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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, May 06, 2004

Why I build machines

Why I build machines

Someone asked me why didn't buy a new machine instead of upgrading my old one.

Well, I've never bought a new computer. Every machine I've had was built either by hand or as a barebone. Honestly, I just don't trust people to do what I can do.

I started down this road when I paid a repair shop to fix my 386. Not only did they take weeks, I had to fix my hard drive when it died from the vibrations on the bus ride home. I paid like $200 bucks for the initial repair and I didn't have any more cash to spare. So I bought a 400MB Western Digital drive and installed it myself.

With a book or two, I realized that this was not rocket science. That I could do this with a little patience and some reading. And I've never looked back.

I'm hardly the best builder, no modded cases, no overclocking, no massive cooling systems. There are kids who can blow me away with their hardware skills. But I can sit down and build a machine and get it up and running.

Why do I do this? Because I didn't have the money to give to Michael Dell and I hated the crap the pre-built machines came with. I dare you to name the last time you used 3D Home Modeler. Besides, I wanted to know what parts were in my machine.

With a little effort, my machine, pre-upgrade, has better parts than most low end Dells. Also, you lose flexibility when you buy off the shelf. I need reliability, since I'm my own repairman. I need to choose between parts and not rely on some company's lowest bidder.

Building your own machine is liberating in that you know what it is going on inside the box. Which means when something goes wrong, you can figure it out. It's a personality quirk, I know, but I enjoy taking something and making it whole and figuring things out. Sure, it's a half a day, or more like a whole day, but it is satisfying beyond belief.

When I tell people that I build computers, they often look at me like I'm crazy. They don't believe it can be done, and when you do it, they wonder why. Most people treat the computer as a magic box and most refuse to open it and look inside, But when you do, it's a pretty simple tool. Most of the "magic" is electronic and not touched by human hands at any point.

Once you learn to work around the box, and it's easy, your comfort level grows, your confidence grows. An old friend of mine once compared PC's to Corvettes and Macs to Hondas. Macs work right out the box and when something goes wrong, you need a mechanic. But PC's can be tinkered with. It may take a while, but you can get it to do what you want.

I think, in the end, that's the reason I build machines. I can do it the way I want with the parts I choose and that's a lot more fun than checking off the boxes on the Dell website.

posted by Steve @ 9:33:00 PM

9:33:00 PM

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Now you want to fire Rumsfeld?

Now you want to fire Rumsfeld?

Kerry Hits Bush's Commander-In-Chief Performance

By Patricia Wilson

COLTON, Calif. (Reuters) - Democrat John Kerry on Thursday challenged President Bush's performance as commander-in-chief and vowed to take responsibility for "the bad as well as the good" if he wins the White House.

........
"When I was in the Navy, the captain of the boat was in charge and the captain always took responsibility," Kerry told teachers and students at Colton High School. "Today I have a message for the men and women of our Armed forces ... I will take responsibility for the bad as well as the good."

As the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spoke in California, Bush told reporters in Washington he had apologized to Jordan's King Abdullah.

"I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," the Republican president said after a White House meeting with the monarch.

..........

"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command," Kerry said.


Looks like Rummy either covered the Abu Ghraib mess up, or even more importantly, didn't think it was very important. He and his buddy Gen. Myers were more interested in a cover up than telling Congress that a potential international scandal was on their hands.

Yet today, Bush's enablers in Congress were all over John Murtha's (D-PA) back for saying the war is unwinnable. Wayne Morse he is not. They didn't even acknowledge the degree of screwup this was and how's Rummy's arrogant behavior made it worse.

Of course, Rummy and Myers should be fired. They should have been fired last year. After his little war turned to shit. Or in November, after 82 soldiers died and others had to have water sent from their parents. Rummy's snide little comments make for great theater, but they are the hallmark of a showboat, ineffective leader.

His arrogance and ineptitude were on fine display Tuesday, when he dickered over the word torture. Uh, didn't he see the pictures?

Look, comparisons to Saddam's time are pointless. The US is not a dictatorship and the US doesn't have a system where police are unaccountable to anyone. We don't need comparisons to a bloody, ruthless murderer to say what happened in Abu Ghraib is wrong. This is not tit for tat. In a democracy, we never have any justification for violating other people's rights. What we did was a violation of our ethics and morals. Saddam's excesses are no cover for our behavior.

It was Rummy who didn't want to obey the Geneva Conventions and hoked up this "enemy combatant" bullshit. He didn't seem to realize rules protect the occupier as well as the occupied.

Now, he's facing the ire of Congress, and I cannot wait to see how he tries to smug his way out his current predicament.

The problem is that if you fire Rumsfeld, not only will Congress be tied up with confirmation hearings, Bush's credibility as a wartime leader evaporates.

John Kerry said the right thing. The boss needs to be responsible, not give apologies in closed rooms. I don't care if it makes Bush sick, it should make him angry that US troops could act so beastially and their direct commanders are filled with more excuses than a drunk teenager.

If Bush wasn't a coward, he would have called in the Army Chief of Staff and demanded a world wide review of confinment practices. Not just a few reports, but visits by him and the theater commanders to every confinement facility in their charge.

But because Bush is a coward, he can only think of saving his own skin. If Rummy has to go to do that, he will.

posted by Steve @ 7:03:00 PM

7:03:00 PM

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The 9/11 effect

The 9/11 effect

No one could have foreseen the destruction of the World Trade Center leading to Abu Ghraib. It took an extraordinary effort to turn the world's sympathy into the world's disgust.

But, with 9/11, a deep and abiding racism was permitted to be unleashed. It wasn't just Arabs, but any brown skinned people from the Middle East and South Asia. The war against Iraq was sold on barely veiled racial terms. The subtext was "they're all in it together". "The Muslims are evil".

Franklin Graham, son of Billy, made some of the most racist, anti-Muslim statements imaginable. Yet, he was invited to speak at the Pentagon. a lot of the Bush racial appeal is written off as an appeal to his base, but it goes beyond that. Race is the great American divide, and even if we are less racist to each other, we are more than willing to replace nigger with sand nigger and spic with haji. We can embrace racism even when the targets change. You don't think working class blacks, trained in a racist America, see the very different Iraqis as brothers. Many, especially if they grew up around Arabs, may have deep resentments because of previous, racially negative contact.

We didn't take a very long detour to get to Abu Ghraib. US interrigators were smacking around Afghan prisoners and tortured John Walker Lindh as soon as they got their hands on them. No one cared. After all, they were guilty. When it turned out that we can only try six out of 600 prisoners, people still want to keep Gitmo, our gulag in the sun.

Instead of getting the world's sympathy, we have managed to earn the world's contempt. Gitmo offends our allies, our war in Iraq is a total, miserable failure, and now Abu Ghraib reveals the deeply racist contempt we have for Arabs.

Our conduct in Iraq is about as isolated as German behavior on the Eastern Front. We have untold shootings of unarmed Iraqis, including blowing away a Jordanian hospital outside Fallujah, killing the handicapped, robbing people in their homes, rape, murder and now torture. Blaming a few NCO's and EM's is like grabbing a few guys in the 2nd SS Panzer and trying them for Malmedy, while ignoring their officers.

We created a racist system which allowed people to dehumanize our enemies. The White House constantly told people that Saddam and Osama were linked. That he laughed as the twin towers burned, that we needed to control Iraq to make America safe. This message, as deeply racist and evil as could be, because it linked Iraqis to an act which they had no role in, was as subtle as Ilya Ehrenberg's exhortation to Russian troops entering Germany in 1945. "Kill the fascist beast in it's lair" was one of the more subtle slogans. No one was surprised when 100,000 German women were raped by the second line troops. The combat infantry didn't have time to chase down girls.

Now, Cheney never said anything as obvious as that, but his lies were nearly as bad. Inflating Iraq into a threat fed the already racist preconceptions Americans had. Mingling Osama and Saddam fed the need for conquest. The fact that Iraq was no threat is lost in the resulting uproar. Even liberals bit on this insanity. Even as now they admit their error.

War hysteria, like the clap, can be caught by anyone. Of course, anyone with a thinking mind would have known that Ken Pollack's The Threatening Strom was a poorly written, slapped together book which summarized 5000 years of Iraqi history in one chapter. The Big Media Matt's, Josh Marshall's and Kevin Drum's could have actually taken more than Pollack's word on Iraqi history and Saddam, read a map, and realized much of what Saddam did had strategic reasoning behind it, that Iraqis don't like any rulers, and Saddam needed a 12,000 man bodyguard to stay alive.

But no, there was just the rush to embrace fear and see Saddam as just another enemy. When Wesley Clark said these lunatics at DOD wanted to conquer Iran and Syria next, as part of their new American Reich, no one wanted to hear him. No one wanted to hear that there hasn't been a violence-free day in Iraq since last March. Everyone, still stunned and fearful after 9/11 wanted to eliminate "threats" in the way one kills mice.

"Preemptive war" was about the same logic Hitler used in invading Russia. The reality is that Iraq may have been the worst country to invade because they could barely tolerate Saddam, who stayed alive by using torture, bribes and politics, along with a massive bodyguard. The Special Republican Guard wasn't just to make Saddam seem like a big man. If he had waited a few years, he could have probably hired Blackwater or Control Risks to cover his security.

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer who worked with Iraqi tribes, said he'd been told, repeatedly, that torture was not permitted, "You don't do it, watch it, stay around if it's being done."But after 9/11, "things changed."

The CIA, DIA and the contractors felt free to abuse their prisoners, and did so on a worldwide scale. Before Abu Ghraib, there was Bagram Air Base and Khandahar. And no one noticed and no one cared. Gitmo was the end of the line and the vast majority of people there may not be guilty of anything.

If 9/11 was the greatest intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, our conduct after 9/11 may be second. No Al Qaeda cells broken up, no one brought to trial, losing the war in Iraq. These failures will have serious consequences in the coming years, and the Bush Administration remains oblivious to it.

posted by Steve @ 9:23:00 AM

9:23:00 AM

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Republic of Fear

Republic of Fear

Jen sent me this BBC story. Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 911 has run into distribution problems:

Disney 'blocks' Moore documentary

Michael Moore will give the film its world premiere in Cannes

Controversial director Michael Moore has said film studio Disney is refusing to release his new documentary, which heavily criticises President Bush.

Fahrenheit 911 was to be distributed by Miramax, a division of Disney.

But Disney has "officially decided to prohibit" Miramax from distributing the film, the director said on his website.

Moore, who won an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine in 2003, questioned whether in a "free and open society" Disney should be making such a decision.

Fahrenheit 911 links Mr Bush with powerful families in Saudi Arabia, including that of Osama Bin Laden, and attacks his actions before and after 11 September.


Now, let's be honest. This is a private commercial agreement between Moore and Disney worth millions. It isn't censorship. After all, Moore stands to make seven figures in the end, and he knew the deal from day one. When you deal with the mouse, you'll probably get screwed.

But the reason Disney is showing it's corporate yellow streak is simple: George W. Bush is a very, very vengeful man. You ridicule him, he'll get you back. Ask Helen Thomas, Valerie Plame or Howard Stern. His supporters are such moral cowards, like Sinclair Broadcasting Group, they hide from American dead. But they believe in revenge at any cost. Why should Disney risk their tax breaks for Michael Moore? He won't be around for the revenge on Capitol Hill.

While I think they should releasen the film, this is more symptom than cause. Bush crushes his critics, he tries to break them by any means neccessary. Richard Clarke was loyal to George Bush for three years and all Karl Rove could do was try to call him a faggot. He helped ruin Valerie Plame's career, allowed Donald Rumsfeld to humiliate Eric Shinseki. In short, Rove and Cheney and that crew will destroy their enemies however they can.

There is no way Disney will take the heat for Moore when dealing with the ever vengeful Bush. While the Democratic, Clinton-loving Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, would gladly release this film with all his liberal employees like Gywneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in attendence at the premier, they won't be around when Disney lawyers find their stations fined for the Oprah Winfrey show which described tossing salads and rainbows, which seems to have drawn a large number of Stern-prompted complaints. ABC affliates are the largest number of stations which show Oprah Winfrey. The last thing they need is a sudden, revenge-inspired change of course on the subject by the FCC.

Disney can take a lot of heat for being cowards, but not the financial pressure from Washington.

Bush is constitutionally unable to accept blame or responsibility for anything which happens under his watch. An Arab journalist said on Nightline last night "If Bush were a man , he'd apologize on Arab TV". Well, we all know the answer to that. He's a coward, which is why he's afraid of radio talk show hosts and movies.

People are worried that Kerry is moving too slow, that he doesn't have a lead. Well, folks, Kerry has been smacked around like a pinata and lied about for a month and Bush is still tied with him under 50 percent. The experts say Bush is on the cusp. I say never stop a man from stepping on his dick. With six months to go and looming disaster in Iraq, Kerry's got time and character on his side. After all, Bush decided to let Ayatollah Sistani decide his election for him. Well, that wasn't wise when he did it, and Sistani can't have been too charmed to see our Dear Leader on Al Arabiya today.

Bush is not capable of simple acts of grace. He has no humility. He thinks Jesus is his personal friend, except he doesn't live in South Park and Kyle, Stan and Cartman are not his friends. All presidents live in a bubble, but Bush is afraid to meet people who don't support him. I watched some Uncle Tom Latino ask him how he can increase the Latino vote. I had to laugh. I think, if I were Latino, I'd have asked him why men have to die in combat before they get their citizenship, or about his neither fish nor fowl immigration plan for Mexicans. Why any Latino outside of Miami would vote for the guy is beyond me. There was a story about a WWII vet who was escorted from a Bush audience when he said he didn't vote for him in 2000 and wouldn't vote for him again.

When does meeting the President have to be contingent on voting for him? When the GOP comes to New York, Bush may remain in his bubble, but the streets of New York will be alive with protest. And given the general demeanor of the NYPD, it will be like Streets of New York, filled with bloody street fights.

Bush's weak leadership grows weaker under pressure. The fact that people are even asking for Rumsfeld's resignation is a big deal. If I were his neocon cronies, I'd have my resume out. The President may not fire Rummy, but there are many heads who could roll.

Bush is a weak, cowardly leader who bases his actions more on American myth than the realities of leadership. I learned at 14 that not making excuses and apologies were signs of strength. But if Bush was a drunk for 20 years or more, he stopped growing when he hit the bottle, A man of his age and education should act differently, with more dignity, than he does.

Kevin Drum calls him the failed CEO, which I agree with. Not that I respect Drum's hemming and hawing much, and this is the man who's war he supported, but he's dead on here. My question would be that how could expect the war to go right when the people running it are clones of Bush?

The same with Josh Marshall, who I respect a great deal more. This is the same guy who's war he backed. Now that it's all turned to shit, he's decided Bush is a bad leader. Well, he was a bad leader in 2001, 2002 and in February, 2003. Now, it's May, 2004, and he's still the same bad leader. Now, if Josh is bright enough to get a Ph.D from Brown, why couldn't he figure out Bush was going to eventually wind up in this hole?

Bush has created a Republic of Fear, where people, when they aren't jumping from fear of an Al Qaeda attack, they have to fear a vengeful White House seeking to ruin their reputations if they challenge them.
And if they're Iraqi, they can be shot, robbed and anally raped for the most spurrious of reasons.

Disney's fear of Washington and of Jeb seeking revenge in Florida against Walt Disney World. Now, when Moore says this, Disney, trying to keep shred of dignity, calls him a liar. Please, he's not lying and Disney is right to be afraid. We all know what lengths Jeb will go to protect his big brother.

posted by Steve @ 6:20:00 PM

6:20:00 PM

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Once again, thanks

I just have to thank you folks again for your support. I'm deeply impressed by the random acts of generousity. You're probably sick of me thanking you by now, but I just sit here, stunned by the good works of people. I was stunned when I was sick, but people are nice to you when you're sick, after all. But now? All I can say is that this is the best web experience I've ever had. And one of the best experiences of my life.

I have to admit, this is more like a PBS fundraising drive with more asskissing. But I'm just fucking stunned. Floored. Now, I know I do good work, I know I work hard at this, but shit, I worked as hard at NetSlaves and they were mean to us and never gave us any money. If women had only responded as eagerly to my entrities....anyway, I'm going to rebuild my machine, new cables, power supply, maybe an additional hard drive. Most of this isn't that expensive, actually, but I want more power and round cables. Power supplies are the things you never notice until they die on you. It's about a $40 replacement for a normal machine, but dumping the crappy PS that comes with most low-end cases is a smart move.

I'm going to jam a new Athlon 2500+ in there as well. Which should give a nice boost of speed. I was briefly considering starting from scratch, but the mobo I have is only a year old. There is always a debate between going with the best and the brightest, but since I don't host LAN parties, and won't be modding my own case, I think I can make my machine last another 18 months or so with a new chip.

The bleeding edge is just too expensive for minimal speed gains. Once the thing is over 1.5Ghz, what are you really gaining in terms of usable speed? As long as you can play games, and do your work online, the best and brightest is just too much money.

I know it's impolitic to say, but I like XP Pro. It is a pretty intuative OS and is lightyears better than Win98. I know there are die hard Linux folks out there, but Linux is hard to master. Not to you folks, but when all you want to do is play Fifa 2004, using an emulator is not my idea of fun. Linux is great when the user doesn't have to tweak it, but I just don't have the energy to mess with it.

I think the improvements in my machine will make it more stable. Not that it was unstable, but I don't want to take any chances.

Unless you're building a gaming machine, most improvements are under $100. My one debate is whether to spring for a new nVidia video card or just use the one on my mobo. The sound is fine, but the video is only OK and I have a 19" monitor.

I'll post a list of everything I wind up getting when I get it. After all, if you contribute, you have a right to know where the money goes, except for drunken weekend strolls.:). No, seriously, you work for your cash and I'm not Save Karyn, asking for cash to bail my ass out after running up my cards. If I ask, decency requires that I tell you what I'm doing with the money. Just like a regular charity.

Anyway, enough about money. I just ramble on because I feel guilty, though I shouldn't, and it makes me think about the better angles of human nature.

posted by Steve @ 11:49:00 AM

11:49:00 AM

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Torture? What Torture?

Torture?What Torture?

The report by MG Antonio Taguba, the one Gen. Myers and Sec. Rumsfeld were too busy to read, is now online.

Excerpts from the report make for fascinating reading:

(U) That the 320th Military Police Battalion of the 800th MP Brigade is responsible for the Guard Force at Camp Ganci, Camp Vigilant, & Cellblock 1 of FOB Abu Ghraib (BCCF).Ê That from February 2003 to until he was suspended from his duties on 17 January 2004, LTC Jerry Phillabaum served as the Battalion Commander of the 320th MP Battalion.Ê That from December 2002 until he was suspended from his duties, on 17 January 2004, CPT Donald Reese served as the Company Commander of the 372ndMP Company, which was in charge of guarding detainees at FOB Abu Ghraib. I further find that both the 320th MP Battalion and the 372ndMP Company were located within the confines of FOB Abu Ghraib.(ANNEXES 32 and 45)

Both the battalion commander and company commander were relieved of duty because of this investigation. My question is why were they not courtmartialed?

That between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company, 320thMilitary Police Battalion, 800th MP Brigade), in Tier (section) 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison (BCCF). The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of these photographs and videos, the ongoing CID investigation, and the potential for the criminal prosecution of several suspects, the photographic evidence is not included in the body of my investigation. The pictures and videos are available from the Criminal Investigative Command and the CTJF-7 prosecution team.

In addition to the aforementioned crimes, there were also abuses committed by members of the 325th MI Battalion, 205th MI Brigade, and Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC). Specifically, on 24 November 2003, SPC Luciana Spencer, 205th MI Brigade, sought to degrade a detainee by having him strip and returned to cell naked

6.(S) I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a.(S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b.(S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d.(S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e.(S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear;

f.(S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g.(S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h.(S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

i.(S) Writing "I am a Rapest" (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

j.(S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

k.(S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l.(S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

m. (S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees. (ANNEXES 25 and 26

So this isn't torture? This is pretty horrible stuff. Just not as organized as Saddam.

8 (U) In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a.(U) Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b.(U) Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c. (U) Pouring cold water on naked detainees;

d. (U) Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

e.(U) Threatening male detainees with rape;

f. (U) Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;

g. (U) Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

h.(U) Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

So where were the officers? This kind of torture, and God help anyone trying to minimize it, doesn't work and is just wrong.

SPC Sabrina Harman, 372nd MP Company, stated in her sworn statement regarding the incident where a detainee was placed on a box with wires attached to his fingers, toes, and penis, that her job was to keep detainees awake. She stated that MI was talking to CPL Grainer.Ê She stated: ÒMI wanted to get them to talk. It is Grainer and Frederick's job to do things for MI and OGA to get these people to talk.

b.(U) SGT Javal S. Davis, 372nd MP Company, stated in his sworn statement as follows:I witnessed prisoners in the MI hold section, wing 1A being made to do various things that I would question morally. In Wing 1A we were told that they had different rules and different SOP for treatment. I never saw a set of rules or SOP for that section just word of mouth. The Soldier in charge of 1A was Corporal Granier. He stated that the Agents and MI Soldiers would ask him to do things, but nothing was ever in writing he would complain (sic).

When asked why the rules in 1A/1B were different than the rest of the wings, SGT Davis stated: The rest of the wings are regular prisoners and 1A/B are Military Intelligence (MI) holds. When asked why he did not inform his chain of command about this abuse, SGT Davis stated: Because I assumed that if they were doing things out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone would have said something. Also the wing belongs to MI and it appeared MI personnel approved of the abuse.

SGT Davis also stated that he had heard MI insinuate to the guards to abuse the inmates. When asked what MI said he stated: "Loosen this guy up for us." "Make sure he has a bad night." "Make sure he gets the treatment." He claimed these comments were made to CPL Granier and SSG Frederick.

Finally, SGT Davis stated that (sic): Òthe MI staffs to my understanding have been giving Granier compliments on the way he has been handling the MI holds.Ê Example being statements like, Good job, they're breaking down real fast. They answer every question. They're giving out good information, Finally, and Keep up the good work . Stuff like that.

c. (U) SPC Jason Kennel, 372nd MP Company, was asked if he were present when any detainees were abused. He stated: "I saw them nude, but MI would tell us to take away their mattresses, sheets, and clothes." He could not recall who in MI had instructed him to do this, but commented that, Òif they wanted me to do that they needed to give me paperwork.ÓÊ He was later informed that Òwe could not do anything to embarrass the prisoners.

d. (U) Mr. Adel L. Nakhla, a US civilian contract translator was questioned about several detainees accused of rape. He observed (sic): "They (detainees) were all naked, a bunch of people from MI, the MP were there that night and the inmates were ordered by SGT Granier and SGT Frederick ordered the guys while questioning them to admit what they did.Ê They made them do strange exercises by sliding on their stomach, jump up and down, throw water on them and made them some wet, called them all kinds of names such as 'gays' do they like to make love to guys, then they handcuffed their hands together and their legs with shackles and started to stack them on top of each other by insuring that the bottom guys penis will touch the guy on tops butt."

e. (U) SPC Neil A Wallin, 109th Area Support Medical Battalion, a medic testified that: "Cell 1A was used to house high priority detainees and cell 1B was used to house the high risk or trouble making detainees. During my tour at the prison I observed that when the male detainees were first brought to the facility, some of them were made to wear female underwear, which I think was to somehow break them down."

12 (U) I find that prior to its deployment to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 320th MP Battalion and the 372nd MP Company had received no training in detention/internee operations.Ê I also find that very little instruction or training was provided to MP personnel on the applicable rules of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, FM 27-10, AR 190-8, or FM 3-19.40

The fact that MP's alone face courtmartials for this is revolting. Clearly MI and the CIA and DIA had a role in this mess. Why are they skating free from this. This is absolutely revolting.

posted by Steve @ 8:16:00 AM

8:16:00 AM

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Moral Pygmies

Moral Pygmies

Reading exceprts of the excuses from the right about the torture, and no it's not "abuse", as Sec. Rumsfeld tried to say yesterday, at Abu Ghraib prison, I realize they're all moral pygmies. They have no sense of decency or common human understanding.

How can anyone see fellow human beings being degraded and then compare it to frat hazing. Here's a hint, you pay for frat hazing, no one drags you in off the street at gunpoint and then sexually humiliates you. You volunteer for it. No one volunteered for anything at Abu Ghraib.

It's beyond a mere failure of command. The whole intelligence structure in Iraq is a grotesque failure. Over a year after fighting the insurgency, we have no clear idea of its structure or comannders, their main weapons stocks, or how they operate.

Does anyone tie this to the failed rape and torture center at Abu Ghraib? It's not just a public diplomacy problem any more. It's not just a command failure problem any more. Quite simply, most of the intelligence from Abu Ghraib sucked. Because they snatched people off the street, locked them up and assumed they were terrorists. Of course, with cylume sticks being shoved up their asses, I'm surprised that they didn't say Ahmed Chalabi was a member of the resistance.

The whole year of running Abu Ghraib was a waste of time and effort. American racism drove the treatment of Iraqis, beyond common sense. The MI thugs, because Karpiniski turned her back at Bagram, had free reign at Abu Ghraib. And they tried to torture their way to success. But for the most part, they got nothing for their efforts.

How badly has US intelligence failed?

* We had little advance warning that the Iraqi resistance would stand and fight in Fallujah.

*We completely underestimated the reaction of closing Sadr's paper.

* Movement outside the Green Zone is strictly limited.

*We cannot freely move convoys along Iraq's main highways.

* We still have no clear idea of the makeup and composition of Iraqi resistance units.

To top this off, we have various Republican Guard generals telling us that "there are no foreign fighters in Fallujah". Now, I believe this because there weren't that many there to begin with. But the US expects Iraqis to arrest their cousins and throw them in jail for the benefit of the US.

But it's amazing to think, that after a year, the US effort is racked with failure. Not just for trying to seize Fallujah with a woefully inadequate force of 3,000 Marines. The idea was that we were going to sweep in, kick a little ass, and leave was belied by the Army's bitter ambush during the winter. A unit of the 4ID was jumped and then lied about the body count. The 82nd Airborne couldn't move from outside the city's limits without getting hammered.

But now, the world, rightfully, sees us as brutal torturers and killers. Our soldiers shoot the innocent, humiliate the innocent and lie about it.

I was watching Nightline last night, when Ted Koppel said there was no comparison between the old Abu Ghraib and the new one. Well, thanks Ted. We haven't hung prisoners or raped them in front of their families. The fact that we didn't descend into Saddam's worse practices says little for us.

We failed by our standards. We will be judged by our standards. Not Saddam's. Just because we only brought back some torture and rape doesn't mean it's not so bad because Saddam was worse. Why in God's name are we comparing ourselves to Saddam? Why, after a year of occupation, can that comparison be made? Why did we do anything which could be compared to Saddam? Wasn't the point of this fiasco to eliminate torture and extrajudicial punishment for Iraqis? Instead, we privatized it.

The bankruptcy of the US effort in Iraq can no longer be denied.

posted by Steve @ 7:17:00 AM

7:17:00 AM

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Money and the liberal blogger

First, let me thank you again. I am amazed at the generousity of people. Please don't feel bad if you only kick in a nominal amount. I'll spend a dollar or a hundred dollars with ease. It is a wonderful thing to do. Not just because it helps me out, but because you're supporting your beliefs with your words.

It will take me a few days to claim the Paypal money, because I have a new account. So don't worry, I know you sent the cash and will claim it. Newegg will really appreciate it.:)

But, there is a larger point. For nearly a decade, the right has had access to money and support for even the wackiest causes. They could run us to ground because their folks had money and time to discuss their views.

It is important to support those of us on the left. Not just in the "if you don't give us money, we won't be here" way, as Pacifica usually does its fear based fund-raising drives, but in support of what we say and do. It should be a positive affirmation of what we can do, not some fear-based gifts to prevent the rule of capitalism.

When you kick in to me or Billmon or Kos or Atrios, it's nice to have the money and in-kind contributions, but more importantly, you're backing your beliefs with cash. And in America, cash rules over all. It's nice to know that so many people open their hearts and wallets when times are tough. When times get better, there is a lot more to do and things to build.

I guess the reason people support bloggers is a complete and total frustration with the mass media. I learned how to deal with it, courtesy of a $50K education in journalism. But for most people, it must drive them nuts to see the news and know they're getting half the story.

But bloggers haven't been the only people to benefit. John Kerry just kicked off the largest ad buy in history. Democratic candidates have not lacked for money this election cycle and that means people are learning that they have to back their ideas with not just words, but cash.

Democracy is not free. It is not cheap. We have had to learn that we must defend our priniciples with a bodyguard of cash. I wish this wasn't the case. I don't think there's a blogger who likes asking for cash. I would write for free, because writing is what I do every day. But, if Andy Sullivan can raise $86K in one drive, we have to do the same. We have to have the resources to project our views. The Center for American Progress, John Podesta's new think tank, and David Brock's Media Matters, as well as Air America, are all essential to defending our rights.

The bestselling books were the hint that there was liberal money out there. But there has to be more. We have to support candidates who represent our views, opinion writers who support our views. Because if you don't, only one side of the debate gets heard.

And it doesn't always take money. Just writing your editor or TV station when you disagree with an article or show matters. They say time is money and your time is valuable. Even if you don't give anyone a dime, just making your voice heard is payment enough. I'm no ideologue, but if a crazy liar like Ann Coulter can be heard in public forums, we need to heard as well.

posted by Steve @ 9:50:00 AM

9:50:00 AM

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We are all monsters

We are all monsters

There was a famous psychology experiment where people were asked to shock a test subject they could see. It turned out that most people, seeking the approval of those running the test, not only shocked other people, but were willing to use lethal force.

The escapades in Abu Gharib should not be written off as an aberation of a few misguided young people. Two of the MP's were prison guards, highly commeneded for their civilian work. But when you give people the power of life and death, many would act little better than these guards.

It is easy to be dehumanized in that setting. It is easy to treat a people you cannot communicate with as playthings. It takes strong moral character, as some of the witnesses against the six MP's had, to resist the temptation to be cruel.

The reason officers exist is to temper this impulse. We supervise the guards to make sure that the enlisted men and women don't act out their worst impulses. To sit back, shocked, that these people treated prisoners badly is to be a liar, a fool or hopelessly naive.

Given the conduct of civilian guards in an American prison, why is anyone surprised that with no supervision, Americans inflicted the worst kind of sexual humiliation on Iraqis. Americans cherish the idea of sexual humiliation in prison. Anal rape is widely seen as just deserts for convicts. Female convicts wind up pregnant. So this shock that Abu Gharib was turned into a sexual torture center is disingenious at best. It would have taken strong leadership to prevent this from happening.

Any American, given this power, over a people we had been told we had to subjugate or they would kill us, would have had to been fully under control to not act out their worst impulses. Remember, Bush and his administration had hinted over and over that Saddam was behind or cooperated in 9/11. What could anyone possibly think would be the outcome of that?

The failures in Abu Gharib, a gross dereliction of duty from any number of people, were no secret. Iraqis surely knew the place was merely under new management, and they only beat people to death and didn't hang them, Salon even mentioned this two months ago.

"Guantanamo on steroids"
Abu Ghraib was an infamous prison under Saddam. Now, for Iraqis seeking relatives detained by the U.S. military, it is still a place where men disappear.

Editor's note: Last week it was reported that U.S. troops, acting with the knowledge and approval of high-ranking military intelligence personnel, abused Iraqi prisoners at Saddam Hussein's infamous Abu Ghraib prison. In early March this year, Salon correspondent Jen Banbury filed this story on Abu Ghraib prison -- including allegations by Iraqis of beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and neglect leading to death.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Jen Banbury

March 3, 2004  |  BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Abu Ghraib prison became famous in Saddam's time as the place where men disappeared. Behind its high, ochre-colored walls and looping spans of barbed wire, prisoners faced miserable living conditions, regular torture, and (in some cases) execution. Now the U.S. military controls Abu Ghraib, calling it the Baghdad Correctional Facility (though no Iraqis I've met seem to be aware of the name change). And for many Iraqis seeking information about relatives detained by the American military, Abu Ghraib is still a place where men disappear.

Abu Ghraib now houses thousands of prisoners. The military will not release specific numbers, for security reasons, but the Associated Press reported that 12,000 people are being held there. Prisoners are pouring into the system: According to Human Rights Watch, in December and January the U.S. military said it was arresting approximately 100 Iraqis per day. Each visit requires two guards -- one to supervise the prisoner and one to escort his family members. The backlog for visitation is months long. Families have no contact with their interned relatives while waiting for that date. Many of the people at the prison that day were waiting to hear whether their relative's sequence number would be read so that they could come back in May for a visit. Others had come in November and were just now able to see their relatives. Some detainees are allowed no visits at all. And some relatives don't even know where their parents, brothers or sons are being held. The system, frankly, is a mess.


Some Iraqis who have been held as security detainees claim they were subjected to ill treatment, including beatings, sleep deprivation and psychological abuse. Most of these allegations are anecdotal and cannot be confirmed. But a variety of human rights and peace groups, including Human Rights Watch, Occupation Watch, Christian Peacemakers, Amnesty International, as well as various Iraqi NGOs, have interviewed former security detainees who have described some kind of mistreatment at the hands of the Americans -- at the time of arrest, during interrogation or during incarceration.

Last week, the U.S. military announced that 17 military personnel, including a battalion commander and a company commander, had been relieved of duty pending the results of a criminal investigation into alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. The military did not specify the nature of the abuse. But in a separate incident in January, the military discharged three soldiers who had been found guilty of beating, kicking and harassing detained Iraqis at Camp Bucca in the south of the country.  

The detainees' living conditions are poor. In Abu Ghraib, most prisoners are housed in tents that offer little respite from cold, wet winter weather and scorching summer heat and provide no shelter from incoming mortar attacks.


What I fear now is that command influence is being used to scapegoat the six being courtmartialed. It's a bad thing for the president to comment on this case, for their former commanding officer to condemn them. They have a right to a fair trial. Anyone expecting these people to serve long terms of confinement are delusional. Their parents, as bad as I feel for them, after all, no one expects to raise monsters, are already blaming anyone and everyone else for their fate. With appeals, most will serve nominal sentences, if convicted.

The Geneva Conventions is a pathetic fig leaf. Rape is wrong, sexual humiliation is wrong and you don't need a class for that. If these MP's are guilty, they are to blame. Not MI, not the CIA. After all, several of their comrades refused to participate. Now, there is plenty of blame to go around, but these folks, if guilty, deserve to be placed in Levenworth for years. So do their commanders, ending with Karpinski. Her excuses enrage me. "I didn't know" is not an acceptable answer for a general officer.

The effect of the torture at Abu Gharib could be far reaching, damaging our ability to secure ourselves from Al Qaeda.

Iraq Abuse May Undermine U.S. 'War on Terror'
Mon May 3, 2004 03:20 PM ET

By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers feeds Arab and Muslim fears that the "war on terror" is part of a broad effort to humiliate them and plays into the hands of extremists like al Qaeda, analysts say.

While experts say the war in Iraq and the "war on terror" are not necessarily related, the maltreatment of Iraqi prisoners will hurt efforts to rein in global terrorism and blurs the distinction for many who already question U.S. motives, credibility and respect for human rights.

"Those Americans who mistreated the prisoners may not have realized it, but they acted in the direct interests of al Qaeda, the insurgents, and the enemies of the U.S.," said Tony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has held various positions in government.

"These negative images validate all other negative images and interact with them," he said in a statement, citing "careless U.S. rhetoric about Arabs and Islam," failures to stabilize Iraq, continued Israeli-Palestinian violence and fears the United States is out to dominate the Middle East.

Photographs of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, shown on television and in the press last week, triggered outrage across the globe. Some reports also cite incidents of physical abuse. Searing wartime images have often served to galvanize public opposition, as did the famous Vietnam era picture of a young girl, fleeing naked from the battle zone. It is, however, too soon to tell whether the Iraq abuse photographs will have a similar impact.

Yahya Alshawkani, Yemen's deputy chief of mission in Washington, said the images could undermine his and other governments' efforts to convince restive populations that the U.S.-led "war on terror" is legitimate and in their interest.

"This certainly won't be helpful to each country's campaign against terrorism," he said. "The damage has been done."

Many Arabs and Muslims are wary of Washington's "war on terror" and believe it is empty rhetoric designed to impose U.S. foreign policy goals abroad at their expense.


Lies rarely benefit anyone in the end. The tissue of lies which Bush and his neocon buddies used to launch this war damaged our credibility with the Islamic world. Our treatment of prisoners at Gitmo didn't help. Now this, the sexual humiliation and torture of largely innocent Iraqi men and women, may well put the nail in the coffin for any chance of us gaining meaningful cooperation in the Islamic world.

No matter what we say, those pictures show who we are to millions of Muslims. Unless we act decisively, meaning closing Abu Gharib and jailing all those who tortured the prisoners, more Americans will die in terrorist attacks.

We are all monsters. Anyone can be cruel and mean. It is knowing this about human nature that we set up safeguards to prevent us from being our worst. When removed, some will descend into their darkest corners, and some will not. It is sad that the prisoners at Abu Gharib had to depend on the morals of individuals to safeguard them.

posted by Steve @ 8:39:00 AM

8:39:00 AM

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Monday, May 03, 2004

The Paypal Button is up

Ok, I finally put up a Paypal button. I'm going to put up Amazon as well, since some of you dislike using Paypal.

Now, you don't have to give much, or anything, actually. I'll still be here.

But I am trying to raise money to upgrade my computer. So kicking in as much as you can would be nice. Oddly enough, I'm still amazed that anyone cares about my opinions, much less to be breathtakingly generous. And you guys have been so generous I get choked up when I think about it.

We all do this in a void. The fact that people read what you write is always surprising. The fact that it matters to people is even more surprising. The fact that you'll pay for it is as amazing as losing your virginity. I didn't have any idea that people would make my comments part of their day, I just had things to say.

Writing is a solitary act. The fact that people like what I write is tremendously satisfying.

Let me thank you in advance, since i am always amazed at your investment in me and my work.

posted by Steve @ 1:54:00 PM

1:54:00 PM

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It's never isolated

It's never isolated

Amnesty Internation issued apress release which calls for a full investigation of torture in Coalition-run jails in Iraq.

Iraq: Torture not isolated -- independent investigations vital
There is a real crisis of leadership in Iraq -- with double standards and double speak on human rights, Amnesty International said today.

"The latest evidence of torture and ill-treatment emerging from Abu Ghraib prison will exacerbate an already fragile situation. The prison was notorious under Saddam Hussein -- it should not be allowed to become so again. Iraq has lived under the shadow of torture for far too long. The Coalition leadership must send a clear signal that torture will not be tolerated under any circumstances and that the Iraqi people can now live free of such brutal and degrading practices," Amnesty International said.

"There must be a fully independent, impartial and public investigation into all allegations of torture. Nothing less will suffice. If Iraq is to have a sustainable and peaceful future, human rights must be a central component of the way forward. The message must be sent loud and clear that those who abuse human rights will be held accountable.

"Our extensive research in Iraq suggests that this is not an isolated incident. It is not enough for the USA to react only once images have hit the television screens".

Amnesty International has received frequent reports of torture or other ill-treatment by Coalition Forces during the past year. Detainees have reported being routinely subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest and detention. Many have told Amnesty International that they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation. Methods often reported include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately investigated by the authorities.

Amnesty International is calling for investigations into alleged abuses by Coalition Forces to be conducted by a body that is competent, impartial and independent, and seen to be so, and that any findings of such investigations be made public. In addition reparation, including compensation, must be paid to the victims or to their families.


Every time a case of police brutality surfaces, it's isolated. Always. Rape Abner Louima in a jail cell, isolated. Shoot Amadou Diallo 41 times, isolated. They shot an escaped bull from a Queens rodeo 40 times, but Diallo's death wasn't police overkill, but an isolated mistake. Gun down Patrick Dorismond on a midtown street corner, isolated.

It's never the culture of police, or the indifference of their superiors, but isolated bad acts. And when the victims are black or Latino, they must have done something wrong.

The lawyers for the six accused MP's are claiming that they were never taught about the Geneva Conventions. So what? In what world is having prisoners jerk off into another prisoner's mouth permitted, decent, or humane. Not one of those guards would have wanted to be treated by Iraqi jailers in the way that they treated those prisoners. You don't need the Geneva Conventions to know what they were doing was deeply, deeply wrong.

Now, it turns out, this wasn't just some "bad people" as Gen. Karpinski claims, neatly claiming ignorance of then activities of the people under her command, but standard Military Intelligence practice.

I don't think there is any way to explain how gross Karpinski's failure was and how vile her excuses are. She was a general in charge of MP's, not some pencil pusher. She had a combat command. Prisoners were in her care and she didn't do anything like her job. She was relieved of command, which is a career-killing shame for a general officer.

It's easy to blame the CIA and military intelligence, but her actions led to their abuses. If she had cared about her command, and stood up to MI, which as a general officer, she could have and should have done, the abuses would have stopped. Instead, she barely supervised her command. I will bet any amount of money that her senior officerstold her, not once, not twice, but repeatedly, that they had problems with MI in their jails.

The idea that it was just a few NCO's and EM's "softening up" the prisoners is bullshit. Where are the officers? Where are the captains and majors and light colonels who were supervising the jail for Karpiniski? What is their role in this mess? Those on trial had to have been failed by their chain of command from their lieutenants on up. No MP officer noticed the sex games going on in the jail? No intellingence officer got reports from the Iraqi street that torture was common in Abu Gharib?

Karpinski's failure was so gross that two major generals had to investigate. That is remarkable. When you have that kind of investigation, a complete and total failure has occured. When you send generals to investigate other generals, something deeply wrong has happened.

Get used to the words command failure. You'll be hearing them a lot.

Command Errors Aided Iraq Abuse, Army Has Found
By JAMES RISEN

Published: May 3, 2004

An internal Army investigation has found a virtual collapse of the command structure in a prison outside Baghdad where American enlisted personnel are accused of committing acts of abuse and humiliation against Iraqi detainees.

A report on the investigation said midlevel military intelligence officers were allowed to skirt the normal chain of command to issue questionable orders to enlisted personnel from the reserve military police unit handling guard duty there.

The Army has already begun one investigation into the abuse allegations. Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, the incoming deputy commander of Army intelligence, is examining the interrogation practices of military intelligence officers at all American-run prisons in Iraq and not just the Abu Ghraib prison.

A second review was ordered Saturday by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, head of the Army Reserve, to assess the training of all reservists, especially military police and intelligence officers, the soldiers most likely to handle prisoners. Six members of an Army Reserve military police unit assigned to Abu Ghraib face charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees.

Gary Myers, a lawyer for Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, one of the enlisted men charged in the case, requested over the weekend that the Army open a court of inquiry into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, a move that would expand the investigation beyond the six enlisted personnel to look at the broader command failures.

The widening prison-abuse scandal in Iraq, which has stirred anger in the Arab world just as the Marines have tried to defuse a bloody confrontation in Falluja, holds the potential to damage efforts by American officials to meet a June 30 deadline to transfer limited self-rule to the Iraqi people. It appeared to have caught senior Pentagon officials and some top officers off guard on Sunday, despite President Bush's condemnation of the abuses on Friday


There is no way to explain what kind of public diplomacy failure this. It is horrific, with blame to go from the MP's who played naked Iraqi prisoner leapfrog to Karpiniski, to the slow pace Gen. Sanchez dealt with this gross command failure. The fact that Gen. Myers hadn't bothered to read the report is even more disturbing. The failure here, the worst since Vietnam, has dire implications for US policy in the entire Middle East. It isn 't just about a bad reserve Brigadier General and some ignorant, racist MP's.

This kind of failure is akin to when Gen. Fredendall was beaten at Kasserine Pass. It wasn't just that he lead from a bunker, the US Army lacked the ability to fight the Germans.


Almost everything the Americans believed was wrong.  The M3 Lee and Grant tanks, mounting a 75mm fixed gun, had a high silhouette and was difficult to operate in combat with the heavy German pzkpfw Mark IV and Tiger panzers.  Also, the Americans fought tank-to-tank, while the Germans concentrated their fire.  The M3 would burn when hit and the riveted construction would shoot hot flying rivets around the crew compartment when it was hit.  Also, tactical doctrine was inflexible and did not account for the rapid German advance

One could say that everything we thought we knew about Iraq was wrong and much of what we did is wrong.

posted by Steve @ 9:16:00 AM

9:16:00 AM

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Sunday, May 02, 2004

Who needs cash to run for office?

Who needs cash to run for office?

These Family Men Go 'Father' Up Ladder

Jim Holt has eight kids and no job except state senator from Springdale, paying $13,751 a year. He says two of his vehicles are on the blink and that the one he’s driving into Fort Smith while talking on the cell phone is making a sound suggesting belt trouble.

“We probably have less need for money than just about anyone you know,” Holt says. “We know how to stretch a dollar. Please don’t make it sound like I’ve got a benefactor or anything. That’s what everybody always tries to say.”

If anything, I was simply going to say it was weird.

Holt says he’s not going to take for personal use any contributions to his campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. That’s not to say, though, he believes there’s anything wrong necessarily with the similarly unemployed Marvin Parks doing that very thing for his family of seven kids.

A state representative from Greenbrier, Parks is seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the 2nd District. He intends to write himself a check for $4,000 each month from the campaign fund. It’s legal. It’s even defensible, since people without cushy and flexible professional careers ought to be able to seek office, too. And it’s perfectly public. If you don’t like it, don’t vote for him. Not that that would be the only reason.

But is anyone else seeing a pattern? Extreme religious conservatives sire armies of kids, hold down no jobs and pursue lofty political aspirations.

I’m thinking also of former state Rep. Jim Bob Duggar of Springdale, who has spawned 14 youngsters (a 15th is on the way) and, to his special advantage, enjoys substantial family real estate holdings. Then you have Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway, who is perhaps less fringe-worthy than the others. He might in fact contend someday for a Senate leadership position. But he has eight kids himself and he’s retired at 47 from his music professorship at the University of Central Arkansas. He feeds all those mouths with allocations of retirement income and a half-time job as music director at his church


C'mon, how do they really support their families?

posted by Steve @ 11:14:00 PM

11:14:00 PM

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Stupid and cheap

Stupid and cheap

As I was reading the WaPo today, I glanced at Dear Abby. What I saw was pretty freaking stunning.

Dear Abby:

My 15-year-old daughter was hired to baby-sit our friend's year-old infant. When she arrived, she was told she would also be watching the next-door neighbor's two small children, both under 3. The parents were going out together, the babies next door were put to bed, the house was locked, and my daughter was given a baby monitor so she could hear if there was a problem.

When I heard this, I was furious that they'd put a 15-year-old in that position and leave small children locked in a house alone. I said as much.

Now my daughter, husband and our friends are all mad at me for making them uncomfortable about their "arrangement." Apparently, they do it all the time -- both couples hire one sitter and leave one house unattended. These people are young, educated, drive expensive cars and can afford a sitter.

I told them I would call Social Services if they continue to leave the babies unattended.

My family thinks I owe them an apology. Do I?

Furious in California


No, you do not. What these "friends" are doing is illegal, as well as unconscionable. If something should go wrong -- like a fire -- your daughter could be left with lifelong guilt and trauma. Please continue to look out for your daughter's interests. Being a conscientious parent means not always being popular.

These parents are stupid and cheap. Leaving kids under three alone is about the goddamnest stupidest thing you can do. My mother was a home day care provider for 14 years, dealing mostly with 2 year olds. We had to watch them every single minute of every day they were in our home. Leaving them alone for a second was not gonna happen.

Apology? For what? The letter writer was right. She should call social services . Why? What happens if someone breaks in, or a fire starts?

See, this is why Dr. Phil is rich. So many people in America lack common sense. Leaving a small child alone at home defies basic, fundamental common sense. Expecting a 15 year old babysitter to cover two homes is disgusting. So which set of children does she save if something goes wrong?

What is even more amazing is the lack of support she got from her husband. The two sets of parents are cheap, selfish and dangerously stupid. But the 15 year old's father should be backing up his wife without question.

I don't think it's wise to leave anyone under 12 alone, at any time. But toddlers? They get into enough shit when you watch them.

There is a surprising lack of moral courage among people in modern America. Here you have a life threatening situation, one which should not exist, one for which poor people are jailed for, and everyone is worried about feelings. Who cares about feelings if those kids die?

Everyone wants to slide through life without conflict and it doesn't work. Why is Dr. Phil a millionaire? Because, despite the psychobabble and antics, he actually makes it ok for people to have moral courage. That it's OK to say no to things and not have people like you. Now, I may not have a Ph.D in psychology, but everything I see him say makes sense. Things I don't need him to tell me, like infidelity is wrong.

But the people he deals with treat his words as received wisdom, because in their sad, dysfunctional lives (not everyone, obviously), they have never had an adult say to them "you are responsible for your actions, and your actions suck." Everyone offers excuses and explainations, not acceptance that they are wrong.

After seeing General Kapinski's pathetic excuses in the Times today, this is stood out. No realization that her actions were wrong, an utter and complete failure of her job. Nope, just "they were bad people" and "MI ran that wing".

I bet these idiot parents would blame the sitter if their home caught on fire and the kids died. "But she had a baby monitor."

It is far easier in this society to blame anyone and everyone for your failures but yourself.

posted by Steve @ 3:55:00 PM

3:55:00 PM

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Passing the buck

Passing the buck

Officer Suggests Iraq Jail Abuse Was Encouraged

In a phone interview from her home in South Carolina in which she offered her first public comments about the growing international furor over the abuse of the Iraq detainees, General Karpinski said the special high-security cellblock at Abu Ghraib had been under the direct control of Army intelligence officers, not the reservists under her command.

She said that while the reservists involved in the abuses were "bad people" who deserved punishment, she suspected that they were acting with the encouragement, if not at the direction, of military intelligence units that ran the special cellblock used for interrogation. She said that C.I.A. employees often joined in the interrogations at the prison, although she said she did not know if they had unrestricted access to the cellblock.

According to the New Yorker article, by the investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh, one of the soldiers under investigation, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, an Army reservist who is a prison guard in civilian life, may have reinforced General Karpinski's contention in e-mails to family and friends while serving at the prison.

In a letter earlier this year, Sergeant Frederick wrote, "I questioned some of the things that I saw." He described "such things as leaving inmates in their cell with no clothes or in female underpants, handcuffing them to the door of their cell." He added, "The answer I got was, `This is how military intelligence wants it done.' "

Prisoners were beaten and threatened with rape, electrocution and dog attacks, witnesses told Army investigators, according to the report obtained by The New Yorker. Much of the abuse was sexual, with prisoners often kept naked and forced to perform simulated and real sex acts, witnesses testified. Mr. Hersh notes that such degradations, while deeply offensive in any culture, are particularly humiliating to Arabs because Islamic law and culture so strongly condemn nudity and homosexuality.

General Karpinski said she was speaking out because she believed that military commanders were trying to shift the blame exclusively to her and other reservists and away from intelligence officers still at work in Iraq.

"We're disposable," she said of the military's attitude toward reservists. "Why would they want the active-duty people to take the blame? They want to put this on the M.P.'s and hope that this thing goes away. Well, it's not going to go away."

The Army's public affairs office at the Pentagon referred calls about her comments to military commanders in Iraq

General Karpinski said in the interview that the special cellblock, known as 1A, was one of about two dozen cellblocks in the large prison complex and was essentially off limits to soldiers who were not part of the interrogations, including virtually all of the military police under her command at Abu Ghraib.

She said repeatedly in the interview that she was not defending the actions of the reservists who took part in the brutality, who were part of her command. She said that when she was first presented with the photographs of the abuse in January, they "sickened me."

"I put my head down because I really thought I was going to throw up," she said. "It was awful. My immediate reaction was: these are bad people, because their faces revealed how much pleasure they felt at this."

But she said the context of the brutality had been lost, noting that the six Army reservists charged in the case represented were only a tiny fraction of the nearly 3,400 reservists under her command in Iraq, and that Abu Ghraib was one of 16 prisons and other incarceration centers around Iraq that she oversaw.

"The suggestion that this was done with my knowledge and continued with my knowledge is so far from the truth," she said of the abuse." I wasn't aware of any of this. I'm horrified by this."

She said she was also alarmed that little attention has been paid to the Army military intelligence unit that controlled Cellblock 1A, where her soldiers guarded the Iraqi detainees between interrogations.


She should be courtmartialed and busted. If she didn't know, she should have. If she did know and didn't do anything, she belongs in jail. Her excuses are repellent. She was running the prisons. She had a bunch of senior officers to act in her stead. Blaming the prison guards for the abuse is like blaming the camp guards for the Holocaust. They had superiors who were responsible. I don't want her to play vicitim. They weren't "bad people", they were her people. She IS responsible for everything that happens under her command. The fact that her guards were racost thugs speaks ill of her ability to command her people.

I felt bad for SSgt's Fredricks parents, trying to defend him by saying he was following orders. That excuse wasn't acceptable or legal in 1945 and it does not sound better 59 years later. Orders or not, what they were asked to do was immoral and illegal.

But sadly, Karpinski is right. Military Intelligence, the CIA, DIA and private contractors set the conditions in Abu Gharib. This excuses Gen. Karpinski in no way, shape or form. She was a general officer, She should have complained to her superiors about the conditions in the MI wing and ordered them to prevent abuses. She outranked them. But as Sy Hersh's article points out, she wasn't big on personal accountability.

The problems inside the Army prison system in Iraq were not hidden from senior commanders. During Karpinski’s seven-month tour of duty, Taguba noted, there were at least a dozen officially reported incidents involving escapes, attempted escapes, and other serious security issues that were investigated by officers of the 800th M.P. Brigade. Some of the incidents had led to the killing or wounding of inmates and M.P.s, and resulted in a series of “lessons learned” inquiries within the brigade. Karpinski invariably approved the reports and signed orders calling for changes in day-to-day procedures. But Taguba found that she did not follow up, doing nothing to insure that the orders were carried out. Had she done so, he added, “cases of abuse may have been prevented.”

General Taguba further found that Abu Ghraib was filled beyond capacity, and that the M.P. guard force was significantly undermanned and short of resources. “This imbalance has contributed to the poor living conditions, escapes, and accountability lapses,” he wrote. There were gross differences, Taguba said, between the actual number of prisoners on hand and the number officially recorded. A lack of proper screening also meant that many innocent Iraqis were wrongly being detained—indefinitely, it seemed, in some cases. The Taguba study noted that more than sixty per cent of the civilian inmates at Abu Ghraib were deemed not to be a threat to society, which should have enabled them to be released. Karpinski’s defense, Taguba said, was that her superior officers “routinely” rejected her recommendations regarding the release of such prisoners.

Karpinski was rarely seen at the prisons she was supposed to be running, Taguba wrote. He also found a wide range of administrative problems, including some that he considered “without precedent in my military career.” The soldiers, he added, were “poorly prepared and untrained . . . prior to deployment, at the mobilization site, upon arrival in theater, and throughout the mission.”

General Taguba spent more than four hours interviewing Karpinski, whom he described as extremely emotional: “What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers.”

Taguba recommended that Karpinski and seven brigade military-police officers and enlisted men be relieved of command and formally reprimanded. No criminal proceedings were suggested for Karpinski; apparently, the loss of promotion and the indignity of a public rebuke were seen as enough punishment.


Hersh should know better. Karpinski's career is over. She'll be lucky to retire at brigadier general. Taguba's recommendations for a general officer are akin to an article 32 in terms of any future in the Army. As soon as the courtmartials are over, she'll be forced out. Not that this is enough. Not even close.

Her command failure is the worst since an Americal Division's base camp was overrun in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1971. It is that much of a disaster and potentially that fatal to US troops. Any Iraqi looking for a reason to kill Americans need only open a newspaper. This is akin to having police rape teenage girls and pose afterwards to Americans. These pictures might as well have been commissioned by Osama Bin Laden.

There are direct military consequences to these pictures and Karpinski's command failure is so gross, the idea that she would escape a courtmartial for dereliction of duty, as well as permitting war crimes, and that IS what these are, is revolting. She is directly responsible for this, not the contractors, not MI, not DIA, not CIA. She ran the prisons. Not the intelligence agencies. The "CIA is evil" defense doesn't mitigate her responsibility one bit.

Sure, they should all be prosecuted as well. But to shift blame to MI is a joke. They may be guilty, but it was her direct charge to care and protect the prisoners. The frightening part is that upwards of 60 percent may have been innocent.

If this is what MI and contractors are doing in Abu Gharib, what the hell is happening in Gitmo?

posted by Steve @ 9:54:00 AM

9:54:00 AM

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Google IPO: No way

Google IPO:No way

Usually, I ignore the Motley Fool e-mails I get. Frankly, their advice was second rate when it mattered. But when they ran a piece knocking the Google IPO, I bit. After all, it ran against all the hype I'vbe been seeing.

Having some experience in this area, I figured most of the stories about Google were bullshit. The great working conditions, which in reality hide slave-like conditions, the great bosses, yeah, OK. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice....

So I read the piece with some interest. It had some really interesting conclusions:

I also had to laugh out loud when I read about the hoops Google put up for investment bankers: 24-hour turnaround times for questionnaires, lengthy and onerous non-disclosures, banning them from Google headquarters. It all reminds me of Coming to America: "What kind of music do you like?" "Whatever kind of music you like." That's power.

And it's power that the insiders are trying to keep, over customers, investment bankers, and soon-to-be shareholders. Wouldn't you know it? Google's set up a Dual Class stock structure. The publicly traded Class A stock and management-held Class B stocks have identical economic rights, but the Class B shares get 10 votes for each one that the Class A shares receive.

Guess how every single vote in the history of the company will go? However management wants it to, it's already stuffed the voting boxes. Fellows, if you're going to quote Warren Buffett in your owner's manual (a fine document, by the way), you ought to at least recognize that Buffett considers Berkshire shareholders as partners and gives them the right to buy shares that have the same power as his. If you don't want to have to listen to others, then don't go public.

Google will not be able to control the pricing on the opening day of the IPO. But I really have to wonder whether this really just isn't anything more than cashing in at the peak. Yes, the insiders will be wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, as will many employees. But if Google's business is so insanely great, why in the world would they want to share? Public offerings have always been about companies needing to raise capital for operations or for new capital projects. Google's financial statements reveal no such need.

Being public is both hard and expensive for companies, and for Google, it seems to be utterly unnecessary -- the company generates plenty of cash from what it does, and it's taking on some risk that being public will change its core culture.

But these are all just window dressing. Here's the thing that I would fear as a Google investor: Ask Jeeves' (Nasdaq: ASKJ) algorithmic search engine Teoma already receives rave reviews for its results, and Yahoo! recently unbundled Google's search so it could feature its Inktomi technology. And wouldn't you know it, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), not one to leave nickels in billion-dollar stacks lying on the ground, will include an algorithmic search engine bundled in its next generation of Windows products, due out next year.


Look at the Google S-1, and you immediately ask why, with its $105m in net profits, is worth a capitalization of $25b, more than Costco. What is clear is that the stock will eventually fall from whatever price the IPO mania drives and investors will be dealing with a company worth less than they paid. Before you get all glossy-eyed about Google, remember, the most successful IPO of the dotcom era was Krispy Kreme. Most IPO investors lost their shirt and while Google is profitable, Google is only one company in a market vunerable to technological change.

In essence, the Google shareholders have no voice in the company, while insiders can run it into the ground. They also aren't issuing quarterly reports. In short, they are even more arrogant than the dotcom folks. Not only do they want the IPO money, they don't want any kind of supervision.

Google's management wants the money of being public, but not the responsibility. Quarterly reports are a very good way of tracking how the company is performing. Not issuing them means you have to trust the company to be responsible.

Google is an ad-driven company, it relies on ads to make money, If cusotmers find another way to sell goods online, well, there goes their profitability. Google will also be smaller than Yahoo and Microsoft, both of whom could be gunning for their market.

This doesn't mean that Google won't maintain their profiability, or grow, but their aquisition profile has been less than robust. Google is merely the most successful of a number of search companies, it doesn't have a lock on the market in anyway, nor is its technology unique. It may be efficient, but there are many ways to search the web.

The problem with IPO's, as rule, is that they rarely keep their opening price. Selling them quickly is the only way to lock in profit. As the Motley Fool article notes, this is a way to pay off insiders with other people's money. They get the reward for all those long nights and sexless social lives. In exchange, because of their dual class stock system, you have to hope the management doesn't screw up. You won't be able to vote them out.

This doesn't mean Google won't be a good investment a year or two from now, when the stock price has shaken down and the company's responses to Microsoft and Yahoo, who was an early investor in Google, are clearer. Will they go on a buying spree? Will key people leave? You need time to sort these things out, something which the dotcoms didn't have. Running to buy Google's IPO is a mug's game for small investors and poker for my trader friends. And like Texas Hold 'Em, it's fun to watch and nervewracking to play.

posted by Steve @ 1:21:00 AM

1:21:00 AM

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Saturday, May 01, 2004

The power of blogs

The power of blogs

I was, as I usually do on Saturday mornings when I wake up early, listening to my local Pacifica station. The host of the show was ragging on Air America, and the idea that Pacifica needed to change to meet the "challenge".

I rolled my eyes and laughed. For 30 years, Pacifica has been embrolied in internal disputes, a stagnant audience base, and politics which would make most people heads swim. Pacifica has been completely ineffective in offering alternative viewpoints to the mainstream media in most cases, and has, more often than not, embarassed itself in the kind of internecine warfare best reserved for college English departments.

So, clearly, listener-supported Pacifica isn't going to do more than preach to the converted and continue to limp along.

NPR, which I listened to next, is the pale shadow of a national broadcasting network. A creature of the Washington Beltway, it appeals to college professors and their graduate student girlfriends (or boyfriends). They hire a religious loon as their religious reporter, the sister of Washington's most important lobbyist as a political reporter, and the wife of a major advocacy group head as their Supreme Court reporter. As a rule, Americans don't listen to VOA, but at least they aren't filled with the relatives of Washington insiders.

Has anyone noticed that the major nets often do more challenging stories than NPR when it comes to Washington stories. I know they all rub up on each other there, but NPR's conflicts are so notorious that expecting them to actually break stories is like expecting a pimp to let his girls have a day off and keep the money from their work.

Complaining about the nascent Air America in this context is comical. Pacifica had 30 years to get their act together. What does it do? Pretty much let Amy Goodman, the first reasonably sane newscaster on their network, carry the ball. With money and airtime, it spends more effort on promoting the dead causes of the left and fighting each other, than doing anything useful.

One of my big complaints about Pacifica is that it is still an analog network, dealing with every fringe loon left with a mimeograph. Air America is internet friendly, not just because they've had my collegues Kos, Atrios and Josh Marshall on their shows, but because they stream their shows online and seem to rely on blogs for their themes.

Ten years ago, if Ted Koppel had wanted to read the names of killed from Somalia, and someone objected, it would have gone largely unnoticed. Sinclair could have knocked the show off their stations, and other than a few stray e-mails, faced no real notice or opposition.

Now? The arrest of Sinclair's CEO on sex charges was all over the Internet. Their e-mail and phone systems were collapsed by calls. John McCain's nasty letter was read by millions. Why? Because of the internet, and more importantly, blogs.

What blogs deliver, differently than web pages, is this: instant updating without having to rebuild the page. If you're not technically aware, let me explain: when web pages first started using images, it was very difficult to add content unless you went directly into the page.

With the new CMS systems, and blogger is the easiest to use in this regard, what you do is simply post content to a page and it's updated. You can use some HTML, but it isn't neccessary to do more than use italics and bold.

But all of them, from Kos's adaptation of Scoop to MoveableType, make updating easy. Far easier than having to replace webpages.

This ease of publishing has allowed people to move away from working on design issues to working on writing. It allows people like Juan Cole and Josh Marshall to publish and not get bogged down in the details of publishing.

This brings a lot of expertise to the web without the burden of hiring a team to design a page and keep it up. Cole basically used a standard blogger template to put up his pages. Which let him write on a subject people pay good money to hear him opine on.

Air America relies heavily on blogs for their daily content. Not exclusively, but the number of internet people on there is pretty striking. I don't think the right relies on the web nearly as much. They once did, but the suits by the LA Times and WaPo on Free Republic for near total reposting of copyrighted articles, as well as the demand for near-total ideological conformity, turned the community into a joke.

As internet content moves from static pages, to message boards, to blogs with comments, the quality of responses has also changed. From the noise one would get from a message board, blog responses are not only well thought out, but from an older user as well.

Take the Bush ANG controversy. That has filtered on the web for years, with all manner of documents coming up. When it finally exploded, Kerry had the grounds to question Bush's entire service. Without bloggers doing years of research, the whole thing would have died. The traditional media doesn't take these issues seriously They write off as politics and crawl back into their hole.

I think a lot of left criticism of the So-Called Liberal Media is off base. Why? Because these are endemic issues within the newsroom. Gore was jumped on because he annoyed reporters. Bush tried to either cultivate or scare them and I know from personal experience, people have no problem trying to bounce you from stories, call you a liar or take your job. The reason you get Jack Kelleys and Jayson Blairs, both varieties of sociopaths to me, in newsrooms is that editors want great stories. They want to read the most exciting thing possible.

When you find the atrocious reporting of Nedra Pickler and Steno Sue Schmidt alongside the excellent reporting of Rick Atkinson and Anthony Shadid, the reason is a lot less conspiracy than the ability to get along with bosses, screw them, drink with them. Journalism is a job, not a cult. The same factors at work on your job is the same ones in a newsroom, but worse.

What blogs are doing is filling in the gaps created by budget cuts in newsrooms. Where you would have reporters to cover every major agency in DC, now you only cover the big ones. Which is why labor reporting is an anomaly and everyone is obsessed with the numbers on Wall Street without the context.

Blogs are run by people who, if they have some ethics, serve as a multiplier for the work of mainstream journalists. They have also added the major British newspapers to the conversation. How else could the Guardian seek to expand to the US without a proven web audience?

The fact that blogs can be supported by direct contributions, ads and merchandize sales allows them to go beyond navel gazing. The next big push should be to get Lexis-Nexis database access. Once bloggers have use of that resource, the potential will grow. Lexis-Nexis is the memory hole for the major media, but extremely expensive, like $120 a month, last time I checked. A major burden for a blogger. As it stands, Google's caching provides an invaluable function.

There are days that when I hear Paul Begala open his mouth, I know his researcher has been reading the blogs. The thing which surprises me, is the amount of notice I've gotten with my humble enterprise and the people who read it. The thing is that most impresses me about blogs is not that people read them, but the general ethics and honesty in getting facts right and correcting them. Which is a lesson the major media needs to learn.

posted by Steve @ 1:53:00 PM

1:53:00 PM

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Abizaid's wet dream

Abizaid's wet dream

April 30, 2004  |  WASHINGTON ((AP) -- The top U.S. military commander in the Persian Gulf area said Friday he needs no more American troops in Iraq, but he pointedly urged Muslim nations to send forces.

Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, also disclosed that about a dozen Iraqi security battalions, which failed to perform in recent weeks of anti-occupation violence in central and south-central Iraq, are being reorganized and retrained. As a result, he said, those units will not be ready for any major challenges until at least November, a delay of two months from previous schedules.

In a video teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon, Abizaid said from his Persian Gulf headquarters that despite a rising death toll and other recent setbacks he remains confident that the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq will bring stability.

He urged the American public to be patient and to understand that results will come slowly.

We are not in any military danger of losing control of the situation," he said.

Asked about the debate in the United States over whether more American troops are needed in Iraq, Abizaid said if the security situation should deteriorate further he would not hesitate to ask for more. For now, he said, he is satisfied that the 138,000 troops he has are enough.

"I do favor the inclusion of more international troops, especially more Muslim troops," he said. "For example, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia – they all have very capable and very professional forces that could be added to the stability equation" once Iraq regains its political sovereignty. The target date for the partial turnover of power to an interim Iraqi government is June 30.

The key to progress in Iraq, he said, is getting more Iraqis to defend their country.

"I think Iraqis will second me on this: This needs to be less of an American occupation and more of an international military activity that includes Iraqis, international forces and Americans," he said.

The Bush administration has been unable so far to persuade more countries to send troops to Iraq, and the surging violence and mounting death toll have further complicated the matter. Spain, the Dominican Republic and Honduras are pulling their troops out. Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said this week that his country's contingent, which is operating in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, has found itself in "a real war it was not prepared for."

Abizaid cautioned against expecting quick results from a new arrangement with Iraqis to quell violence in the besieged city of Fallujah, and a major battle for Fallujah may not be avoidable.

He described the a "step-by-step effort" to train an Iraqi force for Fallujah, which others said is being called the Fallujah Brigade, under leadership of former senior officers of deposed President Saddam Hussein's army.

The outcome will depend on the actions of the insurgents inside the city, he said.


Ok, in a week where humilating pictures of naked Iraqi men circulated around the Arab world, enrgaging them as much as Michael Jackson's boy dating antics enrage Americans, Abizaid has the balls to ask for Arab troops? What country could afford to send troops to Iraq and survive? When the Iraqis adopt what one Kos poster calls the "Israqi" flag?

Help is not coming. The Arab world has little interest or political reason to rescue the US in Iraq.

The Pakistanis are in no position to send anyone to Iraq if Musharraf wants to live. If he were to send troops to help the US occupation or the puppet government on July 1, they'd find his head on a pike. Morocco isn't much better off. For mostly ill, the US struggle in Iraq has been defined as an anti-Muslim struggle. Abizaid, who's of Lebanese heritage, and not only speaks Arabic, but like all US general officers, has at least a masters, should know better.

He should be able to see that the pattern, the flag, the pictures are adding up to a very nasty picture for Arabs. Our words are pure, but our intentions and actions are not.

The expectation that the Iraqis would, after 30 years of a soul-killing, body killing, initative killing society, leap up and join the Americans, is well, insane. People were killed for "thinking outside the box" until last year. The idea that they would "embrace" a political concept which they have never lived under, in a society where clandestine activities were not only common, but the only way to survive.

There is no government, no reason to join the security forces other than the police, and while it doesn't get much play in the US media, there is a nasty, Iraq-wide stigma against working with the security forces. What amazes me is that no one connects the deaths and intimidation towards those who work for Americans with a general hostility in the society towards the occupation.

Americans keep trying to define Iraqi identity for Iraqis and it's about the same as trying to tell Texans how to be Texan or New Yorkers how to be New Yorkers. Iraqis are fiercely nationalistic and Americans keep insulting their pride and dignity.

The Americans keep expecting someone to step in and save them. Iraqis aren't going to do so. The fig leaf to cover our retreat in Fallujah had our new Baathist, Republican Guard (probably lavishly bribed) General show up for work with his old uniform, the old flag and cheers from his buddies, er, local residents. Why he did so is a mystery, but it is more than likely his former colonels are running the resistance and this is a buffer to allow them to recover while not humiliating the Americans and driving them to greater revenge.

There is also the mistaken idea that Iraqis wouldn't kill other Muslims. Miles of graveyards in Iran prove differently. A Pakistani occupier is still an enemy to an Iraqi nationalist. Remember, there are over 10,000 Pakistani and Indian graves outside Basra from Britain's colonial wars. Thinking different is little better than a wet dream.

posted by Steve @ 8:19:00 AM

8:19:00 AM

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Equating the dead

Equating the dead

Some asshat from a Sinclair station said that more people died training for D-Day than have died in Iraq.

Which is true only in raw numbers. Proportionally, Iraq is far bloodier than any single WWII battle.

You have to remember that the WWII Army was 12 million strong and the modern Army is about 1/24th the size. So every death or injury in Iraq is about the equivlent of 24 men in WW II, not even counting the advances in body armor and medical care.

Sure, you can argue that, if you want to spit on the graves of the dead. I wish these people would stop using WWII as an example. There were more paratroopers who dropped into Normandy than soldiers in combat in Iraq. So what? How many Armies landed on Normandy on D-Day? Two.

The point these people need to take away is that we're not fighting WW II in Iraq. The army is 1/24th the size. So proportionally, more people have died in Iraq than on D-Day, Iwo Jima or Okinawa.

If you multiply the 736 dead by 24, you get 17,664 dead, which is a lot more than the raw numbers the right is fond of using. This, with far better protective gear and medical treatment.

The equivlent would be 86,000 wounded in WWII. So you would have more than 100,000 dead and wounded from one year in Iraq in WWII terms.

But no one wants to compare those numbers.

posted by Steve @ 7:50:00 AM

7:50:00 AM

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Friday, April 30, 2004

A few things

A few things

First, hit the Planned Parenthood box. I've already been paid for it, but you need to sign the petition. Karen Hughes's comments comparing the pro-choice movement to Al Qaeda are deeply unpatriotic and she needs to know Americans will not stand for such vile slander.

Ok, I'm finally going to put up the Amazon/Paypal box this weekend. We're trying to raise enough money for a computer upgrade. The PC still lies dormant because I'm lazy and the Mac works fine. But this is not a state which can last forever. It must be repaired, with more memory and a faster CPU. Thankfully, we're not talking more that $200. But to be honest, I'd also like to buy a wireless router and some other stuff. Give what you can, a dollar is fine, seriously, I'm not greedy and I'm still convalescing, so, do what what you can when the box goes up and it will be used well. No beers, no porterhouses, just hardware and software and DSL fees.:)

As I said before, when I use money raised from the site, I'll tell you what it goes for. Unlike George Bush, I believe in accountability.

Once again, I have to thank the people who sent cards and gifts when I was sick. Thank you cards will be coming, now that I can write clearly. It was unexpected and I remain grateful as one can be.

I remain undecided about attending the Democratic convention, I think the GOP convention will make for great TV with the drunk cops rioting and all. However, unlike my peers, I probably won't be raising cash for Boston. You can take a bus from New York round trip for $20 to Boston and my sister lives near downtown, so no need to raise cash if I go. Unless you want to buy me stuff from Filenes and the Eddie Bauer outlet near Downtown Crossing.:)

If I decide to go, I'll let you know. But to be honest, most of those things are a great ego boost for the people covering it, but if I'm right, the news from Iraq will be more important.

Also, let me just thank you all for your responses and general civility with your comments. While we haven't gotten our weekly spot on Air America yet, or hosted a show, your contributions are what excite me and keep me going. And if you're just lurking, please post, the more the merrier. Besides, I don't have the greatest radio voice. Trust me on this.

Someone asked me why I write about food. Well, of all the responses I get, they are the best, the most honest. I'm hardly a foodie or even a food writer. I just love the way people open up about something where there are no right opinions.

posted by Steve @ 4:58:00 PM

4:58:00 PM

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