Saturday, July 30, 2005
As promised in comments earlier, here's why I think Judith Miller is in jail: she's protecting Ahmed Chalabi.
James C. Moore, Salon May 27, 2004 - The editors conceded what intelligence sources had told me and numerous other reporters: that Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi was feeding bad information to journalists and the White House and had set up a situation with Iraqi exiles where all of the influential institutions were shouting into the same garbage can, hearing the same echo.
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian Limited Thursday May 27, 2004 - At a conservative thinktank in downtown Washington, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon, FBI agents have begun paying quiet calls on prominent neoconservatives, who are being interviewed in an investigation of potential espionage, according to intelligence sources. Who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the US government and military?
The Iraqi neocon favourite, tipped to lead his liberated country post-invasion, has been identified by the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency as an Iranian double-agent, passing secrets to that citadel of the "axis of evil" for decades. All the while the neocons cosseted, promoted and arranged for more than $30m in Pentagon payments to the George Washington manque of Iraq. In return, he fed them a steady diet of disinformation and in the run-up to the war sent various exiles to nine nations' intelligence agencies to spread falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction.
Jack Shafer, Slate Jan. 31, 2005 - According to the editors' mini culpa of May 26, 2004, many of the stories the Times published during in the run-up to the war shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks.
If you haven’t seen the “Hardball” interview with Jean Schmidt, you’re missing a lulu.
One of my favorites, about the 5:40 mark -
You know, the fact of the matter is there are no weapons of mass destruction. And, uh, we were listening to a thug, Saddam Hussein, who said that there was. He wasn’t allowing people to go in and inspect. Uh, we called him on it, and you know, we’re now standing with a government where there won’t be any weapons of mass destruction.”Brilliant!
It's all Saddam's fault!
Who needs the CIA? All we have to do is listen to what other thugs say, take them at their word, and invade their country.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Just like the insurgency in Iraq, college packing in this household is in it's last throes.
And it's just as chaotic as the situation in Iraq, without the blood and anguish and all that stuff. Well, maybe the anguish.
Moving day is August 6, so blogging will be very light until I return - hopefully, unscathed - from that experience.
I've been fiddling for days with a post on Treasongate or Red Rover or whatever, but I haven't had time to sit down and think it out thoroughly.
Here's the short version....
Anyone else think Ahmed Chalabi passed sensitive information to Judith Miller - who then passed it on to, oh - maybe Scooter Libby or Karl Rove?
From the Alliance for Retired Americans 'Friday Alert'
My senators and representatives are all Republicans devoted to destroying Social Security, but if my call can contribute to lighting up their switchboard, maybe it will catch their attention.Join the National Social Security Call-In Day on August 1 by contacting your lawmakers to let them know that you do not support private accounts. Coordinated by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the call-in day is intended to send the message loud and clear that seniors are opposed to any private accounts proposal. August 1 marks the first day of the Congressional recess as well as the day when millions of Social Security beneficiaries receive their monthly benefits. Tell your elected official how much Social Security means to you and that it needs to be protected, preserved and passed on, not privatized. You can find your Representative's and Senators' district offices in blue pages of the phone book.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
I've been looking over the posts from the "Truth Tour" - you remember, the group of wingnut radio bloviators who went to Iraq to report the "truth" back to their faithful dittoheads.
I can't find any mention of going outside the International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone), and no account of the ride from there to the airport along one of Iraq's most dangerous roads.
Typical account from Martha Zoller -
" During the week, we spent time at the Palace inside the camp, one of over 30 that Saddam built since the end of the first Gulf War. Can you say “Oil for Food” money? We also met with one of the Iraqi generals. Some of us went to the Green Zone and went on operations with soldiers and marines inside the zone now called the International Zone."and...
"Our accommodations were cots in tents with other soldiers. This turned out to be one of the best experiences. Camp Victory is a transition point and there were soldiers and marines coming in and out every day from other missions. This gave us the opportunity to interact with these folks, as they wanted to in a more relaxed environment. There was power and air conditioning in each tent, plenty of access to showers and bathrooms. Also, each tent had wireless internet access."I'm guessing they took a wrong turn and ended up reporting on the last throes of the Boy Scout Jamboree.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Bill Clinton, used to a warm reception on his global goodwill missions, came away from Kenya this weekend with more than he bargained for.I agree that Chelsea is quite a prize and Godwin's prospective in-laws aren't half-bad, either.
The former US president must now consider whether the offer of 40 goats and 20 cows, made by an apparently love-struck local official, is sufficient to persuade him to give up his daughter Chelsea for marriage.
Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor wrote to Clinton through Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister, and promised him that he would look after his daughter in style.
"Had I succeeded in wooing Chelsea, I would have had a grand wedding," promised the electrical engineering graduate.
A Kenyan man traditionally has to pay a dowry in goats and cows to his bride's family - the offer Mr Chepkurgor made for Chelsea is a generous one that befits a big man's daughter.
However, I'll be glad to give Mr. Chepkurgor an entire goat farm and all the cattle he can herd if he'll take Condi Rice off to a life of marital bliss in Kenya.
Speaking of goats and cows, I'll even throw in Ann Coulter.
Shuttle returns to space
Discovery roared into the skies over Florida Tuesday morning as NASA returned to shuttle space flight for the first time since the 2003 Columbia disaster.I hope I never lose the spine-tingling sense of awe and wonder when witnessing these lift-offs.
Congratulations to NASA on another great achievement!
Monday, July 25, 2005
I would like to invite all the Bush administration "scientists" who claim global warming is hogwash to my part of the world, where they can experience ninety degree weather at 9:30 in the evening.
At least the Goddess of Air Conditioning has been good, and the unit is now cranking out frosty air.
But if I hear another conservative pine for the "good old days" - and mind you, those days were NOT air conditioned - I'm going to whack them up-side the head.
Election 2004, Kentucky - Bush 60%, Kerry 40%
LEXINGTON, Ky. — President Bush has visited this city just once, but his imprint is everywhere.
His impact is evident in Bill Langley's living room, where there's a shrine to the son who died in Iraq.
It's in the sagging public-housing projects whose redevelopment was recently delayed by the rejection of a $20 million federal grant request.
Money from his budget will soon be used to help clean up a stagnant pond at Gainesway Park so kids in a low-income neighborhood can get fishing lessons from senior citizens.
Police cruisers have new computers thanks to homeland security funds, but community development director Paula King has seen four years of "decreases in federal funding for social service programs ... and really stiff competition" for everything else.
Sometimes a president's legacy is not apparent until after he leaves the White House. However, Bush's presidency has been marked by dramatic events such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2001 recession and his aggressive responses: war with Iraq, deep tax cuts, new emphasis on homeland security. Here and across the nation, he has altered budget priorities, the way public schools are run and how people think about politics and religion.
Lexington is surrounded by vast horse farms with barns that are almost as lavish as the mansions overlooking acres of bluegrass and miles of white fences. It is home to the University of Kentucky (UK), famous for its basketball champions. Still, by most measures, it's very much like the rest of America. The changes that have occurred here mirror the effects of Bush's tenure in communities everywhere.
People here chose Bush over Democrat Al Gore in 2000. Last year they picked Bush over John Kerry. They shop at giant discount stores. Many of them go to church every Sunday — and Wednesday evenings, too. After work, they clog Broadway and Man O' War Boulevard as they head to their kids' soccer games or a Lexington Legends minor-league baseball game.
Interviews with more than three dozen residents and government officials over five days found that people admire Bush's values, but they're nervous about the economy and about how education policies affect their kids. They have strong feelings about him and his impact on their lives.
Sharon Purcell was drawn to Bush because of his blend of faith and politics.
"I look at his faith background and his values, and I feel he puts people's feelings first in any situation," says the bank supervisor, 47.
Because of him, she says, her future votes will always be based on candidates' morality and values.
David Baseheart, 61, owner of a small shop that sells horse gear, worries about criticizing a president whose openness about his faith has made him popular here. "They think it's un-American to say anything bad about Bush," he says. "Religion and politics have become too mixed, and that's not healthy."
College student Amanda McMullin, 28, has her own story about Bush's impact on her life. A senior who's majoring in political science at UK, she got a $1,000 federal Pell Grant last spring but was denied when she applied again. She had been counting on the money to pay for books. Budget-driven changes in the formula used to factor state and local taxes into students' need led to an increase in her household income that made her ineligible.
Asked if she blamed Bush when her application was denied, she says, "I'm sure that came out of my mouth." She's been working more overtime as a hospital admissions clerk to make up the difference.
Money is always tight these days; she and her fiancé, fellow student Eddie Raymond, 28, paid $1 each for bleacher seats at a Legends game one recent evening.
Part of Bush's legacy here is less tangible than dollars, buildings or grant formulas. His boldest decisions — to go to war and take an uncompromising stance on terrorism — have touched off a passionate national debate that's reflected here.
People here are proud of U.S. troops, and many of them adorn the rear bumpers of their cars with stickers shaped like yellow ribbons that say so. Still, when they're asked how they feel about Bush, the first thing many people bring up is the war with Iraq. Those who support it are adamant, and so are opponents. Every Thursday, a small group of anti-war protesters gathers on a downtown corner.
Jack Keck, 58, a clerk at Dan's Discount Jewelry & Pawn, a pawn shop on Versailles Road, thinks his neighbors' feelings about Bush are complicated. A lanky Vietnam veteran who has a son in the Navy and another in the Army, he says people here "agree with Bush on social issues, perhaps — this is a pretty conservative place."
As Keck talks, a steady stream of people come into the shop with stereos and jewelry to pawn.
"Things certainly haven't improved in the last four years," he says. "Inflation keeps moving but wages haven't. Times are tough."
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Just when you think Bush loyalists and apologists can't get any zanier, along comes Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee-
Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said on the CNN program "Late Edition" that the committee was "going to go into quite a series of hearings in regard to cover." The practice of intelligence cover has come under scrutiny during the investigation of the disclosure of the C.I.A. employment of Valerie Wilson, who had worked under cover for the agency for 18 years before being publicly identified as a C.I.A. operative in 2003."If the Senate Intelligence Committee is really interested in "cover" - beyond covering their own backsides - they should be examining who blew Valerie Plame Wilson's cover and why.
Maybe a senate committee should examine why the Democratic party headquarters didn't have a better security system in 1972 and did this criminally negligent failing lead to the Watergate break-in.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Forget Rove and Traitorgate; don't be distracted by controversy over Bush's Supreme Court nomination.
It's a slow news week here in Rightwing Heaven, at least according to our local news outlet - WGHP-TV, a FOX affiliate (naturally). I wouldn't bother clicking the link, if I were you.
Aside from the inevitable stories on factory layoffs and whose pit bull bit whose child, the following two stories have received a good deal of attention:
The Bar-S Ranch
Just a short hop north from Greensboro, North Carolina off highway 158 is a "country club and resort located on 400 acres of gently rolling meadows and woodlands" with stocked fishing lake, beautiful swimming pool, volleyball tournaments, nature trails, and so forth. The rates are reasonable, and the facilities are also available for lease to church groups and civic organizations.
I'd love to see the Women's Missionary Union pull up to the Bar-S; until the local TV station ran this feature, most folks probably never realized there was an honest-to-gawd nudist colony in the middle of the Bible Belt (armpit?) of North Carolina.
There's even an annual "Take Pride in Your Hide" cross-country 5K run & walk. I'd pay good money to see the WMU take part in that.
Have you always wanted to create music, but are unable to play an instrument or sing? Never fear, Maher is here!
What is "manualism"? According to The Manualism Page -
Manualism is the art of producing music by squeezing one's hands together. It takes many years of practice and even then is still quite difficult to control. It may be one of the hardest instruments in the world to play. The number of people who are performing manualism on stage is extremely few.Go to Maher's Hands, click on "Music", choose a song, and judge for yourself why the number of people performing manualism on stage is extremely few.
My personal favorite is "Dies Irae" from Mozart's Requiem. If you're a Mozart fan, have a hanky ready to wipe your tears.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
On this day - July 20, 1969
I was a teenager - sweet, innocent, and vulnerable.
He was about twenty years older - masterful and a little domineering, a dental surgeon by profession.
I laid back apprehensively as he approached....
...and cut out my wisdom teeth.
Oh, and Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
James Doohan, 1920-2005
Engineer extraordinaire of the Final Frontier and another precious WWII vet leaves us.
At 19, James escaped the turmoil at home by joining the Canadian army, becoming a lieutenant in artillery. He was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. "The sea was rough," he recalled. "We were more afraid of drowning than the Germans."
The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren't heavy enough to detonate the bombs. At 11:30 that night, he was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he managed to hide the missing finger on screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
We are mired in the midst of the "Dog Days" of summer, with the temperatures zipping up into the 90's by eleven in the morning, and the humidity somewhere around two-hundred percent.
My sources tell me that the term "Dog Days" is in honor of Chihuahuas, who have no wooly undercoat and LOVE the heat and humidity. I'm glad someone in this household is enjoying themselves, because I'm perishing and swooning.
They say ladies don't sweat, they perspire. At first, I thought this meant I'm no lady, but on reflection I realize I'm perspiring enough for two.
The ever-gallant Michael is doing his part to rescue me by posting pictures of his vacation in the cool upper elevations of Utah.
Andantette pitched in by treating me to a movie over the weekend - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I would post a review of the movie, but I don't think anyone would be interested in my views of how wonderfully cool it was in the theater. Oh - the movie was good, too.
Even my usual hot-weather remedies of homegrown tomatoes and sweet iced tea have failed me. But I'm looking forward to July 24th....that's when March of the Penguins opens around here. I saw the previews this weekend, and my body temperature dropped five degrees just by looking at all that snow and icy water.
I am SO there.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Probable future announcements from Mr. Preznit:
"On Tuesday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a felony was committed."
"On Wednesday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a felony was committed which resulted in a prison sentence."
"On Thursday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a felony was committed which resulting in a life sentence."
"On Friday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a felony was committed which resulted in a death sentence."
"On Saturday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a felony was committed which resulted in a death sentence and Pat Robertson would be unable to raise Rove from the dead."
In which case, Robertson would no longer get taxpayer money for faith-based initiatives.
AP: Bush said in June 2004 that he would fire anyone in his administration shown to have leaked information that exposed the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame. On Monday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a crime was committed.People who are concerned about true integrity will avoid all appearances of impropriety - whether it's a crime or not.
With this bunch, I'm sure the only person who will be fired will be the poor slob who typed up the State Department memo, or maybe the switchboard operator who placed Scooter & Rove's calls.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Director of Television
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Dear Ms. Weyforth,
However, one important point seems to be missing, and I can't recall hearing any Republican "talking heads" bringing it up -
- Naturally, we deplore any leak of classified information that might compromise national security.
Perhaps you would like to add it to the next list of
Just in case, ya know, people might get the idea Republicans don't give a flip about such things.
From the July 17, 2005 Charlotte Observer -
U.S. needs exit plan for Iraq
Here's what two N.C. Republicans want President Bush to do
A letter from U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, a Greensboro Republican:
My good friend and colleague, Rep. Walter Jones, has been taking heat from some for his principled and heartfelt stance against further U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. Since I have expressed many of the same sentiments, I wanted to share a few thoughts.
Since late last year, I have been increasingly vocal about the need to discuss a timely withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. It is my belief that it was appropriate to dispatch troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power since it was obvious that the United Nations had no intention of doing so. I have said all along that I think our entry strategy into Iraq was brilliantly planned and executed, but I have yet to discern a similar exit strategy. I don't think we have one, and no one in official Washington has yet to spell one out to my satisfaction.
Walter and I are becoming increasingly frustrated by the daily loss of American lives, along with the enormous cost to the American taxpayers, in an operation that should be taken over by Iraqi citizens. Walter has been criticized by some for sponsoring legislation (H.J. Res. 55) that begins the effort of reducing U.S. troop involvement. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, H.J. Res. 55 "requires the president to establish a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, but does not appear to impose a strict timetable for its implementation. If the bill becomes law, the president could interpret it as making the withdrawal contingent on the success of Iraq's transition to democracy, and leaving much to the discretion of the executive branch."
Walter is not trying to micromanage the war or tie the president's hands, but wants to foster an immediate dialogue on an effort to reduce U.S. involvement in Iraq. No less a conservative than William F. Buckley has written, "The day has come, and the advent of that day has to be heralded, when we say that our part of the job is done as well as it can be done, given the limitation on our will and our strength. It is an Iraqi responsibility to move on to wherever Iraq intends to go."
To that I can only say Amen, brothers Walter and Bill.
Then I'll join the "Amen chorus".
Saturday, July 16, 2005
For those who think outing a CIA operative, NOC or not, is no big deal - chew on this:
If there's a perception that you're going to see people in blue pinstripe suits in Washington wrapping themselves in the flag and talking about God and country while they're exposing CIA and intelligence operatives, you're going to have a real hard time convincing CIA officers to get out into the field and risk their lives for those people.
Friday, July 15, 2005
From Raw Story -
Adoption firm: No CatholicsIt's a pretty safe bet they don't accept applications from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, atheists, or the denomination to which YOU belong, either.
A local Christian adoption agency that receives funds from the sale of Mississippi's Choose Life specialty car tags will not consider Catholics as adoptive parents.
"It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," wrote Bethany Christian Services director Karen Stewart in a July 8 letter to Sandy and Robert Stedman, a Catholic couple in Jackson seeking to adopt. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy."
And yet, if Bush has his way these characters will be given even more authority over who receives adopted children, education, health care funding, and so forth.
Here's the official Collective Sigh position - if conservatives believe religious organizations can handle social concerns more effectively...fine. Those "faith groups" can also handle the invade-other-countries-on-cooked-intelligence department, too.
And I don't mean armchair generalship. For ever tax dollar thrown to faith-based groups, they must supply one infantryman.
What do you say, Pat Robertson? Jerry Falwell? James Dobson?
(sound of crickets chirping)
A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an "undercover agent," saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.I thought about writing a long, rabid rant demolishing this argument from my own personal experience with friends, neighbors, and relatives who work for the CIA in many different capacities.
"She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat," Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.
But then I decided - what the hell. This statement is so incredibly naive it isn't worth addressing.
And I know the meaning of discretion, something a lot of folks holding high-level security clearances seem to have forgotten.
Presidential visits usually generate fawning headlines in local papers, so it's a bit refreshing to see this one on the Charlotte Observer website -
The article itself is rather interesting:
President to visit Gaston, tour mill, talk jobs"Ravaged by plant closings" may be the understatement of the year.
President Bush comes to textile country today to promote a new trade agreement in a region ravaged by plant closings. A guide to the president's visit:
Air Force One will arrive in Charlotte around lunchtime (exact details are restricted by the White House for security reasons). Bush's motorcade will whisk him to Belmont for a mill tour -- the first stop ever in town by a sitting prez -- then he'll speak at Gaston College. (Expect road closings and traffic backups along the route.)
Want to see Bush? You're out of luck. Tickets have been given out.
Bush is visiting to seek support for the Central America Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA.
Supporters say the deal makes it easier for U.S. companies to compete against China, and will help shore up democracy and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere. Critics say CAFTA will encourage textile firms to send more operations and jobs to Latin America.
The treaty has been approved by the Senate (from the Carolinas, only Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., voted no) and a decision is expected soon in the House, where it's a close vote.
U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican who represents part of Gaston County, backs it and will fly down with Bush. But, according to a survey released this week, she's the only House member in the Carolinas who does.
I wouldn't give a snowball's chance in hell for ANY agreement ending in 'AFTA' to get support from North Carolinian textile workers.
Which is probably why only Sue Myrick (R-Corporate Shill) is the only House member from North Carolina with the sheer gall to support it.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Some World War II era posters.
You know, back in the days when the entire country took national security seriously.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Suicide Car Bomber Kills Iraqi Children
A suicide car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children and detonated his explosives Wednesday, killing up to 27 other people, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. One U.S. soldier and about a dozen children were among the dead.From Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Captain Miller: Caparzo, get that kid back up there!I know it's hard to resist cute kids, but for God's sake...they're already living in a dangerous situation - don't make it worse.
Private Caparzo: Captain, the decent thing to do would be take her over to the next town.
Captain Miller: We're not here to do the decent thing, we're here to follow fucking orders!
Captain Miller: [to the squad while pointing at Caparzo's dead body] THIS is why we don't pick up children!
I'd rather our troops be thought of as hard-asses than kid-killers.
Of all the reporting & commenting I've read the last several days regarding Karl Rove, the following two items struck me most immediately.
From Liberal Oasis:
One element of the pushback is that Rove didn’t technically leak Valerie Plame Wilson’s name, he only said “Wilson’s wife.”Unless Wilson is a polygamist, I'd say "Wilson's wife" is pretty specific.
But as far as the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is concerned, it’s not the name that matters. It’s the identity.
And from the transcript of a live chat with Dana Milbank:
Washington, D.C.: What odds would you give at this point that this will lead to Rove's firing?
Dana Milbank: My predictions are often comically off, but here goes: This is Karl Rove's town, and the rest of us -- President Bush included -- are just living in it.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Salon's Table Talk asks - "What will the White House do with Rove?"
There's a no-brainer. I'm betting on a Medal of Honor.
Monday, July 11, 2005
I can't think of a better tribute to our allies than these glorious pictures by e-friend and photographer Judy Giberson from her recent trip to England.
St. James Park, London
I don't watch CNN very often anymore, but did catch a bit this afternoon.
Wolf Blitzer was interviewing Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and I swear it sounded to me like Blitzer was trying to equate Karl Rove with Mark "Deep Throat" Felt.
There's no transcript available as yet, so maybe I heard that wrong.
But let's be clear - there is no equitable comparison.
Whatever you think of Mark Felt - he was a hero, he was a rat, he helped uncover the truth, he was a liar - his role was to expose corruption and thuggery in the Oval Office. The only actual damage was to political power and ambition.
Karl Rove - or whosoever blew a CIA operative's cover - played a far different role; he or she leaked information potentially crucial to the nation's security. The damage could be a matter of life and death for thousands.
Update Here's the transcript. Maybe I'm hearing voices in my head, maybe not. But I got a creepy feeling hearing Blitzer discussing Rove and Felt right on top of each other, as if the situations were in any way similar.
Last year, the Center For American Progress noted -
The Army's recent call-up of 5,600 soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve – former active duty soldiers now in reserve status and subject to recall – further emphasizes the demands the Bush administration's poor planning has placed on our nation's most important resource – our troops. These soldiers, who have already completed their active duty enlistment but are within eight years of when they entered the military, must now leave their jobs and families behind and mobilize for active duty.So, how's it going?
Soldiers For Truth goes behind the scenes at Fort Benning, GA for a look at the IRR training regimen.
Week One -
Week one is reserved for administrative in-processing. Soldiers are given their new ID cards and dog tags, receive cursory physical and dental examinations and immunizations, and fill out the reams of paperwork required to make sure the newly-minted soldiers will receive their pay, allowances and government insurance.Now that everyone knows who they are and to whom their remains are to be sent, it's time to go to the movies.
"And to make sure we identify to who we want our body to be sent to if we are killed," the IRR trainee added. "They actually said that in the event we are killed in action, 'where do we send your remains,' " he exclaimed. "It was great for morale."
"There is a lot of 'Hurry up and wait,' standing in line, and basically hanging around," the sergeant continued. "Some of the soldiers immediately go to sick call for a variety of reasons and we never see much of them again. We just mark in their training blocks. Everybody passes."
By week two, the soldiers have completed their administrative in-processing and are ready for training. However this is composed primarily of classroom lectures on subjects such as first aid – stopping the bleeding, dealing with sucking chest wounds. There are also lectures about common threats they will encounter such as IEDs, as well as sessions on learning Iraqi customs.Week three is perhaps a bit more useful - weapons familiarization and a short course in recognizing IED's; hands-on, rather than Power Point.
When the troops do go outdoors it is mostly for one-half mile runs to get all the out-of-shape troops back into battle-ready condition.
What the soldiers don't experience is most revealing, the sergeant said. There are no forced marches, no conditioning exercises, no live fire demonstrations, no fire-and-maneuver exercises, and no field exercises to test out the theories offered via PowerPoint.
The Army says the IRR soldiers with infantry military occupational specialties will have an additional two weeks of specialized training at Fort Benning following CRC to bring them up to snuff before they head off to either directly to Iraq or Afghanistan or to a unit preparing for deployment.
Well, sort of -
One soldier who attended training last week said they arrived at the training site at nearly 0800 and were taken to an IED course where simulated explosive devices were hidden in a variety of locations along training "lanes." The training consisted of walking down the lanes being shown what to look for. They were also supposed to practice probing for land mines but that was cancelled when the instructor announced they had already done that in basic training. By lunch they were back in the barracks to spend the rest of the day working on "building maintenance."Week four finds the not-quite-eager, not-quite-trained IRR's ready for deployment -
Ditto for the M-203 range where each soldier fired just two grenades; the M-16 range, where they fired approximately 50 rounds each; the M-249 range where they fired about 25 rounds each, and the pistol range where they emptied a magazine or two at paper targets. Then it was back to the barracks for a long lunch and either barracks maintenance, physical training, PowerPoint classes – or more often than not, simply "hanging around" waiting for whatever comes next.
The fourth week is dedicated to out-processing, with a morning run and a few more classroom lectures and training exercises to round out the course. Then, at least according the training schedule and training forms, the reservists are deemed almost ready for war, the sergeant said.If these guys are to be jerked out of civilian life back into the military, we must do better by them.
The sergeant added in a tone of disgust that despite the brevity of the training, many soldiers still miss some or most of it because they are spending most of their time at Benning trying to get out of the Army. The trainee agreed that some of the IRR replacements spent their entire time at CRC exploring ways to be discharged.
The IRR soldiers are apparently well aware that the Army doesn't want to be burdened with anyone who has a physical malady that will ultimately make the service responsible for their care if they are retained. Therefore, the con artists, the lame and lazy and reluctant have found a possible way out and try and take it. Back and neck problems are popular. So are feet issues and psychological roadblocks. And, if they can't talk their way out, they exit with the rest of the class anyway because all their training blocks have been neatly checked off whether or not they actually attend the training, the sergeant said.
Donald Rumsfeld - isn't that your department?
In common with others who fire on more than three cylinders, I've always said 'there will ALWAYS be terrorists'.
As long as there are disgruntled, disaffected, disgruntled minds in this world, there will be terrorists. Race, religion, nationality - they don't matter.
In my book, a 'War on Terrorism' should be first and foremost fought by addressing the root causes (which will never be settled to everyone's satisfaction), preventing future attacks with good intelligence and police work, and seeking justice for those harmed by terrorism.
And an additional good idea would be not creating more terrorists.
Former Clinton and Bush counterterror official Richard Clarke states the obvious; the kind of thinking that gets you blackballed by the Bush administration:
There’d obviously be some terrorists even if we weren’t in Iraq.And....
But I believe there are many more terrorists because we are in Iraq.
It’s enough of a motivator that people are willing to go and risk their lives or lose their lives.
People who would otherwise just be sitting around in mosques somewhere complaining about all of this, because we are occupying Iraq still, are willing to go out and fight.
We have to leave at a responsible pace.
But we have to realize that a lot of fighting that goes on there, a lot of the dying that goes on there, goes on because we’re there.
And whenever we leave, there’s going to be some degree of chaos.
The real analytical question is: is the difference in chaos, post-withdrawal, going to be substantially different if we leave next year, or five years from now?
And is that difference in chaos, post-withdrawal, worth the price that we’re going to pay for it?
Friday, July 08, 2005
Social Security Administration Has No Plans to Commemorate 70th Anniversary(From the Alliance For Retired Americans 'Friday Alert')
When Social Security celebrated its 60th birthday in 1995, the Social Security Administration (SSA) invited the public to join a nationwide celebration. Disseminating a wealth of information about Social Security programs in keeping with the theme, "Social Security: We're Here for Your Benefit," the government conducted events nationwide to commemorate the day when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. Celebrations ranged from Yankee Stadium to historical and public education exhibits.
As Social Security approaches its 70th birthday on August 14, the SSA has no such plans to publicize the event. In a letter to SSA Commissioner JoAnne Barnhart, the American Federation of Government Employees asked her to explain the "decision to ignore this momentous occasion." According to internal White House memos reported by The New York Times in January, the Bush administration would use the agency to push out a message of Social Security's purported financial crisis through speeches, seminars, public events, radio, television and newspapers to the objections of many of its employees. Andrew Biggs, associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration, has appeared at President Bush's campaign-style events to promote privatization.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
"People talk about 'Well, do you think God is blessing America or judging America?' Well, I think God is doing both right now," the SBC leader says, "and part of the judgment of God on America is abortion. We have a Social Security crisis because of abortion. If it weren't for abortion, we'd have 41 or 42 million more Americans working. They wouldn't have been aborted [if abortion were not legal], and they would be contributing to Social Security."Is God judging or blessing America?
(Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention)
I'm guessing God is scratching his head and saying - "What the hell is he talking about?", or maybe "Well, at least they've stopped blaming it all on the Clintons".
It's a very useful talking point, though. You could blame any number of problems on abortion, for example -
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense - "Our military forces are stretched past their limit because of abortion. If it weren't for abortion, we'd have 41 or 42 million more Americans joining the armed forces. They wouldn't have been aborted [if abortion were not legal], and they would be dying, er...fighting for freedom in Iraq."
Day Five finds me completely frustrated with car troubles.
I'll never buy another car with electric windows; not unless it has a manual back up. I don't even know if they make cars with manual windows anymore, but I'll find one - should I ever be able to afford another car.
The little motor in the driver's side window is, shall we say, lazy - it goes up about a quarter inch at a time...a half-hour between tries. One of my good buddy mechanic friends will fix it for me - as soon as he gets out of the hospital and his compound fractured-leg heals.
In the meantime, I'm glad I got it rolled up today as "Cindy" is tracking right toward us, and flood watches abound for tomorrow. Naturally, Thursday is a day I HAVE to go into the office and can't work from home.
There are a few more auto problems aside from the windows. Apparently, there's a sign on my car (visible to birds only) and the local bird population regularly uses my car as a latrine.
It doesn't matter where I park it - Mr. Andante's beat-up old pickup stays spotless - I swear, I could cover my car with a tarp and some bird would crawl under it and do his thing right in the middle of the windshield.
Hosing off the car wasn't enough, so I selected some more weapons and went to work.
Then I noticed my inspection sticker....January 2005. I have been driving around for six months with an expired inspection sticker.
After a brief moment of panic and checking the sky for the black helicopters, I drove to the nearest inspection station.
But the car didn't pass. Seems you need a handle on your emergency brake release to pass inspection.
Yeah, that was about a year ago. I reached down to release the brake, and the thing came off in my hand. No big deal - reach under the dash and pull the "trigger", right?
Right - but it won't pass inspection. And the guy who attempted to inspect the car rolled down the driver's side window.
All in all, I'll be glad when Day Five is over - though the problems will still be there tomorrow.
At least it may rain hard enough to wash the bird poop off the car.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
If Newsweek's report is accurate, Karl Rove is more morally repugnant and more anti-American than Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden, after all, has no affiliation with, and therefore no presumed loyalty to, the United States. Rove, on the other hand, is a U.S. citizen and, as deputy White House chief of staff, a high-ranking official of the U.S. government sworn to uphold and defend our nation, its laws and its interests. Yet he sold out America just to get even with Joe Wilson.Yeah, boy. Read the whole thing.
Osama bin Laden, conversely, is loyal to his cause. He has never exposed an Al Qaeda agent's identity to the media.
Link via NTodd
If you’re wondering what happened to “Part the Third”, it’s because I was too lazy to do anything worth noting.
But whichever of the gods decided it would be a fun thing to put ants in my kitchen – I wish him/her/it an itchy rash in a bad place.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an obsessive cleaning machine. If I don’t see it, it ain’t there, and I tend to look over a lot.
But I’m quite neat in the kitchen, and I’ve never had bugs in my house (just don’t explore the furthest reaches of the refrigerator - there be monsters).
So, now these miniscule little ants are coming from I-don’t-know-where, and I’m keeping the Raid people in business.
I’ve ordered some boric acid gel, which the ants will supposedly mistake for food, carry back to their nest (wherever that is), and poison the colony.
Any other suggestions gladly accepted, unless it has anything to do with reptiles.
Looks like Senator Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, III (R-Embarrassment) of Alabama isn't too happy that Democrats plan to ask Dubya's Supreme Court nominee any questions:
But Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee as well, said the push for such detailed positions was highly objectionable and suggested that Democrats might be forming a strategy of trying to derail a nomination on the ground of withholding information.I've e-mailed Beauregard to let him know that name, rank and serial number isn't enough from a man or woman you might be stuck with for forty years. Just because Gee Dub nominates someone doesn't mean they're right for the job - you can figure that out just by looking at any member of the administration.
"You cannot ask a judge to prejudge a specific matter," Mr. Sessions said. He pointed to other cases in which Democrats had raised objections to Bush administration nominees in part on the ground that information was being withheld, including the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. "If the Democrats are pushing that, then they are trying to create an issue," he said.
And we know from experience (cough,cough,Kerik) the White House doesn't exactly put their nominees through the wringer before they put their name forward.
For starters, stating whether one is for or against torture wouldn't exactly be "prejudging a specific matter", but rather making a statement of one's core values.
Taking on a Supreme Court judge on Dubya's say-so is a lot like an arranged, forced marriage.
And I note that Beauregard has a son at or approaching marriageable age (his daughters are married, alas, and off the market). Would Sessions force his son to marry a girl he hadn't met, didn't know anything about, just on George Bush's word?
By the way, that son looks like he has the makings of a fine infantryman, wouldn't you say?
It's nice to know reenlistments are on an even keel, but how much does it have to do with career choice and/or devotion to duty - and how much to the economy?
Sgt. Jonathan Jacobs, profiled by Salon in the article below, sounds just like my late father.
Dad's parents were so destitute during the Depression that they had to place him and his brothers in an orphanage. When he "aged out", he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal program that provided millions of young men with work, food, shelter and clothing. A few years later, he joined the Army for the same reasons - there were few civilian jobs available.
From Salon -
Army enlistments down, re-upping on track
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Sgt. Jonathan Jacobs joined the Army to get away from his part-time jobs as a telemarketer and a cargo handler. He ended up in Iraq, but that didn't stop the 24-year-old 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper from signing up in March for another hitch, even though that could mean another tour in the Middle East.
He has a newborn son and says the Army offers him a career as a communication specialist and his family a secure future.
At a time when the Iraq war has made it tougher for the Army to recruit new members of its all-volunteer force, there's no hesitation to re-enlist among soldiers like Jacobs and other members of the Army's elite airborne units.
"The Army gives you a chance to see life,'' said Jacobs, of Bay Shore, N.Y. "You're secure. You have food. You have shelter. You have a paycheck.''
Even though the Army appears likely to miss its goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers this year, it's ahead of the pace needed to reach its goal of convincing 64,162 soldiers, from privates to top sergeants, to re-enlist by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Through the end of May, 45,333 soldiers had re-enlisted, said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon. That's 70 percent of the Army's full-year goal.
Nearly 11,000 soldiers from the elite 18th Airborne Corps, which includes four of the Army's 10 active divisions, have "re-upped'' this year. That's about 86 percent of the corps' full-year goal, said the corps commander, Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett.
"The 18th Airborne Corps is carrying the Army right now in retention,'' Packett said.
And leading the corps is the 82nd Airborne, which has reached 97 percent of its annual goal, even though it has deployed regularly to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 82nd's paratroopers are "a special cut of American society,'' Packett said. "It takes a cut of a different person to jump out of an airplane.''
Staff Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf decided to re-enlist even though a roadside bomb blew off part of his right leg last year while he was in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne.
"It's my life,'' said Metzdorf, 28, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., who uses an artificial leg and still must requalify as a paratrooper to remain with the division. "It's where I need to be.''
Metzdorf was in the crowd last week when President Bush spoke at Fort Bragg, refusing to set a specific timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
"I thank those of you who have re-enlisted in an hour when your country needs you,'' Bush told the audience of 700 soldiers and airmen.
Many of the military personnel said they were glad Bush made that point.
The president's comments "made me proud of what I am doing,'' said Pfc. Reese Combs, a 19-year-old paratrooper from Tampa, Fla. "It keeps me motivated.''
To be sure, there are soldiers who choose not to re-enlist. Some even try to get out of their original service commitments, said Chuck Fager, director of Quaker House in nearby Fayetteville, whose organization counsels unhappy members of the military.
Before the Iraq war started in March 2003, Quaker House's record for calls in a year was 3,128 in 2001. It took nearly 6,000 calls last year.
"People not wanting to go to Iraq was a very common concern,'' Fager said.
That attitude isn't shared by many of the paratroopers of Fort Bragg, even among those who have not yet served in the Middle East.
Spc. Daniel Torres, 28, plans to re-enlist later this year, calling life in the Army more stable that when he worked all hours as a materials handler for a biopharmaceutical firm.
"I know I want to re-enlist,'' said Torres, a married father of two from East Brunswick, N.J. "It's a better lifestyle. I'm comfortable.''
Monday, July 04, 2005
If you think Krugman's column on obesity and the fast food industry's cynical ploys to sabotage healthy diets is a "fringe issue", consider this:
Military Concerned About Troops' WeightThousands? Thousands? The troops are already stretched thin (no pun intended) by lagging recruitment, desertion, injuries, deaths, and retirements.
Besides terrorists, germ warfare and nuclear weapons, military officials increasingly worry about a different kind of threat — troops too fat to fight.
Weight issues plague all branches of the military, from elite Marines to the Air Force, often lampooned as the "chair force" because of its many sedentary jobs.
Thousands of troops are struggling to lose weight, and thousands have been booted out of the service in recent years because they couldn't.
However, one of the biggest worries concerns those not even in uniform yet: Nearly 2 out of 10 men and 4 out of 10 women of recruiting age weigh too much to be eligible, a record number for that age group.
"This is quickly becoming a national security issue for us. The pool of recruits is becoming smaller," said Col. Gaston Bathalon, an Army nutrition expert.
A matter of national security - shouldn't someone be doing something?
The Bush administration, joined at the hip to corporate interests such as big agribusiness, has resisted all efforts to rein in the production and promotion of junk foods.
Expect their next move to be something that encourages post-recruitment age people to consume as many Twinkies as possible, thereby keeping corporate profits up and junk food away from potential recruits.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
A contingent of conservatives talk radio hosts is headed to Iraq this month on a mission to report "the truth" about the war: American troops are winning, despite headlines to the contrary.My first reaction is "good riddance", but presumably they'll be coming back and I object strongly to a bunch of chickenhawk, war cheerleaders using my tax money to take a joyride with the express intention of providing propaganda. There's no "Truth" to this "Tour" - the agenda is already decided, the commentary already written.
The "Truth Tour" has been pulled together by the conservative Web cast radio group Rightalk.com and Move America Forward, a non-profit conservative group backed by a Republican-linked public relations firm in California.
"The reason why we are doing it is we are sick and tired of seeing and hearing headlines by the mainstream media about our defeat in Iraq," Melanie Morgan, a talk radio host for KSFO Radio in San Francisco and co-chair of Move America Forward, said.
The group will kick off the trip with a "Thank You BBQ" for the troops at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Fla., before traveling to Kuwait to visit with soldiers. They will be flown from there to Iraq via military transport and will be sleeping in tents inside the secured Green Zone.
According to retired Col. Buzz Patterson, host of "The Buzz Cut" on Rightalk, the delegation of seven to 10 conservatives will also include two writers from the Web site FrontPage Magazine, which is published by David Horowitz and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
"The war is being won, if not already won, I think," Patterson, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, said. "[Iraq] is stabilized and we want the soldiers themselves to tell the story." (link)
My second reaction is pity on the overburdened troops who will have to provide protection and act with civility to a bunch of people who are partially responsible for the Iraquagmire.
Evil Andante wishes the troops would drop them off in a dark alley in Baghdad, protected by nothing other than their own big mouths.
Good Andante wishes they will be so moved by their "Truth Tour" they will immediately enlist in the Army and urge all their listeners to do the same.
The day began on an apprehensive note when I read this headline on the WaPo website -
The Right's Long-Awaited Moment The conservative movement has within its grasp the control of all levers of the federal government.I don't have access to enough anti-depressants to read that article.
So, on the second day of my vacation, I walked into my office to find I had no internet connection or telephone service. I rounded up the guy who attends to such things, and after fiddling with the router for a bit, we had the network back up and working semi-fine.
Except the network printer, which I had to reinstall on each computer. Obviously, it’s a vacation from my family, not from my work.
But a crashing network is nothing compared to the impact expected around 1:52 a.m. (EDT) when the Deep Impact spacecraft will take a pot-shot at a comet…watch it live here.
I’m hoping to stay up to watch it myself; it will be refreshing to witness a crash I don’t have to fix.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Yes, I am officially on vacation.
Mr. Andante and the kid have gone off to the beach with the rest of his family for a week, leaving me at home to (gasp!) fend for myself from an exotic location - my own home.
And I like it that way, just fine.
Don’t get me wrong; I adore my little family. But there’s a theory that the only way a wife and mother can have a true vacation is if she goes away by herself – and I agree.
Though I'm not "going away" (they are), it sort of comes to the same thing.
Even if we go to a nice hotel and eat out every night and someone else cleans up after us – I’m still watching out for my family. Gotta remind the hubby and kid to use sunblock (and I’m probably the one who has to smear it on). Gotta keep an eagle eye on the very lovely Andantette to make sure no perverts try to snatch her away. Gotta share the bathroom. Gotta worry about all the dirty laundry I’ll have to do when we get home. Gotta be quiet when I wake early in the morning; wouldn’t want to wake everyone else up.
So I send them off quite cheerfully, with plans to read, surf the ‘net, eat what I want when I want it, watch the TV shows I want to see, play the music I want to hear, and make lots of noise in the early morning if I want.
I’m not completely alone – I’ll still have to feed the dogs, cats, fish, and tend to my mother.
Yeah, I miss them. But it's kind of nice, this shedding of a bit of responsibility. Even if it is only for a week.
On the menu tonight -
Hungarian Goulash (they don't like it; I love it)
Wash dishes (I'm not a total slob, and into every vacation a little rain must fall)
Pop in the DVD The Longest Day
Probably fall asleep in the recliner
What more could you want from a vacation?
Friday, July 01, 2005
You don't actually see this; I'm just testing to see if it ends up in the sidebar.