Friday, September 30, 2005

Feel Good Friday 

Today's edition features something that happened last week, but was reported this week, so it qualifies. It involves a 10-year-old-boy's dying wish to the coach of his (and mine) favorite college football team (article in full):
Charlie Weis doesn't usually let anyone else call plays on offense. He made an exception for 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz.

The Notre Dame coach met last week with Montana, who had been told by doctors weeks earlier that there was nothing more they could do to stop the spread of his inoperable brain tumor.

"He was a big Notre Dame fan in general, but football especially," said his mother, Cathy Mazurkiewicz.

Weis showed up at the Mazurkiewicz home in Mishawaka, just east of South Bend, and talked with Montana about his tumor and about Weis' 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, who has global development delay, a rare disorder similar to autism.

He told Montana about some pranks he played on Joe Montana -- whom Montana was named after. Weis and former Irish running back Terry Eurick shared a suite, where Montana would visit.

"I gave him a chance to hammer me on the Michigan State loss, which he did very well. He reminded me of my son," said Weis, whose son, Charlie Jr., is 12 years old.

Weis said the meeting was touching.

"He told me about his love for Notre Dame football and how he just wanted to make it through this game this week," Weis said. "He just wanted to be able to live through this game because he knew he wasn't going to live very much longer."

As Weis talked to the boy, Cathy Mazurkiewicz rubbed her son's shoulder trying to ease his pain. Weis said he could tell the boy was trying not to show he was in pain.

His mother told Montana, who had just become paralyzed from the waist down a day earlier because of the tumor, to toss her a football Weis had given him. Montana tried to throw the football, put could barely lift it. So Weis climbed into the reclining chair with him and helped him complete the pass to his mother.

Before leaving, Weis signed the football.

"He wrote, 'Live for today for tomorrow is always another day,"' Mazurkiewicz said.

"He told him: 'You can't worry about tomorrow. Just live today for everything it has and everything you can appreciate,'" she said. "He said: 'If you're (in pain) today you might not necessarily be in pain tomorrow, or it might be worse. But there's always another day.'"

Weis asked Montana if there was something he could do for him. He agreed to let Montana call the first play against Washington on Saturday. He called "pass right."

Montana never got to see the play. He died Friday at his home.

Weis heard about the death and called Mazurkiewicz on Friday night to assure her he would still call Montana's play.

"He said, 'This game is for Montana, and the play still stands,'" she said.

Weis said he told the team about the visit. He said it wasn't a "Win one for the Gipper" speech, because he doesn't believe in using individuals as inspiration. He just wanted the team to know people like Montana are out there.

"That they represent a lot of people that they don't even realize they're representing," Weis said.

When the Irish started on their own 1-yard-line following a fumble recovery, Mazurkiewicz wasn't sure Notre Dame would be able to throw a pass. Weis was concerned about that, too. So was quarterback Brady Quinn.

"He said 'What are we going to do?'" Weis said. "I said 'We have no choice. We're throwing it to the right.'"

Weis called a play where most of the Irish went left, Quinn ran right and looked for tight end Anthony Fasano on the right.

Mazurkiewicz watched with her family.

"I just closed my eyes. I thought, 'There's no way he's going to be able to make that pass. Not from where they're at. He's going to get sacked and Washington's going to get two points,'" she said.

Fasano caught the pass and leapt over a defender for a 13-yard gain.

"It's almost like Montana was willing him to beat that defender and take it to the house," Weis said.

Mazurkiewicz was happy.

"It was an amazing play. Montana would have been very pleased. I was very pleased," she said. "I was just so overwhelmed. I couldn't watch much more."

Weis called her again after the game, a 36-17 victory by the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, and said he had a game ball signed by the team that he wanted to bring to the family on Sunday.

"He's a very neat man. Very compassionate," she said. "I just thanked him for using that play, no matter the circumstances."


Karen Hughes 

Fred Kaplan makes makes a good point:
The main task of this posting is to improve America's image in the Muslim world. Let us stipulate for a moment that Hughes is ideally suited for the job that she can figure out how to spin sheiks, imams, and "the Arab street" as agilely as she spun the White House press corps in her days as Bush's communications director.

Even if that were so, why would anybody assume that she is the one to do the face-to-face spinning? Wouldn't it be better to find someone who oh, I don't know, speaks the language, knows the culture, lived there for a while, was maybe born there?

Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning." Yet this would be the clueless counterpart to Karen Hughes, with her lame attempts at bonding ("I'm a working mom") and her tin-eared assurances that President Bush is a man of God (you can almost hear the Muslim women thinking, "Yes, we know, that's why he's relaunched the Crusades").

At first, for some reason, I thought maybe Hughes would be a decent choice, but apparently it's not working out too well. Obviously, the Bush Administration still doesn't get how to sell the U.S. to the muslim world. I don't have all the answers either, and with troops and car bombs in Iraq, selling America isn't going to be easy. However, would it be possible to find a Muslim American to give the job to? Or at least, someone who speaks Arabic? In my mind, reaching out to "moderate" Muslims, in hopes of convincing them that the U.S. is not the enemy, AND killing/capturing Al Qaeda are close to being on par with each other. We're doing a pretty good job of killing/capturing Al Qaeda, but why is the reaching out not working? I would guess it's a cat-chasing-its-tail-scenario: our fighting the terrorists/occupying Iraq/torture/Guantanamo isn't a good way of show Muslims that we really want them to have the "freedoms" that we enjoy. It's more complicated than that, but it's a good place to start.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Other Gas Price 

Get ready. From Atrios:
It's still under most people's radar screen right now," said Carl Neill, an analyst at Risk Management Inc., a natural gas consultant and brokerage firm Chicago. "The public has absolutely no idea how high prices are going to be this year. It's going to be mind-boggling. Price are going to be 50 to 100 percent higher for residential consumers than in previous year.


Robert Byrd 

A colleague of mine had the opportunity to attend a rare fundraiser for Senator Byrd recently. When I say "rare", I really mean it. Apparently, to his knowledge, Senator Byrd has never had a fundraiser before, and he's been in the Senate since 1958 . A couple of things stood out:

Update 10/3 2:20 PM Looks like Byrd may be able to sleep a little better. Rep. Capito will not be running against him.


Time for a Drink? 

Kleiman has more info on the rumor that a certain former-alcoholic-turned-world leader has returned to the bottle:
But what's striking is that this is the first time any mention of the President's reported return to the bottle has surfaced in the Big Media, eighteen months after it became common Washington gossip. Even a fairly circumstantial, though unsourced, National Enquirer story -- picked up by Randi Rhodes -- wasn't enough to surmount whatever invisible barrier lies between gossip and what passes for mainstream journalism these days.

As the bogus "Kerry intern affair" story illusrated, the right wing can use Drudge and the Murdoch press to shoehorn even very weak stories into memehood; reporters who wouldn't have touched the original story can report on the reporting. There's no comparable mechanism on the other side of the aisle.

Moreover, with rare exceptions (e.g., the John Tower affair) the press seems very reluctant to mention heavy drinking by officials, even when it's widely known. Ted Kennedy's drinking gets an occasional mention, but I'd bet that most of Pat Moynihan's constiuents never knew their brilliant senator faced a permanent battle with the bottle. If Gary Hart's drinking problem has ever made the newspapers, I've missed it, though his behavior in the Donna Rice affair made it pretty obvious. Those in the know understood that the frequent media references to Bill Weld's "laziness" as Governor of Massachusetts referred to his persistent difficulty in keeping himself vertical after lunch, but again the voters didn't. Even foreign leaders get the same delicate treatment: Boris Yeltsin's "erratic" behavior was in fact quite regular and predictable, once vodka was entered into the equation.

I'm not sure why this should be so. Under either of the two prevalent beliefs about alcoholism -- that it's a moral failing on the one hand or a disease on the other -- it's hard to think of a reason to be so secretive about it when it afflicts public officials. It isn't mere self-protection on the part of the press: half a century ago, political reporters were as hard-drinking as the politicians they covered -- the alcoholic reporter became cliche of fiction and the stage -- but today's press corps tends to be quite abstemious.

Still, the convention is what it is: reporting on heavy drinking by politicians is not done. Any reporter who asked Scott McClellan "Is it true that the President is drinking again?" would no doubt be ostracized.

Yet it's a question worth asking; when someone with a history of severe alcohol abuse goes back to drinking under stress, that's bad news for him and his family. When that someone wields the power of the Presidency, that's potentially bad news for billions of people.

I don't know that the correct answer to that question is "Yes;" I was told so eighteen months ago by two people who had no reason to deceive me, but neither was speaking from first-hand knowledge, and the National Inquirer is the National Inquirer.

But I'd like to know, one way or the other. Wouldn't you?



This is rediculous.
WASHINGTON - Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.

Soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won’t provide. One U.S. senator said Wednesday he will try again to force the Pentagon to obey the reimbursement law it opposed from the outset and has so far not implemented.
Is the Pentagon really not taking the safety of our solidiers seriously? Parents of soliders are forced to purchase supplies to keep their kids safe.
“Your expectation is that when you are sent to war, that our government does everything they can do to protect the lives of our people, and anything less than that is not good enough,” said a former Marine who spent nearly $1,000 two weeks ago to buy lower-body armor for his son, a Marine serving in Fallujah.

The father asked that he be identified only by his first name — Gordon — because he is afraid of retribution against his son.

“I wouldn’t have cared if it cost us $10,000 to protect our son, I would do it,” said Gordon. “But I think the U.S. has an obligation to make sure they have this equipment and to reimburse for it. I just don’t support Donald Rumsfeld’s idea of going to war with what you have, not what you want. You go to war prepared, and you don’t go to war until you are prepared.”
The invasion of Iraq was on our time. Iraq didn't attack us first. There's no excuse for our humvees, and soliders, to not have the proper armor, before the invasion. It's a sad state of affairs, when that point has to be made.


The Vatican Closet 

Steve Clemons's blog, The Washington Note, isn't usually the place to pick up the latest gossip, except for this tidbit posted several days ago:
I visited the Vatican in early August and met a person who is deeply "embedded" in the world of those who run Vatican City and who govern the global machinery of the Catholic Church.

According to this person's estimation, he guesses that a "conservative estimate" of those cardinals and senior church officials who are gay is about 50%. Practicing, as opposed to just flirtatious, homosexuals at the highest levels of the church are probably about 30%.

When I asked whether homosexuals would be better served under Pope Benedict XVI than under John Paul II, he responded, "Don't think that we will be any better served under a gay pope than a straight one."
Now who will call out these Cardinals on their hypocrisy? I think Dreier will be officially outed sooner.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

West Point on the Tigris 

As the Cunning Realist calls it. But for a closer look at terror mastermind Zarqawi's trusted lieutenants/deputies/aides/associates/second-in-commands/etc., that have been killed or captured, check out Blogenlust. Is anyone from the MSM asking any questions about this? Everytime one of these guys is captured/killed, it's supposed to be a "major blow" to Zarqawi. Like everything else from the Pentagon, it seems to have no basis in reality.


A History of Violence 

Saw it last night in Georgetown, and I don't really know how I feel about it. I think I loved History of..., but in any case, I can't get it out of my mind, which is what the director probably wants. I recommend seeing it, and don't let any initial Rockwellian cheesiness bother you, it's there for a reason, and after seeing some scenes, you may wish for it back.

Check out Ebert's full review (Warning: spoilers).


Fire Rumsfeld 

When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States?

From the letter sent to Sen. John McCain, from a member of the 82nd Airborne. Read it. Torture, secret military prisons, this is what America has become. Not that long ago that we were fighting a Cold War against a country/system that had secret prisons and torture.

In this case, I doubt his sources are wrong, but here's Andrew Sullivan on what he hears is happening to Captain Fishback now:
Another source informs that the word is around that Rumsfeld has taken a strong interest in this. He is quoted as saying "Either break him or destroy him, and do it quickly." And no doubt about it, that is just what they are doing. Expect some trumped up charges against Fishback soon, similar to what they did to Muslim Chaplain Captain James Yee, whom they accused of treason with no solid evidence and then, when those charges evaporated, went on to accuse him of adultery. The bottom line, as the NYT reports today, is that the military and the Bush administration are determined to stop any real investigation about how torture and abuse came to be so widespread in the U.S. military. The scapegoating of retarded underlings like Lynndie England is an attempt to deflect real responsibility for the new pro-torture policies that go all the way to the White House. It's a disgusting cover-up and it rests on breaking the will and resolve of decent servicemen and women brave enough to expose wrong-doing.

I have a feeling that it won't be long until American hears all that really happened at Abu Ghraib. What we already know is just the tip of the iceberg.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


From Atrios:

Brown told congressional investigators Monday that he is being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a senior official familiar with the meeting.

On Saturday, Jane wrote:

And now I will leave you to guess where this bit of gossip came from, because I promised not to tell. But one of the above-mentioned folks called me this afternoon to say that according to sources within the Enquirer itself, the source for Bush's drinking story is -- an incredibly pissed-off, recently scapegoated head of a federal agency who thinks that BushCo. done him wrong.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Feel Good Friday 

Today's installment involves voting in New Zealand. Apparently, it's for the dogs:
It was almost inevitable New Zealand's election would turn into a dog fight when you look at one of the country's 2.83 million voters -- Toby the Jack Russell terrier.

Toby became a registered voter when his owner, Peter Rhodes of Queenstown, completed an enrollment form in the dog's name, giving his occupation as "rodent exterminator" and his age as 28.

He signed the form with a squiggle and Toby's paw print before returning it to the Electoral Enrollment Center, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Rhodes, an aviation safety specialist who said he was making a humorous point about local government bureaucracy, was shocked to receive written confirmation of Toby's enrollment in the Otago electorate on New Zealand's South Island.

Voting is not compulsory in New Zealand and Rhodes said Toby had elected not to vote.

"The only roll he's interested in is a dog roll, not the electoral roll," Rhodes told the paper.

Electoral Enrollment Center manager Murray Wicks was more angry than amused that an application filed by a dog had slipped through the center's checking system.

"It's an offense, and whoever's done it will be in the hands of the police," he said.

Wicks said Rhodes could be charged with misleading a registrar of electors, making a fraudulent enrollment and making a false declaration, "to name a few" possible charges.

Normally, I wouldn't feel good about an animal being a registered voter, especially, with the Florida recount fraud allegations, but as long as it's in another country, it qualifies. "Rodent Exterminator" sounds like a rewarding occupation for a dog.



I heard from a good source, that the Washington Nationals will be sold for $450 million, within the next month. All bids are currently being looked at to see which best meets what MLB is asking for. Not sure who's in the lead.



Celebrates 100 Years. From Gerry Adams's speech to party members:
The IRA initiative in July to formally end its armed campaign has changed the political context utterly. Our enemies can no longer use the IRA as an excuse for intransigence, and a refusal to engage with the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

I believe the delivery by the IRA of commitments made in that statement will dramatically change the political conditions on this island, but especially here in the north.

It will present Irish republicans and nationalists with an unparalleled opportunity to make even greater political advances, and to make Irish freedom a reality.

For republicans, nationalists, socialists, trade unionists and all strands of progressive opinion in Ireland this means grasping the opportunity which now exists to take ownership of the peace process, to push ahead with its progressive agenda and to take on the task of shaping the future direction of this island for the decades ahead. Central to that effort has to be nation building - planning in a very strategic way the steps towards Irish unity. Part of this has to be about eliminating sectarianism and racism from our society.

And for Sinn Féin that means opening up the party to a wider membership and participation, particularly to women and young people who will bring their own life experiences and values, and it means setting new goals for the growth and development of the party in this area.

The potential for significant growth throughout the island is substantial. Why can't we have a Sinn Féin cumann in every townland or parish?

The fact is that republicans are now in a new area of struggle.

We have moved from a culture of resistance into a culture of change and through this to building political strength so that we can democratically take political power and exercise it in pursuance of our goals.

It is through building political strength across Ireland that we can advance our goals...

However, others say the posted text of the speech didn't contain this:
"This is something that in many, many ways is a potentially huge sea change, not just for us, for the people of the North, but for the entire island. I think it has changed the political context utterly. I don't think republicans have absorbed what it is about. I don't think the media have absorbed what it is about, I don't think our enemies have absorbed what it is about."[emphasis added]
Adams/Sinnfein/IRA allegedly have a history of making speeches that differ from thofficiallyly released script of the speech. This case is no different. I'd like to hear an elaboration of what Adams means by republicans/media/enemies not understanding what "it is about".


Comeback Kid? 

I've said it before, but keep your eyes on Al Gore:
Is former vice-president Al Gore gearing up for another run at the White House? Rumors are swirling in Washington that Gore plans to take on New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008. He's recently launched his new television network, Current, and is back on the speaking circuit. In fact, he'll be the keynote in D.C. next week at a huge Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

He's got a real shot here folks. For one thing, he's been against the Iraq war from the get-go. Hillary Clinton voted for it, as did Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and former 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA). All three will surely vie for the '08 nomination. The latest polls show that a majority of Americans want the U.S. to bring home the troops now. This growing anti-war fervor will be a major factor in the next primary election, and can bode very well for the former veep.

Additionally, Gore is Mr. Environment, and has been preaching the global warming gospel for 20+ years. Most recently he preached to the proverbial choir at the World Environment Day conference in San Francisco, a five-day U.N. gathering to promote pro-environment practices. A growing chorus of scientists believe the recent frequency of strong Category 4 and 5 hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita may be linked to global warming. They believe that rising global temperatures warm the oceans, which in turn fuel hurricanes and intensify their power. On this issue, Gore just might have a groundswell of very interested listeners for a change.

Another strong factor is his underdog cult-hero status among many Democrats stemming from the highly controversial 2000 election against Bush. Let's not forget that he won the popular vote and, to many of us, the election (does anybody really still think Karl Rove and Jeb Bush didn't rig Florida?!). As a result, he could be dubbed The Comeback Kid and ride the momentum that goes with it. Remember, Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960 then returned in '68 to squeak past VP Hubert Humphrey by a 43.2% to 42% margin (Alabama Governor George Wallace picked up 13.5%) to become president.

Since 2000, Gore's become an extremely passionate and rousing speaker. He's dropped the stiff wonkish routine and found his mojo. Plus, he's rested, he's confident and his prescience on a number of key issues and events is now clear. He's also squeaky-clean, with no skeletons in his closet, as 2000 proved.
It makes a lot of sense to me. Gore would play the Nixon role. Don't forget, after Nixon lost in 1960, he then went on to lose the California Governor's race. A 2-time loser. Look at Gore's numbers in Kos's straw poll. There just might be something there...


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Abramoff Scandal 

Laura Rozen is right, the Abramoff scandal is going to get even messier than it is already. I bet we haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg.
One does wonder, reading all these news reports over the past few months, what in the hell kind of operation Abramoff was really running. Greed, sure, extreme greed, sure sure sure, but the kind of enormous infiltration/influence-racket operation he was running -- was it about more than the intersection of greed and the far-right conservative agenda? More than money and power? Or is that it? Abramoff's past ties to apartheid-era South African intelligence, Grover Norquists' own adventures in Africa, the ties to terrorist suspects, one wonders just what this whole operation was really about (beyond drowning government in a bathtub).

Seatbelts on...


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Now, for something completely different. Spotted in the sky over Spain:

Is that Ringo or Bin Laden? For more comparisons, go to Fark.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stem Cells 

Big news today on the stem cell front:
Injections of stem cells derived from aborted fetuses helped mice regain mobility after spinal cord injuries, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

The study is the latest research in rodents to show promise for the use of stem cells to treat damaged spinal cords. Researchers hope the technology one day will help people who are paralyzed recover movement.

Stem cells are immature cells that have the potential to turn into different kinds of cells and tissues. There are various sources, from bone marrow to fetal tissue to embryos. Use of embryonic cells is controversial because some consider it immoral to destroy an embryo to get the cells.


Researchers at the University of California at Irvine injected the cells into mice who had damage to the lower part of their spines and had lost movement in their hind legs.

Within six to eight weeks, the mice "were walking fairly normally. They are not 100 percent ... but we have improved them to a level that you can actually see," said Brian Cummings, the study's lead author.

The mice "not only recover stepping, but they recover coordination between front limbs and hind limbs, and they recover the ability to raise their tail while they are walking," he said.

With Iraq not getting any better, the Katrina disaster, and now sinking poll numbers, will Bush sign a stem cell Bill, to help improve his image? I don't know a better way (other than resignation) for him to do that.


'Conscience of the Holocaust' 

Simon Wiesenthal dead.
Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down numerous Nazi war criminals following World War II then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.

Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, Austria, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

"I think he'll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice," Hier said.

Wiesenthal, who had been an architect before World War II, changed his life's mission after surviving the Holocaust by becoming a voice for the 6 million Jews who died during the onslaught.

"When history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it," he once said.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday that Wiesenthal "brought justice to those who had escaped justice."

"He acted on behalf of 6 million people who could no longer defend themselves," Regev said. "The state of Israel, the Jewish people and all those who oppose racism recognized Simon Wiesenthal's unique contribution to making our planet a better place."

Calls of sympathy poured into Wiesenthal's office in Vienna, where one of his longtime assistants, Trudi Mergili, struggled to deal with her grief.

"It was expected," she said. "But it is still so hard."

Wiesenthal's quest began after the Americans liberated the Mauthausen death camp in Austria where Wiesenthal was a prisoner in May 1945. It was his fifth death camp among the dozen Nazi camps in which he was imprisoned, and he
weighed just 99 pounds (45 kilograms) when he was freed.

He said he quickly realized "there is no freedom without justice," and decided to dedicate "a few years" to seeking justice.


The Horror 

Following orders from Colonel Kurtz?
British armored vehicle escorted by a tank crashed into a detention center Monday in Basra and rescued two undercover troops held by police, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told CNN.

British Defense Ministry Secretary John Reid confirmed two British military personnel were "released," but he gave no details on how they were freed.

In a statement released in London, Reid did not say why the two had been taken into custody. But the Iraqi official, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said their arrests stemmed from an incident earlier in the day.

The official said two unknown gunmen in full Arabic dress began firing on civilians in central Basra, wounding several, including a traffic police officer. There were no fatalities, the official said.

The two gunmen fled the scene but were captured and taken in for questioning, admitting they were British marines carrying out a "special security task," the official said.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about this.

Update 9/20/05 9:41AM:
So it appears that the British soldiers probably didn't go "off the reservation", and were actually involved in a mission that may have gotten out of control. Check out Juan Cole's timeline, for an idea of what may have transpired.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Tim Collins 

I wonder how many members of our military are feeling the way this former British officer feels:
When I led my men of the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment across the border into Iraq we believed we were going to do some good. Goodwill and optimism abounded; it was to be a liberation, I had told my men, not a conquest.
In Iraq I sought to surround myself with advisers - Iraqis - who could help me understand what needed to be done. One of the first things they taught me was that the Baath party had been a fact of life for 35 years. Like the Nazi party, they said, it needed to be decapitated, harnessed and dismantled, each function replaced with the new regime. Many of these advisers were Baathists, yet were eager to co-operate, fired with the enthusiasm of the liberation. How must it look to them now?

What I had not realised was that there was no real plan at the higher levels to replace anything, indeed a simplistic and unimaginative overreliance in some senior quarters on the power of destruction and crude military might. We were to beat the Iraqis. That simple. Everything would come together after that.

The Iraqi army was defeated - it walked away from most fights - but was then dismissed without pay to join the ranks of the looters smashing the little infrastructure left, and to rail against their treatment. The Baath party was left undisturbed. The careful records it kept were destroyed with precision munitions by the coalition; the evidence erased, they were left with a free rein to agitate and organise the insurrection. A vacuum was created in which the coalition floundered, the Iraqis suffered and terrorists thrived.

One cannot help but wonder what it was all about. If it was part of the war on terror then history might notice that the invasion has arguably acted as the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda ever: a sort of large-scale equivalent of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, which in its day filled the ranks of the IRA. If it was an attempt to influence the price of oil, then the motorists who queued last week would hardly be convinced. If freedom and a chance to live a dignified, stable life free from terror was the motive, then I can think of more than 170 families in Iraq last week who would have settled for what they had under Saddam. UK military casualties reached 95 last week. I nightly pray the total never reaches 100.

The consequences of this adventure may run even deeper. Hurricane Katrina has caused a reappraisal of the motives and aims of this war in the US. The storm came perhaps in the nick of time as hawks in Washington were glancing towards Iran and its newly found self-confidence in global affairs. Meanwhile, China and India are growing and sucking up every drop of oil, every scrap of concrete or steel even as the old-world powers of the UK and US pour blood and treasure into overseas campaigns which seem to have no ending and no goal.

It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on. It was as a battalion commander trying to explain to his men why they would embark on a war that I came to public notice. The irony is that I made certain assumptions that my goodwill and altruistic motivations went to the top. Clearly I was naive. This time it is the role of the leaders of nations to explain where we are going and why. I, for one, demand to know.

Colonel Tim Collins gave a celebrated speech to his troops about their mission to liberate, not conquer, in Iraq. He has since left the army.

I suspect many.


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Check out the Cunning Realist's piece on the effect of oil on our economy. As he mentions, it's a long post, but well worth a read.
For those of us who work in the financial industry, these are interesting times. But even those who have nothing to do with Wall Street have a stake in what's happening below the surface of our economy. This is particularly true in light of the government's response to Katrina, which will impact all of us. This post will focus primarily on oil. As I'll explain, I believe oil is the most important issue facing us right now, but not for commonly accepted reasons. This is a long post, but I don't think you can fully understand major geopolitical issues including Iraq, Iran, and China without also understanding some seemingly unrelated issues that are coming to a head right now. I'll try to keep the wonkishness to a minimum and make this accessible to most readers.

First, we need to dispense with some of the myths about oil that have gained acceptance recently through sheer repetition. One of these is that the relentless rise in the price of oil "acts like a tax on the consumer." This is nonsense. Taxes, as painful as they are, at least have some domestic benefit for those who pay them. Taxes build roads, maintain the military, and pay for public education. The majority of money we fork over at the gas pump simply leaves the country. It builds roads in Riyadh, Tehran, and Caracas. Another chestnut is that "oil is doing the Federal Reserve's job for it", which I heard yesterday on a business news show---the implication being that Alan Greenspan and the Fed don't need to raise interest rates since higher oil acts to slow the economy just as higher rates do. More nonsense. Oil does not do the Fed's job; it reflects the job the Fed is doing. All else being equal, the more money the government prints, the higher oil goes. And indeed, over the past year all else has been equal. Despite the constant media hype about Chinese demand, last week Morgan Stanley analyst Andy Xie noted that oil's demand-supply relationship has not changed this year---but oil prices are up about 70%.

You can thank easy money. Although the Fed continues to raise interest rates at a snail's pace from historic lows, the financial system is flush with liquidity. In real terms, monetary policy is easier now than at any time since the early 1970's when the U.S. was paying off the debts from another expensive war, and Federal Reserve chief Arthur Burns kept rates too low to help Nixon get re-elected. (By the way, you can listen to Nixon and Burns on the Oval Office tapes secretly discussing manipulating the economy and government statistics to boost Nixon's 1972 re-election chances at this link. It's fascinating, and a must-listen for anyone who naively believes the Federal Reserve is immune from political pressure as it is supposed to be. It's also relevant, as records indicate that current Fed chairman Alan Greenspan has been visiting the White House far more often than any other of his predecessors.) This leads to yet another oft-spoken absurdity about oil: even though it is near an all-time high, "it's still well below its inflation-adjusted high" of the 1970's. In other words, the price of oil is rising due to inflation, but we've printed so much money over the past 25 years that we've made oil cheap! So goes that line of reasoning, which is cognitive dissonance, denial, and circular logic all wrapped into one. Want a good prediction on where oil will be trading a year from now? Tell me exactly what the Fed's monetary policy will be and how much liquidity will be created or drained over the next twelve months, and I'll give you a pretty good guess on where oil will be trading.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Donna Brazile is an Idiot 

And you wonder why Al Gore lost? This is from his campaign manager:
On Thursday night President Bush spoke to the nation from my city. I am not a Republican. I did not vote for George W. Bush -- in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
I know, maybe better than anyone, that there are times when it seems that our nation is too divided ever to heal. There are times when we feel so different from each other that we can hardly believe that we are all part of the same family. But we are one nation. We are a family. And this is what we do. When the president asked us to pitch in Thursday night, he wasn't really asking us to do anything spectacular. He was asking us to be Americans, and to do what Americans always do.

Now, I want to say 'Well, Donna is from New Orleans, obviously she's wants it rebuilt, and wants the best to occur', but she conveniently neglects to mention that F'in Karl Rove is in charge of the rebuilding effort. The rebuilding process is about politics, NOT the desire to rebuild your beloved city. Bush cut short his vacation quicker for Terri Schaivo, which was about politics, then he did for Katrina. Do me a favor Donna, stay OUT of DC and Democratic politics. You and Katrina, are the disaster.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Feel Good Friday 

Almost forgot! Thanks to "Anonymous" for reminding me. Since it's cat blogging Friday, today's installment features a man, who may be Cat Fancy magazine's Man of the Year (if there is such thing). Here's his story:

NEW ORLEANS - Ray Lambert came home for the first time since Katrina yesterday, and the first thing he did was batter frantically at his house with a sledgehammer.
The front and back doors were both blocked from the inside by furniture washed up against them, and somewhere in there, in the mess and the slime and the ruins of his life, were his eight cats.

"Bebe! Mamou! Anybody?" he called, poking his head into the holes he was bashing into his house.

Lambert, who had been on vacation with his wife in Maryland when the hurricane hit 16 days ago, got past military checkpoints with the help of a friend who is a cop. His was the only homeowner homecoming in a post-apocalyptic scene of miles and miles of trashed houses on the deserted streets of the 9th Ward yesterday.

"I'm going in," he said, smashing the glass of his front room window and climbing gingerly into the blue tract house on Keane Drive.

Lambert, 56, the drummer ina successful brass band, the Storyville Stompers, immediately found his wedding picture, covered in muck but salvageable. "Oh, my wife will be so happy," he said, whistling again anxiously for his pets.

He found a brass lamp his wife, Nora, had eyed in a small antique shop in the French Quarter for years and bought only afew weeks before the storm. He found his four drum kits, all ruined.

"Tammy! Whiskey! Magnolia!" Lambert called, hope starting to drain from his voice.

And then, from nowhere, a hysterical ball of brown fur came flying out of a dark corner and Lambert grabbed it up, weeping joyously.

"Mamou! Little Mamou!" he crooned. "This is the one I felt the most guilty about leaving. She always senses when I'm going away and gives me the pitiful 'Please don't leave' look."

Lambert gave the cat food and water, put her in a carrier and plunged back into the hellhole that was his house to look for the others.
As a cat guy (manly, I know), I'm glad Mamou survived, and some good remains from the horror that Katrina brought to Mr. Lambert's life.

Might be a slow blogging weekend, but have a good one anyway. Go Eagles.


Zarqawi's Recruitment is Up 

I'm guessing he doesn't offer college loans:
WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda's top operative in Iraq is drawing growing numbers of Iraqi nationals to his organization, increasing the reach and threat of an insurgent group that has been behind many of the most devastating attacks in the country, U.S. officials and Iraqi government leaders say.

The group, headed by Jordanian-born radical Abu Musab Zarqawi, previously was composed almost exclusively of militants from other Arab nations, and has symbolized the foreign dimension of a stubborn insurgency fighting to oust U.S. forces.

But Zarqawi "is bringing more and more Iraqi fighters into his fold," a U.S. official said, adding that Iraqis accounted for "more than half his organization."

Although Zarqawi is believed to command fewer than 1,000 fighters, the daring and lethal nature of their attacks, coupled with Zarqawi's links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network, has made him the most notorious figure in the Iraq insurgency.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Chertoff Leaving? 

Rumors swirling around the DHS that Chertoff will resign tonight or first thing in the morning. Bush must really be panicking about his poll numbers now. Stay tuned...


Secretary of Stupidity 

After the deadliest day of violence since the invasion, Rice says this.:
O’Reilly: The truth of the matter is our correspondents at Fox News can’t go out for a cup of coffee in Baghdad.

Rice: Bill, that’s tough. It’s tough. But what — would they have wanted to have gone out for a cup of coffee when Saddam Hussein was in power?



Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Heard somewhere:
Q: What is George W. Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?

A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.


Enemies Emboldened 

Take some of the tough talk with a grain of salt, but the crux of the Iranian Official's point is accurate:
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been following closely the way the United States government has been handling Hurricane Katrina, and drawing strategic conclusions from it.

In remarks that appeared on Ansar-e Hezbollah website on Sunday, a top official of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said the devastating hurricane had exposed America's vulnerabilities.

"The mismanagement and the mishandling of the acute psychological problems brought about by Hurricane Katrina clearly showed that others can, at any given time, create a devastated war-zone in any part of the U.S.", Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, the official spokesman of the IRGC, said.

"If the U.S. attacks Iran, each of America's states will face a crisis the size of Katrina", he said, referring to the massive hurricane which hit the southern coast of the United States. "The smallest mistake by America in this regard will result in every single state in that country turning into a disaster zone".

"How could the White House, which is impotent in the face of a storm and a natural disaster, enter a military conflict with the powerful Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly with the precious experience that we gained in the eight-year war with Iraq?" he said.

Jazayeri said the hurricane havoc showed that "contrary to public perception, the strength of America's leadership is like a balloon, which can easily burst".

The Revolutionary Guards spokesman said the U.S. administration's inability to end the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan showed the "weakness of America's defence and state departments, as well as its intelligence and security apparatus."

In a defiant tone that mirrored recent remarks by top officials of the Islamic Republic, the IRGC spokesman said, "precise information from inside America shows a lack of coordination among military, security, and political agencies in that country and brings to light the fact that others can cause many times the amount of damage compared to the blows they may receive."

Yes, the world, including our enemies, is watching us struggle with insurgencies and natural disasters, and as each one hits, it unveils that the mighty U.S. has no plan to counter them. There's no way to stop a hurricane from hitting us, but there is a way to handle the aftermath. What we saw, in the first few days after Katrina, was how a small nation deals with a disaster, not a superpower. Andrew Sullivan is right, it is a betrayal.


Pakistan Battles Al Qaeda 

Good news out of Pakistan:

The Pakistani army says it has destroyed a major al-Qaeda hideout in its biggest ever operation in the North Waziristan tribal region.
The military says it has arrested more than 20 suspected militants near the Afghan border and seized a Chinese-made spy plane used to track army movements.

The army says the operation, involving helicopter gunships and thousands of troops, is still going on.

Anytime Pakistan captures Al Qaeda members is a good thing, but look at the timing:
The operation comes as President Pervez Musharraf, on a visit to the United States, says Pakistan is winning the war on terrorism.

He has been under pressure to show the army is also committed to rooting out Taleban fighters who might be using Pakistan as a base to launch attacks on Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop the Taleban from carrying out cross-border raids.
I don't have time right now, but I'd like to do a Lexis search to see how often Pakistan captures militants when Musharraf is visiting, or about to visit, with U.S. officials. I have a hunch it happens just about every time. No doubt Musharraf is on dangerous ground in Pakistan, but I think it's fairly clear that his government knows a lot more about Al Qaeda, then we are lead to believe. Especially, where they are located.

The linked article has some interesting tidbits, including this, about a captured Chinese spy drone, used by Al Qaeda:
The commander in charge of the operation said sophisticated equipment had been seized, including a small, Chinese-made remote controlled drone, which he said had been used by the militants to spy on army movements and positions in the area.

The drone was shown to the media along with communications equipment which the army said had been used to give instructions to fighters in Afghanistan.

<--------So "sophisticated", that I may have once had this as a child. In fact, it did say "Made in China" on it. I'm now less scared of the Chinese military buildup.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005


The mess that is the Russian Republic.
As the war in neighboring Chechnya grinds into its seventh year with no resolution in sight, conflicts are metastasizing around the troubled north Caucasus, which has been a zone of tension since it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. The region is a patchwork quilt of warring ethnic groups and rival religions that makes Europe's other tangled knot, the Balkans, look tame by comparison.

Many experts say the Kremlin's grip, iron-hard in Soviet times, has slipped disastrously in recent years. "The Chechen conflict is spilling into neighboring republics, escalating the process of destabilization," says Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

Zhairakhsky, a sparsely populated district amid the high, snow-capped mountains of southern Ingushetia, has remained relatively untouched by conflict. But, says local administrator Yakhya Mamilov, "if you stand on a mountaintop here and look around, you'll see wars flaring or brewing in every direction. It's impossible to build for the future with any confidence while these conditions last."


Monday, September 12, 2005

Corzine in Control 

Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll. 9/6-9. Likely voters. MoE 3.8% (6/8-10 results)
Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll. 9/6-9. Likely voters. MoE 3.8% (6/8-10 results)

If the election for governor were held today, for whom would you vote: Jon Corzine, the Democrat, Doug Forrester, the Republican, or some other candidate for governor?

Corzine (D) 49 (43)
Forrester (R) 31 (33)


6 County Violence 

I wonder if the Protestants will find a way to blame the recent violence on the IRA?
Protestant mobs rioted on Sunday for a second consecutive night in Belfast and in towns on the city's outskirts, seriously injuring at least 30 police officers, in the province's worst violence in seven years.

Crowds of men wearing masks or hooded sweatshirts pulled over their faces terrorized citizens and attacked security forces. Cars were set on fire at major intersections, closing a highway into Belfast. The more than 2,000 police officers and British soldiers at the scene were bombarded with homemade explosives and bottles of flaming gasoline while they held rioters back at major intersections.

Sir Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland's chief constable, said the clashes posed "one of the most dangerous riot situations in the history of policing in the United Kingdom," especially because Protestant paramilitary groups attacked the police with automatic weapons. One policeman was shot in the eye and partly blinded.

"It is unique to Northern Ireland for officers to come under live fire in what was a public order situation," Sir Hugh said.

In Bangor, rioters hijacked a bus, robbed and ejected its passengers, drove it to Belfast and set it on fire; in another town, they used a stolen backhoe to knock down streetlights and tear an A.T.M. from a wall. In Belfast, they rammed a police station's gates with a stolen car. The police arrested at least 10 people.

The disturbances began Saturday after the government banned a parade by the Orange Order, a Protestant men's organization, from passing through a Roman Catholic neighborhood in Belfast. The Order, which holds hundreds of parades during the summer, called on supporters to protest. At least 1,000 Protestants, mostly members of paramilitary groups and teenagers, took to the streets.

Sectarian tensions have repeatedly flared since July, despite hopes that such violence would subside after the Irish Republican Army's announcement of an end to its armed campaign against Britain. Catholic homes and schools in Ahogill, north of Belfast, were desecrated with paint, and gangs have attacked several young Catholic men, killing one.

The I.R.A., which is Northern Ireland's largest paramilitary group and has traditionally been backed by Catholics, has yet to fulfill its pledge to disarm, and many Protestants feel that Catholics have benefited disproportionately from the province's 10-year-old peace efforts.
We are now seeing proof that every bad thing that happened in the North, over the last 30+ years, wasn't done by the Catholic/Nationalists, as you'd think from the media. One would think that the Protestants quite unintentionally, may be playing into the hands of the Nationalists, by making themselves seem ungovernable to the British.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Feel Good Friday 

With all things seemingly going bad, here's some GREAT news from Iraq. Roy Hallums, the American citizen held in Iraq for more than 300 days, has been rescued.
When former hostage Roy Hallums called his daughter early Wednesday from Iraq with news of his rescue, he apologized for causing her so much grief and pain.

After gunmen abducted Hallums last November, his family worked tirelessly for his safe release. They lobbied world leaders, held candlelight vigils, established a Web site, even offered a $40,000 reward.

"He apologized to me for putting me through any hardship," his eldest daughter, Carrie Anne Cooper, 29, said in a telephone interview. "He got to say he was sorry, and I got to say I loved him. We got to say things we never thought we would be able to say"

Props to Rittenhouse Review for being one of the few (that I know of)
outlets keeping tabs on the Hallums situation. I'd like to echo RR's sentiment on how nobody in the MSM and Government seemed to have any concern about an American citizen being held captive for 300+ days..

Anyhow, welcome back Roy!


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina Bin Laden 

Billmon on what would happen if Katrina was a terrorist:
you think about it, it's probably just as well that Katrina wasn't a terrorist. Because if she was, she'd probably still be hiding out in the North Atlantic, periodically smuggling out bombastic videotapes ("Death to puny mammals and their infidel cave hives!") and occasionally sending violent thunderstorms to blow down train stations and beach resorts outside the United States.

And then the Cheney administration would have to go find some other tropical storm -- somewhere in the Indian Ocean, probably -- to declare war on. And that would trigger a long, tedious debate about whether the Indian Ocean had anything to do with the flooding of New Orleans, or whether Cyclone Saddam (or whatever) was secretly storing up lighting bolts in the Bay of Bengal for a sneak attack that would electrocute millions of Americans in their sleep.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Death Count 

How come we can get a quick death count estimation after foreign disasters (tsunami, earthquakes in Armenia/Iran), but when one happens in this country, we get an assortment of guesses? I assume someone in the Government has an idea, but b/c the count may be so high, they'd like to keep the number quiet.


Playing Politics 

It'll be interesting to see who's political stock rises after Katrina (i.e. Who'll be the "Giuliani" of New Orleans). Will it be Gov. Blanco, if she stands up to Bush and his lies about the La. Governor not calling a State of Emergency? Mayor Nagin? Miss. Governor, and ex uber D.C. lobbyist Haley Barbour? I see Chertoff's stock going down, and FEMA head Brown may not make it out of New Orleans alive. My dark horse pick-Al Gore.


"This is Perspective" 

Watch this video. Hannity tries to spin, but reality is too...er...real.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Weekend Off 

FPN will be offline this weekend. Have a great Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the links on the left.


Feel Good Friday 

With the disaster happening in New Orleans, I'm not seeing anything to feel good about. Anyone hear any good rescue stories?


New Orleans 

This may be the saddest news article I've ever read.


Sick Dick 

Hilarious and scary:
Oh no, it makes the country a lot more safe," the Manhattan Democrat said. "The further Bush is away from Washington, the better it is. And sometimes I don't even think Cheney is awake enough to know what's going on. Rumsfeld is the guy in Washington to watch. He's running the country,"

"Cheney's not awake enough?" reporter Davidson Goldin asked.

"Well, he's a sick man you know," Rangel said. "He's got heart disease, but the disease is not restricted to that part of his body. He grunts a lot, so you never really know what he's thinking."

Asked whether he was suggesting that Cheney was not healthy enough to do his job, Rangel said, "Why do you think people are spending so much time praying for President Bush's health?"

"If he ever leaves and Cheney's in charge, there's not very much to pull together for the rest of our nation," he concluded. "This is a sad state of affair."


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cafferty on CNN 

Normally, I think he's bit of an ass, but he just went off on Bush, AND the Government in general, for their utter failure to handle the Katrina debacle.
"I have never, ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly managed as this situation in New Orleans...This hurricane happened five days ago...This is a disgrace. And don't think the world isn't watching."
He's also going to talk about the issue that nobody else is talking about: the race and class of the majority of people suffering. Perhaps, the MSM is waking up.

Update (9/1 4:45EST) Near transcript here, via Kos.


Reporting from New Orleans 

Here's a live blog and webcam from a couple trapped in New Orleans, working off a generator. They're reporting what they're seeing and hearing, as it happens.

One interesting post:
More from the Police Officer. I'm typing as fast as i can while he talks to us:

He's only hearing bits and pieces. The people in the city are shooting at the police. They're upset that they're not getting help quickly enough. The fireman keep calling because they're under fire. He doesn't understand why the people are shooting at the rescuers. Here it is 5 days ago the Mayor said get out of town and nobody went and now they're pissed.

The National Guard was at the Hilton, but now the Hilton is evacuated. When they said the CBD was gonna get 6 feet of water, it seems like everyone evacuated.

He turned the corner onto Canal Street and it looked like a flea market. People breaking into every store, going to the neutral gound (median) and trading and selling everything.

They broke into Winn Dixie Monday Night. Do they steal food? No. Cigarettes and liquor. Store was a mess. All the meats were going to waste so the districts went over there to salvage food for officers. Many cops have been eating MREs.

The Iberville Housing Projects got pissed off because the police started to "shop" after they kicked out looters. Then they started shooting at cops. When the cops left, the looters looted everything. There's probably not a grocery left in this city.

Over 30 officers have quit over the last 3 days. Out of 160 officers in his district maybe 55 or 60 are working. He hasn't seen several since Sunday. HQ is closed, evacuated. No phones to contact them.



Atrios is right:
It makes me furious that 4 years after 9/11 it's apparently the case that the government literally has no contingency plans for dealing with disasters of this scale. What the hell have they been doing? There is no substitute for the kind of coordination and power that government can bring to a situation, but long after the waters have settled there will still be tens of thousands of people with nothing

Katrina happened ALMOST 4 years to the day of 9/11. While Bush/Rove were planning for the death of liberalism, they should've planning on how to really keep us safe. We shouldn't expect the Feds to do everything for us, but can we at least expect them to have contingency plans for disasters? How many times did we hear "nobody expected terrorists to fly planes into a building!!"? Well, that's partly true, but a severe hurricane SHOULD have been expected. God knows some people were worried. Emergency preparedness should have been on the way to Louisiana, Mississippi, etc., a couple of days BEFORE Katrina hit. Where's the proactive thinking? Leadership? Too busy wishing he wasn't President, I suppose. Bush better watch out, there's another storm brewing, and this time it's coming for him.


When the Levee Breaks 

Billmon on what to do now. Some interesting stuff.


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