September 29, 2007 archive

Juan Williams’ Pathetic Attempt To Curb Criticism of O’Reilly

Time magazine gives space to Juan Williams to attempt to shut down criticism of Bill O'Reilly. Jaun Williams, like O'Reilly, is an employee of Fox News. Williams writes two things that struck me as pathetic and ridiculous. The first:

That twisted assumption led me to say publicly that the attacks on O'Reilly amounted to an effort to take what he said totally out of context in an attempt to brand him a racist by a liberal group that disagrees with much of his politics.

Um, so Juan, you feel comfortable smearing poeple while at the same time taking umbrage that you were smeared by ONE commentator on CNN?

But the out-of-context attacks on O'Reilly picked up speed and ended up on CNN, where one commentator branded me a “Happy Negro” for allowing O'Reilly to get by with making racist comments without objection.

Well, shame on that commenter Juan, but shame on you for smearing people yourself. For smearing people like Eugene Robinson:

ROBINSON: Well, you know I'm not going to go inside of Bill O'Reilly's head — you know, is he racist, what does he know? You know, all I know is that it was, at best, a casually racist remark. But you know, what really ticks me off is that when you say that, when you point that out, you know, immediately you get charged by O'Reilly and cohorts with, you know, you're the thought police, you're the thought Gestapo, you're the word Nazis, you're interfering with free speech, and somehow cutting off an honest debate about race. . . .

And for the record Juan, Eugene Robinson is  a black man too. I wonder if Time will give him a chance to respond to your smears.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. When George W. Bush decided to go after Iraq’s oil rather than finish the job in Afghanistan, I wonder if he thought he would see this headline, Afghan president offers to meet Taliban leader, in the Los Angeles Times four years later? Heckuva screw-up, George. “President Hamid Karzai, expressing horror at a suicide bombing here in the Afghan capital that killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens more, offered today to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to stop the carnage. Karzai spoke at an emotional news conference hours after an early morning blast tore through a bus carrying soldiers to their posts.”

    Saturday’s appeal, aimed directly at fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, carried more raw urgency than the U.S.-backed president’s previous overtures.

    “If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me — I’ll personally go there and get in touch with them,” Karzai told reporters at his presidential palace.

    Apparently paraphrasing the question he would put to them, he asked: “‘Esteemed mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?’ “

    There is more on the Kabul suicide attack in the Washington Post, suicide bomb attack kills dozens in Kabul. “The massive explosion, one of the largest suicide attacks in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion almost six years ago, ripped through the roof and sides of the bus, leaving it an unrecognizable chunk of twisted and charred metal. The blast broke shop windows up to a block away and scattered splinters of glass, chunks of flesh and chards of metal for hundreds of yards… ¶ The 6:45 a.m. blast in the central Kabul neighborhood of Baharistan could be heard for miles in a city that was just waking up… The explosion occurred in front of a large movie theater, at a place where Afghan soldiers gather every morning to be picked up by a bus that takes them to their jobs, army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said in a telephone interview. He said the bomber, apparently wearing an explosive vest, boarded the bus at the stop dressed in a regular Afghan army uniform and blew himself up almost immediately.”

    The explosion comes on days after NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Dan McNeill expressed doubts the Taliban was ever defeated by the American invasion and said he didn’t have enough troops to hold captured ground. McNeill told the BBC that he expected the Taliban will recapture territory this winter. With the United States’ attention not diverted to Iraq, things in Afghanistan could have been different as this Washington Post story, A haven of prosperity in Afghan’s Panjshir valley suggests. “This is the way reconstruction in Afghanistan was supposed to be. A little bit of U.S. pump priming, combined with profit motive and human need, would be harnessed by a grateful, liberated population to transform their lives and country. In the process, the people would become loyal allies in the fight against terrorism. ¶ It hasn’t always worked that way. Instead, Afghanistan is besieged by a growing insurgency that is shifting U.S. money and manpower from reconstruction to security, undermining vital road, electricity, school and other projects that are designed to extend the authority of the national government and win hearts and minds.” The U.S. never secured Afghanistan and defeated al-Qaeda and the Taliban before going after Iraq’s oil. Now the Afghans and the West will be paying the price of the Madness of King George.

  2. I appears that early September’s propaganda surge by the White House and Gen. David Petraeus could not withstand reality for even a month. The Los Angeles Times reports, Petraeus acknowledges rise in Iraq violence. “Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, acknowledged today that violence had increased since Sunni Arab militants declared an offensive during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. ¶ ‘Certainly Al Qaeda has had its Ramadan surge,’ Petraeus said in his first comments to reporters since he returned from Washington to give lawmakers a status report on the war in Iraq. But he said the level of attacks was ‘substantially lower’ than during the same period last year.” Right… Petraeus “saw no need to revise the projections he presented to Congress” regarding the planned-since-the-Spring troop withdrawal due.

    After years of war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, their is finally recognition that the troops face a serious threat from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Washington Post reports they are ‘The single most effective weapon against our deployed forces’. The first IED attack was on the morning of March 29, 2003, over a month before George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” day. “Since that first fatal detonation of what is now known as an improvised explosive device, more than 81,000 IED attacks have occurred in Iraq, including 25,000 so far this year, according to U.S. military sources. The war has indeed metastasized into something ‘completely different,’ a conflict in which the roadside bomb in its many variants — including ‘suicide, vehicle-borne’ — has become the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan… ¶ IEDs have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces. To the extent that the United States is not winning militarily in Iraq, the roadside bomb, which as of yesterday had killed or wounded 21,071 Americans, is both a proximate cause and a metaphor for the miscalculation and improvisation that have characterized the war… ¶ Despite nearly $10 billion spent in the past four years by the department’s main IED-fighting agency, with an additional $4.5 billion budgeted for fiscal 2008, the IED remains ‘the single most effective weapon against our deployed forces,’ as the Pentagon acknowledged this year… ¶ In Afghanistan, although IED attacks remain a small fraction of those in Iraq, the figures also have soared: from 22 in 2002 and 83 in 2003, to 1,730 in 2006 and a thousand in the first half of this year. Suicide attacks have become especially pernicious, climbing to 123 last year, according to a United Nations study, a figure that continues to grow this year, with 22 in May alone.” I think it can be argued that the Taliban learned IED tactics from observing their deadly effectiveness in Iraq.

  3. The scrutiny on Blackwater USA by the traditional media thankfully continues.

    • The AP reports that five Blackwater incidents in question. “Five cases this year in which private Blackwater USA security guards killed Iraqi civilians are at the core of a U.S. review of how the hired protection forces guard diplomats in Iraq, officials said Friday. Iraqi authorities are also concerned about a sixth incident in which Blackwater guards allegedly threw frozen bottles of water at civilian cars, breaking windshields. No one was killed.” Only five or six? Come on, they’re barely looking.

    • MSNBC’s Richard Engel reports on Blackwater’s Ugly Americans. “They are becoming the poster boys for excess. A new ‘photo cartoon’ circulating in Baghdad among security contractors and some U.S. soldiers – and the laughter it’s generating here – speaks for itself.” Engel reports that “a picture is emerging” of the September 16th Nisour Square massacre. “Two American sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity have told me that during the incident at least one Blackwater guard ordered his colleague to ‘stop shooting.’ The guard went so far as to draw a weapon to try to force him to stop. ‘It was a Mexican standoff,’ a contractor said.” Engel writes:

      I met Mohammed Abu Razak today. He’s a well-spoken automotive parts importer, who survived the Sept. 16 incident. His 10-year-old son Ali did not.

      Ali was in the seat behind Abu Razak when a bullet hit him in the head, shattering his skull. Abu Razak picked up the pieces of his son’s skull and brain with his hands, wrapped the boy in a cloth and buried him in Najaf.

      “I can still smell the blood, my son’s blood, on my fingers,” he told me, looking down at his hands, fingers spread wide.

      Razak gave NBC News cell phone video (available here) he took shortly after the shooting. “Abu Razak says the shaky video proves that Blackwater did not fire with directed shots at clearly defined targets – the standard of military professionals – but shot multiple times at unarmed civilians cars like his.” The horror no father, no parent should ever have to face. The murder of their child. Congress needs to outlaw Blackwater and the rest of these mercenaries immediately. The murdered must be brought to justice and held accountable.

    • The Washington Post reports more on Krongard intimidation threats in State Department agents say their jobs were threatened. “Two career investigators in the office of State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard have charged that they were threatened with firing if they cooperated with a congressional probe of Krongard and his office. ¶ Told by Terry P. Heide, Krongard’s congressional liaison, that he should not agree to a request for a ‘voluntary’ interview by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Special Agent Ron Militana said he was then advised that reprisals could be taken against him. ‘Howard can fire you,’ he said Heide told him. ‘It would affect your ability to get another job.'” “In recent weeks, the agents relayed their concerns about Krongard to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the oversight panel. Waxman has said he is investigating allegations that Krongard has repeatedly thwarted investigations into alleged contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, including construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and weapons smuggling allegations against Blackwater USA, a private security firm working under government contract in Iraq… ¶ In a letter, Waxman “included an internal e-mail that indicated Krongard had intervened to stop his office from cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into alleged arms smuggling by Blackwater. In a North Carolina case, two Blackwater employees have pleaded guilty to weapons charges and are cooperating with Justice officials.”

    • A bit more on the cancelled Blackwater real estate deal in North Carolina first covered in yesterday’s Four at Four. The News and Observer reports Amid uproar, Blackwater stops land deal. Blackwater “canceled a $5.5 million real estate deal to buy 1,800 acres of farmland near Fort Bragg”. The real estate deal was initiated by another company. “TigerSwan wanted to set up a training center near Fort Bragg with firing ranges, Miller said. TigerSwan planned to train soldiers from Fort Bragg, as well as corporate executives from Research Triangle Park and elsewhere.” The seller, Wayne Miller, president of Southern Produce Distributors, “said he was impressed with [TigerSwan President Jim] Reese and his project but wanted to know whether TigerSwan could finance such a land purchase… ¶ Miller said he had a hunch that Blackwater was backing the deal. When he asked, Reese confirmed it.” The contract allowed Blackwater to backout of the sale through September 27. What I am really curious about are these corporate executives that are being trained by Blackwater. If that doesn’t smack of class warfare, then I don’t know what would. (Hat tip Anglico.)

  4. Finally, a story about how the Bush administration’s weak U.S. dollar and the stupidity of ethanol impacts America’s ability to provide foreign aid. Celia Dugger of The New York Times reports that as prices soar, U.S. food aid buys less. “Soaring food prices, driven in part by demand for ethanol made from corn, have helped slash the amount of food aid the government buys to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year. ¶ The United States, the world’s dominant donor, has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture… ¶ Corn prices have fallen in recent months, but are still far higher than they were a year ago. Demand for ethanol has also indirectly driven the rising price of soybeans, as land that had been planted with soybeans shifted to corn. And wheat prices have skyrocketed, in large part because drought hurt production in Australia, a major producer, economists say. ¶ The higher food prices have not only reduced the amount of American food aid for the hungry, but are also making it harder for the poorest people to buy food for themselves, economists and advocates for the hungry say.” The New York Times also reports that ethanol’s boom is stalling as supply glut depresses price. “The ethanol boom of recent years — which spurred a frenzy of distillery construction, record corn prices, rising food prices and hopes of a new future for rural America — may be fading… ¶ Companies and farm cooperatives have built so many distilleries so quickly that the ethanol market is suddenly plagued by a glut, in part because the means to distribute it has not kept pace. The average national ethanol price on the spot market has plunged 30 percent since May, with the decline escalating sharply in the last few weeks.” So not enough food, but too much ethanol. Also keep in mind the story Spiegel ran earlier in the week — Biofuels ‘Emit More Greenhouse Gases than Fossil Fuels’.

So, what else is happening?

On Becoming Way Too Fucking Serious

I HATE it when that happens!

In the timeline of the Universe which stretches out for billions of years of planets and stars and such….the existence of we as humans Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
is like unto fresh lemon custard.  We are n00bs. If we are lucky we will be converted into some sort of pie and be thrown at an advanced race of beings.

Preferably Vogons.

Yes we face serious problems and are at a critical point in our species’ history…but we do have to have a bit of perspective and not take ourselves TOO seriously. After all just about everyone who has ever had the bad luck to live on this ridiculous planet have had to face serious problems and were (in their perspective) at a critical point in our species’ history.



You say it’s your birthday…

Crossposted in Orange at Teacher’s Lounge

Best laid plans sometimes get derailed.  I know I had a topic somewhere I was planning to write about.  But stuff has been looming for the past couple of weeks and now it is past the looming stage.

So I’ve decided to start writing about it here.  Whenever I write more personal stuff at Teacher’s Lounge, reader participation is low.  Maybe that will be a blessing in disguise and I can get the diary I feel obligated to write done so I can post it tomorrow and it can be resoundingly ignored.  Or maybe this time I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Given the lesson of yesterday I’ll not count on the latter.

I’ve had this huge meeting (from my perspective) with the academic dean approaching over the past couple of weeks.  The purpose was an attempt to solicit some aid in trying to get my words published into book form.

“Phony Soldiers”

Via the Out Of Iraq Blogger Caucus, Alex, a “phony soldier”, at his site Army of Dude. A great post. Make sure you read it.

Seymour Hersh: Bush “has accepted ethnic cleansing”

Spiegel Online has a powerful and terrifying interview with legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the man who won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story of the My Lai massacre and cover-up, and more recently broke the story about the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison. The interview covers a lot of ground, so let’s just look at some key parts, and then you must go read it!

On Iran:

(I)t’s been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what (IAEA head Mohamed) ElBaradei and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA’s best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they’ve been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn’t enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.

As Hersh explains- and I love this phrasing:

We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we’ve had about 20 of them.

Yes- Godwin is a staple of American political life. Hersh points to Kruschev, Mao, Stalin, and Gadhafi, and now Ahmadinejad. Of course, we’re now on friendly terms with the apparent ex-Hitler, Gadhafi- if a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, Bush need not worry, because he appears to have no mind at all. 

Hersh also points out that Ahmadinejad is not actually in control, in Iran, so whatever rhetorical blather he blithers is not necessarily related to actual Iranian policies.

And then, there are these comforting words, about the real intent, behind Bush’s warmongering:

Pony Party: Local Grub Edition

In Memphis, pork is king. Not a friendly place to be a vegan although it is possible.

Memphians believe that they have the best barbecue and there are several places from which to chose and impress visitors. My personal favorites are
Neely’s a family owned and operated joint and the Bar-B-Que Shop also a family owned joint. I think the slaw is slightly better at Neely’s and the beans are slightly better at the Bar-B-Que shop. Both places routinely win best of when the local paper does food surveys. In Memphis, you put the slaw on the sandwich.

Doing it for Ourselves, 1.2: Water Conservation

When the well is dry, we know the worth of water. 
~Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746


There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed. 
~Mohandas K. Gandhi


We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. 
~Native American Proverb


Opie, you haven’t finished your milk.  We can’t put it back in the cow, you know. 
~Aunt Bee Taylor, The Andy Griffith Show


Water is the best of all things.  ~Pindar (C. 522-C. 438 B.C.), Olympian Odes


Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.  ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939

Pony Party: No Talent Edition

As I take a deep and sweeping inventory of myself in the prime middle of life I have come to realize there is an astonishingly long list of talents I lack.

Some deficiencies bother me more than others.

Despite being in the kitchen with my 85 year old grandmother many, many, times my roast beef still does not turn out as well as hers. It is good but not quite there yet. Heck, I even took notes once.

Dag… bon jour… hello

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Dag… bon jour… hello

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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