Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Kitty

Genna and I got our tree up....and Mr. Allen approved of his new fragrant, Frazier Fur shelter.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Peter Kurth's Crank Call: Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, and Big Pricks

So here it is, the week after Thanksgiving, way up in the hills of Vermont (well, Charlotte). We’ve “seen some sunshine” recently, as the meteorologists say, but it’s been the kind of fleeting, “almost” sunshine you can easily miss if you’re doing something else. In Vermont, at the end of November, you often have to rush outside to see the sun, which, as far as I’m concerned, exceeds the limits of sun-worship.

So, we’d better face the facts: Winter’s on the way. The light is getting dimmer. There’s an indescribable feeling in the air – a combination of huge relief that Thanksgiving is over and utter dread that Christmas is coming. Once again, Americans are marching to the tune of “Ready, Set, Shop!” According to Monday’s Los Angeles Times, “Holiday shoppers came out early and spent big across the nation this weekend,” shelling out “an average of $360.15” per person, “18.9% more than last year,” while mere hundreds died in Iraq. Or, as blogger Jason Miller put it on Thomas Paine’s Corner, commenting on Thanksgiving week’s notorious “Black Friday,” “The unwavering disciples [of American capitalism] charged into the fray to avoid the unthinkably tragic fate of dying without having the most toys.”

Amen. And “Black Friday” isn’t even “Cyber Monday,” when American workers, loosening the goose fat from their middles, were projected to spend something like $32 billion on the Web in a single day, once they got back to the office and saw what a huge waste of time it was for them to be there when there’s so much shopping to be done. The Times reports that, as of Monday, “shoppers were encouraged by deals on big-ticket electronics, including DVD players, high-definition televisions and new video game consoles.”

All these “consoles,” I’m afraid, are why the Islamo-fascists hate us so much. Consoles and cars and cell phones and diamonds -- lots of diamonds. I’ve seen more ads for diamonds on TV lately than I have in the last twenty years. They seem to pop up automatically between commercials for Wendy's and all those soothing cartoon butterflies telling you what a wonderful night’s sleep you’re going to have if you only “ask your doctor” and don’t mind the nausea, headache, dizziness, grogginess, indigestion, diarrhea and “certain rare but fatal side-effects” that go along with it. But the truth can no longer be doubted by any reasonable mind: Ours is an “ideology of freedom” and theirs is an “ideology of hate” -- even though everyone the LAT managed to interview at the malls on Saturday wished to hell “the holidays” were over already. “I just can’t take another minute of this!” was the general refrain.

Well, as my mother used to say when I was growing up, “Oh, Christmas!” -- it was one of her more frequent and reliable outbursts of frustration. She’s developed a few stronger ones since, “but that’s because of George W. Bush,” as she’s prepared to swear on oath. My mother is the kind of person who actually calls the White House and tells the operators what she thinks. Frequently, they hang up on her, being underpaid customer-service representatives with a lot of shopping to do, but when that happens she just calls them back and gets another one. Once she called the White House to say that the president’s penis was “big enough already” and that he didn’t need to bomb Iraq to make it any bigger. She even offered to “change his diaper” if they’d only send him back to Crawford. Now, she thinks that the best way for the U.S. to get out of Iraq is to withdraw our troops immediately and make amends to the Iraqi people by sending them “the most expensive Christmas gift we have to offer -- the whole Bush dynasty."

“What could possibly go wrong?” my mother asks. “Why, it’d be a cakewalk!” Certainly, if the media promoted the Bushes as heavily as they promote Christmas – well, come to think of it, they do. Since the recent elections, a pure disaster for the clan, we’ve had more Bush-family news than you can shake a stick at. First, the Iraq Study Group, under the leadership of James A. Baker, the Bushes’ famous “consigliere,” is stepping in on 41’s behalf to rescue 43’s presidency. Next, 41 himself was in the Middle East, whining and pleading and practically bursting into tears because a lot of people in Abu Dhabi think his son’s a liar and a creep.

"My son is an honest man!” 41 exclaimed. "He is working hard for peace! This son is not going to back away!” And then, irrelevantly, “How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?”

Meantime, little Barbara – or was it Jenna? – had her purse snatched in Argentina, right under the noses of her security detail. She lost her driver’s license (not a bad thing, from what I hear) and all her credit cards, but I’m sure there are plenty more where those came from. Finally, sister Doro, “the best-kept secret in America,” as her mother says, has “burst out of the shadows” with a book, My Father, My President, which chronicles in weepy and revoltingly sentimental tones “the life and times” of 41, but seems reluctant to name or even mention 43, whom the Washington Post reports is currently sulking in his tent, “fuming,” “venting” and “in a funk” over his dwindling power.

By the sound of her interviews, the “twice-married” Doro – and there I was thinking it had to be “one man, one woman!” – couldn’t write a grocery list by herself, but if we’re publishing phony, fraudulent memoirs, we might as well publish them all. I’m sure there are lots of people who’d rather pay $8000 on Ebay for a copy of O. J. Simpson’s If I Did It than find Doro’s little tome under their tree this year. Well, that’s the price of monarchy, I guess, and the Iraqis are welcome to it. But at least we haven’t had to watch a Republican campaign commercial for – what is it now? – nearly four weeks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Peter Kurth's Crank Call: What's the Mommy Party Done for Us Lately?

{Mountain Philosopher's note: Peter Kurth is a friend of a friend, which makes him....well, brilliant. See his bio over there on the right for more info. I'm thrilled that he's agreed to let me post his bi-weekly column, Crank Call, which also appears in the Vermont alternative weekly, Seven Days.}

“Oh frabjous day!” as Lewis Carroll wrote in one of the Alice books. It’s all so wonderful you could scream, or do somersaults, or anything you want. Such as head a “mega-church” in Colorado Springs and have sleazy gay sex at the same time, and buy crystal meth and throw it down the toilet -- right! -- if that’s what makes you happy. At the moment, I don’t care what your fetish is, just knowing that for once, at last, the people of these states knew what they were doing and threw the bums out.

I’m talking about last week’s elections, of course. What else is anyone talking about? I still have no hope for the future, but, God, it was nice to see! We aren’t brain-dead, after all, are we? Are we?

I hope not. Because, frankly, the only thing the Democratic “sweep to Congress” has proved so far is that we’ve got a long way to go to undo the damage the Bush administration has wrought over the last six years. And this column isn’t titled “Crank Call” for nothing -- I’m already tired of Nancy Pelosi and her gavel. Sure, it’s nice to see “a woman” third in line to the throne, after Baby and Cheney, but Bush wasn’t entirely wrong when he asked, in his last-minute stomp through parts of the country you’ve never heard of, “What’s their plan?”

The fact that Bush doesn’t and never did have “a plan” beyond corporate fascism isn’t, right now, the issue. The fact that this trust-funded weasel wouldn’t know “a plan” if it burned a cigarette mark on his arm at a “Skull and Bones” initiation isn’t, right now, the issue. Even the fact that Rumsfeld has finally been booted out in favor of a soulless CIA spook isn’t, right now, the issue. The issue is: Where are we going, and how? Even Maureen Dowd of The New York Times is a bit concerned about this.

“This will be known as the year macho politics failed,” says Dowd, who is known to have some issues about the difference between men and women, “mainly because it was macho politics by marshmallow men." In other words, it would have been OK if they weren't marshmallows. Maureen is the daughter of a New York cop, and Gloriosky! does she know about men: "Voters were sick of phony swaggering, blustering and bellicosity, absent competency and accountability. They were ready to trade in the deadbeat Daddy party for the sheltering Mommy party.”

By “Mommy” Ms. Dowd means “Speaker-elect Pelosi,” and, I suppose, the dreaded Hillary Clinton. But what would happen if there were an election where Mommy and Daddy didn’t enter into it – where it was simply assumed that anyone of voting age was capable of making his or her own decisions?

In Vermont, of course, we all knew that Rich Tarrant would lose – no conversation there. But did we really know what we were voting for? “Anything But Bush,” I suppose, which is a good slogan, and which should be branded on the back of every car and truck that otherwise says “Support Our Troops!”

And now what? “Moderation?” “Bipartisanship?” “Consensus?” All those things that the Bush administration has so far shown such an amazing capacity to observe! Are we supposed to believe that "Mommy" can fix this? Why do I feel that I’m about to open a box of “Lucky Charms” – speaking of marshmallows -- with those awful bits of “freeze-dried” junk sucking up space where the cereal ought to be? My brother, Robert Kurth, put it very well recently in a letter to The Poughkeepsie Journal:

Prepare yourselves for a torrent of news and opinion about a "new direction" in Iraq. Be prepared, too, for unvarnished accounts from our military that the level of violence there is much higher than we have been told heretofore. … I pray that an honest and thorough assessment of the occupation of Iraq can improve the situation for American soldiers and Iraqis alike. I support a Congressional resolution that the United States disavows any intention of permanent military bases and of any claim to Iraqi oil.

But I refuse to accept that the only way forward must be balanced and bipartisan. This arrogant and incompetent administration has earned much more than just "a thumpin'" at the polls. They have earned subpoenas, prosecution and jail time. The sooner the better. Happy Holidays.

To this I can’t add much, except to say that if you don’t believe the Kurth brothers, you can consult the “national” pundits, who are already beginning to worry that Ding-Dong’s “thumpin’” won’t amount to a hill of beans so long as the idea of the “unitary executive” is allowed to stand; so long as the “Patriot Act” is in force; so long as this administration – or any administration -- is allowed to wiretap and spy on Americans without warrant; so long as “the President” can determine, at his whim and will, who and what are “enemy combatants” and can have them arrested and imprisoned without right to counsel or, for that matter, any evidence that he or she has broken the law.

You can have all the “Mommys” you want, Maureen – all the “Madame Speakers” in the world -- but if these and other outrages aren’t removed, it won’t make a spickin’ lit of difference. That expression the Kurth brothers get from their father, a gen-yoo-ine Texan, now a converted Muslim, who can’t go to his mosque in Fredericksburg, Virginia – gallant, gallant Virginia, which swang the Senate for the Democrats! – without knowing that he and his whole family are under the watch of the Feds.

Prove us wrong, voters. Prove us wrong.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Assassinations, Coups, and a Blood-Drenched Desert

Last week, NY Post columnist Ralph Peters unambiguously called for the assassination of Muqtada al-Sadar -- the headline, in typical NY Post subtlety, demanded KILL MUQTADA NOW. Chap tipped me to this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column by Jack Kelly which seconds Peters' motion:

So why is the Moqtada al-Sadr still alive?

When Coalition Provisional Authority chairman Paul Bremer issued an arrest warrant for al Sadr in April of 2004, we were dissuaded from serving it by Iraqi politicians and clerics who claimed they could "control" him. Now he's controlling them.

Whenever we've attempted to apply a political "solution" to what is essentially a military problem, bad things have happened. An example is when we broke off the first battle of Fallujah in May of 2004 at the insistence of those Sunni leaders (more or less) supporting the government. This handed al-Qaida a major (though fortunately only a temporary) victory.

We hesitate to act decisively against Mr. Sadr in order to preserve the facade of Iraqi democracy and sovereignty, even though Mr. Maliki's hapless government wouldn't last a week if U.S. troops withdrew.

To maintain this fiction, we won't take actions Mr. Maliki doesn't approve of. But he depends upon the 28 votes Mr. Sadr controls in the Iraqi parliament in order to maintain his tenuous grasp on power. Prodding from the United States has so far been insufficient to get him to give them up. Mr. Maliki has declared which side he's on, and it isn't ours.

If we act against Mr. Sadr, there will be an uprising. It will be bloody. But continued inaction pretty much guarantees slow motion defeat.

And then yesterday, Peters calls for yet another well-placed bullet:

Our greatest setback in Iraq may be that country's undoing: It has proven impossible to develop an honest, nonpartisan police establishment anywhere in the country's Arab provinces. The police aren't feared by criminals, but by law-abiding citizens.

The secret police are back, in the form of death squads. And the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looks perfectly happy with the situation.

American advisers risk their lives in the struggle to build Iraqi police units committed to doing their duty. We've equipped them, trained them and led from the front.

In gratitude, Iraq's police have ambushed our troops, fielded death squads less restrained than those under Saddam, stolen everything they could steal in preparation for a future civil war - and, apparently, funneled U.S.-provided arms to militias, insurgents and terrorists.

Our efforts to develop good cops have failed (garbage in, garbage out). We need to stop wasting our efforts. Shielded by government ministers and parliamentarians, the police are so out of control that there's no longer any hope of weeding out the bad guys. Instead, the bad guys are weeding out the good guys: Honest cops get killed. By other cops.

The situation's desperate. We need to revamp our strategy (to the extent that we have one). For all its shortcomings, the Iraqi army has been a far greater success than the police - whether we're speaking of cops on the beat or paramilitary commandos.

It's time to abandon the cops. Let the anti-American elements in the Maliki government have them. Don't continue to strengthen our enemies. Concentrate on developing and expanding the army.

Why? Here's where the truth gets still uglier. As dearly as we believe in democracy, Iraq's Arabs are proving that they're incapable of the political, social and moral maturity necessary to run an elected government.

Casting ballots alone doesn't make a democracy. The government has to function. And to protect all of its citizens.

In the coming months, we may find that the only hope of restoring order is a military government. It sounds repellent, but a U.S.-backed coup may be the only alternative to endless anarchy.

OK. One at a time here. Kelly concedes that the assassination of al-Sadr will result in a bloody uprising, a noxious tonic that only goes down when confronted with the alternative of a "slow motion defeat." I'll posit that Kelly's crystal ball isn't any better than mine. And my crystal ball tells me that the assassination of al-Sadr will merely speed up our defeat.

Wouldn't our assassination of a leading Shiite cleric royally inflame the broader Iraqi Shia community, even those that think that al-Sadr is a kook, if they see the assassination as a proxy action on the behalf of the Sunnis? At the moment, we're mostly fighting Sunni insurgents - do we want to add another significant front with a mere 138,000 pairs of boots with almost nothing in reserve? Nowhere do Kelly nor Peters acknowledge the fact the Army and Marines are dealing with both physical exhaustion and significant degradation of their hardware. Do we truly have the manpower and equipment to deal with a new significant offensive? The situation would, quite likely, certainly leapfrog to total chaos, American casualties would skyrocket, and the remaining home front support for the war would evaporate and Congress would pull the plug.

In the post below, I mentioned that Maliki might want to read up on what happened to Vietnam's Diem. Looks like Ralph Peters was thinking the same thing with his open call for a coup. That "solution" looks like a disaster to me.

Any replacement government won't have the veneer of being indigenous. Peters is quite correct to call bullshit on the Bush Administration's fairy tale that purple thumbs alone make a democracy but glosses over the reality they do at least provide some cover. "Military government?" What does that mean? We off a Shiite who's tight with Iran, who enjoys at least some fair measure of popularity in the Shia community. We off a moderate Shiite AND off the radical Shiite (al-Sadr) and we have a rather unified Shia Iraq wanting to kill every American they see. What do we really replace Maliki with? What faction within the existing Iraqi military will have a significantly different outlook and vision than Maliki? Killing Maliki and replacing him with a body without the imprimatur of the "consent of the governed" will make that government an obvious puppet and a terminal inflammatory target.

And where does a Maliki coup leave the neocon foreign policy base for Bush? Maliki is Zalmay Khalilzad's (American ambassador to Iraq) guy. Given Khalizad's history, he's probably got the stomach for a coup but his credibility within Iraq disappears. The one American who seems to have his head screwed on straight from the perspective of the Iraqis turns his back while murder went down... I can't see it. And what of Kristol, Frum, Perle, and the others who will see the last vestige of their fantasy of democracy in Iraq crushed in the wake of such a coup? Most Americans aren't in thrall to the neocon vision as they may have been in 2002 and 2003 but as prominent talking heads, the neocons still provide significant media cover for American blood-letting in Iraq. They have nothing left to support if a democratic Iraq is permanently put on hold. Their collective desertion of Bush would weaken him even further and would likely speed demands for a withdrawal.

We have no clearly good choices. Peters and Kelly are right about one thing -- what we're doing isn't working and appears to be fatally leading towards defeat. The new Congress and Senate will have a difficult choice laid before them: take a chance on a new, more muscular, and at least in the short-term, far bloodier policy with no clear guarantee for victory OR a phased withdrawal which absolutely guarantees no victory and most likely results in the Democrats being labeled as national security wimps for another generation. Will Senator Clinton want to continue to cultivate her aura of toughness and say "no thanks." What will Senator Obama say -- quite possibly his moment of truth is imminent.

The importance of the impending Baker plan now stands in sharp relief. Because if we discard that path, my guess is that the Congress, Senate, and the President will opt for far more blood than we have seen thus far. I fear that in the not-to-distant future, we may well wax nostalgic for a month where "only" 105 American servicemen and women fell in Iraq.

Who "Lost" Iraq?

Heather Hurlburt, of Democracy Arsenal, takes on Ralph Peters:

Who "Lost" Iraq?

As much as I cheer every time another prominent cheerleader for the Iraq war leaves the ship, I kind of wish conservative military commentator Ralph Peters had stayed where he was.

Today he fires an impressive and dismaying salvo on the topic in USA TODAY. He describes the invasion as "noble," but incompetently done. But then comes this:

...for all our errors, we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy. They preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption. It appears that the cynics were right: Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it. And people get the government they deserve.

For us, Iraq's impending failure is an embarrassment. For the Iraqis — and other Arabs — it's a disaster the dimensions of which they do not yet comprehend. They're gleeful at the prospect of America's humiliation. But it's their tragedy, not ours.

That's not "the soft bigotry of low expectations." That's just bigotry. Does what happened in the American South after the Civil War prove that the South "can't support democracy as we know it?" No. Latin America has a number of rather solid democracies today that looked quite dubious 20 years ago. Israel didn't spring from 1948 a fully-formed democracy, to choose a Middle Eastern example.

What did all those places have that Iraq hasn't had? Years -- decades, in fact -- of relative peace, strong external support and internal cohesion. (Obviously, Israel had less of the first and more of the last.) Institutions that developed internally and indigenously. Functioning economies and national institutions.

Ms. Hurlburt does like this one provocative line of Peters:
"And contrary to the prophets of doom, the United States wouldn't be weakened by our withdrawal, should it come to that. Iraq was never our Vietnam. It's al-Qaeda's Vietnam. They're the ones who can't leave and who can't win."
I can't make complete sense of this Peter's sentiment. Short term, I agree, we wouldn't be weakend immediately after a withdrawal -- our forces would be able to catch a much-needed breath. Longer term, well, I think that's a far tougher case to make. If the nascent civil war goes into full tilt boogie mode and other countries -- Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran -- are drawn into the conflict, then it seems that we won't be able to merely stand on the sidelines. The national security implications, our stalwart posture of defending Israel, economic/petroleum concerns, not to mention a devastating humanitarian crisis as thousands of refugees seek to flee, will compel the United States to rejoin the Iraqi theater. For me, the penultimate question is whether those concerns are best dealt with now or later. And for me, the obvious answer is, painful as it will be, it is better to attempt to fix it now rather than let step aside with a likely deterioration of the situation. Of course, the ultimate question is how to deal with the situation now which minimizes further loss of life be it American or Iraqi.

I was struck by two of the comments at the USA TODAY site where the Peter's column appeared. The first one:

"It is absurd to blame the Iraqis for the mess made by those of you who supported this criminal enterprise of a war based on a 'pack of lies' and a corruption and incompetence that is stunning in its scale and depravity.

Iraq is worse than Vietnam. We had Vietnam in our rear view mirror so all of you should have known better. You let yourselves be swept up in the thrill of propaganda and now perhaps 650,000 or more Iraqis are dead because of it along with more than 2800 US forces...."

And the second one:

"What we are seeing here is two wars. One is the war between insurgents and our forces; it will stop if the insurgents are defeated or if we leave. The other is the war between Shia and Sunni, between this tribe and that tribe.

The second war is purely Iraqi, it is neither our fault nor our responsibility. It would have occurred regardless of whether Saddam had been removed by us, by a random act of nature, or by his own countrymen. Minus the despot, the bloodshed that followed was a certainty, as it was in Yugoslavia after the death of Tito a couple of decades ago. Ultimately the underlying cause of the Middle East's woes is population overshoot of the resource base in a region that is little more than barren desert. There is of course a lesson for us in that point as well..."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CentCom Power Point: Sliding Towards Chaos

From the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory.

The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from “peace,” an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked “chaos.” As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.

An intelligence summary at the bottom of the slide reads “urban areas experiencing ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaigns to consolidate control” and “violence at all-time high, spreading geographically.” According to a Central Command official, the index on civil strife has been a staple of internal command briefings for most of this year. The analysis was prepared by the command’s intelligence directorate, which is overseen by Brig. Gen. John M. Custer.

So yesterday Prime Minister Maliki essentially orders the US forces out of Sadr City which in turn means that, at least temporarily, we have to stop looking for our missing soldier. Muqtada al-Sadr gets stronger and we get....well, certainly not stronger nor better positioned. The Shiite militias become stronger, more entrenched into what passes for a central government, forcing the Sunni insurgency to take more and more desperate steps. And our guys are caught in some truly nasty crossfire. And the plan is .......?

Maliki might just want to read up on what happened to this feller over here on the right -- I'm a thinkin' their fates will be shared.

Turn Your Swords into.....Espresso Machines

One of my favorite books is Donovan Webster's Aftermath which chronicles the after affects of war. The opening chapter discusses the work of the French demineurs -- men whose occupation is to scour the countryside of France searching for unexploded ordnance -- from World War One. They collect tons of the stuff and store it. Then, a couple times a year, they take the stuff to a beach, wait for the tide to go out, and then dig a hole with a backhoe. They ease the ordnance along with fresh explosives into the sand pit, sandwiching the shells that contain the dread mustard gas in the middle. They cover the hole, wait for the tide to come back in and then blow it all up. I guess the most mind boggling thing is that so much ordnance is around almost 90 years after it was dropped.

A fellow in Ethiopia, the birth place of coffee, has found a more ingenious use for the exploded mortar shells which litter the Ethiopian country side.

From the BBC with a hat tip to BoingBoing:

In his workshop in Mekele, just 120 km from Ethiopia's border with Eritrea, Azmeraw Zeleke is turning burnt-out shells into cylinders used in coffee machines.

Most of the shells are left over from the 1998-2000 war between the two countries.


He uses old mortar shells, which stand about one metre high, to make his coffee machines.

He cuts off the pointed ends, seals them and puts holes into the aluminium cylinder. The cylinder channels the water, coffee and milk.


Coffee is a major export from Ethiopia and plays a big role in life.

After meals, the traditional coffee ceremony allows family and friends to get together to share news and discuss the issues of the day.


Cafe owner Haile Abraha bought one of Mr Azmeraw's machines a few months ago.

"I had one other imported machine but this one is much better. It is relatively cheap. The price is fair. The machine is good and it makes good coffee."

But Mr Azmeraw says it can be difficult to convince people to buy because of the mortar shell.

"These shells have all been used. We all need peace and we don't want war but once these shells have been used, we should use our skills to do something with them.

"Sometimes I think about the fact they were used for war but I want to change them to do something good. They could be a symbol of war but I am doing something good out of the bad."

Since he started production five or six years ago, Mr Azmeraw has sold hundreds of machines - he cannot remember exactly how many.

Each one costs about $1,300. Most of them have been sold to people in the Mekele area.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Project Valour

"Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, provides voice-controlled laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at home or in military hospitals. Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse. The experience of CPT Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered severe hand wounds while serving in Iraq, illustrates how important this voice-controlled software can be to a wounded servicemember's recovery."

Enrevanche writes: "These folks are good at what they do. They've got the cost down for the complete rig to $800 - that'll buy a laptop setup for a wounded vet. But unfortunately, demand for these units is outstripping supply right now, and there's a fund drive on."

It doesn't matter what you think about the war, enabling another person's ability to communicate with his friends and family, especially for a person who has sacrificed his body for his fellows, is the essence of being humane. If you can, please donate to this worthy cause.

Click here to go donate. Or use the DONATE button in the upper right hand corner of this blog if you want to credit this blog. The counter is pretty cool -- it did immediately update after I donated using PayPal. And checking email, you will receive a receipt for your friends at the IRS.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pimp My Kid: Cocaine & Pole Dancing...You Know...For Kids

I think I have the raw material to germinate for the next Coen Brother's flick: a high-caffeine drink labled Cocaine and a strip-tease accessory/toy/sport's equipment gizmo, both aimed at the kids' market.

From the Daily Mail:

The high-energy drink is being billed as a "legal alternative" to the class A drug, using a massive hit of caffeine instead of cocaine.


The drink's inventor, Jamie Kirby, said: "It's an energy drink, and it's a fun name. As soon as people look at the can, they smile."


Mr Raynes added: "The fact is that subliminally, it is making the image of drug use cool and that's what kids what to be, cool.

"Kids will be drinking Cocaine and will inevitably link the two. The drink is relatively innocuous, but they will be linking it with cocaine use and the market, which is far from innocuous."


The company has received inquiries about selling Cocaine in Britain and throughout Europe. At the moment it is being sold only in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas - mainly to teenagers.

It's a "fun name?" It won't be high schoolers for the most part who will be drinking this crap -- it will be the middle-schoolers passing it around on the bus, catching a serious caffeine and sugar buzz, and then come into their class bouncing off the walls. Once they get to high school, they'll want, and will be able to score, the real deal, or more likely, score some meth. Now, that would really be a cool name for a soft drink Meth -- "Gets you buzzed and rots your teeth just like the real thing." Mmmmmm.

And of course, Little Sally will want a way to burn off those extra Cocaine calories. If her step daddy really loves her, then he can show his love with just a web click, thanks to toy site Tesco's recent offering of the Peekaboo Pole.

Also from the Daily Mail:

The Tesco Direct site advertises the kit {in their toy section} with the words, "Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!

"Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars".

The £49.97 kit comprises a chrome pole extendible to 8ft 6ins, a 'sexy dance garter' and a DVD demonstrating suggestive dance moves.


Tesco today agreed to remove the product from the Toy section of the site, but said it will remain on sale as a Fitness Accessory, despite the fact that the product description invites users to "unleash the sex kitten inside".

Also on sale on the Tesco website is a strip poker game, "Peekaboo Poker" which is illustrated by a picture of a reclining woman in underwear.

The card game is is described as a game that "risks the risque and brings a whole lot of naughtiness to the table.

"Played with a unique pack of Peekaboo Boy and Girl playing cards, the aim of the game is to win as many Peekaboo chips as possible and turn them into outrageously naughty fun."

The pole dance kit is the latest item to fuel allegations that major retailers increasingly sell products which "sexualise" young children such as T-shirts with suggestive messages.

In recent years Asda was forced to remove from sale pink and black lace lingerie, including a push-up bra to girls as young as nine.

Next had to remove t-shirts on sale for girls as young as six with the slogan "so many boys, so little time."

And BHS and others came under fire for selling padded bras embellished with a "Little Miss Naughty" logo and t-shirts with a Playboy-style bunny that said "I love boys...They are stupid."

Tesco last night denied the pole dancing kit was sexually oriented and said it was clearly marked for "adult use".

If that Tesco spokesman could say that last bit with a straight face, then Denny Hastert might want to hire him. Notice the Monopoly money in the ad pic. What "adult" would want to play with phony money? Uh huh.

"That's it darlin', you dancin' really nice fer Uncle Diddly, that's it baby, now swing over here and let me give you a Benjamin in yer garter. Did you open yer Lap Dance kit yet, sweetie?"

I know they sell thongs for six year olds. Might as well get 'em a pole. How else they gonna make the double-wide payment? Getcha a six-pack of that there Cocaine and you can pole-dance all night. Just like the big girls.

Let's all Pimp Our Kids, after all, they're just another plaything like a car or a living room.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is Our Children Learning....Grammar?

From the Washington Post:

Mike Greiner teaches grammar to high school sophomores in half-hour lessons, inserted between Shakespeare and Italian sonnets. He is an old-school grammarian, one of a defiant few in the Washington region who believe in spending large blocks of class time teaching how sentences are built.

For this he has earned the alliterative nickname "Grammar Greiner," along with a reputation as one of the tougher draws in the Westfield High School English department.

Or, as one student opined in a sonnet he wrote, "Mr. Greiner, I think you're torturing us."

Greiner, 43, teaches future Advanced Placement students at the Chantilly school. Left on their own to decide where to place a comma, "they'll get it right about half of the time," he said. "But half is an F."


Several factors -- most notably, the addition of a writing section to the SAT college entrance exam in 2005 -- have reawakened interest in Greiner's methods.

Nationwide, the Class of 2006 posted the lowest verbal SAT scores since 1996. That was the year the test was recalibrated to correct for a half-century decline in verbal performance.


For a half-hour one recent morning, students repaired broken sentences, one after another, an exercise with all the glamour of a linguistic assembly line. When one young woman read right past the proper noun "southwest" without stopping to capitalize, Greiner politely reminded the class: This very word, or something like it, is bound to show up on Virginia's Standards of Learning exams in spring.


"Other teachers in this county say, 'Fix the writing, and the grammar will come along.' Not me," Greiner said.

I'm all for Greiner's content. I remain thankful for the entire year of diagramming sentences I did in the 8th grade. We would get a set of sentences and then be called up at random to diagram them on the board about 4 or 5 students at a time. The remaining students were expected to maintain a vigilant watch. If one spotted an error, your task was to go to the board and write your initials. After the student making the initial attempt had his/her say as to why he/she made the particular decisions, then you could suggest your alternate approach...and then be open to correction yourself. At the end of the year, we diagrammed the Declaration of Independence.

What's lost with holistic anything in the educational setting is stringent accountability. Slickness or any other overcompensation is supposed to balance out schlocky writing. So we get PowerPoint presentations which are aesthetically pleasing but are jammed with distracting misspelling and grammatical errors. Understanding the guts of a sentence, its mechanics, empowers the writer to better manipulate words to best express his thoughts.

Comma, placement, matters.

Shuttle Launch From Perspective of ISS


Delta House Medicine

Bluto to Flounder: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."

Otter: "Better listen to him, Flounder. He's pre-med!"

From MSNBC/Reuters:

Even healthy men may benefit from a drink or two daily to help lower the risk of heart attack, medical researchers reported on Monday.

“Our results suggest that moderate drinking could be viewed as a complement, rather than an alternative,” to lifestyle interventions such as regular physical activity, weight loss and quitting smoking, said the study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The report said previous studies have linked moderate drinking to a lower heart attack risk, compared to the risk run by those who do not drink at all. The apparent protective effect may be that alcohol appears to raise the level of so-called “good” cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

UPDATE: W's Moment of Unclear Clarity

It now appears that W has also had a moment of unclear clarity.

The President also gave his lukewarm assent to Friedman's Tet analogy to ABC's George Stephanopoulos:

Stephanopoulos: "Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times this morning that what we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. ... Do you agree?"

Bush: "He could be right. There's certainly a stepped up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

What's happening? Is this prep for the Baker Plan? Has AQ taken over the White House kitchen? Surreal times fer sure.

Follow the discussion over at Chap's and at Mudville.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tony Snow's Unclear Moment of Clarity

Get ready for a mental backflip, with a double-twisty, extra-crunchy, triple-axel.

Writing in today's New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman, observing the current spike in loss of American blood, opined:

..."I’d suggest that in time we’ll come to see the events unfolding — or rather, unraveling — in Iraq today as the real October surprise, because what we’re seeing there seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."

What does White House Press Secretary Tony Snow think about Friedman's analyis?

From ABC News:

Snow: "I think Friedman may be right, but we'll have to see."


Where to start?

First of all, I think Friedman's analogy is off the mark. The Tet Offensive was the signature turning point in the war in terms of American public opinion, underscored by Walter Cronkite's uncommon editorial comment at a conclusion of a broadcast that the United States was "mired in a stalemate in Vietnam."

Some important differences:

(1) Even with Uncle Walter's comment, American support for the war still hovered between 45 - 50%. It would appear that threshold was passed for the current war last December and unlike Vietnam, never bounced back in terms of public support.

(2) The US actually won the Tet Offensive -- the VC were routed. The only debate was and remains, whether if a huge, immediate troop increase could have decsisively won the war inside of 18 months or would have merely brutally prolonged it. There is no substantive military victory that the US can point to in the past 12 months of which I am aware. It seems that we have the ability to rout out insurgents/jihadists in a particular area but that troop levels and/or insurgent/jihadist levels make all gains highly transient. Again, given the fact that we are unable or unwilling to increase troop levels and/or the gazillion Iraqi troops appear to be unwilling to "stand up" in such a fashion as to ensure security tells me that we passed the Tet marker at least a year ago if not two.

So what's going on?

Well, for Friedman, he's out of "Friedman's". For those of you who don't hang out in Left Blogistan, that's the term we've satirically hung on a period of six months. Friedman, famously and fatuously, kept counseling that the positive turning point in Iraq was six months away. It appears after two years of issuing these ill-fated prophecies, he's given up: "It's Tet, baby, it's over, fat lady singing, yada, yada, yada."

So much for Captain Obvious (copyright enrevanche).

But Snow? Snow is saying "ballgame, it's over, fat lady's singing...?"

Was he just being his old flippant FOX self?

Was he trying to court some in the GOP who hate the war three weeks before the election?

Was he trying to prep us for the Administration's upcoming embrace of the Baker recommendations?

What's up with this?

UPDATE - I originally missed the last graf of the ABC piece - sheds a little light:

Asked several hours later to clarify his remarks, Snow said he does not believe that a Tet-like offensive will have the same result this time. The difference, he said, is that "Johnson … had uncertainty and the White House was not projecting a sense of confidence." Snow said today "you have a president who is determined to win and there isn't going to be any dampening of the will."
Plenty of ammo and Viagra....

Brother Snow might want to reconsider the Johnson White House not projecting confidence comment -- it wasn't up to Johnson and it won't be up to W either. The Tet Offensive started January 31, 1968. Three weeks later, the American forces had the upper hand on the VC and PAVN. Three weeks after that, unknown Eugene McCarthy polled 42% to LBJ's 48% in the New Hampshire primary, opening the door wide for the RFK challenge. It was game over for LBJ and in retrospect, it's tough to make a case that there was anything, once Tet started, that could have reversed his fate.

And other than allowing for some sort of re-working of strategy in the form of the Murtha/Baker paradigm, I don't see how either President Bush escapes the same fate, if it already isn't too late.

Support for War in Vietnam, by Age

Under 3030-49Over 49
May 1965615943
August 1965766451
November 1965756857
March 1966716348
May 1966625439
September 1966535639
November 1966665541
May 1967605342
July 1967625237
October 1967505035
Early February 1968514436
March 1968504635
April 1968544431
August 1968453927
Early October 1968524126
February 1969474331
September 1969363725
January 1970413725
March 1970484126
April 1970434025
January 1971413820
May 1971343023

Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom

June 21, 2005

CNN -- Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the war in Iraq and a growing number of them are dissatisfied with the war on terrorism, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Only 39 percent of those polled said they favored the war in Iraq -- down from 47 percent in March -- and 59 percent were opposed.


October 16th, 2006 5:44 pm
Poll: Support for Iraq war at all-time low

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A poll conducted for CNN over the weekend suggests support among Americans for the war in Iraq is dwindling to an all-time low. Just 34 percent of those polled say they support the war, while 64 percent say they oppose it.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Free Speech Transgressions

I recommend you take five minutes and hop on over to Kevin Drum and Washington Monthly. He's got a brief round-up of recent free speech transgressions with the bad actors coming from every conceivable corner: the French National Assembly, the Turkish government, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, a German opera house bowing to the religiously sensitive, the Secret Service, a Pakastani terrorist group (though their actions went far beyond mere petitioning attempts to stop the offending speech -- they blew stuff up), and a group of lefty kids at Columbia University who obviously know nothing about the art of politics.

Gagging Defense Lawyers & Another Swift Update

A single story in yesterday's LA Times has two major items of interest:

MIAMI — The U.S. Marine Corps has threatened to punish two members of the military legal team representing a terrorism suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay if they continue to speak publicly about reported prisoner abuse, a civilian lawyer from the defense team said Saturday.

The action directed at Lt. Col. Colby Vokey and Sgt. Heather Cerveny follows their report last week that Guantanamo guards bragged about beating detainees, said Muneer Ahmad, an American University law professor who assists in the defense of Canadian suspect Omar Khadr.

The order has heightened fears among the military defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners that their careers will suffer for exposing flaws and injustices in the system, Ahmad said.

"In one fell swoop, the government is gagging a defense lawyer and threatening retaliation against a whistle-blower," Ahmad said. "It really points out what is wrong with the detainee legislation that Bush is scheduled to sign on Tuesday: It permits the abuse of detainees to continue, immunizes the wrongdoers and precludes the detainees from ever challenging it in court."

The Marine Corps said the gag order had been issued to ensure the legal team's actions were in compliance with professional standards. "The Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps, as Lt. Col. Vokey's direct supervisor, has directed him not to communicate with the media on this case pending her review of the facts," said 1st Lt. Blanca E. Binstock of the Marine public affairs office.

Defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners say the personal stakes are high and point to the Navy's failure to promote Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift after he successfully challenged the legitimacy of the Pentagon's war-crimes commissions. Two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled the commissions unconstitutional and lacking in due process, Swift was passed over for advancement and will be forced by the Navy's up-or-out policy to retire by summer.

At least three other military defense lawyers for the 10 charged terrorism suspects have also been passed over for promotion in what some consider a subtle reprimand of their vigorous defense of their clients.

"We've all known that representing folks in these kind of circumstances would have consequences, but to actually see Charlie passed over after he takes his case to the Supreme Court and wins — that certainly put it in the forefront for me," said Army Maj. Tom Fleener, who represents Ali Hamza Bahlul of Yemen.


Swift declined to comment on not having received a promotion.

"As a defense attorney, I don't like allegations without evidence," he says of the widespread view among his colleagues that he was punished for challenging the administration's tribunal process.

"What you sought in any career was an opportunity to make a difference. I got that opportunity, and for that I will be forever grateful," Swift said.

He said the new commissions legislation appears to preclude defendants' getting a fair trial.

"A zealous defense is essential to any process that works," Swift said. "What has given the commissions any integrity so far is the ability of defense council to raise the case and concerns in all federal forums and the commissions themselves, and when necessary, in the media."
Four passed over for promotion. Coincidence? The honorable LCDR Swift counsels not to see a conspiracy until there is evidence for such. OK, then. We'll just keep watching.

Swift appeared on Friday's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: Not to downplay the significance of what happened to you, but were you at all surprised by this decision?

SWIFT: Well, I knew that when I’d taken the Hamdan case they I’d stepped off the normal career path, and that that would make it more difficult to get promoted. As far as the outcome of the Hamdan decision in the Supreme Court, I was confident we would win it, it was the right decision.


OLBERMANN: Two questions about this case—is it true access to your client was conditional upon his admission of guilt?

SWIFT: Yes, it was. The original part, when I was—the letter that asked me to be assigned to him, or for someone to be detailed said that access was only—or access to him was conditioned on working on a guilty plea. And that was the most difficult thing ethically was how to deal with that, taking the case. And I decided the only way I could do that was offer him an option B and that would have been and was to sue in the federal courts to try and get a fair trial, a second option, and, well, once I decided that that was—those were the two options, and I went down and talked to him, from then on, every decision was pretty easy.

OLBERMANN: Will you still be representing him, and regardless, what’s the next stage of this defense.

SWIFT: Well, his case is back in the district court. And I still represent him there. The Supreme Court sent it back down. and we’re now waiting to see what the government tries to does with the MCA. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement, Mr. Hamdan’s case, given the Supreme Court’s decision, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s unconstitutional.

It would constitute ex post facto and a bill of attainder and so, you know, if they try to try him in the new system then we’re going to, again, pursue action in the federal courts. There are alternatives, we could have a trial in the federal court. The Supreme Courts may clear that that would be legal and I would hope to defend him in either place, but you know, he’s my client I promised him I would defend him and that’s what I intend to do.

OLBERMANN: Some of us have been shaken to the core by all that we are seeing in the last few months pertaining to things like GITMO and detainment and the rest. How serious do you think all this is based on your experience with the Hamdan case at Guantanamo Bay and with what has happened to you. To what degree is the fairness of our legal system, even the preservation of our collective legal rights at risk right now?

SWIFT: Well, you know, the Supreme Court has taken six commission cases in their history and that’s actually a tremendous number, given the number of commissions, and in Milligan, the first commission case, this is the same court that decided Dred Scott, they said that no graver issue had ever faced them as a court than the question of the military commissions and executive entering into to be the sole decider of justice.

I think that continues to be true and it was true at our founding. Thomas Paine said famously that “He who would seek liberty must first defend his enemies from oppression, lest he set a precedent that will reach himself,” and when we say that you can have a full and fair trial without the accused present or you can use techniques such as waterboarding to extort a confession, and use that, and that’s fair, then inevitably, that’s going to haunt to us, and it’s going to haunt us and your children. We have a chance still to stop this, and I’m you know, dedicated to preventing that from happening.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Love & Courage

Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

From Yahoo:

A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.

"He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."

Monsoor, a 25-year-old gunner, was killed in the explosion in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. He was only the second SEAL to die in Iraq since the war began.


"He was just a fun-loving guy," said a 26-year-old petty officer 2nd class who went through the grueling 29-week SEAL training with Monsoor. "Always got something funny to say, always got a little mischievous look on his face."

Other SEALS described the Garden Grove, Calif., native as a modest and humble man who drew strength from his family and his faith. His father and brother are former Marines, said a 31-year-old petty officer 2nd class.

Prior to his death, Monsoor had already demonstrated courage under fire. He has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Temptation of George W. Bush

We thought State of Denial was the most withering literary attack W & Co. were going to face this political season, but apparently David Kuo has a legitimate shot at the title (heh).


More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider’s tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities.

The office’s primary mission, providing financial support to charities that serve the poor, never got the presidential support it needed to succeed, according to the book.

Entitled “Tempting Faith,” the book is not scheduled for release until Oct. 16.

“Tempting Faith’s” author is David Kuo, who served as special assistant to the president from 2001 to 2003. A self-described conservative Christian, Kuo’s previous experience includes work for prominent conservatives including former Education Secretary and federal drug czar Bill Bennett and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.


In fact, the Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.

Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. “Finding these examples became a huge priority.… If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn’t that bad at all.”

In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on “compassion” social programs, Kuo claims he discovered “we were actually spending about $20 million a year less on them than before he had taken office.”

The money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda, Kuo claims.

This really does sound like the book "the nuts" ought to spend all of November 7th digesting in their Lazy-Boy at the house. I think it deserves that kind of thoughtful, patient attention. Really.

Comments on the Swift Update

Reddog kicks things off:

In CMDR Swift, a fighter for truth and justice has been created. More will be motivated to fight because of his treatment.

It is inexcusable that a career in the military is no longer about service to the nation but service to political expediency. Politics should play no part in the military estblishment. CMDR Swift was not making a political statement by doing the job assigned him. To fight against tyranny is also not political, but an act to preserve and protect the society in which we live.

Chap responds:


"In CMDR Smith, a fighter for Truth and Justice has been created...."
Ack. Come on. The man's a JAG who did a high profile case while on shore duty, not Superman.

Figures the NYT would screw this up this badly. And I've apparently wasted my time on addressing this; I've taken hours to clearly and specifically delineate how the promotion process works. Your commenter has presented nothing to show he has any idea what the man did before this, and most importantly how the man compares to the rest of the JAGs up for promotion. As far as I can tell he just knows one data point and doesn't even know what the scales are.

And he presumes to tell me what a military career is about from that, and tell me what to think.

Gravatar Hamdan v. Rummy is hardly any high-profile case. Andrew McCarthy of the esteemed National Review said it was "the most important case of the Court's term." Michelle Malkin said it was the "most important case on the War on Terror." For once, she and I were in agreement.

When Swift was handed the booger, W's numbers and the popularity of the War on Terra were near their zenith while the job of defending people who were portrayed (correctly or not) as wanting to blow up more Americans was described as being as unpatriotic as one could get as Matthews encapsulated perfectly:

MATTHEWS: What about the charge made recently, just a couple minutes ago by Kate O‘Beirne of the “National Review,” that people who fight us who are not in uniform, who do not represent countries who are party to the Geneva Convention shouldn‘t be free riders? They shouldn‘t get Geneva Convention treatment. They should be treated like thugs.
Swift pulled Defend the Thug duty and did it beautifully, period.

And I'm not sure what the Times "screwed up". You wanted them to write that there were, quite possibly, reasons that weren't political, or issues of comparative competence, or unknown issues such as less-than-stellar fitness reports that may have thwarted Swift's promotion.

Fair enough, maybe they should have included that but those musings don't comport with what we *do* see and what we *do* know -- that the guy took a shit job, one that he and everyone else knew would win him no friends in the Navy and in the broader body politic outside us carriers of ACLU cards, and he kicked serious ass.

Every right-wing pundit railed against the Hamdan case, basically positing that scum like Hamdan shouldn't never be given standing in an American court much less be provided zealous counsel and a victory.

But forget the pundits, it's about Rummy/W/Cheney and their running rough-shod over the UCMJ, the Geneva Conventions, and the US Constitution. It's been their position since the first prisoners were taken in Afghanistan that these guys have no rights, not even the rights accorded POWs. It's ok to torture them and then use those confessions to convict. That was the philosophy that gave a whipped-up electorate a collective erection: "Hell, yeah, waterboard their towelhead asses!"

"But what if they're not guilty, what if they were accidently scooped up, what if one of their personal enemies pointed a finger just to get a reward?"

"They're ALL guilty man -- they don't need no stinkin' trial."

That's the philosophy that Swift opposed and the Supreme Court of the US agreed with him 5-3.

Now, given the INCREDIBLE political investment that the Bushies put into their moral righteousness in running Gitmo the way they did and creating the military tribunals the way they did it, it is reasonable to expect that they were, say, less-than-thrilled with the Hamdan decision. Their surrogates, both in government and in the chattering class described the Hamdan decision as a severe blow to Western Civilization. And more importantly, to Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld, the decision made them de facto war criminals.

And we are asked to believe that those gentlemen or more likely, the fear that those gentlemen inspire *had nothing* to do with the pass-over?

You're asking too much.

You made a great case (as usual) that another reasonable explanation does indeed exist for the pass-over. But no matter how high you stack the data and how eloquently you present it, you can't negate the more-than-just-barely-possible case that Swift was torpedoed by his own success in an environment that expressly didn't want to see him succeed. And that's all the Times piece is saying: " is no denying the chilling message it sends to remaining military lawyers about the potential consequences of taking their job, and justice, seriously."

Consider the case of John Adams who had a similarly odious assignment of defending the British Redcoats charged with homicide in the famed Boston Massacre. Adams succeeded in getting the soldiers acquitted or merely branded on the thumb, winning him no friends. Adams said of the affair:

"The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right."
obloquy OB-luh-kwee, noun:
1. Strongly condemnatory or abusive language or utterance.
2. The condition of disgrace suffered as a result of public blame, abuse, or condemnation; ill repute.
Adams bounced back ok, once cooler heads than the one of his cousin Sam prevailed.

UPDATE: Chap took the ball over to his sandlot if you care to follow....