Saturday, February 24, 2007

Random "Friday" Ten

My Random Saturday Ten, posted late on my "Friday Night."

1) No Passengers - Norma Jean
2) Bubak and Hungaricus - Mozart
3) A Skeleton in the Closet - Anthrax
4) Roots Bloody Roots (Live) - Sepultura (Greetings from the Third World!)
5) Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin
6) Green River - Creedence Clearwater Revival
7) 5 Minutes Alone - Pantera
8) I Wanna Get High - Cypress Hill
9) In the Arms of God - Corrosion of Conformity
10) Wicked - Ice Cube


The Bureaucrat's Lament

Michael Moore can't be blamed on this one. Neither can Bill Clinton, or Nancy Pelosi, or George Clooney or Sean Penn or George Soros or feminists or gays or any of the usual subjects.

This one has one culprit: Bureaucracy.

But not just any bureaucracy, but a government and military bureaucracy, perhaps the most nefarious kind. The cruel irony, of course, is that war supporters have been complaining that the anti-war left don't "support the troops," when such "support" is little more than symbolic anyway, and yet the people --nay, the bureaucracy-- who must by job definition support our troops has been, well, a little lax.

Our esteemed Secretary of Defense had this to say after ordering a review of the conditions at Walter Reed:
"We empower commanders with responsibility, authority and resources necessary to carry out their missions," Gates said. "With responsibility comes accountability. Accordingly, after the facts are established, those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable."
Except you know he's not being entirely truthful here.

Heads will roll, no doubt, but if the bureaucrats really had been "empowered with responsibility, authority, and resources" then this Walter Reed travesty wouldn't have happened. And they wouldn't be very good bureaucrats. According to the wiki, bureaucracy "is characterized by standardized procedure (rule-following), formal division of responsibility, hierarchy, and impersonal relationships."

In one of the original articles, this is lodged as one of the complaints:
Each morning they must rise at dawn for formation, though many are half-snowed on pain meds and sleeping pills.
Perhaps it's just me, but I think that wounded soldiers who are "half-snowed on pain meds and sleeping pills" should perhaps be excempted from a dawn formation. Makes sense on an individual basis, but because of the "standardized procedure," everyone must participate. Of course, to make an exception to this rule one must have the authority to do so, but because of the "formal division of responsibility," the orderly who knows that Private Smith is unfit for daily formation doesn't have the authority to excuse him. Instead, that decision is sent up the "hierarchy," to a commander with no known personal relationship (i.e., an impersonal relationship) to Pvt. Smith.

Multiply that example by thousands and you have the root causes of the Walter Reed debacle. Rampant "not my jobism" followed by "I'll pass that on to my superiors" followed by a one-size-fits-all leadership style. In other words, bureaucracy.

Secretary Gates has it right when he says:
"They battled our foreign enemies; they should not have to battle an American bureaucracy."
Damn straight. So do something, Mr. Secretary, and please...please don't let it be some PR exercise to stave off the embarassment of some bad press. There's more at stake here than some bureaucrat's reputation.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Now That You Cheated On Me, Can I Get The Ring Back?

I see a headline that says "Beaver Spotted in New York" and the first thing I think is, wait, I thought Britney Spears was in rehab.

Seriously, though, I've made a conscious decision not to click on any Britney related item. I don't want to contribute to the problem, which is many faceted. Out of control celebrity, the entertainment establishment that nurtures and profits from the celebrity, the paparazzi and tabloids that feed on the chum, and us, the audience.

And this one I just want to pass on by. Same with Anna Nicole Smith.

So...I finally did it. I got a haircut. The first one since July of last year, and though I could have gone for the "trim" to clean up the layering and split ends I went for the sheep shear instead.

This is me a few weeks ago in Vegas.

And this is me yesterday after my haircut.
So yesterday while I was eating lunch at Famous Dave's, I noticed a couple in the next table over. They had two babies, maybe a year old, one on each side of the booth. The couple were talking about something that was none of my business, so I tuned it out until the girl, who incidentally was quite attractive, said, "Let's ask this guy what he thinks."

So she turns to me, and flashes me one of those charmingly devious smiles that makes you feel all warm inside. "Can I ask you something?" she says. The dude looks at her, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

She gets out of her booth and comes to my table, sitting in the chair next to me, folding her hands on her lap. "Alright, so what would you do in this situation. You're with a girl and things are good and whatever, and then like eight months later, you propose to her. You give her a ring and you're going to get married or whatever. Only you find out that the girl cheated on you. Would you want your ring back?"

As she's telling me this, I realizes she's not talking about me, or about some nameless hypothetical. She's talking about herself, and as cute as she is, her stock is plummetting.

"Yeah," I say. "I'd want the ring back. You know, it's a symbol of a committment that the girl broke and..." Blah blah blah.

The dude, embarassed, is hiding behind his baby, nodding his head, saying to himself, "See? I told you so."

The girl, though, doesn't seem to understand. She looks at me, still smiling, but stunned that someone who should obviously be putty in her hands, that being me, wouldn't give her the answer she wanted.

"But he gave it to her," she protests. "It's no longer his."

"Yeah, but it was given under false pretenses," I said.

She accepted the answer, then went back to her table, perhaps embarassed that nothing had been solved and now some random stranger knew all about her business. (And would later post it on the internet.)

And it's a shame, really, beacuse she was a really attractive girl.

Jedis Amongst Us

This reminds me of Reno 911.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Little Bits

Calimari anyone?

While we fuss over Britney, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Brits fuss about more consequential matters.

It's about damn time. I sure as hell don't watch Wimbeldon for the dudes! There is no way you can justify paying a woman less for doing the same thing in any context. Especially tennis. (Right, Billie Jean?)

You hear a lot of bitching about how Starbucks is taking over the world. The other night I saw a comedian do a funny riff on Starbucks on some late night show. But even then, I can't get too worked up about them. It's only coffee. And they do have a great composting program. Yep, go to Starbucks, ask for the grounds, then put them in your garden.

Have you been watching Rome lately? I just got caught up yesterday. I'm starting to miss Max Pirkis already. Still an interesting bit of casting for a TV show. Create some kind of chemistry and audience sympathy for one actor, then replace him with a new face. I will say that the new guy does a pretty good job approximating Pirkis's speech patterns, but they look nothing alike.

I watched a documentary the other day called Bastards of the Party about how the Los Angeles street gangs were formed. Interesting movie, especially considering that Denver has been going through it's own gang war this winter. One thing mentioned in the documentary is the strange way that police profit from gang activity, in the form of better equipment (LA has a tank, apparently, probably a squad of tanks) and more money. It seems that is true, if the lede of this story is to be believed.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey wants to get more aggressive in finding the city's most dangerous street gang members, but says it would cost nearly a half-million dollars to do it.
In a semi-related subject, I watched Martin Scorsese's The Departed finally. They say it might be his year to win the Academy Award. I say good for him. If he does win, I guess The Departed deserves it. That doesn't make it better than Goodfellas, or Mean Streets, or Casino, or Raging Bull, or Taxi Driver. It just means Marty's getting his due.

Speaking of getting his due, Spike Lee doesn't need an Academy Award to prove his mettle as a filmmaker. He won himself the Polk Award for journalism. Who needs the Oscar?

White and Nerdy

I dedicate this song to my nephew, Scott:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Michael Moore Emboldens Terrorists

I mentioned Ahmed Shah Massoud briefly in a previous post about the Qods Brigade and for those of you who follow such things as closely as I do, the name might have sounded familiar. Ahmed Shad Massoud was the leader of the Northern Alliance, the proxies used by the US against the Taliban, but Massoud never lived to see the Taliban overthrown.

He was killed on September 9, 2001, by (most likely) Al Qaeda suicide bombers posing as a Belgian TV crew doing an interview. Two days later...well, you know. (For more on Massoud, check out Sebastian Junger's great book Fire, a collection of his magazine pieces that includes a story about the Storm King Mountain Fire. Scott Blecha, one of the firefighters killed in the blaze, served in the Corps with Uncle Jim. I digress...)

I've had a long standing theory that Michael Moore inadvertently inspired the attack that killed Massoud. Here's how:

Michael Moore used to have a show, I think, on Bravo called The Awful Truth. He did some funny things on that show, including staging a "witch hunt" in DC to symbolize the treatment the Clintons were getting. He also took a bunch of guys who lost their voice boxes to Phillip Morris to "sing" Christmas Carols. It was all quite funny.

One of his stunts involved a (staged) airdrop of TVs to Afghanistan. There was this horrible group there, you see, the Taliban, who were ruling the country with an iron fist. You couldn't watch TV, or listen to music, or even fly a kite. So he was going to airdrop TVs.

He showed up at the Taliban "embassy" in New York, some low rent office building in Queens or something, with a camera crew and a TV in his arms. There was something creepy about the Taliban "ambassador," his thick unwashed beard, his little hat. It wasn't the normal wariness between foreigners. In hindsight, this was something else.

He wouldn't even touch the TV. He made a pimply face kid come out and take it. And there the kid was, mugging for Michael Moore's cameras with an uneasy grin on his face, probably thinking that it was going to explode any minute and he'd get his 72 virgins.

Later, after Michael Moore had left, the "ambassador" probably called Osama and told him about the incident. It may have gone like this, but in Arabic:

"A film crew just showed up. Yeah, Americans. I don't know. They wanted an interview or something, but get this. They brought us a TV. Yeah, a TV. That's not normal, is it? I didn't think so. From the way they were acting, I could tell they weren't professionals. Do you think they could have been CIA? You're right. You can never be sure. The TV? I threw it away. Are you kidding? It could have been a bomb. Yes, that is a good idea. I never would have thought of it. You think so? Oh, if we could get Massoud in the same way, that would be awesome!"

I'm not saying that's how it went, exactly. It's just a theory.

But it's a damn good one. Ha!

Do Terrorists Support the Republican Party? This one does!

You hear a lot about George Soros's terrorist sympathies from the right wing smear machine, mostly because he opposes President Bush. And though he is guilty of giving money to liberal groups like, that doesn't neccesarily translate to "supporting terrorists."

This clown links Soros, through several degrees of separation, to an actual convicted terrorist. Considering the standards of evidence wingers seem to find convincing, it's not surprising that this alone is enough to have Soros branded a "terrorist sympathizer."

Yet Soros is a man who said this:
"I grew up in Hungary, lived through fascism and the Holocaust, and then had a foretaste of communism. I learned at an early age how important it is what kind of government prevails. I chose America as my home because I value freedom and democracy, civil liberties and an open society. When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open society."
Those are the words of a terrorist sympathizer if I ever heard them...

Unfortunately the evidence that Soros is providing material support to terrorists has yet to materialize. Instead, it seems like Soros is just another Democratic donor, a prominent one to be sure, but "just a donor," nonetheless.

Not so for this dude.
Terrorism charges brought Friday against [Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, 53, of Ardsley, N.Y] the administrator of a loan investment program claimed that he secretly tried to send $152,000 to the Middle East to buy equipment such as night vision goggles for a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
But here's the rub:
CBS News has confirmed that Alishtari is a donor to the Republican Party, as he claims on his curriculum vitae. Alishtari gave $15,500 to the National Republican Campaign Committee between 2002 and 2004, according to Federal Election Commission records. That amount includes $13,000 in 2003, a year when he claims to have been named NRCC New York State Businessman of the Year.

Alishtari also claims to be a lifetime member of the National Republican Senate Committee's Inner Circle, which the NRCC describes as "an impressive cross-section of American society – community leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, retirees, and sports and entertainment celebrities – all of whom hold a deep interest in our nation's prosperity and security."
I seriously doubt the Republican Party knew they were getting money from a terrorist sympathizer/financier. But next time you here some Limbaugh-Hannity-Malkin clone bitching about George Soros being a terrorist sympathizer because he donates to liberal causes, let's remind them of the actual terrorist sympathizer that donated to the actual Republican Party.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Utah Spree Killer

God, I'm dumb. I dipped in to see what my favorite wingnut was blathering about and was directed to this idiot's blog. These people are not only braindead, they're locked into a rigid unyielding and tragically flawed paradigm.

About the Utah mall shooting, wherein the shooter was determined to be a Muslim survivor of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, the aforementioned dumbass says this:
With all the talk these days about how terrible it is for some people to question whether or not the killer's Islamic religion had anything to do with the Salt Lake City mall murders, this is an especially intriguing story.
No, I'm not linking to the "intriguing story." It's really not that intriguing. Besides, I got stuck on the "whether or not the killer's Islamic religion had anything to do with" it.

That might please the "Islam is the religion of killers" crowd, but it unintentionally exposes the dreadful ignorance of that line of thinking.

Let me illuminate these guys.

The Srebrenica massacre, which this kid survived, was in July of 1995, roughly twelve years ago. The kid who went crazy in the mall was 18 years old so, doing the simple math, this dude was maybe six or seven years old when it happened. He's lucky he survived as the Serbs had no qualms about killing Bosnian children.

But imagine being a refugee at that young age. Living in a cramped, filthy, little enclave that was shelled indiscriminately on a nearly daily basis...then having to escape a massacre through the forest as the Serbs approached the town.

Your earliest childhood memories are not about candy and toys, but of war and genocide. You don't think that's going to do some damage?

Forget about the fact that he's a Bosnian Muslim.Bosniaks are among the world's most secular Muslims. They drink alcohol, they eat pork, they don't pray to Mecca five times a day, they don't wear hijabs, their children don't go to madrassas. They're not like the Arab Muslims, who are known for their suicide attacks and sundry jihad rumblings. They are not...I repeat...not jihadis, alright?

I seriously doubt that this young man's religion had much to do with his wild attack. Instead, it was probably something more mundane, something like this idea that "going down in a blaze of glory" is a good way to go. Maybe it was the nightmares from his childhood, of hot metal raining down through the roof, or huddling in basements, eating leather, scratching an existence from an over-crowded, war ravaged completely encircled death zone. Maybe it was his years as a refugee, which brought him to America. Maybe it was the adjustment from Bosnian culture to American culture. Maybe it was just the stress of being a teenager!

That was, after all, enough for Klebold and Harris.

All of those are more likely motives than the one that suggests he went on a rampage for Allah. You know, sometimes a psychopath mass murderer is just...a psychopath mass murderer.

Al Qaeda Amateur Hour

This pic accompanied a Huff Post link to a NY Times story about the resurgence of Al Pakistan.

Here's a snippet:
American officials say that the new intelligence is focused on Al Qaeda and points to the prospect that the terrorist network is gaining in strength despite more than five years of a sustained American-led campaign to weaken it.
Not exactly good news.

(I do wonder, however, if we'll stop hearing politicians saying "We must stay in Iraq to prevent it from being an Al Qaeda safe haven." I mean...why does Al Qaeda need a safe haven in Iraq when they have one in Pakistan??)

But about that picture...I don't know when or where that picture was taken. But look at it. Really look at it.

We've got Osama and Zawahiri sitting at a table. They're flanked by masked thugs in paramilitary gear and AK-47s. They look a little scary, but I think even the lamest battalion pogue in the Corps could take them out in two seconds with a K-Bar...a dull K-Bar.

But look at all that stuff on the table. I'm not sure what's in front of Zawahiri, but it looks like an old reel-to-reel tape recorder from the 60s.

There's also a few old school tape recorders in front of Osama. These aren't the mini-tape recorders that reporters have been using for 20 years. How old is that thing, I wonder?

The funniest thing is their PA system. It's a mic that looks like it's plugged into a...karaoke machine. Or a dinky practice amp made by Squire. It isn't even as big as that little 20 inch TV next to it. That's Al Qaeda's PA system!

What a bunch of clowns.

The Difference Between Religion and Science

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Iranian Fraud

My God. The more you read about the latest attempt to fool the American public into a Middle Eastern war, the more you realize how fucking stupid it is. The Bush Administration not only thinks you're an idiot...they're counting on it!

You ever heard of the Quds Force? I have...but I didn't know too much about them. Thank God for Newsweek.

At the risk of not being able to discern the bias in a hopelessly liberal newsweekly, this is what I found out:
The Quds Force was created by the IRGC—the powerful institution created to defend Iran’s 1979 Islamist revolution—toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Its purpose: to conduct operations inside Iraqi territory, especially the Kurdish region that operated somewhat autonomously from Saddam Hussein’s government. “Quds” means “Jerusalem” in Arabic, and the goal of the Islamist revolutionaries who started the group was to take over Jerusalem after capturing Baghdad. Even after the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988, the Quds Force, or Quds Brigade as it is also called, maintained three major foreign operations: supporting the Kurds in Iraq against Saddam, backing the Muslim Bosnians against the Serbs and working with Masoud and his Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
Read that last part again.

Do you notice something about those three entities that the Quds Force has spent the last, oh, twenty years, helping? The Kurds against Saddam. The Bosnians against Milosevic. The Northern Alliance against the Taliban.

In the last ten years, the United States, believe it or not, has engaged in armed conflict against all of those guys, Saddam, Milosevic, and the Taliban. You've heard the phrase "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," right?

It seems like the Quds Force would be our natural allies! So why are they suddenly using proxies to fight the United States?

Also, consider the last paragraph...perhaps the most damning.
But the documentation remains scant. And considerable doubts continue to surface about the intelligence presented at the Baghdad slide show, including the fact that the writing on the conventional weapons displayed was in English, not Farsi. U.N. Ambassador Zarif also says that the date markings are American-style—that is, the month comes first. “There is every reason to believe that this evidence is fabricated,” he said. U.S. officials say the weapons were apparently built for the international market. Asked why the writing on the weapons allegedly made in Iran was in English, one U.S. intelligence official responded: “That’s a very good question.” It is one of many questions about the Quds Force that has yet to be answered.
Fabricated evidence??? Again???

Jesus Fucking Christ...

A Prediction

You saw it here first...

If our next president comes from the Democratic party, all the Republicans who now support the Unitary Executive Theory will immediately reconsider their positions.

Can you imagine Alberto Gonzalez, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, or Paul Wolfowitz arguing for nearly unlimited executive power for President Hillary Clinton?

If you can, you must be under the mistaken perception that the folks I just named actually have principles beyond advancing their own agendas. And that, I'm afraid, doesn't appear to be very likely.