,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


On the Road to 2008: Looking for a War

Collective loss of memory about how the war against Iraq was engineered ? That is the thought that comes to mind as the Republican contenders rant about specter of terrorists, rogue nations, and nuclear bombs. Bloviating, strutting like pouter pigeons. Remember "Bring them on"? The vice president, who took four deferments (or was it five) during the Vietnam war, never stopped talking about the threats. That has become his raison d'erte. October 29th issue of The New Yorker has a great cover by Richard McGuire.

Happy Halloween
Richard McGuire ©The New Yorker, October 29, 2007

President Bush got us into Iraq by successfully spreading fear. Republican candidates hope to milk that cow again in 2008.

Paul Krugman in The NY Times:
We are aware of the price being paid for our folly. And yet, except for Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, Republicans vying for nomination are pro-war copy cats. They like the war in Iraq and they stand ready to start another.

Democratic front-runners are united in condemning the war. Senator Hillary Clinton, however, had voted in 2002 in support of the Iraq war resolution. Her attempts to justify her action are unconvincing.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Guns, Drugs, and the U.S.A


Wikipedia's web page on "War on Drugs" includes the following:
Lot of money. Chicken feed compared to the money going down the tube in Iraq for the warrior in the White House but still significant amounts. What have we achieved in the war on drugs? Again, like the war in Iraq nothing to shout about. Undoubtedly, it has created a lot of jobs but has it made a dent in the amount of drugs coming in and the violence related to selling and distribution of drugs?

Richard Davenport-Hines, in his book The Pursuit of Oblivion (W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), criticized the efficacy of the War on Drugs by pointing out:

10-15% of illicit heroin and 30% of illicit cocaine is intercepted. Drug traffickers have gross profit margins of up to 300%. At least 75% of illicit drug shipments would have to be intercepted before the traffickers' profits were hurt.Source: Wikipedia

Any talk about legalization of drugs and focusing on treatment (of addicts), education and other programs geared toward those who are the foot soldiers of the drug trade is anathema to our government and many well-meaning individuals. Therefore, Washington Post's report about a reverse movement of smuggled guns from the United States to drug traffickers south of the border makes one wonder about the sincerity of the war on drugs. Does our hands off policy about gun ownership cover even high-powered weapons being traded to drug smugglers to assist them in killing law enforcement officials?

Washington Post

U.S. Guns Behind Cartel Killings in Mexico

TIJUANA, Mexico -- Assassins blasted Ricardo Rosas Alvarado, a member of an elite state police force, with a blizzard of bullets pumped out of AK-47 assault rifles.

Alvarado crumpled at the wheel of his sedan, yet another victim of the weapons known here as "goat's horns" because of their curved ammunition clips, and which can fire at a rate of 600 rounds per minute. The killing, Mexican authorities said, was a panorama of blood, shattered glass and torn metal that brutally showcased the firepower of Mexico's drug cartels. But that was just the warm-up.

Two hours later, a small army of cartel hit men descended on a federal police office and bunkhouse in this crowded city at one of the world's busiest border crossings. None of the officers, who had recently been sent here to crush the drug gangs terrorizing the city, were killed in the hail of more than 1,200 bullets, authorities said. But police veterans understood the message delivered to the newcomers: "Welcome to Tijuana. Our guns are bigger than your guns."

The high-powered guns used in both incidents on the evening of Sept. 24 undoubtedly came from the United States, say police here, who estimate that 100 percent of drug-related killings are committed with smuggled U.S. weapons.

The guns pass into Mexico through the "ant trail," the nickname for the steady stream of people who each slip two or three weapons across the border every day. The "ants" -- along with larger smuggling operations -- are feeding a rapidly expanding arms race between Mexican drug cartels.

The U.S. weapons -- as many as 2,000 enter Mexico each day, according to a Mexican government study -- are crucial tools in an astoundingly barbaric war between rival cartels that has cost 4,000 lives in the past 18 months and sent law enforcement agencies in Washington and Mexico City into crisis mode.

These drug traffickers, with their steady supply of U.S. weaponry, are the target of President Bush's proposed $500 million U.S. aid package to help Mexico battle cartels. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, hope that some of the money will be used to give Mexican police chiefs greater access to U.S. databases for gun traces. Currently, the traces can be made only through federal police headquarters in Mexico City. Many police chiefs do not even bother to make requests because of the inevitable bureaucratic delays.

"You're looking at the same firepower here on the border that our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan," Thomas Mangan, a spokesman in Phoenix for the ATF, said in an interview.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Sadiyah, Iraq, and 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment


Soldiers talk about the other side of Iraq -- one that the Bush Administration stays away from.

Joshua Partlow
reported from Sadiyah, Iraq, about soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division:

Washington Post

They stop, look around. The streets of Sadiyah are deserted again. To the right, power lines slump down into the dirt. To the left, what was a soccer field is now a pasture of trash, combusting and smoking in the sun. Packs of skinny wild dogs trot past walls painted with slogans of sectarian hate.

A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon's Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water -- the soldiers call it Lake Havasu, after the Arizona spring-break party spot -- that seeps in the doors of the vehicle and wets his boots.

"When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street," Alarcon said this week. "The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks."

That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.

Next month, the U.S. soldiers will complete their tour in Iraq. Their experience in Sadiyah has left many of them deeply discouraged, by both the unabated hatred between rival sectarian fighters and the questionable will of the Iraqi government to work toward peaceful solutions.

The good news is that the 1st Battalion will soon be returning to its home base. Stay safe, soldiers.

California Wildfires - FEMA Staged a Press Conference

Item in the Washington Post:
  • "The Federal Emergency Management Agency's No. 2 official apologized yesterday for leading a staged news conference Tuesday in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions.
  • "We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent," Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr., FEMA's deputy administrator, said in a four-paragraph statement.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


"A Lot of Low-Hanging Fruit"

The item about Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) in the Washington Post warmed the cockles of my heart. Reading about Blackwater, what the Bush administration has wrought in Iraq, VP Cheney and the darksiders clamoring for military action against Iran can make one feel sort of hopeless about the state of affairs. Then comes Jonathan Weisman's report and it feels as though all is not lost. The evil acts of the neocons cannot be undone but Waxman is going to make sure that they face the harsh glare of testifying before the House Oversight Committee. ""We have to let people know they have someone watching them after six years with no oversight at all," said Waxman, 68. "And we've got a lot of low-hanging fruit to pick."

Washington Post

Today, Rice will finally appear. But Waxman (D-Calif.) has not spent the week on a victory lap. He has found time to produce evidence accusing State Department security contractor Blackwater Worldwide of tax evasion, to fire off a letter to Rice demanding information about alleged mismanagement of a $1 billion contract to train Iraqi police, and to hold a hearing on uranium poisoning on Navajo land.

Waxman has become the Bush administration's worst nightmare: a Democrat in the majority with subpoena power and the inclination to overturn rocks. But in Waxman the White House also faces an indefatigable capital veteran -- with a staff renowned for its depth and experience -- who has been waiting for this for 14 years.

These days, the 16-term congressman is always ready with a hearing, a fresh crop of internal administration e-mails or a new explosive report. And he has more than two dozen investigations underway, on such issues as the politicization of the entire federal government, formaldehyde in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers, global warming, and safety concerns about the diabetes drug Avandia.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Seasons: October 2007

October, so far, has been been mostly dry. The fires raging 400 miles south of us are due to the dryness and the Santa Ana winds. Here in the north there are areas where conditions spell fire danger and, even without the Santa Ana winds, wild fires could cause a lot of damage.

The temperature remains benign. At times it feels like summer. Common to see runners out in shorts but the leaves of gingko treets on the street make it clear that fall is here. Almost overnight they changed color from green to gold.

Gingko Trees, early Autumn

Last saturday (the 20th) was not only warm and sunny, it was crystal clear. Half Moon Bay sparkled. The pumpkin patches did booming business and cars were backed up on Highway 92 all the way to Junipero Serra Freeway seven miles away.

Riders on the beach at Half Moon Bay

Distant view of Pillar Point from south of Half Moon Bay

Yesterday, during a hike at Phleger Estate the preserve was cool and green. The creek, however, was bone dry. Phleger Estate can be reached from Skyline (Highway 35) as well as Huddert Park in Woodside. We take the Crystal Springs Trail from Raymundo Dr,Woodside, avoiding the main entrance.

Trail junction at Phleger Estate

The rains will come, leaves will start to fall and then it will begin to feel more like autumn. For those of us who forage for wild mushrooms it will be time to walk through the woods in search of chanterelles. The oyster mushrooms appear only briefly after the rains begin but in this area chanterelles can be found from November through February.

Autumn Haikus

Crisp falling leaves crunch
deliciously as joggers
pound asphalt bike trail

--Carol Nation
Source: Crisp Autumn Haiku

Dry cheerful cricket
chirping, keeps the autumn gay ...
contemptuous of frost


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


On the Road to 2008: Evangelicals Looking For a Candidate

Candidates 'jonesing' for Evangelical Vote * Hillary Clinton and Iran

Interesting word, jonesing. Jacques Berlinerblau wrote in the Post:
What on earth did he mean by 'jonesing'. A query in Google provided the answer in no time at all. September 24, 2003, issue of The Word Detective contains the following:
So, the evangelicals are desperately seeking someone worthy of their support. Time is running out. Either they will have to scale down their expectation and fall behind one of the candidates or a candidate will see the light and be all things to the evangelicals. Such things have happened.

Clinton Reassures the Warmongers

Bomb Iran ? Hillary Clinton went on record to prove.....what ? That she has cojones or that she stands ready to cater to the dark side.

The Washington Post Oct.15, 2007

Last month, Clinton was one of 75 senators who voted for a resolution giving the president the authority to call the guards terrorists. She has characterized the vote as a way to gain leverage for U.S. negotiations with Iran, but some of her rivals, including Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama, argue it amounted to giving Bush another blank check to go to war.

Currently, she is at the head of the pack. Too bad.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


The Man Who Was Elected President in 2000

And the Man in The White House

Dirty tricks and help from certain justices of the Supreme Court decided the presidential election of 2000. Now, 7 years later, majority of Americans are likely to be on the side of Al Gore, winner of popular votes, who was robbed of victory. All of us who voted for him were robbed too. So, it is time for us to rejoice because of what our former vice president Al Gore has achieved.

Just listening to them talk makes it clear what a loss it was for the country when the 2000 election was hijacked.
British author Harold Pinter won the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature. In his acceptance speech he spoke about Bush's war.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

Then there is Albert A. Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Eloquent, knowledgeable. Respected and liked at home and abroad. His popularity is growing here even among people who are not fully in agreement with his role in the global warming debate. He looks comfortable in his own skin and goes to bed with a clear conscience. While scientists disagree about some of his views on global warming and climate change, there is overwhelming evidence to support most of them.

If President Bush has a conscience he does not show it. He appears to be oblivious of the mess he has created in Iraq. He talks about making money on the lecture circuit after his term is over. Imagine paying to listen to Bushspeak!

The sooner he goes on the lecture circuit the better for America.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


On the Road to 2008: The Religious Right or 'Value Voters'

According to an article by Laurie Goldstein in The NY Times, cracks have appeared in the power bloc that played a major role in putting G.W. Bush twice in the White House.

NY Times - October 7, 2007

What unites them right now is their dismay — even panic — at the idea of Rudolph W. Giuliani as the Republican nominee, because of his support for abortion rights and gay rights, as well as what they regard as a troubling history of marital infidelity. But what to do about it is where they again diverge, with some religious conservatives last week threatening to bolt to a third party if Mr. Giuliani gets the nomination, and others arguing that this is the sure road to defeat.

The Religious Right or Value Voters became power drunk; their leaders had easy access to the White House. They began to flex their muscle by sponsoring legislations against abortion rights, teaching of evolution, and for display of religious symbols in public buildings. They not only had the president in their corner, the shifting of balance in the Supreme Court assured them of support from the conservative justices.

With just above twelve months before the 2008 election the situation is quite different, and how! Scandals and changing dynamics, especially the impact of the war in Iraq, resulted in loss of support for them and for their champion in the White House. A good example of "What goes up must come down" (© Karma Lyrics, Alicia Keys). There is panic among the Religious Right. Although its most aggressive followers are evangelical Christians, Catholic clergy, too, joined them in previous elections and urged the faithful not to support candidates who were pro-choice. Now, as positions of 2008 candidates are beginning to be known, there is no one who fully meets the aims and expectations of the Christian groups.

Politicians are adept at doing somersaults and experiencing sudden epiphanies when it comes to election campaigns. While it will not work if one of the campaigning Democrats becomes an Armageddonist, Republican candidates could be thinking about it. If he can pull it off, one of them will. McCain has already shown his flexbility on matters religious. See John McCain, Semi-Baptist. Giuliani, currently at the head of the pack, could wake up one morning and declare himself a Born Again Christian and retreat from his position on women's right to choose. That and an immersion might make him acceptable.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Taking Back the Republic "One ditch at a time"


On Sunday morning when the talking heads do their thing on the networks, I do my surfing on the Internet. Follow pretty much the same route: The Washington Post, NY Times, The Guardian/Observer (UK), LA Times; and, occasionally, The Chicago Tribune and Christian Science Monitor.

"Every week one Texan soldier dies in Iraq and 10 are wounded. Gary Younge reports on how war is affecting Bush's home state"

Reading Gary Younge in The Guardian -- A week in the War in Texas, October 6, 2007, I was struck by the following:
  • "Over at Camp Casey, less than a mile from the Peace House, Carl Rising-Moore is out of jail and back holding the fort. "So long as George W Bush is coming to Texas, I plan to live either here or in jail," he says. "I don't know whether I'm delusional - that's possible - but my dream is that the American people wake up out of their slumber. And if they wake up in time, they can save the republic."
  • And, with that, he headed out, in the searing heat of late afternoon, to "take back" the ditch in the name of peace and the republic.
More power to Carl Rising-Moore. Yes, the neocons are plotting nefarious scenarios of more deaths, destructions, and profit for them and their friends. But people are beginning to question their policies and the harm they have done. The voice of Carl Rising-Moore counts.
The Brits,too, were conned into the war by former prime minister Tony Blair. Among comments about Blackwater by Guardian readers I found this:
  • "The Iraq adventure is the most flagrant violation to democratic rules and basic human relations. Of course it has to do with oil, and of course it has to do with keeping competitors away from it but that does not justify the loss of our most priced values, that is what make us different from the Mafiosi; when we need milk, we do not breach into the nearest grocery store, kill the owner and its family and take the milk, that is what civilization is all about. Now they want to destroy Iran to preserve some kind of hegemony but they do not see that the world sees what is happening, maybe they will succeed in bombing this time but in the long run the consequences may not be as bright. Blackwater and their abominable actions is just an aberration of democracy, yes, thanks to privatization the administration can commit their crimes without having to report to congress, but the world is watching. No one can stand above justice forever, Stalin could not do it, Hitler could not do it..junior will never make it!"


Thursday, October 04, 2007


Deaths at Nisoor Square, Baghdad

Since the shootings by employees of Blackwater USA, a private securities firm under contract to the U.S. Department of State, and deaths of Iraqi civilians on September 16th at Nisoor Square, there have been hundreds of reports about what took place. Iraqi witnesses claim that Blackwater guards indiscriminately fired at people in the square; Blackwater USA maintains that its employees shot only after being attacked.

The article by Sudarsan Raghavan in today's Post is the best account I have read about the carnage at Nisoor Square and its impact on Iraqis, especially those who lost their family members on that day in September.

Excerpts: Washington Post 10-4-2007

The victims were as young as 11 and as old as 55, according to hospital records. They were middle class and poor. They included college students, day laborers and professionals vital to rebuilding Iraq. There was a mother and her daughter. The daughter lived. There was a taxi driver, only 25, who was the sole provider for his parents and seven siblings. He died.

Blackwater guards say they were ambushed and shot at by Iraqi policemen and civilians. Ten eyewitnesses and Iraqi police officials insisted in interviews that the guards opened fire in the square, unprovoked, and continued shooting even as civilians fled for their lives. Hospital records show 14 dead and 18 injured, a toll higher than most previous official tallies.

The carnage has sparked outrage and demands to reform the private contractor industry. Almost three weeks later, the collective memory of Iraqis at the scene is raw.

"It was catastrophic. So many innocent people were killed," recalled Zina Fadhil, 21, a pharmacist. That day, she huddled in fear inside her store about 100 yards from the square as Blackwater helicopters hovered above. Like other eyewitnesses, she said she saw Blackwater guards firing down from the helicopters, an allegation the security firm denies.

"I am a peaceful person, but I wished I could have shot those people in the helicopters," Fadhil continued, her soft voice rising.

Not one of the victims or family members interviewed had been aware that Blackwater was immune to prosecution in Iraq under an order by U.S. administrators after the 2003 invasion.

"Why is the blood of Iraqis so free for everyone to spill?" asked Sahib Nasr, the father of one of the victims.


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