Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare" 

The AP reports:


In perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare, gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons abducted four U.S. soldiers last week at the provincial headquarters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and then shot them to death.

The U.S. military confirmed a report earlier Friday by the Associated Press that three of the soldiers were dead and one was mortally wounded with a gunshot to the head when they were found in a neighboring province, about 25 miles from the compound where they were captured. A fifth soldier was killed in the initial attack on the compound.

The new account contradicted a U.S. military statement Jan. 20, the day of the raid on an Iraqi governor's office, that five soldiers were killed "repelling" the attack.

In a statement issued late Friday, the military said two of the soldiers were handcuffed together in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle near the southern Iraqi town of Mahawil. A third dead soldier was on the ground nearby. The fourth died on the way to the hospital.

The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad, was conducted by nine to 12 gunmen posing as a U.S. security team, the military confirmed. The attackers traveled in black GMC Suburbans-- the type used by U.S. government convoys-- had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English, according to senior U.S. military and Iraqi officials.
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"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well-rehearsed prior to execution," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

"The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound," Bleichwehl said. "We are looking at all the evidence to determine who or what was responsible for the breakdown in security at the compound and the perpetration of the assault."
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A senior Iraqi military official said the sophistication of the attack led him to think it was the work of Iranian agents in conjunction with Iraq's Shiite Mahdi Army militia, which Iran funds, arms and trains.
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The only other troops killed that day in that region of Iraq were four Army soldiers said to have been "ambushed while conducting dismounted operations" in Karbala. [Oy note: "Only" four others were killed. Only?!?]

One of those "only" others killed was Louisianan Bryan Chism from Prairieville, an army artillery specialist who was due to come home in February for 2 months of rest and relaxation. He was 22.

As the infiltrated Iraq army stands up to the sectarian death squads, the U.S. will stand down.

Which is another way of saying we won't be standing down for a while.

But, instead, let's find a way to focus on how the AP's accurate reporting saps our country's "will to win" rather than realize that the new Iraqi forces we are depending on are hopelessly infiltrated by Mahdi army accomplices and sympathizers.
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Some might view this as 'taunting' material 

LA Times:

Former USC football star Reggie Bush was involved earlier and more deeply than previously reported in efforts to create a sports marketing agency that has been the focus of lingering controversy, according to lawyers for disgruntled partners in the failed venture.

The lawyers said it was Bush, along with his stepfather, LaMar Griffin, who proposed the agency as a way for the Heisman Trophy winner to avoid paying a percentage of his earnings to an established agent when he turned professional.

The NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference are investigating whether Bush violated rules of amateurism. If that is proved, USC could forfeit victories spanning two highly successful seasons and Bush could be forced to surrender his Heisman.
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Friday, January 26, 2007

 
Apparently Governor Kathleen B. Blanco is trying to run for re-election against President Bush, blaming him for the delays in funding and for playing politics in the aftermath of Katrina.

Well, as C.B. Forgotston points out, that excuse only goes so far. Even if the President and the 2006 GOP Congress are mostly responsible for six months of delays in providing recovery funds-- Blanco's "Road Home" program and the expensive outfit she chose to run it are indisputably to blame for the subsequent six months of delays, which is, arguably, even worse. They should've been up and running and ready to go. Instead, New Orleans Road Home Grants are trickling in. It's a disgrace. Reading the paper, one wonders if the chances of getting killed in this city surpass the chances of getting a recovery check.

That said, Forgotston notes the President's ommission of the Gulf Coast in his State of the Union speech and asks "how would any of [LA's] problems have been resolved if President Bush had mentioned Hurricane Katrina in his State of Union Speech?"

Let's first review the The Constitution, which states that "[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient".

So, obviously, Bush's SOTU speech wouldn't solve problems by itself-- either domestic or international. It's just a speech. However, profiling Dikembe Mutumbo while not mentioning the stricken Gulf Coast makes one question the President's ability to grasp basic facts about this Union, and therefore question his ability to propose any "necessary or expedient" recommendations to improve it.

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Speaking of which... [rant ahead]

The President wishes to send more Americans and Louisianans to Iraq, where many will die trying to manage warring sectarian death squads, a bickering baby-parliament, and a weak, infiltrated Iraqi army.

Swell.

The President argues for this idea by saying the "great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity". And, as usual, he is intentionally* wrong. America wants to help the Middle East build free societies. Period. That's not the issue. The issues include: does the Middle East want our help? do we know how to help? is what we are doing in Iraq helpful? is the situation improving or not? are we creating more terrorists than we kill? are we willing to pay trillions of dollars and thousands of lives when the odds of success keep diminishing? who in Iraq are we relying on to make this work? what's the best we can hope for at this point, and how much more blood and treasure are we willing to risk? How does this affect our chances of success in Afghanistan? How does this affect our military readiness if a real "imminent threat" should emerge? Should we "break our army" on a sharply divided country, with clerics like Moqtada al-Sadr waiting in the wings?

Or as hilzoy says:

The smart thing, it seems to me, is not to place yourself in situations in which you have to depend on the good offices of [an incompetent] government absent some extremely compelling reason. Or, more straightforwardly: don't go around invading countries and replacing their governments unless you either absolutely have to (e.g., another country attacks you), or you know, in advance, that there is a genuinely decent, honest, and capable person with genuine popular legitimacy ready to take over, since otherwise you place yourself in a situation in which you depend on people you should not depend on.

If my conservative friends spent 1/4 of the time evaluating the Iraqi parliament and army like they do the American media and Liberals' patriotism, they might come to some interesting analytical conclusions about the chances of "success" in Iraq. But, even now, most conservatives will not evaluate these essential conditions for success, and instead rely on their handy, universal fall-back position: it's the media's fault for reporting on war, and the liberals' fault for making our soldiers fight with one hand behind their back.


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* This rhetorical maneuver is just a way to control the context through simplification and false choices. For example: "Are you for the freedom surge, or against it?"
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

How are Diebold voting machines like FEMA trailers? 

... answer here.


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Only the good die young 

Howard Hunt, dead at 88.

Let's see:

Guatemala.

Watergate.

And that whole "Bay of Pigs thing".


Nice work, Hunt. Make that: nice "wet work", Hunt.


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From the Wapo obit:

Hunt declared bankruptcy in 1997, largely blaming his Watergate fines and legal fees. A $650,000 libel settlement he was awarded in 1981 stemming from an article alleging his involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was overturned, and he received none of that money.


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Title and post idea stolen from Empire Notes.
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I pledge allegiance... 

to the Supreme General , of the United States of Amerika.

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Some are planning to march on Washington this Saturday in protest of the War in Iraq.

Schroeder suggests New Orleanians march on Washington after Carnival. He says:

It's time for a march on Washington. I propose February 24th-- the first Saturday after Mardi Gras-- a perfect occasion to take the carnival revolution from the streets of New Orleans to streets of Washington. We'll need trucks and flatbed trailers to load up with soggy, moldy furniture from houses still not gutted a year and a half after the federal levees broke. We're going to haul the debris to Washington and dump it on Pennsylvania Avenue as a gesture of our contempt for a president who had nothing to say in the most important report he is required to provide to Congress about the well-being of our nation and her citizens.
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Jeepers, the Jolie Jealousy is jumpin' 

Ashley thinks Bears fans are bad.

Lemme tell ya. They ain't got nuthin' on the commenters at Perez Hilton's gossip site. Just go here, and sample some of the venom that's unleashed after Perez posts a pic of ("Saint") Angelina Jolie taking her kid to a local New Orleans school*.

Chain-smoking hobbit Rachael Ray apparently got in on the bashing, too.

I've said it before and I'll say it again "don't player hate-- innovate".

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Update: Adrastos recounts a local woman's opinion about Jolie (and Nagin).

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*Apparently the cat's fully outta the bag now.
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Thanks to P.H. fan Lovely.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Unbelievable 

For the second year in a row, President Bush mentions AIDS more than the Gulf Coast or New Orleans in his State of the Union speech. Here's the tally:

2006 SOTU speech

AIDS/HIV-- 7 mentions

Gulf Coast/New Orleans-- 3 mentions

2007 SOTU speech

AIDS-- 3 mentions

Gulf Coast/N.O.-- 1 mention, but he was referring to the Gulf Coast States of the Persian Gulf.

The biggest catastrophe in the history of the United States is omitted from the President's State of the UNION speech, a mere 17 months after the widespread devastation, and nationally-televised human misery. Dwell on that fact for a second or two.

Here's a snippet of what Bush DID say (when not quoting terrorists to justify his dumb "surge" strategy):

Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease-- and that is precisely what America is doing. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa...
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When America serves others in this way, we show the strength and generosity of our country. These deeds reflect the character of our people. The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness, courage, and self sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look - and tonight we need only look above to the gallery.

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa...


Now, Bush's focus on AIDS in Africa is fine and dandy. He is right to be proud of some of these initiatives. But, I mean, my God, Bush has to talk about Africa to find an example of the American people's kindness and self sacrifice? We need only look to Dikembe Mutumbo in order to see our country's spirit of "strength and generosity"??

A year and a half ago this President promised "bold action" to confront the povery in the Gulf South, and promised that we would see one of the greatest reconstruction projects in world history. Nearly two thousand Americans perished in the flooding here, yet Bush uses his speech to talk about AIDS for the umpteenth time and to do an in-depth profile of the founder of Baby Einstein... Bush couldn't make space for even a word about New Orleans or the hurricane-ravaged Gulf South. Not one word. We're not even worth lying about, at this point.

Again, like the philosophers of EMF exclaimed: "you're so unbelievable".

Here's how the Democratic Response started out. Keep in mind that the response is a much shorter speech than the SOTU.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.


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Update: Dr Morris has a word for the President. Schroeder is similarly concise.

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Here's how the Times Picayune frames it:

In this year's address, the president's focus not on the Gulf Coast but on "Gulf States" in the Middle East and his push for rebuilding was not on Louisiana, but Iraq.

"The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity," Bush said. "And I say for the sake of our own security, we must."
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"'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor and we have a chance to rub her nose in it." 

The Times Picayune reports shocking claims of politics being played during a (man-made) Katastrophe:

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco called on Congress Monday to create a bipartisan commission to investigate whether White House politics played a role in slowing the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Blanco's request was prompted by comments from former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who told a university class last week that in the days after the 2005 hurricane, the Republican Bush administration plotted to upstage Blanco, a Democrat, by pressuring her to relinquish control of the Louisiana National Guard as troops were mounting rescue efforts and trying to restore order in the area.

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In a speech Friday, Brown told a graduate class at Metropolitan College of New York that after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, he urged President Bush to assert federal control over troops throughout the 90,000-square-mile region. With communications knocked out and confusion over who was in charge, Brown said he suggested "federalizing" the National Guard forces in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to better coordinate what everyone agreed had been a haphazard response.

But, he said, some in Bush's team saw a political opportunity in Louisiana.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,' " Brown said. " 'We can't do it to Haley because Haley's a white, male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just going to federalize Louisiana.' "

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Late Monday, the White House said the focus should be on rebuilding Louisiana, not revisiting failures in the initial hurricane response for which the president has taken responsibility. [Oy: I suppose this focus will reveal itself in Bush's state of the union tonight. He was so "focused" on it in last year's speech.]
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In an interview Monday, Brown said the episode occurred aboard Air Force One while on the tarmac of New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport in the first days after the storm, most likely Sept. 3.

While Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin were meeting with Bush in a conference room, Brown said he and some administration officials he declined to name talked in an adjoining office. He said that White House political adviser Karl Rove was not part of the discussions.

"It became apparent during the conversations that there were political considerations. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out," Brown said. "For someone to come out and say these are false allegations, it ticks me off. I'm willing to stand up and tell the truth, why don't some others?"

Blanco ultimately rejected Bush's request to Louisiana's National Guard under federal control, choosing to retain control herself.

[Oy: As Chris Cooper and Robert Block describe in Disaster, though, IMMENSE pressure was being put on Blanco's team to federalize that Friday morning, so the Bushies could choreograph the announcement of federalization with the TV images of the National Guard's arrival. Faxes mysteriously missing any date or time stamps were sent to Blanco's office in the middle of the night and repeated calls were made to Blanco team from Bush surrogates telling Blanco she needed to sign the faxed forms and relinquish her authority.]

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., supported Blanco's call for an independent commission such as the one that investigated the government's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Last year, the Republican-controlled House and Senate conducted probes, but Landrieu characterized them as "somewhat limited."

"Eventually a full report needs to be given to the American people," Landrieu said. "They expected it after 9/11, and they expect it after Katrina."

As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security panel, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has the authority to launch another Katrina probe. However, despite criticism last year of the White House's unwillingness to give the committee records it sought, a Lieberman spokeswoman said last week that the senator was unlikely to dig into the federal response to the storm.

Landrieu might. Her office wouldn't comment, but she is expected to be named this week to head up a new subcommittee to oversee disaster response. As chairwoman, she would likewise have the power to issue subpoenas for White House records.

Good.

Our mayor and governor may "suck", but this President "sucks" even more.
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Monday, January 22, 2007

 
John "Squarepants" Kass doesn't think Bears fans are "Sponge-worthy".

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Tragic TV Experience this weekend 

The other night I fell asleep on the couch with the TV on and woke up to see the denouement of Dream a Little Dream 2. I never knew there existed such a hideous film, and was deeply unsettled by the thought that my subconscious might have "absorbed" the entire movie.

At this stage in my life, my poor gulliver is forming fewer and fewer new synapse connections. I really don't need the Coreys embedding themselves in any fresh neural networks I'm lucky enough to forge.

Say, didn't Moz have a recent album lamenting this exact affliction? I believe it was titled "You are the Corey".
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Don't worry 

We'll make winning adjustments, and that will make for a great story.

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Post game update: ... Or not... Congrats, Bears, on your NFC championship. And congrats to the Saints on a tremendously uplifting season.
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