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30 June 2007

Indin Corn

by: Minstrel Boy

In early memory
Mission music
Was ringing round my nursery door
I said take this child, lord
From the Apache Reservation
Give him the wings to fly through harmony
And he wont bother you no more

This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain

paul simon

The God of All Ropers gigged me for not including the recipe for Indin Corn which was served at our barbecue. It's something that is easy for me to forget to talk about, but impossible to neglect. This is done with green corn. To us green corn is just picked ears that haven't been dried prior to making meal or flour. Ya'll call it corn on the cob.

Even more than other vegetables and fruits corn must be savored as fresh as possible. At the instant of picking the sugars begin to degrade into starches and the flavor is diminished. The best way, if you can't grow your own, is to buy it from a farmer's market or stand. If you're one of those poor neglected city folks hassle your produce guy at the supermarket to find out when the stuff was sent in.

Remember, fresher is better.

Take the corn and strip back the husks, leaving the entire outer husk in place at the base of the ear. Losing some of the inner husk won't hurt anything but you need to have a complete cover of husk for this to work right. Strip off the cornsilk and sprinkle the ears with a little lime juice. Then give them a light dusting with cayenne pepper or chili powder (according to your own taste, remember you can always add more peppers, but they are impossible to remove). Then give the ear a good spritzing with a spray bottle fillied with olive oil. Bring the husks back up and tie the top off with a piece of twine or, if you are like me and save them, use the little tie thingies from a bread bag to hold the husks in place.

Stick them in a bucket or tub of water for at least two hours to saturate the cornhusks.

To cook, put them on the grill and turn them so that the husk chars evenly. You want black charcoal. Totally burnt. The corn inside will be perfectly steamed, still a bit crunchy and bursting with contrasts in flavor and texture.

harp and sword
29 June 2007

Medicine Gifts (epilogue to Superstition Ride)

by: Minstrel Boy

Silas ended up staying the entire week. He hung out by the pool, he flirted with the Pool Girls, he made me cook for him. A lot.

And we talked. We went over the events of the past week, a lot of processing of the sweat lodge ceremony. One point he kept making over and over was that I tend to get wrapped up in what's going on in Washington to the detriment of things happening right in front of me, that directly concern those around me. I have determined to spend much more energy on events that I can directly influence.

One thing that kept springing up regarding my wartime experiences is to try and come to terms with what might be the single most frightening aspect of the war.

How much I loved it.

I loved the thrill of combat. I would reach a place that I called "the zone" where I could taste metal in my mouth, I could hear the blood singing in my veins, where the world would slow down to the point of a slow-motion movie, yet, I was at regular speed. I felt like a god. I was also never before or since to form bonds with people like the ones that I formed with the folks who shared the line with me. Not any of my wives, my immediate family, my children, nothing came close. It might be one of the reasons that I have been through four divorces. It might be why I prefer to live alone rather than have to make space for a relationship that seems to be missing something. I don't know. I'm not trying to make a lot of judgement calls here. It's hard enough to honestly acknowledge how things are right now. I'm sure the process work will be a long time running.

There was a week's worth of work piled up. I slogged through like a trouper. There was also my big party to get ready for.

The beautiful Pool Girls are expecting their first child. They had floated a trial balloon to me about the possibility of my being the sperm donor, but I politely declined because I dreaded complicating our relationship. I don't do complicated well at all. They, along with their announcement told me that they decided to name the child after me. I asked "What if it's a girl? Stephanie? That was my 3rdX's name, it wouldn't do at all." Blonde Pool Girl (who is carrying the child) said "We thought about that. I remembered one of the first times we talked and I called you a harpist. You told me that the preferred term in Ireland was harper. So we decided that we are going to name the child Harper. After you." I thanked them profusely and have promised to stand as both a godfather, and an Apache Uncle.

My end of the menu was to make Blackened Rib Eyes, Two Shaker Lemon Pies, Killer Ass Cherry/Raspberry Pie, and White Chocolate Truffles at the special request of Silas. The rest of the food was brought by the other guests and we were not lacking anything.

We did our exchanging of medicine gifts. The Germans splurged to get Silas a beautiful Hudson Bay Blanket, four cartons of Lucy Strikes, and a new Black Stetson. He was thrilled and so were they to see their gifts so well received.

Schatzie brought me a Navajo saddle blanket. She fell in absolute love with Casey, my arab stallion. She rides like a cossack. She does total justice to my English style Hermes saddle that I almost never use because of my crappy knees. She also told me what she saw in the dream round. She had a vision of herself standing in Apache Pass where Tsebitsidah Ma'atose made her stand. Silas and I promised to help her make the trip sometime in the future.

Silas is braiding me another reata to replace the one that I gave to The God of All Ropers.

I am getting ready for yet another road gig. I'll be mostly incommunicado for about ten days. Schatzie and Ingrid are going to stay here to feed the horses and shovel poop.

Be well my friends. Be at peace with yourselves and the world.

harp and sword

VP Dick: Law? What Law?

by: Foiled Goil

The Misunderestimated Mr. Cheney:
The Vice President's Record of Willfully Violating the Law,
And Wrongly Claiming Authority to Do So

By John W. Dean
June 29, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney has regularly claimed that he is above the law, but until recently he has not offered any explanation of why.

In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a law that Cheney believes does apply to him, whether that law be major and minor.
A man who can so easily disregard the War Powers Act, FISA, the Geneva Conventions, and the War Crimes Act is merely flicking fleas when it comes to complying with laws like the Presidential Records Act, which requires him to keep records.
Most interesting in Cheney's defiance is his absolutely absurd explanation of why the law is not applicable to him or his staff.
Cheney's claim his office is neither an entity nor agency defies logic, but it is not surprising since he continues also to claim, with absolutely no evidence to support his claim, that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and that terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi set up an al Qaeda operation in Iraq.

Needless to say, Cheney's claim - or Addington's claim, since Cheney appears to be backing away from his chief of staff and counsel on this issue - raises the question of what the vice president is.
Those with whom I have spoken have serious doubt that Bush and the White House staff really knows what Cheney is doing, why he is doing it, or how he is doing it. From the outset of this administration, Cheney has been instrumental in placing people loyal to him throughout the Executive Branch. This is not to say that Bush is not "the decider," for he is, but by shaping the debate and controlling the paper flow, Cheney decides what the decider will decide.

It has long been apparent that Cheney's genius is that he lets George W. Bush get out of bed every morning actually believing he is the President.

· ·
28 June 2007

Monty Python Administration

by: Minstrel Boy

Listening to the recent claims from the Vice President has reminded me of nothing less than this Monty Python sketch. Think of Cheney in the John Clease role as Harry Reid or Rahm Emmanuel try to make sense of the the things he's said over the last several days.

Stay tuned for the famed "Dead Parrot" sketch when they try to spin their failure to secure Bagdhad in September.

Superstition Ride - - - Day 4 - - - (wagons ho)

by: Minstrel Boy

I open my eyes to find myself alone. I figure that must mean The God of All Ropers has arrived. From the mouth of the cave I see him about a quarter mile away. He's brought a beautiful, Conestoga rig, pulled by two strapping mules. For those you don't know this little tidbit, it was mules who really were the engine of exploration and settlement by the white folks out here. Horses were far too delicate for the heavy work of farming and pulling wagons. The mountain men like Bridger, and Carson all swore by mules for their riding. More surefooted, tougher, able to eat rougher forage. These are a couple of beauties. There are big, balloon tires on the wagon instead of the iron rimmed wooden ones, that's a very nice touch which I'm sure will help smooth the ride. I walk down to where the Germans and Silas are waiting and prepare to make introductions.

Right after I have introduced Silas, before I can say anything about our German friends, The God of All Ropers takes over, in what, to my ears sounds like pretty damned good German. He sees the look of astonishment on my face and he says "My family came from western Missouri, they were all squareheads. I grew up speaking German with my grandpa Kirchenschlager who was from Hesse." The Germans are totally transported by the circumstance of seeing this guy who looks like the spiritual son of Hopalong Cassidy who drives up in a covered wagon and starts out speaking German.

Without any further ado he breaks out with the goodies. There is a five gallon water cooler, and a big ice chest that is full of cantelope and watermelon and big bottles of Gatorade. These are torn into greedily by all of us. I tell my friend and neighbor that after three days of hardtack and jerky this is one of the most welcome sights that I could dream of. He smiles and points to the bootbox at the rear of the wagon and says "I brought a couple salt blocks too."

This really excites the horses. You'd have thought it was made of cotton candy. I thank him again. He tries to play it down, being a rough tough man of the west and all, but I don't allow him to minimize what he has done for us. I tell him that if he hadn't been able to come out we most likely would have had to call the rescue units out. He mutters some stuff about his wife giving him crap about laying around the house all day and wanting to give a workout to his new mule team. I admire them appropriately. He tells me they are "Walking Mules" meaning the horse component of their heritage comes from Tennesee Walkers. I ask him if he wants to unhitch them to take them to the water. He says no, they aren't all that trustworthy yet but he's got some canvas nosebuckets that they would love to have filled.

I ask him if he happens to have a spare bridle laying around his gear box, because I'm figuring that since we have a wagon and all it would be a nice break for Sally to have the pack saddle ride in the wagon, but with a bridle she could manage a bareback rider. He thinks a bit and says no, he didn't bring any gear like that. Silas hears this exchange and chuckles. He points over to my McClellan rig and says "Bring me that reata when you're ready to rig her up. I'll tie up a bosal." This intrigues the hell out of The God of All Ropers. He wants to see this done. He remarks that a lot of the folks in the western riding arenas are starting to come back to the mecate and bosal rig. That the horses seem to love it.

We water the mules and I start washing the mud off the horses. Schatzie and The God of All Ropers join me in this. We get them scrubbed and dried while Hans, Eva and Silas bring down our stuff from the cave. In good time we are loaded up and ready. It's still pretty hot but the sun has almost gone behind the face of Superstition Mountain and we are in blessed shade, rested and ready. I ask Schatzie which horse she would like to ride and she points to Sally. I give her a leg up and soon we are on our way.

The rest of the ride out is like a rolling party. All told it takes about two and a half hours but it flies swiftly from us. We reach the trailhead without a hitch. The Germans have a reunion with their friend from ASU who has come to pick them up. Introductions are made all around and more invitations to my place for next week are given out. When I take the McClellan off of Rosalita I toss it into the back of my cousin's pickup that Silas was driving. I tell him that I am grateful he came out to find me, that the next time he borrows a horse he shouldn't have to borrow a saddle too. I take the bosal Silas tied off Sally and hand it over to The God of All Ropers saying again that he came in the nick of time, just like the cavalry always used to do in the movies. He admires the six strand braided rawhide reata and says some cliche stuff like "Shucks buddy, wasn't nothing, you'da done the same." He says that Silas has promised to teach him how to tie these up next week.

Before they take off to drive around the wilderness area and get to their car I explain to the Germans about the concept of the medicine gift. How when we feel a spiritual debt to someone we make a gesture of thanks by small gifts. I tell them that the traditional healers like Silas will only accept gifts of tobacco, food, and clothing for their services. We exchange phone numbers and goodbyes. I ask Hans how restrictive a vegetarian he is, if things like dairy products or eggs are OK with him. He gives me a puzzled look and I say "Menu dude. Menu. When you're a guest in my house I want to serve you food you will eat with gusto." He laughs and says that some of his friends call him "Frenchy" because of his love for cheese. I tell him that I have some beautiful eggplant growing in my truckpatch and I'm leaning toward Moussaka. He beams. Schatzie comes over and says "How can we ever thank you?" I start to mumble as bad as The God of All Ropers did with me and am finally able to spit out something along the lines of "Just say 'Thank you masked man' as you drive off."

It's obvious that she doesn't get this bit of western cultural history but The God of All Ropers and Silas are about to die laughing.

As they are about to leave Schatzie runs back over to me gives a quick hug and a peck on the cheek and says in her delightful German accent "Danke mask-ed man." I say "Weren't nothin' little lady" and blush bright red.

I finish helping getting the horses and mules trailered and am about to walk back to my truck when Silas says "I'll just follow you to your place, I don't feel like driving all the way up to the rez tonight. Your cousin won't miss the truck for a few more days will he?" I say of course not, I would be honored to have him stay as long as he wishes.

The God of All Ropers says "We're standing around burnin' daylight cowpokes."

Again, the Arizona sunset paints a brilliant final frame to the day.

harp and sword
27 June 2007

Don't Mess With Old People

by: Foiled Goil

Sometimes, you've just got to grin:

Ex-Marine teaches pickpocket a lesson

AP via Yahoo:
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Bill Barnes says he was scratching off a losing $2 lottery ticket inside a gas station when he felt a hand slip into his front-left pants pocket, where he had $300 in cash.

He immediately grabbed the person's wrist with his left hand and started throwing punches with his right, landing six or seven blows before a store manager intervened.

"I guess he thought I was an easy mark," Barnes, 72, told The Grand Rapids Press for a story Tuesday.

He's anything but an easy mark: Barnes served in the Marines, was an accomplished Golden Gloves boxer and retired after 20 years as an iron worker.
Barnes said he'd probably do the same thing again under the same circumstances, if for no other reason than what he would face back home.

"I wouldn't want my wife to give me hell for lettin' that guy get my money," he said with a smile.

26 June 2007

Afghanistan: Vertical Opium Monopoly

by: Dark Wraith

Afghanistan and Its Cash CropThe United Nations has released its 2007 World Drug Report providing stark data on the rise of Afghanistan to world dominance in opium production. In a multi-dimensional challenge to any claim that the 2001 U.S.-led attack on the country made the world safer, the report, together with other official documents, paints a veritable tapestry of grim news about the situation in the country:

  • • From 2005 to 2006, opium production in Afghanistan rose from 4519 tons to 6724 tons, a 50% increase.

  • • Providing 92% of the global supply of opium, Afghanistan now stands as the most concentrated site of production on the planet for any illicit substance.

  • • In conjunction with the surging production of raw opium, Afghanistan now processes almost all of its domestically grown, unrefined field product before exporting it to world markets, thereby making the country a vertical manufacturing monopoly in opiates like street heroin and morphine.

  • • Taliban forces ousted in the U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, which commenced the still-ongoing military phase of Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, are using revenue from opium production to fund their continuing battle with multi-national forces now operating under the auspices of NATO in the country.

The graphic below presents the 2007 World Drug Report data on potential opium production in Afghanistan for the years 1990 through 2006.

Afghanistan Opium Production, 1990-2006

The graphic depicts the rise, fall, and resurrection of the opium production industry in the country. The early years of Taliban rule were marked by a relatively constant output; the dramatic drop that began in the last two years of the 20th Century was the result of the central government bowing to international pressure to stop cultivation of the poppy plants from which the opium comes. As evidenced by the virtually non-existent output by 2001, the success of the Taliban rulers was remarkable, in part because their authority had pervaded most of the country and driven into some degree of inactivity the old, entrenched drug warlords of what would later come to be known as the "Northern Alliance" working with Coalition forces. With the swift collapse of the Taliban regime under the onslaught of Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan, civil law enforcement came to an end, and it would not be long before vast swaths of the country beyond the capitol were back under the rule of local forces that would induce farmers to move fields away from grain and toward the poppy plants.

Interestingly, however, the recent, massive secondary spike in production is the result of the resurgence of the Taliban, itself, militarily and economically controlling larger and larger tracts of the countryside, particularly in southern provinces. With farm gate prices attractive and the willingness of Taliban forces to use violence on those who resist, many farmers who had up until recently continued to commit their fields to grain are now pressing their acreage into service for opium production, this despite continuing (albeit highly variable) risk of drug interdiction raids by Coalition forces working in coordination with central government instrumentalities and personnel.

With the United Nations report predicting a continued increase in opium production through at least 2007, and with much of that increase due to the Taliban consolidating more widespread control, any claim of a lasting beneficial effect from Opertion Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan, either in Afghanistan or beyond, remains far less a realistic assessment than merely another attempt by the Bush Adminstration to divorce its propaganda from any connection whatsoever to the realities its incompetence has wrought on the Middle East and Asia Minor.

The Dark Wraith would like to imagine that Americans are learning a lesson about the unintended consequences of using brute military force, but that would probably be hoping for too much.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·

Superstition Ride - - -Day 4 (the sun has its say)

by: Minstrel Boy

We are covering ground at a very decent clip. Silas has started to range ahead with Ingrid riding behind him. I figure he's looking for places to hole up in case we have to stop. The sun has risen above the canyon walls, and even though we are going downhill and making great time it feels like we're gaining a few degrees every minute. Across Sally's back I can see that Eva is starting to turn a pretty bright pink. She's good about keeping her water intake steady, and pink isn't a danger color. If she starts to turn a deeper red, if she stops sweating, those are signs that the body is starting to shut down vital systems in order to try and cool the internal organs.

The bantering and talking has pretty much died out. It's coming down to putting full concentration into putting one foot after the other. One problem with going downhill is that it gets hotter faster as we lose altitude. Schatzie asks me if it's time to switch out riders and I say that it's probably a good idea. When I reach down to swing Eva up behind me I notice that her arm feels hot and dry. When she leans into me I can feel the heat radiating off of her. I remind her to take a good drink and then have her pour some water over her head. It will only stay wet for a few minutes, but any cooling at the point is a good thing. I look for Silas and see nothing. I tell Schatzie and Hans that I am going ahead to try and find Silas. I tell her to keep Sally checked down and not to let her pull them along too fast. I bring Rosalita up to an easy jog and follow the plain tracks of Ban Fai. About a half mile down the trail I see the tracks veer off into a side canyon. I look behind and see that Schatzie, Hans and Sally are easily in sight. I dismount and put a trail marker of stones pointing the turn to take down and start to lead Rosalita and Eva down the side canyon. We're in a more narrow canyon fork, there's pretty decent sand and I figure it for a monsoon runoff channel. The tracks are deep and easy to follow.

About another four hundred yards brings me to a small pool of water, and Ban Fai, with no sign of Silas and Ingrid. I give a sharp whistle and listen for a response. There is a ledge that is about 20 feet up the face of the canyon. Damned near invisible from the ground. Silas pokes his head over and smiles. He says "We got shade, and sweet water up here, where are the others?" I tell him that they are further down the trail, that Eva is starting into shock and needs to get out of the sun right now. I ask him how he got up there. He says that there is a run off channel going to the head of the canyon and that it is about the width of a sidewalk and pretty easy climbing. I follow his pointing finger to where we should go. I grab a water bag and take Eva to where it begins. By the time we get there I see Silas and Ingrid coming down to help her up. I go back to Rosalita, snatch up Ban Fai's lead, and head back down to the main trail. I arrive just as Schatzie and Hans are making the turn. I tell them that Silas has found us a place to hole up to wait out the worst of the sun and they both begin to perk up. I tell Schatzie to hop up on Ban Fai and help Hans to swing up behind me.

When we get back to the others Schatzie is a big help again helping me to take care of the horses. Hans helps to carry the panniers and water bags up the steep incline and I see that Silas has found a pretty decent cave. The canyon walls through here are studded with them. They helped many an Apache elude cavalry patrols or pissed off possees. The water in most of them has filtered through sandstone, limestone, or both and is usually sweet and safe without having to do any treatment. When we all get inside and I hang my lantern we can see that there is a pretty wide sheet of water coming down slowly on one of the cave walls. This comes to a place that was obviously gouged out by humans to form a nice 8" deep pool. The water is deliciously cold. Silas and are giving tips to the Germans on how to take a wet cloth and put it around the neck and under the armpits to help speed the cooldown. When it appears that all are settling in and nobody's in any danger I grab the satphone from the pannier and say that I'm going to go check on the horses.

It wasn't all bullshit. I really did have some stuff to do for the horses. I take some dirt from around the place and help them to make mudcoats to stay cool. Sally is already starting to browse but she's happy to get a licorice bit.

I call the satphone for the God of All Ropers and am relieved to hear that he's been on the trail for a while now. That he is bringing ample water and, be still my heart, an ice chest with some melons and Gatorade. I tell him about us holing up in our little side canyon and he says that it was probably the most prudent thing to have done. He says that the mules he's got pulling won't give a damn about the weather and that all should be well. We figure between us that there is about ninety minutes before he reaches the turnoff to us. I go back up to the others and think, Great, I think I'll grab me some sleep.

Just as I am coming into the cave I hear Silas telling the Germans that everything is going to be just fine. He tells them that a "mother hen" like me wouldn't have even tried to walk out without a backup plan or two. I break down and tell them about the cavalry wagon being on the way and the mood instantly elevates.

I go back away from the cavemouth and find a nice little shelf. It might be the work of people. I ask Silas if there are any stories about this particular cave and he says no. He just remembered that it was here, had sweet water and lots of shade.

Schatzie comes over to where I am and is wanting to talk about her experience in the sweat lodge. I remind her that it is something that is supposed to be kept inside for at least a full week, but that if she really needs to talk she should be talking to Silas about it because he led the sweat. She appears so crestfallen that it gives me an idea.

I ask Silas and the Germans if they would all like to come out to my place in a week. To swim, eat, and celebrate our coming together and our getting out alive. They think this is a wonderful idea. I tell them to please feel free to bring guests, that we will put on a real old west shindig for them.

Then I remind them, and myself, that I didn't get any sleep last night and since help is on the way and won't come any faster by my staying awake I would like to take a short nap.

I'm asleep before I know whether or not they respond to this.

harp and sword
25 June 2007

Left With Nothing

by: Foiled Goil

Iraqis to Bush: "You have left us with nothing"

by Mike Whitney

"Never had I fathomed, not even in my remotest imagination, that a day will come when God's houses will be attacked and destroyed. The way they are today, in Iraq... Never.

This Red Line is now crossed... Crossed, transgressed, trespassed into blasphemy."

~Layla Anwar
"A Red Line" from An Arab Woman’s Blues
According to a recent UN report, the Green Zone is now coming under heavy fire on a daily basis. The report said that the so-called "International Zone" — which houses the U.S. embassy and Iraqi government office — is being pelted regularly with a "barrage of mortar bombs and missiles… The attacks have become more frequent and more accurate." (Reuters)

The news of the mortar and missile attacks has been largely concealed from the American people. The public already believes the war was a "mistake" and the persistent bombing of America's "last sanctuary" in Baghdad just adds to the nation's sinking morale. The US is progressively losing its grip in Iraq and the fighting is degenerating into a vicious free-for-all. The "surge" has failed to achieve its political objectives, and this is forcing the occupation to rely more and more on aerial bombardment and counterinsurgency operations.

The war is in its fifth year, and still, Bush has not produced anything even vaguely resembling a political solution. He is utterly clueless.

The world's oldest civilization is being destroyed before our eyes --- its cities laid to waste, its people slaughtered by the tens of thousands. Saddam never could have dreamed of devastation on this scale. We've ruined everything. Truckloads of dead men are delivered to the Baghdad morgue every morning where they are processed and then dumped in mass graves in abandoned soccer fields or schoolyards. 20% of the population has either been internally displaced or forced to flee into Jordan and Syria. In Falluja alone, 65% of the buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands of its citizens are left living in tent cities scattered across the desert -- exposed to the elements, living on crusts of bread and foul water. The number of refugees has risen rapidly; 2 million in Amman, Damascus and Cairo. They go wherever they can to avoid the bombing and find safety or shelter.
I will write for the refugees...
(with) no homeland except
the wind of illusion
and no shelter except
the humiliation of tents

~by Musa Shu'ayb
"For Whom do I write"
The Iraqi people are now facing what Juan Cole calls an "everyday apocalypse" --- a complete security meltdown in which crime and terror flourish in the seedbed of foreign occupation. Bush's war has created the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time --- 700,000 dead, millions more maimed or traumatized for life, and an entire country reduced to rubble.
The dustbins overflow
with corpses
and human decay.
Where to now my enemy?
Where to now my oppressor?

~Layla Anwar
"Poem about America"
Among those who follow the daily accounts of the war, the mood has grown increasingly dark and pessimistic. It's clear that the Democrats are now as committed to the goals of the war as Bush. They are both equally guilty.

The Iraq war is no accident. It is the logical consequence of a corrupted system where all the protections for human rights and civil liberties have been abandoned. All that's left is the voracity and bloodlust of an unelected oligarchy who dispense death and destruction with complete indifference. Democracy has been subverted in America --- every part of the body-politic is diseased. The war is just a reflection of America's moral degeneracy.
Why don't we hear the voices of the war's victims? Why do we never hear the stories of the people who are forced to live beneath America's bombs?

For 5 years, the western media has covered the war from the perspective of the struggling American GI and the hardships he faces in a foreign land. That may be true, but what about the Iraqis who must endure the "everyday apocalypse"; don't they count?

The US invasion has turned Iraq into a testing-ground for new theories on counterinsurgency. One by one the cities in the Sunni region have been surrounded with razor-wire; vital supplies have been cut off, check-points set up, snipers placed on rooftops, and the siege begins. Civilian neighborhoods are branded as "terrorist strongholds" and pounded with heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. We have declared war on some of the poorest people on earth —ghetto warfare with the most sophisticated high-tech weaponry ever invented.

Who will tell these peoples' story? The New York Times? FOX News?

Here's something you won't read in the mainstream news: The real disposition of the war changed more than two years ago when it became apparent that the Iraqi resistance would not simply throw down their weapons and give up. That's when the assassination of teachers and intellectuals went into high-gear. That's when archeological sites, museums, and anything else connected to Iraqi cultural and historical identity — began to come under relentless and withering attack. The attacks on holy sites and mosques have persisted to this day. There is a conscious effort to destroy all the religious symbols and monuments which bind the people together in the shared experience of a common faith.

The same sinister forces which are inciting the sectarian violence are trying to remove all sense of kinship, brotherhood, nationalism and spirituality. Their objective is to "wipe the slate clean" and rebuild the entire society according to their neoliberal model.

If that is not genocide; then what is?
The story is called "My Shrine" and it is by poet and author Layla Anwar:

...And instead of sweets falling as a good omen,
falling debris buried the wounded...
And instead of sacred chants uniting with the sunset,
the cries of mourning...

What have you done?

Not only have you smashed my country into tiny pieces.
Not only have you slaughtered my people.
Not only have you snatched my loved ones, my family,
my friends, away from me.

Not only have you destroyed our homes.
Not only have you exiled thousands of us.

But you have also managed to shatter my memories,
pull them out from their roots, like some unwanted weed.

You have managed to reach the only sacred place I had left.
The only place I had jealously safeguarded, secretly held
in silence, lest you should find out about it.

But you even managed to penetrate that too.
Leaving me with nothing...

Leaving me with absolutely nothing but this pen and paper
and a full moon staring coldly back at me.
We have destroyed Iraq and left the people with nothing. The American people need to know this.

· ·

Clear, hold, and lose

by: Waveflux

A critical component of the surge strategy in Iraq - arguably the most important element - involves the ability of Iraqi security forces to actually maintain security. U.S. generals are admitting publicly that that element is sadly lacking:

The U.S. commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad, reclaiming insurgent territory day by day, said Sunday his Iraqi partners may be too weak to hold onto the gains. The Iraqi military does not even have enough ammunition, said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek: "They're not quite up to the job yet."

His counterpart south of Baghdad seemed to agree, saying U.S. troops are too few to garrison the districts newly rid of insurgents. "It can't be coalition (U.S.) forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.

It would be one thing if mere numbers were the only concern, but an ongoing Time investigation indicates that the performance of Iraqi security is the weak link in the surge strategy, and that the insurgency is eagerly exploiting it:

24 June 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 4 (morning)

by: Minstrel Boy

I keep puttering about, fussing over the dwindling stores of food, making sure that the water bags are completely filled and ready. I go through each of the panniers to see if there are things that would not cause any problem to discard. Sally being here to carry the water and the first aid supplies is the biggest thing we have going for ourselves and since she's already going to be pulling more than her fair share I don't want that to be an ounce extra. I take the alfalfa pellets, which haven't been touched yet, over to where the three horses are standing and put them out. I know that there's half a bale of timothy hay in the trailer at the end of the walk, along with a full tank of water. I take the remaining coffee beans out and begin to grind away. I don't light a fire though. I use the little sterno stove and put the finished product into a thermal jug for when the others wake up. Breakfast is going to be light, canned peaches, dried fruit, a little jerky, hardtack and coffee.

Silas smells the coffee and wanders over to where I am. I hand him a steaming mug and the last can of Eagle Brand. He chuckles triumphantly. I take out the jar of peaches and pass it to him. He busies himself slurping coffee, making a canned peaches sandwich with the hardtack. For the enthusiasm he shows it could have been beluga caviar on blini chased by champagne.

The Germans wake up one by one. Pretty soon we are all sitting and eating away. I tell them my plans for the walk. Since Schatzie is a proven rider she can take a turn riding Rosalita with Hans riding double behind. Ingrid is still too footsore to do any walking and can ride behind Silas. The Germans give me a concerned look. They have seen me limp and got a pretty good look at the surgical scars and pronounced thinness of my left leg last night. I tell them not to worry, by walking alongside Sally and the holding on the pack saddle I should be able to keep up and take my full turn walking.

I tell them that there are three very good sources of water along the trail and that by going from source to source at a slow and steady pace we should be able to reach the end of the trail without a hitch. I also tell them that it is already feeling like a scorcher and that they should be aware of the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion. I say there aren't any points given for style on a walk like this. We'll either make it or we'll stop and call for help. I don't tell them about the God of All Ropers coming with a wagon full of water and other goodies.

When we are done I pass out long sleeved shirts for the Germans to wear over their clothes. Anything to keep the sun off is a good thing here. The burlap that used to hold the alfalfa pellets gets cut up into sheets to make neckflaps down the back. It will also take a good soaking of water to keep body temps down.

The horses don't even wait to be called in. They're ready to go. I get Rosalita and Sally tacked out while Schatzie rigs up Ban Fai for Silas. After one last check to make sure everything is ready to go Schatzie hops up on Rosalita and I help Hans up to sit behind. He's a rookie so we give him a quick course on how to sit, straight but relaxed. I show him where to put his hands on the back of the saddle so that he doesn't throw Schatzie's balance off. Then I go over to Sally and show Eva how to hold on to the protrusions on the pack saddle. This will keep the walking easy on us. We start out keeping a nice steady pace. Rosalita is a little concerned to know that I'm there but not riding her. Schatzie is a good enough rider that she keeps everything managed. We keep reminding Hans to relax. Silas comes by Sally and tells Eva that she is quiet enough to be an Apache. She looks down at the ground blushing.

After about ninety minutes of good walking I tell Schatzie that it's time to switch off the riders. While we stop I give each of the horses a decent drink and a licorice bit. They are holding up fine so far, although it is nowhere near as hot as it will be. The air is still and feels heavy. The canyon walls are still blocking direct sun but in about half an hour or so that will change. Before I mount I show Hans and Schatzie how to hold on to the pack saddle and tell them that the old Apache used to outrace their enemies by having four warriors on foot and holding on to each horse. Geronimo was a master of that tactic and used it to devil both the American and Mexican armies. It allowed his light infantry to have even more range than cavalry because it is much less taxing on the horses. When we start out again I can see the surprise on their faces at how much easier it is for them to walk beside the horse at a faster pace than they would be able to maintain by themselves.

I remind them to keep sipping at their water. Much like the way we are covering our ground, we want our water consumption to be constant and moderate. I remind them that if anyone stops sweating we need to stop immediately. Silas jokes that things have certainly changed. He tells them that when he was a boy one of the rites of passage for an eight year old being taken into a warrior society was to run nearly ten miles while holding a mouthfull of water. I tell them that it has changed for the miltary too. They have a huge fixation on the concept of hydration now that wasn't a part of my war. I once told a cherry who wanted a piss break that the fact of his having piss to spare proved I wasn't driving the pace hard enough.

Hans wonders aloud about how long ago it would have been where it wouldn't have been safe for four white people to walk these hills. Silas says that his grandfather and one of his grandfather's brothers were part of the Apache scouts who hunted Geronimo. I tell them that Germonimo's brother-in-law was my great-great-great-grandfater. I also tell them that White Mountain Apaches were one of the first southwestern nations to ally with the Americans. While we would have been safe for them, the Chiricauhua, the Tonto, the Mescalero, Mimbreno, Tewa, Jicarilla, Tarahumara, and most other desert and mountain nations would have skinned their backs for moccasin soles.

The Germans are very interested in learning about the differences among the nations of the southwest. I tell them that it is really no different from Europe. There isn't a typical Indian culture. We all have our distinctions and differences. I joke that you wouldn't expect Bavarians to act like or even get along with Belgians, to say nothing of the French be they Gascon or Burgundian. I joke that the Souix had better press agents than the Apaches and Navajo and have convinced Kevin Costner and the rest of the white people that they are the only Indians in the world. Silas interjects that if the Lakota were so great the Apaches would have let them stay in Arizona.

The banter stays light and easy. We reach the first water in good shape. Both people and critters. There is a stand of palo verde trees which is great shade. Schatzie and I take the saddles off the horses and turn them out to wallow in the water, while we all sit in the shade and drink our fill of water. I pass out little hunks of jerky, except for Hans, who gets a saladido, to help replenish salt loss. Hans showed a big measure of gallantry when we dismount by going over to Ban Fai and taking Ingrid into his arms. He then carried her to the shade so that she wouldn't have to walk on her still sore feet. Silas goes over to a blooming prickley pear and nips flowers for all the girls. When the horses leave the water Schatzie and I towl them off with blankets, give them a good rub and brushing, then it's hoof picks and a thorough check over. While Schatzie is checking Sally's feet we all get a laugh because Sally takes ahold of her shirttail and when Schatzie goes to move back to the horse's back she is held fast. Sally has always had one of the best senses of humor you could find in a horse.

As we start out again Silas comes over to where Eva and I are walking alongside Sally and says to Eva "I bet you are a singer. Am I right?" Ingrid gives her up as a music major. Eva begins to sing a German song that her friends all know. She has a gorgeous soprano.

The sun is about to make its presence known, it is probably close to 100° by now and it's only around ten in the morning. Our little stroll is about to turn into a trudge.

harp and sword
23 June 2007

Happy Birthday, Title IX

by: spyderkl

Today, June 23, is the 30th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, or just Title IX. It was fairly straightforward; "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." It also wasn't intended to be used solely for sports, but the Department of Health, Education and Welfare made it clear in 1979 that it was going to be primarily for women's sports; two of their three criteria for federal funding under Title IX were specifically sports-related.

Now, ol' gran here was going into junior high when Title IX first began. Four years later, our high school allowed girls to compete on the track team (both track and field in the spring, and cross-country in the fall and winter). Before that, there was no girls' track team. Period. We were also, well, discouraged from taking metal and wood shop in school; as the boys were discouraged from taking cooking, sewing and "home ec". After Title IX, there was a new class, for both boys and girls. I think it was called Crafts class. Our teacher, Mr. K the hippie, was a pretty talented woodcut artist. We learned a little of everything; stained glass (my mother still has the box I made), leather (I've made good use of that over the years), woodcuts and lino printing, beadweaving, and some rudimentary woodworking. Nothing like the guys did in shop class, but still. We also learned inadvertently about Richard Pryor and Richard Belzer. Most likely not intentional, but I'm a better person for that.

Title IX is still controversial after 30 years, still not perfect, especially at the college level. Which shows just how far we have to go with gender equity in our country. Girls, and boys, should be free to do whatever they're best suited for, with equal funding for every sport - or non-sport, as the case may be. But back then, to even talk about it was a big deal. To see what could be, what might be...

About the track thing: Back then, I took a big, deep breath and talked to the assistant track coach about trying out for the cross-country team. She thought I might do well. I tried out, and actually got a spot on the team. Two months later, we moved away. But the opportunity was there. My mom never had that opportunity; she contented herself with beating the crap out of the guys on the playground in pick-up basketball. Thanks to Title IX, my daughter will be able to take being on a school team for granted.

We also have Title IX to thank for women like Mia Hamm, Manon Rheaume, Sheryl Swoopes - hell, the WNBA's existence - and many more. And now, boys can take cooking and girls can take metal shop. Sometimes it's a semi-big deal, but at least today, it's possible.
Evil Mommy

Son of the All Purpose Bogey

by: astraea

Nick at PBD writes:
Ahem. I made this point here a couple of days ago...

[SM] It's a curious thing that, over the past 10 - 12 days, the news from Iraq refers to the combatants there as "al-Qaida" fighters. When did that happen?

Until a few days ago, the combatants in Iraq were "insurgents" or they were referred to as "Sunni" or "Shia'a" fighters in the Iraq Civil War. Suddenly, without evidence, without proof, without any semblance of fact, the US military command is referring to these combatants as "al-Qaida".

Welcome to the latest in Iraq propaganda. . . [read on]

Sure nuff, Nick and SM. The filter is in place. Googling the web this morning, we see ~771,000 stories for al-qaeda fighters Iraq FOX , 1,370,000 for the general al-qaeda fighters Iraq. On Google news there's some 2,130 stories for al-qaeda fighters Iraq, 128 of them al-qaeda fighters Iraq FOX, and a paltry 25 for al-qaeda fighters Iraq NBC.

We could go on. But FOX leads the pack, even as Newshounds notes...
The Project for Excellence in Journalism found FOX NEWS spent almost as much time on covering the Anna Nicole Smith story as they did on the Iraq War. In fact, among the three cable news stations, FOX NEWS came in dead last on Iraq War coverage.
Back in April, Newshounds also points to where it began...
Kristol & Kilmeade: U.S. Is Fighting Al Qaeda In Iraq Not Sunnis & Shias:

Kristol went on to make the point that our soldiers were not getting shot by Sunnis and Shias, we were fighting Al Qaeda over there.

Comments: Remember when the State Department came out with the figures that the foreign fighters in Iraq were around 5 to 7%? Now Kristol and Kilmeade have us fighting only Al Qaeda over in Iraq. And to think, there were no Al Qaeda fighters when we invaded Iraq.
(Golly. Those were the days!)

News Filters, the old trickle down. What magic, what alchemy, angels dancing on pins, is this? Something that needs a catalyst. Last night on Moyers, Ken Silverstein of Harper's showed us how it's done.

xpost moon's favors

· · ·
22 June 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (into the dream - - - out into the sun)

by: Minstrel Boy

Schatzie is wavering on whether or not to re-enter the lodge for the last round. I tell her that this particular sweat has lasted much longer and been more grueling than the normal ceremony because of what we have been trying to do. She guzzles water, pours some over her head and communes with her inner German. She brightens up and says "I want a dream."

Silas sets me to bringing out the rocks that are no longer holding any heat. This is more difficult than you might expect, they are not exactly sorted by degree, and it is murderously dark inside but I do the best that I can. We bring four loads of rocks to bring the new count to twenty and go inside.

While Silas pours the water he is saying a twenty count blessing. It has always reminded me of the old child's bedtime prayer when I didn't really want to call it a night and would sit there and individually list every person I knew or had read about to be the object of God's blessing that night. Silas is pretty much blasting through it for the sake of form. Then he begins to sing in a low voice. I relax and feel myself slipping into the dream.

On a rational level I know that this is mainly a cumulative effect of dehydration and the jacking up of the body's core temperature to past extreme fever levels. Go ahead and call it hallucination if you want. It won't matter to me in the slightest. I know vision when I see it and that is where I go this time.

It starts almost like those hyperkinetic films we used to think were so cutting edge back in the 60's and 70's. Robert Evans on coke editing. I see all manner of images flashing and begin to feel a little dizzy so I lay down on my side facing the heap of steaming sizzling rocks where Silas still sings and pours. Without getting specific and betraying the ethics of the ceremony I am able to tell you that in a space of time that I have no rational sense of I see clearly and face several things. Things like the fact that there's no particular shame in my failing to halt the war in Iraq all by myself. I've been taking the deaths here at home personally because I dedicated so much time and effort toward bringing them home. I certainly expected more from the people I helped get seats in Congress than they have given. Still, personal responsibility is misplaced here. I'm also far more at peace with the last of my kids moving out into the world and on with his life. It's a great thing to see, and will be a joy to watch as he takes his own life in his own hands. He's a great kid, a much better kid than I've ever been a father. He's known what he wanted to do and be since he was in junior high and he is by god going to do it. He lets me help out a little, but he is making sure that when his goals are archieved they are his and his alone. I respect that, even all the while fighting my natural instinct which is to meddle and fix. Most importantly I arrive at a place of applying my focus far more locally. There are still problems on my reservation, there are kids there who need our attention. Along with my cousin and the other Raven Soldiers there are things we can do to make that better. I have a daughter who is about to enter her third year of Med School and is thinking seriously about going to the rez to practice when she's finished with her training. I can help her make that happen and have promised as much. There's far more, some of it is still burbling around the fringes of my conscious thought.

I don't know if we were in for six minutes or for six hours, time perception was something that had disappeared in the steam. I vaguely remember feeling a blast of cooler air coming from the opening when the blanket was removed. I went from the lodge to the creek and simply went down into the snow melt run off face first. At one point I sat up out of the water and was amazed to see the water steaming off of my shoulders. Hans calls out to me and offers one of the water bags. I drink greedily. Then I remember a couple of prizes that are hidden in the panniers of the pack saddle. I spend some more time to bring my body temperature a little closer to human life and go up to grab two lemons and a few saladidos. I fix them both up and bring one to Schatzie and show her how to suck the salty lemon juice out of it. She is transported by this. I look around for Silas and see him off by himself. Sitting in the moonlight with a serene look of contentment. I squeeze off the last of the lemon juice and head back to the creek. I finally begin to feel the cold and decide that it's time to get myself dressed.

I ask Hans if he has managed to arrange someone to meet them at the trailhead where our things are and he nods happily. I tell him that we should be up and out of here at first light. I remind him that the temperature tomorrow might easily reach 40 degrees Celsius and that an early start is imperative if we are to cover the ground we need to cover. I also have a flash of inspiration. I take the satphone and make a clandestine call in to the God of All Ropers. I explain the situation and ask him if there's any chance of his bringing his tandem horse wagon down the trail in the morning. He thinks about this, for a whole 3 seconds, before saying "Of course, it will be a good workout for the pulling team." He promises to have the rig rolling our direction pretty soon after dawn. Now I'm really starting to relax about trying to walk the Germans out without calling in the rescue folks. I know that Ingrid is still footsore, they haven't really been able to replenish much more than water from their ordeal of the day before. Still, they're young and strong, and if a couple of old farts like Silas and I can make it they should be able to do the same. Then I remind myself that Silas and I were both born and raised in this desert and there isn't anything even close to it in Germany. Though with the possiblity of 112° heat and, and, then I get a grip and decide that I will simply watch them closely for signs of trouble, and force the stop if I begin to doubt in the slightest.

When I get back to the camp I realize that I haven't the slightest idea of the time and it really doesn't matter. There's plenty of work to be done. I don't know how the rest of you camp, but for me it's about minimizing the impact of my visit. Pulling the cattails and harvesting the cactus stuff was not something that I would normally do, if it wasn't for needing them to treat an injury I would not have done it. Still, there are many things to do. I begin by putting out the fire that we used for the sweat. When it has cooled off enough to handle the things I begin to scatter the ashes about. There's no need to just leave them in a bunch so that a rain storm can turn out a run off of lye. The stones get dispersed too. Hans lifts his head from his blankets even though I'm seriously trying to be as quiet as possible. I answer his questioning look with "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints." He goes back to sleep.

I see Silas still off by himself. He has a pipe out and is smoking something that smells noxious and the smoke looks and feels positively greasy. I don't even ask. I return to my tasks, mulling over the best way for us all to be able to walk out. I also remember in my planning that the desert has a vote in all of this and must be listened to and attended. I don't view the desert as hostile or something that comes after humans with any bad intentions. I quit looking at nature that way in Viet Nam. I was still a cherry, new to the whole thing and was on a pretty hard trek through the boonies. We had to pause, strip and take the leeches off each other for what seemed like the forty'leventh time that day and I started to seriously freak. I started to shiver, despite the jungle heat and was saying stupid shit like "this jungle's out to get me. . ." A grizzled old Cambodian mercenary came over to me and laid his rough hand on my shoulder gently. He whispered "Jungle no get you. Jungle no care." It doesn't mean that I take the danger and risks of this place lightly though. The desert, especially during a sudden hot shock can kill as impersonally and blithely as a teen aged crackhead. And nearly as suddenly. We have some serious miles to cover in the morning. Desert miles. There are people who have entrusted themselves to me. I am a Raven soldier, I carry their souls in my quiver. I promise myself to be kind, and careful.

harp and sword

Concept Of The Commons: We The People

by: Foiled Goil

The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy: Privatizing Our Vote

by Thom Hartman

June 21, 2007
Why are We The People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only to agendas and politicians that will enhance their profitability, to handle our votes?
At the founding of this nation, we decided that there were important places to invest our tax (then tariff) dollars, and those were the things that had to do with the overall "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" of all of us. Over time, these commons - in which we all make tax investments and for which we all hold ultimate responsibility - have come to include our police and fire services; our military and defense; our roads and skyways; our air, waters and national parks; and the safety of our food and drugs.

But the most important of all the commons in which we've invested our hard-earned tax dollars is our government itself. It's owned by us, run by us (through our elected representatives), answerable to us, and most directly responsible for stewardship of our commons.

And the commons through which we regulate the commons of our government is our vote.
Most important, though, the rallying cry of the emerging "honest vote" movement must become: Get Corporations Out Of Our Vote!

Why have we let corporations into our polling places, locations so sacred to democracy that in many states even international election monitors and reporters are banned? Why are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote, in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes the Bible should replace the Constitution; in another case run by one of Ohio's top Republicans; and in another case partly owned by Saudi investors?

Of all the violations of the commons - all of the crimes against We The People and against democracy in our great and historic republic - this is the greatest. Our vote is too important to outsource to private corporations.

It's time that the USA - like most of the rest of the world - returns to paper ballots, counted by hand by civil servants (our employees) under the watchful eye of the party faithful. Even if it takes two weeks to count the vote, and we have to just go, until then, with the exit polls of the news agencies. It worked just fine for nearly 200 years in the USA, and it can work again.
As Thomas Paine wrote at this nation's founding, "The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."
Originally published on November 4, 2004 by

21 June 2007

Survival of the Fittest

by: Dark Wraith

Twelve more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Thursday, so the Pentagon has announced that it is establishing a "trap" to "eliminate" insurgents from the areas surrounding Baghdad.

Oh, yeah, that's really going to work. We're using the same terminology and even tactics to fight insurgents that we use to battle rats in an urban ghetto. Someone needs to point out to our military planning geniuses a few rather telling facts:

  • first, the rats were here long before we were;

  • second, the rats will be here long after we're extinct;

  • and third, while we're on this good Earth waging war with them, it's probably not the best idea to brag to them that we're setting traps to eliminate their kind, since, if nothing else, they're going to laugh their asses off right in our faces, which is really kind of demoralizing.

Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Now that we've figured out we're not going to be the Great White Hope serving freedom to Iraq and the whole of the Middle East, we're still talking like we can at least be the Orkin Man serving Greater Baghdad and the surrounding suburbs.

· · ·

To Everything A Season

by: Foiled Goil

Turn, Turn, Turn

By Cindy Sheehan
June 21, 2007

To everything there is a season.
A time for war, a time for peace.


I wish I could say I thought of something profound as I saw the picture of the president and his wife's on that billboard on Highway 317 in my rear view mirror on my way out of Crawford, Texas, today. I will be back for the final weekend farewell to Camp Casey on July 6, but I won't be back as the owner of property there, or as a leader of the American peace movement.

The protests that were Camp Casey I and II that evolved into the five acres on Highway 317 (Lone Star Parkway), which was known as Camp Casey III, definitely were effective and served a relevant purpose in the national discourse of the pros and cons of the Iraq war. In an occupation that was and still is kept far from apathetic American eyes, summer '05 was one of the first times the cost of BushCo's Iraq fiasco was made public, and many people sympathized and resonated with and some even traveled for miles to be with the Mom in the ditch.
I have had some of my highest highs in that horse town, but also some of my lowest lows.
I fell in love at Camp Casey and had my heart broken again there. I found true friends and learned how to distinguish between true friends and people who only pretend to be your friends until your usefulness to them is over. I smiled more than I frowned; I laughed more than I cried; I danced badly and sang out of tune; I received more love than animosity, and I think thousands of us were given renewed hope and energy because Camp Casey existed.

I will always be grateful for this experience that did have an intense and positive effect on the world, but I am also content I have chosen a new direction and can rest easily in the fact that we did do good. It's time for someone else and something else to manifest itself in Crawford, and time for some of us to ride into the beautiful Texas sunsets that I definitely will miss.

I think when one is heading in the wrong direction, it is always prudent to change direction - even if you have to pull over and ask the way to go, and very imprudent to stay a ridiculous and mistaken course.

I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love, support, and financial help that has come my way since my resignation from the peace movement.
The millennia-old season of war is getting tiresome and, while never good, is growing in evilness as the people who run the wars become more corrupt, callous and as far removed from their conflicts as they can possibly get.

There is a season for peace. I hope for all of our sakes we reach it soon.

Cohen and Lorca, Together at Last

by: Minstrel Boy

this Leonard Cohen song was inspired by this poem by Lorca, from his book of Poeta en Nueva York


En Viena hay diez muchachas,
un hombro donde solloza la muerte
y un bosque de palomas disecadas.
Hay un fragmento de la mañana
en el museo de la escarcha.
Hay un salón con mil ventanas.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals con la boca cerrada.

Este vals, este vals, este vals,
de sí, de muerte y de coñac
que moja su cola en el mar.

Te quiero, te quiero, te quiero,
con la butaca y el libro muerto,
por el melancólico pasillo,
en el oscuro desván del lírio,
en nuestra cama de la luna
y en la danza que sueña la tortuga.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals de quebrada cintura.

En Viena hay cuatro espejos
donde juegan tu boca y los ecos.
Hay una muerte para pian
que pinta de azul a los muchachos.
Hay mendigos por los tejados.
Hay frescas guirnaldas de llanto.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals que se muere en mis brazos.

Porque te quiero, te quiero, amor mío,
en el desván donde juegan los niños,
soñando viejas luces de Hungría
por los rumores de la tarde tibia,
viendo ovejas y lirios de nieve
por el silencio oscuro de tu frente.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals del “Te quiero siempre”.

En Viena bailaré contigo
con un disfraz que tenga
cabeza de río.
¡Mira qué orillas tengo de jacintos!
Dejaré mi boca entre tus piernas,
mi alma en fotografías y azucenas,
y en las ondas oscuras de tu andar
quiero, amor mío, amor mío, dejar,
violín y sepulcro, las cintas del vals.

Those of you who speak and read Spanish will see that the Cohen adaptation is true to the original in both style and impact. Those of you who don't read Spanish are invited to study the fuck up.

harp and sword

· · ·
20 June 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (18 Coyotes)

by: Minstrel Boy

This is another Apache thing. Many times, rather than saying something directly, or making an interpretation of things like my answers to the questions he has asked, an elder like Silas will launch into, or ask the person they are talking with, to tell one of the stories of our history. Usually the lesson, or what they would have said is contained in the narrative.

I tell Schatzie that the story I am about to tell is not, for the most part, legend, but oral history. This isn't a Coyote story from the land where animals talk and stuff. This is a part of our history. It has been painted on skins and canyon walls. It has been told in the winter lodges and repeated in the councils.

Tsebitzidah Ma'atose(18 Coyotes) was a healer and a leader. She had proven herself many times in both peace and war. Two of her sons had married into other bands of the Apache and had also become well known and respected by those people. Her husband came from the Tewa band and was both a leader in times of war and a gentle protector of the people.

Traders and other travelers had been bringing stories from the lands of the south that there were new people in the country. We now know that they were the Spanish people, but back then all that anybody knew was that they had terrible weapons and followed powerful gods. For a while the stories were about how they had brought down the tribes of the Maya and Aztec. Soon the stories turned into people fleeing the advances of the new ones.

Now the stories said that they were coming our way. One of the sons of 18 Coyotes who had married to the Chiricauhua people came to his mother and asked that she bring food, healers, and warriors south to them because the Spanish with horses and cannon were very close.

When the White Mountain people got to the Chiricauhua stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains they found that something had arrived before the Spanish. It was called "Red Flower Sickness" (probably smallpox) and there was nothing in the knowledge or arts of the healers that could stop its ravages. While the disease raged through the people, the Spanish (we now know that they were led by the warrior priest Marcos De Niza) advanced through the lands of the Tohono O'odham near what is now Tucson.

18 Coyotes understood some hard truths all at once. She knew that the sickness traveled with people. She gathered everyone together and told them that those who were not sick needed to move themselves at least two days walk from where they were. That they should take nothing with them. Not clothing, blankets, clothes or anything that had ever been around one of the sick. Every two days the people who left should camp and wait for two days. Each time this happened those who were sick needed to leave the main body of the people and come back to this place. She asked that when they arrived in the White Mountains that they tell the stories of what had been tried by the healers here to cope with the new sickness and to tell them that the people who were sick and stayed behind would fight the Spanish to slow them down. She said that runners should be sent to the Dineh people of Canyon de Chelly, and to the Hopi people of the mesa Pueblos.

Once the people who were still healthy had left 18 Coyotes gathered the ones who remained and she told them:

"We who remain here are already dead. We have taken this new sickness inside of us. There is nothing for us to do but to try and stop these new people for as long as we can so that our people might find a way to escape them."

All agreed and a place was chosen that is now called Apache Pass. It is a very high and narrow canyon that has been easily defended for as long as the Chiricauhua have been a distinct people. Those who were too sick to move easily were placed along the high points of the pass and great stones and other things were piled up beside where they lay. They were told that if they were still alive when the Spanish soldiers came through this place that they should send down the stones and logs on top of them. Those who were stronger were divided into bands that laid ambush zones where archers, lancers, and slingers would leap out upon the Spanish as they passed and kill as many of them as they could, along with their animals.

The battle of Apache Pass lasted for eight days. For eight days the Spanish paid with nearly two lives for each step they took through the pass. They still moved forward though. At the place where the pass gives way to the high plateau of pine and ample water 18 Coyotes built a big trap of fresh pine logs that were dripping with its volatile sap that ran for many yards along each side of the canyon. When the Spanish were almost through she lit these on fire and sent them down to the bottom of the pass. The fire was enormous. It killed many Spanish. It was still burning when 18 Coyotes and the rest of her Army of the Dead were finally taken by the disease.

The Spanish fell back to Tucson. They very rarely came much farther north after that. They were insatiable in their lust for gold and would send men up into the mountains to look for it. Sometimes they would find it and send the army and its priests to make slaves of the people nearby to work until the gold or silver was gone. Then they would leave. They found that Apaches make very bad slaves and even worse enemies.

After a few generations the Chiricauhua people went back to their home in the Dragoons. They found many ravens at the site of the battle. Since that time the warriors who dedicate themselves to the protection of our people, who stay behind in wartime to defend our elders and our children against attack have taken the Raven as their emblem.

When I finish this story Silas says to Schatzie "Our friend here is a Raven Soldier, he just forgets that from time to time."

Then he says that we need to go get some new rocks from the fire.

harp and sword

It Just Roils the Bowel

by: Dark Wraith

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Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (sweat lodge)

by: Minstrel Boy

When I get to the rest of the group I see that Ingrid is presiding over a fire built over a good number of stones. Since we're so close to the water I can only hope that there are any explosions in the lodge. That sucks. But, Silas has this thing where he says he chooses the stones that speak their desire to him. OK. I just hope none of the desires involved a sense of humor or a wish to burn people with flying chunks.

Silas is dressed traditionally too. He is also wearing an exquisite turquoise pendant. Not the treated and formed from jeweler's dust crap they sell at the roadside stands, but big, gorgeous chunks of rock twisted into a rope the thickness of a baby's arm, and a healthy baby at that. He is seated near the fire and the cooking stones and has his pipe bag and accessories out in front of him. He points to the ground in front of him and I go and sit. Silas takes an old chipped pottery bowl that is filled with a smudge mixture. He takes small coal from the fire and drops it into the bowl. He fans this with an golden eagle feather until the smoke is billowing. Up the left side, circle the head, down the right side, up the center, washing the smoke over himself with the feather. He passes the bowl to me and I do the same. I look over at our German friends and then give an inquiring look at Silas. He smiles and nods. I walk in front of them, one by one, and repeat the smudge procedure. I tell them that the mixture we are using is sage, lavender, and cedar. Hans asks me why we do it and I say for the same reason Catholics burn incense. He asks about the eagle feather and I tell him that to us the golden eagle represents truth. That for us, truth is a living thing. I also say that the feathers themselves have no power, they are used as visible reminders of things. I also tell him that he has a pretty good sunburn on his head and neck and that if he becomes uncomfortable in the heat of the lodge to not be ashamed to leave. It is not supposed to be a place of suffering. He relaxes with that. As I finish with each of them I touch the feather to both shoulders and the top of their head saying "Yexahidela go deya jooni tc'indii" (having been prepared you walk in beauty)

Silas has been filling his pipe while I do this. When I return and sit, giving him back the smudge bowl and the eagle feather he takes another small coal from the fire and lights his pipe. He offers smoke to the four directions of the compass, to the as above and so below. He speaks his medicine name biyi'siziini oyih (soul flyer), sásh (bear clan), doolé (butterfly soldier), itisgo (honored in council). He sees the Germans about to explode with questions and says kindly "We will be doing many things in Apache, not to be rude, but because that is who we are and how we do things. When we go into the lodge I hope you will feel comfortable enough to pray to your own gods, in your own words. If you have questions when we are finished we will answer them gladly. Only the questions that matter will last that long. The ones that don't stay with you really don't matter. We are only introducing ourselves at this point. When there is something you must know we will be sure to speak to you so that you may understand." Ingrid looks about ready to say something but Silas silences her with a smile and a gesture. He then passes the pipe to me and I take a smoke, washing the fragrant wild tobacco and mint smoke over my face and head. I introduce myself in the same way Silas did, (I am going to dispense with the Apache words right now, it is a very tedious thing to type in HTML on a Windows keyboard) Singing Snake, flute clan, raven soldier, battle honors, snake dancer. Silas motions for me to pass the pipe to Schatzie, I show her how we do this, using two hands, looking into each other's eyes, just before I let go of the pipe I wink at her and whisper "Don't inhale just give it a light puff." She does. She gives her first and last names and the city in Germany she is from (Hamburg), she runs out of things to say so I hold out my hands for the pipe and she gives it back to me. I take the pipe to each of them, one at a time. When I get to Hans he seems worried, so I sit in front of him and give him a questioning look. He says "I promised my grandmother I would never smoke." I tell him that is a good promise and that we value things like that. Especially promises to grandmothers. I also tell him that personal autonomy and individual freedom are precious to us, and he has no reason to fear giving offense. I ask him if he would like to hold the pipe, and not smoke it. He does. I go back to sit in front of Silas and pass his pipe back to him.

In English Silas says "We were planning this ceremony before you came to us. Our intention and purpose has not changed with your presence. We will do this in four rounds. We will do a traditional round of prayer and then Snake and I will go into our original purpose. If you feel the need to leave the lodge, please direct any requests to me. It works better that way because I'm much nicer than he is. In the first round I will say a traditional prayer to call upon the spirits, then we will pray for ourselves. In the second round we will pray for others. In the third round we will give away something of us that is beautiful and useful to our people. In the fourth round we will dream."

He nods to me and I get up and begin to take off my clothes. I tell the Germans that they are welcome to enter wearing as few or as many clothes as they wish. The speed with which they get naked leads me to believe that they have made some trips to the south of Spain or the Greek Islands. I put a stack of folded blankets outside the entrance of the lodge for when we are finished. Ingrid has chosen to stay outside by the fire so as not to put any strain on her feet. Right before Silas smudges me again and touches me with the eagle feather on the back of my neck I turn to Hans who is right behind me and say "I'm going to say 'All my relations enter with me' in Apache, you may say something close to that in German or English whichever is most comfortable to you." He nods and I go into the lodge.

I crawl clockwise to the northeastern position in the lodge. There will be plenty of room with only five of us in here. In the middle is a nice indentation that Hans and the girls scooped out of the clay while Schatzie and I were out gathering plants. Silas smudges each of the Germans into the lodge and goes to the fire. He has a big, charred shallow wooden bowl that he fills with four big rocks. One at a time he passes them to me through the entrance of the lodge. With each rock I take an elk horn and use the tines to bring the rock over to the indentation. I sprinkle each rock with dried lavender and welcome it into our ceremony. Once the initial four have been brought in Silas brings the bowl with four or five rocks at a time until we have twenty total in the lodge with us. I can see that the Germans are starting to wonder what is next. Before I can say anything Silas comes into the lodge and pulls the blanket over the entrance down behind him.

It is totally dark except for the glow of the rocks. Silas takes a horn ladle and pours the first dipping of water over the rocks. The steam billows and churns. A couple of the Germans cough and wheeze a bit but, they are toughing it out. Silas says his opening prayer in Apache and then prays for himself. In English he says "I am finished speaking." He turns to Eva and says "Please say your prayer for yourself." Eva prays a short German prayer. Then Schatzie has her turn. She spends a much longer time at her prayer. When it is Han's turn he tries to pray in English and gets a little tied up and is embarrased. I tell him that it is alright and to please feel free to pray in any way that he is comfortable with. He just says that he is finished. When I have finished my prayer, Silas begins to ask me questions. They are very pointed questions about what is going on with my life. At every question he puts a dipper of water onto the still very hot rocks and the steam churns up, scalding and feeling like it is alive. I answer each question simply and directly, almost without thinking. Then, almost without warning, Silas announces that the round is over. He raises the blanket and tells everyone that they may go outside the lodge and drink. We all go outside. The Germans are guzzling water greedily while Silas and I are pulling new stones from the fire and into the carrier. We add ten stones. When we are ready to go back into the lodge Schatzie is the only other one who wishes to continue. Hans touches his sunburned head sheepishly and I tell him that I am impressed that he endured this much. I suggest that they all drink plenty of water and eat something if they can.

We bring the fresh stones in and Silas smudges us into the lodge. The initial prayers go swiftly. The heat and the steam are even more active this round. The stones from the first round are still pretty active, adding the others has really upped the action. A lot of the time in a sweat lodge it isn't the heat by itself that will set the environment, it is the activity of the steam. This steam is almost like cartoon steam. Sometimes it is like a line of dancers, other times it feels almost caressing, then, without warning it will surge past you in a billow that lays into you like a lash. Silas again starts with the questions. Probing and incisive questions about the people in my life. He probes about my mother's health and finances, he digs about my sisters and their children, he goes through my children and the people I work for and with. He goes through a lot of very specific questions about my service in Viet Nam. Again, the answers come instantly and easily, although I can feel fatigue beginning to climb up my spine. As suddenly as he did before Silas announces that the round is complete. He motions for Schatzie and I to stay in the lodge and he disappears out of the opening. Just before he leaves he says to me "Sing Coyote's Hunting Song." I sing.

Silas comes back with ten more stones. He has me scoop out some of the old stones before he put the new ones in. They are shimmering and glowing a bright orange. The blanket comes down and we are in a different level of light. The stones are giving off enough light that it is like looking through an orange night-vision scope. Then Silas pours water and the steam jumps again, and again. Silas sits motionless and silent for what seems like forever (probably less than ten seconds in outside the lodge time) and he says "Tell us the story of Tsebitzidah Ma'atose. (18 Coyotes)"

harp and sword
19 June 2007

An Observation and a Question

by: Minstrel Boy

The observation is that Senator Clinton was just spouting the same bullshit about the failure in Iraq being the fault of the pretend government or the Iraqis themselves.

At one point she said "We asked our military to overthrow Saddam, they did."

'Scuze me Senator. We asked our military to invade and break up a connection with Al-Qaeda which didn't exist, to take down a chemical weapons program that didn't exist, and to end a nuclear weapons program which didn't exist.

Instead of leaving, and saying something along the lines of "Oops, silly me, I thought you had stuff. . ." Bush made up a whole raft of new reasons for invading. Some of which Senator Clinton has bought into. She has also bought into the whole "Our military has behaved superbly" myth. When the facts are that they were ordered to destroy three things that didn't exist and in the process of that mission created one of the very things that they were sent to take down.

Again, Senator, please. Abu Grahib? Haditha? Fallujah? Guantanamo? A superbly led and functioning military would have refused illegal orders. A superb force would have had more general officers with enough spine to stand up to a bullying frat boy president.

Now a totally off topic question.

Has anybody else noticed from the trailers of A Mighty Heart that Angelina Jolie is using the exact same accent she used in Alexander?

Or is it just me?

el rancho harpo
17 June 2007

This Has To Stop

by: Foiled Goil

Choosing the Hardest Thing

by Richard Girard
This has to stop—now.

George W. Bush is a sociopathic bully, who will not hesitate to do anything to get his way. He has lied, cheated, and squandered any credibility or good will the rest of the world might have for the United States, in exchange for some fleeting advantages to himself and the American Military-Industrial Complex. Like all bullies, he will continue to threaten opponents and intimidate the public until someone tells him, "No!" and makes it stick.

Congress must put the fear of God (and prison) into Bush, Cheney, Rice, Gonzalez, and the rest of the crypto-fascist White House, with meaningful threats of impeachment and criminal prosecution. If they do not, we will wake up one morning to discover that Bush has (due to a Katrina level natural disaster, a September 11th level terrorist attack, or 1929 level economic disaster) thrown out the Constitution, using National Security Presidential Directive Number 51 as the basis for his action.
We must never sugar-coat the negative effects of war, or downplay the tragedy that lies at the very heart of warfare. "Collateral damage" should not be permitted as a euphemism for civilian casualties. Such casualties are inescapable in a time of war, and will be so as long as war exists, but this does not reduce our responsibility for their deaths. We should mourn these losses as if they are our own, to remind us of why we must do all we can to avoid war. In this way, we have the possibility of holding on to our own humanity, even during the inevitable horrors of war.

It requires a deep, aware, moral courage to both resist evil, and to acknowledge our part in any war's murder and maiming of innocents. It will also require grace, generosity and compassion to forgive our erstwhile enemies—as well as ourselves—and help our one-time adversaries (as well as ourselves) to productively rejoin the human race.
Full article.

Video: Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) sung by Melanie Safka

· ·

Straight Up Political Rant

by: Minstrel Boy

I just finished watching Mitch "The Chinless Fuck" McConnell on the tube doing the standard "blame somebody else for our murderous failures" thing. He was railing, ranting against the failures of "the Iraqi government." Setting them up to be the fall guys. They will say, once they finally cop to the fact that their surge won't work, never could work, and will only get more Americans killed, that the failure wasn't their own flawed policies, their own failed schemes, but the Iraqis weren't worthy of their noble efforts and dreams.

The "Iraqi Government" is not a government in any rational sense of the word. It is a puppet colonial regime put in place by invaders. It is no more legitimate than the Military Government of Maj. General John Burgoyne in Massachusetts or General, Lord Howe in New York during our revolution. It has no moral authority with the people (Locke's "consent of the governed" principle) it purports to govern. Their parliament sits inside a heavily guarded enclave, within a heavily guarded compound, within an American Fortress. They have been bombed and mortared by their own people even there. If there were no Americans there, bombing and shooting Iraqis this government would not exist and never would have existed.

Every single time the President or other American refers to a "freely elected government" regarding Iraq they are lying through their fucking teeth.

He also decried the decision of the "Iraqi Parliament" to take the next two months off like it was some moral deficiency or shit like that. Most of the members spent decades in exile before returning on the heels of our invasion to take control of the country (and mostly, its oil). Some of them might have even had a decent hope of building something new and beautiful in their troubled land. Most were cynical opportunistic graspers scrabbling for what ever crumbs and nuggets would be thrown their way by Halliburton. The best use they could make of their two months off would be to arrange their return to exile in Europe, The U.S. or some other place where they can walk the streets without being shot. They must know, as certainly as the government ministers of Thieu, Somoza, Duvalier, Pinochet, and Marcos that the American party is over. They have to know that we will bail, and when we bail it will be rapid, and if they are left behind they will be nothing but food for the wolves.

Tommy Franks and Rumsfeld made sure there was no infrastructure for providing the most basic services like electricity and clean drinking water. Grover Norquist made sure there would be no tax base for ever providing them. Dick Cheney made sure that Halliburton would keep all the money it steals and banks it in its new foriegn headquarters. Eric Prince made sure there were plenty of guns for hire available to back all the plays the Americans can't back. Now they are all leaving the sandbox because they keep digging up catshit with their Tonka trucks.

The Iraqi Government is a creature of our invention. Its failures are ours alone.

harp and sword

· · · ·

Fucking Hares Delay Flights

by: Konagod

Imagine a world in which this is the worst news of the day.

From Wiki:
Normally a shy animal, the European Brown Hare changes its behaviour in spring, when hares can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around meadows; this appears to be competition between males to attain dominance (and hence more access to breeding females). During this spring frenzy, hares can be seen "boxing"; one hare striking another with its paws. For a long time it had been thought that this was more inter-male competition, but closer observation has revealed that it is usually a female hitting a male; either to show that she is not yet quite ready to mate, or as a test of his determination.

A test of his determination? Jesus. Sounds rather S&M-ish. "Slap me one more time and I'll screw your brains out."

Ahhh, the simple pleasures of the animal kingdom.
16 June 2007

Burning Sensation & Discharge

by: Konagod

txrad and I were just talking about lye and lutefisk. I brought up lye soap.

It brought back memories of my teenage years when I would masturbate with soap. Bad idea. (Good idea with Aveda shampoo, but that's another post.) I'd take a pee afterwards and it would burn like Almighty Hell.

Then on my favorite stoner radio program, "Beaker Street," on KAAY in Little Rock between 11p and about 2a give or take, depending on the dope ingested -- by the DJ/engineer, not me) I'd hear ads (about the ONLY ads) which talked about venereal disease and one of the symptoms was "burning sensation and discharge," and instructions to call your local clinic for testing.

Well, after jacking off, I sure as hell had a discharge, and when I pissed after whacking with soap, I sure as hell had a burning sensation. So off I went to the free clinic to be tested.

This was a rather awkward moment for a 13-year-old boy in a small town. It started when I walked in to get tested anonymously and the receptionist happened to be our neighbor the next farm over. Just great.

I was then taken to a room and given a cotton swab to collect some of the discharge. "Jesus," I thought, "do they want me to jack off right here in the room?"

I tried but to no avail. So finally I just wiped some piss or precum onto the swab and called the nurse.

I waited anxiously for the next week or so for the results. When I finally called in, the person on the phone said, "You're negative."

I'm negative??? I have the fucking problem; of course I'm negative.

That really didn't answer my question at the time. Do I have a venereal disease or not? I finally figured it out.

But Thank God for the days of free and anonymous testing. I still love the early 70s.

But to this very day, I often wonder if that neighbor from down the road ever called my parent to say, "I think you better keep an eye on that son of yours; he seems to be a Tom Cat."

You know, people do talk. Nothing is really and truly anonymous. And things are getting far less so, in case you weren't paying close attention.


Stinking To High Heaven

by: Debra

The smell of BS is quite strong, which is what happens when there is so much of it being slung by the current administration. Unfortunately, it's just one more drop in the bucket. While the 101st Fighting Keyboarders have encouraged everybody and their brother to join the military, to support the troops and the current idiot in chief, there has been a behind the scenes effort to conduct the war using a military that the citizenry were to know nothing about. But then they started dying.

It seems that we were so busy going to war with the Army we had and not the Army we wanted, that the administration arranged to buy their own private military. What would Patton, MacArthur and Eisenhower have to say about this?They are probably spinning in their graves so fast that they could be a whole new source of energy.
The security industry's enormous growth has been facilitated by the U.S. military, which uses the 20,000 to 30,000 contractors to offset chronic troop shortages. Armed contractors protect all convoys transporting reconstruction materiel, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police. They guard key U.S. military installations and provide personal security for at least three commanding generals, including Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Scott, who oversees U.S. military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The military plans to outsource at least $1.5 billion in security operations this year, including the three largest security contracts in Iraq: a "theaterwide" contract to protect U.S. bases that is worth up to $480 million, according to Scott; a contract for up to $475 million to provide intelligence for the Army and personal security for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and a contract for up to $450 million to protect reconstruction convoys. The Army has also tested a plan to use private security on military convoys for the first time, a shift that would significantly increase the presence of armed contractors on Iraq's dangerous roads.
Outsourcing the military, what a concept. What's next a call center in India? You know, I've been wondering something. Why does the military need security? Don't they have their own weapons? Aren't they supposed to be trained to defend themselves? How did previous armies protect themselves? Isn't it enough that the lowest paid members of the military die the most often, supposedly defending democracy? But now we have new "unsung heroes" and our troops are considered to be equipment.
Wayne described security contractors as "the unsung heroes of the war." She said she believed the military wanted to hide information showing that private guards were fighting and dying in large numbers because it would be perceived as bad news.
The reason why it would be perceived as bad news, is because it is! For a variety of reasons, not the least is that with the largest military budget on the planet, we have to supplement our troops with civilian contractors in order to conduct a war? WTF is up with that?

Mr. Bush, you have destroyed our military. Hundreds of years of military history is worth nothing due to your continued incompetence. You have ruined this country in numerous ways, but what you have done to our troops went past unconscionable long ago. You forced them to go to war woefully unprepared; then you force them to go back time and again for extended stays; you have left the heartland of America unprotected by keeping the National Guard in a country that isn't their nation; you haven't taken good care of the troops who are injured, both physically and mentally; you refuse to acknowledge those who have made the ultimate sacrifice; and now you have shamed us and them by using mercenaries to do the jobs that our troops volunteered for, and then like everything else in your misbegotten administration, you tried to cover it up. Shameful doesn't quite cover your crimes against the United States, but treason does.

Fortunately for you, Americans just don't get as worked up as the Romanians, we just complain until the next election. And if history is any guide, we elect someone worse.

Where the heck is the Xanax when you need it? Debsweb

· · · ·

Blogging for a Full Year Now

by: Minstrel Boy

I was wondering what to do to commemorate or mark the day. Then, last night on Austin City Limits after some wimpy brit dude stumming his guitar limply and whining sensitively they brought out some real stuff.

JAMES McMURTRY is the real deal. Stark and harsh. Brutally true. The best part was at the end during the interview. The cute chick holding the microphone asked him why he wrote songs and with a complete lack of guile he said "So women would talk to me."

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore

Music and lyrics © 2004 by James McMurtry

harp and sword

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (evening)

by: Minstrel Boy

Schatzie and I arrive back at the campsite. All is well. Silas has kept the other two (Big Blonde Hans and the very quiet, very shy Eva) busy making preparations for the sweat tonight. There is a good looking stack of firewood where they have moved Ingrid and settled her on a nice pile of blankets.

I dismount and take Rosalita's tack off while Schatzie does the same with Sally. I walk down to the creek with the horses to a bend area where there is a nice stand of still water pooling up and when I see the delight with which Rosalita and Sally wallow around in the cold running water I decide to join them, I shed the clothes (which I just then realize I've been in for two days) and wade on out. It feels glorious. After a good cool down I put my sandals and jeans on and go back to the folks.

I take our plant prizes over to Silas and Ingrid. Silas asks me to take the Mormon tea and soak it in some warm water. Then he takes a cholla nubbin, slices it in half and makes a mush out of the inside. He puts this over the mass of broken blisters on Ingrid's feet and even a casual observer could see that there is an instant relief. I pour some of the boiled water into another pan, add some cool water from a bag to that and lay the Mormon Tea stalks into it. When I bring it to Silas he tells Ingrid "He can tell you what this stuff is so that you understand what we are doing."

I say "They call this plant Mormon Tea. It is a pretty decent natural source of ephedra. I imagine that once the stalks have softened up some Silas will have me pound it on a rock to make a poultice for your feet. It should both numb the pain and dry the oozing." Then I give Silas a look to see if I'm right and he smiles and nods. Silas then asks for the cattail reeds and begins to weave them into two small circles. Then he asks me to grab a pair of clean socks from my gear. I pick out a pretty nice natural (dirty grey) silk inner sock set and bring it over to them. We make the poultice from the Mormon Tea and put it on the blisters until it begins to dry and fall off. Then he follows that with more cholla goop and follows that with some agave gel from the inside of the spear. He waits for this to dry a bit then he puts the socks over her feet. He busts open some cattail heads and takes the fluff out and makes thick piles on each of the reed circles. He puts her feet on top of this and folds it up around like a bootie. He ties that with a fiber pulled from the agave and says "Don't walk much for a bit. But you'll be good as new pretty soon."

He asks me if I still want to do the sweat and I say that I would. First we gather our lost pilgrims together and I lay out the situation as I see it. They are lost and while I have a pretty good idea where they left their car our things are about ten miles closer. I tell them that if there is somebody they can call in Tempe who would be willing to drive out to the trailhead where our stuff is and meet us we can all walk out together in the morning. With Sally here to carry the bulk of the load along with an ample supply of water even if it gets up to 36 degrees again tomorrow we should be fine. I tell the Germans that they can take turns riding double behind Silas and I and that by staying together, going slowly and carefully we should all be fine. Hans informs me that they have cell phones that haven't worked for quite a while. I tell him that it's no problem and produce the satellite phone. I also tell them that if we run into any trouble on the way out we can call for help on the satphone, and that I have a GPS transponder which will make finding us easy. As I hand the satphone over to Hans I toss Silas a snotty look and say "Are you going to tease me about overpacking some more Grandfather?" He tosses a dirt clod at me and we laugh.

Silas says he is going off to choose some rocks for tonight. I spread the food stores out for Schatzie and Eva to see and tell them that I am not eating until after the ceremony. Silas has filled everyone but Schatzie in on what we are planning to do and Big Blonde Hans and Eva have decided that they would like to see the ceremony from inside the lodge. Once I've explained it to Schatzie she decides to give it a try too.

I head down to where I last saw the horses taking a change of clothes with me. I scrub off with wet sand before going into the water to rinse and soak away the days. After a good while I just laze around out on a blanket in the shade of a palo verde. I get dressed in clean white linen trousers, and a loose blue linen shirt, a red satin sash and headband (wrapped around four times and tied with a bow on the left side) completes it. I am getting ready to step into the old ways again. I am just sitting there, savoring the quiet, trying to think about absolutely nothing when I hear footsteps approaching. It's Schatzie and she is carrying a bead and bone choker saying "Silas told me to bring this to you. He said he is ready for you." She asks about the silver star hanging down from the center spacer of the choker. I tell her that a hairpipe choker is a warrior's adornment. It is a decoration but also protects the neck against injury. I tell her that the star is from a long time ago. She reads the embossed words on the back.

For Gallantry In Action

Yes, indeed, a very long time ago.

Just. Yesterday.

harp and sword

The Audacity of Cynicism

by: Dark Wraith

Recent articles, consolidated in a post on June 15, 2007, here at Big Brass Blog, are enough to give more than fleeting hope that the Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, may be nearing the end of his tenure and that top officials at the White House may soon be confronted with evidence of their own involvement in the scandal surrounding the politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys.

While not wishing to be the bearer of contrarian negativism when it comes to prospects for justice to prevail, at least insofar as Mr. Gonzales is concerned little is being revealed, claimed, or shown at present that offers reason for optimism. In this editorial, I set forth the essence of my beef with this stew being stirred by progressive journalists.

First, far and away too many bloggers and some congressional investigators are quoting Monica Goodling with respect to a meeting she had with Alberto Gonzales that she claimed made her "uncomfortable." Monica Goodling has zero credibility, this despite the kid-gloves, grovel-at-her-feet, immunity-on-a-silver-platter treatment accorded her by congressional Democrats, who still seem to be afraid that they're going to treat the wrong person harshly and thereby garner the wrath of some electorate that is so poorly informed and capriciously engaged that it wouldn't notice Harry Reid as a Senator even if he were a contestant on American Idol.

Monica Goodling contorted her sworn testimony to portray herself as some lowly office bimbo. She wasn't. Her testimony was, at best, misleading. More to the point, in a sane era where the rule of law prevailed, her behavior prior to testifying would have been judged in contempt of Congress, and her eventual testimony would have bordered on perjury. Goodling—together with the other fresh-out-of-Christian-law-school, young-pup dominionists—virtually ran the hiring-and-firing scam at DoJ deliberately crafted as part of an ambitious effort (actually, a "scheme" in legal terminology) to turn the United States justice system into the spear point of an Executive Branch driving to turn the United States of America into the medieval abyss of a "Christian nation."

Monica Goodling is no hero; she isn't even a person worth quoting.

And on the topic of quotable people being embraced by progressives, Department of Justice hero du jour James B. Comey served at DoJ as nothing other than a tool of Right-wing interests (masquerading as conservatives, I might add) that had already infected the highest levels of the government in the early years of the Bush Administration. Comey was a proactive shill who used his status as Acting Attorney General in the investigation of the outing of non-official cover operative Valerie Plame as the means by which his henchman, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, could once and for all destroy the presumption of journalistic confidentiality of sources, an effort consistent with the less-than-flattering term "zealous" used in a Washington Post article to describe him and some of his activities. "Fitzy" (to use the Left's once-adoring term for him) declined his otherwise golden opportunity to force President George W. Bush to testify under oath before a grand jury; he let Vice President Richard V. Cheney have counsel present (try getting that sweet deal for yourself when you're hauled in to face a federal grand jury); and in the end, he came up with a conviction of one, little man. Comey, described by the Washington Post as the "unofficial president-for-life of the Pat Fitzgerald Booster Club," was part and parcel of what cannot be described as other than a whitewash, as laid out at The Dark Wraith Forums in an October 2005 editorial and again in a January 2006 editorial.

And now, to top it all off, Mr. Fitzgerald—that bulwark of law enforcement, that square-jawed defender of justice, that prosecutor who went after a judge who tried to stop him from breaking the law—has made it known to Congress that he would have little to say if called to testify about what he learned during his investigation, an investigation which, by the way, ended up costing an appallingly miniscule fraction of what was spent by politically and privately motivated prosecutors hunting down the Clintons during the 1990s. Miserably miserly as Fitzgerald's expenditures in the pursuit of justice were, he spent public money, and now he advances the amazing proposition that the product of that public money is his to keep all to his precious self, despite the fact that a sound legal argument could be made that his refusal to disclose everything he knows constitutes obstruction of justice.

Now, let us finally take note of and address the curious, falsely satisfying spectacle of resignations up and down the top tiers of the Department of Justice. This trickle of soon-to-be-extinct dodos lining up for the American version of hara-kiri might be good theatre for the buzzards promoting the buzz in Washington, but take solemn note: the Department of Justice—that now-grandly humiliated agency, that giant stone slab looking every day more and more like a cross between a mausoleum and a Soviet-era party house—is still headed by none other than—gasp! are you ready for this?—Alberto Gonzales.

He's not leaving. Not yet, anyway. Other people at DoJ are losing their jobs; other people are being embarrassed, disgraced, criticized, threatened, subpoenaed, harassed, bullied, and cajoled by committees full of Democrats struttin' their stuff for the C-Span cameras; but Alberto Gonzales is still at his desk, still daring—simply daring—anyone to remove him.

Mr. Gonzales, then, stands as the stark, yet entirely sublime, living metaphor of the only man to whom he answers: George W. Bush, the head of the entire Executive Branch, the man who has without question committed unconscionably wrongful acts against the Republic, and in so doing, has laid bare the sham of every grave intonation about the "rule of law" in this land.

Yes, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is headed to jail. Yes, top officials of the Department of Justice have resigned. Yes, a general who lied about the situation in Iraq is now gone. Yes, aides to White House political operative Karl "He of the Cloven Hoof" Rove have quit. But to what does all of this amount?

It is as if the progressives from the Blogosphere to the Capitol are standing at the edge of a national sewer, reaching in and randomly grabbing a passing chunk of stool, then proudly hoisting it for all to see while bawling, "We GOT one, by golly! Boy, are we gonna show it who's boss!"

And yet the sewer, itself, roils on, bubbling forth the stench of the neo-conservative meat wagon lashed to the twin demons of dominionist Christian vision and plain, old-fashioned redneck thuggery.

The era of George W. Bush is far from coming to a close; and, in fact, unless a wildly sweeping, systematic prosecution of the top officials of the United States comes, we shall be right back here within a decade, the possible election of a Democrat as President in 2008 notwithstanding. It took less than a decade for the Right to begin its hateful rise once again after the fall of Richard Nixon. It will take even less time in this era if nothing is done to legally, forcefully, and resoundingly punish George W. Bush.

The Democrats have shown no inclination whatsoever for the grim task necessary to save this Republic from an evil that no doubt has a veritable legion of easily punishable minions in the lower ranks of the White House, the Department of Justice, and every other agency, but that has its heart and soul in the man who sits in the Oval Office just daring the cowards in Congress to take him on. The Democrats in Washington simply cannot.

But those same Democrats will still want your votes the next time they're up for re-election; and, of course, they'll really want your donations. Believe it or not, they'll also be asking for your trust.

It's almost like they're just daring you to do something, isn't it?

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·
15 June 2007

Scrutinizing Gonzo, DoJ

by: Foiled Goil

Looking into Department of Justice wrong-doings, obstructions, and lost emails regarding the attorney firings:

Gonzales Meeting With Aide Scrutinized
Justice Dept. Checking For Possible Wrongdoing
The Justice Department is investigating whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales sought to improperly influence the testimony of a departing senior aide, two of its senior officials said yesterday, adding a new dimension to the troubles already besetting the nation's chief law enforcement official.

The Justice Department officials, in a letter released yesterday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, said their inquiry into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys includes an examination of a meeting Gonzales held in mid-March with his then-aide Monica M. Goodling, who testified last month that the attorney general's comments during the session made her feel "a little uncomfortable."

The topic of discussion at the meeting was what had happened in the months leading up to firings of the U.S. attorneys, and Gonzales recounted his recollection of events before asking for her reaction, according to Goodling's congressional testimony in May. She said Gonzales's comments discomfited her because both Congress and the Justice Department had already launched investigations of the dismissals.

Goodling's account attracted attention partly because Gonzales had told Congress that he could not remember numerous details about the prosecutors' dismissals because he had purposely avoided discussing the issue with other potential "fact witnesses."
The announcement that Gonzales's conduct would be examined came from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel of the Office of Professional Responsibility. "This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter," Fine and Jarrett said in a letter to Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
DOJ Inspector General looking to Obstruction by Gonzales
As we all should know AG Gonzales set a new land-speed record for "I don't recall" during his own Congressional testimony on the Attorney firings matter. He justified this lack of recollection by claiming that...

I haven't talked to any of the witnesses

...which would have been his own staff, regarding the matter. However as was revealed during Monica Goodling's testimony to the House - he did speak with her. And even a crack justice expert like Monica didn't think it...

was appropriate for us to talk at that point.

Apparently neither does the DOJ's Inspector General.

Responding to a letter from Sen. Leahy regarding this matter, Fine responded.
The last time an internal investigation at the Department of Justice got too close for comfort the White House shut it down.
DoJ Official Wanted "Good Americans"

Complaint: Schlozman Aimed to Replace Lawyers with "Good Americans"
During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Bradley Schlozman, the controversial former senior political appointee in the Civil Rights Division, was battered with questions about his efforts to politicize the division.

A number of those questions from senators centered on Schlozman's efforts to purge the appellate section of the Civil Rights Division -- the small, but important section that handles civil rights cases in the court of appeals. What were they getting at? An anonymous complaint against Schlozman sent to the Justice Department's inspector general in December of 2005 spelled out the allegations. The complaint, obtained by TPMmuckraker, was filed by a former Department lawyer. You can read it here.

"Bradley J. Schlozman is systematically attempting to purge all Civil Rights appellate attorneys hired under Democratic administrations," the lawyer wrote, saying that he appeared to be "targeting minority women lawyers" in the section and was replacing them with "white, invariably Christian men." The lawyer also alleged that "Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the Appellate Section so that he could replace them with 'good Americans.'"
New Justice Dept. Emails Reveal Top Rove Aides' Involvement In Attorney Scandal
Justice Department documents released tonight [June 12, 2007] include new emails linking Karl Rove's top aides — former White House political director Sara Taylor, who resigned last month, and her deputy Scott Jennings — to the U.S. attorney scandal.

Congressional subpoenas have been authorized, but not approved, for both Taylor and Jennings.

The emails, from February 2007, all relate to the case of Rove-protege Tim Griffin, who was installed as U.S. attorney in Arkansas without Senate confirmation. Griffin's predecessor, Bud Cummins, was fired to make way for Griffin.

In the first exchange, Taylor writes to Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, and suggests retribution against Cummins for speaking out about the reason for his firing:
Leahy: Missing White House Emails Found, But Still Witheld From Congress
In April, the White House claimed that "it had mishandled Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts used by nearly two dozen presidential aides, resulting in the loss of an undetermined number of e-mails concerning official White House business." They also acknowledged that some of the "missing" emails may be related to the U.S. attorney scandal.

In an impassioned speech, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said at the time that the White House was lying and the emails could be recovered:

"They say they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!" Leahy shouted from the Senate floor. "You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there, they just don't want to produce them. We'll subpoena them if necessary."

"Like the famous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes, it appears likely that key documentation has been erased or misplaced. This sounds like the Administration's version of 'the dog ate my homework.'"
Now that their claim of "lost" emails has been proven false, the White House must turn them over to Congress. Claims of executive privilege are not sufficient to deny these emails to congressional investigators as the use of "Republican Party-sponsored" email addresses significantly undermines any claims to such privilege.

Update: Here's video of Leahy on the Senate floor yesterday, saying how the White House's disappearing, reappearing emails underscore the need for subpoenas...
DoJ Purge Figure Resigns

Nothing like a Friday afternoon resignation to end the week.
From the AP: A senior Justice Department official who helped carry out the firings of eight U.S. attorneys said Friday he is resigning. Mike Elston, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, is the fifth Justice official to leave after being linked to the dismissals of the prosecutors.

The firings have led to congressional investigations, an internal Justice Department inquiry and calls on Capitol Hill for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Elston's resignation is effective at the end of next week. Reached Friday afternoon, he confirmed his plans to leave but would not say why....

Other aides who have resigned in the wake of the firings include former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson and White House liaison Monica M. Goodling. A fifth official, Mike Battle, who ran the Justice office that oversees the U.S. attorneys, left in March.
Official close to attorney firings quits

Elston was accused of threatening at least four of the eight fired U.S. attorneys to keep quiet about their ousters. In a statement Friday, the Justice Department said Elston was leaving voluntarily to take a job with an unnamed Washington-area law firm.
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers said the resignation raises a red flag for investigators.

"When yet another significant player resigns in the U.S. attorney scandal, it only deepens the mystery of who targeted U.S. attorneys for firing, why they did it, and what exactly is going on in the highest reaches of the Justice Department and who is filling the vacuum of leadership that has developed there," said Conyers, D-Mich.

As McNulty's top aide, Elston's duties included overseeing the government's 93 U.S. attorneys nationwide. Elston helped plan and carry out the firings of seven of the eight prosecutors who were dismissed in 2006 — firings which were orchestrated by two of Gonzales' top aides beginning shortly after the 2004 elections. Elston also called several of the U.S. attorneys afterward trying to quell the growing outcry.

At least four of the prosecutors Elston contacted said they felt threatened by his calls, which they interpreted as demands to stay quiet about why they were fired. Congress is investigating the firings, which Democrats believe were politically motivated.

Elston and his attorney, Bob Driscoll, said the phone calls were never meant to be threatening.

Statements released from the House Judiciary Committee painted a different picture.

"I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general's," wrote Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Nevada.

John McKay, former top prosecutor in Seattle, said he perceived a threat from Elston during his call. And Carol Lam, who was U.S. attorney in San Diego, said that "during one phone call, Michael Elston erroneously accused me of 'leaking' my dismissal to the press, and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys."

A fourth former U.S. attorney, Bud Cummins in Little Rock, Ark., had made a similar accusation in an e-mail released in March.

· · ·
14 June 2007

Almost There and Hopefully Back Again

by: blackdog

I've been looking over my left shoulder more tonight since being contacted by none other than one of those mysterious beings, a wraith. No less than the Dark One himself who suggested that for his well being I get off my arse and post something so some could see that news of my (near) demise was premature. So here I sit, with my devious but somewhat less cloudy mind working to try to get this in order.

I was standing on the yellow-brick road... nope, no, not that one, actually I was mowing grass back around the ides of April when I became aware of a pain in my stomach. Nothing specific, it seemed to cover a large part of my stomach but it wasn't bad. I blamed it on some suspicious sandwich meat I had recently purchased and went on with the horrible chore of mowing, something I really do not enjoy. After the grass, went to a wet county and bought some beer, thinking I'd feel better tomorrow.

Tomorrow arrives and it is worse. Get a haircut, more beer and try not to think about it, it will pass (no pun here). Mentioned it to the barber, who doubles around here as the City Mayor. A State Senator was also in the crowd, the barber shop has become sort of the town center of political activity and unrest. The Mayor suggests that I see a Doc, and I assure him I will if it gets much worse. Sleep arrives after numerous cold ones.

Have I mentioned that I am officially stoopid? Well the next day I drive to the folks to take my mother to her appointment at the Doctor for a followup after her accident and I can barely stand the pain. When it rolls in I have to make a noise, which is usually a grown. My folks become afraid that something is really wrong and I get off the appointment duty and go home with the advice that I really need to see a doctor today. That afternoon I do, and he attempts to send me off in an ambulance but wait, I have some loose ends to attend first.

I pay outstanding bills, talk to the post office, get my cousin to feed Woof and take care of my yard (horray!!) and a few other things. That's when I notice that I'm turning orange. Well here comes the ambulance and they deliver me to the hospital and I remember nothing real for the next 6 weeks or so. Wonderful pain medication, that oxy-contin. Not. I was in a state of psychosis, but evidently not fully aware. I remember some of the strangest things, none of which could have been real but sure seemed so at the time.

Turns out I had diverticulitis which had ruptured the sigmoid colon and created an awful case of peritonitis, causing my liver to partially shut down. I was discharged after about two months in the joint. The only time I have spent more than a few days in a hospital. I may try to be somewhat more observant in the future.

Released to the care of my father, who had been hoping I could help him keep up with my mother who had a brain sugery just a month before I became ill. I was on my feet some that first day at their house, so I was able to begin helping some.

Some may remember posts I've made awhile back about her situation and my worst fears about it. Well, they seem to have come true. My mother who was showing signs of mild dementia before the accident is now worse. Unfortunately she has a mean streak about her and she will not acknowledge any discussion about her condition. I will not go into detail, but suffice it for me to say that I really try to love my parents, but that is more easily accomplished by me at a distance. Patience is the key but damn, I only have so much. I don't mean to be rude but now I remember why I flew away so many years ago, although I will attempt to do for my parents what I can.

My Uncle Gayle, her youngest brother died two days ago in the hospital from an infection after bypass surgery that had seemed to go so well. His surgery was just after my mothers and before mine, so I am really sick and tired of this shit.

But maybe to reassure readers of this post that I am not really a selffish bastard all the time, I will shutup, quit bitching and do for my family what needs to be done.

In our conversation this evening the Dark One told me about a strange plant that grows in his neck of the woods, it has a name given due to a particular way it orients itself. I will keep my eyes open around here for anything similar.

Enough of death and dire predicaments! I chose life, and who knows, maybe my mom will show some improvement. Time will tell.

Big Brass Blog Poll: How the Democrats Are Doing

by: Dark Wraith

It's time for the readers of Big Brass Blog to express their feelings about the performance of the Democrats in Congress. The donkeys have been in the majority in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for almost half-a-year, now, so they need to find out what we think about their achievements. Vote, and then comment if you so desire. This is your chance to have your say.

Are you disappointed with how the Democrats are conducting themselves as the majority in Congress?

  — Poll results —

· ·
13 June 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (afternoon)

by: Minstrel Boy

Yes! We are back up and running! New machine is here, hooked up, waiting on my tech head nephew to slap the megasticks of RAM. . .but, for now, on with the story.

I amble down to the creekbed with Big Blonde Hans in tow. I see that Silas is doing far more than flirting with the girls. One of them, a slender girl with dark hair who says her name is Ingrid, has her shoes off and Silas is intently looking at the soles of her feet. They are an oozing mass of blisters. It's very obvious that she has been walking through intense pain. I take a closer look and say "Wow, I'm impressed. Only somebody born again hard could walk on that mess." I tell Silas that I will go get my field medical kit from the pack saddle. He looks at me and says "Bring that sure. Then there are some things I want you to gather."

I fetch up the medical kit and spray her feet down with some stuff to ease the stinging. I ask Silas what it is he wants me to get and he says that I should pull him about eight cattails, roots and all and then he gives me a place name in Apache. This works almost as well as a Thomas Guide for identifying exactly where I need to go, he tells me what he wants from the place, then he tells me that along with that he wants some cholla knobs and a couple agave spears (not the tequila agave, but another type).

Ingrid is very impressed. She tells us that she is very honored to be given treatment "just like an Indian." Silas tells her that she isn't being treated like an Apache at all. She looks puzzled and Silas says "No Apache would walk this far on feet like this. An Apache woman would make everybody stop and get herself fixed up." Ingrid takes this in the spirit it was given, and she shoots a murderous look in the direction of Big Blonde Hans. Silas sees the look too. I show Hans how to pull up a cattail roots and all, and he makes himself useful.

I go back to the fire and crumble some hardtack into the hot fat and bacon chunks, along with some jerky shavings, stir it a few times and move it to the outside where it will not cook rapidly. Then I take a chunk of jerky and shave it into a mug. I dump some boiled water over that and leave it to steep. When I go back to where Silas and Ingrid are the other Germans are all gathered around. I tell them that there is some food ready and that they can help themselves. I tell Big Blonde Hans that he won't starve to death overnight if he doesn't want to eat any meat, but I tell him that I have made a cup of jerky broth and he should at least drink that because he needs to get some salt replenished. He nods. Silas asks me to bring a plate down for Ingrid. Then, before I am out of earshot, he asks me if I have any clean socks in my gear. I say I do and he just nods.

I toss some of the hardtack/bacon/jerky goop into a tin plate and take it down to Ingrid with a chunk of hardtack to use as a scooper. I also bring a bag of water that I hang right nearby.

I pull out my Pennywhistle and play "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and, just like she always does, Rosalita comes trotting up, nickering in anticipation of a licorice treat. The Germans are impressed. I tell them that this isn't any indian mamba jahamba voodoo stuff, that each of my horses has a theme song. When they hear that song they know that if they come over to me there is licorice or some other wonderful treat to be had. I say "No magic at all, just plain old conditioned response straight out of Skinner." I ask if any of them can ride and aren't afraid to climb some rocks. In a stroke of wonderful luck the very pretty, nordic blonde goddess type introduces herself as Schatzie and says "I climb rocks and ride." I finsh saddling Rosalita and whistle up "Poor Wandering One" which brings Sally running. I snatch my cousin's saddle and bosal and get her all tricked out. Then I grab a bag of water and tell Schatzie that it's "Boots and Saddles" time. I tell the others that I will be back soon and ask them to please keep an eye on Ingrid and Silas, in case they need anything. I also tell them to please be careful and to remember to drink lots of water. I suggest that if they get really bored they can bring up some creek water, boil it for at least five minutes and then fill up the empty bags.

Schatzie and I start out. I tell her that Sally will keep up with Rosalita and I fine and that she really doesn't have to do much riding at all. Schatzie straightens up in the saddle and starts to demonstrate that she knows her stuff. I give an approving glance and bring the pace up to a trot. I tell her that it's probably around 36 degrees (I figure since I'm dealing with a European I'd convert to Centigrade) and that if the heat becomes a problem to please tell me before it turns dangerous. We ride at a decent clip for about 40 minutes to come to the side canyon that Silas described. We ride about a half mile into that and come to a cliff face that has a small waterfall that splashes onto a rockfall. Every plant that we need is right here. Schatzie is totally impressed. I tell her that the Apache name Silas gave me for this place said "two palo verdes at the mouth of the canyon where water and rocks fall together." I tell her that this is a fundamental difference between Apaches and white people. White people drink from a thing. They drink from a well, a spring, a creek, a glass, but it's always at thing. We drink from places. We also don't think that we own any of the land. It doesn't own us either. We belong there, that's all. Just like the trees and the cactus and the coyotes and birds. We belong just like they do. While she's chewing on this I look at the rock face near the waterfall and see a few bunches of E. trifurca or Mormon Tea. I tell Schatzie that this is one of the things that Silas needs for Ingrid. I ask her if she feels OK about making that climb. She says "Very easy. I get that." We dismount and I start to take the tack off of Rosalita so that she can wander around and browse and drink. By the time I'm finished I see that Schatzie has already done the same with Sally. I give her an approving look. I tell her that there are two other types of plant that I need to gather and she scampers up the rock face like a pro with a rigging assist from the top. I'm impressed. I take a blanket and toss it over a cholla which breaks off about six cholla knobs. I take a sharp stick and stick it into each knob, then I burn off the wicked hooked spines with a lighter and toss them into my saddlebags. Then I cut some agave spears and slice off the spines on the edges and stick them in too. By this time Schatzie has come down with her prize. I tell her that we need to wait about a half hour more to give the horses a good rest and we'll head on back to the camp.

I ask her if Ingrid had been complaining about her feet during their hike today and she says "Yes, many times she complain, but Hans always say we are there almost and just a little more walk." She reads the look of disapproval on my face and tells me that Hans isn't that bad of a guy. He was very ashamed of himself for being lost, and not very good at admitting it. I tell her that this is all very human stuff. I ask her what was going on when Silas came by. She said that the girls had all made Hans stop for a while and they were trying to find themselves a bit of shade and comfort, that they had just finished up the very last of their water when they heard Silas riding up. She said he was singing in a very high voice. "It was just like movie." I said that Silas lives for stuff like this. I also tell her that they don't have to worry, we will get them all out safe and sound.

Then I tell her about a theory of mine. I take two pennywhistles (one in D and my trusty big old Bb) and walk over to the waterfall. I tell her that I have always felt that the key of nature is Bb. To demonstrate I play a bit of "The Rakes of Mallow" on the D whistle. I pause to let that sink in and play the exact same figure on the Bb. Schatzie's face lights up and she says "You are exactly right, the Bb is in perfect tune with the sounds of the water." When I play Sally's theme Rosalita comes up along with her. We saddle up and ride back to the others.

harp and sword

Hey all you lefties and progressives -- Are you angry? Well, if you are - GOOD FOR YOU, because...

by: Jersey Cynic

Anger Fuels Better Decisions:

Despite its reputation as an impetus to rash behavior, anger actually seems to help people make better choices—even aiding those who are usually very poor at thinking rationally. This could be because angry people base their decisions on the cues that "really matter" rather than things that can be called irrelevant or a distraction.........

In both studies, the researchers found that the angry subjects were better at discriminating between strong and weak arguments and were more convinced by the stronger arguments. Those who were not made to feel angry tended to be equally convinced by both arguments, indicating that they were not as analytical in their assessments.

The researchers repeated the experiment a third time .............
Once again, they found that the angry subjects were better able to discriminate between strong and weak arguments than the ones who were not angry—suggesting that anger can transform even those people who are, by disposition, not very analytical into more careful thinkers.

Their findings......suggest that anger helps people focus on the cues that matter most to making a rational decision and ignore cues that are irrelevant to the task of decision-making.

Are you sick and tired of the "Angry Left" accusations? "The source of the anger of liberals, “progressives,” or radicals is by no means readily apparent. The targets of their anger have included people who are non-confrontational or even genial, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It is hard to think of a time when Karl Rove or Dick Cheney has even raised his voice, but they are hated like the devil incarnate."

Or, how about Peter Wood's take on "how American politics got infected with a distinctly contemporary style of anger that I call New Anger. This is the anger of show-offs and eager-to-ignite match-heads. It had been gaining ground in American culture for decades before arriving in mainstream politics. When it did arrive in politics, New Anger found homes on both the Left (e.g. Howard Dean) and Right (e.g. Ann Coulter), but the Left provided much more commodious quarters."

I am SO sick of this "pleasant" BULLSHIT and I know you guys are also. I almost punched one of my Bush loving relatives at the last family gathering. I was spouting (calmly, I thought) about the sad state our country had become since w's cabal stole the 2000 election. With a smile on their face (always) she replied: "my dear, you certainly have quite a bit of anger inside of you -- you really should try to get a hold of yourself". I replied (again, calmly I thought) --
Yes, anger and hatred are emotions that, for the most part, are a way of life. It has been festering everywhere (under the surface) forever, until it was unleashed by George W. Bush, et al, on that cold, dark day back in 2000.

".....but New Anger itself had been churning through American culture for several decades. Think of Jimi Hendrix de-constructing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his Stratocaster guitar..."


I think we all know the point you were making.

See -- anger CAN be beautiful.

h/t to Mars needs guitars for the anger article.

crossposted at Blondesense

12 June 2007

Media Campaigns: Go Away. It's Summer

by: Foiled Goil

As presidential races change, media coverage must adapt

By Dante Chinni

A debate, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is "a contention by words or arguments ... as a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides."

If you have watched any of the "debates" among the 2008 Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls, you might be wondering if US news media read the dictionary much. The events featuring eight potential Democratic and 10 possible Republican nominees, each lined up on their respective stages, look and feel less like debates than talent shows. Each candidate wants to stand out and be noticed, without saying or doing something that might embarrass himself or herself.
And that's what's new for 2008. The media are treating these contests as something significant. CNN has gone so far as to run debate countdown clock on the days of its sponsored forums.

What has happened that the news media suddenly feel the need to pump up these contests? It's more than just hype gone wild.
Regardless, an early problem for the media going into 2008 is that the game has changed, but the press has not. News organizations are trying to apply the same models that worked for them in the past to a new reality, and so far it looks clunky.

It may be time for mainstream media to think of new strategies for handling a changing world. For example, maybe instead of debates, broadcast outlets should consider airing a long interview with each contender. Maybe an evening of long profile pieces ticking through where each candidate stands and who he or she is would be in order. Or perhaps the networks could have different debates dig deeper into single issues. But that would require rival channels to coordinate.

As the race goes on, this need for a new approach is likely to come up again – and not just about debates.

Campaigns are changing fast. There is a whole world of issues the media didn't have to consider eight years ago. New media technologies have made blogs and social networking sites into tools and weapons, and campaigns have developed the ability to microtarget specific kinds of voters with specific messages.

At some point the press is going to have to change, too. Maybe 2008 will be the year, but so far it doesn't look like it.
U.S. voters may face outbreak of "campaign fatigue"

By Ellen Wulfhorst

Inundated with politics long before the 2008 presidential election, U.S. voters are in danger of suffering wearying bouts of the uniquely American affliction of "campaign fatigue" in coming months.

Experts say voters who follow the news closely are most at risk of the condition striking this year earlier than ever. It takes its toll with information overload, long hitches of unpaid work for campaign volunteers and the all-important undecided voters on the fence longer than usual.

Voter attention tends to wane in between the early debates, major primaries and conventions and, in a contest so long this time it includes two summer hiatuses before the November 2008 vote, fatigue is practically unavoidable, many of the experts said.

"It's a reality. There's going to be a lot of fatigue, come summer," said Thomas Patterson, a professor specializing in government and the press at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. "People are thinking this has been going on a long time already."
Even some political junkies feel tired.

"I follow this stuff pretty closely and it's starting to wear me out," said Thomas Holbrook, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin.

"Here we are, in June 2007, nobody's going to cast a vote for another six months, and I'm still having to check the election blogs every morning to find out what's been going on," he said.

Campaign fatigue will tend to hit the type of voter who likes to pay attention early, absorb the news and follow the issues, said John Aldrich, political science professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

"They're the people who are going to fade out. That kind of worries me," said Aldrich, who conceded he had not watched any of the season's half-dozen presidential debates.

"It's 90 degrees (32 C) here," he said. "It's not time for campaigning."
Fatigue tends to hit hard on campaign volunteers, Patterson said.

"It's one thing to be active when people are excited and glad to see you on the street or knocking on their door. It's another thing when they say, 'Go away. It's summer,"' he said. "I think we're going to lose some of that impulse, some of that energy. I think it's flagging already."
It's summer! Go away!

· · · ·

Justice and the Bush legacy

by: astraea

The Greeks washed their hands of the obligatory destruction of a violated Temple Virgin by shutting her up with a jug of water, some food. Buried alive, dying was her responsibility.

How thoughtful of the current Regime, covering her breasts as they raped her:
Justice, the Bush legacy -- from Harper's

The courts
PART OF COLLECTION Undoing Bush: how to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect
BY Dahlia Lithwick

[...] The Senate has confirmed 95 percent of Bush's nominees, nearly three hundred new judges in all. It will be hard to gauge their impact, since it can take years to track jurisprudential change, but there are already signs of a shifting perspective.

For instance, a Georgetown University Law Center study found that Bush's two Supreme Court justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, agreed more than any other two justices at the Court, signaling the degree to which they work off the same playbook. A 2003 article in]udicature found that 9.6 percent of Bush's district-court appointments hailed from law firms with a hundred or more lawyers-large firms, that is, which tend to represent large corporations. That proportion was 2 percent under Jimmy Carter and 6.6 percent under Bill Clinton. And a 2004 study by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that over a third of Bush's nominees to appellate courts and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims during his first term-twenty-one of fifty-nine nominations since 2001-had previously worked as lawyers or lobbyists for the oil, gas, and energy industries.

These judges are getting results too. A 2006 study by People for the American Way found Bush-appointed judges spearheading efforts to limit the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, restrict the application of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and limit access to the courts for wronged plaintiffs. A 2004 study by the Environmental Law Institute found that in National Environmental Policy Act lawsuits at the district-court level, pro-environment plaintiffs won 46 percent of the time before all judges, but they prevailed only 28 percent of the time before Republican appointees and 17 percent of the time before Bush appointees. And a 2006 study by Robert Carp at the University of Houston found that Bush-appointed judges were even less sympathetic to plaintiffs in civil-liberties cases than judges appointed by Ronald Reagan and Bush the elder.

The firing of eight-at least-United States attorneys in the middle of their terms (and in the middle of ongoing investigations) bears all the hallmarks of Bush's tendency to view the courts as extensions of his political will. The next president can fire all of the remaining U.S. attorneys, of course, but there is little he can do about the current crop of judicial appointees. They will be making Bush-like decisions long after Bush himself is gone. Congress could try to impeach them, but the standard for impeachment is "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," which is a pretty high bar even for a Bush appointee.

The best the next president can do, then, will be to dramatically reform the judicial-confirmation process...

go. read. The gods bless Harpers.

President Giuliani's kind of justice

xpost: moon's favors, robot sex

Another Self-Hater Forced From the Closet

by: spyderkl

You know, I was feeling kind of depressed about life in general. I wrote about it a little yesterday, but this has been going on for some time now.

But all that changed when I opened up the newsreader this morning. It seems our, um, Congressional representative - the one who can't be bothered to either show up for work anymore or resign his seat, since he has more important things to do - has a little gay problem.

That's right - Tancredo's staffer/webmaster for Team Tancredo, 18-year-old Tyler Whitney, has been outed. Considering Tancredo's record on the subject of LGBT rights, it's more than a little problem for him:

The younger Whitney's candidate, Rep. Tancredo, has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which means he has never voted in favor of any pro-LBGT legislation. In addition, the long-shot presidential candidacy is mired with allegations of support from white supremacy organizations, like the National Alliance, as well as endorsements from David Duke. Tancredo is attempting to ride to the presidency on a wave of anti-immigration campaign promises including English only balloting, and deportation of every single illegal alien in America. He has also called for a "time-out" on legal immigration into the U.S..

On the one hand, Whitney is only 18 years old. It's tough to come out at any age; and the younger you are, the tougher it is. I'm not getting any great joy out of his personal struggle. On the other hand, he's not just any 18-year-old. This particular 18-year-old is/was a member of WMU's Young Republicans group and the Michigan chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, the latter of which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. So he's clearly got things to work through. I wish him well, even though he doesn't seem to be backing away from his recent past.

In the meantime, I'm making some popcorn, cracking open a diet cream soda and sitting back in a comfy chair. Watching Whitney's boss go down in flames will be way too good to miss.

I should say that I am one of Rep. Tancredo's constituents. Not happy about it, but there you are.

Cross-posted from Evil Mommy.

10 June 2007

The Stench Is Strong

by: Debra

The first thing I read this morning was the sad story of the shooting in Wisconsin and I decided that maybe I should read something else since it was so depressing. That was how I discovered that George Will had gone off his rocker once again. Like most people who don't have to worry where their next meal, much less their next check, is coming from, he displays how extremely capable he is at playing with numbers and not reality.
In the 102 quarters since Ronald Reagan's tax cuts went into effect more than 25 years ago, there have been 96 quarters of growth. Since the Bush tax cuts and the current expansion began, the economy's growth has averaged 3 percent per quarter, and more than 8 million jobs have been created. The deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is below the post-World War II average.
Oh George, please stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes. In the eighties I made more money than I do now and I had benefits. In the nineties I made minimum wage while studying for my Masters and was able to live on it. Not very well but I could survive and still go to the movies. Now I have said Masters and make more than minimum wage but I can't pay all my bills and I certainly can't attend the movies because the price of the ticket is ridiculously high. I can honestly say that the only thing that has increased in the last 25 years is my level of debt and my inability to pay it off. It isn't that I'm still paying for a meal that I ate in 1989, I'm paying for the schooling that was supposed to improve my ability to earn money but is instead an anchor pulling me to the bottom of the debt sea.

By the way, after 26 weeks people drop off the unemployment rolls but that doesn't mean they are employed. Eight million new jobs. Wow, I wonder where, Wal-Mart or Burger King perhaps? I can drive around Silicon Valley and find continuous blocks of business centers that are standing empty with large For Lease signs on every corner. We have skills but the jobs got outsourced to India and China. A radiologist has plenty of skills that are needed, but now the hospitals can and do have someone from India look at the X-rays over the internet, so that expensive education is more of a liability than a help because the student loans still have to be paid off.

Extreme poverty has increased in this country but he conveniently doesn't mention that. Or that food insecurity thing either. Of course some fine upstanding Republican will say that if they would get an education and apply themselves they wouldn't be in that position and to that I say, get a grip on reality. How can one get an education, especially a well-rounded one, if the budgets are so tight that the schools can't afford to buy modern equipment to train the students for the future? How can one get an education if you are working two jobs that replaced the one that used to pay the bills, to keep food on the table and a roof over your head? It is so easy to sit in an ivory tower and think you and your friends have all the answers because your privileged world looks so perfect, that you are so much better than everyone else. Paris tried that and look where she ended up.

Oh and by the way, John Edwards isn't unemployed, he has a full-time job running for President and unlike most of the other candidates the government isn't paying him a salary while he campaigns. Which is quite different from a previous VP candidate, since he didn't run for a Senate seat at the same time he ran for a higher office, but hey that's a positive and you can't mention anything like that, can you?


· ·

Circle of Life and stuff. . .

by: Minstrel Boy


Barn Monster, brave and noble alpha cat in the barn. As near as I could tell from the evidence at hand it was a rattlesnake that got him. He was still alive when I went out this morning with a horribly swollen left hip. I scooped him up in a towel (he didn't fight or protest which convinced me of the seriousness of his condition and the need for immediate attention). We were mere minutes away from emergency vet when he yowled defiance in a weakened voice, then breathed his last. The vet asked for the body to perform an autopsy. I consented. Snakes are a fact of life out here. Even more so this time of year when they are expanding their range away from winter dens.
Final Score: Barn Monster---4 Snakes---1

One of his favorite things to do with me was to purr loudly and rub against my leg as I was doing my barn chores. Eventually I would always reach down to scratch an ear or stroke his back and then, POW! He'd nail me one and stalk away. If he used speech he would have said "Sucker." As it was his look of disdain sufficed. He was a tireless protector of his turf and a generous provider to his pride. A relentless scourge to mice, rats, scorpions, snakes, rabbits, gophers, and the odd bird. He presided over his domain with courage and ruthless dedication.


Gus, 7 week old golden retriever puppy. A breeder in Anthem (north of Phoenix, about a 90 minute drive) called and said he had this little male pup who would love to live on a ranch with a pack of dogs and a passel of other critters. He also said that he has great potential for being a gifted bird dog.

You really can't have too many dogs to my way of thinking.
el rancho harpo

Exasperation Syndrome

by: Foiled Goil

Bush-Exasperation Syndrome Spreads

by Jaime O'Neill
You might have missed it --a story buried in that slush pile of celebrity news, happy talk, and un-vetted press releases that now constitute so much of American journalism-- but a report released by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has recently added a new threat to the nation's growing stack of worries.

An intensive study of 1,000 randomly-selected Americans has yielded conclusive evidence of a heretofore unnoted contagion, an offshoot of Tourette's Syndrome doctors have labeled BES, or Bush Exasperation Syndrome. As first reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), symptoms of Bush Exasperation Syndrome include involuntary outbursts of projectile cursing whenever the name or image of President George W. Bush is flashed before sufferers of this malady. This catalytic image (or trigger) has produced bouts of explosive and uncontrollable profanity in well over half of those tested for the disease.

But reflexive and propulsive swearing is only the most benign symptom of BES. As the disease progresses, more advanced symptoms include the loss of a sense of humor, coupled with feelings of hopelessness and despair. And the number of traffic accidents is thought to have increased due to drivers losing control of their vehicles while suffering BES-related episodes.

Most startling and worrisome is the fact that early indications suggest that as much as 60% of the nation's population may be infected with BES, creating a degree of suffering seldom revealed by medical research. BES now qualifies as a true epidemic throughout the American population.

Preliminary studies reveal, however, that people with measurably low intelligence have an inexplicable immunity to this ailment thought to be linked to their DNA. Scientists have found an almost exact correlation between IQ and the degree of susceptibility to BES. The lower your IQ, the less likely it is that you will be infected.
Full article.

· · · ·
09 June 2007

The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding

by: Jersey Cynic

June 5, 2007
New York Times Essay - by Dennis Overbye

(here is a link to the same essay for use when the NYT one expires)

Right after I read this essay, and the goose bumps on my arms went down a bit, I switched gears and started surfing my favorite music blogs. Talk about creepy.....check out my first stop:

Mars Needs Guitars blog (from the moon mix post)

This is one of the coolest pictures I'v ever seen:
a composite of images taken roughly every two minutes beginning shortly after Sunset, following the rising Moon as it moves up.

here's the link to check for their (NASA's) astronomy pic of the day
(Check out a few of the pics to set the mood prior to reading the essay.)

Excerpts from the essay:

If things keep going the way they 100 billion years the only galaxies left visible in the sky will be the half-dozen or so bound together gravitationally into what is known as the Local Group, which is not expanding and in fact will probably merge into one starry ball.

It is hard to count all the ways in which this is sad. Forget the implied mortality of our species and everything it has or has not accomplished. If you are of a certain science fiction age, like me, you might have grown up with a vague notion of the evolution of the universe as a form of growing self-awareness: the universe coming to know itself, getting smarter and smarter, culminating in some grand understanding, commanding the power to engineer galaxies and redesign local spacetime.

Instead, we have the prospect of a million separate Sisyphean efforts with one species after another pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down and be forgotten.

Worse, it makes you wonder just how smug we should feel about our own knowledge.

The proximate culprit here is dark energy, which has been responsible for much of the bad news in physics over the last 10 years. This is the mysterious force, discovered in 1998, that is accelerating the cosmic expansion that is causing the galaxies to rush away faster and faster.

As this universe expands and there is more space, there is more force pushing the galaxies outward faster and faster. As they approach the speed of light, the galaxies will approach a sort of horizon and simply vanish from view, as if they were falling into a black hole, their light shifted to infinitely long wavelengths and dimmed by their great speed. The most distant galaxies disappear first as the horizon slowly shrinks around us like a noose.................

I know most of us can't wrap our heads around a billion years, nevermind a HUNDRED billion, but can you just imagine that last and final expansion moment -- our universe finally gets that peace/love/harmony thing figured out and then ZAP!!

"It took you long enough!!" (~~~~?)

Now wouldn't that just be the cruelest joke yet?

My imagination is running wild at the moment, thinking about this "other side".

This blonde has one simple (?stupid) question I pose to our readers:

What do you think we are expanding into?

crossposted at Blondesense
08 June 2007

Better Late Than Never?

by: Jurassicpork


Even though this story had first been reported a year and a half ago by Dave Phinney at, a major news source, the Wall Street Journal, had finally reported yesterday that the US Embassy in Baghdad is being built by slave labor (Skimble drags most of the original article from behind the WSJ firewall). Yochi J. Dreazen, one of the few good actual reporters writing for the WSJ, has, like Phinney, been all over the embassy from the beginning.

I don’t know what’s more pathetic: That our embassy is being built with slave labor at a cost of nearly $600,000,000 US taxpayer funds or the fact that IraqSlogger’s David Phinney had to report on this through his own sources within the embassy’s construction site over a week before even the intrepid Mr. Dreazen at the WSJ. It all goes back to what Paul Krugman said in today’s byline: That the press, as with 2000, simply isn’t doing its job. However, its laziness and/or indifference to actual news items that actually affect actual Americans are going vastly under-reported or unreported and extend far beyond the upcoming presidential election.


Special Video Post: Foundations of the Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business

by: Dark Wraith

Click here to go to the YouTube page for Part 1 of this series.

Click here for the WMV version of Part 1 of this series (38.5 Mb, 9:59).

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · ·

Why Paris Hilton and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Matter

by: Dark Wraith

Having set forth yesterday a strident editorial, "A Total Rant, Ladies and Gentlemen," regarding the early release of multi-millionaire heiress Paris Hilton from jail, commenters and e-mail correspondents have expressed to me a variety of opinions, sentiments, and judgments upon the specifics of Ms. Hilton's case and upon the deeper implications it has on the law, justice, and the rule of law. Embodying one important, perhaps somewhat contrarian, view, commenter rm hitchens, writing on the thread from the article at The Dark Wraith Forums wrote as follows:
[E]very time somebody famous gets out of jail or (in Scooter's case) has Important People campaigning to keep him from going to jail, you hear the tiresome refrain about the "rule of law." Well, my take on the rule of law is that while guilty is guilty, the punishment should fit the crime. Specifically, if a person clearly poses no threat to life or property, don't burden the state with the not insubstantial costs of incarceration. In Ms. Hilton's case, for violating parole (right?), how about a massive one-time fine, say, $3 million or so? For Scooter, how about 20% or so of his gross income (not AGI!) for a period of, say, three years? I mean, the guy will never work in government again, but his pals will land him a well-paying gig somewhere, so let's squeeze him for a while. Would anyone really regard a sentence like this as a perversion of the rule of law?
That considered comment permitted me to set forth a statement of my own judgment with respect to the matter, and in so doing afforded me the opportunity to offer a more explanatory, less incendiary view than was evident in my initial editorial. No less important, that responsive comment I made to rm hitchens provides a window into the means by which issues of this kind can be addressed in a formal, arguably even unsentimental, way consistent with an important part of my own thinking that is conservative in nature and expression. Below, I set forth the body of my response to why the particulars of the legal fates of the wealthy and the powerful matter so vitally.
I would, indeed, regard it as a perversion of the rule of law for several reasons, the most important one of which I set forth as such.

Although we must recognize that the same punishment, proportionately dispensed, may have different effects upon different individuals, that is more a matter for civil law to address in crafting the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages in torts.

Criminal law, on the other hand, hinges upon three essential cornerstones of retributive justice: certainty, severity, and celerity. In other words, "You're going to get it, it's going to hurt, and you're going to get it sooner rather than later."

The two-part objective of the punitive nature of sentencing is to convey to the wrongdoer the certain, severe, and swift consequences of the criminal act, and to convey to society in the several bodies of its member-citizens the consequentiality of such an act.

That is precisely the importance of adhering to the "rule of law" in criminal matters. While the first of the two prongs might or might not work out (and we must allow for the individual wrongdoer to choose a rectifying future life or one of recidivism), we simply cannot permit the civil body in its membership any leeway in seeing that a guaranteed punishment one person understands as painful has even the possibility of being avoided by another person or class of people. To be less than vigilant in this regard is to ensure that the law remains feared, as conservatives would want, but no longer remains accepted as bringing about civil order, as the more teleological thinkers would want.

Specifically, if I see Paris Hilton or I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby pay a massive fine and thereby avoid a period of incarceration I would face for lesser, equal, or even somewhat more substantial crimes, I no longer regard the law as being valid (never mind, "just"). All I see, instead, is something that I fear; and people, by their nature (myself no less than the most willful of such types), will find cognitive means by which to adapt to and overcome fear.

That process of accommodated relief of the burden of fear becomes the seed of lawlessness on a societal level, and it thereby compels the state to dispense progressively more restrictive rules upon behavior in addition to more directed law enforcement activities against the lower classes who are already becoming alienated by that same asymmetry in the dispensation of the base of justice. At some point, a republic so degenerating that was otherwise founded upon equal protection becomes a state assigned to raw survival, which it can of course maintain by means of repressive physical, psychological, and intellectual violence; but that surviving republic is not the sovereign entity founded upon those principles originally envisioned.

That, for what it is worth, is the considered opinion of the Dark Wraith on the matter.

The Dark Wraith invites comments.

· · ·
07 June 2007

The Cops Just Left... It's Safe to Smoke Now

by: Konagod

I won't publish my post here because the photos are too big for this Nucleus thingey, so I'll just link.

Check this shit out.

Damn, Dark Wraith. You don't have a "police" tag? I never find the tags here I'm needing. What kind of one-stop-shopping for bloggers do you offer here?

A Total Rant, Ladies and Gentlemen

by: Dark Wraith

Update, June 8, 2007, 6:15 p.m.: Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer has ordered that multi-millionaire heiress Paris Hilton be returned to jail to complete her sentence.

Gitmo and ParisMulti-millionaire heiress Paris Hilton, who on Monday began serving a 40-day jail sentence for DUI, was released this morning, reportedly because "She wasn't eating much of the jail food," (quoting an entertainment article at, which is doggedly following this breaking story), or because of some other mental condition.


Buttfuck a plucked duck! This is our system of "justice"? That trollop goes free while hundreds of thousands of normal people get processed like meat through the sausage grinder of our hateful, mandatory-minimum-sentence, git-tuff-on-crime court system, which throws the wretched average folks in jail, destroys their lives, and then gets honored by TV cops-and-lawyers shows that make sick-ass remarks about the prison gang rapes those convicts will endure over and over again?

And while we're at it, can we let some of those GITMO "enemy combatant" detainees—excuse me, "unlawful enemy combatant" detainees (just to make it alright with the black-hood military judges)—go now before more of them starve themselves to death out of complete hopelessness? Oh, of course not. Those detaineess are engaged in asymmetric warfare against us when they starve themselves to death. I forgot. My bad.

Thank God for Paris. Our silly Founding Fathers and that whole aversion of theirs to the ancient European nobility thing is just so passé in this day and age, what with our desperate, pathetic need to have someone to whom we can look when we despair of our own ugly faces, unshaved crotches, and singing voices we have to show off so everyone in TV Land can laugh at us. Boy-o-boy, we need those princes and princesses gracing the covers of those magazines, just so we have something to get us through long lines at Walmart where we have the privilege of buying cheapo imported, poisoned slop from China to feed ourselves and our pets.

Geez, how else would I know what a loser I am if I didn't see those gorgeous bodies I'll never have, either on my own skin or grunting underneath me? Hey, maybe if I pay the ten bucks for a movie ticket, they'll let me look at them for a whole hour-and-a-half as they practice their craft that is so beneficial to the betterment of the world.

Wait a minute! I'm being sarcastic, aren't I? Sarcasm is so unbecoming. It's why we bloggers are such trash in the grand scheme of the journalistic media. I shouldn't even be an online publisher if I'm going to put up with this kind of disrespectful diatribe on one of my Websites.

Good Lord! I just realized what has to happen now that I've ripped my ass at and about that little trollop and all her fellow she-trollops and he-trollops. I'm going to have to ban myself!

Dear God! I hate having to do that; but it's the only just thing to do.

Oh, wait a minute. The rule of law is a joke.

Whew! Boy, there for a minute I had myself really worried.

Whoa, dudes! Thank God for the 21st Century.

The Dark Wraith is finished ranting, now.

· · ·

The Madness of King W

by: Foiled Goil

The Madness Of Our King George Has Even Texas Friends Worried

from Bill Gallagher:
Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer reports (others have, too) a chilling episode that rattled even Bush's cronies. Bush's megalomania, narcissism and delusion that God anointed him to bring democracy to the Middle East mold his madness.

Geyer wrote, "Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated 'I am the president!' He also made it clear he was setting up Iraq so his successor could not get out of 'our country's destiny.'"

That is the rant of a mentally disturbed man incapable of self-doubt and reflection. What we know about Bush is frightening. What we don't know is simply terrifying.

Our destiny in Iraq will develop along the lines of "a Korean model," according to White House spokesman Tony Snow. With a gutless Congress willing to continue to give the "decider" and "commander guy" a blank check for the war that cannot be won, our troops are doomed to camp in the deadly desert indefinitely.

Snow said the situation in Iraq is one in which the United States "provides a security presence" and acts as a "force of stability." Forget the fact that U.S. troops create instability and their presence inspires violence. We will remain in Iraq, Snow insists, "for a long time."
Comparing the two wars is an absurdity, but then again, the rationales for the war and excuses for "staying the course" are equally absurd. Bush will play out his manifest destiny in the Middle East because it is his will. That's how the chest-thumping "bring 'em on" boy thinks. The continuing carnage means nothing to him.
Even our own malevolent tyrant knows there will be no ease this summer for those living in Iraq. He recently said, "It could be bloody -- it could be a very difficult August." He should know because, as he likes to remind us, "I am the president! I am the president! I am the president!"

· ·
06 June 2007

They Knew

by: Foiled Goil

A January 2003 report the previous Republican controlled congress stalled releasing for two years was approved for release in April 2007 by the Senate Intelligence Committee and released just before Memorial Day.

The report shows the Bush administration had been given ample warning that Al Qa'ida would likely gain strength, and that unstable conditions, civil war and chaos would erupt in Iraq if Saddam was ousted.

From Bob Geiger:

Latest Intelligence Report Yet Another Smoking Gun On Bush
When Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, 2003 to discuss preparations for a possible invasion of Iraq, he was asked by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to estimate the size of a successful occupation force after victory.

"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required," said Shinseki, a highly-decorated officer with almost four decades of service, including extensive combat duty in Vietnam. "We're talking about a post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

"It takes a significant ground force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is disturbed [distributed?], all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this."

Shinseki was immediately jumped by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Rumsfeld said publicly that Shinseki was "far off the mark" in his prediction, while Wolfowitz called his views "wildly off the mark" and said, "I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down."
Report image:

Al Qa'ida probably would see an opportunity to accelerate its operational tempo and increase terrorist attacks during and after a US-Iraq war. The group would be looking for conflict with Iraq and its aftermath —as with previous wars or crises— to divert US attention and resources from counterterrorist efforts; for US and allied security measures, particularly around "soft" targets, to suffer; and for many countries — including some US allies— to slacken efforts to hunt down al-Qa'ida and its associates within their borders.

Report image:

Iraq would be unlikely to split apart, but a post-Saddam authority would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so.

• Sunni Arabs would face possible loss of their longstanding privileged position while Shia would seek power commensurate with their majority status.

• Kurds could try to take advantage of Saddam's departure by seizing some of the large northern oilfields, a move that would elicit forceful responses from Sunni Arabs.

• Score-settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who have suffered most under it.
"Prior to sending troops to Iraq, the Bush Administration promoted the terrorist nexus between Iraq and al-Qa'ida (and the attacks of 9/11) as a central part of its case to the American people that Iraq posed an imminent threat that only military action could extinguish, despite the Intelligence Community's view that Iraq and al-Qa'ida viewed each other with suspicion and were not operationally linked," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in the report.

"What the Administration also kept from the American people were the sobering intelligence assessments it received at the time warning that the post-war transition could allow al-Qa'ida to establish the presence in Iraq and opportunity to strike at American it did not have prior to the invasion."
"The wide-distribution of these pre-war Intelligence Community assessments within the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council and the Departments of Defense and State removes any doubt that these warnings were received at the highest levels of the Administration," said Rockefeller in the report.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Rockefeller concludes his comments by saying that he cannot say for sure if Bush was personally aware of all of these clear warnings but that "…what can be said with greater certainty is that these pre-war cautions were marginalized if not ignored by an Administration set on going to war."

"In doing so, the Bush Administration once again demonstrated its practice of cherry-picking intelligence reports and assessments that support policy objectives and denigrating or dismissing those which did not."
They had been warned.

They KNEW.

· · ·
05 June 2007

A War Worth Killing For. A Dream Worth Others Dying For.

by: Jurassicpork

OK, OK, scootch on over and sit around Uncle JP’s feet because he’s about to admit something that he’s perhaps never confessed to in his two decades of life. (I’ve never confessed, even, to occasionally lying about my age.) I can never see The Horsemen without thinking of the terrorist bomb threat I’d egged my friend to make that cleared an entire military base.

It’s one of John Frankenheimer’s lesser-known efforts that starred Omar Sharif, Leigh Taylor-Young and the late Jack Palance although it’ll prove to be timely and remarkably prescient if you stay with me. But back to our terrorist plot.



by: Jersey Cynic

I am hopeful that the American people will recognize that Ron Paul is our best bet to lead us in the steps necessary to take our country and Constitution back. I have a feeling that after seeing him debate the other republicans in New Hampshire this evening, he will be the favorite. I think he already IS the favorite, however, up until now he has been pretty much censored. I think this is about to change. Ron Paul is the only reason I remain hopeful for our futures. Here is a truly inspirational video (with great background music, btw) about Ron Paul and what he stands for:
"Stop Dreaming"

"Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto"
~Thomas Jefferson

"Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that don't have brains enough to be honest"
~Ben Franklin

"failure of government programs prompts more determined efforts, while the loss of liberty is ignored or rationalized away whether it's the war against poverty, drugs, terrorism or the current Hitler of the day, an appeal to patriotism is used to convince people that a little sacrifice of liberty, here and there, is a small price to pay. The results, thought, are frightening and will soon become even more so."

~Ron Paul, 2003

"If we can't or won't define the enemy, the cost to fight such a war will be endless. How many troops are we prepared to lose?"

~Ron Paul

Read his speech before the House last week In the Name of Patriotism (Who are the Patriots?), which is posted on his government web page.

Here is Ron Paul on The Daily Show last night -- Stewart's best interview yet!

Watch him on Bill Maher (he's Bill's new hero)

Even Neil Cavuto of Fox News had Ron Paul on his show recently because (brace yoursevles now) "Never have I seen so many viewer e-mails urging us to get a candidate on the air as we have with Ron Paul -- our mailbox is consistantly flooded with these requests...."



Crossposted at Blondesense

· · · ·
04 June 2007

An Open, Brief Note to PT and Foiled Goil

by: Dark Wraith


I highly value both of you as contributing writers here, I think the world of you as individual thinkers and human beings, and I highly respect your admittedly disparate life experiences; but your clashing personalities are endangering this publication. You pose no threat to each other, but God Almighty let go of the rhetorical throats. We are not the people who need to use personalized acrimony to state and defend our positions while allowing for dissent. Let the hard-core Right-wing extremists in all their disparate views do that to each other in the coming years as they lay the blame at each other's feet for the collapse of their mutual reign of terror upon this republic and its better people.

PT is a good and honest man, and he has busted his ass for years in a grimy, brutally hard line of work that a whole lot of environmentally sensitive people despise even as they will be using the gasoline that will issue forth from coal. It's dirty, and it's going to make the pollution problems worse, but America isn't going to throw away its fossil fuel burning internal combustion engines any time in the near future. And to the extent that those fickle Americans and their dabbling romance go for that faddish ethanol, they are going to contribute to rising crop prices and a world whose poorest will go even hungrier just so we can have something to make our cars go zoom-zoom down the highways to our suburban enclaves. If PT is impatient, it is the coarse impertinence of a man who's living a hard life that will quite likely end short of its fullness, just so people can have their energy and look down upon all those who made all those dirty fuels into warm homes, fast cars, and this country's citizens considerably more comfortable than most ever did throughout history and most ever do across the rest of the world.

Foiled Goil has lived hard and learned greatly from a place in the world in which she endures for a lifetime with a faithfulness and dignity that simply leaves me in awe. Hers is a place I would rather hang than visit for a day. That she still has her sanity is a tribute; that she even so much as cares about the world from a corner that would suck the passion for hope out of most people is beyond my grasp. She wants to know, and she goes to the unending task of trying to find the resources that can give her that knowledge. Foiled Goil might very well, too, not live to the fullness of her time on this Earth, even as others who give far less take from her life to feed their lesser ones. If she speaks out of turn, it's because she has the right to do so, if for no other reason than because she has earned it with enough tears to lay waste in most people to hope for a better world tomorrow.

From inside the shell of an industry, it is difficult, if not almost enraging, to hear those whose beliefs could wreck your livelihood.

From outside that industry, it is maddening to the core of the heart to hear those whose livelihood is, from your perspective, so detrimental to so much.

The measure of our worth, perhaps our very rightness is the degree to which accommodation can be found for our beliefs alongside equally honest—and more importantly, earnest—beliefs of others who share our passionate hope for a better place in the times to come. We are not made stronger by destroying those with whom we disagree, not when we are considering as our adversaries those who are most decidedly not. Take a good look at who the enemy within our land really is, and you will find that it is quite easy to see the difference between them and us.

And by "us," I mean both PT and Foiled Goil; and that same "us" includes Minstrel Boy, Chet Scoville, Konagod, Missouri Mule, Jersey Cynic, astraea, Debra, blackdog, Jurassicpork, spyderkl, and all the others I have brought together here to make a stand against a very bad future that has already been underway for far too long, now. When this awful era is over, we can all go our separate ways, if that is what we so choose. We can even, in our respective departures, give those we didn't particularly favor an inappropriate belch. But to begin that incivility now is to beat the Right-wingers to the end-zone of the Eat-Your-Own marathon. That would mean we would have, by our own volition, surrendered the glad and much-earned opportunity to be the cheering spectators at the Right-wing Self-Imolation Derby we have all longed so much to see.

So, for Heaven's sake, let go. We are well better capable than this of writing what we think, know, believe, and understand in a forum of diverse thinkers. If there cannot be mutually beneficial dialogue, let there at least be an understanding of essential decency within our fellow writers here.

And for God's sake, put down the rhetorical knives. You're even scaring the trolls who slither around here.

The Dark Wraith needs something considerably stronger than this triple espresso he just made himself.

03 June 2007

Statistical Trends in the American-Iraqi War

by: Dark Wraith

Operation Iraqi Freedom

As of June 2, 2007, Operation Iraqi Freedom had cost the lives of 3475 American soldiers, with another 12 deaths awaiting confirmation by the Department of Defense. On a monthly basis, the death toll for Coalition troops has been highly volatile, rising significantly during periods of intensified operations, such as during the seige of Fallujah in late 2004 and after. May 2007 marks yet another month of significantly higher casualty rates than are typical, and this is in part due to the "troop surge" President Bush initiated early this year, but it is also the result of what the Washington Post describes in a June 3, 2007, article as "increasingly sophisticated and lethal means of attack" being used by insurgents.

The graphic below, derived from statistics available at the private, highly informative site, Iraq Coalition Casualties, shows the month-by-month Coalition casualty numbers, the vast majority of which represent deaths of U.S. troops.

Note in the above graphic that the monthly number of troops killed had been trending downward from the beginning of this year until April, when the casualty figure jumped steeply and then climbed even higher in May. No let-up is expected: Queen Mary College military analyst Toby Dodge is quoted in the Washington Post article cited above as expecting "a very nasty summer" as disparate insurgent forces, including al-Qa'ida in Iraq, Ja'ish al-Mahdi, and others, turn away from targeting Iraqis and set their sites on killing American soldiers with increasingly sophisticated operational tactics and more destructive weaponry.

Evidence of the maturation of the insurgency in its various factions comes in many forms, but perhaps the most troubling statistic is captured below, which shows the month-to-month ratio of wounded-to-killed Coalition soldiers. The lower the ratio, the more lethal, on average, attacks had been during a given month. The chart below, again derived from data available at Iraq Coalition Casualties, shows the troubling trend.

The red line is the three-month (reverse sum) weighted moving average of the wounded-to-killed ratio, and it clearly shows that the ratio has been generally trending downward since about the last half of 2006. According to director John Pike, quoted in the Washington Post article, "[T]he closer you... get to that 3-to-1 ratio," the more like a "stand-up fight" characteristic of 20th Century wars the American-Iraqi conflict becomes.

With the trend toward more sophisticated, targeted, lethal violence against U.S. troops, and with no prospect in the foreseeable future for any drawdown of American involvement in Iraq, the Summer is, indeed, shaping up to be "very nasty," as is the Autumn and well beyond.

The Dark Wraith trusts that the Democrats in Congress have already prepared their future excuses for failing to stop the Bush Administration's debacle.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

· · · ·

RIP Steve Gilliard

by: Jurassicpork

The News Blog has only one story up: That Steve Gilliard, legendary blogger and perhaps the most influential African American in our line of work, had passed away this morning at age 41.

It won't be the Hamsheresque blackface incident that I'll remember but his slick insertion of two of his operatives into the College Republican convention, the one that spawned the Operation Yellow Elephant movement.

I'll remember his deep-seated loathing of Michael Steele and other black Republicans whom Steve obviously had looked upon as traitors.

I'm not going to try to impress people with flowery elegies or with anything insightful because obviously this isn't about me or anyone else who's also eulogizing Steve at their places (plus I just felt too lazy to type up the post I was going to put up today and my chest cold is doing a good job dumbing me down and I couldn't impress a five year-old.).

I will say, however, that we just lost a very loud and often eloquent voice and Lord knows we cannot afford to lose any.

Rest in Peace, Steve. Fellow liberal, fellow Yankee hater, fellow scribe.

02 June 2007

Glad to be Here II

by: blackdog

I still feel hopelesly weak and unable to recall much. I was told be some friends that I had more tubes and stuff running in and out of me than anyone they had ever seen. I was totally out of it for a month, then only partly out of it for another, so it will be a long road back. The pain at first was incredible.

Getting pretty good at changing ostomy appratus, fortunately it is temporary, maybe in another month. I have little to say about hospitals at this time, except that I seem to be alive. Some of the pain medication I received would do credit for induced psychosis. I had and still have (less frequently) some of the strangest thoughts. Maybe in the future I'll try to explain.

I'm home now for awhile sitting with Woof and trying to get my shit together. Unfortunately I have to return to LR later today, and that is a real circus.

Peace. It's all I want for right now.

A Short Comment on Free Markets and Asymmetric Warfare

by: Dark Wraith

First, my cat was killed by a toxic poison food additive, melamine, from China.

Then it turns out that this poison got into the food chain leading to humans.

Then, there was that warning a couple days ago about imported monkfish actually being deadly poison puffer fish.

And now the FDA is telling people that cheapo toothpaste imported from China has ethylene glycol in it! ETHYLENE GLYCOL?!! The stuff in ANTI-FREEEZE?!! What th' HELL, man? I don't mind my teeth chattering in the Winter, okay?

Is this insanity merely proof once again of what happens under "free market" conditions (both here and in China), or is this really a case study in why the Soviet Union never won the Cold War, just because the Russians thought nukes were the battelfield weapon of choice and never even thought of killing all of us (and our cats) with poisoned food and oral hygiene products? Whichever it is, I am NOT brushing my teeth with any more toothpaste from Aldi's, that's for DAMN sure.

· · · · · ·
01 June 2007

Superstition Ride - - - Day 3 (morning)

by: Minstrel Boy

UPDATE: I just got an email from the folks I ordered computer stuff from. It has been shipped. In the meantime with muchos thankos to The God of All Ropers for the use of his machine I am publishing the draft of the ride which was in works before the crash. It should only be a few more days before we are back up and running at the ranch.

I don't know when I finally drifted off to sleep. I woke up right before dawn being nudged by Rosalita who was looking for an oat ration, or some licorice. There was a pennywhistle in my lap. Silas was snoring, that was music enough for the morning. I put out some alfalfa pellets which were roundly ignored then dipped out a measure of oats for each horse. These were greeted with enthusiasm. I took some oats for Silas and I, built the fire back up and began to fry some bacon. Silas woke up as soon as all the work was done and it was safe for him to open his eyes. He thanked me for my efforts and I smiled. I said "I was thinking we could move camp before the sun gets an angle on us. It's feeling like a hot one today." He agreed that this was most likely the prudent course to take and wandered off. I began to pack stuff up and get the saddles ready. Then I brushed the horses down and got the hooves picked and checked, then the blankets, then the saddles. The final saddle was on and cinched, one last check to make sure that the balance was right on Sally's pack rig, by the time that was finished Silas was already on Ban Fai ready to go. We had about a five and a half mile trek ahead of us, mostly easy terrain. Rosalita was ready to move and set out at her favorite gait, the extended walk. It requires only a little more energy than a regular walk but the longer strides in the front, combined with an almost trotting rythym in the back make for a smooth, comfortable pace that literally eats the ground. Sally takes her membership in our little herd seriously. She has been wild and wants no part of that ever again. I know that she will keep in close contact with where ever Rosalita and I are. Silas knows where we're going and he'll probably show up once I've gotten things fixed up nicely. It is a beautiful morning, but I'm glad we got an early start for our move, there will be some serious heat coming down before we are done.

Our destination is a bend by a creek and a cliff face. That will give us some pretty decent shade from the afternoon sun. There is the foundation and crumbled stack of a chimney from a crew barracks. The main attraction for the ranch hands here is a run of easily accessable clay, softened by the running water of the creek. This was their brick factory. There is a brick beehive kiln that is still in pretty decent repair. It will do nicely for our sweat tonight. It has a natural clay floor, packed and hardened by years of use, better than concrete. There are some stands of mesquite and other woods lying around for the picking. The water will be fine to drink after giving a decent boil. There are various greens which promise some good stuff for dinner after we are finished.

I set about unrigging the horses and letting them busy themselves browsing through the various stands of vegetation. This is not something that Rosalita is real hip to, but Sally is a fountain of knowledge that she is happy to follow around and learn from. I check the kiln to make sure that it is still fairly solid. There are some places that are crumbling a bit. They will shore up nicely with some clay spread over them. I busy myself digging a pit for our fire near the creek. I line it with rocks that I push into the clay. I use a blanket to gather up some sand from the creek bed and make an area all around the fire pit that will not provide a place for any sparks to catch. Then I begin gathering wood. I have a pretty decent stack ready for us when Silas comes riding up. He's grinning ear to ear. I figure he's pleased with all the work I've been doing these last few hours. He says "Look what I found."

Behind him are some hikers. They are three young women and a young man. Silas says "They were so lost they weren't even scared by seeing an Indin on a horse out here in the Wild West." I introduce myself and realize that English is a third or fourth language for these folks. Turns out they are German students at ASU who have come up to do some hiking. They got caught up in the sightseeing end of their trip and began to take a series of wrong turns. They are way off where they intended to be. They are thirsty, hot, tired, and hungry. I start passing out water, point them toward the creek where they can cool off and tell them that there's plenty of food all around here, you only have to know what you are looking at.

They drink deeply, and begin to wander over to the cold running water of the creek. I start to break out some food. The man, who I will refer to as "Big Blonde Hans," sees the bacon slab and the jerky and says "I am vegetarian." I tell him that's fine back home, but these are the calories that are available right here and right now, it would be far more sensible to consume them and then return to your preferred diet once starvation has been avoided. I tell him that once I get things going we can go down to the creek and pull some cat-tails for some vegetarian calories. He seems to think that this is a good idea. I get some bacon slices going, along with a pot of water and we go down to the creek bank where Silas is flirting shamelessly with the girls.

harp and sword

· · · ·

Responsibility and Retribution

by: Dark Wraith

Two editorials I published late last year, "They the People" and "Details and Devils," were the subject of some degree of reasoned criticism, principally because of the broad brush with which I painted the culpability of the American people in the events of the past six years. In "They the People," I warned that an electorate that twice voted in large numbers for George W. Bush is not to be trusted, despite having this past November brought to congressional majority the Democrats. In "Details and Devils," I laid the blame for the debacle that has become the Iraqi War at the feet of all Americans, not just those who supported the President and his policy makers in the ill-fated adventure. The intemperance of that over-arching representation should be rectified; it is I, not some faceless "they," who is responsible: to the extent that I find myself preferring to bemoan what has become of "my" country and its foreign policy, I own the consequences of that wretched mess.

The ceaseless chain of lies, miscalcalculations, and stunningly consistent ineptitude is, of course, the work of the Bush Administration, acting through its people and the federal instrumentalities they control; but while I am here, while I choose to remain a citizen, I do so only as the weak yet loyal opposition, "loyal" because I cower at the prospect of what would happen to me were I to display a degree of disloyalty that would trigger punitive measures by federal law enforcement agencies that have let it be known to the world and to the citizenry of this country of a brutality the government is now willing to carry out. I am honestly amazed by how easy it was to subjugate this country, and I am in no small measure appalled by how easy it has been to drive me to circumscribe any expression of my revulsion at what my leadership has been doing.

I can take only short comfort in telling myself that this awful time will surely pass and the rule of law will again prevail, but such self-forgiving platitudes offer the comfort of a lie: I know nothing of the kind about the eventual prevalence of the "rule of law," for I know that the rule of law never prevailed fully before the Bush Administration; and far worse, I know very well that an extremist Right-wing Supreme Court will, for a generation to come, be contorting the rules animating federal law to the advantage of the strong, to the benefit of the powerful, and to the end of crushing what little had been gained over the past half-century as far as civil rights are concerned. I also know that virtually no candidate for President in 2008 is going to stray far from the emergent unitary executive doctrine because no Congress can convene anymore with the spine to derail the authority consolidating in the Executive Branch. I also know that databases never die, and the masses of information being collected, sorted, analyzed, and used by both the government and private organizations are not going to be deleted on some happy January morning in 2009.

As a free society, we have been permanently damaged. I cannot change what has already happened, and I cannot find a voice loud enough, convincing enough, or forceful enough to turn the tide of a future history already written.

It is certainly the case that many people, perhaps a majority in both 2000 and 2004, did not vote for Mr. Bush. Moreover, to hold all Americans accountable (myself included) for what has become a 21st Century horror story in Iraq is to trivialize, if not utterly dismiss, the condemnation that has persisted for so long from so many voices on the Left. I would defeat my essential purpose as a political analyst were I simply to cut down or otherwise demean the enormous, earnest, and well-considered political and social warriors who have fought so hard and sacrificed so much, despite how futile such efforts have been and will, I would argue, continue to be. I have no taste for the thuggish ways of Right-wing commentators who defend their indefensible declarations by merely shouting down those who take exception to their thinking. It serves no good purpose for me to deliberately inflame intellectual passions only to wreck them in the course of strengthening my own. That does not mean, however, that I shall not on occasion press my thesis, if for no other reason than to see how well it endures strongly adverse contention.

Comments posted on the article "Details and Devils" here at Big Brass Blog included one that expressed the heart of the criticism of the thesis I have set forth about the individuating character of collective responsibility. In edited form, below is that comment:
I refuse to shoulder one iota of blame for the... bloody tragedy in Iraq. I cried out against it from the getgo, I shouted out against the installment of these amoral fuckwits who created it. It's THEY who are to take the responsibility. And their extremities must be held to the fire.

Including Tony Blair, whose own country had experience in the sands of the Middle East about 100 years ago, which he... bloody well knew about.

It's absolutely astounding that anyone can say, oh, it's time for the Iraqis to "get behind the wheel." Good fucking grief. Cheney and his puppet Bush broke the vehicle. Would that there were some way to make them do lifetime community service in Iraq, or until they are dead.
To the end of pressing my case, I herewith reprint in edited and substantially expanded form my response, knowing full well as I do that this is by no means a refutation of the criticism of my thesis, but rather only an expansion—albeit perhaps inflammatory—of what I wrote originally. To that modest end, then, it stands for the time being as the last I shall write on the matter.

Those words speak to the essential, long-term problem we face. I rest in self-assurance that retribution against us will come. That is the way of history, and the United States will not escape punishment from those who have suffered under the rule of Empire. It matters not one bit whether we decide to leave and forgive ourselves, to grant our individual consciences clemency for a world wounded deeply by our misguided sense of just revenge.

Perversely, this is the rightful way of the rule of law. What the individual thinks of his personal responsibility is irrelevant. Acts adjudicated under law are measured by the facts of the case at trial, and punishment for the guilty is without mercy for some circumstance that makes an otherwise heinous crime something else. This is so even for those—perhaps especially for those—who think, feel, or know to the bottom of their soul that they are blameless.

The bitterness of Middle Easterners will not be shed only upon those who stood fast with George W. Bush. In the eyes of the victimized who turn to retributive violence, those citizens who opposed him from the very beginning will stand every bit as blameworthy as those who held fast to him and his policies until the very last day of his Presidency. That's how it will work. That's how the ancient rite of vengeance comes to expression. To paraphrase a young rabbi from several millennia past, the rain will fall equally upon the righteous and the unrighteous.

The United States, its people, its assets, and its interests will be punished. To put it in the bluntest terms possible, we are very likely to get hammered. Whether or not you, I, our friends, our families, our political allies, or those we care about "deserve" it has no bearing. That new crop of "terrorists" of the future we are now cultivating from Baghdad to Jakarta, from Punjab to the Caucasus—those who will exact their brand of justice at the behest of their psychotic religious leaders—they will not take the time to distinguish between Americans who condemned Bush and those who did not.

Payback will be indiscriminate. My repeated, documented, unwavering condemnation of Bush and the neo-cons will not save me from the wrath of those who have been wronged. I could wear a sign with bright red lettering on it that read: "I DID NOT SUPPORT BUSH. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR 650,000 DEAD IRAQIS!" and it would make not a bit of difference to a terrorist suicide bomber who was bent on killing Americans because his family was wiped out in a botched raid some company of Marines did in his neighborhood.

It's not going to matter to him or her.

Palestinian child survivor of Israeli attackLook with appropriate horror upon the picture at left. The little girl clutching the blanket and shrieking is a Palestinian child whose family had just been butchered by artillery rounds while picnicing on a beach. The Israeli Defense Forces cynically sneered that the massacre was by Palestinians shooting at IDF gunboats that were attacking a legitimate target.

Whatever. That little girl could very well one day—one day very soon—be a suicide bomber who will walk into a lovely, modern, Western-style shopping mall in Tel Aviv and blow herself and a bunch of Israelis to Kingdom Come. Who here believes she will ask those who condemn the IDF killing machine to please leave before she sends herself and her victims to Hell?

Of course she won't ask. Her victims' politics will not matter and that's because her politics did not matter when her mom, dad, and siblings were sent to the fiery slaughterhouse. The Israelis, both those who support the ungodly acts of their government and those who absolutely do not, pay the price together.

Iraqi child survivor of American attackSo, too, will we. We will pay because we're Americans, and America was the nation that did the unspeakable damage in Iraq. We are Americans, so we will, in our individual lives, run the risk of our share of collective punishment. Take a good, hard look at the little girl at right: she's an Iraqi wounded profoundly in an American military attack. So help me God, if that were my child, I would spend the rest of my days hunting down any member of the tribe that did what was done to her and her siblings.

But I am a member of the tribe that will be hunted. Collectively, we have no exit that does not involve a lot of our own blood, both now and for generations to come. If we continue this brutal, violent, unproductive monstrosity that is the American-Iraqi War—and despite the lies of cowardly Democrats to the contrary, we probably will, at least for quite a while longer—we will merely postpone, but only to some extent, our own days and generations of reckoning with the aftermath. When we leave, we shall in the event have let slip, and ever so quietly at first, the dogs of retributive war upon us for what we have done.

Guilty or not; supporter or opponent of the neo-cons; morally blind, flag-waving pseudo-patriot or hardened, America-hating Leftist; contemplative conservative or moderate liberal, we shall all stand before the bar of the rough justice of the ages that transcends our modern, delicate sensibilities.

The American victims of terrorist attacks have found that out as they have individually paid the ultimate price: while they bore no individual responsibility for the awful history of Western actions in the Middle East, yet there they were, paying dearly and in finality because that's how the cruelty of street justice would have it. The Hegelian theoretical chalkboard scrawl about historical inevitability is a real pain in the backside when it jumps off the philosophy department seminar table and into fire and shrapnel at the corner of Fifth and Main.

We Americans are all about "taking responsibility," and our very own justice system is brutally efficient at playing fancy games with legal logic to wreck the lives of people who are nothing more than victims of the circumstances of their lots in life. Imagining that this is somehow an aberration of "who we really are as a people" is nothing more than an excuse for avoiding some really, really awful truths about us: we aren't God's chosen, we aren't "fundamentally good people," we aren't better than what we look like in this moment.

And to that same point, whether we like it or not, we really are—all of us—the ones there in Baghdad, the ones in al-Anbar province, the ones in Fallujah, the ones all over Iraq who started this mayhem down the path it is now taking into Hell. I can scream bloody murder at the outrage of it all, but that's not going to bring back the dead, not one of them, not a single one of my fellow soldier-citizens, not a single little Iraqi girl or boy; and unless I'm willing to repudiate my nation, surrender my citizenship, perhaps even go so far as to take real and deliberate action against the Republicans and their spineless Democratic enablers, I am every bit as guilty as those who will want to hurt me think I am.

How do I know that? That's easy: I am in the line of future fire, just like every other American.

Will I let them hurt me? No, of course not. I will do whatever I must to survive; and most decidedly, I will not shy from declaring that I am a citizen of the United States of America, however much I might be hated from now on in the rest of the world for making that claim without reservation. My own, personal apology to the world isn't going to change anything about that, not with those who have been wronged, those who are deranged criminals, those who are ideological nutcases, or those whose loved ones are dead and gone because of what we've done.

I will vote, I will write, I will speak, and I will act as one outraged by what this Administration has done. But in all of those things that I will do, I will know this much for certain: if I am not the victim of some retributive act of vengeance, it will not be because of all the righteous, noble things I've done on behalf of peace, justice, and rectitude.

It will be because I got lucky.

The Dark Wraith will now accept certain and well-deserved criticism for this editorial.

Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

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