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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Something My Nephew Said to Me Today

Guess what I did yesterday? I combed my hair with the power of rock.

Al Qaeda's Training Manual? Or Just More Smoke Blown Up the Collective Ass?

The other day I got into a heated discussion with Uncle Jim on the state of the war. He was up in arms over the Al Qaeda torture training manual Fox News has been making a big stink about. Of course, having skipped my daily dose of Bushie propaganda that day, I knew nothing about the training manual.

But then again, I already knew Al Qaeda was evil, so I didn't feel too left out.

Of course, now that I've had a chance to examine the materials, I'm not sure this really is an Al Qaeda torture manual. According to the Smoking Gun:
"The images, which were just declassified by the Department of Defense, also include a picture of a ramshackle Baghdad safe house described as an "al-Qaeda torture chamber." It was there, during an April 24 raid, that soldiers found a man suspended from the ceiling by a chain. According to the military, he had been abducted from his job and was being beaten daily by his captors. In a raid earlier this week, Coalition Forces freed five Iraqis who were found in a padlocked room in Karmah. The group, which included a boy, were reportedly beaten with chains, cables, and hoses.
That sounds like the work of Al-Sadr's death squads to me, certainly not the MO of our enemies, Al Qaeda.

I tried to find corroboration from a more credible source than Drudge, Fox News, or the Smoking Gun, but I couldn't find it. I wanted to see the Department of Defense press release saying that this is an Al Qaeda torture manual that was found in an Al Qaeda safe house with an Al Qaeda victim hanging upside down from chains.

That this hasn't been picked up by non-partisan, non-tabloid sources is strike one.

Strike two, the drawings themselves. It's a fact that's beyond dispute, a fact universally agreed upon that Al Qaeda were/are closely aligned with the Taliban, and this close relationship isn't only based on convenience but a similar ideology, that is, extreme militant Islam. It's also a fact, beyond dispute and universally agreed upon that the Taliban were so extreme, they banned certain things that we here in the civilized world take for granted, things like flying kites or music, western hair cuts or shaving your beard. But guess what they also banned? Portraits.

Yes, portraits like the ones in the training manual. It seems strange to me that they would include crude, but realistic illustrations of both victims and torturers if they were so against portraits. Obviously the man who drew these also had some level of training or experience, and where would he get that in art-hating Talibanistan?

Strike three comes from the poor unfortunate found hanging in the torture chamber. If the story is to be believed, Al Qaeda, known globally for their sneak suicide attacks and indiscriminate massacres, is now moving into the torture business. Of course, they have their already well-established competition, the Shiite (remember, Al Qaeda is Sunni) death squads torturing, killing and dumping the bodies on the street.

What are the chances this manual belongs to some ultra-nationalist Iraqi insurgent group not even remotely connected to Al Qaeda?

Being very generous to the Al Qaeda theory, I'd say it's 50-50.

Think Outside the Box

What's wrong with the Right Wing Punditocracy? The answer could fill a book. But anecdotally, this little bit from Michelle Malkin provides some illumination:
Lots of readers keep e-mailing me about the campaign to save the CBS show, "Jericho." I've never watched it, but readers tell me it's a conservative-friendly program.
A conservative-friendly program...

Hmmm.

I'm a pretty politically oriented guy, but there's one thing that I don't do. I don't care if a certain TV show is conservative-friendly or liberal-friendly. I just care if it's good.

There's an inherent danger when you start taking your self-chosen identity to extremes. What better way to dehumanize yourself! Instead of being a flesh and blood person, you're just a (fill in the blank).

There's more to me than some generalized label. Can the same be said for Malkin?

Troubleshooting Blues

Being a professional trouble-shooter (so to speak) part of my job is asking questions, and for the most part, there's nothing too stressful about that. But what drive me absolutely bug fuck are people who will just not shut up. Perhaps you've talked to people like this. You know, the ones who think that when you open your mouth to speak, that's their cue to just keep on talking. Sometimes they'll even get louder to drown you out.

I have no patience for that. If you have a problem and you're calling me to fix it, be a good partner and let me lead, alright? This is how it will work. I ask the questions, you provide the answers.

Also, just answer the question I asked you. Yes or No is the only appropriate answer to the question, "Have you checked power?" Believe it or not, I asked that question because I would like to know the answer...not because I want to hear whatever free association it inspired in your brain.

Deal?

Friday, May 25, 2007

I Heart Hillary (Or An Ironically Titled Hackjob on Hillary)

The Washington Post reviewed two books bashing Hillary. I like to do my own Hillary bashing from time to time, so here goes.

Members of the Democratic party, do NOT vote for Hillary. Do not send her money. Do not go to her campaign rallies. Do not sign up for her mailing list.

Shun her.

Do us all a favor. Please, I beg of you. Do not fall into the trap of the Republicans. After eight years of Clinton, they thought the best course of action was a return to the Bush clan, bonafide Republican royalty since long before I was born. That, my friends, has been a disaster, would we agree? It seems that over the decades the Bush mojo has been diluted, and now we're stuck with nothing more than the Bush brand.

Don't think Hillary can escape the same fate. Wouldn't it be historic, she says to herself, to be the first woman elected President of the United States, and to also be a former First Lady? Yes, that would be historic.

But, Hil, this ain't about you. This ain't about history. It's about the here and now and the problems we have as a global society. Your claim to history is already greater than most. Put your ambition back in its bag and let it be.

I hate to think that since 1988, when Bush beat Dukakis a week before my 12th birthday, the President has been named Bush...or Clinton. We are one of the most diverse nations in the world, and yet we can only be led by two hollow dynasties? I don't think so.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hanging With the Trolls

ABC pissed some people off. Woops.
"The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com."
The reaction is swift and decisive.
If it was a secret, it isn't any longer. I will turn off ABC News and never watch again.

I consider ABC News Traders to the United States

Posted by: David Reid | May 22, 2007 6:36:30 PM
Hmmm...Traders to the United States. Okay.
You should be ashamed of yourselves for
broadcasting the report on the CIA
covert action against IRAN. The key
word here is SECRET. The report should
be considered traitorous.

Posted by: Ron Peterson | May 22, 2007 6:37:52 PM
He must have listened to the same radio talk show, but at least he knows how to spell "traitorous."
Do you people believe in some things being important to the security of the United States of America? Do you even care that some of your reporting is putting our troops our citizens in foreign countries and even our way of life in danger? YOu can take care of things you don't like without telling the whole world. Why don't you help our country stay alive.

Posted by: mary twinn | May 22, 2007 6:38:38 PM
Our way of life? Please...
Brian Ross:
Seems you & the media will go to any extreme to show you bias agains the Bush Administration. Revealing classified operations is consorting with the enemy. I hope you can live with your tresonous actions!!!!!!

Posted by: Philip R. Cramer | May 22, 2007 6:39:16 PM
Yeah, I saw that Julia Roberts movie too. Who was the "enemy" in that one? Oh yeah, Patrick Bergin.
What else needs to be said.

ABC was should now be UABC.

UnAmerican Broadcast Company.

Unbelievable.

Posted by: Big Al | May 22, 2007 6:44:19 PM
God, that's funny, Al. You should be on the radio. Why don't you call into Dr. Laura's show. Here's the number. 1-800-FUCK-OFF.
Does anyone really think that this 'secret' wasn't or wouldn't be known by the Iranians? Come on! You'd have to be born yesterday to not realize this stuff goes on all the time!

Posted by: Monty_4 | May 22, 2007 6:47:07 PM
Does anyone think the Iranians don't already know? Come on! We live in the real world. Act like it.
I cant believe you would report something like this! You should be ashamed of yourselves. Whatever happened to country first? Someone should be thrown in jail. It is irresponsible for news agencies in the time of war to put people's lives in danger! You are for us or against us and ABC has once again taken the other side!! I will not watch ABC news again!

Posted by: michael Octave | May 22, 2007 6:48:51 PM
"You're for us or against us." Man, that went out of style years ago. If things really were that simple, Bush would have been hanged LONG ago. Our enemies could have conceived of no better friend.

ABC is unbelievable. Talk about compromising our troops and our intelligence gathering capabilities. Why don't they just join up with the other side.

Posted by: SHR | May 22, 2007 6:49:44 PM
I'll tell you what's unbelieveable. That this thought originated with you. Not only did you use the word "unbelievable," much like our just quoted Big Al, but you talk of "intelligence gathering capabilities." You know what that is? That's a tell. That tells me you don't know shit.

Intelligence gathering? Intelligence gathering? "A covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government," does that sound like intelligence gathering to you.

Back to the end of the line and come back with your brain next time.

Here's a great one:
Here is a copy of my letter to Kmart:
Dear Friends at Kmart,
I noticed you advertise on ABC.
Since ABC releases stories on US covert operations to the peril of US citizens, I must ask you to explain your support of ABC.
I will pass this on to all my email addresses.
Joe Pepe
NY, NY
I imagine the K-mart people opening the envelope. "It's another letter from Joe Pepe, Sally," as she rolls her eyes. Joe Pepe, the letter writer.
That ABC news would leak this information is despicable. You louses take your freedom for granted. Fine. Leave mine alone.

Posted by: meg | May 23, 2007 2:06:11 PM
Meg, honey, it's lice. But hey, you're free to be as dumb as you want.

Here's a common theme:
and this is a bad thing? you people are unbelievable. what part of secret do you not understand? you probably would have reported on the normandy invasion the day before too.

Posted by: eric olsen | May 23, 2007 2:21:37 PM
This guy didn't see Saving Private Ryan, or if he did, it obviously didn't sink in too well. Those pill boxes on the beach? Those were poured long before D-Day. The barbed wire? Stretched out long before Ike gave the order to go. The hedgehogs in the water? What, you think the Germans put them out there when they saw the first ships crossing the channel?

The Normandy invasion was no secret. But I don't expect this jackass to know that.

This one, though, this one takes the cake:
There seems to be quite a few posters out there who are of the opinion that ABC was in the right and correct for publishing this article.

What you seem to not be taking into account is the fact that your sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends, etc. are all endangered by this information leak.

How are YOU benefitting from this information? How are you a better person, better served, or a better American by knowing the information in this report?

You're not. It is not your responsibility to know because YOU are not in the business of international relations. If you WANTED to be, you should have taken up that trade.

How is IRAN benefitting from this information? It gives them leverage, it gives them reason to be more paranoid than they already are regarding Americans in their country. It gives Islamic Extremism a reason to kill more people.

Iran is NOT a friendly country to the US. They are developing nuclear weapons, they are covertly affecting the crisis in Iraq. They are supplying weapons to several terrorist organizations including propping up organizations like Hamas and Al Qaeda.

I don't agree with a war with Iran (and wish we could bring our troops home soon, as well), but ABC's reckless reporting is going to get people killed.

People WILL DIE because of this report.

That is not "Freedom of Speech", that is betrayal to the American people.

I will no longer watch ABC programming.

~Dubya

Posted by: Dubya | May 23, 2007 2:40:11 PM
I'll take it line by line.

Yes, I do think ABC was in the right in publishing this report.

I have taken into account the potential danger, and I conclude that it's minimal to none.

How am I a better person? You're right. I'm not. I'm not really affected by the Iraq war either, or Afghanistan. 9-11 was just another day for me, except some crazy shit was happening to other people somewhere else and I was watching it on TV. But in an abstract way, as a citizen of this country and a resident of this world, it does affect me. So I don't need to be in "the business of international relations" to care.

And, pal, I hate to break it to you, but the Iranians are already paranoid about us Americans, have been for years, and for good reason. There are certain factions in this country that really, really want to go to war with Iran, including apparently our President. As for giving Islamic Extremism a reason to kill more people, is it the ABC's reporting of the program that's going to do that, or the program itself? Hmmm. I wonder.

Because after citing some of the reasons FOR a war with Iran, you say you don't want one. Is that true? I doubt it.

And your "I will no longer watch ABC programming" remark, yeah right. We'll see how that goes until Sunday rolls along and Desperate Housewives comes on.

Today's Rant

It took me an hour to get home tonight. A fucking hour. Why you ask? The answer is two-fold but simple. It was raining and people are idiots.

Look, people, if I gotta come to a complete and full stop before you will merge into my lane, we're going to have bumper to bumper traffic....for fucking miles! See all those cars behind me? They gotta stop too, motherfucker. So how about taking some iniative? How about NOT waiting for golden the invitation to join us in this long line of cars? How about GETTING IN AND MOVING YOUR ASS?

During this hour of frustration and gas fumes and pounding rain, I had a lot of time to contemplate the mysteries of the universe. First, a fantasy of mine wherein time and space is separated by some uninvented great technology, separated into individual seconds of space-time which are then divied out to everyone alive. The end result? We all get our own individual universes, one second long but spatially the same. In that universe YOU rule.

In MY universe...I'm the only one on the road. I'm not saying it's plausible, but it remains my fantasy nonetheless.

Of course, after ruminating on space-time for a while, I came back down to earth so to speak, thinking about gas prices. They've been rising ever since I bought my gas-guzzling truck. It hasn't been fun.

The rising prices are often attributed to rising demand and a lack of refining capacity. The rising demand I can understand. It's spring time, heading into summer. People are traveling, things are happening, yadda yadda yadda.

The lack of refining capacity, though, that's a bit more difficult to understand, especially considering that we've had a lack of refining capacity for years!

What's also been happening the last couple of years? Record profits for the oil companies. Not just big profits...record profits. And not just oil industry records, either, but industry records period.

Last year Exxon Mobil made $4.5 million an hour, the largest profit of of U.S. company ever. So I guess the question for Exxon Mobil is this: what's getting the bigger chunk of that profit, company executives or reinvestment in your refining capacity?

It's a rhetorical question because on some level, you already know the answer. With massive prices leading to massive profits, there's little incentive for the oil companies to increase refining capacity. That will bring prices, and profits, down, but ease the burden on the poor jerks paying through the nose to fill their tanks. But then again, Exxon Mobil is in the oil business, not philanthropy. (If you can call a sustainable business model "philanthrophy.")

How can you justify denying your CEO a huge compensation package after he led your company to the biggest profit in the history of profit? You can't. Pay the man.

Why throw money away on something that will lower prices and cut into your bottom line? You won't. You're the CEO of an oil company. You know the score. You realize it's a mad dash to the end. That someday, the last bit will be sucked from the ground and there won't be any more until long after we're gone.

In the meantime, you're going to make as much money as you can as fast as you can and then you're going to fly on home safe in your golden parachute. What do you care? You got 80-90 years tops, 100 if you're lucky. Long term solutions? Bah. I'll take the short term windfall, thank you very much.

So besides the oil companies, cui bono? Because it is a chain, after all, a food chain of benefit and detrement.

At the top you've got the oil producing countries, with their corrupt money-soaked regimes. They repress their own people, and rip off ours. They want power and the wealth that comes with it.

Then you've got the oil companies who are forced to do business with these governments. Soulless corporate beasts with one motive and one motive only: making money. They want wealth, and court power only in an attempt to get it.

Then you've got the bottom feeders. The various state and federal governments in our own country, taking their pinch. (And often, it's a big pinch.) The "mom and pop" gas stations (all two of them, these days) who have to push it on a thirsty public.

And then finally you have us, the plankton. The grass. The lowest speck on the chain, the guys with trucks and cars and lawn mowers and commutes, the soccer moms and NASCAR dads. We feed them all.

It's trickle up economics, you know Bushomics.

And you know what I see on that chain? Every single link needs reform, but like most things, you have to start at the top. I'm perfectly willing to do my part, but I gotta say...

After stopping at the gas station today, I kinda feel like I already am.

Now it's your turn, Exxon Mobil. How about doing something about the refinery issue? It might be expensive, but hell, you got the dough.

OPEC? You disgustingly garish Saudi pals of the Bush clan? I hear a song playing for you...It's Led Zeppelin. Sing it with me... "Your time is gonna coooooommme."

Our own government, hey, lighten up on the prices. Do something. I know you're populated by folks who have as much faith in the "market" as they do in Jesus, but come down back with the rest of us for a minute or two. You think you need those big gas taxes (some of which are bigger than the profit margins the oil companies take), but you don't. See, there's this little thing called the income tax. Pick one or the other, alright?

Mom and Pop gas stationns, I feel your pain. You're getting gouged...er...supply and demanded just like the rest of us. Sell more cigarettes. Stock more candy. Actually, if you stock all the flavors of Spitz sunflower seeds, I'll go there on a daily basis. No shit.

And you know, to me, and the rest of us plankton, what can I say? Convince your boss to let you work from home (not happening). Take the bus (also not happening). Drive your car to work instead of your truck (okay...but I love my truck). Get a push mower. Buy flourescent lightbulbs. Ride your bike to buy cigarettes at 7-11. HA! (Oh, god, I kill myself.) What else can I do? Buy a hybrid car? Not on my salary, honey. Convert my car to run on cooking oil? Sorry, buddy, but I already committed to a high-maintenance garden. I can't really do a high maintenance car right now.

Here in my powerless state, I can only pay the piper and hope my pennies trickle up to those who can provide solutions.

Let's just say I don't have much hope.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From the Files

A fragment:


That night I had a dream about Dimebag Darrell Abbott. In the dream, I was climbing a Mayan pyramid, the air hot and muggy in my throat, and when I reached the summit, there he was, perched on a sacrificial altar or some such. His hair was a wild mange of thick black curls, and the tip of his woolly beard was dyed a deep red that had faded to pink. A Judas Priest razor blade necklace dangled from his neck and the painted faces of the classic KISS line-up blasted out from all sorts of lightning and flame on his T-shirt. With the black leather gauntlets on his wrists, the camo shorts, and the Chuck Taylors, it was Dimebag, no doubt about that.

Perched on that ancient rock, he looked like God.

I think I said, “Wow.” I was still trying to catch my breath.

Dimebag looked at me, his eyes twinkling. “Bout time you show up,” he said. “I almost thought you wouldn’t make it.”

I looked out across the Mayan plain, at the tourists no bigger than mice scurrying around below me. The stone steps, steps I had just climbed, descended forever and ended nowhere.

“I always keep my promises,” I said between deep, lunging breaths.

A spark of amusement flickered in Dime’s eye and he cracked a crooked grin.

“Always?”

“Almost always.” I collapsed next to the altar where Dime was sitting, practically at his feet like a supplicant to a guru master, and tried to fan the sweat on my chest with my shirt. Atop this ancient pyramid, I was closer to the sun and I could understand how that could make the ancient Mayans want to kill someone. Dime didn’t seem to mind the heat. He was beyond such petty complaints.

“So are you going to read me my sins?” I asked.

“Shit, man, that’d take all day.”

“Then why am I here?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?”

In Praise of the Wiki

You know what I just found out today? Go to the New York Times. Find yourself a random article. This is the one I clicked.

Alright, so you got it? Now double click on any random word. The word I clicked on was "rattan." Deep in some recess of my mind, I could picture a "rattan couch," but the image was fuzzy. So I was going to look it up in the wikipedia to clear it up a bit.

And what did I find? You tell me.

Speaking of wikipedia, I can get lost in that thing for days. The other day, I was watching this little bit on 60 Minutes that Anderson Cooper did (yeah, Cooper on 60 Minutes?) about hospitals in L.A. dumping homeless patients on the street or in front of shelters. They referred to the skid row area downtown and this started firing off the neurons. Skid Row...it's a band, it's "the bad side" of town, but where did that term come from? What does it mean?

So I go to the wiki.
"The term skid row or skid road is used to refer to a run-down or dilapidated urban area. There are formally recognized neighborhoods named Skid Row in Seattle and Los Angeles."
Hmm, that's interesting. Out of all the skid roads in America, the only two that get mentioned are L.A.'s and...Seattle's?

So I click again, learning about Seattle's gentrified Skid Row. But wait, what's this?
Because of drainage problems new development was built at a higher level literally burying the remains of old Pioneer Square. Anticipating the planned regrade, many buildings were built with two entrances, one at the old, low level, and another higher up. Visitors can take the Seattle Underground Tour to see what remains of the old storefronts.
An underground city hidden beneath your feet you never even knew about. Wow.

So I click again.
For a time, pedestrians climbed ladders to go between street level and building entrances, but eventually the building entrances were raised, and the old sidewalks covered over, creating the area now called the Seattle Underground. Merchants carried on business in the lowest floors of buildings that survived the fire, and pedestrians continued to use the underground sidewalks lit by glass cubes (still seen on some streets) embedded in the grade level sidewalk above. In 1907 the city condemned the Underground for fear of bubonic plague, two years before the 1909 World Fair in Seattle (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition). The basements were left to deteriorate or were used as storage. In some cases, they illegally became flophouses for the homeless, gambling halls, speakeasies, and opium dens.
Fascinating. Like I said, I can get lost for days in the wikipedia.

And that's omitting any comment about wikipedia's accuracy. I've seen with my own eyes incorrect or vandalized entries, and I've also seen them corrected and scrubbed. Some wiki entries leave out great swathes of relevant information, and other simply do not exist. (Those, I would say, are the great wiki tragedy...the wikis that no one has written or amended yet.)

Over time, it will become more reliable...that is, if it's not snuffed by the vandals ...or the Goths, but I think the true value in the wikipedia will be how the reader uses it to form endless chains of seemingly random but strangely connected thoughts, sometimes starting in one place, skid row, and ending up in another place entirely, an underground necropolis hidden beneath your feet.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I'm a NILF Hunter

Once again the Daily Show catches up to my blog. Of course, they're much funnier. Video from Crooks and Liars.