December 27, 2007 archive

Four at Four

In addition to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto near Islamabad, Pakistan, here’s some other news and the afternoon’s open thread.

  1. With the Iowa caucus just a week away, Reuters notes the obvious: U.S. presidential contenders scour Iowa for votes. While CNN predicts Edwards and McCain are positioned to shake up race. While, the Tribune’s Washington bureau notes that big white hunter Huckabee has a muzzle control problem. Out hunting pheasants, “at one point, Huckabee’s party turned toward a cluster of reporters and cameramen and, when they kicked up a pheasant, fired shotgun blasts over the group’s heads.” Huckabee is using the Cheney method.

    Meanwhile, Ghouliani is battling poll shrinkage and is going big and playing his 9/11 card. The Boston Globe reports Giuliani ad links World War II to 9/11. “The 60-second spot mixes video of Giuliani speaking and then speaking over images of American soldiers and homefront workers during the war and then firefighters at Ground Zero in New York. One is the famous photo of Marines planting the US flag on Iwo Jima and another of the flag raised over the rubble of the World Trade Center.”

    Disgusting and offensive, but he is not stopping there. Desperately trying to regain relevancy in the Republican primary, Giuliani was first to pounce on the Bhutto Assassination. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes, “The assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was only minutes old and details remained sketchy when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign issued a condemnation of terrorism writ large… Bhutto’s assassination could well work to Giuliani’s benefit because it may enable him to thrust himself back into the daily political conversation after steadily losing ground in the presidential campaign for weeks.”

  2. The Miami Herald reports Colombian hostage handover in the works. “Relatives of hostages held captive for more than five years by Colombian leftist rebels Thursday packed their bags to travel to neighboring Venezuela hoping to be reunited with their loved ones, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez prepared to send planes and helicopters to pick up the three hostages… A senior Venezuelan diplomat, Rodolfo Sánz, said that the handover would happen between Friday and Sunday… The release would also be a major diplomatic coup for Chávez, who has emerged as a key figure in the liberation process even after he was told by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to stay out of hostage negotiations a month ago.”

  3. The murders of musicians in Mexico continues. The Washington Post reports on The savage silencing of Mexico’s musicians. “Sergio Gómez, 34, was the latest of a dozen pop musicians to have been killed in the past year in Mexico. Nearly every one of the slayings bore the hallmarks of the drug cartel hitmen blamed for 4,000 deaths in the country in the past two years. But the savage murder of Sergio Gómez — one of Mexico’s hottest singers, a headliner whose band, K-Paz de la Sierra, commanded $100,000 a show, twice the rate of other top bands — was different. It has set off an unprecedented chain reaction in which at least half a dozen bands have canceled concert tours… Among music industry insiders, Sergio Gómez’s death and the previous killings are also forcing a quiet assessment of the influence drug trafficking kingpins wield over the business.”

  4. While people were distracted by Santa and the North Pole, The Guardian reports that at the South Pole, two Antarctic base staff evacuated after Christmas brawl. “Two men, one with a suspected broken jaw, have been airlifted from the Antarctic’s most remote research facility after an incident described as a ‘drunken Christmas punch-up’. The brawl happened at the US-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, located at the heart of the frozen continent… The injured man is an employee of Raytheon Polar Services, one of America’s largest defence contractors.” Defense contractors are everywhere!

About that “key ally in the WarOnTerror(TM)” thing…

The whole US/Pakistan relationship and history is pretty complex, to say the least.  Then again, so are the US/Afghanistan, US/Iran and US/Iraq relationships.  But none of the other countries (or nearly any other country) has been “touted” by Mister Bush and his neocon supporters as such a strong ally or key ally or friend in the WarOnTerror(TM) than Pakistan.

This, despite a certain volatile mix of apathy, extremism, military rule and nuclear weapons proliferation, some of the “highlights” including:

Pakistan also has a long relationship with the United States, although it is more of one that is based on convenience for the US.  We have alternately shunned and supported this country, although we have also supported its “enemies”.  It was one of only three countries who recognized the Taliban as legitimate before abruptly changing its mind after 9/11.

Pakistan’s leader seized power in a coup, and has, at times, suspended the Constitution, held positions as President and leader of the country’s military, looked the other way as terrorists set up in his country.  It had no ties to Saddam or to 9/11, however, it has been sympathetic to extremists that have caused death and destruction within the country – including against political leaders.  On the other hand, there were ties between the country and the Taliban in the months leading up to 9/11.

Pakistan’s population is not sympathetic to the United States; rather it is fairly hostile or apathetic at best.  Not only does the Taliban and al Qaeda have large membership in the country, but many of its citizens in certain regions had been harboring them and therefore letting them roam free – recently, its leader was less popular than bin Laden according to polls.  Last year, Musharraf said that he wouldn’t go after bin Laden if bin Laden agreed to live a peaceful citizen.

The country also has nuclear weapons, and was dangerously close to a nuclear conflict with its neighbor a few years ago.  The high level official in Pakistan’s government who was responsible for its nuclear weapons program (Khan) sold nuclear secrets to a number of other countries, and is basically a free citizen (not totally but certainly not being punished).  Most recently, it was uncovered that Musharraf really has no interest in cracking down on extremists and terrorist groups and was accused last year of looking the other way while the Taliban and al Qaeda were launching attacks over its border against US and NATO troops.  

Reactions to the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Accusations, riots, and political instability are among the immediate reactions to the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Here’s a roundup.

Talking Points Memo:

A longtime adviser and close friend of assassinated Pakistani ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto places blame for Bhutto’s death squarely on the shoulders of U.S.-supported dictator Pervez Musharraf.

After an October attack on Bhutto’s life in Karachi, the ex-prime minister warned “certain individuals in the security establishment [about the threat] and nothing was done,” says Husain Haqqani, a confidante of Bhutto’s for decades. “There is only one possibility: the security establishment and Musharraf are complicit, either by negligence or design. That is the most important thing. She’s not the first political leader killed, since Musharraf took power, by the security forces.”

Haqqani notes that Bhutto died of a gunshot wound to the neck. “It’s like a hit, not a regular suicide bombing,” he says. “It’s quite clear that someone who considers himself Pakistan’s Godfather has a very different attitude toward human life than you and I do.”

Times of India:

The immediate finger of suspicion though pointed to Pakistan’s security establishment. A key Benazir aide said the country’s military government had much to answer for the assassination because it had not met certain security arrangements required and officials were “dismissive” about Bhutto’s requests in this regard.

“They could have provided better security. Even the equipment they gave consistently malfunctioned. Bhutto had asked for independent security arrangements,” Hussain Haqqani, a US-based former Bhutto aide told CNN .

Haqqani and other analysts like Peter Bergen also pointed out that the attack took place in Rawalpindi, the military garrison town outside Islamabad that is crawling with security personnel and spooks. The fact that she had been shot dead following up a suicide bombing pointed to a concerted effort to finish her off.

Haqqani said he had spoken to Benazir two days ago and she was concerned about the security arrangement and the military government’s effort to rig the election.

Pony Party… Island

Thanks for stopping in….

Please don’t rec the pony party, another will trot up in a few hours. Hang out and chit chat, and please go check out some of the excellent offerings on our recent and rec’d list.


A few years ago we went to Puerto Rico for our first ‘real’ vacation (no kids- furred or furless)

If I had my druthers I’d be….


Pony Party… Island

Thanks for stopping in….

Please don’t rec the pony party, another will trot up in a few hours. Hang out and chit chat, and please go check out some of the excellent offerings on our recent and rec’d list.


A few years ago we went to Puerto Rico for our first ‘real’ vacation (no kids- furred or furless)

If I had my druthers I’d be….


Our farewell to “Mumsie” (my mother-in-law)

Grieving is hard. Writing is cathartic.

At least, it is for us.

I just posted a piece called “As I Lay Dying…” — A Farewell to Mumsie on both ePluribus Media and DailyKos, the two spots on the vast Intertube network where she was known the best.

It was a stream-of-consciousness piece that Wifey and I both shared in the creation of, started as I sat vigil by Mumsie’s side in the nursing home and completed, for the most part, last night as Wifey and I quietly passed the small pocket computer between us at our local watering hole.

Please go leave a comment in one or both places for Wifey, and if you “knew” Mumsie through any of our writings please feel free to post a note for her as well.

Pony Party, Good Morning…

Is 2007 The Beginning Of The End Of The Death Penalty?


As 2007 draws to a close, it’s again time for the annual data about executions in the US.  From my abolitionist’s perspective, this year’s statistics are better than last year’s and are trending in the right direction.  But the numbers are especially troubling because they show a concentration of state killing and a continued enthusiasm for it in Texas.

Join me across the wall for the 2007 wrap up.

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated in Pakistan (Update – Eye Witness Rpt – Video Link)

This just in from NBC news.  Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a suicide bombing in Pakistan:…


Here’s the BBC Report

[UPDATE] Eye witness report from the assassination:

Sardar Qamar Hayyat, a leader from Bhutto’s party, said at the time of the attack he was standing about 10 yards away from her vehicle _ a white, bulletproof SUV with a sunroof.

“She was inside the vehicle and was coming out from the gate after addressing the rally when some of the youths started chanting slogans in her favor. Then I saw a smiling Bhutto emerging from the vehicle’s roof and responding to their slogans,” he said.

“Then I saw a thin, young man jumping toward her vehicle from the back and opening fire. Moments later, I saw her speeding vehicle going away,” he added.

Mangled bodies lay in a pool of blood and pieces of clothing and shoes were scattered on the road. The clothing of some victims was shredded and people covered their bodies with party flags.  There was an acrid smell of explosive fumes in the air [following the bomb detonation].

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto died shortly after being seriously wounded in an attack after a rally in the city of Rawalpindi, news agencies reported on Wednesday.

This is both horrible and dangerous.

More news will follow on the above link.  This is breaking now.  If you have access to MSNBC, they have brought on Madeline Albright to comment.

She referred to this as a “coup against the rule of law.”

Bhutto’s husband has reported that his wife was shot in the neck during the suicide bombing.

To say that this is a potential disaster for so many is an understatement.  This will put the West in the position to have to strengthen their ties with Mussharaf and cause further destabilisation in what is a nuclear power under pressure from both Al Quaeda and the Taliban.

Madeline Albright: “This has made things even worse in the most tragic way.”

The gunman shot at her as she stood in her vehicle, exposing herself through the sunroof and then detonated his bomb.  It was thought that a bullet severed her spine at her neck and came out through her cheek, but after surgery, reports are emerging that is was the force of the blast that caused her death.

This was a true assassination.   The rally was supposed to be secured by the government security forces with metal detectors and body searches.   That the bomber blew himself up after shooting at her raises the question:  Was it to inflict chaos, maximum damage, kill her supporters or to hide his own identity (or all of the above)?


The question becomes how both the bomber gained access and who he was that it was important he blow himself up beyond recognition.

Another point of interest:  She met with Karzai of Afghanistan just before the rally.

[UPDATE] The BBC has just filed their report with Mussharaf’s response.

The funeral will be very telling in terms of where the Pakistani people stand and how much further they and the stability of the region are at risk.

[UPDATE]  al Qaeda has claimed responsibility and the Pakistani authorities said they intercepted a phone call from an al Qaeda suspect congratulating someone for the assassination.

Docudharma Times Thursday Dec.27

This is an Open Thread: Everything Is On Sale

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was targeted in a deadly suicide bombing Thursday. Media reports quote her husband saying she suffered a bullet wound to the neck in the attack.

The attack has left at least 14 dead and 40 injured, Tariq Azim Khan, the country’s former information minister, told CNN in a telephone interview.

Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari told CNN affiliate Geo TV that his wife was shot in the neck in the attack.

The attacker is said to have detonated a bomb as he tried to enter the rally where thousands of people gathered to hear Bhutto speak, police said.

Headlines For Thursday December 27:U.S. Ruling Backs Benefit Cut at 65 in Retiree Plans: Democrats Enter Stretch in Iowa: Kenyans vote in tight race


U.S. Ruling Backs Benefit Cut at 65 in Retiree Plans

WASHINGTON – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits – or none at all – for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”

Democrats Enter Stretch in Iowa

As Clinton Emphasizes Experience, Obama and Edwards Call for Change

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa, Dec. 26 — With just eight days left to break a three-way deadlock in the Democratic contest here, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton began delivering a closing argument Wednesday that centered on the experience she and her husband gained in the Oval Office during his administration, while her two chief rivals both argued that they could best succeed in bringing change to Washington.

The issues of experience and change have defined the Democratic race for nearly a year, and the dichotomy continued to dominate as the three Democratic front-runners hit the campaign trail running after a Christmas break. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who plans to make his endgame pitch in a speech on Thursday, urged voters to ask themselves, “Do you believe in change?” Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) detoured through New Hampshire before a planned return to Iowa, arguing that his is a more radical call for change than Obama’s. Clinton and Obama are launching television ads in the state to bolster their arguments as the three remain tightly bunched in surveys.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

The Stars Hollow Gazette

Boxing Day.

On the day after Christmas…

  • In feudal times the lord of the manor would give boxes of practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land.
  • Many years ago on the day after Christmas servants would carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day’s work. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts.
  • In churches, it was traditional to open the church’s donation box on Christmas Day and distribute it to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day.

Take your pick.

In the world of retail Boxing Day is the day everyone brings back all the crap they got for gifts that they didn’t want or is the wrong size or the wrong color or that they shoplifted and now want full retail for instead of the 10% that the local fence will give them.

Now fortunately for me I never had to work the counter during this period of long lines and testy, hung over sales people and managers dealing with irate customers who think that making their sob story more pitiful than the last one will get them any treatment more special than what everyone gets.

  1. Is it all there?
  2. Is it undamaged?
  3. Did you buy it here?

Bingo, have some store credit.  Go nuts.  Have a nice day.

What makes it especially crappy for the clerks is that you don’t normally get a lot of practice with the return procedures because your manager will handle it since it’s easier than training you.  Now you have 20 in a row and the first 7 or 8 are slow until you get the hang of things.

As a customer I have to warn you, this is not a swap meet.  If they didn’t have a blue size 6 on Christmas Eve, they don’t have it now either EVEN IF THE CUSTOMER RIGHT AHEAD OF YOU IN LINE JUST RETURNED A SIZE 6 IN BLUE!

It has to go back to the warehouse for processing and re-packaging.  Really.

So if you braved the surly stares today you have my admiration for your tenacity.  If you waited for the rush to pass my respect for your brilliance.

But don’t wait too long.  It all has to be out of the store before February inventory so it doesn’t have to be counted.

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