Saturday, May 19, 2007
It was an experience that touched my soul deeply, for these were my people who wrought this horror and as Gord points out, my people are doing it again in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo.
Left wing or right wing, commie or Nazi, Stalin, Hitler, or Bush, when you start lockin' people away who don't agree with you, it's bad. We're not at that point yet, but the exhibit was a reminder and a warning, if only to those of us to whom such things matter.
I posted some pics here and here.
Casualties among private contractors in Iraq have soared to record levels this year, setting a pace that seems certain to turn 2007 into the bloodiest year yet for the civilians who work alongside the American military in the war zone, according to new government numbers.
Now, regular readers know how I feel about 'contractors' making big money doing jobs our troops used to do, or doing jobs our troops still do. Of course, the foreign (non-American) contractors are generally exploited by the big American companies making profit hand over fist.
Many contractors in the battle zone say they lack the basic security measures afforded uniformed troops and receive benefits that not only differ from those provided to troops, but also vary by employer. Weekly pay ranges from $60 for Iraqi translators and laborers to $1,800 for truck drivers to as much as $6,000 for private security guards employed by companies like Blackwater. Medical and insurance benefits also vary widely, from excellent to minimal.
And of course, profits are everything, and safety cuts into profits. Like the young Republicans who work in the Green Zone, those who've come to Iraq to make money off others' suffering realize it isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Conditions in Iraq are harsh, and many civilians who arrive there, drawn by patriotism, a sense of adventure or the lure of money, are overwhelmed by the environment. If they raise questions about the 12-hour workdays, the lack of armor plating on trucks or the periodic shelling of bases, supervisors often tell them to pack up and go home.
Cynthia I. Morgan, a Tennessee trucker who spent more than a year in Iraq as a convoy commander, said that the common answer from her bosses to such complaints was, "Aisle or window, chicken or pasta" — meaning "Get on the next plane out of here."
That's right, honey. Don't let it hit ya in the ass because there's a hundred other assholes waiting in line for your job who'd probably do it for less money. Halliburton doesn't care if you're safe, just that you can drive. Same way the Chimp doesn't care about our troops once they're too injured to carry a rifle.
We went to go visit the Eastern California Museum. Pretty good little country museum, but we got a surprise on top of it - a traveling exhibit on the Soviet Gulags. Sponsored by Amnesty International and the National Park Service, this small museum out in the middle of effin' nowhere is the only West Coast venue, so most folks who get to see it will just kinda stumble onto it like we did. That's too bad, but most folks don't give a shit about stuff like that.
It's an entirely appropriate choice of venue, because the museum is six miles north of an American Gulag.
I sorta mentioned to the nice lady that ran the joint that they could fold the exhibit up and put it away as soon as this administration is gone or in jail. Her response was a sorta nervous laugh.
Left wing or right wing, commie or Nazi, Stalin, Hitler, or Bush, when you start lockin' people away who don't agree with you, it's bad. We're not at that point yet, but the exhibit was a reminder and a warning, if only to those of us to whom such things matter.
We're in The People's Republic of Santa Monica now, at the Pico Travelodge. It's in the downscale end of an upscale city, so it's expensive, at least to this, er, thrifty, yeah, that's the word, old soul.
Since the joint is pretty much right downtown, parking is a little cramped. The desk clerk warned me that the parking lot for the pet-friendly rooms was so small I couldn't turn the rig around in it and would have to back out onto the street. A very busy street, too, I might add. While the lot was pretty empty, I got the Tacoma turned around OK so I could pull straight out. I went back and told the manager about turning around in his lot, "Nothin' a make-out knob and an E-brake won't handle, buddy!". I think the desk crew thinks I'm a little odd...
Did I mention that we've had to be just a little bit creative with two healthy dogs in a concrete and blacktop environment? So far, so good.
The motel is across the street from the world famous McCabe's Guitar Shop. Me'n Mrs. G have been to many concerts there in years past.
It's breakfast with my old friend Bill this morning, and my reunion tonight. Later.
I say, he's just another asshole with a sign on his back saying 'SCAPEGOAT' (see: Deputy AG McNulty)
This morning, I see Commander Huber has the same opinion:
Lute's real function is twofold. First, he will provide another layer of distance from the Bush inner circle and its profound failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, he is the down payment on the next "Friedman unit." A "Friedman" refers to multiple iterations by New York Times of the sentiment that in "the next six months we're going to find out…whether a decent outcome is possible" in the Iraq war. [my em]
And the talking point you'll hear is "you have to give the new War Czar a chance ..." blah, blah, blah and by that time it'll be a Democratic President who gets us out of Iraq.
Today, the newspaper of record, the one which was the blunt instrument of destruction of the Nixon administration, has finally placed George Bush in the crosshairs. In consciously invoking a play on some of the most damning words of the Watergate scandal, the Bush administration has been put on notice: the end is near.
Somewhere, Katherine Graham is smiling.
And the thing that got me was this:
"And so we will put in place programs to protect the American people that honor the civil liberties of our people, and programs that we constantly brief to Congress," Mr. Bush assured the country yesterday, as he brushed off requests for a more detailed account. But this is exactly the point of contention. The administration, it appears from Mr. Comey's testimony, was willing to go forward, against legal advice, with a program that the Justice Department had concluded did not "honor the civil liberties of our people." Nor is it clear that Congress was adequately informed. The president would like to make this unpleasant controversy disappear behind the national security curtain. That cannot be allowed to happen.
As I said a little over a month ago:
By the way, as Spring arrives, do you catch a faint scent of Watergate on the breeze lately? Heh ...
Great thanks to Skippy for the ASZ link.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Also across the street are the Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney. I went and stood in the footprints of probably thousands of travelers at the edge of the parking lot and got a picture of the whole panorama, but I didn't bring the get-it-out-of-the-camera cable, so I'll post it when I get home.
The Alabama Hills are famous as a movie location. You've seen them, trust me, in everything from westerns to "Gunga Din" to episodes of "Star Trek: Whichever". The motel has movie cowboy pictures everywhere. Like over the beds, fer chrissake!
We're easin' our way toward L.A. and will be in Santa Monica this afternoon. I wish my high school had the sense to have their reunion in Lone Pine!
Just stop it, Mr. Harwood, you blinkered pantywaist. It wasn't enough that 9/11 was used so cynically as a cudgel to launch a preemptive and illegal war against a country that, despite Ron Paul's well-intentioned but off-the-mark comments at the debates on Tuesday night, did NOT attack us. Now you want to conflate Vietnam War draft dodger Rudy Giuliani's exploitation of 9/11 with "justifiable" cheerleading for waterboarding? I think this country has had quite enough of "President Jack Bauer," thankyouverymuch.
And no, Mr. Harwood, Rudy Giuliani cannot "lay claim" to 9/11. He no more owns the tragedy than any other New Yorker, like my shellshocked neighbor who, when I met him up on the rooftops to watch the rest of the horror of that day unfold a mile south, recounted in an eerily detached monotone about fleeing WTC1 and seeing people hitting the pavement from ninety stories up. Or the friend of mine who broke her ankle trying to scramble out of the way of falling debris. Or the woman who battled back from the edge of death after she was engulfed in burning jet fuel as she rushed from the buildings. Or the families of the restaurant workers who had been starting their day at Windows on the World, way up on the top floor. Or the 9/11 widows so snidely and cynically mocked by the War Whores on the Right who accused them of pimping the tragedy for their personal benefit.
Watertiger, a fellow NYer also closely touched by September 11th, calls it exactly right.
The Cattle Dog slept in and the Mrs. is away on business, hence I'm late for work. See you in the afternoon.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz will leave office June 30 amid a controversy over his handling of a pay package for his girlfriend, a bank employee, the institution's board of directors announced Thursday.
Now if the rest of neocons get the same treatment, things will start looking up.
Pic courtesy of WaPo.
After having lived near the DMZ for a little over 3 years of my life, this story does me good:
Two trains from North and South Korea crossed the heavily armed border on Thursday, restoring for the first time an artery severed in the 1950-1953 fratricidal war and fanning dreams of unification.
It took the two Koreas 56 years to send the trains -- one starting in the South and one in the North -- across the Cold War’s last frontier for the one-off runs of about 25 km (15 miles) one way.
It's incremental but it's something. You wouldn't believe how many families were separated by that war and the ensuing armistice. A divided Korea should go the way of a divided Germany.
Off to the shop ...
Lt. Col. James Garcia, a spokesman for the New Jersey Air National Guard, said it was believed a flare dropped from one its F-16s may have started the blaze, though an investigation was ongoing.
The range was the same facility from which a National Guard jet accidentally strafed an elementary school with large-caliber rounds in 2004 during a training exercise.
In 2001, an errant Air National Guard practice bomb caused a fire that burned more than 1,600 acres in the Pine Barrens. [my ems]
Real good, fellas.
Seems there's no room in the anal stimulation business for two likenesses of the Chimp. Why do I even post this?
1. Because I'm a man and even though I'm 45, I have the maturity of a 15 year old. I'm giggling my ass off.
2. Because Brother Lurch gave me the heads up in an email. Like Gord, I'm beginning to wonder about that boy. Heh ...
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Sometimes you forget how exhilirating Christopher Hitchens can be when he's on your side.
"The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September 11 were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification? People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup."
Tinky Winky say "Buh-bye, Jerry."
I had a student ask me, "Could the savior you believe in save Osama bin Laden?" Of course, we know the blood of Jesus Christ can save him, and then he must be executed. - The Reverend Jerry Falwell
No doubt Hillary Clinton will be breathing a sigh of relief while John McCain has been cut adrift from a major wing of Crazy Base World. The Devil's problems, however, will be just beginning since God will obviously be foisting him off on his former archangel just for old time.s sake.
So I'll shelve the sackcloth and ashes for the infamous televangelist who'd founded the Moral Majority, the well-dressed snake handlers who'd slithered their way into Reagan's White House and helped establish the foundation for the Christopathic movement we see running the government today.
I could spend all day digging up outrageous quotes of Falwell's that would get most liberals drawn and quartered live on The 700 Club because, frankly, finding normal quotes by Falwell that don't involve eternal damnation are scarcer than college Republicans in Iraq. But that would be a waste of time.
Instead, my peroration will be about the dangers of falling for bloated snake charmers like Falwell, someone who spoke in tongues that only other Muslim-hating, racist misogynists could possibly understand, a dog whistle language that appealed to anyone who had the English-Christopath dictionary that seems to have supplanted the Gideon Bible in American motel rooms.
You created people like Jerry Falwell, America, just as the Germans created Hitler, just as the Russians created Lenin and Stalin, just as we had created and enabled to unforgivable degrees people like George W. Bush. Jerry Falwell is the price we pay for complacence, for tolerance of hatred and its intolerance and for outsourcing our brains and letting them be supplanted by avaricious maniacs that make up the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family.
And, if God is as intolerant as Jerry Falwell was, then Hell just got a lot fuller. Have a nice trip, Jerry and don't forget to pack your asbestos undies.
Go read the rest. Enjoy.
The French have a new president, the British will soon have a new P.M., and we envy them as we endure the endless wait for this small dim man to go back to Texas and resume his life. His party is coming to see that it must figure out how to tell the truth about him if it is to compete in 2008, but so far nobody has stepped forward and wound up to throw the pie. Their clock is stuck in the fall of 2001. They are sleepwalking toward the precipice.
I stepped off a precipice once in pitch dark. Actually it was a street level retaining wall and I fell about eight feet into Donner Creek. Luckily, it was running low and there wasn't anything sharp sticking up. I didn't get hurt, just wet. I hope the Repugs aren't as lucky.
Note: the article is at Salon. I got to watch an ad for Pan's Labyrinth, which I really want to see.
Political support for Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) is beginning to erode, with Republicans in his district predicting he will face a credible primary challenger next year if his legal woes continue and he does not abandon his vow to run for re-election.
Originally silent or supportive following an FBI raid of Doolittle's Virginia home last month, a growing number of Republican activists in the Sacramento-area 4th district have decided they can no longer support the Congressman and are beginning to explore backing other candidates.
Many Republicans in Doolittle's district believe the Congressman ultimately might be exonerated. But they are beginning to conclude that he has suffered irreparable political harm from the ongoing FBI investigation into his and his wife Julie's connection to incarcerated former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Fueling this analysis are some troubling first-quarter fundraising numbers and the close victory Doolittle eked out last year over police administrator Charlie Brown (D). Running again in 2008, Brown ended March with an effective cash-on-hand lead over Doolittle of $140,000.
A telling sign of Doolittle's increasingly precarious electoral predicament is that the National Republican Congressional Committee has declined to defend him, even though one of its prime missions is incumbent protection. When asked to comment Monday on Doolittle, NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley said only that Republicans would retain the 4th district in 2008.
More heat packs! More glucosamine with chondritin! Must loosen up for Dance of Joy!
Charlie Brown for Congress
Dump Doolittle, "Chronicling a lame duck's stumble into oblivion".
John McCain is the only adult on that stage and that scares the living hell out of me considering that he's half nuts too. Wow.
I think Rudy won it. These people don't care if he's wearing a teddy under his suit and sleeping with the family schnauzer as long as he promises to spill as much blood as possible.
And that's all it was about. Fortunately, or not, I caught the lowlights on the news this morning. At least I didn't sit through the whole thing. These morons can do nothing but try to sound 'tougher' than the Chimp. It's the only thing they have with which to connect with the 'base'.
Kill the ragheads but save the zygotes, your 'moral values' Republican Party. Jesus weeps ...
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
There have been clowns like this throughout history, sanctimonious, hypocritical bastards who can shovel a steaming load and get people to eat it, stuffing their pockets while keeping the sheep in line. Every so often, Fate and Circumstance conspire to give these people more power than they deserve. The Republican domination of Congress over the past decade, and the Presidency for the past 6 years, have allowed these motherfuckers to bring this nation to the brink of disaster.
They've inserted themselves into the political system and used it to their advantage, both financially and with greater influence in government policy. The fact we have any 'faith-based' government agencies is unconscionable and the fact these assholes don't pay taxes is unbelievable.
Whether Jerry Falwell goes to Heaven or Hell means nothing to me (I know where I'm going if Jerry and his gang are correct and I've made my peace with that; I'm prepared to pay for my sins), as long as he's gone, never to return. I'm tired of these southern preachers, radical Islamists, crazy Jews, and William Donohue Catholics setting the discourse in this nation and trying to bend it to their will.
Fuck you, Jerry, fuck the lot of you. Hope you all end up on Jerry's ferry in a hurry. The world, and especially America, will be better off without you. See you in Hell.
Put succinctly, as only our pal 42 can do it:
Burn in hell, you feculent douchebag.
Roger Ailes the Good:
In related news, John McCain is already interviewing new religious zealots he can pander to.
During an event this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Alberto Gonzales launched an unabashed and shameless finger-pointing campaign at outgoing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, blaming him for the U.S. attorney scandal.
He did it! He did it! Wa'n't me! What a cowardly twat.
Great thanks to UL @ Maru's for the link.
We're gonna go out of town for a few days, too, so we're gearing up for that. I'm going to a first ever Class of '62 high school reunion in L.A. this weekend. At that rate, I figgered I best not try and wait for the next one!
Mrs. G keeps coming up with other places to go while we're gone as well. I'll do my best to keep you up to date, and it looks like it's going to be as big a surprise to me as it is to you! It's fun, all good.
We'll be leaving on Thursday and should be home next Wednesday, but ¿quien sabe?
It's a good time to take a little break anyway. It's fun, nay, gratifying, to watch, but it's pretty hard to keep up with which wheels are comin' off the Repug crime wagon on their way to their colossal and well deserved train wreck. They're comin' thick and fast. We just about have to dodge flyin' lug nuts! It's time. Whee!
I'll try to find fun things to post. The serious shit can do without me for a few days.
I bet it's a lot warmer there than he figured.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. Embassy employees in Iraq are growing increasingly angry over what they say are inadequate security precautions in the heavily fortified Green Zone, where recent mortar and rocket attacks have claimed the lives of six people, including two U.S. citizens.
A second official called it "criminally negligent" not to reduce the size of the embassy staff, which a year ago was estimated at 1,000, in the face of the increasing attacks and blamed the administration's failure to respond on concerns that doing so might undermine support for President Bush's Iraq policy.
"What responsible person and responsible government would ask you to put yourself at risk like that? We don't belong here," the employee said, adding, "They're not going to send us home because it's going to be another admission of failure."
The same 'responsible government' who sent our troops there in numbers too few, with body armor too thin, with vehicles too underarmed, that's who. Dumb fuckers, at least the troops can shoot back. You motherfuckers got nothing but your Kevlar helmet and a below-grade flak vest.
Seems embassy duty in Baghdad was once a peach assignment, back when Bremer was running the show and the insurgents didn't have their infrastructure set up. Every Young Republican worth his salt wanted to work for the CPA. Now, it seems, not so much.
As for the admission of failure, well that's been obvious to everyone but Republicans for years now. Maybe this might wake up a buncha those young ideologues, realizing the Bush administration cares as much about them as they do the troops. They might realize that they are expendable in Cheney's mission to turn Iraq into a 'resource area' for American oil companies. Remember, you're only worth something to Bush if you put money in his pocket or you can give him a good photo op. What's been obvious to us as well is now hitting home for these ambitious young folks.
The officials also complained that important security precautions appeared to have been set aside during highly publicized official visits. During a March 31 visit from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a high-profile presidential candidate, the embassy lifted a requirement that bulletproof vests and helmets be worn at all times. When a rocket landed outside the U.S. Embassy while Vice President Dick Cheney and several reporters visited last week, no warning sirens were sounded.
"Where were the sirens then?" one official asked. "We don't belong here, and people are afraid to say it." [my ems]
Far be it anything makes it to cable news to show good things aren't 'just around the corner' nor is the insurgency in 'its last throes'. You can all die as long as John McCain can walk through that market
Poor babies. Oh well, that's the price you pay for being a loyal Republican. Kicking the shit out a buncha Ay-rabs ain't all it's cracked up to be now, is it? Being a REMF in a war zone is fun when they're not shooting at you but when you're facing incoming, that sphincter tightens a bit, don't it? Makes you wonder what you signed up for, huh? Look at the bright side. At least you ain't an infantry troop.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Losses among the Army’s Stryker armored vehicles have been rising steadily as the Sunni insurgents/Ba’athists/dead enders/occupation resisters have learned how to defeat them.
The longer we're there, the greater our losses will become as they watch us and figure out our weaknesses.
Jet-Propelled Outhouse Goes Fast, Even if You Don't
Sometimes diapers aren't enough. The two-cylinder single-passenger Latrina is perfect if you really can't afford to stop for anything except rocket fuel. Opt for the sports package, with 6-CD changer, stiffer suspension and half-moon roof. Base model $18,590 at Cesspools, Segways and Beyond.
Rocket fuel? Who needs rocket fuel? Frijole power! Self-generated methane is in abundance!
Cheney Issues Warning to Iran
If Bush's approval rating continues falling, they can expect military action.
Bush Presses Iraqi Parliament to Cancel Summer Vacations
Calls them from Crawford ranch.
Flavored Meth Aimed at First-Timers
Wins Advertising Age's Most Innovative Marketing award.
BOXER: Excuse me. He never said our troops are losers. Now, Lindsey, just be careful what you say. The bottom line here is, the losers are the ones who have, you know, engineered this war, made a huge mistake, Dick Cheney, we're in the last throes, the war will last six months, and all of you who have supported this escalation and have turned us away from fighting al Qaida into putting us in the middle of a civil war.
Boxer: "The loser is the Commander in Chief who has not lead our country well."
That's correct. We're it not for the Chimp, we wouldn't be in Iraq, wouldn't be having this discussion. And he wouldn't have been elected to a second term.
Speaking of Iraq, the enemy is becoming bolder, ambushing our patrols. Not just making the road blow up underneath 'em, but actually engaging and taking prisoners.
Seven U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi army interpreter came under attack Saturday morning during a patrol in a Sunni insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad, leaving five dead and three missing, the military said.
I thought the idea behind this 'surge' was to beat down the insurgency, not give the enemy more targets from which to choose. Seems the patrol was undermanned too, each vehicle a troop short. Maybe that's why 'commanders on the ground' are calling for more troops, even beyond the units involved in the 'surge'.
Note to Rethugs: Don't you think the American people know the war in Iraq is lost? You can call Harry Reid names all day. You can point fingers and whine like little kids as you recite the same tired old talking points 'the Dems don't support the troops', 'the Dems hate America', but it's 6 years past 9/11 and people realize it's all bullshit.
The evening news looks the same as it did 40 years ago, when I'd come home from school and see the casualty reports on Huntley/Brinkley, and those of my age and older remember that. Close to 30,000 troops died from the time Johnson knew Vietnam was lost in '68, and they know a lot more will die since they finally got their minds around the fact this war was lost last year. We've been down this road before.
Time to pack it up and leave.
Our pal Scout Prime looks at the spin of the weekend on the righty blogs. Why anyone listens to them anymore is beyond me too. I guess those 28 percenters are beyond hope.
Off to work ...
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Except, as we later found out, the cult in Miami -- billed by Dick Cheney as being "a very real threat" -- turned out to be more farce than force. McLeary also noted that the "Lackawanna Six" were "hardly the criminal masterminds that they were initially made out to be."
A few other examples come to mind. The plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge wasn't quite what it was made out to be. Jose Padilla was not actually prepared to detonate a dirty bomb in DC. The facts of the British hijacking plot didn't stand up well to scrutiny, and the plot to attack Los Angeles' Library Tower turned out to be far less serious than we'd been led to believe.
The average American isn't distracted by shiny shit as they used to be and, after 6 years of Chimp, their bullshit detectors are getting better too.
It has not even reached parliament, but the oil law that U.S. officials call vital to ending Iraq's civil war is in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers, many of whom see it as a sloppy document rushed forward to satisfy Washington's clock.
"Oil is Iraq's sovereignty. It is the only wealth in Iraq. It unifies Iraqis. When we give it to a foreign investor, this means the sovereignty is taken away," [Imad Abdul Hussain, a leader of the Federation of Oil Unions] said.
OF course you didn't watch the first Republican presidential debate on MSNBC. Even the party's most loyal base didn't abandon Fox News, where Bill O'Reilly, interviewing the already overexposed George Tenet, drew far more viewers. Yet the few telling video scraps that entered the 24/7 mediasphere did turn the event into an instant "Saturday Night Live" parody without "SNL" having to lift a finger. The row of 10 middle-aged white candidates, David Letterman said, looked like "guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club."
You owe it to yourself not to miss this one!
Appearing on NBC's Chris Matthews Show this morning, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker revealed that sources within the military are warning of "a revolt from active-duty generals if September rolls around and the president is sticking with the surge into '08." Watch it:
By all means go watch it.
If this happens, and I hope it does, look for a whole bunch of 'retirements' followed by a buncha passed-over Colonels making General and being put in charge. The second string will be runnin' Bush's show in its last throes. Swell.