Friday, March 18, 2005

The Finger

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Pro-Syrian Hizbollah guerrillas will keep their weapons despite U.S. calls to disarm and Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, the group's chief said on Wednesday.

[. . .]

"I'm holding on to the weapons of the resistance because I think the resistance ... is the best formula to protect Lebanon and to deter any Israeli aggression," [The group's leader, Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah said in a live interview with Hizbollah's al-Manar television.

[. . .]

They give Chimpy the finger. So what does he do?

[. . .]

Nasrallah's comments came as President Bush tried to clarify remarks in which he left the door open for Hizbollah to have a political role in Lebanon if it disarmed.

[. . .]

What did he call it? Oh yeah, 'resolve'. Didn't we hear that during the campaign? 'President Bush has resolve'. He will see this through'. Yeah, well, that's resolve. He calls for Hizbollah to disarm, they say 'fuck you, make us', and Dicknose has to back down. Know why? Because everybody except the 51% of us who believe the Repub propaganda, knows we're stretched so thinly that we'd have serious problems responding to another crisis. So now everybody feels they can drop their drawers and say 'kiss my ass, you moronic chimp'.

[. . .]

Nasrallah said: "We are ready to remain a terrorist group in the eyes of George Bush to the end of time but we are not ready to stop protecting our country, out people and their blood and their honor."

[. . .]

In New York-ese: 'Shut the fuck up and mind your own goddamn business. We don't give a fuck what you think of us and if you get in our way, we're gonna bust your ass. You come in my neighborhood, you're gonna leave in a bag.'

[. . .]

Bush repeated U.S. demands that Syria withdraw all troops and intelligence personnel from Lebanon to allow for free elections in May.

[. . .]

He can repeat and repeat; that only works in Jesusland. Like I always say, it's hard to fight someone who looks forward to meeting their maker. That's what they don't understand. The best way to fight terrorism is not to kill as many of them as you can, it's to give the people of the region hope. If they have no hope for a future, meeting Allah and the virgins ahead of schedule looks mighty appealing.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


I just found this, something I'd forgotten about. Since we've been on about 9/11 lately, and the fact that the two-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War is coming up this week, I figured I'd post it as a reminder of why Bush has been able to walk all over the Constitution with impunity. His gift from Allah, so to speak. This was written by Mrs. F a couple days after the attack as an explanation to my German relatives.

14 September 2001

Hello there!

I wanted to tell you what has happened here, from my vantage point. This is not to scare you, but to let you know what I have been through and that I have made it out ok.

My office is directly across the street from the World Trade Center. As Birgit [my cousin] may have told you, my office faces the Trade Center, and the Towers are the only thing I truly see from there. If you have seen any of the local maps, they refer to the World Financial Center and the American Express and Merrill Lynch Buildings. My office was on the 44th floor of the Merrill Lynch Building.

I arrived at work at 06:40 hours and was preparing to leave the office at 09:15 with two co-workers to visit a client in New Jersey. We were to have left the building at 09:15 to get the car to drive there. At 08:45, the office was quiet as not everyone had arrived for the day. We heard, what I thought was the sonic boom of a military plane. Richie and I had heard the same sound on one of our cruises when a Coast Guard plane "buzzed" the ship. The next thing after the boom, the building shook. Since all of our windows faced the towers, someone began to cry out, "My God, the plane is going to hit the Tower". Everyone raced to the windows to open the remaining blinds and I was no exception. I watched, in horror as the tail end of the first plane disappeared into the North Tower. At the same time it was disappearing, pieces of the fuselage were falling out of the plane while a huge fireball was coming out of the opposite side. We all stood there for about 45 seconds in total disbelief, thinking this was not real and rather a stunt for a movie script. At this time, I still was unaware the plane was a commercial jet and not a military plane. We believed this was a "freak accident".

My Vice President (the big boss of the department) was of sound mind enough to call out for everyone to evacuate the office. I grabbed my things and ran out, following my co workers through the suite of our office space. We considered this an emergency and walked down the entire 44 floors of the building, only to reach street level, almost directly under the burning North Tower. It appeared to me that my company were the only ones on the stairs. We have over 225 people working for the company, and with everyone coming out at the same time, the exit area was getting crowded. We had some people who had heart conditions. We tried to help them as much as possible down the stairs and out of the building.

We kept moving outside, to allow everyone an area to exit the building. While walking outside, I started to see pieces of the burning building floating down, seeming like a feather, until it impacted the street, and exploded like fireballs on the pavement.

I passed two people, who had apparently been pedestrians on the street, who were struck by burning debris. They were burned so badly, their bones were exposed. They sat, just waiting for someone to help them, while they were obviously in pain, burned, almost beyond recognition.

After being on street level, not more than 2-3 minutes, I kept saying , "We shouldn't be here. We are too close to the area." Just after I said this, I heard the second sonic boom, and the second plane impacted the South Tower, and debris again began to rain down on us. At this time, I was certain we were under attack by terrorists. All of this transpired in just 18 minutes.

We ran through my office building towards the Hudson River, on the West side of "downtown" Manhattan. I kept my "wits" together enough to know we had to continue to get away, moving North of the area. People were in a panic and many of us knew people who worked in the towers. One of the girls who worked in my accounting department had a boyfriend who worked in the Tower, apparently on the floor that was struck first. She was paralyzed with horror.

In the midst of all the confusion, I was able to locate my two immediate bosses. We stayed together and continued to walk North and away from the area. We continued about 15-20 blocks on foot as there were no vehicles to be seen with the exception of emergency vehicles.

We soon saw a taxi cab, that was locked with the driver standing by and watching with horror of his own. We were able to convince him to drive us to Penn Station. We were trying to get on a train to get out of the City as soon as possible.

It took us a long time driving, but we made it to Penn Station by 9:40. I made my way inside and called Richie to tell him I was alive. It was now 0945. People were in a daze trying to figure out what was going on. No one that was in the Midtown area knew exactly what was happening, but they knew it was not good.

There was a train scheduled to leave Penn Station for my home at 10:15. My Manager and I were able to get on the train. We were packed into the train with no room, all hoping against hope to get out of the City.

At 10:30, an announcement was made that the train was cancelled; Penn Station was closed; and we would have to exit the train and get out of Penn Station, only to have to go out on the streets of New York City.

I was trapped in a City under attack, with no hopes of getting home in the immediate future.

My boss and I started walking away from Penn Station in case it was the next to be hit. We were also only two blocks away from the Empire State Building. We feared this may be the next target.

There was no traffic in the streets because the City had effectively been closed. It was surreal to walk in the streets of New York City with no sounds of cars, trucks, busses or overhead planes. People were wandering aimlessly, walking in the middle of the major streets of NYC, without knowing what to do or where to go.

We made our way to 42nd street, and watched, on the large exterior televisions as the Towers collapsed.

All businesses and stores had closed by this time; however; there had been people working on construction sites who had radios on. They allowed us to listen to the news. We walked a little further and stopped by a truck who was stopped with his door open allowing us to listen to a bit more of the news as we continued to walk on.

We attempted to find a hotel to stay in, however, there were none to be found, nor did I really want to think about spending the night in the City.

After wandering for hours, we were told that one of the bridges leading out of the City and towards home would be opened to pedestrians. This was on the East side of town, and "uptown" from where we were. We continued to walk towards the bridge among the masses of people just wandering. We were on a "mission" to get home and out of the City, no matter how far we had to walk.

After a while, we were now at 53rd Street and 3rd Avenue, almost on the East River, and at the midpoint of the island. The subways began working again and we were among the first to get on and get safely out of Manhattan. It took another few hours before I finally made it home at 16:30.

We have remained in the house for the past few days, glued to the television, trying to get as much news about what is happening as possible. The death toll is expected to rise to almost 10,000, if not more. Entire companies of 1500 people or more have been lost. We have no information whether my building, which is considered to be in "ground zero", will ever be able accessible again or not. Telephones are sporadic coming into and out of NY. We are awake now, Friday, since 05:30.

There have been several arrests overnight, where they believe there were three different groups, attempting to get on planes out of Kennedy airport and LaGuardia airport in NY, who were going to try to do more damage.

The World Trade Center was truly a world in itself. There were businesses from at least 15 different countries who had companies and people in the Towers. Japan had 31 companies, most of which were clients of my company. Deutsche Bank had offices there and 4 German nationals are confirmed dead with numerous others listed as currently missing.

What you see on television, if you have been watching, is nothing compared to having been there. It still seems like a bad dream, however, it is not. I have had a lot of pain in my legs from all of the stairs I walked down, and all of the additional walking, however, I sit here and say, "thank goodness I am here to feel the pain".

The people of New York and the surrounding states have pulled together for the rescue efforts. We will get past this and we will come back bigger and better than we were, once we have had the opportunity to grieve and heal.

I wanted you to know that I am ok. That is all for now.
We send our love to you all.

Karen & Richie

Now tell me why we've wasted 1500 young lives in Iraq? Tell me why Osama is still on the loose?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Keeping and bearing

I'm not one for firearms. I never felt the need to own one after I left the military. I don't hunt. Just never felt like shooting anything that didn't pose a threat to me, and I have a soft spot for animals. I don't condemn hunting, I got friends who do, religiously. They enjoy it, more power to 'em. I'll go target shooting with friends once in a while, just to assure myself I ain't lost it (qualified marksman consistently in the military, even got a ribbon, with oak leaf cluster and star device, for it), but I never felt the need to own a gun.

Until now.

When I see this bankruptcy bill being pushed through Congress, when I see all the things the Repubs are doing to stifle free speech, when I see all the hate being purveyed in God's name, I think it's time to build an armory.

If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have told you that things would never get that bad. Lately, I have the feeling they will. Whether the economy tanks and people (desperate and destitute) will want what I have, or whether jackbooted storm troopers march down the streets, I'm gonna be in a position to defend my rights, my family, and my property. At the least, take as many of 'em as I can down before they get to me.

It takes me aback that I feel this way lately, ever since the election. It seems our safety net (the press) has been coopted and the Bush administration, and the Repub Congress, can do as they please with impunity, without question. It feels like we're living in Bizarro World and everybody acts like nothing's wrong. Well there is something wrong, very wrong with this country.

I've come to the realization that I am once more willing to put my life on the line for this country. The country I was raised in. The country that generally respected human rights and protected the rights of Americans. I'm more than willing to fight, and give my life, for that country, whether it means fighting my 'brothers' in the streets, as we did 150 years ago. I am of the opinion lately that is what the Red-Blue divide will come to in the end.

So, beginning this weekend, I start collecting guns. Gonna start with a nice housecleaner. 12 gauge, pump action, riot-style shotgun. Next, something .30 caliber, so that I can hit some asshole a couple hundred yards off. Remember, I still got the touch. And then maybe something fully automatic and totally illegal, but there's a lotta nuts out there and I just might have to clear the street.

So here it is. You wingnuts might be able to pass any unConstitutional, unGodly, stupid fucking laws you want. You can dick with the Constitution. You can fuck with the vote. Go ahead, you got the power. But remember this.

This half-acre plot of land on Long Island that has my last name on the mailbox in front? This is, and always will be, the old America. My America. And the Constitution and Declaration of Independence will always be respected here, even if you Repubs have shit all over them. Do what you want with everyone else if they'll let ya, but don't you dare fuck with me. I'm really pissed.

I'm pissed because I haven't had this mindset since I left the military. Specifically since the day I hit the ground running in Grenada and had to dodge Cuban fire. I'm pissed that you hate-mongers got me back here, to this place in my mind that I've tried my damndest to forget about. You fucked up this time.

You see, deep down, under all the layers of acceptability I've piled on top, I love combat. I don't tell that to many people. My wife knows, because she had to deal with me when I'd wake up screaming in the middle of the night because of what I'd seen and done. She'll probably have to do that again if you guys fuck this nation to Hell and I'm pissed that you're gonna put her through it. Know why? 'Cause if you give me the reason, I will defend myself, my family, and my property, and I'll enjoy killing as many of you as I can before I go. Just ask that squad of Cuban infantry on Grenada, or the two North Korean snipers I chased into a tunnel under the DMZ, when I send you to the same Hell they're in. You're damn right I'm mad. I'm angry as Hell and soon I'm gonna be armed to the teeth. Go ahead, make my fucking day.

You have been warned. See you in Hell.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


I seem to be on a foreign policy thing today, so lets talk about Syria's announced pullback from Lebanon. It offers hope for a people under occupation for 30 years.

BEIRUT, March 5 -President Bashar al-Assad of Syria refused on Saturday to comply with President Bush's demand that he withdraw all of his country's troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon, telling the Syrian Parliament that he planned instead to order a gradual pullback to Lebanese territory near Syria's borders.

[. . .]

Bashir Assad, Syria's president, isn't the model for integrity. You know Syrian intelligence won't leave that quickly, even if the troops do. But this is a hopeful sign. So why is the White House taking such a hard line?

[. . .]

"Anything less - phased withdrawal, partial withdrawal, leaving the intelligence agents in place - is a violation of the resolution," one senior aide said. "How fair an election can Lebanon hold if the troops are there to intimidate voters, people running for election, or people now in office?" [my emphasis]

[. . .]

If we weren't being governed by a bunch of teenagers, a more supportive line could have been advanced. Maybe 'we welcome Syria's intentions to end the occupation of Lebanon and look forward to a speedy withdrawal'? Eh? Sounds a bit more . . . diplomatic, especially in light of this last week:

Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syria captured and handed over Saddam Hussein's half brother, a most-wanted leader in the Sunni-based insurgency, ending months of Syrian denials that it was harboring fugitives from the ousted Saddam regime. Iraq authorities said Damascus acted in a gesture of goodwill. Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who shared a mother with Saddam, was nabbed along with 29 other fugitive members of the former dictator's Baath Party in Hasakah in northeastern Syria, 30 miles from the Iraqi border, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The U.S. military in Iraq had no immediate comment.

You know, if the idiots in Washington would realize that Assad sees the writing on the wall and throw him a little support with the troop withdrawal, it would go a long way in Palestine, maybe among some of the other Arab states, to convince folks that the Americans aren't just out to stake their claim on the region's oil and allow Israel to do as it pleases.

What we are hearing is saber-rattling consistent with what we heard in 2002 when Iraq was in the sights of the Bush administration. Are they trying to achieve 'regime change' in Syria? Are they willing to have another chaotic, failed state on their hands, another breeding ground for terrorists?

The Bush administration is misreading these whispers of democracy in the oppressive regimes in the Middle East as a referendum on its Iraq policy. You hear them saying that freedom is on the march in Palestine, and Eqypt, and Lebanon. It's not because of Bush's policy in Iraq. It's because Arafat died.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

We're #49!

Unlike the Retard Right (© Gordon) who look at our position in the world through Bush-colored glasses, this is where we really stand in comparison to the rest of the world:

  • The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).

  • The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).

  • Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).

  • "The International Adult Literacy Survey...found that Americans with less than nine years of education 'score worse than virtually all of the other countries'" (Jeremy Rifkin's superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).

  • Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!

  • "The European Union leads the U.S. in...the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).

  • [. . .]

    Link via the Mule at Blondie's.

    The one that should really bug folks is this:

  • Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40 percent of our government debt. (That's why we talk nice to them.) "By helping keep mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom" (NYT, Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China, because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.

  • So, next time you hear some Repub asshole going on and on about how we do things so much better in this country, point him to this list and ask him why the Bush administration hasn't done anything to correct the problem.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    De Col' Wind Be Comin' Closah.....

    Feel that cold breeze on the back of your neck? That's a draft. Philip Carter and Paul Glastris make a case for it in a Washington Monthly article. Agree or disagree, they make some good points. Go read. Pack a lunch, it's a long one.
    The only effective solution to the manpower crunch is the one America has turned to again and again in its history: the draft. Not the mass combat mobilizations of World War II, nor the inequitable conscription of Vietnam—for just as threats change and war-fighting advances, so too must the draft. A modernized draft would demand that the privileged participate. It would give all who serve a choice over how they serve. And it would provide the military, on a “just in time” basis, large numbers of deployable ground troops, particularly the peacekeepers we'll need to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

    America has a choice. It can be the world's superpower, or it can maintain the current all-volunteer military, but it probably can't do both.

    All this for a war that most planners consider to be a medium-sized conflict—nothing like what the United States faced in World War I, World War II, or the Cold War. And while threats of that magnitude aren't anywhere on the horizon, there are plenty of quite possible scenarios that could quickly overwhelm us—an implosion of the North Korean regime, a Chinese attack on Taiwan, worsening of the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan, or some unforeseen humanitarian nightmare. Already we have signaled to bad actors everywhere the limits of our power. Military threats might never have convinced the Iranians to give up their nuclear program. But it's more than a little troubling that ruling Iranian mullahs can publicly and credibly dismiss recent administration saber-rattling by pointing to the fact that our forces are pinned down in Iraq.

    What we're increasingly learning from Iraq is that the all-volunteer force, as presently built, cannot do that—indeed, it was consciously designed to be incapable of such deployments. Today's force was built for precisely the kinds of wars that Caspar Weinberger and Colin Powell envisioned in their doctrines: wars with explicit purposes, narrow parameters, and clear exit strategies. In other words, it was built for the kinds of wars the military prefers to fight, not necessarily the kinds of wars we have, as a nation, historically fought.

    The evolution of this force owes much to Vietnam. After that war ended, the nation's senior generals devised a military structure called the “total force” concept to circumvent two of the great moral hazards they identified with Vietnam: the failure to mobilize the nation, with all of its strata and segments, for the war; and the reliance on young American conscripts, who were coerced by the state to kill or be killed.

    Vietnam had been fought almost entirely by active-duty volunteers and conscripts. A great number of young men, including many from the nation's privileged classes, sought refuge in the reserves as a way out of duty in Vietnam. The total force concept entailed, first of all, the splitting of key war-fighting and support functions. Henceforth, active-duty troops would perform nearly all the traditional combat roles; reservists would provide most of the support functions, such as logistics and military policing. This ensured that future wars could not be fought without the heavy involvement of the reserves. Army Gen. Creighton Abrams and other leaders felt that this would be a check on the power of presidents to go to war (yeah, like that worked! -ed.) because mass reserve call-ups typically require a great deal of political capital.

    In theory, one can always lure the next recruit, or retain the next soldier, by offering a marginally higher monetary incentive—but in reality, there are practical limits to such measures. The pool of people who might be convinced to join the Army is mainly comprised of healthy young people with high school degrees but no college plans. That pool is inherently limited, especially when the economy is heating up and there's a shooting war on. Last year, despite signing bonuses in the tens of thousands and other perks, military recruiters had to lower entry standards to meet their enlistment goals. The active force met its recruiting targets for 2004, but the reserves have found themselves increasingly struggling to bring enough soldiers in the door.

    The problem is that under the all-volunteer system it's hard to fix the short-term problem (too few troops now) without creating long-term problems (too many troops later). And so, paying for the salaries and benefits and families of 50,000 or 500,000 extra soldiers on active duty over the course of their careers doesn't, from a military standpoint, make sense. Politically, it would put the senior military leadership in the position of convincing the American people to keep military budgets extremely high to pay for a huge standing army that isn't being used and might not be for years. It might be possible now to convince the public to add another 100,000 soldiers (annual cost: about $10 billion in personnel costs alone, not including equipment and training). But the generals rightly worry that this support will evaporate after Iraq stabilizes. Indeed, Americans have a long tradition dating back to the writing of Constitution, of refusing to support a large standing military unless the need is apparent. (The public paid for a much bigger all-volunteer military in the 1970s and 1980s, but only because of the obvious need to deter a massive Soviet army from threatening Europe; after the Berlin Wall fell, both political parties supported big cuts in troop strength). What we really need is the capability to rapidly mobilize and deploy a half million troops to project U.S. power abroad, and to be able to sustain them indefinitely while maintaining a reserve with which to simultaneously engage other enemies.

    In practice, however, our republic has decided many times throughout its history that a draft was necessary to protect those basic liberties. Even if you disagreed with the decision to invasion of Iraq, or think the president's rhetoric is demagogic and his policies disastrous, it is hard to argue that Islamic terrorism isn't a threat to freedom and security, at home and abroad. Moreover, any American, liberal or conservative, ought to have moral qualms about basing our nation's security on an all-volunteer force drawn disproportionately, as ours is, from America's lower socioeconomic classes. And the cost of today's war is being borne by an extremely narrow slice of America. Camp Pendleton, Calif., home to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, is also home to approximately one-seventh of the U.S. fatalities from Iraq. In theory, our democracy will not fight unpopular wars because the people who must bear the casualties can impose their will on our elected leaders to end a war they do not support. But when such a small fraction of America shoulders the burden—and pays the cost —of America's wars, this democratic system breaks down.

    A better solution would fix the weaknesses of the all-volunteer force without undermining its strengths. Here's how such a plan might work. Instead of a lottery, the federal government would impose a requirement that no four-year college or university be allowed to accept a student, male or female, unless and until that student had completed a 12-month to two-year term of service. Unlike an old-fashioned draft, this 21st-century service requirement would provide a vital element of personal choice. Students could choose to fulfill their obligations in any of three ways: in national service programs like AmeriCorps (tutoring disadvantaged children), in homeland security assignments (guarding ports), or in the military. Those who chose the latter could serve as military police officers, truck drivers, or other non-combat specialists requiring only modest levels of training. (It should be noted that the Army currently offers two-year enlistments for all of these jobs, as well as for the infantry.) They would be deployed as needed for peacekeeping or nation-building missions. They would serve for 12-months to two years, with modest follow-on reserve obligations.

    The war in Iraq has shown us, and the world, many things: the bloody costs of inept leadership; the courage of the average American soldier; the hunger for democracy among some of the earth's most oppressed people. But perhaps more than anything, Iraq has shown that our military power has limits. As currently constituted, the U.S. military can win the wars, but it cannot win the peace, nor can it commit for the long term to the stability and security of a nation such as Iraq. Our enemies have learned this, and they will use that knowledge to their advantage in the next war to tie us down and bleed us until we lose the political will to fight.

    If you think I might have left out a lot, well, I did. This is an excellent piece and you should read it and make up your own fine mind.

    I have felt for years that our Nation needs some kind of National Service to re-acquaint young Americans with the old-fashioned notion that they are actually part of a process. It would help them grow up. They need something.

    Most Americans are spoiled rotten, but the kids are salvageable. Whether they would choose to serve in the military, or dig a village well under a blazing sun, or give aid and comfort to an AIDS sufferer, it would make better people of them. They would realize that life ain't just extreme sports, hip-hop, and rave-ups and then get a big job and screw everybody else, but that some kind of civic involvement is what's necessary to stay tuned and connected to America.

    If more people gave a shit about the reality of life in our country and the world, this administration would never haved succeeded in their coup d'etat. 'Nuff said.