Saturday, April 29, 2006

Displaced Iraqi Families

Jesus H Christ on a merry-go-round. More on this later.
Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, as six more Iraqis were killed in scattered violence on Saturday.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi, one of the country's two vice presidents, told reporters in the southern city of Najaf that 90 percent of the displaced were Shiites like himself and the rest were Sunnis, the minority that held sway under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Other estimates of the number of displaced families have been lower.

Dr. Salah Abdul-Razzaq, spokesman of the Shiite Endowment, a government body that runs Shiite religious institutions, put the number of displaced families at 13,750 nationwide, or about 90,000 people.

That includes 25,000 Iraqis who have fled their homes since the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22 triggered a wave of attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics.

Earlier this week, U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters that U.S. forces had found no "widespread movement" of Shiites and Sunnis away from religiously mixed areas, despite reports to the contrary by Iraqi officials.

My opening was a reference to Maj Gen Rick Lynch's response. Of course, the official opinion is there is no "widespread movement". How come everyone else is wrong? Always wrong? Why can't these people just shut up rather than lie for Bushco?

Now, what surprises me is how the Iraqis' can accept daily bloodshed and bombings. Even the high figure of 100,000 sounds astonishingly low. I'm no hero and I'd move my family out of there in a heartbeat. This's just another example of how I can't relate to Iraqi's in some aspects of their lives. I can understand the need to lead as normal lives as possible, but there comes a point where it just isn't worth it. I'd leave and return home when I thought we had a 50-50 chance of living through the next 24 hours.

Oh Yeah, Bushco Is Pushing Democracy, But Only On Their Terms

Ted Rall says the neocons have had one success and they blew it.
The Bushies might have lost Afghanistan and Iraq, but they got exactly what they wanted in Palestine: democratic elections, a peaceful transfer of power, a radical Islamist group ready to disavow terrorism and transform itself into a parliamentary political party, a majority party willing to work with Israel and her allies. It was a staggering victory for the neoconservative agenda, a golden opportunity to co-opt one of the most prominent organizations of militant Muslims in the world, and proof positive that democracy prevails over terrorism.

And the neocons hated it.

Truth is they didn't get exactly what they wanted in Palestine. They didn't get the regime change they wanted. They didn't get a puppet regime. You can't control the world if you can't control every country.

Maybe Another Republican In Trouble?

These days you can't throw a rock without hitting some Republican who allegedly is connected to or involved in something shady if not illegal. Did I say guilty? Nope. That's something Bushco would do. This guy is, for now, suspicious.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican Party chairman, arranged the startup financing for a GOP telemarketing company implicated in two criminal cases involving election dirty tricks.

Virginia corporation records show Barbour's investment company arranged a quarter-million dollar loan to GOP Marketplace in 2000 and also gave a promotional plug to the telemarketer several months later.

There is something interesting here, however. I've been in business and never asked party affiliation before using another's services. If it was the right service at the right price, that's all that mattered. Could have been dealing with Green or Libertarian for all I know. It appears that's the first thing Bushco looks for. Deal only with Republicans...always.

Is that suspicious? Well, unless you believe no Democrat could ever deliver what was needed, yes it is. It has the appearance of dealing only with those who will scratch your back and they will do so only because you will do the same for them. Its the inbreeding I've mentioned before.

Another Rupublican In Trouble

I say he's a Republican because Bush nominated him to lead the FDA and because of these donations.
The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration is under federal investigation amid accusations of financial improprieties and making false statements to Congress, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The New York Times, citing attorney Barbara Van Gelder, said a grand jury has begun a criminal investigation of Lester Crawford. She declined further comment.

Van Gelder told a federal magistrate in a telephone hearing Thursday that she would instruct Crawford to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if ordered to answer questions about his actions as head of the FDA, a transcript of the hearing shows.

Wow. Who would have expected another Republican to fall under a criminal investigation?

(read more)

Interesting History Lesson

This via Slacktivist.
Marine Gen. (ret.) Paul Van Riper has joined the chorus of retired generals calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.

You may remember Gen. Van Riper from "Millennium Challenge 02" -- the largest war game ever staged by the U.S. military. The game, involving some 13,500 troops at a cost of around $250 million, was essentially a dress-rehearsal for the invasion of Iraq. Van Riper led the "Red," enemy, team.

And he won.

Or he would have won, if the game hadn't been rigged. For instance, he outfoxed the "Blue" (American) generals, sinking much of the American fleet in the Persian Gulf. So they called a time-out and a do-over to refloat the fleet. Just like in a real war.


Retired Ambassador Robert Oakley, who participated in the experiment as Red civilian leader, said Van Riper was outthinking the Blue Force from the first day of the exercise.

Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders, negating Blue’s high-tech eavesdropping capabilities, Oakley said. Then, when the Blue fleet sailed into the Persian Gulf early in the experiment, Van Riper’s forces surrounded the ships with small boats and planes sailing and flying in apparently innocuous circles.

When the Blue commander issued an ultimatum to Red to surrender or face destruction, Van Riper took the initiative, issuing attack orders via the morning call to prayer broadcast from the minarets of his country’s mosques. His force’s small boats and aircraft sped into action

“By that time there wasn’t enough time left to intercept them,” Oakley said. As a result of Van Riper’s cunning, much of the Blue navy ended up at the bottom of the ocean. The Joint Forces Command officials had to stop the exercise and “refloat” the fleet in order to continue, Oakley said.


But not only was the Pentagon braintrust flummoxed by Van Riper in the war game, they were just as surprised, months later during the actual invasion, when Iraqi insurgents began employing many of these same tactics. This was, they said, just another one of those calamities that "no one could have predicted." Except that everybody had.

And of course Bushco is reacting to this news story exactly as you would expect.

What The Fuck?

Has the US government gone completely bat shit crazy? They're marching US and the world into war and no one seems sufficiently concerned to do anything to stop them.

If you don't believe in God, you might want to start and pray this juggernaut doesn't keep going.

You think $3 gas is a problem? Well nuclear missles are one hell of a lot worse. In the last world war, only one country had nuclear weapons. Hmmm, that would have been the US, who used them.
It is "a steppingstone to war," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, during the debate over the so-called Iran Freedom Support Act, and if this vote is any measure of the degree of congressional opposition to the looming prospect of war with Tehran, then we have a lot to worry about.

Only 21 members of the House stood up against the overwhelming bipartisan wave of support for the bill, which would impose economic sanctions on the Iranians – and openly proclaims the goal of effecting "regime change." Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, said the bill reminds him of a 1998 congressional resolution – the Iraq Liberation Act – that paved the way for the Iraqi debacle. Yet most of the "antiwar" contingent in the House of Representatives caved and voted in favor, including Democrats John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Jack Murtha, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, and Lynn Woolsey.


Iran represents a threat to nothing and no one but Israel, and everybody knows it. It is likewise universally acknowledged that the one Middle Eastern power we definitely know to be in possession of a substantial nuclear stockpile is Israel. The Iranians, then, could be seen as engaging in a defensive policy of deterrence: after all, Israel has never even acknowledged its nukes, let alone declared a policy of "no first strike." Unlike the Israelis, the Iranians are signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. [emphasis mine}

If you missed this post, please take a look at the big picture. This is much more than protecting Isreal.

Oh, Isn't This Special

Big Brother just wants to get bigger and more intrusive. Why not?
The head of the Homeland Security Department's visitor tracking program on Tuesday called for the creation of a "global ID management system" to make travel easier while enhancing security.

Jim Williams, director of the US VISIT program within DHS, told attendees of the National Business Travel Association's annual meeting he is aware of the plight of the business traveler. Even he, despite his senior position in the department, once found himself temporarily unable to board a plane because he shared the name of an individual on a terrorist watch list, he said.

(link via Boing Boing)

Cat Blogging


Friday, April 28, 2006

Internet Neutrality

This is a real problem for bloggers as well as those how surf the net. The time to act is now.
Congress is pushing a law that would abandon the Internet's First Amendment -- a principle called Network Neutrality that prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deciding which Web sites work best for you -- based on what site pays them the most. Your local library shouldn’t have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to have its Web site open quickly on your computer.

Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech. If the public doesn't speak up now, Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online.

I'm Back

Many thanks to Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast for guest blogging for me while I was gone. She did an excellent job just as I knew she would. You got high quality posts from Jill and you deserve nothing less.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Revenge of Ozone Man


It's taken over five years, but George W. Bush finally made a concession speech to Al Gore.

He conceded that America needs to conserve, by buying hybrid vehicles and developing new energy sources.

Trying to calm the yips in his party and the country over exploding gasoline prices, the president sounded a bit like a wild-eyed Ozone Man himself yesterday, extolling the virtues of alternative fuel derived from cooking grease, sugar, grass, wood chips, soybean oil and corn.

But then he got ahold of himself. "You just got to recognize there are limits to how much corn can be used for ethanol," he said, standing in front of a bucolic mural. "After all, we got to eat some."

Uh....actually, no we don't. In fact, if the American diet became a bit less cornified and if they took some of that corn used to make high fructose corn syrup and made ethanol, we might drop fuel prices a bit...were it not for the fact that it takes more energy in the form of fossil fuels to produce ethanol -- or biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants -- than is generated. But let's continue....

You could run a fleet of S.U.V.'s on the gas that W. was spewing about fuel. Bill Clinton would have been more likely to crack down on fast food than W. and Dick Cheney would be to crack down on Big Oil.

Even the usually supportive Wall Street Journal editorial page chastised Republicans for putting on "Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fright wigs" to shout about corporate greed and market manipulation.

W.'s big move was to ever so slightly beef up a federal investigation into oil company price manipulation that's been under way since Katrina. "It's a great idea," said the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid. "So good that we passed a law last year calling for that."

Price manipulation could explain the marginal — why gas went from, say, $2.70 to $2.90 — but not why gas went from $1.40 to $2.70. That's more about fundamental forces: Chinese and Indian demand, markets spooked by Iran's threats, Nigeria's unrest, Venezuela's talk of nationalizing its oil industry, and the Pentagon's bungling of the restoration of Iraq's infrastructure.

Gasoline prices may be hurting average folks, but the oilers who helped put the Boy King and the Duke of Halliburton in office with lavish donations are enjoying record profits and breathtaking bonuses.

The Oilmen in the Oval, incompetent in so many ways, have brilliantly achieved one of their main objectives: boosting the fortunes of the oil industry and the people who run it.

All those secret meetings the vice president had back in 2001, letting the energy and oil big shots help write our energy policy — one that urged more oil and gas drilling — worked like a charm. In all their years in government, Mr. Cheney and the Bushes have never done anything to hold the oil companies' feet to the fire, or get Americans' feet off the gas pedal.

Last night I put 7.6 gallons of gasoline into our 2001 Honda Civic and gave the station attendant two tens, a single, and three quarters. It used to cost me 10 bucks for just over a half-tank of gas. Now, I drive nine miles each way to work, and Mr. Brilliant was laid off recently, we we aren't a high-use household at the moment. And frankly, I have zero sympathy for SUV drivers complaining about high gas prices. It's not unlike the Iraq War argument, If I knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, why didn't John Kerry? Anyone with half a brain should have known that if demand for oil is increasing worldwide, and you combine that with a secretive energy panel convened at this Administration's inception and the close ties this Administration has with Big Oil, it's not hard to do the math.

It seems that every time there's a price spike like this, the price then drops to a level above the level we had become used to paying. So if we became accustomed to paying $2.39, and now gas is $3.02, the next time the price drops it'll settle down around $2.45 -- and so on. So little by little, we get used to paying a higher price -- enough so that Ford and GM can continue to lumber along making Excursions and Blazers, and idiotic Americans who insist they need to drive on New Jersey's highways in what are essentially armored vehicles will continue to buy them -- and then scream bloody murder when the price of gasoline goes up. But they will buy them, and they will pay the gas prices, and there will be NO outcry at all for alternative energy sources.

Because Americans have come to believe that cheap (relatively speaking) gasoline is somehow our birthright. And if we have to kill a few hundred thousand or million people in the Middle East, along with a few thousand of our own citizens, they're willing to pay the price. After the 9/11 attacks, Bill Maher published a book called When you Drive Alone, you Ride with Bin Laden. Somehow we've forgotten the connection between our thirst for petroleum and the very regimes in the Middle East we're fighting. It is not "our oil", and yes, it is under "their sand." And if we had a half a brain in our collective heads, we'd demand a Manhattan Project for energy independence -- one which would simultaneously do something about our dependence on oil AND global warming.

(cross-posted at Brilliant at Breakfast)

Partisan witchhunts at the CIA?

Not only does it appear that CIA agent Mary McCarthy isn't the she-devil solely responsible for Bush's 32% approval rating that the drooling, slobbering wingnut blogosphere would have you believe, but David Corn has noticed an interesting tidbit pulled from Sunday's Washington Post story on McCarthy's arrest:

Even the agency's employment policies have changed: Applicants are now asked more aggressively whether they have any friends in the news media, several agency employees said. And the hurdles to making public statements persist for those who have left: Former CIA agents report that the agency's process for reviewing what they write about current events has recently become lengthier and more difficult.

The White House also has recently barraged the agency with questions about the political affiliations of some of its senior intelligence officers, according to intelligence officials.

I guess being anything other than a good, loyal brownshirt Republican makes you a national security threat in George W. Bush's America.

(cross-posted at Brilliant at Breakfast)

This is the point at which I stop flying

Nothing says comfort like standing for four hours on a plane:

The airlines have come up with a new answer to an old question: How many passengers can be squeezed into economy class?

A lot more, it turns out, especially if an idea still in the early stage should catch on: standing-room-only "seats."

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal.

I don't know about you, but I'm not into bondage, and the idea of being strapped to a backboard and held in with a harness is just a bit too Hannibal Lecter for my taste.

Apologies to my far-flung family members, but when it gets to this point, you'll have to live with phone and e-mail, thank you very much.

Snakes on a plane indeed.

(cross-posted at Brilliant at Breakfast)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Looking Beyond Iran And It Ain't Pretty

Attacking Iran, although bad enough, is still only one more stepping stone along the path to their ultimate goal -- to control China. Below are snippets of two excellent articles that work quite well together. Both are very long, but this developing situation isn't something that fits on a postcard.
Containing China: The US's real objective
By Michael T Klare

Slowly but surely, the grand strategy of the Bush administration is being revealed. It is not aimed primarily at the defeat of global terrorism, the incapacitation of rogue states, or the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These may dominate the rhetorical arena and be the focus of immediate concern, but they do not govern key decisions regarding the allocation of long-term military resources. The truly commanding objective - the underlying basis for budgets and troop deployments - is the containment of China.

This objective governed White House planning during the administration's first seven months in office, only to be set aside by the perceived obligation to highlight anti-terrorism after September 11, 2001; but now, despite President George W Bush's preoccupation with Iraq and Iran, the White House is also reemphasizing its paramount focus on China, risking a new Asian arms race with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Bush and his top aides entered the White House in early 2001 with a clear strategic objective: to resurrect the permanent-dominance doctrine spelled out in the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) for fiscal years 1994-99, the first formal statement of US strategic goals in the post-Soviet era. According to the initial official draft of this document, as leaked to the press in early 1992, the primary aim of US strategy would be to bar the rise of any future competitor that might challenge America's overwhelming military superiority.

And this article lays out just how ugly things will get if the neocons aren't reigned in. Before you read it, you might try envisioning your worst fears. Then read it and find out horribly optimistic you are.
If it comes to a shooting war ...
By Victor N Corpus

One could call this article a worst-case scenario for the new American century. Why worst case? Because of the hard lessons from history. The Romans did not consider the worst-case scenario when Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants and routed them; or when Hannibal encircled and annihilated the numerically superior Roman army at the Battle of Cannae.

The French did not consider the worst-case scenario at Dien Bien Phu and when they built the Maginot Line, and the French suffered disastrous defeats. The Americans did not consider the

worst-case scenario at Pearl Harbor or on September 11, and the results were disastrous for the American people. Again, American planners did not consider the worst-case scenario in its latest war in Iraq, but instead operated on the "best-case scenario", such as considering the Iraq invasion a "cake walk" and that the Iraqi people would be parading in the streets, throwing flowers and welcoming American soldiers as "liberators", only to discover the opposite.

Scenario One: America launches 'preventive war' vs China

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and Southwest Asia.
–Paul Wolfowitz, former US deputy secretary of defense and currently president of the World Bank

That second article gets very hideous very quickly. Iran won't be a walk in the park like Iraq. (snark) China has the capacity to make everyone's life a fucking hell. And they will definitely do it. They may not even wait for US. They may take the attack on Iran as their justification to immediately pre-emptively attack US. If I were they that's exactly what I'd do.

So Congress sat on their collective hands when, after authorizing the invasion of Afganistan (stepping stone 1), they let Bush attack Iraq (stepping stone 2). Now that Iraq has turned into a hell hole we can't seem to fix, they aren't impeaching Bush and bringing our troops home. If they let Bush attack Iran (stepping stone 3), if any of US are still alive, every single member of Congress who let it happen should be voted out of office. Every last one of them.

The new Congress can then turn Bush over to The War Crimes Tribunal like the current Congress should be doing.

Quite A Tragedy

So,... Donald Rumsfeld is briefing George Bush in the Oval Office.

"Oh and finally, sir, three Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq today."

Bush goes pale, his jaw hanging open in stunned disbelief. He buries his face in his hands, muttering "My God...My God".

"Mr. President," says Cheney, "we lose soldiers all the time, and it's terrible. But I've never seen you so upset. What's the matter?"

Bush looks up and says..."How many is a Brazilian'?"