the promises of a better life hardly materialized but instead a steady stream of bombings, kidnappings, murders, looting, theft, and unemployment accumulated.

Shadid was only embedded with American troops on a couple of occassions. He was almost entirely "embedded" in Iraqi society. He had the luxury of being fluent in Arabic and he's an American, so his insight was completely different from a troop embedded reporter who could only speak English. Shadid could read the writing on the wall, literally, as graffiti on buildings could give a sense of how some Iraqi people were thinking that a non-Arabic speaking person could never understand.

I was impressed with his accounts of several events. Visiting the wild scene of the crater after the U.S. tried to bomb Saddam out of existence but instead killed many civilians. Or the bombing of the front gate of the home of his ever ready Iraqi aide, friend and helper. The many visits to a family with a teen girl whose diary contained an emotional eyewitness account as she grew up through those couple of years in a war torn Baghdad.

And a simple visit of a graveyard in Baghdad that held the remains of British soldiers from their war against the Ottoman Empire in the 19-teens. Included was the grave of Major General Sir Stanley Maude. After entering Baghdad, Maude proclaimed, "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerers or enemies, but as liberators." The British became occupiers and gave up in the 1930's.

President Bush nearly used those exact words on the eve of war and at times later. Is it a wonder that Iraqis with much better memories of the past than Americans have would wonder if Bush was telling the truth? And Shadid finds many Iraqis wondering what is to come of their lives and their country as the months go on. He finds Shiites and Sunnis weighing the future and some of them simple flee the country, including his associate with the bombed front gate.

I highly recommend this book. An account of the Iraq War that is rare in American media.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mission Accomplished, 3 Years Ago Today

Bush's thumb, in the wrong direction.

Three years ago today President Bush declared "mission accomplished" during his aircraft carrier over-the-top photo op. I remember that day and remember how disgusted I was because I absolutely KNEW that the war was not over. Now, three years later I knew what Bush didn't, that mission was not accomplished, in fact still isn't.

We now know that even three years after mission accomplished hasn't materialized that not a few months ago Bush suggested that the next president would be dealing with Iraq. He has already passed on mission acomplished to the next president. Some day, maybe, we will have a mission accomplished, maybe, but it's hard to see from here.

Most everyone except the White House seems to understand that Iraq is now a sectarian and tribal civil war. I guess the White House only thinks civil wars are like our own American Civil War, with clear lines drawn. Iraq's civil war is like several others. It's the assassinations in the street, the militas of Shiites and Sunnis battling each other in an almost private way. The Iraq civil war is more like an American big city drug war between large gangs, crips vs bloods, only larger and more deeply rooted in long ago transgressions. The situation in Iraq is something the Bushies never envisioned, they never had that "vision thing" as to Iraq. They never understood the culture, the religion, the politics, and the tribal aspects.

Mission accomplished's three year anniversary has come and gone today, but the war in Iraq has come and not gone.

Colbert Skewers Bush, Bush Just Nods

Stephen Colbert's word was "information" just the opposite of what President Bush gives us.

Over the weekend the White House Correspondent's Dinner was held. This is a get-together where the news media stars mingle with politicians, the White House personnel (including Bush and wife Laura) and various other personalities. For instance outgoing and incoming Press Secretaries Scott McLellan and Tony Snow were there as were actor George Clooney, Senator John McCain, newsworthy Joe Wilson and his wife, and quaterback Ben Roethlisberger. The dinner is sort of a lovefest for the news media stars. They get to rub elbows with those they cover.

The highlight of the evening is when the host (this year being Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert) does their speech/routine. In the recent past Jay Leno skewered the press and the president. This year Colbert blasted the press and Bush with his pretend character he assumes on his show, the fake conservative. Apparently Bush was not so pleased after Colbert's act, simply nodding, shaking his hand and leaving the dinner. Some highlights of Colbert's humor follow.

On Iraq: "I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

On Cheney's hunting incident: "To sit here at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush...I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You now what, I'm a pretty sound sleeper, that may not be enough...Somebody shoot me in the face."

On Bush's response to global warming:
"[Talking to Jesse Jackson] is like boxing a glacier...Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is."

To Senator John McCain:
"So wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. I've actually got a summer house in South Carolina. Look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University."

On Bush's "steadfastness":
"The greatest thing about this man is that he's steady, you know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday--no matter what happened Tuesday."

On the press response to the White House shake-up and the metaphor of "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic":
"This administration is soaring, not sinking...If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."

On Bush's approval rating: "Now I know there's some polls out there that say this man has a 32 percent approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Pay no attention to people who say the glass is half empty...Because 32 percent means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass, is my point. But I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash."

On Bush's response to disasters:
"I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

I couldn't help but laugh out loud at Colbert's characterization of the Bush supporters as "backwash." For many months I've tried to come up with a good description for those remaining Bush faithful, those 32% that still approve of him. I usually call them "the final faithful" or the "Kool Aid drunks." I've long felt that even if Bush severed the head of a voter live on TV those backwashers would find some way to justify Bush's bloody action, rather than see reality. Which brings me to another Colbert comment at the dinner. "And reality has a well-known liberal bias."

You can read the transcript of Colbert's routine here and see the video here.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hastert, Gas Hypocrite

The top picture is House Speaker Dennis Hastert riding in a hydogen fueled vehicle. The second photo is Hastert getting into his personal SUV after the first picture was taken. His ride in the first car was to promote alternative fueled vehicles this past week when some Republican Congress members had a press conference at a gas station in Washington, D.C. The ride in the SUV was a trip of a few blocks back to the Capital Building.

It makes one wonder a few things. Why didn't Hastert just have the hydrogen fueled vehicle continue on to the Capital Building to save a few more bucks? Why is Hastert's regular vehicle an SUV if he really cares so much about alternative fueled vehicles? Why does Hastert drive an SUV with so many better mileaged vehicles that are just gasoline powered and that are not SUVs if he cares about gas consumption?

I Can't help but label Hastert a hypocrite. This guy thinks all of us Americans should be saving fuel via the choice of vehicles we drive, but not him. Mr. SUV Congressman is the type of leader that should be fired. A great leader leads by example. A poor leader, tells how to do it, but doesn't do it themselves. The two pictures above show a poor leader, I wouldn't follow him even though I think alternative fueled vehicles are a good idea. Why? Because I can't trust a poor leader.

Hey, I've got a good idea. How about all politicians start leading by example? Maybe the Hastert's of Washington should be giving up their SUVs and driving gas conserving vehicles, you know, to lead by example.