Saturday, March 31, 2007

News from Iraq...

We did not see this in American media:

"They’ve hit the Green Zone with rockets and mortars on six of the past seven days, killing one American soldier and necessitating helmets and body armor while outdoors for whatever reason within the embassy complex. There have been two major attacks on U.S. forts in Anbar since Wednesday, too: an assault by a pair of truck bombs and 30 jihadis armed with RPGs on the coalition post in Garma, and then yesterday a “complex” operation targeting the Fallujah government center that began with mortars and ended with two more truck bombs, this time packed with chlorine. Fifteen U.S. and Iraqi troops were injured in the blast; “numerous” others are being treated for chlorine inhalation." (emphasis mine)

This is from an Iraqi blogger here and not, obviously, the one that Bush quoted the other day.

So, how's the surge going?

...and from Iran

Everyone is trying to figure out why in the hell Iran captured 15 British sailors and Marines, and even more, why they are "humiliating them" by showing them on television eating dinner. Why do they not promptly release them? Speculation runs from trying to start a war with America, to an exchange for the Iranians that the U.S. is holding, to Iran just being nuts.

Maybe they just want to show the world that they, unlike the Unites States, allow their captives to wear their own clothing, remain unfettered, socialize, and communicate with their families at home. And they don't torture them.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tuskegee Airmen

I grew up in a home that was steeped in the traditions of the Deep South. Much of that was good, certainly the cooking, and that culture does contain much in the way of courtesy and gentleness. It also, of course, has the ingredient of racial bigotry, but I was spared that by my father. Dad was a deeply moral person and he made sure from the time that I was very small that I did not grow up judging any person by the color of his skin. I am deeply grateful to him for that.

Which brings me to the Tuskegee Airmen award yesterday. Their story is, to me, both a proud and a shameful chapter in the history of this country. Shameful in that these man were forced to serve separately, but proud in that they were provided with airplanes and allowed to serve. It is certainly a proud moment in African-American history: they went to war and risked their lives, lost their lives, for a country that did not treat them as equal.

The Congressional Gold Medal is no small honor. The bill authorizing it must be sponsored, not voted upon, sponsored by two-thirds of each house of Congress. The first recipient was George Washington and there were only 131 presented after that before the presentation to the Tuskegee Airmen. (Two more are pending.) Colin Powell, who spoke at the presentation, was one of those recipients, by the way.

So yesterday’s presentation was a signal moment, a richly deserved recognition. This was not just one politician making a gesture, this was our entire legislature stepping up to the plate and hitting a home run. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I am no fan of George W. Bush, but what I saw of his part is this presentation was very moving. He delivered the following line, and the salute, with dignity and reserve. You can see it in the clip right after Colin Powell, and about the 3-minute mark. Our President did this one right.

"I would like to offer a gesture to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities. And so on behalf of the office I hold, and a country that honors you, I salute you for the service to the United States of America."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bits and Pieces

The bully pulpit

The Senate was, apparently, prepared to pass a Iraq war funding bill that did not emulate the House and include withdrawal timelines but at the last minute did vote to let those time limits remain in its bill.

I can’t help but think that Mr. Bush’s threats of veto, and the bullying manner in which he delivered that threat, played a role in that change. When you say, “Nyah, nyah, nyah I dare you to…” people often respond by doing precisely whatever it is you are daring them to do.

Another McCain delusion

I’m booking an airline ticket to Baghdad so that I can stroll around the neighborhoods as John McCain says is now possible, and watch General Petraeus cruising in his unarmed humvee.

Um, perhaps not.

McCain now claims, when confronted on CNN, that he never said that you could stroll those neighborhoods without protection, merely that you could stroll them. Well, shit, I’m glad we got that cleared up so that I can sign up a contingent of armed troops to go with me.

Anyone got the phone number for Blackwater?

But he still maintained on CNN that Petraeus “does go out into Baghdad because there has been significant progress.” Nothing in that interview about unarmed humvees, though.

And he might want to talk to the people who live in the “Green Zone” who, as of today, are required to wear helmets and flak jackets whenever outdoors within the zone since the zone is receiving rocket and mortar fire daily. Two were killed by that fire on Tuesday, inside the Green Zone. Big improvement.

The guilty flee…

Monica Goodling is taking the fifth, and the reasons that her lawyer gives for her doing that are a real hoot. Basically they boil down to saying that it’s because the questioners are likely to be hostile.

A little gem in the story is that she is a graduate of Pat Robertson’s university.

I wish I could get more information on the circumstances under which it is actually legal to take the fifth. I know, for instance, that you cannot do so to protect other people or simply to avoid testifying. It also goes out the window if you are given immunity, which has been suggested.

Demagoguery again

“The Bush” is all excited about the pork in the Vietnam Iraq funding bill and is prepared to veto it, supposedly, for that reason. Strange. Six years of bills containing far larger amounts of Republican pork resulted in how many vetoes? How many outraged statements and threats of vetoes?

Swiftboater sunk

Sam Fox is out as Ambassador to Belgium. Dana Perino said that the administration felt he was well qualified but withdrew him because partisan politics had gotten in the way of his confirmation.

Well, I should think so.

Of course the administration claims it was partisan politics in the Senate that blocked his confirmation, but actually it was his own, since funding the “Swiftboat Ads” could reasonably be called partisan politics. He got, to mangle a metaphor, sunk by his own petard.

And “St. Louis Citizen of the Year” forsooth. That’s the best they could come up with as qualification for Ambassador to Belgium? I was West Allis Jaycees Man of the Month once, maybe I should send that resume to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Food Blogging Today

I invented this when I had some leftover roasted chicken I wanted to use up. You can use any kind of cooked chicken, fried, baked, whatever, but don’t cut it up with a knife; use your fingers and shred it into pieces. I have found that the method does make a difference. I have posted the rice method before, but I will repeat it here for convenience.

You can make the rice any time in advance, and then making the skillet dinner takes only ten minutes or so. It serves two or three people.

Chicken and Rice Skillet

2 chicken breasts (or equiv) cooked, skin removed and shredded
1 lg sweet onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup white rice, cooked Southern style in advance
3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
herbs and spices to suit

Start cooking onion in a fairly generous amount of good (extra virgin) olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, and then add chicken, bell pepper, garlic and herbs. I use oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender and chicken is heated through and just lightly browned. Add rice, mix well and reduce heat to low. Heat, stirring frequently for five minutes or so until rice is just lightly browned.

Southern Style Rice

1 cup long grain white rice
1 tsp salt
1-3/4 cup water (not 2 cups as is usually stated)

Saut̩ the rice in the saucepan over medium-high heat, with just enough oil to moisten all of the grains, until about half the grains have become opaque. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. When it has just started to boil, cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes without removing the lid. This is important Рdo not remove the lid or stir the rice while it is cooking. After 20 minutes remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Great Words

"We the peoples of the United Nations determine to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has caused untold suffering to mankind."

Tony Benn, British legislator, survivor of the London Blitz and President of Stop the War Coalition quoted those great words from the charter of the UN in the BBC Question period. He went on to say to John Bolton,

"…that was the pledge that my generation gave to the younger generation, and you tore it up, and it’s a war crime that’s been committed in Iraq."

He speaks with great passion and it is quite moving. In the same clip a young woman says, with equal passion,

"…I’ve lost more relatives in four years than in thirty years under Saddam, so I don’t think you can tell me how dangerous Saddam was."

Jon Bolton talks about the "…question for Americans is what is in our fundamental interest" and then has the gall to claim we are not an imperial country. He comes across as arrogant and rather stupid.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The latest Bush snit

George Bush, in his latest petulant snit, this one over Congress passing a bill requiring an end to the presence of combat troops in Iraq, uttered the following piece of idiocy,

"Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq."

Um, as they quite properly should. Military commanders, on the ground in Iraq or anywhere else, are not the ones who decide when this nation will be at war. Who does have that power as defined by our Constitution? Oh yeah, right, Congress.

Perhaps the Bush thinks there has been a military coup? If there has been, how would he be “the decider” any more, as he is presently a civilian no matter how much he likes to receive and return salutes and occasionally dress up in a military hat (and strut around on an aircraft carrier)?

At least he avoided the pitfall of being all pissed off that "..Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of their Commander in Chief." That might have provoked a civilian coup.

Which, come to think of it… Anyway.

The theatrical staging of this "Bush Snit" was particularly offensive. He wanted to be able to claim, quite falsely, that military families were being hurt by Congress’ action so he staged his little tirade with (you guessed it) military families standing behind him as he spoke. Complete with little girls in white pinafores. This is cynical beyond belief and disgusted me, perhaps, even more than did his verbal idiocy.

He wants us to believe that this bill will create a situation where the military will not be able to feed their families and it will be the fault of Congress. Think about it. Congress passes the funding with provisions favored by 70% of the American people, he vetoes it because he is “the decider,” and Congress is starving the troops. He wants us to blame Congress for doing what we elected them to do, and not him for behaving like some two-bit dictator.

I believe he really thinks we’re that stupid.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Saving cathedrals... and oil wells

I watched a talk on C-Span yesterday by Robert Edsel, discussing his book Rescuing Da Vinci. The book is about a group of men and women in WW2 who performed heroically during the war in finding, preserving and returning works of art to their original owners, works that had been stolen by the Nazis. The group was known as “The Monuments Men” because they were originally formed to preserve fixed monuments, but their mandate was very quickly expanded to include all works of artistic value.

The group was formed by FDR before the beginning of the war. (Will I ever quit finding reasons to believe that he was the greatest president we’ve ever had?) The quotation that Mr. Edsel cited when FDR created the group was typical of the great man, almost moving me to tears. As he spoke it, I remembered seeing it inscribed in stone in the “fourth room” at the FDR Memorial in Washington DC.

The effort had the fullest support of Generals Bradley, Patton and in particular Eisenhower. The latter spoke to that point on the eve of the Normandy Invasion, reminding the armed forces that monuments and works of art must be preserved insofar as was consistent with the needs of war. At one point during the conflict a PFC of the Monuments Men overruled Patton when he wanted to use a building in Munich for his headquarters; the Monuments Group had taken the building for its own use and Patton conceded their PFC’s authority to do so.

I had known of this group before, sort of in passing, but I learned much more from listening to this talk by Mr. Edsel and it is quite a powerful story. I forget now how many men and women were involved, but it was a fairly sizeable group and more than a few lost their lives in the process of saving so many works of art.

One of the stories that Mr. Edsel told was, that while interviewing those few people remaining who had participated, he asked each the question, “Is art worth a life?” They were unanimous in believing that it was, but one responded with a single word, “Cathedrals!” he exclaimed. When Mr. Edsel pursued an explanation the man, a Frenchman, explained that the daylight bombers flew lower over the cities with cathedrals and accepted heavier losses from antiaircraft fire so that they could see the cathedrals and not hit them with their bombs.

The force doing daylight bombing during WW2, the only one to the best of my knowledge, was the United States Army Air Corps using B-17’s. While many cathedrals were damaged and some destroyed completely, after the war there were more than just a few cities where everything around a cathedral was rubble and the cathedral itself was untouched.

On a personal note, my father was a member of that Army Air Corps. Like many of his time and age, he never talked about the war at all, but flying low to save cathedrals is something that he would have done, and he would not have needed orders to do it. Dad will probably never be nominated for sainthood, but he earned his resting place at Arlington National, he was a good man and I am proud of him.

Anyway, that’s how we fought the war that Bush and company are so fond of using as their model for this conflict.

Compare that to the sacking of the Iraqi National Museum in 2003 while our troops stood by and did nothing to stop it. The only plan that our government had made in advance of that invasion for saving anything was a plan regarding oil wells. Forces were assigned to protect oil fields from being destroyed, everything else in the country was on its own.

I do not really fault the individual troops involved. I cannot know, but I suspect they were not as uncaring as their actions would suggest. I suspect, rather, that there were simply too few of them and they were in a situation for which they had received no prior instructions. That latter is, of course, the whole point: they had received no prior instructions.

The response of our present government, the Secretary of Defense being the only person that spoke to this loss of priceless artworks, was,
“Oh well, shit happens in war.”

One government saves priceless works of art, the other saves oil wells.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Four long years

Four years ago I watched what was labelled as "Shock and Awe" but that is not what I was feeling. What I was feeling was sick at heart. Many were cheering, but I was not. I knew that what was happening was just plain wrong. I knew that we would find no WMD's, and that even if we did, this was not right. I knew that we were biting off more than we could chew. I knew that we were walking into another quagmire of Vietnam proportions.

I am fairly frequently mistaken, sometimes just flat wrong. Oh, how I wish that this had been one of those times.

Some 3200 American families wish that even more than I do.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A nation in ruins

Updated below

This is from the British newspaper The Independent today.

2,000,000 Iraqis now live outside Iraq, according to UNHCR
12,000 doctors have fled Iraq since the war began.
   Another 2,000 are said to have been killed, and at least 250 kidnapped
50% Average inflation in 2006, according to the World Bank
6.3 hours of electricity daily in Baghdad in December 2006.
   In May 2003 there were 16-24 hours
32 percentage of people in Iraq with drinkable water
3,700,000 Iraqis now receive food aid from the UN World Food Programme
16% Proportion of Iraqis who said in January that their income meets their basic needs

Would you want to live in a country where only 16% of the population were able to meet basic needs on their income? Where less than third had drinkable water? Would you want to live in a city which provided electricity for only one quarter of each day?

Why doesn’t the American media tell us about this? America has laid waste to entire nation. It is we who created this horror, and we who are perpetuating it. Do we not need to know what we are doing?

The Independent also reports, in the same article,

So far this month 44 American soldiers have been killed, on course to match the 80 deaths in February and 83 in January.

I can find reports in U.S. media that we lost seven today, but nothing about losses for the month. Either the media doesn’t think we want to know that, or the military doesn’t want the media to know it. But British journalists have access to the information, so…

American media is still failing to fulfill its responsibility.

Part of the reason that Bush is not being forced to stop the horror in Iraq is that the media is keeping us insulated from that horror. During Vietnam it was seeing violence and death on our television screens every evening that gave the people of this country the incentive to rise up in mass and force the end of that war.

Why would we rise up for any cause today when the television evening news is merely giving us “person of the week”?


Hundreds of gallons of ink have been expended on the confessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or, as our media has fondly dubbed him, “KSM.” We have had some intimations that his testimony may be less than entirely factual, but nothing more than suggestion that it may include some minor exaggerations. I’ve read speculation that he was tortured, but no one seems to have any real proof of that and supposedly nobody has admitted it.

Now read The Independent’s take on the subject, in part, headlined,

Confession of 9/11 architect backfires on US

"Almost immediately, however, legal experts said he appeared to be exaggerating his role for his own self-aggrandizement and may also have deliberately floated false claims to send US investigators on wild goose chases."

(Which, it should be noted, is one weakness of using torture.)

"The CIA denies that Mohammed was tortured, but evidence to the contrary has been building for years. Two years ago, a CIA official told ABC News that he had been water-boarded, and had won the admiration of his interrogators because it took him two to two-and-half minutes to start confessing - well beyond the average of 14 seconds observed in others."

Interestingly, ABC News is the evening news that I watch regularly and if they reported that in connection with his recent confession I missed it entirely.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Patriot Act shenanigans

I have been trying for some time now to figure out the rationale for the clause in the Patriot Act regarding the appointment of U.S. Attorneys. We know that in reality it was a power grab by the Imperial Presidency, but I couldn't figure out how they pretended that the clause belonged in a bill regarding protecting the United States from attacks by Horrific Islamofacist Terrorist Evil Doers. Oh, wait, I forgot "Radical." Whatever.

At last it is revealed.

The clause facilitates replacing a U.S. Attorney in the event that one is killed in a terrorist attack.

That clatter you heard was me falling out of my chair. I am back now, uninjured, and we can continue. The cat left the room in quite a hurry, so that makes me a terrorist of sorts, but we can proceed without the cat.

Anyway, a question arises in my mind. Why do we need to expeditiously replace U.S. Attorneys and not, say, Federal Judges? Or a bunch of other positions that under normal circumstances require Senate confirmation?

Or is there another clause in the Patriot Act that no one has noticed yet?

Politics of Calculation

John McCain said yesterday in response to a question about contraception and AIDS prevention, in part,

"You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception…"

He’s not going to tell us what he really thinks or believes (so much for the "Straight Talk Express"), he’s going to provide us with his position on the issue. He’s forgotten at the moment what his position is, but as soon as his aide looks it up he’ll get back to us.

Hillary Clinton, when asked about General Pace’s statement about the immorality of being gay responded that it was "for others to decide," giving a calculated response designed to offend as few as possible. She later told us she did not think being gay was immoral, but only after her "handlers" advised her just how unpopular her initial response had been.

That’s what politics is today. It’s not about saying or doing what you think is right, or what you believe in. It’s not about letting the voters know who you are or what you are made of. It’s about saying the "magic words." It’s about saying what you think the people with the money, and to a lesser degree the voters, want to hear.

The Democratic Party has lost election after election because they choose calculation over leadership. They, as much as the Republicans, got us into the unholy quagmire in Iraq by their policy of calculation. Rather than taking a stand against what they knew to be impending disaster, they made the decision that they needed to "look strong on national security." They made the calculation (reputedly verbalized by one senator) that "we'll give him this vote, get it out of the way and then be able to focus the 2002 election on the issues we do best on: the economy, education, healthcare, corporate corporation."

So how did that work out? If there were any big Democratic gains in the economy, education, healthcare, corporate corporation the Republicans sure managed to keep those gains out of the public’s attention.

The Republicans exercise leadership. It’s bad leadership: it’s demagoguery, fearmongering and hatemongering, but it is leadership. They don’t care how they look, as long as they win (or can steal) elections.

Even after winning both houses of Congress the Democrats are still practicing politics of calculation, and they are still losing because of it. They played a significant role in getting us into Iraq with their calculated policy of appearance on national security, and they cannot get us out because that policy has not changed. Despite its clear defeatism, they hold onto that losing policy.

How many bills has the Democratic Congress put on the president’s desk and made him veto? Until they do that, they are fully complicit in "the surge." They're blaming it on Bush, but they're allowing him to do it.

Until the Democratic Congress quits calculating it’s appearance on national security, takes a leadership role and passes a bill requiring withdrawal and puts it on George Bush’s desk and makes him veto it, they share with him the responsibility for every single soldier who dies or is wounded on that foreign battlefield.

It is theirs because they are calculating instead of leading, taking positions instead of governing.

It is likely that the two politicians I quoted at the beginning of this post are going to be the two choices we have for president in 2008. That prospect rather sickens me. Two people about whom the only thing we really know is that they will do anything, say anything and take any position in order to assume a position of power.

We have come to a sad state of affairs.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Heartworm Survivor

Well, short of doing a $1000 ultrasound we cannot be certain, but the passage of time has made it essentially certain that Molly is out of danger. (The ultrasound would also require shaving her tummy, and that is just pathetic.)

We adopted Molly a bit over two years ago and found out shortly afterward that she had heartworm. We promptly went on the Internet and found out more about that issue that we really wanted to know, part of which I’m going to share with you. Molly is not big, she weighs less than eight pounds, so a spaghetti-sized worm (or up to, perhaps, three of them) living inside a chamber of her heart is not a trivial issue.

It had been thought for a long time that cats don’t get heartworm, but recent studies have found out that they do. The parasite reacts very differently in cats that in dogs, however, and for a rather interesting reason. First a simplified version about the life cycle of the worm, which is actually rather interesting.

The worm lives in a chamber of the heart of the host, not in tissue, but in one of the chambers, attaching itself to the wall thereof similarly to the way a tapeworm does in the intestinal tract. It is, as mentioned previously, about the size of a piece of spaghetti and can be up to a foot long. It lays eggs in the bloodstream, but those eggs do not hatch until they are slurped up by a mosquito, where they turn into larvae. When the larvae are injected by the mosquito into another host they turn into another worm and it begins again.

The interesting thing is that cats have a very powerful immune system that kills most of the larvae. So where a dog may have thirty or more worms that, if not treated, will result in death to the dog, a cat will usually have only one or two worms and pretty much no symptoms at all while the worm is alive. Which is fortunate because the medication that you can give to dogs to kill the worms cannot be given to a cat because the medication itself usually kills the cat.

The only feline symptom that is common while the worm is alive is that the cat may be “averse to exercise.” Yeah, right. Exactly how does one tell when a cat is displaying signs of being “averse to exercise” anyway? It sleeps a lot? A bag of cement is also “averse to exercise.”

The cat may also throw up sometimes, although perfectly healthy cats do that too, apparently for no other reason than to piss off those who have to clean up after them. There can also be some lung inflammation, and Molly did have a coughing problem which cleared up after a brief course of Prednizone.

Anyway, the worm lives in the cat for one to two years and real danger comes when the worm dies. It loses its attachment to the heart and is injected into the cat’s lung where one of three things can happen: a) pretty much nothing, b) serious breathing difficulty requiring hospital support but eventual recovery, or c) very sudden death. Scary.

At her annual exam this week the vet said that Molly was looking fine and that we could rest pretty easy on the heartworm issue. Another year, she said, would put it to rest for sure, but she felt the issue was pretty much done with at this point.

The bottom line here is that Molly is small but seems to be a pretty tough little cookie. She’s kind of cute, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

U. S. Attorneys

Updated below

There are a lot of things that make living in San Diego a pleasure; weather, beaches, girls at the beach (oops, my wife might read this), food, the people, local politics, the Chargers, Balboa Park…

One issue that did us proud was our U.S. Attorney, Carol Lam. She has been a credit to her profession in every way imaginable: a model of integrity, neither seeking or shunning publicity, hard working, apolitical and ever courteous to all. When fired, she took it a good deal more gracefully than did her local colleagues, who were universally outraged.

Of course, her firing is part of a larger issue, the firing of her and seven more of her counterparts across the country in an equally Byzantine manner.

It has done my heart good to see this pile of dung hitting the fan and splattering in the face of the Bush Administration. (How do you like that image?) It illustrates in several levels the depths of degradation to which our government has sunk.

First is the mechanism which facilitates this whole stinking mess, the clause in the renewal of the Patriot Act which allows the president to appoint replacement U.S. Attorneys to serve indefinitely without the approval of the Senate. That this clause even exists at all is a disgrace. It was supposedly “slipped in” by an aide to the committee chairman without his knowledge, said aide being a former member of the administration, serving in the Department of Justice. If true, then that should be considered a criminal act by the aide and the administration.

Further, Arlen Specter should be brought up on some sort of criminal charge for sending the bill to the Senate without knowing that the clause was there. Is there no requirement that a Senate committee, or at least its chairman, know what the contents are of a bill that it is referring to the full Senate for its consideration?

Further, every member of the Senate who was unaware of that clause should be brought up on some kind of charge. Is it not malfeasance to vote for a bill, or for that matter even against a bill, without knowing the contents thereof? Well, okay, maybe only misfeasance.

But the Senate only failed to prevent the measure. The real culprit is the administration that sought to get the measure put into place to begin with, and succeeded. The administration sought this measure with a plan in mind, and that plan was the advancement of their goal of a unitary government and of their ability to indulge in uninhibited patronage.

I don’t think that patronage is, in and of itself, all that big an evil or a real danger to the well-being of society. Someone works to get me elected, so I get them a job as assistant in charge of paper clips for the Water Department in the state capitol at a few thousand a year. By the time I’ve rewarded a couple hundred campaign workers it has been a rather costly exercise, but society is not endangered by it. I’m not advocating that it should happen, but I’m hardly outraged that it does on some small scale.

The Bush Administration had taken patronage to a whole new level. Remember, the “Heck of a job, Brownie” thing? Well, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Even worse catastrophe has resulted from jobs being awarded on a patronage basis in Iraq. It turns out the the firings of the eight was to provide openings for resume-enhancing jobs for friends of the Bush Administration. The job of U.S. Attorney is too important to our society to be awarded based on whose tailbone you last kissed.

I am not one who thinks that the eight were fired as punishment for their “lack of loyalty” per se. I believe that the Bush Administration had eight patronage handouts they wanted to make and, needing eight openings, picked the eight U.S. Attorneys whom they least liked and fired them to create the openings.

That’s almost worse than firing them for disloyalty, in a way, isn’t it?

So far we have the administration “sneaking” clauses into bills, senators not noticing that happening, legislators voting on bills without knowing what’s in them, patronage in government, the administration nullifying congressional oversight… Pretty bad stuff, but we haven’t gotten to the bad part yet. There is worse, much worse to come.

In the course of the investigation it emerges that more than one of the U.S. Attorneys received phone calls from members of the Senate and House that were improper to a degree verging on ethics violations (in my opinion there was nothing “verging upon” about the degree) regarding matters that the attorneys were handling. That is real “Alice in Wonderland” stuff.

Riding on the administration’s coattails, the then-in-control party reached a level of arrogance that permitted them to attempt to influence the performance of a U.S. Attorney. Policy is set at the top, and that arrogant abrogation of propriety derived from the Bush Administration and permeated the entirety of the Republican Party for the entire time that it was in power. It did precisely as it pleased and it answered to no one, least of all to the American people. It was so firmly entrenched in the administration that it spilled over into the rest of the party membership. ”We’re with them, so you can’t touch us.”

Just to cap everything off, when the eight began to speak out they were faced with threats from the administration that worse would come if they did not shut up. My God. They’ve already been fired and now they’re being threatened, in effect blackmailed, by the administration that fired them.

Congress is just stupid, but this administration is evil.

Update: Mar 15, 2007

Okay, I blew that one, they were were fired as punishment for their "lack of loyalty." There is the smoking gun of "the real problem we have with Carol Lam". Yeah, I would say her sending your cronies to jail is a real problem all right, especially when she has more of them in her gunsight.

And that raises the question, by no means original to me, of what the other 85 did or did not do in order to retain their jobs. Some of that is already becoming clear.

This administration is unimaginably corrupt.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Several Things Today

My energy level, for health reasons, is erratic and has been somewhat low recently. Several things are in the news and I’m pretty comfortable at the keyboard today, so…

Can this be true?

I regard British news media as interesting reading, because it seems less, shall we say, reserved than American media, or perhaps less full of crap.

Today, online at Comment is Free one Dr. Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London says in part,

Of all the hot spots in the region, Iraq is the only place where sectarian tension has tipped over into bloody conflict. But that only happened in the aftermath of the invasion. The US and Britain, having failed to come up with any evidence to justify their aggression, claimed that their aim was to rescue the Shia majority from Saddam's Sunni regime. In fact, there is no census evidence showing the Shia as a majority nor was there any credibility to the claim that Saddam's regime was Sunni. It was secular and nationalist, and the ruling Ba'ath party was believed to have more Shias in its ranks than Sunnis. Thirty-two of the 52 names on the US most-wanted list were Shias, and Saddam punished whoever rose against his regime, irrespective of religion or ethnicity.

Despite the US-Shia alliance that brought his rule to an end, sectarianism did not become serious until the US-led occupation replaced Saddam's regime with one based on quotas, a process destined to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines.

Much of that is conjecture, presumably informed, but conjecture nonetheless. One statement is factual, however, can probably be proven, and really stands out,

Thirty-two of the 52 names on the US most-wanted list were Shias…

That rather horrifies me. Assuming this is true, then the whole thing that our government has promulgated about the Sunni minority domination of the Shia majority is a lie, and this is evidence of an even greater depth of dishonesty then we knew. Dr. Tamimi’s assertion, then, that the bloody sectarian violence that we decry in Iraq being actually of our making would seem to be true, or at least substantially true.

An Army in tatters

In Afghanistan our soldiers are shot at, see two supposedly armed men run into a building and, rather than chasing them, call in massive air strikes. Nine women, children and old men are found dead. The two armed insurgents are nowhere to be found.

An American convoy is attacked by a suicide bomb and our soldiers react by shooting in all directions. Sixteen civilians are killed and no armed insurgent bodies are found among them.

Again from a British news item (which I read yesterday in the Independent, but cannot locate today), British Army people are very nervous about the American prosecution of battle in Afghanistan. It seems they do not like the extreme violence we use and the amount of “collateral damage” we inflict. Our proclivity for killing civilians and destroying homes turns the Afghan population against us and toward the Taliban.

A British soldier was quoted as saying that America “has the best equipment and the worst soldiers” while England “has the worst equipment and the best soldiers.”

A full squad of US soldiers unwilling to pursue two insurgents. US soldiers firing wildly in all directions, a criticism we level at untrained Iraqi troops.

I am by no means any kind of expert, but this sounds to me like an Army that is overstressed, overdeployed and undertrained. This sounds like soldiers who have been in harm’s way for too long, too many times, with too little relief in between tours.

This sounds like an Army not approaching the breaking point, but one that is at the breaking point or past it.

Libby found guilty

Yeah, so what?

Everyone is whooping about what a black eye this is for the Bush Administration. You think they care? They do not. “We’re not running for reelection.”

Bush and his cronies are facing a hostile Congress, but so what? Congress has quite adequately proven that it is utterly useless. Congress will do some posturing, will make some meaningless noise, will hold some showy investigations that will reveal what everybody already knows, will hold absolutely no one accountable, and then will go home and campaign for reelection.

And in 2008 this country will elect a different monarch. Big deal.

I had hope for democracy after November of last year, that hope is fading fast

Terrorism threat overblown?

John Stossel at Real Clear Politics asks today is Fear of Terrorism Overblown?

Well, duh.

Read the article. This is something I’ve been saying for several years. We should have put 9/11 behind us years ago, not forgotten it any more than we would forget Pearl Harbor, but moved on as a nation out of the shadow of fear and into the light of freedom.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Campaign Talk

I don't tend to decide for a politician based on a single issue. Our society is complex, and governing it is complex. But a single issue can decide against a politician for me, a single issue can illustrate such a singular lack of character that I know I can never support that person for office.

“Sorry about that”

Hillary Clinton adamantly refuses to say that her vote permitting the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Edwards takes the opposite tack and seems to take pleasure in admitting that his vote was a mistake. Both, however, blame the vote on having been given “bad information.” Bullshit. Pardon my language, but no other word describes my utter disgust with that argument.

The reason that was being given for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that he posed a direct and imminent threat to this country because of them. A whole bunch of other reasons have emerged since that reason proved to be false, but that was the sole reason that was being posited at the time.

Yes, there was talk from the Bush Administration of Saddam’s ties to Al Queda, but that was only to include the threat that he might give them some of his WMD’s. The threat that he posed was the WMD’s, the reason for the invasion was the WMD’s and all of the other rationalizations for the current horror in Iraq have arisen only since that one rationale proved to be false.

The IAEA was not only unconvinced of the presence of WMD’s, they reported that their inspections had found none. France was unconvinced. Germany was unconvinced. I watched Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations and was embarrassed for my country – that presentation was utter nonsense. In a discussion with my neighbor, months before we invaded but after it was apparent that nothing would stop Bush from doing so, I predicted that no WMD’s would be found.

Clinton’s vote, and that of Edwards, were the product of laziness, stupidity, or cowardice. Laziness because they did not take the time or effort to look beyond the information that was given to them within the cloistered environment of Congress, stupidity because they did not know how to read or interpret the simplest of information, or cowardice in that they dared not dissent.

In any case, sorry or not, that vote renders them unfit to serve as president of this country.

The “all options” issue

I served in the Navy during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union had nuclear missiles aimed at us, as we did at them. We had an absolute “no first strike” policy which stated that, under no circumstances whatever, would we be the country that initiated the use of nuclear weapons in the event of armed conflict. We did that once and we swore that we would never, ever, do it again.

I've never liked the fact that my country even had nuclear weapons, but I rested easier knowing that the “no first strike” policy was in place.

Then George W. Bush revoked that policy with his “no options are off the table” policy, and everyone on the campaign trail in both parties is now following in his footsteps with the same exact words, the same foul threat. For all his promise of a new way of government, Barack Obama has embraced that same exact world-destabilizing phrase.

Anyone who utters that inhumane statement is unfit to serve as president of this country. I can never vote for anyone who is not willing to say that he/she would never use a nuclear weapon in a first strike, who would not vow that the nuclear option was utterly “off of the table.”

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Food Blogging

This recipe originally came from the San Diego Union-Tribune, but I have altered it to the point that I am not going to credit it more specifically than that. The original author probably would not recognize it anyway.

Orange and Ginger Chicken

2 boneless, skinned chicken breasts
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
2 tbsp peeled fresh ginger, minced fine
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups orange juice
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp cornstarch

Slice breasts in half so you have four thin pieces. Flour lightly, salt and pepper to taste and then brown on both sides in a good olive oil with the crushed garlic in a skillet. No need to be sure they are cooked thru at this point, just brown lightly on both sides and transfer to a plate.

Add a touch more olive oil if needed and add ginger to skillet, cook for one minute. Add brown suger and stir for one more minute. Add orange juice and orange peel and bring to a fast simmer, stirring as needed.

Mix cornstarch with a bit of cold water and add to skillet and stir until sauce is thickened, reduce heat to a slow simmer. Return chicken to sauce, cover and simmer slowly until chicken is cooked through, about ten minutes or so. Serve over noodles or rice.

Part of the secret is not to overcook the chicken initially, before transferring it to the plate. Letting it finish cooking at the slow simmer in the sauce cooks the flavor in and leaves it really tender.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Catching up

I've been out of town for a few days, so a few thoughts to get caught up.

Change at Walter Reed

The Army has fired the current commanding general at Walter Reed because of the poor conditions revealed by a Washington Post reporter. His replacement is General Kiley, his predecessor. Weightman has been there for about six months, but the conditions predate that by quite a bit.

What am I missing here? They fire Weightman for not correcting the conditions, but replace him with the commander who allowed the conditions to develop in the first place. Exactly how does that make any sense?

The campaign trail

The presidential campaign is way ahead of itself, but insofar as it is off and running the discussion is almost entirely about the war in Iraq and about “national security” issues.

More importantly, what about habeas corpus? A national policy of torture? What about indefinite detention? What about improper use of power? What about the issue of how these things affect our national character and our image in the world?

How about real domestic issues like health care and widening gap between this country's rich and poor?

How about asking the candidates if they plan to actually lead this country or act as terrorist-in-chief and just continue the fearmongering?

So much for real change

The people of this country voted for change last November. I suggested leading up to the election to hope for change but not to hold your breath waiting for it to happen even if the Democrats did win. I was more right than even I knew.

Congress has demonstrated that it has become permanently, incorrigibly useless. It wasn’t about the Republican party, it is Congress itself. The only business Congress is interested in is its own members’ reelection.

There is a “King of America” elected every four years to live in the White House, because Congress has absolutely abdicated its responsibility. Not the “stinking Republicans,” Congress.

Oversight my ass. Investigations my ass. They ask questions and don’t even listen to the answers because they are too busy planning their reelection campaigns. The time for “getting organized” is long past. They are just a waste of time.

Congress is what the Vice Presidency used to be, “about as useful as a bucket of warm spit.”

“Intelligence” in the White House

Turns out that North Korea doesn’t have uranium enrichment after all.

So, let’s recap. Clinton negotiated a stop to their plutonium program, which Bush killed because of the threat posed by their uranium enrichment program. They then restart their plutonium program and make a dozen or so bombs, one of which they test, and we then negotiate a stop to their plutonium program. So we are back to where we were nee’ Bush, only they have a dozen plutonium bombs.

Now, it turns out, the uranium project that caused Bush to cancel the plutonium treaty was about as erroneous as the uranium deal in Iraq that lead him to invade that country.

That's faulty intelligence all right.