Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Compressed Time in Tucson


In the span of about three hours today I came home from work, put the finishing touches on a pot of pollo con chili verde that had been simmering all day, went to Antigone to buy a birthday card and present for a friend at work, fixed dinner, checked e-mail, and read the first chapter of Fun Home. Put the book down, got up and stretched, toddled down the hall convinced it was close to bedtime, caught a glimpse of the clock.

6:45. Six-fucking-forty-five! Five years ago this would have meant I was looking at another five or six hours of evening left, easy. The night would have been but a pup! A cold, rainy night custom-made for sitting at Epic with a cup of chai and a journal or sketchbook would have had me out the door, energized by the night and the rain. Now 6:45 means eking out another two hours will be a challenge. The main hope becomes staying awake long enough to listen to the rain for a few minutes before conking out.

Sigh. I got so much done! But it was on the goddamn early-bird special schedule!

Scene from Antigone: A couple of nuns were browsing, accompanied by a couple of much younger women, probably 20-ish. The nuns were standard-issue solid older women with sensible SAS shoes, full navy blue skirts, crosses on long chains, and little Mennonite-style mesh bonnets. They mainly cruised around the staff-picks table and the shelves of knick-knacks at the front of the store. I wandered to the rear of the store and back up to the front, bumping into them again as one of the older nuns almost-squealed to the other one, "Hey, look at this!" and grabbed a large stylized goddess figurine off a shelf. "Oh, the goddess? Yes!" At that point one of the younger women said, "Uh, we better be going." And they traipsed out, the old nuns giggling as they followed the girls.

No idea what that was about. I hope they came back later after ditching the young chicks and bought their goddess statue.

Farther Down the Rabbit Hole

Here we go again, Chapter Umpteen in the Bush Build Your Own Soviet-Style Totalitarianism manual. No longer content to merely appoint agency heads sympathetic to his own causes, W has now decided to require all agency business be vetted by an apparatchik for doctrinal adherence.
President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

Unsurprisingly, the primary targets are the EPA and OSHA. Even less surprising is that the oil industry is foremost among those that would benefit from regulatory relaxation in the environmental and worker safety arenas.

What additional power grabs lie in the next two years? We are all a-twitter.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Bests

Best live music experience this week: The Chieftains at Centennial Hall (Wednesday).

Best addition to The Chieftains in recent years: Canadian dancer/fiddler Jon Pilatzke, his dancer brother Nathan, and dancer Cara Butler, all three dangerously easy on the eyes--seriously, there ought to be a law--and all three loose-limbed joy in motion. Oh yeah, the old Irish guys were pretty good too.

Best thundering on the Senate floor: Ted Kennedy on the Republican stonewalling of the minimum wage legislation (yesterday).

Best non-thundering denunciation of the war (Democrat): Russ Feingold.

Best fuming denunciation of the war (Repub): Chuck Hagel.

Worst news in local bread: Beyond Bread has discontinued their onion bread. Unfortunately other customer do not place the Onion Bread as in high regard as you due to the fact the we were only selling between 2-4 loaves a day and we having excessive waste. In order for our mixer to work properly we must make at least 20 loaves or the product will not develop correctly.

Two to four loaves per day? What is wrong with people?

Best way to cheer up after learning onion bread has disappeared: Quagmyre.

Most transparent theme of this Friday Bests: Jon Pilatzke. Who, I am certain, loves some onion bread.

Decider in Action

Asked why he was going ahead with his plan without congressional
, Bush said, "One of the things I've found in Congress is that
most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United
States. And, in that I'm the decision-maker, I had to come up with a
way forward that precluded disaster."

Oh, what the fuck ever.

Failure would be a disaster! I'm the Decider! Way forward!

Mr. Bush was unclear on how his plan precludes disaster, according to sources at the scene.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

In Which Chuck Hagel Rips His Republican Colleagues New Ones


This clip of Chuck Hagel addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday has shown up on Olbermann, Crooks and Liars, and probably every other liberal blog on the planet, but I'm putting it here too. Score one for simple elegance and eloquence--and a Republican repudiating his colleagues for treating US forces in Iraq like plastic toy soldiers or, worse, cheap poker chips in a no-cash game to be raised and lost without real consequence. Go watch it right now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

The fawning aisle-sitters falling over themselves to grasp Chimpy as he made his entrance really made me cringe. The Republicans on the left side of the aisle and Lieberman on the right jumping to their feet to cheer made me cringe. The part I liked? Admitting that it's long past the time to start looking at alternative fuels. Grassley's look of adoration at that--the corn, think of the corn!--was priceless.

The surge? Hate it. The smokescreen of tax breaks tied to self-insurance? Really hate it. The lie that Iraq was rosy and the civil war sectarian violence didn't start until the Golden Mosque went kablooey last year? Really, really hate it.

Was Cheney chewing gum? Or just munching on tidbits he sucked out of his teeth? Why did he look like he was trying not to crack up when W was talking about energy policy?

Peace march tomorrow in Tucson, Catalina Park to the federal building, 4 pm. Be there.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snow Blogging from Tucson

The snow started coming down last night just before sundown, big fat flakes that not only looked like the real deal but packed like the real thing. Snowmen abounded in Tucson today. This is the tiny one I made on somebody's hood at work.

It was a scene straight out of my childhood--wake up in the cold predawn dark, look out the window at a world covered in white, and turn on the TV waiting for the school closings to crawl across the bottom, elation when the kid's school showed up, giving him the first and likely only snow day of his desert education career.

I made it to work without incident to find only two other cars in the lot, so I trundled over to the park across the street to watch the dogs play and snap some pictures.

Snow and fog on the Catalinas in the morning.

The ice was pretty, too:

Lovely frozen puddle in the parking lot.

By lunchtime the sun had come out and gotten busy melting all the white stuff on the ground. Clouds came and went around the mountains but didn't produce anything new.

Clouds and shadows under the Window and Finger Rock.

We took off after lunch to get closer to the mountains, but the Catalina Highway was closed at the base. That's the most frustrating part about the rare snowfalls here--by the time they get the highway open, the snow's gone. But it was a grand, magical day you couldn't help grinning at.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Re: My Previous Post

I'm sorry; I misused the term "brazen" by applying it, in my previous post, to the latest actions by the Attorney General. I should have saved it for application to said AG's thought processes.

GONZALES: I will go back and look at it. The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme —

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.


Holy fucking shit. Wait, let me say that again. HOLY FUCKING SHIT. This is the fucking Attorney General. The top lawyer in the country. And he doesn't understand the fucking Constitution. Or, worse, he's deliberately misinterpreting... misinterpeting? Let me reword that. He's delilberately laying interpretation onto something that is not subject to interpretation. He's worse than Hayden saying the Fourth Amendment is grounded in reasonable suspicion, not in the requirement for a warrant.

Brazen Brazenity

Duke Cunningham went down last year; Bob Ney's tumble came this morning. Ah, you might think, the corrupt pigeons of the 109th Congress are finally coming home to roost... but, alas, AG Gonzales is booting out seven prosecutors who are sniffing too close on Republican tails. And replacing them with people like Timothy Griffin, whose last paying gig was helping Karl Rove dig up dirt on political opponents. Oh, wait--not simply replacing them on an interim basis, but forever, or at least until the 2008 elections, because Arlen Specter quietly slipped a provision into the renewed PATRIOT Act removing the requirement that interim prosecutors go through Senate confirmation within 120 days. The new guys now serve at the pleasure of the president. Or to pleasure the president, as the case may be. Paul Krugman summarizes more elegantly than I could hope to...
Mr. Gonzales says that there’s nothing political about the firings. And according to The Associated Press, he said that district court judges shouldn’t appoint U.S. attorneys because they “tend to appoint friends and others not properly qualified to be prosecutors.” Words fail me.
...so go read his column right now.

Given this brazen vaffanculo to rule of law, I'm stunned that the White House reversed course yesterday and decided that the FISA court might work just fine after all, that 72-hours-ex-post-facto warrants do not, in fact, take away the tools the preznit needs to protect us from the terrorists or embolden the enemy.

Maybe the FISA move was a gambit designed to establish the administration's law-abiding character in the investigations headed by the now-replaced prosecutors, just in case somebody in the Senate notices they are... what are the words... oh, yeah, "not properly qualified."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


President Bush thinks that watching 30 seconds of footage from Iraq on the nightly news is a sacrifice (of our "peace of mind," as he put it to Jim Lehrer) on par with the sacrifices of the troops and their families. If he thought average Americans should be doing more for the war effort than simply shopping, those asinine words "I think we have a lot of people in this fight" never would have slipped from his lips.

I watch the news and read the paper and most definitely haven't seen my peace of mind since sometime in early 2003.

That is not sacrifice.

This is sacrifice. This is the story of a soldier who was in Ranger school with my brother. This is the story of a guy who was KIA in Afghanistan on 29 October 2005, and of the guys who were beside him when he was killed, who hadn't been able to even put that story into words until this past December. This is the story of an American soldier who died in the war George Bush forgot in favor of his Iraq ego trip. I have changed the names out of respect for the soldier's family and buddies, none of whom would likely appreciate landing on a liberal dyke's blog after Googling his name. Otherwise, it's verbatim as I received it from my brother, written by a buddy who was there.

I've been writing this out for a while,Getting it out is all I can think about....This happened on the morning of Oct. 29th 2005, I was on guard on top of the truck,it was almost daybreak,CPT. T woke up and told me to start getting ready to move and to call up top and tell SSG Knox to start getting ready to go,SSG Grant came up to relieve me,as i was getting down I heard Knox call up and say that they heard movement right beneath them,as i jumped down I heard gunfire explode everywhere,i looked up top and saw rounds flying all over the place,i realized that we were getting shot at too,i heard an RPG fly right over us and saw SSG Grant duck,I thought about our rear and went to put Leandro and Doc in to watch our backside,I ran back to the truck and found Donkey and Lt. T shooting at everything,Donkey was yelling at Mash that he had called up for air and they were coming,Lt. T was trying to shoot and call up a fire mission at the same time,I directed Donkeys' fire and told Lt. T where the fire was coming from,I kept trying to think of what i had to do next,I heard knox on the radio saying that they were running low on ammo,we had only been in the fight for a few minutes it seemed cause everything happened so fast,as soon as i heard ammo i ran to the trucks to get it ready,i asked Cpt. T who he wanted me to take with me,he said to take Doc,i gave doc some rounds and told him to follow me,i looked over and Cpt t. told me to head up,i heard another RPG fly over us and thought that this was gonna be fun...

me and doc headed up,we were about halfway there when the weight of
the rounds got to us,as i slowed down rounds started hitting all around us,i thought to myself,"dumbass, you're right in their sights",if you ever need motivation,try getting shot at,we took off again,as i got to the top i saw bo sitting against a tree and rotty on the radio,knox was on the gun and pierce was right next to him,i went to knox and asked him what he needed,he said that mears and speck needed ammo,and gammons needed 203 rounds,i threw gammons the 203 rounds cause he was on the other side of knox,then i asked him if he wanted me to take the gun,he said that he was fine and that he needed me to get the ammo to the guys,i ran to mears and speck,speck had this dumb smile on his face and was telling me that he had hit one of the guys dead on with a 203,mears kept saying that i got there right in time with the ammo,doc was still with me,i looked back to where knox was,i heard three distinct shots,i saw knox stand up,i heard him say something like "I'm sorry,I'm sorry"someone else says that he said something else,I'm not sure,after he said that he hit the ground,doc took off and i was right behind him,when we got over there doc pulled knox back about two feet and started working on him,i saw the gun and picked it up,i saw hajis running and i fired all the rounds left on the gun,as i was reloading it i saw two of them crawling into the bushes,i got the gun back up and fired some more into the bushes i had just seen them crawling into,i remember thinking that doc was exposed to fire while he was working on knox but he didn't care,i asked doc how he was and heard rotty yelling for a status on knox,i asked doc to help him,doc said he was trying but we had to get him down,gammons kept yelling for cover fire,i slapped knox and pinched him to try to get him to respond,this was when i realized i was scared to lose him,i kept hearing gammons so i turned back and let loose with the 240 thinking that i was gonna put as much lead into them that i could,i looked over and gammons and pierce were gone,i realized we were pulling back and thought to myself that it was about time,rotty was still with us and thomas had appeared,i remember thinking that i didn't know where thomas had been cause i didn't see him until then,doc said that he needed help moving knox,i handed him the gun and me and thomas picked him up,i remember hoping that it wasn't that bad cause there wasn't any blood,knox was limp...we kept slipping trying to hold him,i told thomas it would be easier for a one man carry and he helped me put knox on my shoulders,he kept slipping down,i carried him for about 50 meters before he fell off,thomas came up and i helped him get knox on his shoulders,i grabbed thomas's weapon for him and we headed to the trucks,when we got down leandro had a truck ready and we got knox on it,i kept hoping that we had made it in time,leandro started hauling ass to the HLZ to get knox on a bird,i went back to my truck and saw rotty,he asked me how knox was and i told him that i didn't know,he said that knox was his best friend and that he didn't know what he would do if he wasn't alright,i told him that we still had a job to do and that we should concentrate on security,i was talking more to myself than rotty cause i didn't want to think about what i already knew in the back of my mind,i went to check the perimeter and to get away from my truck,i had a tacsat in there and i knew that they would be calling soon with a status on knox,our re-enforcements started showing up a little while later,Cpt T. called us in,I could tell already what he had to say,i couldn't look up,i heard him say that knox had died on the bird,rotty started screaming "those motherfuckers" "i'll kill all of them",he hit his knees,i got down beside him and hugged him...he kept saying"those motherfuckers"Cpt T. said that we needed to move out,i kept thinking that none of this was real,that this hadn't just happened,i got my truck ready and got in it,i didn't want to go to the bottom of the mountain cause i knew my friends were down there and SFC Shaw too,i felt like we had let everyone down.i couldn't think,i wanted to drive my truck off the side of the mountain to get it all out of my head,we got to the bottom and everyone was kinda standing around,i could tell that everyone already knew,i could tell that SFC Shaw was hurt and pissed,i didn't want to look at anyone,i stood by my truck until Cpt T. called everyone in to tell them,I couldn't look up from the ground,i felt like everyone was staring at us and calling us failures,i remember someone asking me what had happened and i couldn't even talk,i just walked back to my truck,we loaded up the vehicles and moved back to base,that was the most silent that truck had ever been,i could hear someone crying in the truck,i don't know who it was,maybe it was me,or Cpt T.i can't remember,we got back to base and SSG Grant helped me download the truck,i hadn't cried since i was 12 years old,but for the next two days i couldn't stop,

we had a memorial for him at camp tillman and i've never seen more grown men crying as i did that day,i couldn't let go of my friend wallace,and i was glad he was there
cause i needed a friend with me,losing a friend or family member sucks,it's a part of life,i guess this is so hard even now because when you're in a platoon with someone,you don't realize how much they become a part of your life,knox was the guy that was screaming in the back of the plane to open the doors cause he was "all dressed up and nowhere to go",he was the guy that told sgt macomb that i said i could take his smokings all day cause i was a rock,then sgt macomb smoked me for three hours,he was the guy in ranger school that made me sit on the steps with him for five hours when i was dead tired cause he was scared that he wouldn't pass and come back to bragg a failure,he was the guy that would look you in the eye when he talked to you because he wanted you to know that he cared,he was the guy that left his door open after the duty day cause he liked it when guys would randomly walk into his room,he was the guy that was always trying to make a joke but they were never very funny,you had to laugh anyway because it was knox,he was the guy that made me drive him to raleigh because he wanted to see kelly but he had to study for a test,he was the guy that died fighting because he stayed on the gun to protect his men, i know that all us b co. guys have all had a hard time living with this,i think everyone feels some level of responsibilty, everyone thinks if i had only done this a little differently,but lately i've been thinking if knox would have done things differently,i don't think he would have,i'm grateful to have known him....

i post this for a few personal reasons,but also this,i don't want him to be forgotten,i want people to know what happened that day,the day that an american hero layed down his life for his friends,his brothers...

George Bush doesn't know the first fucking thing about sacrificing anything that actually belongs to him.

Bush on PBS Lat Night

They should have propped up Cookie Monster instead. He would have been more coherent.

MR. LEHRER: Just today, another 35 people were killed in bombings; 80 over the weekend.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, there is a difference between - look, death is terrible - but remember, some of these bombings are done by al-Qaida and their affiliates, all trying to create doubt and concern and create these death squads or encourage these death squads to roam neighborhoods. And it's going to be hard to make Baghdad zero - to make it bomb-proof.

All together now, please. Q is for al-Qaida, it's good enough for me. al-Qaida starts with Q, should be good enough for you. The bulk--"bulk" here meaning "damn near all"--of the violence is due to Sunnis and Shia blowing each other up. The bazillion-ton elephant in the room is Muqtada al-Sadr, who, as we have noted before, has Maliki's government by the balls, short hairs, and every other dangling appendage in between. The administration's proposed escalation via embedding sticks our guys into Iraqi government units, which means sticking them directly into the sectarian violence... on the side of the same guys being propped up by Iran right now.
As a matter of fact, in 2005, I thought - I mean, in 2006, I thought I'd be in a position to remove troops from Iraq, in other words, hand over more of the authorities to the Iraqis so they could take the fight, and then this sectarian violence that you described broke out.
In 2006? In 2005? The violence actually broke out then, or he just didn't notice it until then?
MR. LEHRER: Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you've just said - and you've said it many times - as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it's that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military - the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They're the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

Jesus Christ. We "sacrifice peace of mind?" This from the guy who says no, actually, he sleeps great at night. The economy's great, he goes on to say in the interview--go read it; I can't bring myself to cut and paste more of it here--and to raise taxes now, at a time when the psychology of the country is somewhat down because of this war, well, that would simply be too much. Because people need to be able to feel their lives are moving forward.

La-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you is a great approach in a world where you get to create your own reality; it's the old Star Trek episode where you think something and *poof* it becomes real. $400 billion and counting for new ways forward, always forward, never stopping to clean up the messes that makes along the way, billions for ammo but none for patching together the broken psyches of the guys who come home, spend more on shopping but not a dime more in taxes to pay for this metastasizing disaster. Move forward. Nothing to see here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Manners, Please

Bush, on 60 Minutes last night:
I think I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That’s the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.
True dat. I don't think they've shown nearly enough gratitude for stuff like this:

Roundup of violence in Iraq - 14 January

The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers Special Correspondent Mohammed al Awsy in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It’s posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy’s Washington Bureau.


-- this morning at around 2 o'clock a fire broke out at al shorja bulk market [city centre] in AL TAAEE cloths complex, only damages at the buildings.

-- an IED exploded in ghirnata square [city centre], one civilian was killed and 6 others were injured.

-- in al amil area an IED exploded at the civilians , 2 civilians were injured.

-- at 3 o'clock this afternoon unknown gunmen wearing civilian clothes stormed inside a carpenters market and opened fire killing 7 civilians.

-- at 4 o'clock this evening a number of mortar rounds fell on a residential area in Palestine street eastern Baghdad, 5 civilians were injured.

-- at 4:30 this evening 2 mortar rounds fell on residential area in ZAYUONA eastern Baghdad injuring 3 civilians.

-- At 5 o'clock this evening clashes broke between unknown gunmen and interior ministry commandos in AL MADAIN area southeast Baghdad, 4 commandos were killed.

Today 40 bodies were found in Baghdad, some tortured and handcuffed: 5 were found in al adhamiyah, 2 aour, 2 new Baghdad, 1 zayuona, 1 rashad, 1 selekh, 2 sadr city , 2 mansour, 1 khadhra, 2 near Haifa street, 2 belat al shuhadaa, 7 in different places in shula, 4 kadhumiyah, 4 ghazaliyah, 1 dora, 2 amil and 1 bayaa .

DIYALA province .

-- according to medical and security sources, almost 4,623 victims were killed and injured by the terrorists last year plus more than 700 from the police and army soldiers. the source also said that 2,112 civilians of all ages were killed, 97 percent were Shiite, killed by all kinds of violence like kidnappings, executions, raids, IEDs and car bombs.

the sources also said that 2,511 were injured.

the source mentioned that the number of Kurdish and Shiite families who were displaced from the different cities in diyala province are more than 7000 families.

-- according to a close source from the Iraqi army and MNF in baqouba city, a force from the Iraqi military supported by an American helicopters made a military campaign since the 5th of January until yesterday to secure AL DSINA area south of BALADROOS area. these sources said that the forces have found weapons cahches and killed 75 terrorists and arrested others.

-- according to a security source from baladroos area, a group of terrorists attacked one policeman from baldroos police station who was badly injured and transferred to baqouba's hospital. the source said a police patrol was near the place were the incident happened and were able to track the terrorists and arrested 3 of them.

KIRKUK province.

-- According to the Kirkuk police chief brigadier SARHAD KADER, 2 kurdish engineers were killed when 4 gunmen driving a civil car opened fire at the 2 engineers in kirkuk near AL RANAA bridge and injuring 2 others who were with them.

And that's only one day! That leaves roughly 1,370 days they still haven't said thank you for yet. No phone call, no note, not so much as a "thx 4 da civil war, bitchez" text message. What more do they want W to do on their behalf?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


21,500 more American troops committed to George Bush's war. Well, let's dive right in.

Bush started his speech last night with an admission that mistakes have been made, a stunning feat in itself, but also sadly illustrative of exactly how desperate the situation is. If Bush's impenetrable ego has been cracked to the extent that he finally owns culpability, then yes, it's bad. He thought the elections would make everything all better, but "the opposite happened." He blames al Qaeda, Sunni, and Iran-backed Shia death squads for the violence. Conspicuously missing from that equation is the 60,000-man-strong Mahdi Army of Muqtada al Sadr, the Shia cleric whose death grip on Bush's man al Maliki's nuts was made brazenly clear by the circus-tent hanging of Saddam last week.

He claims that the one message coming through "loud and clear" from the Iraq Study Group report is that "failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States." I thought the report made it pretty clear that we've already failed there, at least within the framework of Bush's definition of success. Every pretense in the rotating stock we used to justify the invasion ended up debunked. No weapons of mass destruction. No noticeable improvement in the everyday lives of Iraqis with Saddam out of power. No flowers and chocolates at our soldiers' feet, unless they're concealing a bomb. No nascent western-style democracy magically erasing centuries of tribal and religious conflict to create a stable nation. No reduction of the terrorist threat against American interests, but rather a cauldron churning out ten new terrorists or insurgents for every one we kill. No burnishing of America's image as the beacon of liberty and justice for the world. We may not get that last one back within my lifetime.

Back to the speech. Requisite 9/11 reference? Check. Requisite conflation of 9/11 with the Iraq war? Check. Requisite claim of success in Afghanistan? Checkity check. Requisite "when the Iraqis stand up..." in so many words? Got it. Oh, and now our troops will have the green light to go into any neighborhood they want (so maybe they can get back to looking for the US soldier kidnapped at gunpoint a couple months ago, you know, the one they quit looking for when al Maliki told them to stay out of al Sadr's back yard?). Requisite veiled reference to protecting Israel? Check.

Bits that made my soul puke just a little: the shout-out to Joe "Smooches" Lieberman, the recognition of the sacrifices made by families other than his own while his drunk-ass daughters tear a path through South America, the warning that we should expect a bloody year with more casualties. More casualties. More deaths accruing to this last-ditch gamble for Bush's hideously mismatched ego and grasp on reality.

And when the year's up, Mr. Bush, and all we have to show for it are another thousand dead young Americans? When we finally pull out and leave Iraq to consume itself? What then?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stumpin' for the Surge

Dear Leader goes on TV tomorrow to give the latest version of the new way forward in Iraq (for Iraq? adjacent to Iraq?), preview snippets of which sound disconcertingly like the series of old ways forward proposed to replace each other a few times since 2003, all adding up to the same sorry solution. More gasoline on the fire, more trees into the shredder, more piles of chips pushed forward into an ever-increasing big blind.

W bristles at criticism of his prosecution of the war, snapping that he listens to the generals in the field (I can't bring myself to type "commanders on the ground" any more), at least until they give him assessments of reality too blunt for his tastes, at which point they are sacked. Shinseki before the war, Casey last week. Powell, more or less in the same category, somewhere in between.

And finally, today comes confirmation of what many of us suspected at the outset of this whole mess: The Iraqi government plans to introduce a law that will give Western oil companies rights to the country's huge oil reserves, a British newspaper says.

3,000 gone forever and 20,000+ who left parts of themselves over there. Thousands more who figuratively did the same and brought PTSD home in exchange. How many more will be committed to the same fate tomorrow night for George Bush's ego and oil company profits?

Friday, January 05, 2007

In Which We Are Knocked over with a Feather.

Charles Krauthammer has written something I agree with. Completely. I may need to lie down for a while.

In re: Saddam on the gallows, how our Iraqi minions managed to take the only true slam-dunk aspect of this entire fiasco (Saddam bad) and completely bollocks it up mystifies me. Well, actually, it doesn't. The charade of the execution sadly illustrated, clearly and with brutal brilliance, the future of the Iraq that 2,998 of our guys have died for (as of this morning) : a propped-up democracy, in name only, serving as a thin veneer for the sectarian thuggery underneath.

If nothing else, the Iraqis have proved adept students of slickly working around the letter and spirit of the law for the sake of convenience and the opportunity to double-finger-poke the Sunnis in the eyes. In the process, Saddam managed to look like the only grownup in the room.

Now we have the Sunnis even more pissed off and the Shiite resistance, primarily Muqtada's militia, even more emboldened. Does anyone remember a major component of the latest "new way forward" purportedly involving eliminating the Mahdi Army? Does anyone else see some disconnect between that stated goal and the presence of Muqtada-chanting Mahdi boys in the execution chamber? Al-Sadr hisself might as well have put the noose around Saddam's neck and kicked the trapdoor open.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Well, Who Could Have Foreseen This?

President Bush quietly has claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant.
Another day, another signing statement that brazenly contradicts the law it's appended to. Do I remember correctly that some commentary on last year's warrantless wiretapping brouhaha raised the spectre of government agents combing citizens' private mail? And that those concerns were huffily brushed aside?

Hmm. I am not finding direct links other than my memory, but there's this from my February 7, 2006 post on the NSA hearings:
Perhaps the most troubling spectre to float out of yesterday's hearing was that of other surveillance programs we don't know about yet. The Attorney General framed many of his responses as pertaining only to "the program we are discussing today." The most telling moment came when Kennedy asked directly whether other, more insidious domestic spying programs were either in the works or already operational. Gonzales hesitated, silent, for a good two or three seconds, sighed deeply, and stammered, as if his tongue had suddenly swollen to the size of a canned ham, that he could not answer that question.

The Fourth Amendment is pretty clear on the issue of people being "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures..." In fact, the security of our persons, houses, papers, and effects leads off the first clause of the Fourth Amendment, which apparently was the only relevant segment in the mind of NSA chief (then deputy director) Hayden last January when he tried to explain why warrantless surveillance is legal after all. You remember from your high school civic class, of course, that the second big ol' clause of the amendment states that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause..."
QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.. . .

If the operating standard is "reasonable," and the unitary executive gets to decide what "reasonable" means, the Constitution becomes even less than the window dressing it was reduced to last winter. It becomes the thin haze of adhesive left by the masking tape slapped up there when the casing was repainted, waiting to be scraped away with the swipe of a razor blade.

Party down today, Mmes and Mssrs Pelosi, Reid, and Emanuel. Tomorrow is time to get your asses to work.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back to Massachusetts

Tom Shields, right, and Kris Mineau, left, of the Family Institute celebrate with Massachusetts state Rep. Philip Travis, D-Rehoboth, center, an anti-gay-marriage amendment supporter, and unidentified woman. photo by Elise Amendola / The Associated Press

This picture from Massachusetts says it all. The sad thing, though, is that if you hadn't read the caption, you might think the photo had captured an older gay couple finally celebrating their long-delayed nuptials.

But no. No, no, no. These men, at least one of whom wears a wedding ring, are celebrating coming one step closer to denying gay people a civil right they themselves personally exercise. They got theirs, so screw everybody else.

The quiet resignation of the unnamed woman getting a kiss and a grope from the codger on the left might be the most illuminating part of the photo. Keeping marriage straight with clearly defined power divisions--it's a good day for these old men, indeed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, Old Dilemma

The waning days of '06 found me stopping in Mesa to visit my grandparents. I try to avoid this for a number of small reasons that crystallize into one big Just Plain Uncomfortable scene. Guilt at not visiting them more spars with the desire to claw my way out of the double-wide for supremacy; guilt maintains just enough of an edge to keep me going back.

My granddad is pretty cool. He turns 87 in a couple of weeks but I've never really thought of him as an old guy. He's just a guy. No mental slowdowns, pretty genial, treats store clerks and counter help politely, likes to talk baseball and basketball and the stock market, likes playing pool with my son and cards with everyone. My grandmother can be very sweet. She can also be incredibly judgmental, petty, nasty, and rude regarding people who do not measure up to her standards. The disjuncture makes me nuts.

The dilemma is finding that line between accepting her as she is and refusing to accept bad behavior I sure as hell wouldn't accept in anyone else. It's a nebulous field for sure, one whose only redeeming quality is honing my ability to rationalize just about anything. Which, when I think about it too much, feels increasingly like a skill I don't want to have. Where does wisely choosing your battles morph into rolling over, where does standing on principle for a noble but unwinnable cause become futile head-banging against a brick wall?

She loves me, which maybe should be enough, but she generally refuses to acknowledge my partner. Well, I tell myself, better she should ignore the existence of my woman than to make disparaging comments about her or try to convince me I'm making bad choices. I don't particularly like forcing my son to come with me on thses visits to be bored off his ass, especially when the conversation is guaranteed to include at least one cringe-inducing reference to non-white people. Well, I tell myself, he's the only great-grandchild and they're old white people who grew up in exclusively white small towns in the midwest; they can't help it and at least they don't say that shit in public.

The line falls in there somewhere.

My dad has a natural disinclination for shades of gray. His reaction is simple--being old doesn't give you license to be rude or demanding. Behavior that's unacceptable at 30 doesn't magically become okay at 80 just because you've managed to survive that long. At some point, "But they paid off my truck loan five years ago" fails to justify staying silent in the face of racist remarks or judgmental comments.

I try to be gentle while hoping that the velvet on the hammer is thin enough that they might eventually get the idea that certain subjects are not going to elicit a positive response from me.
Part of that comes from my intense dislike of confrontation, although I like to think the greater part of it comes from the sense that staying subtle and civil affords the chance that they will eventually recognize the bits of their discourse that put me off and at least understand why, even if they'll never agree with me.

No, I am not holding my breath. Each visit brings its moments, this last one a concerned query to my son about the relative numbers of black and white students in his school (which he answered, visibly annoyed, with, "I don't know. Why does it matter?") and the observation that it's a strange arrangement, don't I think, for me, my partner, and the two kids to have had Thanksgiving dinner with the boy's dad and dad's new wife--to which I calmly replied that I don't think it's strange at all for families to have a holiday dinner together. Each of those responses immediately ended the discussion, so maybe some lights started flickering on in her head, however dimly.

At least this year they didn't repeat last year's gift of Bill O'Reilly's book for kids.