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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Weird shit of 2006

Soccer fans in action, Germany 2006

This is the last post of 2006 barring some kind of disaster between now and midnight.

James Kim

When I think about his heroic death, I think about how easily he got in a survival situation. A wrong turn on a snowy road. That's it.

Most of us don't own GPS's in our car, forget accurate map reading. And we would feel silly sticking a case of bottled water, a camping stove and freeze dried food in our car. Most of us never go father than up and down a well-travelled highway. I mean, we would be more likely to use the water to fill up the radiator than to save our lives. It would seem paranoid to drive around with that.

Until nature strikes.

What this reminds me of is how close we live to nature. We like to pretend we don't
, but tragedies like this, which happen every winter, remind us that we live at the mercy of nature, not the other way around.

Mr. Kim did the best he could in the situation, and saved his family at the cost of his life.

It just reminded me how few Americans are prepared to deal with nature when it crashes into their life.


When Rashad came into my bedroom, he smiled, knowing I had fallen for his dusky Muslim ways. He roughly woke my husband, the infidel, up and shoved him to his knees, so he could properly prepare Rashad to enter all my holes.........

Most of the Muslimphobia sounds like stories adapted from Literotica, substituting Muslims for blacks. The abject hysteria over Keith Ellison winning a Congressional seat reached comic proportions. Are these people aware that Muslims have Top Secret/SCI clearance as members of Special Operations Units, the NSA and CIA. That Muslims have served this country faithfully since they have been in the US?

No. They worry about the Koran instead. A book. The whole thing is almost comic to see in print. People like Debbie Schussel think they are more than cranks with computers, when their world view is so beyond reality, one can only laugh.

Jeanine Pirro

If you don't live in the Empire State, you missed the weirdest drama of the year. Pirro, who faltered when she tried to run for Senate, was found to be using Bernie Kerik to investigate her cheating husband Al. Al is a convicted felon. Yet she wanted to run for Attorney General.

OK. But then, it turned out she refused to review a case of an innocent man who spent 12 years in jail. Oooops.


Ah, she basically bought a baby from Africa and the poor father had to go along. Weird doesn't begin to cover this. The kid wasn't an orphan. But she has a billion dollars. At least the Portuguese used to leave salt and muskets behind.

The Birth of Suri

I've never seen such cynicism about a birth in my life. First, Cruise wasn't the father, then the baby looked Asian, then it was a test tube baby. They were hiding the child. Jesus, you would think it was Children of Men and a child of Cruise and Holmes.

The collapse of the right blogosphere

Remember how the year started? People took Powerline, Red State and Instacracker seriously.

Well, when they tried to promote Young Ben from Red State, he got gutted and exposed as a plagiarist and racist in a day or so, and from there, it didn't get any better. Mike Krempasky had problems with Wal Mart, which was quietly sending bloggers PR pieces to defend their company from facts.

But my favorite moment of impotence, showing the divergent growth patterns between right and left, is the way the right had to sit and watch how the NRCC savaged conservative Steve Laffey in Rhode Island to save a doomed Chaffee campaign. They had no power to raise money, or even rally people to their cause. Other people they raised money for lost.

They bitched and moaned about AP photos, but no one cared. When Chris Bowers raised a couple of million dollars and Matt Stoller helped campaigns draw support, the right sat at their keyboards, impotent.

Now they rage against Muslims as they lose relevancy by the day


Ok, so tell me who acts unlike a 2o something college student?

Paris Hilton

Lindsay Lohan

Nicole Ritchie

Britney Spears


With the exception of Spears, who would be returning from Iraq, the rest did nothing worthy of notice, but this, and Jennifer Anniston's dating life comprised this year's gossip.

What fallow fields we have. Once gossip used to be fun. Now, it's the dorm RA's meeting.


They sued Howard Stern and hired Katie Couric.

How did that work for them?

Stern is doing fine on sattelite and a hell of a lot happier. Couric is an embarassment.

Les Moonves, not a genius.

The World Cup

More readers posted here every day during the world cup than at any other time. I kept hearing about soccer exceptionalism, but the ratings, on ESPN/ABC were high enough to make everyone happy. Even though the US crapped out, again, I think people realized that we crossed a line in terms of how soccer is seen. It is the number 2 youth sport in the US, it has a growing fan base, and interest in soccer is growing.

It doesn't mean it's dominating American media, but it is no longer the stepchild of American sport. The Olympics, however, was a blip on the media screen, despite millions in hype. MY favorite story: Italians in Turin reading about the Italian national team, and eventual cup winners, the Azzuri.


.....I bought an MacBook

posted by Steve @ 7:52:00 PM

7:52:00 PM

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The last day of the year

Matt Freed, Post-Gazette

Chief Warrant Officer Paul S. Dziegielewski
and Sgt. 1st Class Don Hammons are Army
officers who notify families of a soldier's death
and work with the family to make funeral,
financial and other arrangements.


Sun Dec 31, 2006 at 10:57:43 AM PST

The sacrifice has been worth it. I haven't questioned whether or not it was right to take Saddam Hussein out. I mean, I've questioned it -- I've come to the conclusion that it was the right decision. - George W. Bush

As of today, 3000 U.S. servicemen and women have lost their lives in Iraq.

The New Year will ring in for thousands of families who only know that:

The deceased Soldier’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

This is what they will be told.

posted by Steve @ 1:59:00 PM

1:59:00 PM

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We've had enough, Bush

Keep laughing, daddy's boy

Huff Po has this up

GOP Sen. Lugar: If Bush Doesn't Consult Congress On Iraq It Could "Get Ugly"...

| Posted December 31, 2006 12:33 PM

GOP Senator and outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar (R-IN) appeared on Fox News Sunday With Host Chris Wallace to discuss the situation in Iraq. He made a plea for Bush to spend more time consulting Congress, in particular his committee, and made the prediction that if Bush does not spend more time with Congress, he and his cabinet will face increasingly aggressive investigation and more subpoenas. After Lugar described the situation, Wallace observed, "You're saying this could get ugly." "Yes, it could," Lugar responded.


WALLACE: It seems pretty clear that President Bush is leaning towards some kind of 'surge,' of sending additional US forces into Iraq. Do you support sending in more troops to Iraq?

LUGAR: Well, I don't know whether I do or not. And I say that because my prayer is that President Bush will take the advice that has come frequently, and that is, with people being there on the take-off, they have to support you on the landing. In the past the administration has been inclined, not to disregard Congress, but not to take Congress very seriously. I think this time Congress has to be taken seriously, there's been an election, Republicans lost the election. There's going to be a change in leadership on my committee, and likewise on the House side. What I would advise, would be maybe a retreat, it could be right here in Washington, but for several hours, in which the Foreign Relations Committee, just to take our group, really studies, what is the President's plan? Understands, specifically, who is to be trained, how would the politics affect what we've just been talking about...the devolution of the country, the oil money, or anything else. In other words that there be at least be at least some study of this by all of us, before suddenly we are all asked to comment: 'Are you in favor or surge, are you in favor of withdrawal?' Six months, three months, all the clichés. These are not going to be very relevant.

WALLACE: But you're saying do this before the President addresses the nation.

LUGAR: Yes, that would be advisable.

WALLACE: And what if he doesn't? What if basically, you know, he calls a group of you in, has the meeting around the cabinet room...

LUGAR: Which is the usually course.

WALLACE: Yeah, then what?

LUGAR: Then he can anticipate, not endless hearings, but a lot of hearings, a lot of study, a lot of criticism. In other words, as opposed to having a Foreign Relations Committee that really now is well-informed, understands, may not agree, but understands how you get from place to place, we have an assortment of invitations, demands for subpoenas, all sorts of situations in which Administration figures perhaps reluctantly come to the committee, or don't come to the committee, or various other experts discuss..

WALLACE: You're saying this could get ugly.

LUGAR: Yes, it could. And it need not.

This is Dick Lugar, not Jim Webb or Ted Kennedy saying this.

Lugar had expected Bush to go along with the ISG and he's not.

I think we have our Clark Clifford moment.

posted by Steve @ 1:53:00 PM

1:53:00 PM

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Do what?


Atrios asks the following question:


Why people go to Times Square for New Year's Eve.

...adding, this isn't a cranky old man "why do people go outside and spend time with other people" post. What I mean is that it looks like a no booze/high security/no bathroom nightmare. Large gatherings of partying people make me happy.

Because they are tourists or live in the 'burbs. Most real New Yorkers want nothing to do with standing in the cold for hours at a stretch. Maybe once out of curiousity, when you're in your 20's, but for the most part, no.

Simple question, simple answer.

posted by Steve @ 1:09:00 PM

1:09:00 PM

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10 moments from 2006

Here are ten moments from 2006, in no particular order

1) James Frey-100 little lies

Sure, Oprah shamed him, but it was Bill Bastone and the Smoking Gun which did the reporting on his lying little ass which nailed him cold and served him up for Oprah. We usually let liars slide in America, note Gerald Ford's praise for comity, but in this one case, just one, he got nailed hard, and a smarmy little fuck was made to apologize. Sometimes you find faith in odd places. The Smoking Gun is one of them.

2) Ossie Davis's, Coretta Scott King's and James Brown's funerals

They may have happened on different days, in different places, but they say a lot about how we got from segregated lunch counters to US Senators. Oddly enough, many of the same people showed up at all three.

Ossie Davis was a Harlem legend, in many films, but it wasn't acting which made him beloved. When no church would hold a service for Malcolm X, he made it happen. He supported the family for years when they were out of the spotlight, while Betty Shabazz rebuilt her life.

Coretta Scott King was ill served by her funeral and the manuverings of Eddie Long. They didn't invite Harry Belefonte to speak at her funeral. He kept that family fed in the days after King's death, he was in many ways, their best friend. The weakness of the children shone through. At least Joseph Lowery had the courage to tell the president the truth.

James Brown went out a hero. He was the first popular artist to say simply, that he was proud to be black, and hearing that song as a kid changed the world. He had the kind of flashy, fun, loving funeral he so deserved.

As moments go, these three tributes to three very different people say much about changing black America

3) Mel Gibson's rant

Americans like to pretend that racism, and anti-semitism is part of the past. Mel Gibson, despite being the son of one of America's most prominent Holocaust deniers, hid it well over the years. Then he slipped and the mask came off. Hollywood kept it secrets well. Until this year

4) Tom Cruise goes crazy

No one had seen this before, a major movie star go from respect to ridicule in weeks. For years, Pat Kingsley had protected Tomcat from himself. He fired her and replaced her with his sister, and it was off to the races. Cruise made enemies left and right and people questioned his marriage like it was a movie role. It is rare to see self-destruction in public like that

5) Hezbollah and the IDF

Everyone thought that the Israelis would steamroll Hezbollah and put them in their place. Well, when the flares which screwed up night vision gear kept flying and helicopter evacuations was impossible, Israel found that Nasrallah's boys could fight. Once you allowed people to reach rank without politics, their fighting ability improved tremendously. The IDF were fighting the last war. Hezbollah was not.

6) Swannick, Eaton and Baptiste

When these former generals, two commanders of units which led to higher command, refuted the DOD line before Congress, something changed. Maybe it was small, maybe big, but these were no hippies. These were former commanders, men who could have reached higher rank and retired instead. Bush's war was a fraud and they would fight no more forever.

7) The Muslim Cartoons

The European right did a little racebaiting and got called on it. They thought that they could mock Islam and Muslims would have to suck it up. The riots proved otherwise. It was a silly miscalculation by people with no sense of foresight. A lot of people bought into the free speech argument when it was really about putting minorities in their place. They want to debate burkas and homosexuality when the real issue is inclusion.

Not one US paper would touch these cartoons, in the most open press in the world, for a very simple reason: it was racebaiting. There was no great editorial outcry or protest, because the unsubtle nature of the submissions had nothing to do with freedom of speech.

8) 500,000 people

They didn't know what to make of it, when the streets of LA filled up. All those Mexicans. with kids in the Army, pride in their heritage and a willingness to protest unfair laws. They had to be illegals. The willfully blind like Lou Dobbs and the openly racist like Tom Tancredo, didn't get it. Most Americans didn't have a serious problem with immigration. They didn't like the illegals crossing over, but they didn't want to turn them into felons.

But most of them were Americans and they didn't like the second class citizenship Tom Tancredo and Jim "Kotex" Sensenbrenner wanted to impose on their relatives. It changed the way Latinos saw politics and killed the GOP outreach program dead.

9) Use it or lose it

At the end of the campaign, MyDD's Chris Bowers started a fundraising drive. He asked members of Congress in safe seats to contribute to the national committees. He raised millions of dollars. And all he did was thought it up and did it. Didn't ask permissions, didn't have to call anyone, just started asking people for money. And maybe won a few close elections by doing so.

10) Germany is like everyplace else

The one thing which happened during the World Cup was subtle, but important. The Germany baiting was gone and Germans were able to wave their flags and take pride in their team like everyone else. It's been a long time since the Germans didn't have their history wrapped around them. But when English tourists flooded the country and found the people open and friendly, a lot of minds changed. And if you have a united Europe, the past has to be let go at some point. They started out with the WWII nonsense, but when it ended, that was tossed aside for the present.

posted by Steve @ 2:39:00 AM

2:39:00 AM

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Nevada Sadr

Payback is a bitch, motherfucker

Violence marks news of Saddam’s execution

By Steve Negus, Iraq Correspondent

Published: December 30 2006 19:27 | Last updated: December 30 2006 19:27


The execution is unlikely to bridge this divide, as perceptions of Mr Hussein’s hanging differ radically between Sunni Arab and Shia. Even the timing of his hanging seemed to reinforce the sectarian gap -- although Iraqi law bans executions during religious holidays, it took place just as the Sunni’s Eid al-Adha feast was beginning. Shia begin celebrations a day later.

However, Mr Hussein’s death could bolster the confidence of the Shia parties which dominate the government, who are fighting to shore up their popularity among their own constituency

Many Shia claimed to doubt that Mr Hussein would actually be executed, leaving the door open to a possible return of his ruling Baath party to power.

Even the last minutes of Mr Hussein’s life seemed to reinforce that the old order was gone for good. One of the witnesses, Judge Munir Haddad, was quoted by CNN as saying that as the noose was being tightened around Mr Hussein’s neck, one of the hangmen shouted out “Long live Moqtada al-Sadr.”

“Moqtada al-Sadr,” said Mr Hussein mockingly, of the radical young cleric Shia who could hardly have been of much consequence to him while he was president, but who now is among the most powerful men in Iraq. According to the report, those were Mr Hussein’s last words.

Who do you think drove this execution?

Shouldn't have shot his daddy like a dog, Saddam.

As justice, this was vulgar. As revenge, well, Sadr worked long and hard for it.

Nevada Smith is an old western with Steve McQueen, who goes to extreme lengths to kill the men who killed his family. Like going to a Louisiana prison and escaping with one target, who he then kills.

Sadr got his man. Even though the cost is high.

posted by Steve @ 1:05:00 AM

1:05:00 AM

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People who annoy

Atrios posted this up

A Taxonomy of Annoying People

While I spend most of my time attacking the other side for their various misdeeds, I suppose it's only fair to point out some flaws by people "on our side" who annoy me at various times. So, here's a taxonomy of annoying people on our side:

The Defeatists
- Doom and gloomers who know it is all hopeless, who know that we can't win elections, or that if we do win elections nothing will improve, and who think that people who bother to try are just wasting their time. Why these people spend so much time paying attention to this stuff if there's nothing to be done I do not know. If you really feel that way go do something else with your time, otherwise I expect you're just addicted to the sweet thrill of self-righteous outrage.

The Armchair Revolutionaries
- People who are convinced that the only way to enable change is to take to the streets in mass protest movements, and that anyone who isn't taking to the streets is a big sellout wimp. Whatever the validity of this viewpoint, I say go ahead and do it and convince others to do so. There are, for example, small scale war protests all over the country which people attend every week. Are you attending them? Are you trying to organize more? Or are you just fantasizing about a noble struggle which you aren't really bothering to take part of.

Sock Puppeteers
- People who think that I, and every other blogger, exist to give voice to your personal issues.

The Narcissists - People who think politicians exist to cater to them personally.

The Magical Thinkers
- People who speak in semi-riddles, hinting at webs of understood secrets, conspiracies, and truth who actually are just spouting gibberish.

The Lazies - People who think its my job, or any other blogger's job, to spend time, effort, and money supporting candidates or causes even though they themselves aren't actually doing it.

The Demanders
- People who demand that people agree with them, rather than thinking that maybe they should try persuasion instead.

The Forwarders
- People who randomly add others to their personal email lists, forwarding every interesting thing and thought they have.

Assumers of Bad Faith - Those who think that people who disagree with them can't possibly have come to that opinion honestly, that they must be on the take, or have a hidden agenda, or be misrepresenting themselves, or whatever.

And, yes, this list sounds cranky but I'm really just having a bit of fun. More than that, while Time's Person of the Year was stupid and condescending, the internets do provide an easy way for people to get involved, persuade, and lead. You don't have to have a "big blog" like this to reach people. If nothing else, Daily Kos and other sites give anyone the potential to have, at least temporarily, a sizeable megaphone which you can use to reach a large audience. In meatspace there are numerous ways you can get involved in local or national politics, or join in with charitable works, or whatever. I'm not telling people they have to do these things, I'm just saying that as some guy once said, you have the power, and the tools are there for you to do so with minimal effort. We live in an age when any idiot on the internets can potentially have an impact on our national discourse, so if you have an issue, or a cause, or a candidate, or whatever, you can try to to organize and persuade and lead. Sitting around in a pool of defeatist narcissistic self-righteous fury while despairing about the grand truths only you understand is good fun, and we all do it at times, but ultimately it doesn't accomplish anything. If the world isn't to your liking, try to change it, and as some other guy suggested, you can start by being the change

A lot of people have some magical expectations of what happens in politics. Some people use it at a personal fashion statement. It isn't either. It is deadly serious work.

When people wonder why others haven't leaped into the fight the way they expect them to, they need to reflect as to why they haven't either.

But what is most fustrating is that people treat this like TV and it isn't. You can and should participate. This isn't a contest to see who is most popular. Everyone has a voice and should use it.

posted by Steve @ 12:47:00 AM

12:47:00 AM

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It isn't that bad, really

A Manifesto From the Left Too Sensible to Ignore

International Herald Tribune
Published: December 30, 2006

NEW YORK This has been a bleak year for nuanced thinking. President George W. Bush likes to speak in certainties; contrition and compromise are not his thing. Among hyperventilating left-liberals, hatred of Bush is so intense that rational argument usually goes out the window. The result is a mindless cacophony.

Bush, even after the thumping of the Republicans in November, equates criticism of the war in Iraq with defeatist weakness. Much of the left, in both Europe and the United States, is so convinced that the Iraq invasion was no more than an American grab for oil and military bases, it seems to have forgotten the myriad crimes of Saddam Hussein.

There appears to be little hope that Bush will ever abandon his with-us-or-against-us take on the post-9/11 world. Division is the president's adrenalin; he abhors shades of gray. Nor does it seem likely that the America-hating, over-the-top ranting of the left - the kind that equates Guantánamo with the Gulag and holds that the real threat to human rights comes from the White House rather than Al Qaeda - will abate during the Bush presidency.

This state of affairs is grave. The threat posed by Islamic fanaticism, inside and outside Iraq, requires the lucid analysis and informed disagreement of civilized minds. Bush's certainties are dangerous. But so is the moral equivalency of the left, the kind that during the Cold War could not see the crimes of communism, and now seems ready to equate the conservative leadership of a great democracy with dictatorship.

This kind of sad apologia fools no one outside Fox News and Washington. Gitmo is called a gulag because it is one. They hold children in custody. If that isn't Stalinesque, what is?

Every lemming on the right claims any opposition to Bush is driven by hatred. Really? Someone should ask Charles Swannick if he hates Bush. What Cohen doesn't get is that only a few pundits like him still support our colonial adventure in Iraq. Everyone else sees what a failure it is and wants it to end.

Then he brings up the Euton Manifesto, some bullshit by liberal and not so liberal hawks about defending our colonial war.

Roger, here's reality.

Americans avoid enlisting to fight in Bush's war. We're taking criminals and 40 year olds to fight because the best and brightest of America would rather work in Wal Mart than face multiple tours in Iraq.

Not one of your friends or your kids friends has one person they know serving in combat overseas. This is all abstraction to you.

But understand this: the American people have tired of your war and the cost of it. They want it to end. You and a bunch of warmongers won't change that.

posted by Steve @ 12:32:00 AM

12:32:00 AM

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Killimg Saddam

Saddam: The death of a dictator

Through the bumbling of the U.S.-backed regime, justice becomes revenge, and a despot becomes a martyr.

By Juan Cole

Photo: Reuters/Chris Hondros

Dec. 30, 2006 | The body of Saddam, as it swung from the gallows at 6 a.m. Saturday Baghdad time, cast an ominous shadow over Iraq. The execution provoked intense questions about whether his trial was fair and about what the fallout will be. One thing is certain: The trial and execution of Saddam were about revenge, not justice. Instead of promoting national reconciliation, this act of revenge helped Saddam portray himself one last time as a symbol of Sunni Arab resistance, and became one more incitement to sectarian warfare.

Saddam Hussein was tried under the shadow of a foreign military occupation, by a government full of his personal enemies. The first judge, an ethnic Kurd, resigned because of government interference in the trial; the judge who took his place was also Kurdish and had grievances against the accused. Three of Saddam's defense lawyers were shot down in cold blood. The surviving members of his defense team went on strike to protest the lack of protection afforded them. The court then appointed new lawyers who had no expertise in international law. Most of the witnesses against Saddam gave hearsay evidence. The trial ground slowly but certainly toward the inevitable death verdict.

Like everything else in Iraq since 2003, Saddam's trial became entangled in sectarian politics. Iraq is roughly 60 percent Shiite, 18 percent Sunni Arab and 18 percent Kurdish. Elements of the Sunni minority were favored under fellow Sunni Saddam, and during his long, brutal reign this community tended to have high rates of membership in the Baath Party. Although many members of Saddam's own ethnic group deeply disliked him, since the U.S. invasion he has gradually emerged as a symbol of the humiliation that the once-dominant Sunni minority has suffered under a new government dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

posted by Steve @ 10:45:00 AM

10:45:00 AM

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Not again

(John H. White/Sun-Times)
Steven Henderson, shown with his mother and
sisters, was preparing to settle into married life
when the Army called him up again.

Third time's the harm
After two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Steven Henderson says his latest callup 'not to exceed 545 days' in Iraq is asking too much.

December 28, 2006
BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter
Steven Henderson served his country during two tours of duty as an Army sergeant in Afghanistan -- repeatedly coming under enemy fire and seeing fellow soldiers maimed and U.S. helicopters gunned down.

The Chicago native is back home now after being honorably discharged 20 months ago. He's married and working toward a college degree -- but the Army has called upon him again.

A letter he received two weeks before Christmas orders him to report to Fort Benning, Ga., by Jan. 14. Under the order, he is required to fight in Iraq for a period "not to exceed 545 days."

But this time, Henderson says he will not serve his country.

"It would take a miracle for me to put on a uniform again and to carry a weapon in Iraq,'' he said. "I have no intentions of going to Iraq.''

Henderson, 34, mailed off an appeal to the military Wednesday in hopes he can get out of the obligation. He already completed four years of active duty, including 17 months in operations all over Afghanistan. He received several commendations and even appears in Not a Good Day to Die, a book about Operation Anaconda, a U.S.-led assault in eastern Afghanistan in 2002. The book recounts an operation where Henderson and another soldier survived heavy enemy fire. "That was the longest 18 hours of my life,'' he recalled.


At her Olympia Fields home Wednesday, Henderson's mother, Kathleen White, teared up when thinking that her only son could end up back in harm's way.

His stepfather, Herbert White, who relies on his stepson for help around the house as he awaits a liver transplant, said he was worried about his son going abroad for potentially the third time. "How many chances does he have before something really bad happens? I'm afraid this will be the third strike.''

posted by Steve @ 10:03:00 AM

10:03:00 AM

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The last ride

Longtime driver hits the road with coffin

BY AUSTIN FENNER in Augusta, Ga. and NICOLE BODE in New York

William Murrell drove Brown's body 800 miles from Augusta, Ga., to Harlem.
James Brown's loyal chauffeur was called into service one more time in a last-minute scramble to get the Godfather of Soul to the Apollo on time.

William Murrell, who had shuttled the music legend around for the past 15 years, drove Brown's body on an 800-mile pilgrimage from Augusta, Ga., to Harlem - a trip that took him from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. yesterday.

"I drove him in life, and I drove him in death," said Murrell, 47. "I can't say no to Mr. Brown."

The coffin had arrived too late at the funeral home for staff there to make a scheduled flight out of Atlanta. And the remaining flights that could carry the remains were all booked as well.

Without a second thought, Murrell yanked the backseats out of his Ford van and loaded up. He and a co-worker piloted the Ford Club Wagon van up I-95 with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the funeral home director and Brown's 24-karat gold-plated coffin in back.

"We talked the whole time," added Murrell who owns a transportation company in Augusta. "Old times, the good old days, all the fun that we had, all the people he touched, the lives that he changed. It went on and on."

And as soon as they reached New York, they flipped on the radio to find Brown's songs playing nonstop.

The incredible journey started with a frantic phone call from the C.A. Reid Sr. funeral home around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday telling Murrell there was trouble.

The custom-designed coffin - which needed its blue lining replaced with a special one of white satin - was running late.

There was no time to make the 2-1/2-hour trip from Augusta to Atlanta in time for the 7:45 p.m. scheduled Delta flight - or any other flights that night - they said.

All charter flights were booked, including Murrell's two planes. And eager crowds were already massing in Harlem to say goodbye.

"They had to get him to the Apollo. They tried everything," said Murrell, "It was my last chance to give him a ride of a lifetime."

posted by Steve @ 2:07:00 AM

2:07:00 AM

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Saving our Iraqi allies

(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Guarding Iraqi Christians

We Can't Ignore Iraq's Refugees

By Edward M. Kennedy


There is an overwhelming need for temporary relief and permanent resettlement. Last year, however, America accepted only 202 Iraqi refugees, and next year we plan to accept approximately the same number. We and other nations of the world need to do far better.

Thousands of these refugees are fleeing because they have been affiliated in some way with the United States. Cooks, drivers and translators have been called traitors for cooperating with the United States. They know all too well that the fate of those who work with U.S. civilians or military forces can be sudden death. Yet, beyond a congressionally mandated program that accepts 50 Iraqi translators from Iraq and Afghanistan each year, the administration has done nothing to resettle brave Iraqis who provided assistance in some way to our military. This lack of conscience is fundamentally unfair. We need to do much more to help Iraqi refugees, especially those who have helped our troops.

Our nation is spending $8 billion a month to wage the war in Iraq. Yet to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the refugees who have fled the war, the State Department plans to spend only $20 million in the current fiscal year.

America needs to lead, but we cannot adequately respond to this overwhelming crisis alone. Because of the magnitude of the problem, we also need action by Iraq's neighbors and the rest of the world. An essential first step could be to hold an international conference on the issue -- ideally sponsored by the countries in the region and the United Nations -- to begin to deal with the growing number and needs of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. The United States should participate in the conference and provide substantial support for the refugees. Doing so would encourage other nations to address the crisis, help the refugees and displaced persons, and assist the countries shouldering the greatest burden.

Working with Iraq's neighbors and the United Nations, we can encourage rapid action to relieve suffering and save lives. And a productive conference could lead in turn to broader discussions and greater progress on the future of Iraq

posted by Steve @ 1:53:00 AM

1:53:00 AM

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Helping the unbanked

Aaron Houston for The New York Times

Germania Hernandez activates a Sigo card for
Buenaventura Pacheco Lopez in New Brunswick, N.J.

Immigrants Wary of Banks Put Faith in New Card

Published: December 30, 2006

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Since coming to this country eight years ago, Jose Dimas has bristled at the $8 fee he often must pay to cash his paycheck. He stews over the $10 charge he faces whenever he wires $150 home to his parents in Mexico.

Daunted by the requirements to open a bank account, Mr. Dimas had long kept his savings hidden in his apartment, and had worried that his money would be stolen.

But now Mr. Dimas, 32, a food preparer at a catering company, has a new tool that has eased his discomfort with all things financial. It is a special debit card, provided not by a bank but by a nonprofit worker center here, enabling hundreds of immigrants without checking accounts or credit cards to keep their cash somewhere safer than beneath their mattresses. The card also makes it easier to shop at stores as well as online.

“This card is better for me for a lot of situations,” Mr. Dimas said. “You don’t have to pay those big charges to send money back to Mexico. And it will be much safer. I don’t like keeping my money in my home. Someone could go steal the money.”

The worker center, called New Labor, normally focuses on preaching about worker solidarity and safety, but after seeing all the hassles that immigrants face with finances, it pioneered the new debit cards. In a survey of 480 immigrants who were members of New Labor and similar worker centers, 47 percent said they had no bank accounts.

Since November, New Labor has provided cards to 200 immigrant members, including some who are here illegally. Three other centers — in Hempstead, N.Y., Chicago and Los Angeles — have begun offering the cards as well, and organizers say they hope to make them available to tens of thousands of immigrants at 140 worker centers nationwide within the next few years.

Several financial experts said the new debit cards — named “Sigo,” combining the Spanish word for “yes” and the English “go” — are an ideal tool for 30 million workers, both foreign-born and native, who lack bank accounts and often face high check-cashing fees and frustrating obstacles in paying bills.

Sigo cards can also help so-called “unbanked” immigrants develop financial sophistication and eventually move into the banking system, these experts said, perhaps to obtain a mortgage or small business loan.

“It’s not just about reducing your financial costs and making your financial life easier, it also helps give you opportunities to get ahead,” said Jennifer Tescher, director of the Center for Financial Services Innovation in Chicago, which provided a grant to develop the program. “It saves you time and makes more products and services available to you.”

Like department store gift cards, the Sigo card has stored value, but unlike those cards, it is reloadable, meaning more money can be added. Users can reload the cards by having paychecks deposited directly into their accounts or by making cash deposits — for fees ranging from 50 cents to $5 — at a local pharmacy or worker center.

The Sigo card requires a PIN number and is affiliated with MasterCard, and can be used wherever MasterCard is accepted.

posted by Steve @ 1:46:00 AM

1:46:00 AM

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Idiocy in action

Getting Serious About Iran:
A Military Option
By Arthur Herman

The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group’s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAV’s (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.

Our next step would be to declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil while guaranteeing the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil and the platforms of other Gulf states. We would then guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign aimed at destroying Iran’s air-defense system, its air-force bases and communications systems, and finally its missile sites along the Gulf coast. At that point the attack could move to include Iran’s nuclear facilities—not only the “hard” sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another.

Above all, the air attack would concentrate on Iran’s gasoline refineries. It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

The scenario would not end here. With the systematic reduction of Iran’s capacity to respond, an amphibious force of Marines and special-operations forces could seize key Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, the most important of which is a series of 100 offshore wells and platforms built on Iran’s continental shelf. North and South Pars offshore fields, which represent the future of Iran’s oil and natural-gas industry, could also be seized, while Kargh Island at the far western edge of the Persian Gulf, whose terminus pumps the oil from Iran’s most mature and copiously producing fields (Ahwaz, Marun, and Gachsaran, among others), could be rendered virtually useless. By the time the campaign was over, the United States military would be in a position to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.

An operational fantasy? Not in the least. The United States did all this once before, in the incident I have already alluded to. In 1986-88, as the Iran-Iraq war threatened to spill over into the Gulf and interrupt vital oil traffic, the United States Navy stepped in, organizing convoys and re-flagging ships to protect them against vengeful Iranian attacks. When the Iranians tried to seize the offensive, U.S. vessels sank one Iranian frigate, crippled another, and destroyed several patrol boats. Teams of SEALS also shelled and seized Iranian oil platforms. The entire operation, the largest naval engagement since World War II, not only secured the Gulf; it also compelled Iraq and Iran to wind down their almost decade-long war. Although we made mistakes, including most grievously the accidental shooting-down of a civilian Iranian airliner, killing everyone on board, the world economic order was saved—the most important international obligation the United States faced then and faces today.

But the so-called “tanker war” did not go far enough. In the ensuing decades, the regime in Tehran has single-mindedly pursued its goal of achieving great-power status through the acquisition of nuclear weapons, control of the Persian Gulf, and the spread of its ideology of global jihad. Any effective counter-strategy today must therefore be predicated not only on seizing the state’s oil assets but on refusing to relinquish them unless and until there is credible evidence of regime change in Tehran or—what is all but inconceivable—a major change of direction by the reigning theocracy. In the meantime, and as punishment for its serial violations of UN resolutions and of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran’s oil resources would be impounded and revenues from their production would be placed in escrow.

Obviously, no plan is foolproof. The tactical risks associated with a comprehensive war strategy of this sort are numerous. But they are outweighed by its key advantages.

First, it would accomplish much more than air strikes alone on Iran’s elusive nuclear sites. Whereas such action might retard the uranium-enrichment program by some years, this one in effect would put Iran’s theocracy out of business by depriving it of the very weapon that the critics of air strikes most fear. It would do so, moreover, with minimal means. This would be a naval and air war, not a land campaign. Requiring no draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq, it would involve one or two carrier strike groups, an airborne brigade, and a Marine brigade. Since the entire operation would take place offshore, there would be no need to engage the Iranian army. It and the Revolutionary Guards would be left stranded, out of action and out of gas.

In fact, there is little Iran could do in the face of relentless military pressure at its most vulnerable point. Today, not only are key elements of the Iranian military in worse shape than in the 1980’s, but even the oil weapon is less formidable than imagined. Currently Iran exports an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. Yet according to a recent report in Forbes, quoting the oil-industry analyst Michael Lynch, new sources of oil around the world will have boosted total production by 2 million barrels a day in this year alone, and next year by three million barrels a day. In short, other producers (including Iranian platforms in American hands) can take up some if not all of the slack. The real loser would be Iran itself. Pumping crude oil is its only industry, making up 85 percent of its exports and providing 65 percent of the state budget. With its wells held hostage, the country’s economy could enter free fall.

Fucking idiot.

What does he think the Mahdi Army would do? Watch this happen?

Once the Iranians see this unfold, their Iraqi friends take over from the criminal gangs and blow the bridges the US needs to supply their units. They start going after convoys. Baghdad explodes in protests.

Fucking assclown. A Marine brigade? An Airborne Brigade? From where? When Iranian commandos reach out to their Shia friends in Saudi Arabia and blow the pipelines, what happens then?

Because the Iranians are not morons, they have countermoves planned and 140,000 hostages in Iraq.

posted by Steve @ 1:16:00 AM

1:16:00 AM

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Saddam murdered by Iraqi government

Well, Bush got his "victory"

Raed Jarrar
There Is No Victory in Saddam's Execution

Although news reports everywhere are contradicting themselves during this fluid situation, the truth is Saddam might be hanged very soon, within the next few hours or days.

This comes at a time when the Bush project is collapsing in Iraq. On the American side, the number of U.S. troops killed will reach to 3000 in the next few days.
On the Iraqi side, new attempts to create a pro-occupation coalition in the Iraqi government (led by Hakim, Hashimi, and Talbani-Barazani) failed after Sistani rejected the idea and refused to give his blessings. At the same time, an anti-occupation coalition is emerging inside and outside the Iraqi government and will include everyone except the failed pro-occupation alliance.

Clearly, there are problems.

* At the same time that millions of Iraqis were and are still being killed, injured, and displaced because of the U.S. interventions;

* At the same time that the Iraqi social fabric is being destroyed and turned into fragments;

* At the same time that the state Iraq is being literally "wiped off the map" and cut apart;

* At the same time that everyday in Iraq is worse than the day before;

* And at the same time that tens of thousands of U.S. solders are being killed, injured, and traumatized for the rest of their lives and trillions of the U.S. taxpayers' money wasted -

--the one and only victory that the Bush administration can claim is hanging the former dictator.

The U.S. administration will use Saddam to distract public opinion from the atrocities going on by parading this fake "victory." It will then also bury the executed body of Saddam along with all the secrets we're not supposed to know, continuing to leave us in the dark.

The crimes of Saddam

With all due respect to the 158 victims of Al-Dujail - where an assassination attempt was made against Saddam -- and their families, this incident was minor when compared to the other major atrocities committed during Saddam's era and supported by the U.S.,

These atrocities included the War on Iran (and the U.S. military support), the dirty political deals (like giving the green light to Saddam's attack on Kuwait and the following written permission to the Iraqi government in Safwan to crush the southern revolution in 1991). They also included the chemical weapons sold to Iraq (like the ones used against Iran on the war fronts, and Iraqi Kurds in the north of Iraq). And there were many more political and economical secret deals and crimes against Iraqis and other people in the region.

There are many people, like Mr. Tareq Aziz, the former Iraqi Vice President and Prime Minister, who are still asking to testify in cases related to Al-Dujail and Al-Anfal (the attacks against Kurds). Aziz said that he has information that will "embarrass many people inside and outside Iraq". But there were people were denied the chance to let us all know the truth, because this truth is not convenient to the Bush administration.

Saddam indeed was a brutal dictator.

The fact that atrocities worse than those caused by him are now going on during the occupation, should make the Bush administration feel ashamed that they have made Saddam's brutal dictatorship look like a walk in the park.

What happens next

Iraqis don't miss Saddam, but they miss their national government that was inherited by the Baath regime and was destroyed under this occupation.

Saddam's life or death is irrelevant to the current Iraqi situation. Iraqis are fighting to hold their country together and get it back from the foreign occupiers. Saddam's recent trial and imminent execution are nothing more than evidence of how foreign interventions to change political regimes will destroy entire countries and split entire nations. The current situation in Iraq is a good indicator for how Iran and Syria, or other countries, would look if the U.S. administration went ahead and interfered and changed their political regimes.

Iraqis were besieged by more than eight revolutions and coup d'états since the end of the British occupation in 1921. Yet, none of those events destroyed Iraq the way the current U.S.-led occupation has and continues to.

These devastating events, the senseless deaths and political skulduggery, and the annihilation of an independent state have proven that Iraqis are the only ones who have the capability, and the right, to change their political regime without destroying their country.

The only way a certain regime can be changed, or enhanced, without destroying the rest of the country is when the change comes from within; when the people are given the chance to change their own regimes by themselves. Otherwise, we'll end up having other Iraqs around the region and the rest of the world.


Written in collaboration with Jennifer Hicks

posted by Steve @ 12:47:00 AM

12:47:00 AM

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Friday, December 29, 2006

The worst year ever

Iraqi politicians performing for US officials

Riverbend has something to say

Friday, December 29, 2006

End of Another Year...
You know your country is in trouble when:

1.The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.

2.Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.

3.The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.

4.The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your

5.An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.

6.Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.

7.For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.

8.Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.

9.People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.

A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.

2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I'm certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.

Al Qaeda? That's laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.

Again, I can't help but ask myself why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along? My head aches just posing the questions.

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).

That is, of course, why Talbani doesn't want to sign his death penalty- not because the mob man suddenly grew a conscience, but because he doesn't want to be the one who does the hanging- he won't be able to travel far away enough if he does that.

Maliki's government couldn't contain their glee. They announced the ratification of the execution order before the actual court did. A few nights ago, some American news program interviewed Maliki's bureau chief, Basim Al-Hassani who was speaking in accented American English about the upcoming execution like it was a carnival he'd be attending. He sat, looking sleazy and not a little bit ridiculous, his dialogue interspersed with 'gonna', 'gotta' and 'wanna'... Which happens, I suppose, when the only people you mix with are American soldiers.

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?

posted by Steve @ 10:59:00 PM

10:59:00 PM

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The execution of the Czar

The execution site of the Czar and his family


he provisional Russian government at first kept Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children confined in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, 15 miles south of St. Petersburg. Attempting to remove them from the vicinity of the capital and so from possible harm, the Kerensky government moved them east to Tobolsk, in Siberia in August 1917. They remained there through the Bolshevik October Revolution in November 1917, but were then moved to Red Army and Bolshevik-controlled Yekaterinburg. The Emperor and his family, including Botkin, Kharitonov and Trupp were executed at 2:33 A.M. on the morning of July 17, 1918. According to Yurovsky he read to Nicholas a letter from the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet saying:

In view of the fact that your relatives continue their offensive against Soviet Russia, the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet has decided to sentence you to death.

According to Yurovsky, Nicholas II cried:

Lord, oh my God! Oh my God! What is this? I can't understand you.

The bodies were disposed in a truck which Yurovsky ordered at midnight and taken to the forest to be disposed. The execution was covered up as a disappearance for a while. Soon after, the Bolsheviks announced that only Nicholas had been shot, but that the members of his family had been spirited away to another place. Most reports showed that they had all been executed by a detachment of Bolsheviks led by Yakov Yurovsky, a watchmaker from Perm. Other witnesses swore to have seen the Empress and her daughters in Perm. King Alfonso XIII of Spain negotiated with the new Soviet government interceding for the remaining members of the family that he thought alive.

Then in 1989, Yakov Yurovsky's own report was published, which seemed to show conclusively what had happened that night. The execution took place as units of the Czechoslovak Legion, making their retreat out of Russia, approached Yekaterinburg. Fearing that the Legion would take the town and free him, the Emperor's Bolshevik jailers pursued the immediate liquidation of the Imperial Family, arguing that there was "no turning back." [2] The telegram giving the order on behalf of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow was signed by Jacob Sverdlov, after whom the town was subsequently renamed. Nicholas was the first to die. He was executed with multiple bullets to the head and chest.

The bodies of Nicholas and his family, after being soaked in acid and burned, were long believed to have been disposed of down a mineshaft at a site called the Four Brothers. Initially, this was true — they had indeed been disposed of there on the night of July 17. The following morning — when rumors spread in Yekaterinburg regarding the disposal site — Yurovsky removed the bodies and concealed them elsewhere. When the vehicle carrying the bodies broke down on the way to the next chosen site, Yurovsky made new arrangements, and buried most of the bodies in a sealed and concealed pit on Koptyaki Road, a cart track (now abandoned) 12 miles north of Yekaterinburg. Their remains were later found in 1991 and reburied by the Russian government following a state funeral. The process to identify the remains was exhaustive. Samples were sent to Britain and the United States for DNA testing. The tests concluded that five of the skeletons were members of one family and four were unrelated. Three of the five were determined to be the children of two parents. The mother was linked to the British royal family, as was Alexandra. The father was determined to be related to Grand Duke George Alexandrovich. British scientists said they were more than 98.5% sure that the remains were those of the Emperor, his family and their attendants. Relics from the Otsu Scandal (a failed assassination attempt on Tsesarevich Nicholas (future Nicholas II) in Japan) provided enough blood stains to make a negative identification possible.

A ceremony of Christian Burial was held in 1998, and the bodies were laid to rest with State honors in a special chapel in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

Weak governments kill their enemies

posted by Steve @ 12:34:00 PM

12:34:00 PM

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2007: the last year in Iraq

I will crush the Mahdi Army

Joe Lieberman has an op-ed in The Washington Post which is so filled with lies and errors that it is impossible to correct.

What he calls extremists led by Iran are the people who met with Bush this month, they're known as the Badr Organization. There are no moderates in power, no democrats. Just Hakim, Sadr and Sunni guerrillas.

But in the end, this is our last year in Iraq.

What needs to be understood is that Iraq is in a civil war and the Sadrists are winning. Any US attempt to attack them not only could undermine any effort against Al Qaeda in Iraq, but place our supply lines in peril, starving and isolating our troops.

The Bush Administration has no plan for anything but doing the same. The idea of sending US troops into Sadr City should be called negligent homicide at it's best. People like Lieberman believe that if we just get to work, we can crush the bad guys. Well, the "bad guys" aren't just an army but a social movement and they have the loyalty of millions.

The inept recent attempt to isolate Sadr, kind of like trying to work past the IRA in 1919, failed before it started. Sistani said no dice. He may not like Sadr, but he likes the Americans even less, and Hakim showed his true colors sucking up to Bush. Which means he's for sale. He may have his Army formations, but I would bet when push comes to shove most of his guys would be loyal to Sayyid Sadr. Why? Because when the Sunni death squads came, it was the Mahdi Army who showed up to save their families.

Lieberman thinks we can win this war by relying on "moderates". You mean people who live in London? Because the people running things in Iraq are pretty firm on their views of the world. The fact is that this is our last year in Iraq, and Bush would do well to be in the Oval Office a year from now.

The US Army is close to collapse. Four tours borders on being assigned to punishment battalions. How many times can you send a man to die and expect him to come home alive? What happens to his family, his life? Not much except a divorce and years of counselling. Recruiters are now telling the most ridiculous lies to teenagers to get them to the Sandbox.

The 109th Congress may be the worst Congress in American history. And that would take some doing. They failed their reposnibilties as a legislative body to find out the truth of our war in Iraq. They chose party over duty at every turn.

The 110th Congress will do no such thing. Just asking basic questions about the conduct of the war will expose it's failure.

While Lieberman thinks our army is made up of automations, the reality is that it is crumbling before our eyes. How many men have gone UA? How many are in Canada now? We don't know and the Army doesn't want to find out. How many men have been chaptered out after a combat tour or two?

The destruction of the Army is slow, but visible. Death penalty murder trials, declining enlistment rates, divorce rates climbing. Reporters are just now asking these questions. What happens next. When is some happy talk colonel embarassed because his grunts have to gun down Iraqi soldiers drawing down on them or refuse one more pointless patrol.

We're coming fast towards 1970 and the Army which stopped fighting. Humans can only take so much. The people who have enlisted have gone above and beyond what is expected of them. But that cannot continue. Bush's war will come to an end. When is no longer the issue. The only question is how.

posted by Steve @ 11:05:00 AM

11:05:00 AM

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New Orleans officers indicted for murder

Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

New Orleans police officers face charges
The Danziger Bridge shooting incident, six days after Hurricane Katrina, left 2 dead and 4 seriously wounded.
By Miguel Bustillo, Times Staff Writer
December 29, 2006

HOUSTON — A grand jury on Thursday indicted seven New Orleans police officers on murder and attempted murder charges for their role in a chaotic post-Katrina shooting that left two dead, including a mentally disabled man.

The criminal charges against the officers, who had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the New Orleans Police Department, come after widespread public criticism of what has become known as the Danziger Bridge incident. The police shootings have, for many in the city, come to symbolize the lawlessness and disorder that marked the days after the hurricane.

"We cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens without justification like rabid dogs," Orleans Parish Dist. Atty. Eddie J. Jordan Jr. said in a statement Thursday. "The rules governing the use of lethal force are not suspended during a state of emergency. Everyone, including police officers, must abide by the law of the land."

Six days after Katrina hit New Orleans, police on Sept. 4, 2005, commandeered a truck and responded to what they initially reported as two officers down during an armed attack on the Danziger Bridge linking the Gentilly and New Orleans East neighborhoods.

In the fusillade that followed, Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man who had refused to leave his dogs during the storm, and James Brissette, 19, were killed. Four others were seriously wounded.

From the outset, the shooting's survivors have said that they were simply crossing the bridge and ran in panic only after a pack of men they thought were criminals opened fire for no apparent reason.

Follow-up media reports found that no officers had been wounded prior to the gunfire that killed Madison and Brissette, casting doubt on the officers' version of events, which was backed by the department. An autopsy found that Madison was shot in the back several times, contradicting a sergeant's claims that the man, who had no prior criminal record, had come toward the officers and reached into his waistband before being shot.

In response to public criticism, Jordan convened a special grand jury to examine evidence in the case. On Thursday, it indicted two sergeants, Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius, and two officers, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, on first-degree murder charges in Brissette's death. Faulcon also was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Madison. The charges carry a potential death sentence.
Will the Queens DA have the ability to make a similar decision?

posted by Steve @ 10:57:00 AM

10:57:00 AM

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The Winners of 2006

Ok, in no particular order

You Tube Not only did they sell out to Google before the lawsuits, it became a clever subversive tool to send video around the world. You could track campaigns because they could upload their ads.

Sasha Baron Cohen-Borat was probably the slickest auteur act since Kevin Smith made Clerks. Not only is the movie incredibly funny, but he made his movie, his way and made fans along the way. It also is a brutal expose of racism in America without the preaching of American filmmakers.

Morgan Spurlock- 30 Days was in some ways much better than Super Size Me, it proved that he was more than a one trick pony. Seeing people trying to live on minimum wage is compelling TV.

Ned Lamont-No, he didn't win, but he proved you could run and run hard, and people tend to forget thatls possible

Jon Stewart-At some point, maybe when he was interviewing Ted Koppel, the Daily Show crossed the last line between parody and news. Yeah, they still write jokes and we still laugh, but it has, in effect replaced Nightline for informed commentary. Stewart is my kind of guy, a no-bullshit, straight up questioner. He will not be subtle if he dislikes you or think you an idiot. Tucker Carlson and Bob Novak are still shocked that he really holds them in contempt, no bullshit, actual contempt.

Stephen Colbert-When he got on the stage at the White House Correspondent's Dinner, they thought he was going to do one of those house nigger comedy routines comics like to do for the famous. Instead, he came out like a ninja, subtle, deadly and by the time he was finished, it was the verbal equivilent of the end of Kill Bill pt 1, blood and bodies everywhere. And at the end, Colbert walked off as if he had gone for a drink.

The two men are a very effective team. Stewart comes out swinging, when he finishes, you know you've had your ass kicked. With Colbert, he's standing on you before you realize what happened. But the result is the same. You got beat

Keith Olbermann-He was famous before Stewart had a regular job. Aaron Sorkin had based a character on him on his show Sportsnite. He was renowned for being a pain in the ass around the industry. Most of his employers were glad to see the back of him at some point.

But his real problem is that he's smart, maybe too smart. He can smell the bullshit and then calls it. And that does not make you a hero with bosses. His last boss, Rick Kaplan, freaked when he went on his anti-smoking jihad after the death of Peter Jennings. If he could have, he would have consigned him to ESPN radio with Dan Patrick, his long time partner in crime. Replacing him with Dan Abrams gave Olbermann needed support while consigning Rita Crosby into the outer pits of hell.

But, you can say two things about him, he is loyal to his crew, and he has balls. Maybe when he realized he wasn't going to be a network anchor, or maybe when he got the freedom to do what he wanted, something in him clicked. He stopped playing the game and invented his own.

Which mean he had the freedom to go after that pompous asshole Bill O'Reilly. At every turn, he fucks with him and does it for real. And unlike Terry Gross, he can't be bullied. At well over 6 feet, if O'Reilly had the balls to step to him, he would get his ass kicked. Instead, he runs like the bitch he is.

It wasn't that he did commentaries, but that he was informed. He mixed anger and information with outrage. There's always a risk of staging them, doing them for effect, feeling forced, but the one he did on 9/11 meant the most to me, because it was something only a New Yorker could say and could understand. Those buildings and the people in them were real, as real as grass and rain. Not too many people got that. He did.

Kirsten Gillibrand- Few candidates deserved to win more than she did. John Sweeney was an arrogant clown who thought he could bully newspapers. Instead, a candidate who might actually work for her district and not drink with frat boys will now serve them

Joe Sestak- Well, he was the candidate who deserved to win even more. Curt Weldon was scum and may well be a crook. He attacked Sestak's sick five year old daughter. He deserved to lose. Badly. And he did.

Bob Menendez- They called him a crook when he wasn't. Even some inside the Democratic party wanted the seat held by someone different (white). But he ran hard and ran that prick Kean down like the dog he was.

Matt Stoller-Most of you don't know Matt, or have heard of him obliquely or through the mail list which does not exist, but let me tell you something, while the media calls Atrios and Kos, it's Matt Stoller doing the day in, day out work which makes a lot of what happens online possible. Matt's blog, MyDD, is the center of a lot of what happens online without people noticing it.

Juan Melli and CT Blogger-They do the dirty work of local and state poliitcs, which will never lead to glory or riches, but is needed because if you think federal government has problems.....these guys are heroes to me

Amanda Marcotte-There are a lot of female bloggers, there are a lot of good writers, but Amanda doesn't get credit for walking into Pandagon when Jesse Taylor went off to work for Ted Strickland. It's hard to take over someone else's idea and make it your own. She's got that forthright, honest, funny voice which needs to be heard more often and given more credit.

Mike Stark-I know his antics embarassed some of you. Y'all need a cup of shut the fuck up. Because he did what needed to be done, and what the Webb campaign hadn't the balls to do. He exposed a sitting US senator as a loon and put everything he had in it. And will get no reward, little praise. But he's the kind of citizen we need when facing someone as nuts as George Allen. He's a hero to me, because he decided to challenge a US senator with questions and words.
And that takes balls.

Howard Dean-Karl Rove would still be bossing around Denny Hastert if it wasn't for Dean. He went to 50 states and got people elected.

What was his reward? Jim Carville's insane rant calling for his firing. Something no one else thought made sense, but he spewed it out.

Howard Dean is bringing back the Democratic party to the people who elected it. And some people in Washington don't like that.

For helping return both Houses of Congress to the Democratic Party,

You sir, are the winner of the year.

posted by Steve @ 3:05:00 AM

3:05:00 AM

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What Black Men Think PSA

This is a PSA for an upcoming film. I find it rather interesting

posted by Steve @ 2:27:00 AM

2:27:00 AM

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A proper sendoff

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

James Brown going home to the Apoll0

A Loud, Proud Send-Off for an Icon of Soul

Published: December 29, 2006

James Brown gave one last show in Harlem yesterday, three days after his death, in a golden coffin lined with white velvet, on the flower-bedecked stage of the famed Apollo Theater, before a crowd of thousands who had lined up for blocks to see him.

Thousands of fans and mourners — some singing and dancing, some crying and praying — gathered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to pay respects to James Brown.

A white carriage drawn by two white Percheron horses carried the Brown's coffin to the Apollo Theater.

Mr. Brown’s body arrived beneath the Apollo’s red-neon sign just before 1 p.m. in a white-painted carriage pulled by two white horses with feathery plumes atop their heads. The carriage was small, with tall windows and white curtains with silver fringe. Two solemn men sat atop it, guiding the horses, and Mr. Brown’s friends and associates and Harlem dignitaries walked alongside and behind it.

Hundreds who lined 125th Street outside the theater on a chilly, overcast afternoon cheered and applauded. Helicopters hovered. Photographers aimed their cameras from the surrounding rooftops. A guy hawked commemorative T-shirts for $10. Mr. Brown’s cries and exultations filled the street, blaring from one of his concert videos playing on a beat-up television mounted above a sign for Uptown Tattoos. A chant rose up: “James Brown! James Brown! James Brown!”

When the theater’s doors finally opened, people began streaming in for a public viewing. They walked up a few stairs and stepped onto the red-carpeted stage, where Mr. Brown’s body lay in an open coffin, washed in white and gold stage lights. The coffin was made of 16-gauge steel with a gold paint finish. Mr. Brown was wearing a cobalt, sequined satin suit with white gloves and pointed silvery shoes. Loudspeakers played his breakthrough album, “Live at the Apollo,” recorded Oct. 24, 1962.

Women wearing veils approached. A man in a suit dropped to his knees and crossed his heart. One couple broke into a brief dance. “Right now,” Mr. Brown said on the loudspeakers, in a snippet of between-song banter, “I’m going to get up and do my thing.”

Mr. Brown did his thing yesterday: he put on a show. Throughout the day, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, formed two lines on 125th Street outside the Apollo, one to its east and one to its west, each one filling up 125th Street, reaching the corner and then stretching for blocks up Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, forming a giant U. Some had been waiting since midnight Wednesday.

“We’re sending him out in the style he lived,” said Nellie Williams, 58, of Greer, S.C., who stood near the front of one line. “He was a man that had to be seen and heard.” She brought her daughter, and a copy of an oil painting her brother did of Mr. Brown, his pompadour perfectly teased, his shirt open, his smile wide. “I want to show my last respects for his last show in New York,” Ms. Williams added.

Mr. Brown, 73, died of congestive heart failure early Monday in Atlanta. He was remembered, during a private ceremony for family and friends at the Apollo, and amid the lines of fans standing outside for the public viewing, as a singer, dancer, bandleader, funk pioneer, entrepreneur, black-pride icon and entertainer who many said transformed American pop music and African-American culture.

They closed the doors at 9:30 and had to turn people away. Thousands of people viewed the body.

He was beloved, despite his antics, the drugs, the wives. No words meant more to Harlem than James Brown live at the Apollo.

posted by Steve @ 2:23:00 AM

2:23:00 AM

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Saddam to be murdered this weekend

U.S. Is Told Hussein Hanging Seems Imminent

Published: December 29, 2006

BAGHDAD, Dec. 28 — Preparations for the execution of Saddam Hussein began taking on a sense of urgency late Thursday as American and Iraqi officials suggested that he could be hanged within a span of days rather than weeks.

After upholding the death sentence against Mr. Hussein on Tuesday for the execution of 148 Shiite men and boys in 1982, an Iraqi appeals court ruled that he must be sent to the gallows within 30 days. But Mr. Hussein may not have even that long to live, officials said.

A senior administration official said that the execution would probably not take place in the next 24 hours, but that the timing would be swift. “It may be another day or so,” the official said.

Another senior administration official said later Thursday night that Iraqi officials had told the White House to expect the execution on Saturday, Baghdad time.

In Iraq, where the Constitution requires that the Iraqi president and his two deputies sign all execution orders, officials said it was unlikely that legal formalities would stand in the way. The president, Jalal Talabani, had not received the documents by late Thursday.

But a government official familiar with the process said that little objection would be raised if the execution took place almost immediately. “Even if it happens tonight, no one is going to make an issue out of the procedure,” the official said.

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser, said there would be no advance notice of the execution because of fears that any announcement could set off violence. When asked who would be invited to attend the hanging, Mr. Rubaie said: “No television. No press. Nothing.”

He said that the execution would be videotaped but that it was unlikely the tape would be released.

Even with the security fears, there was little appetite among Iraqi officialdom to spare Mr. Hussein for much longer. “I hope the decision should be implemented very soon,” said Qasim Daoud, a former national security adviser. “Sooner is better because it sends a message that we are determined — we want to get ahead step by step to building a new Iraq, and these messages will help.”

So, after a flawed legal process, they plan to murder him in secret.

How......night and fogish.

If they're men enough to murder him, murder him before the world. If you think hanging is justice, why hide it?

This is revenge, pure and simple. Saddam may well deserve it, but don't insult us by calling it justice. A trial in the Green Zone is little better than one in Gitmo.

If you want to prove a man evil, you must use justice to do so, not a hanging in the night. This should have been in Europe, without the fear in Iraq, and he should be in UN custody, as befitting his many crimes. With the evidence before the world, in a process which could be trusted by everyone. Where the victims could testify without fear and the documents available to everyone.

Bush may celebrate this, but this is murder, pure and simple.

posted by Steve @ 2:12:00 AM

2:12:00 AM

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Rumsfeld and the American Way of War

by Gabriel Kolko

Rumsfeld: "Shock and Awe"

Rumsfeld is one of the most articulate advocates of the two major wars the U.S. has embarked upon since 2000, and he had earlier made it plain to George Bush when he took office as Secretary of Defense that he would be "forward-leaning." September 11 was an opportunity to realize dreams of heroism and success. He and Vice-president Dick Cheney are soul mates, their careers have been intertwined, but Cheney seeks to keep out of the limelight and Rumsfeld adored the publicity that his cleverness attracted. He is best known for his desire to make the military both meaner and leaner, relying on high tech rather than manpower, and "shock and awe" became his slogan. But to do so, national defense spending, which had been stable in the 1990s, increased from $294 billion in 2000 to $536 billion in 2006, and as a percentage of the GNP it grew 37 percent from 2000 to 2006. All kinds of weapons, many the futuristic products of junk science concocted by well-placed manufacturers, were funded for eventual production – a dozen years being a short delivery time for many of them.

Rumsfeld's military dream was technology-intensive, even more now than 40 years ago, and it failed abysmally in Iraq. Army manpower, however, was reduced and it was left unprepared in countless domains, under-funded and overstretched even before the Iraq war began. Since then its "readiness" in terms of available troops and equipment has only fallen precipitously. And while Rumsfeld made the Army his enemy, even the Air Force now has to cut manpower to raise funds for new equipment.

He always premised his ambition, which various defense secretaries had attempted before him and failed, on the notion that the secret of military success was better and more weapons – "more bang for the buck" as an illustrious predecessor phrased it. More bucks also made the Pentagon requests that much more palatable to a pork-hungry Congress eager to increase spending in their districts. Politics and complex diplomacy never interested people like Rumsfeld, even after the abysmal failure of the Vietnam War. Delivering bad news, which meant serious assessments, was the best way not to advance in the hierarchy, and careerism was crucial to what people said. The name of the game was the game.

In both Afghanistan and Iraq he learned that realities were far more complex and he managed to shock and awe himself and the neoconservatives who shared his naïve assumptions. Reliance on high tech did not prevent warfare from becoming protracted, and it guaranteed that it would become far more costly. Both wars produced stalemates that have become the preludes to American defeats now staring the Bush administration in the face.

Rumsfeld showed at various times that in certain ways he was a person of superior intelligence notwithstanding the basically erroneous premises of the military system he led and the imperatives of ambition that demanded he share them. But like his peers, he learned far too slowly. He suffered from the typical contradiction between intelligence and ambition, and the latter requires an ideology and assumptions which most men-of-power come to believe. He admitted in a confidential memo in October 2003 that "we lack the metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror"; even then key members of the Bush Administration were far less confident of what they are doing.

His November 6, 2006 memo on the Iraq war admitted that "what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough." There are some anodynes he advocated too, but it was rightly interpreted as his concession to the Baker-Hamilton panel view, which is the voice of the traditional foreign policy Establishment, that the Iraq war was going disastrously – in effect, was being lost. Since then, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has declared there is a civil war raging in Iraq and there should be a drawdown of American troops, to begin by the middle of next year – a step that even Rumsfeld favored with modest withdrawals that would compel the Iraqis "to pull up their socks."

Rumsfeld and his peers know the American military cannot win the war in Iraq. Just as during the Vietnam war, they have the quixotic hope that a solution for the profound and bloody turmoil that reigns there can be found politically – at first the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds were to have parliamentary elections and then make a political deal. They did not. Then they were to write a constitution, which they eventually managed to do but it changed nothing. Now they are hoping that the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, can miraculously cobble together some kind of consensus that will produce peace, but Bush's closest advisers think it is very likely he will fail. They have no one else to turn to. Politics, like military power, will not prevent the United States from losing control over events in Iraq – thereby losing the war. A "surge" in American troops in Iraq, as even the Joint Chiefs of Staff now argues, is only a recipe for greater disasters. Attacks against U.S. coalition forces, their Iraqi dependents, and civilians have now reached a peak and are over twice that two years ago. The Bush Administration today confronts disaster in Iraq, and probably the worst foreign policy failure in American history. Futility is the hallmark of all its efforts


posted by Steve @ 1:33:00 AM

1:33:00 AM

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