Saturday, August 12, 2006

They're Claiming Last Licks

There is no one on this planet with the possible exception of Israelis and strident supporters who wants to see Israel survive more than I do. I just don't want to see this government in power any longer:
Fresh Israel raids after UN vote

Israel's military says it has begun "broadening" a ground offensive in Lebanon - hours after the UN Security Council voted for a ceasefire plan.
Israeli troops are moving towards the strategically significant Litani River, a spokeswoman said. Fresh air strikes inside Lebanon left several dead.

The UN passed a resolution urging a "full cessation of hostilities".

Israel's cabinet is to discuss the issue on Sunday and will only halt military action after it takes a vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is asking the cabinet to endorse the resolution, describing it as positive and acceptable.
Talk is cheap, Ehud. Why not back the violence down a notch, and stand up in principle for what you believe, rather than be a hypocrite?

I have many friends-- we were closer before this started. I hope they're still friends-- who look at my shaming of Israel's actions and say "How can you say that? They're merely defending their right to exist against people who are trying to destroy them!"

The United States made the same rationalization when we invaded Iraq. True, America's case is far weaker than Israel's, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a justification, a rationalization, to be brutal and sadistic to innocent civilians, many of whom, Iraqi or Lebanese, couldn't even have found America or Israel on a map, much less have many feelings for us.

As we saw with Katrina, whenever crisis strikes, it's the poorest, most defenseless, who get hurt the worst, because they have neither the resources nor the assistance, to get out of the way quickly. So they're stuck. And now, in places like Tyre, they couldn't get out if they wanted to, as Israel will bomb the shit out of anything on wheels.

Probably including wheelchairs, if Qana is an example.

This lunacy, Lebanon AND Iraq, has to stop or it's going to come home to roost, and not just in Tel Aviv.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Music Blogging

Arguably the greatest song ever written by a man who was desperately trying to get the woman he beat the ever-livin' crap out of (Rosanna Arquette) back

Yes, that's Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) singing his big Western hit with PG

Freddie's Dead

You may recall I posted earlier this year about undercover cat, "Fred", who helped bust a phony veterinarian.

Well, this sad story in the papers this morning:
Beloved 'Undercover Kitty' Fred dies

By Anthony M. DeStefano

August 11, 2006, 10:49 AM EDT

Fred, the loveable undercover kitty, who captured the heart of the city with his exploits for law enforcement, is dead.

The one year-old American short haired cat, who was instrumental in nabbing a suspected bogus veterinarian earlier this year, was accidentally killed yesterday when he wandered into oncoming traffic outside his home, said a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
Of course, he likely won't get a departmental funeral. It would be silly, of course.

Still, I'm very sad to read this, particularly as this story broke just before my own felinic loss later in May. Brings up....stuff.

Godspeed, Fred, and know that your help saved dozens of animal lives.

Au revoir.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bush's Model For Iraq

Another "cut-and-run" Democrat...
On October 23, 1983, around 6:20 am, a yellow Mercedes-Benz delivery truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, under the U.S. 2nd Marine Division of the United States Marines, had set up its local headquarters. The truck turned onto an access road leading to the Marines' compound and circled a parking lot. The driver then accelerated and crashed through a barbed wire fence around the parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and barreled into the lobby of the Marine headquarters. The Marine sentries at the gate were forbidden from using live ammuntion, for fear that a discharge might kill a civilian, so they were powerless to stop him. According to one Marine survivor, the driver was smiling as he sped past him.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, which were equivalent to 12,000 pounds (about 5,400kg) of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story cinder-block building into rubble, crushing many inside.

[...]Besides a few shellings (ed. note: by the French!), there was no serious retaliation for the Beirut bombing from the Americans. In December 1983, U.S. aircraft attacked Syrian targets in Lebanon, but this was in response to Syrian missile attacks on planes, not the barracks bombing.

The Marines were moved offshore where they could not be targeted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. This was completed on February 26; the rest of the MNF was withdrawn by April.
Hey, George? Um, if Ronnie could be persuaded that it was a mistake to tangle with Arabs in the Middle East, why do you think a wimp like you will fare any better?

By The Way....

Look in the sidebar. Check out the Terror Alert Level graphic.

We are officially at Sesame Street. Elmo, Ernie, and Bert.

The Cocksucker Proxy

By now, you've heard or read about the current terror alert for transatlantic flights from England to the United States on United States airlines, specifically Continental, American, and United.

As I was watching the Beeb, it dawned on me (slowly. I was still on my first cup of coffee) that other nations were paying an awfully heavy price fighting our "global war on terrorism".

Last July, London suffered it's worst military attack since World War II. Today, we hear about a massive plot to down at least nine airliners in succession (three at a time was the rumour), killing at least 5,000 people.

Refresh my memory: was England ever targeted specifically by Al-Qaeda or any other terror organization beyond the IRA? Was not Osama bin remember him, the tall skinny Saudi that keep taunting President Bush because, five years after September 11, he's still free to roam?...specifically angry at the United States? Were not all his attacks prior to and including September 11 against American interests?

So, by starting a war in Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda or terror against the West in general-- Saddam Hussein boasted about paying Palestinian families a bounty for suicide bombings IN ISRAEL-- and dragging Tony Blair into it, we exposed our best friend and ally in the world to grave danger, one that despite their vaunted Ring Of Iron around London, they've had to scramble to stay ahead of, failing at least once.

Even Iraqis are paying the price for our clumsy execution of this battle. Civilians who probably never held a grudge against us, only seeing us as salvation from Saddam, could not possibly imagine the price they would have to pay for this "freedom" we've given them. I'd bet, in a heartbeat, many of them would scrub the purple off their thumbs for the chance to live in peace.

Too, Israel fights a war for us, one against Iran and Syria, in Lebanon, one that Bush, realizing he's strained American credibility to its absolute limits with his asinine actions in Iraq, is too chicken to fight with Americans. The war in Lebanon continues unabated, only delayed slightly as Israel drums up even more forces to fight for America's freedom from fear.

We're supposed to be the world's remaining superpower, for the moment at any rate, yet we act like Dr. Evil,
plotting and planning failed policy behind the scenes while our minions stumble and fumble their way to abject failure, gaining temporary victories while losing the overall battle because their methods (and ours) are outmoded, outdated and outfoxed.

Cheers to England for clamping this plot down in the nick of time. Literally, it appears. Boos to America from dragging them into our fight.

By the by, everyone is convinced this was to be some sort of explosive. I'm not:
U.S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot — and then kill everyone in the store."

The device was shown to President Bush and Vice President Cheney the following morning, prompting the President to order that alerts be sent through all levels of the U.S. government. Easily constructed and concealed, the device ensured that mass casualties would be inevitable if it could be triggered in any enclosed public space.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ninja Chipmunk

Whither Joe?

Sen. Joe Lieberman,

You've lost the Democratic primary for your seat from Connecticut to someone who, by all accounts, is as decent and hard-working a man as you are. There are lessons to be learned from your defeat, but also warnings to be had.

First, it's a bit disingenuous to hear you whine about the divisive politics of the primary, when for the past six years, you've been occupying a seat in Congress. You want to be an uniter? We've heard that before, from the administration that stole your election. That wasn't enough to get your blood up a little? A little more competitive?

Oh. Yes. I forgot. You ran for Senate while you ran for Vice President! Nice move, Joe. Every one should have a back-up plan, but this one stinks to high holy hell: by diving your electoral focus, by giving even an ounce of thought to your re-election in 2000, you might have cost Al Gore, ohhhhhhhhhhhh, 537 votes in Florida, for example.

Even just the act of running for re-election while running for VP sent a message that you honestly believed you didn't think Al Gore could win. Americans love a fighter, Joe. They don't cotton to wimps. Ask either of the Bushes. You should have refused the Vice President's nomination.

Maybe you ought to look yourself in the mirror on that one, Sparky, but there's more. Your political instincts served you poorly in the intervening six years. Yes, I'm talking about the Iraq invasion, but I'm talking more about your handling of your position.

Responsible people can disagree, even with the President, even during military action. Your comments in December 2005, lecturing the activist peace wing of the Democratic party, were way out of line. That you had poor Lanny Davis sweating behind his wire-rims on Meet the Press on Sunday, trying to torture a positive position out of that for you, should have been the final clue that you screwed up.

Maybe it was inartfully worded (not likely, these weren't off the cuff remarks, and I believe you meant what you said, as you said it), but the simple truth is, it was wrong. Period. To this day you stand by those words, and that is why you lost the election. Not because bloggers got their panties in a twist over it, but because you simply couldn't see past your upturned nose that dialogue was critical to formulating a real Democratic policy on the war.

In short, you went out of your way to divide the party, but you keep speaking of compromise and collaboration. How can you have compromise and collaboration when the side you represent is so deeply divided over an issue? Let all voices be heard, and damn the neo-cons and other Republicans who would chide us for a vigourous debate!

Similarly, your lecturing tone during these comments hearkened back to this:
In the meantime, as the debate on this matter proceeds, and as the investigation continues, we would all be advised to heed the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln's second annual address to Congress in 1862. With the nation at war with itself, Lincoln warned, "If there ever could be a proper time for mere catch arguments, that time is surely not now. In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity."
You made that statement during your unctious and self-righteous speech condemning Bill Clinton back in 1998, after the partisan witch hunt against the Greatest. President. Ever. revealed a personal flaw consummated with a willing adult participant.

You cautioned then against speaking rashly. Yet you did just that last year.

Sanctimony then translates into hypocrisy now, Senator. Deal with it.

Finally, The Kiss.

Perhaps if, after Bush leaned in like that, you had your political wits about you, and had jumped back, horrified or at least surprised by his actions, you would be the nominee today. But you didn't. You clearly welcomed a calculated manuever by W to embarass you and polarize you from the Democratic party. Face it, Joe, you were buttfucked by Bush, and smiled all the way through it.

What were people supposed to believe?

OK, so all this was the prelude to what I have to say to you, finally: Don't.

Don't run as an independent. You might win, yes, and your voting record indicates that you'll be siding with the Democrats 90% of the time, so it's not like we'd lose your seat. But...

A) You will have exahusted any credibility you have as a Senator, and be seen as a traitor, particularly should the Democrats regain control of the Senate, as seems likely. Ned Lamont would have more standing as a rookie Senator in the apportionment of committee seats than you would. Your only hope for any real power in the body is if the Republican retain control (something you seem to have calculated on before....say, in 2000...)

B) You have a chance, a real chance, to do good in the coming months, both as a Senator but more, as a Democrat. Let me show you how:
A responsible elder statesman/woman needs to be the face of this rift, and go on the record with a major effort to heal it. This statesman (because my first choice is male) shouldn't have a dog in the hunt, nothing at stake in November, and he would garner an awful lot of goodwill for and in the party with his actions. Bill Clinton might be the obvious choice, but Hillary still has a political future, and so while he could heal the rift, there would still be a sense of partisanship. Ted Kennedy would be ideal, except that the public perception of him is one that would tend to distract from the message.

So my first choice is Joe Lieberman. Naturally, this means he'd have to give up his re-election campaign. In truth, he's running on fumes as a Senator in Connecticut, and a concerted effort to replace him with Ned Lamont may not succeed but will cripple the Democratic ticket in Connecticut in November, whether he wins or Lamont wins. As a lame duck who voluntarily sacrifices one more term (because, Joe, in truth, that's really all you could possibly eke out here), he will position himself as a man in 2008 who has chips left to play. Further, as the public face of this dust-up, his word with the general public will carry great weight, because they're paying about as much attention to the activist effort to unseat him as they did to the World Cup or Tour De France.

The general perception is that the Lieberman is taking one for the team on an issue that has divided his party, thus taking responsibility for that division. It would go a long way to making the general electorate realize that we're in this to win, and that our chief players have their game faces on.
It's really very simple, Joe.

C) Which brings me to my final argument to you: by doing this, essentially you've made yourself a power-played in the 2008 Presidential race. While I doubt the nomination is anything but a pipedream for you, ever, or even another pass at VP, I think you would stand an excellent chance for a major Cabinet post, like Defense Secretary in a Hillary White House. And you could solidify your legacy beyond being the first Jewish national candidate for a major political party, a Trivial Pursuit answer in 20 years.

Do it, Joe. Give it up. Don't run as an independent.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Let's Talk About Photoshop

The right wing pantywaists have been getting their mascara all runny from these:

Fair enough. To its credit, Reuters recognized they had been doctored, pulled them from their inventory and sent an advisory.

But take a close look at the pictures: what was done?

Two whole contrails for rockets were added. To a picture of a plane.

And some smoke was darkened, a little.

Wow. That they can get upset about. This, not so much:

Or this:

Interesting how they, um, pick their spots, dontcha think?

The Immigrant Song

Levy gets fight over workers

A labor union that was one of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's largest campaign contributors yesterday denounced as "discriminatory" his proposed law involving contractors and undocumented immigrants.

The organization, 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East, said through a spokeswoman that Levy has gone too far in his campaign on illegal immigration.

The proposed law would require town governments, businesses, social-service agencies and other groups with contracts from Suffolk County to file a sworn affidavit annually vouching that their employees are legally in the United States.
It's interesting that a union, whose workers would conceivably get more work should illegal immigration be stopped, is stepping up to criticize this latest effort to criminalize people who are living the grand tradition of the American immigrant dream, but more on that in a second.

First off, it's bad enough that an employer has to certify his employees' legal statuses. The logical extension of this will be such other social "ickies" as pedophilia, and other morals code violations. After all, we wouldn't want a plumber who molests kids working on our 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch in Hicksville, now would we? At what point does society draw a line and allow people to make a living? Or would we prefer....what? Welfare? Would you want an illegal immigrant or a pedophile on welfare, living off your income? Or just living off the fruits of what they can steal (thus hiking the crime rate and your homeowner's insurance)? What's the solution?

Second, the enormous burden of annually certifying each and every employee will raise all sorts of hackles in the business community. Currently, each waged employee has to file an I-9 and a W4 form. That ought to be good enough (after all, you can't become an illegal immigrant in this country. You arrive as one.)

Third, the mere fact that we're criminalizing a behavior that's going to exist (and has no real impact on anything in the country) means we are deducting law enforcement efforts from bigger things, like, say, finding the 11 Egyptian students who have disappeared after entering this country on student visas. Legally.

Now, onto the union concerns: this is not about a sudden insight that protectionism for the jobs they might obtain is a bad thing (which to a degree, it is), but it's about understanding the nature of the union.

1199 SEIU is a service employees union, and covers such diverse service industries as the hotel trades to nursing. What the 1199 leadership understands is, to raise suspicions on any immigrant is to raise suspicions of them all. And guess who makes up the bulk of the membership in 1199, a union comprised of the lowest wage union workers in America?

You guessed it: immigrants! By taking this stance now, 1199 has effectively said you're hurting our members by trying to hurt illegal immigrants. Prejudice is not dead in this country and it's foolish to believe that it is, or will be anytime soon.

Bravo, 1199!

Monday, August 07, 2006

An Interesting Insight

I was stumbling across the Times' website this morning, when I came across, of all things, a book review. Edward Rothstein writes, in preface to his review of historian Bernard Lewis's new book, The Multiple Identities of the Middle East:
Terror warfare deliberately sacrifices innocents and deliberately confounds innocence. It knows that the enemy has moral principles it will be forced to violate; victims serve a higher cause, befuddling the enemy, inspiring loyal cadres. [...]

Religion is the unifying principle, and nations associate under its banner. As Mr. Lewis points out, it is hard to imagine the leaders of the Buddhist nations of Asia or the Lutheran nations of northern Europe meeting for conclaves, the way leaders of Muslim countries do with little but their religion to bind them.
The deeper I read into this review of a comprehensive study of the regional politics of religion and how it's playing out in the Middle East, the more I realized I was reading a shadow history of Republican party election tactics.

Think about Karl Rove. Or the Swift Boat Veterans. Or the bald-faced lies told on a daily basis by Republicans in office and out: the "death tax" affects middle income Americans, Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, the war in Iraq has always been about bringing freedom to the Iraqis.

In a way, in a very miniscule fashion, I will admit, politics in America is a shadow of the conflict in the Middle East: rabid religious types on one hand, pragmatists on the other, and in the middle, the future of a nation.

Which raises some interesting ideological observations: The Republicans and Democrats seem to be sympathetic to the wrong teams! For example, the Republicans tend to be staunchly pro-Israel (for reasons that have little to do with Israelis and more to do with Americans), whereas Democrats tend to be softer in their defense of Israeli actions, especially in this most recent dust-up.

Yet, based on political tactics, one would imagine the Republicans would support the terrorism tactics of stealth, underhandedness and putting your opponent into an indefensible position of bucking popular opinion, thus losing the moral high ground, and Democrats should, rightly, be horribly offended by the naked and illegal aggression Hizbollah has demonstrated against Israel.

I have a theory, hardly formulated at this point, but one I'll work on, that says the sides here have been taken based on a fear that this very kind of conflict, perhaps not on the scale it's been seen in the Middle East, could break out here and that we are taking the side we'd least want to take should that kind of conflict break out in full force here (minus the obliteration and genocide of both factions, naturally, but possibly not).

I'll give this more thought in the coming months.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Science Will Save Us!

"Anti-stupid" pill tested on mice

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German scientist has been testing an "anti-stupidity" pill with encouraging results on mice and fruit flies, Bild newspaper reported on Saturday.

It said Hans-Hilger Ropers, director at Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, has tested a pill thwarting hyperactivity in certain brain nerve cells, helping stabilise short-term memory and improve attentiveness.

"With mice and fruit flies we were able to eliminate the loss of short-term memory," Ropers, 62, is quoted saying in the German newspaper, which has dubbed it the "world's first anti-stupidity pill."
Desperate calls from patriotic Americans nationwide have asked the scientists to break with tradition and move down the food chain to test on Republicans next.

Sunday Shudder Moment

Man impaled by steel stake on birthday

NORTHAMPTON, Pa. - Enjoying a relaxing 54th birthday in the yard, Mike Colwell went to move the sprinkler, backing up momentarily to avoid the spray, toward a horseshoe pit with a 1-inch-thick rusty steel stake.

"My two heels hit the back wall of the pit. The next thing I know, this thing just tore through me," Colwell said.

As he fell on the stake, it pierced into his buttocks, fractured his pelvis, and came within a millimeter of his iliac artery, which carries blood to the body's lower extremities.

Is Paris Burning?

Paris Hilton: ‘I'm not having sex for a year

LONDON - The 25-year-old who gained international fame when a former boyfriend posted a videotape of the couple having sex on the Internet denied leading a promiscuous lifestyle in an interview with the British edition of GQ magazine.

“I’m not having sex for a year. ... I’ll kiss, but nothing else,” says Hilton, who told the magazine she has had sex with only two men during her lifetime.
"Her lifetime" being defined as the past two hours, no doubt.

Do people realize what they're saying when they're saying it? "I'm not having sex for a year," and "I've only had sex with two men", from a 25 year old heiress who can buy whomever she wants are nearly-opposing concepts and therefore should be seriously doubted. guess? She's noticed some form of discharge and needs some medical attention for it.

Duck! Duck! GOOSE!

I was stumbling around this morning on the web, reading up on the latest Hizbollah rocket attacks, when I came across this little oddball tidbit on the Beeb:
Ten geese take-off on an 8,000km migration from Ireland to Arctic Canada and back. Follow their incredible journey.