Friday, July 14, 2006


Sorry to go to the weekend on a sour note, but this story is too poignant to ignore:

Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death
By James Hider, of The Times, from Baghdad

As I hung up the phone, I wondered if I would ever see my friend Ali alive again. Ali, The Times translator for the past three years, lives in west Baghdad, an area that is now in meltdown as a bitter civil war rages between Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. It is, quite simply, out of control.

I returned to Baghdad on Monday after a break of several months, during which I too was guilty of glazing over every time I read another story of Iraqi violence. But two nights on the telephone, listening to my lost and frightened Iraqi staff facing death at any moment, persuaded me that Baghdad is now verging on total collapse.

Ali phoned me on Tuesday night, about 10.30pm. There were cars full of gunmen prowling his mixed neighbourhood, he said. He and his neighbours were frantically exchanging information, trying to identify the gunmen.

Were they the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia blamed for drilling holes in their victims’ eyes and limbs before executing them by the dozen? Or were they Sunni insurgents hunting down Shias to avenge last Sunday’s massacre, when Shia gunmen rampaged through an area called Jihad, pulling people from their cars and homes and shooting them in the streets?

Ali has a surname that could easily pass for Shia. His brother-in-law has an unmistakably Sunni name. They agreed that if they could determine that the gunmen were Shia, Ali would answer the door. If they were Sunnis, his brother-in-law would go.

Whoever didn’t answer the door would hide in the dog kennel on the roof.

Their Plan B was simpler: to dash 50 yards to their neighbours’ house — home to a dozen brothers. All Iraqi homes are awash with guns for self-defence in these merciless times. Together they would shoot it out with the gunmen — one of a dozen unsung Alamos now being fought nightly on Iraq’s blacked-out streets.

“We just have to wait and see what our fate is,” Ali told me. It was the first time in three years of bombs, battles and kidnappings that I had heard this stocky, very physical young man sounding scared, but there was nothing I could do to help.

The previous night I had had a similar conversation with my driver, a Shia who lives in another part of west Baghdad. He phoned at 11pm to say that there was a battle raging outside his house and that his family were sheltering in the windowless bathroom.

Marauding Mahdi gunmen, seeking to drive all Sunnis from the area, were fighting Sunni Mujahidin for control of a nearby strategic position. I could hear the gunfire blazing over the phone.

We phoned the US military trainer attached to Iraqi security forces in the area. He said there was nothing to be done: “There’s always shooting at night here. It’s like chasing ghosts.”

In fact the US military generally responds only to request for support from Iraqi security forces. But as many of those forces are at best turning a blind eye to the Shia death squads, and at worst colluding with them, calling the Americans is literally the last thing they do.

West Baghdad is no stranger to bombings and killings, but in the past few days all restraint has vanished in an orgy of ethnic cleansing.

Shia gunmen are seeking to drive out the once-dominant Sunni minority and the Sunnis are forming neighbourhood posses to retaliate. Mosques are being attacked. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, their bodies left lying in the streets.

There's more. And remember: our government is responsible...while our tax dollars provided the funding.
If "Fitzmas" is for Criminal Indictments...

What then to call the civil suit?

Full disclosure here: I recently discovered that this humble blog is actually the answer to a trivia question--namely, it's where the first recognized use of the term "Fitzmas" appeared...some nine months ago (who-hoo...with a big thanks to Attaturk--my "post" was a one sentence link to an exceptional, ahem, Fitzmas carol). Yeah, I know...that and a paid-up Metro card will get me a free ride on a New York subway or bus (but still, a humble blogger can dream, can't he? "I'll take indictments for $500, Alex").

Anyway...with that in mind, I stumbled through a few non-starters: Plamezaa, Wilsonukkah...but I don't know, they just didn't seem to have the proper je n'sai quoi.

But maybe I'm looking at the wrong holiday--after all, it's the, um, 14th of July...hmmm...Plamestille--or, if you prefer, Wilstille--Day? Ah, I dunno.

Feel free to create your catches on, someone might notice.
A GOOD Rising Tide

Jackson Square WON'T have water at the road's edge.

Come one, come all. A Rising Tide, as they say, lifts all boats...and some Rising Tides even offer the chance to learn a little, meet some wonderful folks, and, (if I can get organized) maybe even pick up an admittedly old, but still quite useful copy of Photoshop (version 4.0...well, the good news is that it won't take up much space on your hard disk) [makin' copies...or should it be 'burnin' copies'?]...

Hope to see you there.
"Those People"

The irony gods ensured we'd have our plates full--the same week that saw plenty of good ol GOP boys (and a few GOP girls) try to take a firehose to the Voting Rights Act (hmmm...did I just stoop so low as to use--gasp--tactless rhetoric to make a political point? You're damned right I did, and they're lucky I chose "firehose" as my metaphor. I could just as easily used "vicious, snarling police dogs").

But, once again I've digressed--anyway, during this very same week Scout took note of the usual, sadly tried and true politics of hate the victim, blame the victim in regards to the flooding of New Orleans.

You know, this is pathetic on so many levels: first, you've got Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, an African-American, who's evidently decided his calling in life is to play the token for professional race-baiters. Perhaps he considers his compensation adequate for such churlishness, and I won't speculate on how comfortably he sleeps at night.

Second, the flood, and the slow-or-no pace of the recovery certainly affected--and is affecting--blacks/African-Americans, or whatever is your preferred term. Duh: New Orleans was (and might still be) a majority African-American city. But it's NOT solely African-American, and the flood did not solely affect African-Americans.

Aside: You know, similarly, in the general political equation, people tend to dismiss "Red States" as being entirely populated by tobacco-spitting, NASCAR-loving crackers. They aren't, and liberals/leftists/progressives might want to think twice before ceding so much territory to the wingnuts...

But, back to the point: third, anyone blaming [insert your favorite code word] for the slow-or-no pace of recovery has obviously NOT taken the time to observe the almost impossible-to-fathom extent of the destruction...destruction that affected people of all races who call the city home...destruction for which blame rests squarely on the shoulders of...the federal government, whether you like it or not. They built the levees, they were responsible for the levees, they had an implied, if not explicit, duty to maintain the levees.

And, since everyone seems to forget this, let's further point out that the levees, and the associated structures built by the federal government were not merely a "gift" to the city of New Orleans and its citizens: the structures were built to facilitate NATIONAL commerce, including trade in commodities like petroleum, which has been extracted at a prodigious pace to serve the needs of the NATION'S citizens (including Detroit cabdrivers, Tweety).

However, I'll cede one point: the PERCEIVED belief that New Orleans is "black" has almost certainly affected the quite a bit more than casual approach taken by Team Bush in developing some sort of genuine plan for recovery--which is what is needed (Scout used the term "Marshall Plan," and she's spot-on in doing so). And if you don't think this administration is cynical enough to write off an entire city because it's perceived as "minority/Democratic," well, then you haven't been paying attention to things like Iraq, where they STARTED A FREAKING WAR because they thought it'd make for a "winning political strategery."

Which is why I'm depressed, but not all that surprised, to see the wingnuts justify abandoning a major city by blaming (some of) the victims. It's a hell of a lot easier than actually doing something--and it frees up tanker-loads of money for dumping into Mesopotamia/Dick Cheney's portfolio.
"Moral Waivers"

PFC Steven Green

When recruiting gets tough, they lower the bar:

On the last day of January 2005, Steven D. Green, the former Army private accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family, sat in a Texas jail on alcohol-possession charges, an unemployed 19-year-old high school dropout who had just racked up his third misdemeanor conviction.

Days later, Mr. Green enlisted in a soldier-strapped Army, and was later assigned to a star-crossed unit to serve on an especially murderous patch of earth.

He arrived at the very moment that the Army was increasing by nearly half the rate at which it granted what it calls “moral waivers” to potential recruits. The change opened the ranks to more people like Mr. Green, those with minor criminal records and weak educational backgrounds. In Mr. Green’s case, his problems were emerging by junior high school, say people who knew him then.

Mr. Green’s Army waiver allowed a troubled young man into the heart of a war that bore little resemblance to its original declared purposes, but which continued to need thousands of fresh recruits...

The share of Army recruits who received “moral waivers” for criminal records increased last year and through the first half of 2006 by 15 percent from 10 percent or 11 percent before the war, according to statistics released this week. (According to the Pentagon, the number of waivers in 2001 totaled 7,640. The figure increased to 11,018 in 2005, and for the first six months of this fiscal year totaled 5,636.)

Asked how the Green situation might apply to someone who tried to enlist today, Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., said it was not possible to apply the Army’s standards to a hypothetical case.

“A waiver is based on the actuality of the person, the totality of their life, the information we have on them — what have been their shortcomings, what have they done in their life to overcome a previous minor mistake,” Mr. Smith said.

On March 13, two months afte he was released from the Midland jail, Mr. Green was one of eight soldiers baptized during a Church of Christ service at Fort Benning.

“You hold that weapon for the first time, a lot of guys are holding weapons for the first time in their lives, and you know this M-16 is meant for engaging the enemy,” said Jason Garber, 19, who was baptized that day but did not complete training. “You wonder, if I do die, where am I going to go?”

A year later almost to the day, a federal criminal complaint says, Mr. Green and the four other soldiers charged in the case drank alcohol, changed into black clothes and then raided the home of a husband and wife and their two daughters.

Mr. Green, the complaint charges, went into a room and killed the parents and the younger daughter. Then, it says, he and a second soldier sexually assaulted the 14-year-old, shot her and tried to burn her body.

And before anyone accuses me of "anti-military bias," let me remind you (as I've noted before) that I'm the child of a career military officer who served his country with pride and with distinction. I'm proud of my father's record and accomplishments.

It's painful to watch Team Bush, thanks to their arrogance, incompetence, and refusal to acknowledge their disastrous failure, destroy the military. But that's just par for the course with these folks, who literally have the anti-Midas touch--everything on their watch turns to rust.

What Would Jesus Blast?

If you can believe this, there are actually folks who call themselves "Christian" whooping it up over the latest round of what Billmon rightly calls "a war between lunatics"...or perhaps an example par excellence of how a stupid policy like, say, a war of choice in Mesopotamia can end up infecting an entire region.

And while the Middle East burns, The Gulf Coast is either ignored...or "neglected."

This isn't merely BAD government--it's criminally criminal as ignoring the unmet needs along the Gulf (of Mexico) Coast for years, which is what they did (while extracting as much in the way of resources as they could haul or pump away).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rummy's Pocket Change

Dirty Coast has a MUCH better selection.

Let's see: they want another $110 billion dollars...but they can't provide modern equipment to the troops...Rummy himself says we're spending "$3.6 billion" on presumably equipment of this kind.

So...where's the other $106 billion going? Oh, right: Cheney's pie hole.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why the public lets this administration make such suckers of them.
Problem Child

And I don't mean the infant, who looks pretty astute and observant.

(h/t Dependable Renegade)
Maybe Shrub's Copy Really WAS a Coloring Book...

...Judging from the GAO's assessment of "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq:"

"It is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given the significant changes in the assumptions underlying the US strategy," the GAO wrote in its report unveiled Tuesday at a hearing in the House of Representatives.

The review focuses on the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," a glitzy document released by the White House with great fanfare last November.

The strategy charted what was described at the time as a sound course for overcoming the Iraqi insurgency and turning the country in the first true democracy in the Arab world.

Nine months later, congressional investigators found these high hopes were resting on shaky premises that are quickly melting away.

The bedrock foundation of the president's strategy -- a permissive security environment -- "never materialized," said the authors of the report, describing the Iraqi insurgency as "active and increasingly lethal."

The overall number of attacks increased by 23 percent from 2004 to 2005 and rose to the highest ever level of intensity last April, the investigators pointed out.

In the absence of security, the document continued, efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged country or even to return key segments of its economy to their pre-war level have hit a roadblock.

If before the 2003 US-led invasion, crude oil production averaged in Iraq 2.6 million barrels a day, it stood at only two million barrels a day this past March, according to the report.

A combination of insurgent attacks on pipelines, dilapidated infrastructure and poor maintenance have hindered domestic refining and turned Iraq into an importer of liquefied gas, gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel, the document said.

Water and sanitation projects, on which the United States spent about 52 million dollars, were inoperable or operating below capacity.

Investment has been reduced to a trickle. Last year, the report noted, the Iraqi government budgeted approximately five billion dollars for capital expenditures, but managed to spend only a few hundred million.

On the other hand, we DO have some stellar examples of Smirk-Chimp's, um, artistic talents:

Say, I think he's showing some improvement here:
Internet Inspiration

Them internet tubes sometimes deliver the most remarkable stuff:

Juan Cole: Al-Qaeda and its like thrive on cowboy diplomacy and reprisals.

The Editors: Michael Moore is fat. John Kerry shot himself. Um … Mexicans.
Down the Drain

Gentilly Girl links Russ Feingold writing about his trip to NOLA, and comparing conditions to areas hit by 2004's tsunami:

I visited Banda Aceh earlier this year on a trip to Indonesia, and earlier this week I visited some of the neighborhoods ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

I was struck by what the people in Banda Aceh and New Orleans had in common, both because of what they went through, and because of the incredible resilience they have shown in the wake of those tragedies. But I was just as struck by how those places differed - especially how, in many ways, New Orleans seemed worse off than Banda Aceh did a year after the disaster.

When I visited Banda Aceh in February 2006 - a little over a year after the original tsunami hit - though many of the reconstruction programs had yet to be completed, there was visible progress being made, thanks in large part to the generosity of the American taxpayer. I saw homes, roads, buildings, and bridges being built with funds that the American government generously gave to the victims of the tsunami.

What I saw in New Orleans, New Orleans East, the 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish, and Lakeview, was that in many ways, despite people's tremendous efforts, there has been less progress in those areas than there was in Banda Aceh a year after the tsunami. It is something I will never forget. Imagine driving through your hometown only to find, to this day, deserted streets, destroyed homes, and virtually no sign of reconstruction. While the shells of some homes still stand, they are completely unlivable inside, due to weeks of toxic liquid filth soaking into the structures of every room. Next to some of these homes are concrete slabs where a house used to be, while others have trailers parked in the front yard where a family is living because the house's roof has completely collapsed. There was a house that had the back of it completely ripped off, the front was totally dilapidated and someone had put a sign on the house saying that the insurance company had only paid a little over $10,000 to fix the structure. You could see an orange line around the outside of some houses which showed where the water was standing for some time outside the house. Who knows how high the water got inside the house. This went on for blocks and blocks and blocks of several different areas I toured.

Gulf Coast residents ARE showing an incredible degree of resiliance: those slammed by the criminally negligent flood are dealing with bureaucratic indifference on the part of pathetic Team Bush, vicious bastard insurance companies, and the scorn of professional hate-mongers (the "they should never have lived there in the first place" faction)...but continue to fight on. You'd think this sort of spirit would resonate with the idiots in charge and their hate mongering synchophants, particularly in light of what THEY THINK is a "wise investment," namely, the sheeding of epic amounts of blood and the pissing away of almost unfathomable amounts of money in Mesopotamia...lives lost forever and money that will NEVER show a measurable return:

We are spending $8 billion a month in Iraq. that equates to 2 billion dollars a week, or 267 million dollars a day, or 11 million dollars an hour.

But they don't--instead, they tell the Gulf Coast (a region of vital concern, security-wise) to stick it, while they push for their stupid, destructive war and..."anti-terrorist" dollars for petting zoos and popcorn factories.

Bizarre doesn't even begin to explain it...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Gravy Train Makes an Unscheduled Stop

Probably only temporary, though:

The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq.

The choice comes after several years of attacks from critics who saw the contract as a symbol of politically connected corporations profiteering on the war.

Under the deal, Halliburton had exclusive rights to provide the military with a wide range of work that included keeping soldiers around the world fed, sheltered and in communication with friends and family back home. Government audits turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs. Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water.

Halliburton officials have denied the allegations strenuously. Army officials yesterday defended the company's performance but also acknowledged that reliance on a single contractor left the government vulnerable. The Pentagon's new plan will split the work among three companies, to be chosen this fall, with a fourth firm hired to help monitor the performance of the other three. Halliburton will be eligible to bid on the work.

Something tells me this isn't the last we'll be seeing of Big Time's favorite charity/money laundering operation. C'mon: the guy's willing to have thousands murdered to maintain value for his stock options. Twisting a few arms at the Pentagon--where the accounting situation is "unauditable"-- is child's play in comparison.

Damn, but it's a shame Dick couldn't have been dispatched to Houston this morning, where the former mayor of the municipal equivalent of the bloated, out of control Pentagon budget...sorry, I'm digressing again...anyway, the former mayor of Houston collapsed during Ken Lay's, ahem, memorial service. Maybe he was thinking about all the campaign contributions he could've received if Kenny Boy and Jeff hadn't decided to turn cooked books into soggy mush.

Or maybe it's too bad Lay and Skilling weren't running the show at Halliburton after Dick's departure. Because you just KNOW Big Time'd burst a blood vessel if anything happened to his precious securities...
Rove: More "Fountain" Than "Leak"

Parsing hasn't been so fashionable since, oh, around 1998:

[Novakula] confirmed that Mr Rove and former CIA public information officer Bill Harlow had been two of his three sources for the column, but refused to name the primary source for the article.

He said he had named the individuals to the Fitzgerald inquiry after learning that investigators already knew the information, and he was writing publicly about the issue now because the inquiry had confirmed he was no longer of interest.

It was confirmed last month that Mr Rove would not be facing charges over the affair, although Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Mr Cheney's former chief of staff, is still facing criminal charges.

Mr Bush last year promised to fire anybody in the government shown to have leaked Ms Plame's name, but Mr Rove's continued position as his deputy chief of staff suggests that the pledge did not apply to those who confirmed the agent's identity.

That concluding paragraph is so...British, no?
What A Fool Believes

So, I see Rummy popped out of his armored box to check up on his handiwork in Messopotamia. I guess some of the locals recognized our SecDef's taste for fresh blood:

The bodies of 24 kidnapped Shiites were found as visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed the worsening security in Baghdad with Iraqi and US officials.

In another gruesome example of the sectarian bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, 24 Shiites were executed after 26 were abducted earlier on Wednesday from the town of Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baghdad.

Wonder if he offered up a "My goodness!" Or maybe he insisted, in countering Riverbend, that it was "only one 14 year old CHILD young woman raped...I keep hearing the reports saying 'rape, rape,' but it was only 14 year old CHILD young woman...I mean, are there that many 14 year old CHILDREN women in the whole country?" And then maybe he paused for a laugh.

OK, so I made that up...but you've gotta wonder what combination of mechanics and electronics exist within Rummy's viscera, substituting for a heart...even if it was pretty much expected he'd reject calls for an end to judicial immunity for U.S. military personnel.

Oh, and here's more "Ode to Freedom*:"
(*-aka, a "messy" thing)

Private Uday Abdullah is one of 50,000 Iraqi troops and police sent on to Baghdad's streets last month to make the city safe -- but he does not see the point.

Lounging in the shade to escape the midday heat on Tuesday, the soldier said it is gunmen from rival Shi'ite and Sunni parties with clout in the government who rule the streets.

"We arrest lots of gunmen and they just walk free the next day. They're always from the Mehdi Army or the Badr Brigade or the Islamic Party. So what's the point of our job?" he said.

Many in Baghdad wonder the same thing as checkpoints set up as part of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's crackdown on violence spawn ever greater traffic jams but have failed to prevent dozens dying in sectarian shootings and bombings this week.

"We do nothing but create huge traffic jams with these checkpoints," Abdullah said.

Pointing to the traffic backed up on Senak Bridge, a major artery over the Tigris river, he said: "I am standing here. But I have no desire to be here."

Raed Abd al-Hafudh Saleem, a lieutenant in Baghdad's traffic department, is equally bemused and cynical.

From his concrete booth in the middle of a busy intersection in upmarket Mansour, he has a clear view of the many vehicles carrying heavily armed men that speed past every day.

"I don't know who these people are. I can't stop them because they never hesitate to point their guns at me."

Every morning, when he reports for duty at his little booth, he finds fresh bullet casings littering the road.

"I don't know where they come from. Everyone carries a gun in this country, from the bodyguards of officials and members of parliament to private security companies.

"How can I distinguish between all those and the insurgents, and militias?" he said.

He told how bodyguards recently fired into the air to clear the road for a ministerial convoy. When he remonstrated with them, one man fired a burst from his AK-47 just past his head.

"He said to me: 'Who are you to say this? I am the state."'

"I am the state," eh? Sounds like someone the GOP oughta tap for a campaign contribution.

On the other side of the fence, by the way, American soldiers continue to find out about how messy freedom is, too:

Hidden bombs have become the insurgents’ primary weapon, and the number of explosives they plant is an important measure of their activity and determination to fight. The number is on the rise nationwide.

In June, there were 1,481 I.E.D. attacks throughout Iraq, and 903 instances in which the bombs were found and neutralized, according to figures compiled by the American military in Baghdad. That is a sharp increase since January, when there were 834 such attacks and 620 cases in which the bombs were found before they exploded.

Many soldiers rate an explosion from one of the bombs as the war’s most frightening experience.

“It jerks you around,” said Pfc. Daniel Rullo, 21, a medic from Binghamton, N.Y., with Company A. “You squeeze your hands to make sure you are still alive. Lots of times the vehicles fill up with smoke. It is the worst feeling out here, worse than getting shot.”

The battle between the insurgents and the American forces is a grim contest of measure and countermeasure. Armored Humvees and other defensive measures have considerably improved the Americans’ ability to survive the bomb attacks.

In addition to Kevlar helmets and body armor, each soldier is equipped with special gear to protect against bomb explosions: glasses that deflect flying debris, called ballistic glasses; fire-resistant gloves; and combat earplugs.

In a kind of arms race, the insurgents have responded to the American protective measures by stepping up the frequency and power of the bombings.

More and more, like I mentioned yesterday, we're seeing in Iraq a fusion of the worst elements of the Israeli occupation (and now invasion of Lebanon) with the worst elements of the French/Algerian War...except for one thing: we have NO natural constituency or ally in Iraq. Under those circumstances, we're in the position of fools...or suckers.

Fits Dubya and Rummy to a tee.
L'etat C'est Lui

Maybe someone should check to see if Steven G. Bradbury really did graduate from law school.
Long, Stifling Summer

A late start for me today, though I've got an excuse this time--just finished a half day "conference" on VM Ware that was really more of a sales pitch...oh well. Anyway, while I get up to speed over here, it's worth noting Riverbend's latest:

It promises to be a long summer. We're almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It's a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere.

The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.

The horrific thing about the killings is that the area had been cut off for nearly two weeks by Ministry of Interior security forces and Americans. Last week, a car bomb was set off in front of a 'Sunni' mosque people in the area visit. The night before the massacre, a car bomb exploded in front of a Shia husseiniya in the same area. The next day was full of screaming and shooting and death for the people in the area. No one is quite sure why the Americans and the Ministry of Interior didn't respond immediately. They just sat by, on the outskirts of the area, and let the massacre happen.

At nearly 2 pm, we received some terrible news. We lost a good friend in the killings. T. was a 26-year-old civil engineer who worked with a group of friends in a consultancy bureau in Jadriya. The last time I saw him was a week ago. He had stopped by the house to tell us his sister was engaged and he'd brought along with him pictures of latest project he was working on- a half-collapsed school building outside of Baghdad.

He usually left the house at 7 am to avoid the morning traffic jams and the heat. Yesterday, he decided to stay at home because he'd promised his mother he would bring Abu Kamal by the house to fix the generator which had suddenly died on them the night before. His parents say that T. was making his way out of the area on foot when the attack occurred and he got two bullets to the head. His brother could only identify him by the blood-stained t-shirt he was wearing.

People are staying in their homes in the area and no one dares enter it so the wakes for the people who were massacred haven't begun yet. I haven't seen his family yet and I'm not sure I have the courage or the energy to give condolences. I feel like I've given the traditional words of condolences a thousand times these last few months, "Baqiya ib hayatkum… Akhir il ahzan…" or "May this be the last of your sorrows." Except they are empty words because even as we say them, we know that in today's Iraq any sorrow- no matter how great- will not be the last...

It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It's gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages, "civil war… death… killing… bombing… rape…"

Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it's not really the latest- it's just the one that's being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don't report rapes here, they avenge them. We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?

In the news they're estimating her age to be around 24, but Iraqis from the area say she was only 14. Fourteen. Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes... Raise your heads high supporters of the 'liberation' - your troops have made you proud today. I don't believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an 'independent investigation', ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn't his daughter or sister who was raped, probably tortured and killed. His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops.

It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest- I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?...

It's difficult to believe T. is really gone… I was checking my email today and I saw three unopened emails from him in my inbox. For one wild, heart-stopping moment I thought he was alive. T. was alive and it was all some horrific mistake! I let myself ride the wave of giddy disbelief for a few precious seconds before I came crashing down as my eyes caught the date on the emails- he had sent them the night before he was killed. One email was a collection of jokes, the other was an assortment of cat pictures, and the third was a poem in Arabic about Iraq under American occupation. He had highlighted a few lines describing the beauty of Baghdad in spite of the war… And while I always thought Baghdad was one of the more marvelous cities in the world, I'm finding it very difficult this moment to see any beauty in a city stained with the blood of T. and so many other innocents…

I remember reading Riverbend's heartfelt words of condolence for New Orleans--even as Iraq was reeling through year two of the occupation. These twin failures will be forever linked in history--examples of a government that manages to mix incompetence with a stunning degree of sociopathy. It's amazing to consider how little concern Team Bush and their supporters have for anyone...except themselves, of course.

It's kind of like watching serial killers complain about conditions in jail.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Eddy Allman is trying to revive Gris Gris again here in Red Stick:

Eddy Allman, who relocated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, announced Tuesday at the DDD meeting that he will begin publishing Gris Gris Rouge, a community-oriented alternative publication.

The publication harkens back in name and content to Gris Gris, an alternative magazine that has been published on and off since the 1970s.

The first issue is coming out Aug. 1.

I don't know anything about Allman--maybe someone from NOLA can provide more info on him--but the original Gris Gris was my introduction to "alternative" publications...later, a friend of mine worked on the first attempt to revive the paper.

Red Stick has been without a high profile alternative weekly since The Gambit ceased publication, I think around 2001 or 2002.

As a confirmed reader (it's my one "addiction" that's actually good for me), I've gotta hope this will work...
Tex-Ass & the Badger State

Put em on the same elevator, and you'll exceed the weight limit.

There are LOTS of really wonderful folks who reside in Wisc--like Scout, for instance...and I think Schroeder mentioned he was brought up in America's Dairyland.

I spent the better part of a decade in Badger land myself, enjoying the all-too-brief summers, freezing half to death each dreadfully long winter, and eventually earning a square of parchment from the venerable U. I doubt I would've lasted more than a year or so without good friends...and the ubiquitous case of 12 oz. longneck returnable bottles (usually Huber, but, in better times, Leinenkugel, Point...or Capital Dark Lager).

But, just like the Gret Stet must live with Dollar Bill Jefferson, or Edwin "the lizard" Edwards, Wisconsin has folks like Joe McCarthy, Tommy Thompson...and "Tex" Sensenbrenner:

Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. has no tolerance for illegal immigrants, either in his political life or personal life.

“My housekeeper in Wisconsin was born in Wisconsin,” says Mr. Sensenbrenner, the Republican congressman and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “My housekeeper here is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nicaragua.”

Mr. Sensenbrenner is so loath to risk dealing with illegal immigrants that when his Cadillacs need cleaning, he prefers do-it-yourself car washes that require tokens. “They don’t have Montezuma’s picture on the front of them,” Mr. Sensenbrenner says of the tokens.

He is sitting in his Capitol Hill office dominated by two life-size portraits of himself. portraits of himself...Cadillacs...he's a regular "man of the people."
Violence Begetting Violence

If anyone needs more proof that the cycle of violence in Iraq has descended to a more or less perpetual out-of-control condition, congratulations--you got it:

Militant Islamic Web sites have posted video that purportedly shows the bodies of two U.S. soldiers kidnapped and killed last month in Yusufiya, Iraq.

The video was accompanied by a statement that linked the killings with the alleged rape of a young Iraqi woman in March.

I'm not a betting person--and the circumstances certainly aren't what I'd wager on anyway, but to use an easily understandable metaphor, about as close as you could get to a "sure thing" will be that Iraq--and, by extension, the rest of the region--will be mired in an ugly chaos for the forseeable future. And that's your Team Bush foreign policy "success."

This sort of chaos unfortunately is a perfect cover for their type of governance (On a related note, last night Countdown featured John Dean plugging his book about authoritarian mindsets. If you didn't get to watch it, take a look for the transcript when it becomes available). It guarantees a climate of fear and all-but-guarantees a downward spiral of retaliation, revenge, blood-feud, and so on. I guess Team Bush thinks of terrorism--and the increased possibility of an attack in the west--as good politics. Hell, maybe it is--if you're cynical enough to turn torture and death into a tactic and strategy for votes.

On the other hand, maybe it's time to take a Karl Rove tactic--attacking an opponent's perceived strength--and use it against them. The public is sick and tired of the failed war in Iraq--and the twin failure in Afghanistan--even if professional morons like David Brooks can't get enough blood to keep their supersized goblets full of corpuscles.

And there's still the matter of New Orleans (Schroeder links to this superb post from Michael Homan chronicling the day-to-day struggle of a survivor--major and minor things that add up. Makes you wonder how the Iraqis feel: they're in their THIRD YEAR of it). What kind of ignorance does it take to IGNORE a massive, festering wound here at home while spraying firehose quantities of money overseas on a cause that now looks like the worst elements of the Israeli occupation of West Bank/Gaza...and the Algerian civil war? (aside: I guess we'll soon be finding out just what set Zidane least some are saying racial slurs). But I digress.

They AREN'T strong on terrorism. They've lost two wars, have allowed thousands of soldiers to be killed or maimed, they've allowed thousands of Iraqis to suffer likewise (sadly, I doubt many Americans, particularly twitnuts, really care about Iraqis, but...)...and, at home, they've allowed the destruction of an entire region...not from a terrorist attack, but from an easily anticipated storm, followed by a flood that occurred due to negligence. That's NOT success, even by the twisted definitions of modern punditry.

Hell, I think it's high time they got called on their 9/11 negligence, too. For some reason, everyone thinks they deserve a mulligan or something on that one. I think it's instructive that they were in office for over half a year and never bothered to worry about acts of terrorism. Five years after the fact, we find out Shrub's reaction to the August 6th, 2001 PDB was "OK, you've covered your ass," followed by a trip to the fishing hole. That's leadership??

Time to pull out the old Gret Stet dismissive (paraphrasing here)--they don't deserve to be elected dog-catcher.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Global Warming: Another Deadly Zin


Climates Suitable for Wine

Whiner (or, if you prefer, WATB)

Of course, wine is associated with 'blue state'-ness, so I expect Herrs Rove, Shrub, & Cheney probably think this is a GOOD thing:

Climate warming could spell disaster for much of the multibillion-dollar U.S. wine industry. Areas suitable for growing premium wine grapes could be reduced by 50 percent — and possibly as much as 81 percent — by the end of this century, according to a study Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The paper indicates increasing weather problems for grapes in such areas as California's Napa and Sonoma valleys.

The main problem: An increase in the frequency of extremely hot days, according to Noah Diffenbaugh of the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University.

Guess I should stock up now while I can still afford the stuff...
Law & Disorder

Makes the NOLA police force look positively professional...

More of the old "Freedom is messy":

Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force, with abuses including the rape of female prisoners, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations.

A recent assessment by State Department police training contractors echoes the investigative documents, concluding that strong paramilitary and insurgent influences within the force and endemic corruption have undermined public confidence in the government.

Officers also have beaten prisoners to death, been involved in kidnapping rings, sold thousands of stolen and forged Iraqi passports and passed along vital information to insurgents, the Iraqi documents allege.

Karl Rove, by the way, considers this, quote, "...a distinct improvement on the society that existed."

Link (h/t TalkLeft).

Well, be it design or incompetence, I think it's pretty evident their idea of "success," be it in Iraq...or Afghanistan...or New Orleans--where at one point Rove himself either was or is in charge of the White House "plan"--anyway, their idea of "success" consists of things we in reality-based existence would call...well, failure.

And, like all postponed days of reckoning, the cost will continue to increase dramatically as long as we keep looking in the other direction...
New Urbanism Meets...E-rat?!?

Submitted mostly without comment here, this story caught my attention in no small part due to its geographic proximity to where I grew up.

And maybe I'm a little weird, but I think it would've been a hoot to sit in on the charette.

If you go to's main page, you can link to a Macromedia slide show with photos and speculative drawings of the region, which was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Rita (come to think of it, that's the biggest news from there since Lake Piegneur back in 1980).

Anyway, I think it's worth a look.