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Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Stars at Night are Big and Bright...

Tomorrow morning I'm leaving for a short trip to Texas to spend what may be my final moments with my beloved Grandma. I wish it was a vacation, but I doubt there will be much "vacationing." I'm leaving my house and the dogs in my brother's care, and if he's savvy enough to hack into my Blogger account, my faithful blog readers might be treated to some "guest blogging." (Let's hope he hasn't heard of Firefox yet.)

I'm taking my laptop, but I'm not sure what kind of internet connectivity I'll have, so posting may be sporadic if done at all. If that's the case, I'll be back next Wednesday for more blogging fun.

In the mean time, behave yourself.

A Final Word on the Iraq War Dead Story

From Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post:
Does this prove, as the study asserts, that precisely 654,965 Iraqis have died "as a consequence of the war," and that exactly 601,027 of those deaths were due to violence? No, it doesn't. The Johns Hopkins team reports being 95 percent certain that the true figure lies between about 400,000 and about 900,000 -- a large range of uncertainty that some critics have seized upon as discrediting the whole project.

But the exact number is not the point. Rather, it's the scope and scale of the carnage.

Late last year President Bush gave an off-the-cuff estimate of 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths -- this after the administration had steadfastly refused to acknowledge even trying to count the Iraqi dead. Now the administration is willing to allow that perhaps 50,000 civilians have died. It is unclear whether any science at all has gone into these estimates or whether they were essentially pulled out of a hat.

But quite a lot of science went into the Johns Hopkins study. Even if you assume that the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the war began is at the very low end of the study's range, that's still a quantum leap from earlier estimates. We now have reputable evidence -- not proof, I'll allow, but science-based evidence from respected scholars, published in one of the world's most prestigious medical journals -- that the humanitarian tragedy in Iraq is much, much worse than anyone had suspected.

If the study's findings are flawed, then its critics should demonstrate how and why. But no one should dismiss these shocking numbers without fully examining them. No one should want to.
Alright, that horse is pulp and I'm done fulminating about it.

These are not the droids we're looking for. Move along.

Friday, October 13, 2006

More From the Horse's Mouth

Further proof that Iraq is fucked up and the body count is larger than anyone (perhaps except for Johns Hopkins) thinks it is:
Violence in Iraq forces the interior ministry to budget a loss of 25 police officers each day to death or permanent injury, a US security advisor said.

"We budgeted for 10 Iraqi policemen killed every day and 15 wounded in action to the point where they had to be retired from action" in 2006, Gerald Burke, National Security Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said.
That's right. The Iraq police expect to lose 25 law enforcement officers a day. This is my question: How many do they recruit?

More on the Johns Hopkins study, this time from an Iraqi dentist.

One problem is that the people dismissing – or in some cases, rabidly attacking – the results of this study, including governmental officials who, arguably, have an interest in doing so, have offered no other alternative or not even a counter estimate. This is called denial. When you have no hard facts to discredit a scientific study, or worse, if you are forced to resort to absurd arguments, such as “the Iraqis are lying,” or “they interviewed insurgents,” or “the timing to publish this study was to affect American elections,” or "I don't like the results and they don't fit into my world view, therefore they have to be false," it is better for you to just shut up. From the short time I have been here, I am realising that some Americans have a hard time accepting facts that fly against their political persuasions.

Now I am aware that the study is being used here by both sides of the argument in the context of domestic American politics, and that pains me. As if it is different for Iraqis whether 50,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the war or 600,000. The bottom line is that there is a steady increase in civilian deaths, that the health system is rapidly deteriorating, and that things are clearly not going in the right direction.
And this froma guy who says:
Simply put, the methods used by the study are valid, but in Iraq’s case, where the level of violence is not consistent throughout the country, I feel that the study should have been done differently. 654,965 excess civilian deaths is an absurd number. My personal guesstimate would be half that number, but the total count is not the point now.
And what's the point?

Iraq is fucked up!

Friday Not So Random Ten

I know I'm breaking the rules, but instead of hitting my player on random, I decided to pick out some songs that capture some of the essence of what I've been feeling lately.

And as you peruse the titles, I'm sure it becomes obvious that what I've been feeling hasn't been warm and fuzzies. So have a listen, but beware the bitter aftertaste.

1) Snooze Button - Snot (While you were busy fucking sleeping...)
2) Love - Strapping Young Lad
3) Fell on Black Days - Soundgarden
4) War Ensemble - Slayer (Support the war)
5) Underground - Life of Agony (If you don't walk with me...I'll walk alone.)
6) Rose of Sharyn - Killswitch Engage (Love you, Grandma. I'll see you soon.)
7) Wu Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin to Fuck Wit - Wu Tang Clan and Tom Morello (I been causing more family feuds than Richard Dawson)
8) Bled For Days - Static X
9) Pet - A Perfect Circle (Counting bodies to the rhythm of the war drums)
10) Refuse to Be Denied - Anthrax (With my raised fist...)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

As More Blood Dribbles From the Dead Horse's Brow

I bought this postcard a few weeks ago and it pretty much sums up my attitude today.
Bitter? What do I have to be bitter about? Dick Meyer has some insights.

I'm not feeling too confident in our world these days. I lost my faith in God a long time ago, but now I may be losing faith in my fellow man. I gotta tell you, I'm bordering on nihilism here.

The 650,000 dead? Not only is that story bugging me because of the reaction I got for linking it, but even with all the controversy, that number seems all too probable...and if it's not a fact now, it will be by 2010, with or without American troops on the ground. (Juan Cole explains in a much more cogent way why 650,000 dead is plausible here. I hightly recommend doubters read it.)

And then there's Bush.

One thing that's never really discussed is how much he relies on the use of the phrase, "I understand," as in his latest example, "I understand the stakes."

He's got a long history of these understandisms.
"Part of the facts is understanding we have a problem, and part of the facts is what you're going to do about it." --George W. Bush, April 15, 2005

"I understand there's a suspicion that we--we're too security-conscience." --George W. Bush, April 14, 2005

"I think it's very important for the American President to mean what he says. That's why I understand that the enemy could misread what I say. That's why I try to be as clearly I can." --George W. Bush, Sept. 23, 2004

"I also understand how tender the free enterprise system can be." —George W. Bush, July 8, 2002

"I understand that the unrest in the Middle East creates unrest throughout the region." —George W. Bush, March 13, 2002


"I understand small business growth. I was one." --George W. Bush,Feb. 19, 2000

"I understand reality. If you're asking me as the president, would I understand reality, I do." --George W. Bush, May 31, 2000
I don't think Bush understands reality all that well. If he did, he wouldn't say something stupid like this in response to a question about the Iraqi war dead report:
No, I don't consider it a credible report. Neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do know that a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me and it grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to -- that there's a level of violence that they tolerate.
The first part of that, Bush is the consumate politician. He states his position, assures us that he understands that innocent people were killed, even expresses emotion for such tragedy.

But then he goes off the deep end.
I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence.
Mr. Bush, the Iraqis are committing the violence! I know you still want to believe it's Osama flunkies and Jordanian terrorists blowing the shit out of Iraq, but that's so three years ago. Now Iraq is in a full-on insurgency against the American occupation and a bloody cival war with jihad overtones. No one's buying the freedom fries bullshit anymore, Mr. President.

As for that other shit, "I am amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free," you can stop right there. You know what they want to be free from? Our war on terror. Why is that? So they can use their new found freedom to settle old scores and grab power for themselves, whether they're Shiite clerics inspired by the Ayatollahs in Iran or Sunni militants used to lopsided rule under Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Bush doesn't understand anything, and when he says he does, you can tell he's trying just as hard to convince himself as he is you.

Pardon me if I roll my eyes...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dubya puts the W in WTF

Politics, man.

John McCain stoops to round two of the Blame Clinton game. Ding, we got a weiner. Clinton's policies deserve many criticisms, but President Bush has been in office for six years. During those six years, we have seen the nuclear ambitions of both Iran and North Korea grow. Grow. Not shrink.

So basically what this Clinton blaming argues is that Clinton was bad, but Bush is worse.

Look at Iraq, a cesspool of blood and carnage. 650,000 Iraqis dead (2.5% of their population, not to mention roughtly the entire population of Alaska). Our soldiers, still there, still being blown up so politicians back home can keep playing their games.

Look at Iran, their president trotting the globe with that big goofy smile of his, shaking hands with every president in the world, except Bush. Do they have nuclear power or don't they? I guess we'll find out when they do a test, just like with North Korea.

And what about that third leg of the Axis of Evil? Their nuclear test may just be a pose, but their ambitions aren't. What has George Bush's policies done to contain them? Nothing. In fact, by the Koreans' own admission, Bush's foreign policy has egged them on.

So nice going, George. Once again, you fucked up. Thanks a lot.

Overkill

In our top story today, in a series of events that were eerily similar to 9-11, New York City was attacked once again, this time by the Yankees. After learning of the incident, President Bush ordered the NY Jets in action, where they are to patrol the skies "as a precautionary measure." White House sources also say the President is considering seeking Congressional authorization to use all neccesary force to "eliminate" the threat that the Yankees organization poses to America, and some say that threat includes the use of the Texas Rangers.

"We cannot allow the world's most dangerous managers to threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons," Bush said today. "We don't want the smoking gun to be another penant for the American League."

The NY Yankees, also known as the Bronx Bombers, are one of the most storied teams in professional sports, and their sudden unprovoked attack on our national interests is as shocking as it is bold...

But seriously.

I know I shouldn't make light of a sad, scary story, but come on, man. I watched the thing unfold on CNN, as they breathlessly reported every detail. Is it the terrorists? No, honey...it's just martians that came up from the ground.

And then, of course, I saw all the fawning over the loss of a great MLB pitcher during the Detroit-Oakland game. Let's win this one for Lidle.

But what about Jose Canseco?

Jesus is Always With George W. Bush

This video had me rolling.

Great Moments in Guitar Solos

Our "Great Moments in Guitar Solos" for today comes from Thin Lizzy's 1975 record, Fighting, courtesy of the appropriately named song, The Rocker. Back then you could get away with committing a two and half minute dueling guitars solo to tape. Nowadays that would only fly if Pharrell rapped over it.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Challenge

I've been thinking about New Orleans lately, specifically the problem of rebuilding it. Without getting into whether or not it should be rebuilt (and for the record, I'm in the "It should" camp), I'd like to know how free-market Libertarian principles would be used to restore New Orleans to the cultural and commercial hub it was before Katrina.

So if anyone has any ideas, I'd like to hear them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

On Principle

I had my own little IM scandal today with a buddy of mine. It got a little heated, as it always does, because debating either one of us is simply infuriating. I'm derisive and lazy. My buddy is entrenched and well-prepared.

Basically it all boils down to a fundamental disagreement on political principles. Big surprise! No one can agree on that shit.

But it got me thinking (as all conversations should) about exactly what I believe. And this is what I have come to: No one system or set of principles can be applied to everything.

A while ago, my brother had to go to court for a trespassing ticket. He got into an argument at Wal-Mart and was apprehended by security. They demanded that he sign a form saying he would never go into a Wal-Mart again and then they would cut him lose. He refused, so they called the cops.

When I asked him, sitting there in the courtroom with him, why he didn't just sign what would be an uneforceable piece of paper rather than face the cops and a criminal charge, he said, "It's the principle."

When I worked for the phone company those many years ago, I used to take calls from old people who wanted to argue over pennies on their phone bill. As they chased their seventeen cents and wasted all that time on the phone, they would say, "It's not the money, it's the principle."

Fuck principle. There is no such thing as principle. Principle is a myth.

In physics, there is no unified field theory that applies to all things. Large bodies and small atomic bodies act in very different ways, and no one really knows why. That's just the way it is. Newtonian physics explains a lot of things about our world, but it does not apply on a quantum level.

And so it is with principle, and specifically political principle. Some situations deserve a conservative treatment, while others need something more liberal. Maybe even some issues need a libertarian slant, and others could use a green influence, but it is absolute folly to declare yourself one or the other and try to apply that principle or idea to all situations.

Maybe if those old people weren't so worried about their phone bills they could have had more time to clip coupons.

Maybe if my brother signed his name on that paper, Wal-Mart wouldn't have called the police on him. (After all, it's not like they check IDs when you go into Wal-Mart.)

Maybe it's not always about the principle.

Monday Night Football

I got a call at work from my brother today saying he's got tickets to the football game tonight. Of course, I'm at work, so instead I had to watch the game on the video wall instead.

And if you watched the game, too, you would know that it was cold and rainy today in the Mile High City. Snow was predicted but never materialized, although I'm sure the high country got a fresh dump of eminently skiable powder.

The weather affected the game, I'm sure. Jake was wearing gloves and Joe Theisman made a big deal about it. What was the word he used? Tacky? As in, "You know, when it's wet out there, the ball gets tacky and when you wear those gloves, it's easier to grip the ball because it's tacky."

You're tacky, Joe.

We had a good time at work, watching the game and fielding calls. S, a big Jets fan from back east, spent the whole game dogging on the Broncos. Me and B, local CO boys, cheered whenever they made a play. And even though the score remained a dismal 3-3 for a loooonnnng time, and the Broncos have yet to establish themselves offensively, it was a lot of fun reminding S that his Jets were shutout 41-0 yesterday.

It was all very locker room, with enough dick jokes and foul language to fill an NC-17 movie, and it didn't stop even after the Broncos won.

Tomorrow the new guy starts. I hope he's not offended by off-color language.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Football Sunday

Every time I see Terrell Owens, I want to snatch those diamond-studded earrings out of his ears, kick him in the nuts, and run away screaming, "I'm rich, bitch!"

I bet he would cry. He almost cried today as the Eagles stomped Dallas. Bledsoe threw a tasty 102 yard interception. Donovan McNabb threw a great 87 yard pass. TO had 4 receptions, but they didnt' amount to much.

I also watched the Chargers manhandle the defending champs, Pittsburgh, in an uneven grudge match of defense. The Chargers defense is scary. They sacked Rothliesberger five times. Ouch.

A guy I work with will be pissed that the Jets were shut out, 41-0! Yes, 41-0! But I also know someone in Minnesota who will be pleased that the Vikings survived a run-in with the Lions.

Bom-bom-BOM. Tomorrow night, Monday Night Football. Broncos, Ravens. Primetime football, baby.

While You Were Sleeping...

Ooops!

Papa Roach Sucks Now

It's true. I liked their first record, not all of it, but enough to consider them a band to watch. I like their second record even better. It was heavier, more rock, less rap.

But what the fuck happened? Record #3 sucked. And the new single from Record #4?

It sucks!!!

Okay, I'm done now.

Death of a Movie

This post by Tristero gave me a laugh.
Dear Right Wing Bloggers,

Thank you very much for trying to focus the blogosphere's attention on the cancelling of the production of Mozart's Idomeneo in Berlin out of fears that it would infuriate Muslims. You are absolutely right: It is an outrage for the opera company to have caved.
But wait...there's more:
I can only assume that if you do not oppose the banning of "Death of a President" as forcefully as you opposed the cancelling of Idomeneo you are not serious about championing free speech but instead cherry-picking your issues for maximum political impact.
Snap!

Of course, I can't imagine that a movie like this is going to be much of a blockbuster anyway.

Stupid

You know what's stupid? Eyebrow piercings.

More Political Windbaggery

Andrew Sullivan asks:
What should this Congressional election be about? A critical decision about whether to re-commit new resources and manpower to Iraq or pull out? Or a Washington sex scandal that raises serious questions about responsibility, but none about the country's policies as a whole?
My take on that is that it should be about both issues.  If we can’t trust our leaders in Washington to handle a sex scandal, how are we supposed to trust them to prosecute a war?

However, with that said, I’d like to hear some ideas about how to “achieve victory in Iraq.”  First, we must reassess our goal.  What are we trying to do there?

Rid Iraq of WMD capability?  Done.  Arrest Saddam and put him on trial?  Well, it’s not much of a trial, but Saddam does spend his nights in a cell and his days in a courtroom, so that part is done.  Setting up a democratic government?  As we are constantly reminded with the words “purple fingers,” we set up a democratically elected government.  Done.

Now what?  Kill them all?  Perhaps now is the time to discuss how to win this war, rather than repeating the trite line that “liberals want us to lose.”  

Let’s say we vote Republican next month…then what?  What are you Republicans going to do to make sure we don’t lose Iraq?  Cuz what you're doing now just isn't working.

Also, first spotted on Sullivan’s blog, I’m going to link and excerpt a graph from Glenn Greenwald’s post on the Mark Foley scandal:
In that regard, this scandal is like the Cliffs' Notes version of a more complicated treatise on how the Bush movement operates. Every one of their corrupt attributes is vividly on display here:The absolute refusal ever to admit error. The desperate clinging to power above all else. The efforts to cloud what are clear matters of wrongdoing with irrelevant sideshows. And the parade of dishonest and just plainly inane demonization efforts to hide and distract from their wrongdoing: hence, the pages are manipulative sex vixens; a shadowy gay cabal is to blame; the real criminals are those who exposed the conduct, not those who engaged in it; liberals created the whole scandal; George Soros funded the whole thing; a Democratic Congressman did something wrong 23 years ago; one of the pages IM'd with Foley as a "hoax", and on and on. There has been a virtual carousel -- as there always is -- of one pathetic, desperate attempt after the next to deflect blame and demonize those who are pointing out the wrongdoing. This is what they always do, on every issue. The difference here is that everyone can see it, and so nothing is working.
I’m still holding out for election day.  I thought the Bush Admin’s nefarious tactics were on display over many issues, 9-11, Iraq, Katrina, corruption scandals, etc.  To me, this is just the most recent, and not even the most compelling, example of why I can’t vote for the Republican party anymore.

No Shelter

One of the best Rage Against the Machine songs (out of several) is No Shelter, a little throwaway track from the Godzilla soundtrack. You remember the Godzilla movie, right? No? Me either.

But if that movie were to leave any kind of legacy, it should be this song. Most likely commissioned specifically for the soundtrack, Rage turned in a funky jam with some of Tom Morello's best pedal-work and an unforgettable bass line, a song that feeds the mind as well as the ears, thanks mostly to Zach De La Rocha's blissfully subversive lyrics.

Unlike Tesla's contribution to the Last Action Hero soundtrack, which celebrates the movie and its star (the Governator), Rage uses their spot on Godzilla's album to comment on Hollywood's vacuous profit-oriented dream machine. Included in the lyrics are some not so kind words for the film itself.
Godzilla pure mutha fuckin filler
Keep ya eyes off the real killer
This from a song meant to promote the movie!

The irony is that long after Broderick retires on his Producers residuals, this song will still be spun on Ipods, radio stations, and jukeboxes across the country. And the message, subversive as all things Rage, will still be heard.
Empty ya pockets son, they got you thinkin that
What ya need is what they sellin
Make you think that buyin is rebellin'
This may be the only song on a soundtrack that trashes the movie it's intended to promote, as well as the commercial impetus behind it. How it made it on the record, I have no clue.