Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cheney afraid to own his words

One of the hallmarks of the Bush administration is that nobody talks on record. It's always the unnamed "highly placed official" speaking on background, but this is ridiculous. In off the record remarks he made during the eighteen minutes he gave the press on his whirlwind world tour of the terrorist zones, Cheney wouldn't put his name to comments that were obviously his own.

The Chicago Tribune only hints that it was Cheney in this piece but it's worth linking to for the photos. And I might mention in passing, with all the brouhaha over Gore's energy use this week, it would be interesting to see how many carbon credits Cheney's little sojourn to Kabul inside a luxury Airstream lounge that had been loaded into the cargo bay of a C-17 cost. But that aside, one can rather see why he wouldn't want to own up to making these comments.
"Let me just make one editorial comment here. I've seen some press reporting says, 'Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.' That's not the way I work. I don't know who writes that, or maybe somebody gets it from some source who doesn't know what I'm doing, or isn't involved in it. But the idea that I'd go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business.''

"The reason the president wanted me to come, obviously, is because of the continuing threat that exists in this part of the world on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border -- a threat to Afghanistan, clearly, in our efforts there, the Taliban, cross-border operations; a threat to Musharraf and his government. There were something like seven or eight suicide bombings in the last week or two in Pakistan. And obviously also, the threat to the homeland from the standpoint of operations and activities of al Qaeda in this part of the world -- for example, you go back to the airliner plot last fall, second generation Pakistani militants living in the U.K., but with ties back in al Qaeda areas along the Pakistan-Afghan border. So we've all got an interest, obviously, in trying to address those issues.''

"I would describe my sessions both in Pakistan and Afghanistan as very productive. We've had notable successes in both places. I've often said before and I believe it's still true that we've captured and killed more al Qaeda in Pakistan than anyplace else. And I think we're making progress in Afghanistan.''
You have to ask yourself why Cheney wouldn't go on record. As a related editorial at MSNBC points out, it couldn't be more obvious that Cheney made them and it certainly doesn't inspire much confidence in his rosy assessment when he won't even own his words. One can only surmise he's afraid of being caught on tape making such atrociously false assurances.
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Feith - I am not a liar

This is funny in a sad way. Doug Feith put a website to prove he is not a liar. In fact he can't believe he's not being treated as a hero.
His office’s work, he writes, should be praised because it uncovered errors in some of the CIA’s work on Iraq. “The CIA has made important errors over the years - think of the Iraqi WMD assessments,” Feith writes. “To guard against such errors, policy officials should be praised, not slapped, for challenging CIA products.”
The comment section on the post pretty well puts Mr. Feith's website into perspective. Pathetic excuses are no less pitifully empty when they're assembled all together on the glowing screen. If anything they become even more wretched.
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Harris pimps his press with apology

Isn't that funny. Here I thought this new "slow bleed" meme was just another clever little slur that some wingut made up but it turns out it was an editorial lie by John Harris, the editor of the new Beltway inzine - Politico.

John Harris is a clever guy. With this psuedo-apology, he manages to to pimp his paper and make himself the story while he protests so much that he never wanted to become the story. That can't be bad for circulation. Who does he think he's fooling?

But I hope the meme keeps going because slowing down the bleeding beats a rapid bleed out any day of the week. I think the latter analogy fits Bush's surge strategy pretty well in terms of what it is doing to our military. I see a Rovian style opportunity here for the Democrats to turn the phrase against their detractors. I don't know why they don't run with it.
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White House agrees to diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria

What are we to make of the White House's abrupt reversal on entering into talks with Iran and Syria? As Steve Benen notes, the Democrats have been proposing this for years. The ISG recommended it when they submitted their report. And the left in general has suffered much derision from White House supporters for suggesting diplomacy of this sort might work out better in the long run than dropping a bunch of bombs in defusing Iran. However, Bush and his various mouthpieces have been adamantly opposed to sitting down at the table with "evil doers." So why the sudden complete reversal?

It could be that someone in the administration read the report that indicated our military readiness is already stretched to the breaking point and we simply can't engage in more military adventurism without seriously compromising our ability to answer real challenges should they come up, much less adquately defend our own soil. It could be that Bush lapsed into some kind of sanity and decided to put the greater good ahead of his own political skin. Maybe there's a new common sense virus making the rounds inside the Beltway?

Nah. I think the Gun Toting Liberal put his finger on it. He points to one telling quote in the NYT.
Iraqi officials had been pushing for such a conference for several months now, but Bush officials refused to sign on until the Iraqi government reached agreement on guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the country’s immense oil industry, administration officials said.
And I think Matthew reads the tea leaves on this one correctly.
Now that the Iraqi government has reached an agreement to share the wealth of it’s very profitable oil fields it is more than okay for the evil doers in the region to sit at a table and talk with our nation. Is it just me or is this the administration you have to always follow the flow of oil and money in order to find out what they will do next? If that is true then hypothetically, if the oil fields in Iraq started to run dry, President Bush would have our troops home in a matter of days! Why would we need our troops there if it was just a damn desert with no economical value to the Republicans United States of America?
If you think about that last sentence, it might explain why the White House has also ignored Afghanistan until this new resurgence of the Taliban and AQ has become impossible to deny as a meaningful threat to our national security. Meanwhile, Joe Gandelman has more cogent thoughts of his own and as always rounds up the best reactions around Blogtopia.

For myself. I don't really care why it's happening. I'm just glad that it appears Bush took his finger off the nuclear trigger -- at least for the moment. One can only hope this fit of sanity lasts for a good long while.
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Delayed Posting

I'm working for the next two days so posting is still going to be sporadic. I hope to have some time this afternoon to get back here but this morning I really had to rebut the Gore smearing going on by my co-bloggers at the Detroit News blog.

But I will be back later.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Miltary readiness hits the skids

A new Congressional report reveals our military readiness is in the danger zone and this report was submitted before the surge started. It confirms what many of us have been saying for over a year and what most of America outside of the remaining dead ender warmongers have finally realized.

Our military is stretched too thin. Not only would a new strike in another country be insane, we can barely protect our own at this point. In simple terms Bush's war games have destroyed our on the ground military superiority. Yeah, we still have air superiority but as Iraq has made painfully apparent, that's just not enough.

In an interesting jutxaposition, the White House via Tony Snow respond to this dismal news by declaring the escalation demonstrates a nimbleness unprecedented in a time of warfare. He doesn't look like he believes it any more than I do, but he is sort of right. It demonstrates an unprecedented low in readiness.

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Taliban taunts Cheney

I'm working again this week so I'm just getting to the news. What a day it's been out there in the greater world. The Dow crashed. A bunch of kids playing soccer died in Iraq and it's not clear who killed them. Baghdad residents are complaining innocent people are being terrorized by the "security" surge. And the Taliban took credit for an attack on the biggest US military base in Afghanistan, saying Dick Cheney -- who made an unscheduled stop -- was their target.

The reports vary wildly but it's clear that a pretty big bomb went off and killed a bunch of people. As assassination attempts go, this one was pretty lame. One assumes an assassin would have to get through much more than one gate to get to wherever the Veep might be. It's clear Cheney was never in physical danger but the real concern is that they knew Cheney was there. In an administration renowned for its secrecy, it doesn't bode well that they couldn't keep this secret. It serves as a grim reminder of how tentative our hold on Afghanistan still is.

Meanwhile, I couldn't bring myself to read more than the blurb, but I see Ms. Malkin has already grabbed her megaphone and is screeching herself hoarse about how this is an attack on all America. I wonder what she proposes to do about it? Bomb them again and destroy the government we installed? Or bomb Pakistan for harboring the Taliban? If you've got the stomach to read her, let me know what she said.

The White House is taking a more tempered approach, attempting to minimize the incident as an isolated attack. One suspects they would prefer people forget that they've been touting Afghanistan as a success story and are hoping that no one considers in light of the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda there, that maybe if we were going to surge some troops, it should have been to where we know the terrorists are -- on the Afghan-Pakistani border -- rather than throw them into the middle of a civil war in Iraq.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Lieberman loves the surge

Lieberman's sorry excuse for an op-ed begs to be fisked, sentence by sentence, but I'm not going to give it that much bandwidth. I can't believe he even had the nerve to sign his name to it. It was probably was probably sent to him straight out of Cheney's office. And it's really hard to even take it seriously when a guy so far removed from reality starts out accusing the Democratic Party of being removed from what is actually happening in Iraq.

He bemoans the bitter dissent over the war in DC, as if it only exists inside the hallowed chambers of the Congress. It's about time we saw some bitter dissent in those halls. The people have been begging for it. Too bad it's only about four years too late to have saved us from this disaster. He then goes on to make every White House talking point on the official list.

This dramatically different surge is "streaming in" an extra 5000 soldiers a month for the next six months to search, destroy and this time for sure, secure. What foolishness. We could put all 130,000 soldiers in Iraq into the center of Baghdad and there's still 6 million Iraqis living there. The odds are really just not with success on this one. Not to mention that the "insurgents," whoever they really might be, are simply leaving the city and spreading their violence around the countryside. So how are we going to ever secure the other 167,000 square miles of Iraq? And much more is it going to cost us in blood and treasure to find out we simply can't?

Holy Joe then throws down the latest Brer Rabbit GOP talking point.
There is of course a direct and straightforward way that Congress could end the war, consistent with its authority under the Constitution: by cutting off funds. Yet this option is not being proposed. Critics of the war instead are planning to constrain and squeeze the current strategy and troops by a thousand cuts and conditions.

Among the specific ideas under consideration are to tangle up the deployment of requested reinforcements by imposing certain "readiness" standards, and to redraft the congressional authorization for the war, apparently in such a way that Congress will assume the role of commander in chief and dictate when, where and against whom U.S. troops can fight.
It's painfully apparent to anyone who doesn't want the Democratic Party to commit political suicide that cutting off the funding is not an option. Democrats aren't that cruel that they would leave the troops that are already stuck in the sand pit without funds. So they propose instead to demand conditions on the money.

Oh the horror. They don't want any kid to be sent into a war zone without proper training and equipment and considering how inept our leadership on this dunderheaded occupation has been, it's about damn time that somebody else took it over. This is exactly why our forefathers established the system of checks and balances. When your president acts like a kid playing with toy soldiers, it's time for the grownups to step in and set some limits, just as one would for any out of control ten year old.

Lieberman ends with the classic neo-con mantra. Just give it six more months and you'll see -- this time for sure it will work. And you if you don't support it, you just want us to lose. But the most deluded graf in the whole piece is probably this one.
In fact, halting the current security operation at midpoint, as virtually all of the congressional proposals seek to do, would have devastating consequences. It would put thousands of American troops already deployed in the heart of Baghdad in even greater danger--forced to choose between trying to hold their position without the required reinforcements or, more likely, abandoning them outright. A precipitous pullout would leave a gaping security vacuum in its wake, which terrorists, insurgents, militias and Iran would rush to fill--probably resulting in a spiral of ethnic cleansing and slaughter on a scale as yet unseen in Iraq.
Halting the operation at midpoint? I guess by the time anything happens, it will be the midpoint but who the hell asked Bush to start the operation when he knew damn well nobody wanted him to send a paltry 20,000 more soldiers into a slaughterhouse? Bush put the troops in that danger. The Democrats didn't. And you have to love this idea that there's all these horrible people just waiting on the border for us to leave so they can rush in. I mean, haven't we in fact, been fighting terrorists, insurgents, militias for the last four years?

Not to mention the administration has been working overtime for the last six months to convince us Iran is already there. The only thing our withdrawal would do is give "them" one less target which couldn't help but diminish the volume of violence. And we wouldn't be killing anybody and contributing to anti-Americanism with innocent collateral damage. That sounds more like victory to me than the idea of openly taking sides in a civil war.

This surge only serves one man and one purpose. It allows George W Bush to once again avoid the embarrassment of admitting he made a mistake and presiding over the inevitable withdrawal of our troops. He would prefer to drag out the occupation long enough to leave that unpleasant task to the next president. All the easier to shift the blame for the failed policy and to continue to bleed the treasury for his crony contractors. Shame on Lieberman for helping him do it.

The piece identifies Holy Joe as "an Independent senator from Connecticut." If I was Connecticut, I'd be embarrassed to claim him.

Meanwhile, Michael van der Galien has a more conservative take. He had me going when he was buying into the Iraq as a central front on terror but taken in context, I thought he made some good points. However, the reaction in the comment section at TMV was mixed.
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Homeless vets a national disgrace

I'm glad to see the current focus on veteran's issues since the WaPo broke the Walter Reed story. Newsweek posts an article on another big problem that has been ignored, homeless veterans. This is not something limited to returning Iraq vets. This has been going on since at least Vietnam.

I've known many Nam vets who ended up homeless and strung out on booze and drugs. They came home and were abandoned by our government once they served their purpose as cannon fodder for politicians who love to wage wars. Most suffered from PTSD and many also came back physically disabled. I watched over the years as they steadily declined, lost in depression and their own dark memories that never faded. Most of them are dead now; mostly of heroin overdoses.

These kids go into the military thinking, based on the recruiter's promises, that the army will take care of them when they get out. Instead they're thrown to the bureaucratic wolves without the skill or the energy to negotiate the labyrith of regulations and outright trickery that robs them of their benefits. Those that entered service at 18 and 19 don't have the life experience or education to figure out how to dig themselves out of the hole, so they inevitably dig themselves in deeper.

The Iraq vets have it even worse because they come to a country that barely acknowledges the war that robbed them of their youth and their peace of mind, yet the VA has few services and long waiting lists for the treatments that are available. Few can outlast the bureaucratic tangle and simply disappear. No one tries to find them but they're not so difficult to track down. Go to any dive bar in any town and you'll find at least one sitting alone, nursing drink after drink in an effort to obscure their demons. They stay for hours until they stumble out finally numb enough to face the world that cheerily goes on around them, apparently oblivious to their plight. They have no place else to go.

No matter how you feel about the war, these guys served their country. It's criminal that their country now refuses to return the favor when they so clearly need help.
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White House too unethical for Negroponte

Think Progress posts a clip from an interview with Sy Hersh on his latest article that expands on the points I made in this post yesterday and says the most explosive revelation he discovered is that the White House is spending buckets of money on covert operations without oversight or authority from the Congress. Hersh says:
“We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.”
This is part of the administration's new strategy for damage control. Having finally realized they empowered Iran and Shia extremists by continuing the occupation of Iraq, they are now funding Sunni extremists with black money. These are the guys who are killing our troops and want to -- as Bush is fond of saying -- do us harm. These are the al Qaeda types that Cheney claims the Democratic Party is empowering by insisting the White House justifies its actions. I guess Cheney thinks rhetoric is more useful to the AQ than hard cold cash. And this could certainly explain some of those missing and misspent billions of dollars we funneled into Iraq. But I find the revelation about Negroponte even more interesting.
BLITZER: Your bottom line is that Negroponte was aware of this, obviously, and he wanted to distance himself from it? That is why he decided to give up that position and take the number two job at the State Department?

HERSH: He — that is one of the reasons, I was told. Negroponte also was not in tune with Cheney. There was a lot of complaints about him because he was seen as much of a stickler, too ethical for some of the operations the Pentagon wants to run.
Those of you who remember Iran-Contra and Negroponte's role in the death squads there will appreciate the irony of this situation. I've been pretty hard on Negroponte since he joined the administration but maybe he found a conscience in his later years. All I can say is if the White House is so unethical that Negroponte doesn't want to be associated with them, they must be behaving in an extremely criminal manner indeed.
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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wrongheaded wingnuts fail to amuse

I wasn't going to bother to dignify Patrick Ruffini's lame post with a response, but Radley Balko did such a great takedown of Ruffini's absurd premise, that I'm going to send you over there. Radley gets quote of the day with this zinger of a closing.
I wish I could say that it's merely amusing to watch politicians and war supporters play with other people's lives to save themselves the embarrassment of having wasted so many lives already. "If only we send a few thousand more other peoples' kids into harm's way, this whole "remap the Middle East" plan will finally start to materialize. Then you'll see. We were right all along."

Alas. It's not amusing. It's horrible. And infuriating. And sad.
I might add scary since the warmongers' current trajectory seems to be headed for a direct hit on a disaster that will make Iraq look like the cakewalk they claimed it would be.
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What's the matter with the media?

Jesus General has a thought provoking post on how our media is failing in their time honored mission of informing Americans and Joe Gandelman expands on that theme. Both are must read posts if you're interested in media issues.

Meanwhile, James Joyner disagrees and says the fluff pays the bills. He goes on to say there's "no dearth of good reporting on matters of war, international affairs, and domestic public policy. Indeed, there’s more of it than most of us can keep up with." But he misses the point.

Those stories get short shrift when the focus is on Anna Nicole 24/7 for days on end and they don't sink into the public consciousness with a two minute news item tucked into endless speculation about who the father of Smith's baby is. It's well established that the average person needs three repetitions to retain information. For those of us who actively seek out the news, we can still find it in the dregs of the coverage but the average Jake isn't getting it. All they have to work with is badly skewed Limbaugh soundbites designed to promote disinfo.

I gave up on televised news years ago. I get my info almost solely from the internet and the odd print source. But the taxpayer is subsidizing the media industry with billions of dollars worth of free access to the airwaves and deserves a better product. They're never going to get one while the competition is limited to five or six major corporations. It's time to break up the monopolies and bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

Joyner points out that megacorps can absorb losses better than small operators but the losses were only initally incurred because the independent news sources were forced to compete with deep pocket corps who offered a dumbed down product that was more palatable to the public's purient interests and could contain costs with consolidation. If we leveled the playing field, and opened it back up to more players, we could restore some honesty to journalism and limit the ability of the spin machine to drive the news cycle.

The only downside I see in that is to the profit margins of the media mega-corps. I'm all for capitalism but sometimes what's good for business isn't necessarily good for America. This is one of those times.

[cross posted to The Reaction]


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Bush's trigger finger getting itchier over Iran

If you had any lingering doubts that the Bush administration is spoiling for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, this should remove them.
Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush.
This Reuters piece quotes from a longer article in The New Yorker by Sy Hersh, who lays out the latest insider buzz on the "redirection" of White House Middle East policy. Apparently even in the dim reaches of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the reality that the occupation of Iraq has strengthened Iran's status in the region has finally penetrated the conventional neo-con wisdom.

It appears the new strategy is to empower the Sunnis, who are the group that is inflicting the most casualties on our troops, in order to contain the influence of the new Shia government in Iraq and mitigate its growing alliance with Iran. And as is usual in this White House, the behind the scenes action is being conducted in compete secrecy, even from our own government agents who should rightly be included in the planning.
A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)
Yeah, well that's what they said right up until the moment they invaded Iraq and they also conducted "contingency" drills beforehand, so forgive me if I find the denials less than assuring. Maybe instead of reading My Pet Goat, Bush should have been reading the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Granted at the moment, this is as usual based on unnamed sources but taken within historical context of the runup to Iraq, Americans should be taking this news very seriously and consider whether we're in more danger from Iran or from a White House that is so willing to again gamble our future on half-baked strategies in order to save face for the president.

Bush has got nothing to lose. Any new mess he starts now will endure well past his presidency, assuming he actually plans to give up the office when the time comes, as will the current debacle in Iraq. How many times can we afford to allow him to fail us before the American people ask him to step down for the greater good?

Update: Michael van der Galien at TMV doesn't think it's such a bad thing to be threatening airstrikes and rounds up some reactions from Blogtopia that don't necessarily agree with him, while Cernig shorthands the key points of Hersh's piece with his usual impeccable precision. I'm with Cernig - I can hear those war drums in the distance and I can't say that I like it.

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Generals ready to resign over Iran

The Times of London is reporting on dissent at the top over the White House's increasingly disturbing stance on Iran.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
This is big. Generals don't resign lightly after spending a lifetime working to achieve their rank and it certainly belies Bush's oft repeated assurances that he is listening to his military commanders in plotting strategy. Coupled with Cheney's recent belligerent remarks about leaving all options on the table that heavily imply an airstrike is imminently possible, Defense Secretary Gates assurances that we are not planning to attack Iran ring even more hollow.

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Effin' Blogger

I'm late in posting today because these ratsin-fratsin idiots finally made me switch over to the new version. My old blog Last One Speaks is totally screwed up. Who knows what's going to happen here. I am so pissed, if I knew how to import to a new format I'd go out there and switch this puppy to its own domain right now.

Anyway, since I'm too technodumb to do that, here's hoping I can make this ridiculos thing work.
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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boys and their toys - gun owners return fire

I didn't expect to spend this much time today thinking about guns. Not unlike the unfortunate Mr. Zumbo, I also put up a throwaway post this morning venting a little ire, that I didn't expect anyone to read. Happily I received some thoughtful comments on the post, including one from gunblogger Kevin Baker at The Smallest Minority who offered to continue the dialogue. I decided to start a new post with my reply:

Kevin, I just spent a lot of time at your place, and I also say this meaning no offense, I learned a little more about guns and lot more about angry gun owners. As far as poor Mr. Zumbo, I have to go with Rocky on this. I looked at your arguments and what I'm seeing is an all or nothing, with me or against me mentality that does far more damage to your cause than one stray remark by someone I never would have heard of if you didn't just ruin his life.

No amount of apology or explanation is enough? No possible penance but his complete destruction is satisfactory to atone for one effing, off the cuff remark that no one outside of the gun community, or the anti community, would have heard of without this blitz of outrage? I look at this as a non-owner who supports your rights and I see an old guy who has to be what, in his mid-60s anyway, who put up what he thought would be a throwaway post. Maybe it wasn't that well thought through but a guy of his age gets tired out after a day of hunting and doesn't think as fast as a young buck with an AR-15 on his hip.

It was one post, one careless remark and he's suddenly descended upon by thousands of AK owners that resemble nothing so much as ravenous pack of wolves. Where is your humanity, people? And if it feels that frightening to me, think about how it's going to play on the gun control side. It totally feeds into the whole stereotype of semi-auto owners as a bunch of maniacal sociopaths gleefully spraying the countryside with bullets.

You're worried that Zumbo was trying to drive a wedge between the two groups? No offense, but you guys are the ones that just split the ranks and all you've done is feed the disinfo machine you say is victimizing me.

I see this as a total PR disaster for your side and the only way I see to rescue it now is for the gun owners to get together and decide to forgive poor old Zumbo, accept his apology and blitz the internets with emails asking he be reinstated. And I say this because I want you to get to keep your guns and I think this whole sorry episode has taken you a big step in the wrong direction.

All that being said, and this is alreadly overlong, I really do appreciate your willingness to educate me on the attraction of semi-auto weapons as a hunting gun. What I know about guns overall would fit on the broad side of a dime, but this is what I think I know about semis. They're built to be durable under stress, meaning multiple firings in a short time span and repeated firings without requiring some kind of maintainence. They hold a large round of bullets, 30 wouldn't be unusual. If you use the gun to go hunting, you can't load more than 5 at a time anyway. You tell me they're more accurate, but the piece I linked to earlier said they use a smaller caliber bullet and have a greater chance of wounding rather killing a deer outright and so aren't allowed in many places already.

So with the understanding that this is the sum total of my knowledge, I'm telling you that what I see is a gun that sounds like it would be a hell of a lot of fun at the shooting range where you could empty a 30 round, but that you can't use as it's designed to be enjoyed as a hunting gun anyway. So I'm asking this honestly because I just don't get it and I really do want to understand, what is so bloody important about hunting with one these guns that would justify destroying the livelihood of one single farookin senior citizen who dared to suggest you shouldn't be allowed to do it?

The man made a passing remark. He wasn't calling for legislation and the formation of citizen's action groups. With due respect, I ask you to think about the same quote you left for me.
"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately." - Ben Franklin.
And I ask every one of you who took this poor old man down, have you never in your whole life made one remark you wanted to take back? I know I have, so I'm not so quick to judge the entirety of a man's life and future intent based on a single sentence uttered in exhaustion. If you can't find it in your hearts to forgive such a small slight, you're not going to win any hearts and minds of the non-owners and frankly such a cold attitude makes it all the more difficult for people like me to lend any warmth to our support of your cause.
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Bin Laden no big deal

The Army's highest-ranking officer says getting bin Laden is not important.
"So we get him, and then what?" asked Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, at a Rotary Club of Fort Worth luncheon. "There's a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today.
I agree with that. Any psychological advantage to killing him was lost years ago and getting him "dead or alive" now would only elevate Osama to legendary martyrdom and probably inspire legions of new recruits anxious to avenge his death. But here's the quote that rankles.
Schoomaker pointed to the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killings of his sons, Uday and Qusay, and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence that the capture or death of al-Qaeda's leader would have little effect on threats to the United States.
Excuse me, but my attention span isn't quite so short that I don't remember all of these guys being held up by the White House at one time or another as the bogeymen that justified the continuing occupation of Iraq. We had to take them out in order to bring peace and posperity to Iraq and protect the homeland from "terrorist types." Now he's admitting they were straw men thrown up to bamboozle Americans into supporting the war?

Schoomaker merely echoes Cheney who last year remarked that taking out Osama wouldn't solve the problem of terrorism.
"He's not the only source of the problem, obviously. . . . If you killed him tomorrow, you'd still have a problem with al-Qaeda," the vice president said.
I'd agree with that as well but it does raise the question that if killing the kingpins doesn't solve the problem, how does killing the lowly henchmen under them do any more good? It's simply not possible to kill every single AQ member. Which raises the further question, how then can the White House justify escalating our presence in Iraq in order to "fight terrorists there," rather than bringing our troops home in order to bolster our defenses here?

The fact is we're not fighting terrorists in Iraq. We're acting as referees in a civil war. You don't have to be a military tactician to see the folly in deploying the bulk of our military might into that role rather than employing them in our own defense. At the least, our National Guard should be immediately brought home to do the job they signed up for -- defending the nation and our regular troops should be redeployed to where they would be fighting real terrorists, instead of being burdened with the impossible task of preventing the Iraqis from killing each other.

[cross posted to The Reaction]
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Rumor based diplomacy or is Israel crazy?

I've been watching the headlines build on this all morning, but I've been waiting to post because I was sure Cernig would make sense of it and he doesn't disappoint. He knocks down the Telegraph's alarm with a few well placed kicks to the syntax and rounds up the almost immediate denial and the on-line reactions.

The consensus among cooler heads seems to be this is just another case of "leak diplomacy" tactics conducted via well placed false rumors. I'd agree and one would hope we are right about this. The only thing possibly crazier than the US bombing Iran would be to have Israel conduct preemptive bombing and allowing them do it by flying over Iraqi airspace.
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Krauthammer cracks up on Iraq

Krauthammer slips into his virtual high heels and pearls and goes into full White House steno mode today with this lame screed against the Democratic majority's well-advised plan to revoke the use of force resolution that currently allows Bush to practice his insanity unfettered by any parameters. He starts by ignoring the voluminous evidence that has been uncovered about the White House's cooked intel and claims the Congress enacted the resolution in full awareness of the pre-invasion situation on the ground in Iraq.

He then throws the usual defeatist taunt, claiming the Democrats don't want to win in Iraq, and as is customary among the Bushspeakers, fails to define what victory might be, nor can he quote a single Democrat who has actually said they don't want to win. Charles apparently can't comprehend that admitting the mission has failed takes more courage than obstinately and unrealistically denying that it can't be won.

He goes on to accuse the Dems of political cowardice for failing to simply cut off the war funds and leave the troops high and dry, couching that as the only choice between supporting an ill-advised escalation and stemming the current occupation's fast bleeding of our troops and treasure. This is like saying your patient is dying of a gunshot wound and your only choice is to either shoot him a couple of more times so he'll bleed out faster or walk away if don't have the guts to put him down like a race horse with a broken leg.

But Charlie attempts to put a serous spin on his silly musings. He says "[t]here is something exceedingly strange about authorizing the use of force -- except for combat." Of course that's not what the Democratic proposal is saying at all. It would authorize the use of force for necessary combat only -- not for unrealistic interventions in foreign civil conflicts and imperalistic adventurism.

And of course Chuckles must find a way to slip in the obligatory new, no doubt Rove invented, catchphrase by accusing the Dems of "slowly bleeding" our forces. Slowing down the bleeding would be a more appropriate analogy for what the Dems are trying to do. You apply a torniquet to a bleeding man to save him. You don't cut his jugular vein to save his life, which is effectively what the surge policy is doing to our military.

Yep, Chuck did a bang up job on this hit piece. Cheney will be so pleased he'll probably let Krauthammer sit on his lap to take dictation for the next one.
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Is the AG's purge setting the stage for martial law?

No competency goes unpunished in the Bush administration. Yet another US Attorney with an exemplary record has been fired by the White House. Sources confirm that Michigan's U.S. attorney Margaret Chiara, is the 8th victim in the ongoing upheaval of our federal courts. USAG Gonzales continues to insist the terminations are performance based -- well except for Karl Rove's friend -- and not a political witchhunt, but even Captain Ed isn't buying that excuse when their evals were consistently good prior to their termination. The real reasons seem rather clear.
Nearly all of the dismissed prosecutors had positive job reviews, but many had run into political trouble with Washington over immigration, capital punishment or other issues, according to prosecutors and others. At least four also were presiding over high-profile public corruption investigations when they were dismissed.
The terminated AGs are being replaced with White House loyalists who are long on political connections but short on legal experience. Worse yet they are being appointed to indefinite terms without having to be confirmed by the Senate, which was the customary manner in which replacements would be made. This little trick was made possible by a sneaky little provision slipped into the reauthorization of the Patriot Act by the White House at the last minute.

You remember the Patriot Act, that 342 page set of new rules that was purportedly passed to allow the government to circumvent our civil rights in order to "protect" us against terrorists. Can anyone figure out how exactly this provision is aiding in that mission?

This is clearly not a performance based housecleaning -- it's an ideological purge. Wiser minds than mine are speculating this has something to do with the death penalty. But taken together with another recent "dead of night" provision slipped into a defense bill by the White House effectively negating posse comitatus, I think it gives the warnings of myself and others about the danger of an impending police state a whole lot more creedence.
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Boys and their toys - gun owners gone wild

I don't know much about guns. I've never fired one but the men in my family have always owned a pretty good collection and I'm one of those lefties that supports the right to bear arms. I'm not a proponent of gun control. I think that's as ridiculous as the invasive security checks you endure to get on an airplane. Meaning it's a regulation to create the illusion of safety while providing almost none. I believe gun control won't solve crime and would merely take guns out of the hands of law abiding sportsmen.

That being said however, I have to admit I've always had a bit of a problem with so-called assault weapons, particularly being used in hunting. I don't see anything sporting about being able to squeeze off a blitz of bullets to take down an animal. And after seeing what happened to Jim Zumbo for voicing his opinion on the unsportsmenlike nature of hunting with those guns, I have to say I'm now questioning the wisdom of allowing their possession.
"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site. The Feb. 16 posting has since been taken down. "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. . . . I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles."
Okay the terrorist remark was a little insulting but he was talking about people who go out and annihilate prairie dogs with them. Zumbo is right. If you need an semi-automatic weapon to take out a 12 inch, two pound prey, you're not much of a hunter in my book. But even if we're both wrong about that, the over the top response of the assault weapon owners, effectively destroying this man's career, causes me to question the mental stability of people who own them and can't take a little criticism. Do we really want people like this to be roaming the fields and forests with these guns?

As I said, I don't know much about them. A quick google search brings me to this guy who says they're less lethal than ordinary guns and require one pull per bullet. I find that hard to reconcile with this manufacturer's ad for a gun that is capable of pumping out 750 rounds per minute. Is it even possible to squeeze a trigger that many times in a minute? Not to mention that I've heard it's not that complicated to modify a semi-automatic weapon to automatic status.

I'm still not ready to say people shouldn't be allowed to own them. While I don't really understand the attraction, I can imagine for those who do, it could be fun to shoot off rounds with such a weapon. But it should be limited to target shooting and not used for hunting. I see anything sporting about it and that was the point that Zumbo was making.

Shame on the gun owners for destroying the man simply for pointing that out. They do their cause harm by displaying such unreasonable and intractable anger over a simple remark. It's exactly this kind of behavior that alarms the Americans who don't shoot for sport and reinforces their support for gun control.

Update: The always courageous anon, shows up in comments to diss my links. Apparently I linked to a machine gun and not a semi. He goes on to say that Zumbo "deserved" what he got. What claptrap. Nobody deserves the treatment Zumbo endured for one offhand remark, for which he apologized. Like these Rambos never said one thing in their whole life they regretted?

My understanding is Zumbo was a strong lifelong advocate for gun ownership and sports hunting, who represented hunters well. This hysterical response makes these guys look like a bunch of unreasonable, hot-headed hooligans and destroys the credibility of their cause. I can't think of a better way to scare the non-owners of guns, who are in the majority, into supporting gun control.

Meanwhile, if anybody else wants to complain about my links I would appreciate a pointer to someplace where I could see the specs, since I'm genuinely interested in how anyone could justify using such a high caliber weapon and still call it sports hunting.

[graphic][Thanks to Real Clear Politics for the link]
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Friday, February 23, 2007

Putting on the hits at Fox

Fox News, apparently encouraged by the abysmal reviews of the new "comedy" program they created to be a counterpoint to The Daily Show, is launching yet another fiasco based on blogs to be fronted by the reliably insipid Michelle Malkin.

I wasn't going to blog about this since I don't watch much television but Paul the Spud at Shakespeare's Sister put up such a hilarious post, I'm going to send you over there to read it. If Fox wants this show to fly, they should hire Paul to write the content.
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Painting over perfidy

Dana Millbank posts an artful column on the Pentagon's whitewash at Walter Reed. I loved this part.
After the media tour of Building 18, the Army's surgeon general gave a news conference. "I do not consider Building 18 to be substandard," he said of a facility Priest and Hull found full of "mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses" and other delights. "We needed to do a better job on some of those rooms, and those of you that got in today saw that we frankly have fixed all of those problems. They weren't serious, and there weren't a lot of them."

Kiley might have had a stronger case if men wearing Tyvek hazmat suits and gas masks hadn't walked through the lobby while the camera crews waited for the tour to start, or if he hadn't acknowledged, moments later, that the entire building would have to be closed for a complete renovation.
The miltary brass rushed in the press to inspect the "improvements" before the paint was even dry but as it has been pointed out repeatedly, the problems at Walter Reed are systemic and can't be fixed by an emergency call for surface repairs. Nor is it limited to one facility.

The military's neglect of our veterans has been going on for decades and has only been subjected to scrutiny now because of the dismal treatment of the war wounded. I fear once the cameras disappear, so will the sense of urgency to address the core concerns of those who held up their end of the bargain to risk their lives to protect our country, only to find themselves tossed aside like outdated munitions once they've served their purpose.
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On a blogroll

I finally have a few days off but it's been so hectic I don't remember whether I've mentioned the latest updates to the blogroll. Heck my schedule has been so insane I don't even remember what day of the week it is without checking, but in case I neglected to mention it, I've added Kevin Hayden's American Street recently. The Street is one of the older leftie blogs in Blogtopia and the link was long overdue. Be sure to check out Kevin and his co-bloggers fine work regularly.

I also added Cernig's News Hog. Also long overdue since I've been reading Cernig's astute analysis and stellar snark forever but neglected to add him. He must get up at the crack of dawn every day since he always beats me to the latest buzz and he often adds historical context that you might have forgotten about. You should also be checking him regularly.

And my pal in Singapore, ExPat Brian has new digs. I love the new look and he's still serving up the same good work as always. Click over and say hello.
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Padilla case a national disgrace

Testimony on Jose Padilla's mental competence to stand trial reveals that he is unable to assist in his own defense because of a mental breakdown caused by the Abu Ghraib style interrogation tactics used on him in a prison right here in the United States. In essence, he has been punished before he was convicted of a crime.

Jose Padilla was probably not a model citizen before he was arrested but I doubt he's a terrorist. If the government had any proof that he was, they would be charging him with terrorism instead of some lame vague conspiracy charge they were forced to bring forward when the Supreme Court was about to rule they were illegally holding him as an "enemy combatant. But even he was a terrorist, he is also a US citizen who is entitled to full protection of the law.

If he was guilty, the rule of law requires that he be judged so by the courts. Instead he was robbed of due process and his sanity by government interrogators who circumvented the primary protections that prevent any one of us from being summarily snatched off the street at the whim of one man in a misuse of power. That's not only a disgrace, it's a dangerous threat to the very foundation of the legal system that formerly defined the difference between America and other tyrannical regimes.

Update: Naomi Klein in The Guardian points out that what happened to Padilla has been deliberately inflicted on hundreds, and possibly thousands, of prisoners around the world.

[Thanks to Michael van der Galien at TMV for the link]
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Why does the right hate Americans?

Quote of the day goes to The Carpetbagger Report from this post on Glenn Beck, the latest wrongwing critic to disparage his fellow citizens.
To hear Beck explain it, Americans are awful. We are immoral. We deserve to be reviled. Those nasty things said about us in the Middle East are all true.

And somehow, we’re told that the left isn’t patriotic enough? Someone really ought to remind conservatives like Beck that you can’t love America if you hate Americans.
One of the greatest mysteries of the current political climate is how these hatemongers have been allowed to wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism while simultaneously doing everything in their power to destroy those citizens who hold opposing views. I can't think of anything more unAmerican.
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We like oversight - GOP corruption under scrutiny

With the latest blizzard of fear-mongering blowing out of the White House, the old stories about the culture of GOP corruption have been obscured but happily for those who love accountability, somebody is still paying attention. Justice Department shenanigans are in the spotlight with revelations that a top Justice Department lawyer, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, bought a million dollar home with her secret lover, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, in partnership with a key lobbyist for an oil company over which she had oversight. Coincidentally that same company received a favorable ruling from Ms. Wooldridge in gaining a reprieve from an expensive environmental cleanup.

Steve Benen lays out the narrative in an easy to follow soap opera format. As he notes, so many of the story lines about GOP corruption in the last five years resembles fictional plots. But then, maybe it's not so surprising that a party and its president, who take testimony from science fiction writers on scientific matters, would look to crime novelists for their game plans.
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Take my Connecticut Senator... please

Co-dependent Joe Lieberman is threatening to make his Republican status official on account of his disapproval of the Democratic Party's current attempts to curtail the White House madness in the Middle East. Since, as The Political Insider points out, this will have no meaningful effect on the balance of power in the Senate, I'd say good riddance. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out Joe.

Of course I doubt if he'll really go through with it. As a declared Republican he wouldn't command the attention he now enjoys as a Republican disguised as an alleged independent Democrat. And if we learned anything about Holy Joe in the last year, it's that he loves to be in the spotlight.
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Ain't going to underwrite war no more...

Well, it's about time. I've been calling for this for weeks now. If we're to endure political theater then let it be serious drama rather than Keystone Kops comedy over non-binding positions. The Senate is finally talking about revoking the war resolution that got us into Iraq and redrafting it to better fit the present day circumstances.

Murtha's proposal to at least require humane parameters for deployment has been declared all but dead in the water. I didn't hate that one, but this is so much better. I don't know that it will stop Bush in his loopy quest for historical significance as a "war president" but one hopes it will at least slow him down and echoing the language of the widely accepted Iraq Study Group's proposals was a canny move that deflects a lot of potential GOP smearing points. I would suggest however, the Senate doesn't drag its feet quibbling over the details since this statement is troubling.
The White House said Friday that the 2002 authorization is still active and in place, and that the administration plans to wait until legislation is completed before taking a stand.

"I'm not going to talk about hypothetical legislation," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "Obviously, the president intends, and his focus is on, having the resources and flexibility to carry out our operations on the ground. We don't know where they're going. The Democrats seem to be clearly divided on what they're going to do."
I read that to mean the White House can see their grand plans are about to be thwarted and may just move up their timetable to avoid Senate intervention. Cornering a savage beast is a dangerous business. If anyone over there listened to me, I'd urge the Senate to move swiftly and decisively on this before the White House pre-empts them.
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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dumb polls and silly statistics soothe the wrongwingers

I'm crawling through the last day of this ridiculously brutal rotation and only have a minute to post, so just this short take on the wrongwingnuts current desperation to convince anybody, including themselves I guess, that their extremist position reflects mainstream America. The right wing rag, the New York Post got the ball rolling yesterday with this really silly poll conducted by a Republican polling company with a sample of 800 respondents. They claim the results prove that most of America approves of the surge, disapproves of troop withdrawals and not only wants to "win" in Iraq, but believes "victory" is possible.

This is of course, complete claptrap. I understand the polling methods were heavily criticized and the questions were just dumb. I mean really. Who is going to say no when asked if one would like to see the US win in Iraq. I think Bush is the most inept president this country has ever suffered through. I loathe every decision he's made on foreign policy and I believe his domestic policies present a greater threat to our country than all the terrorists in the world could hope to be, but I would answer yes if asked if I would like to see us win. I would also like to see victory defined but they didn't ask that question. Pure silliness.

But the poll looks like a Mensa test compared to the much touted Victory Caucus invented by Glenn Reynolds and his big shot Wrongtopians. I'm not even sure what it's supposed to accomplish outside of convincing the remaining extremist war-nuts that they don't belong in a psyche ward for the permanently deluded, but as Glenn Greenwald so aptly illustrated, a ten year old could figure out the statistics Instapundy touted were as fake as Anna Nicole Smith's breasts.

These PJ Media guys think they have the public bamboozled with their little circle jerk trick. They invent the news and then link to each other endlessly, creating a Romulus Mobius strip of buzz that goes nowhere but back to themselves. This apparently is good enough to fool some idiot investor who put millions into their charade but it ain't selling in Peoria.

The Victory Caucus is their latest "tipping point" novelty item and sure enough, they did pump up the hits to 30,000 for a day or two via relentless incestuous linking but as the site meter shows, all that boasting about how there really is a majority of Americans who believe Iraq can still be "won" is as empty as their current hit count.

[Thanks to PlaguePuppy for the correction]
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Insurgents refine tactics with new bomb methodology

The insurgents in Iraq have yet another new trick up their sleeve this week. This new development illustrates why the mightiest armed force in the world, (that would be us), has been unable to quell a few thousand guerrilla fighters in four years. It's not that they're smarter. It's certainly not that they're better equipped. It's because they're agile and able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. While the ponderous bureaucracy of our civilian commanders ponders what would be best for the welfare of the military-industrial complex, which usually involves multi-billion dollar investments in futuristic technology, the insurgencies -- unfettered by profit-making concerns -- fight their battles with determination and creative use of whatever weaponry they have on hand.

Thus the insurgents, however they are to be defined, discovered chlorine gas is effective as a terrorizing agent. Fortunately, they're still learning how to use it so the death toll has been relatively low so far, but this tactic has great potential to do greater harm as they learn to refine their methods.

In further evidence of the insurgents growing sophistication as they learn the lessons in the training ground of Iraq, their new tactic of targeting helicopters is proving effective on multiple levels. I'm frankly surprised they didn't do more of this earlier. It denies our troops air support, it reliably makes the news cycle and it costs us almost $6 million a pop every time they take one down. It makes blowing up $140,000 Humvees look like chump change.

But the real lesson that should concern us here is that despite Bush and Co.'s repeated mantra, fighting the terrorists in Iraq is not keeping them too occupied to try another strike in the US. I feel certain there is nothing in the terrorist's manual that says you may not strike other targets as long as the US occupies a certain country.

As Kevin Drum pointed out in an excellent post yesterday, the real danger is, as the terrorists refine their urban warfare tactics such as in the use of these new chlorine gas bombing attacks, it would be a simple matter for a homegrown cell here to employ this tactic on a vulnerable target in the US. For instance a successful attack on a chemical plant or an oil processing facility, which are virtually unprotected because Homeland Security refuses to mandate any safety regulations in that regard for US industries - particularly those that contribute to political campaigns, could cause a great deal of death and destruction and cost virtually pennies to accomplish.

As Kevin points out it would cost a few billion to enhance protections for the vulnerable targets here at home, but compared to the "wisdom" of sinking hundreds of billions into the fantasy that the occupation is keeping terrorists at bay, it's a small investment in the interests of meaningful steps towards real national security.

[Thanks to Raw Story for the link]
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Reynolds bedongs himself

Glenn Reynolds is beclowning around trying to defend himself against the justified mockery his insipid column on assassinating civilians engendered around Blogtopia, now that it leaked into the mainstream media with an op-ed by Paul Campos. It's no surprise Reynolds was reduced to inarticulate and incomprehensible analogies to justify the unjustifiable premise of his post.

In fact, Reynolds was dancing around faster than the hapless fool dodging the gunslinger's bullets in an old time Western when one of his more intelligent supporters came up with this new word -- beclowned -- that he immediately co-opted to the delight of his fan base. Now Reynolds and his remaining loyalists are playing with their new insult with a zeal usually reserved for pubescent boys who discovered masturbation feels good.

Well, anyone can play at stupid insult coinage so I give you bedonged, which means starving the brain cells by concentrating one's energy on the appendage usually reserved for pissing contests, to the point where tangential and irrelevant talking points and an unnatural fixation on silly words substitutes for actual intellectual debate and leads those who are afflicted by the condition to believe they have scored some sort of victory.

Call me consumed with my own cleverness, but I think it's a lot better word than beclowned and rather fits the situation perfectly.

[Thanks to Scott at LGM for the link]
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Look Spot. See Dick play the fool.

Of course Cheney thinks Blair's slap in the face announcement that Britain will be pulling their troops out of Iraq on an expedited schedule is a good thing. The man has never seen a set-back or disaster in Iraq as anything but a positive sign that the insurgency is in "its last throes." The wholesale bailing of the pathetic remains of the "coalition of the willing" in Cheney's world can only mean that the security situation is improving. And hell, he "knows a guy" who drove all the way to Basra last week and told him it was a lot better than it was a year ago. Gee whiz, according to Dick things are going so well, one has to wonder why he's so all fired up about the escalation of troops in Baghdad. If it's as rosy as big Dick says, we shouldn't even need a "troop surge."

But more interesting is his criticism of the Democratic Party's challenge to the surge.
Cheney said Pelosi and other Democrats were pushing a policy in Iraq that would "validate the al Qaeda strategy."

"I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy," Cheney told ABC News.

"The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to convince us to throw in the towel and come home and then they win because we quit," he said.

"I think that is exactly the wrong course to go on," Cheney said. "I think that is the course of action that Speaker Pelosi and Jack Murtha support. I think it would be a mistake for the country."
Um Dick, do you mean kind of like what you and the Boy Blunder did in Afghanistan? One can't fail to read that statement and think of the latest news out of Pakistan about the al Qaeda training camps operating just over the Afghani border. I can't be the only one making the connection between our premature exit there and the resurgence of both the AQ and Taliban. If it wasn't so deadly dangerous, it would be funny.

AQ doesn't have to wait for everyday Americans to "lose their will" to fight. All they had to do was wait for the next shiny object to appear and distract the White House with the shortest attention span in the history of our nation.
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Mudslinging season starts early

This is what happens when the campaigning starts too soon. I'm still on this brutal work schedule through tomorrow and don't have time to get into it, but it's a classic, she said, he said, she said back, he said back, situation where everyone ends up covered in slime and no one comes out a winner except perhaps the opposing party.

I haven't followed this at all, but Joe Gandelman and the Carpetbagger Report have the quotes and good links to the reactions around Blogtopia and beyond. Short version: Maureen Dowd said that David Geffen said some mean things about Hillary and Bill. Geffen, an oldtime Clinton supporter is backing Obama. The Clinton campaign demands Obama do something mean to Geffen. Obama basically said screw you, you're no better.

This is why I'm still looking out for a late entry dark horse consensus candidate like Tester or Webb. A lot of people don't believe me when I remind them of the classic rule of campaigning, but it's held true for the 40 years I've been following politics. You need the Big Mo' to get the nomination but timing is everything. Those that build the mo' too soon, almost always crash and burn.

Meanwhile, this kind of childish taunting is only helping the other side. The Democratic candidates would do well to recognize that in taking down their opponents within the party, they could very well take the party itself out of contention.
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Walter Reed heeds wakeup call

That old saw about the squeaky wheel proves true once again. Hot on the heels of the WaPo's expose of the dismal conditions at Walter Reed, the hospital announced repairs have begun immediately on the horrible Buliding 18 and they will address the other problems. Sure, now they've been humiliated in the press, they're concerned about the soldiers.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they've been forced to address this but I don't trust them to follow through anymore than I trust George Bush to make a sensible decision on foreign policy. All too often, once the press leaves, the promised reforms peter out. We see this happen time and time again inside the Beltway with everything from corruption probes to lobbyist and ethics reform. We must continue to press this issue beyond the news cycle. It's the least we can do to support our troops and as Kevin Hayden points out, if there's a VA facility near you, it might be good time to pay a quiet visit and see how your local veterans are being treated. I'm certain this is not confined to Walter Reed.
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Rape, literal and figurative

I'm long on outrage today but short on time so it's quick takes this morning. In today's blood boiling post, Riverbend describes the repeated rape of an innocent Iraqi woman and gets the quote of the day on what George has wrought in Iraq.
Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.
Unfortunately, it didn't. There's nothing we could possibly gain from this debacle that would balance the scales against the injustices we have inflicted on the people of Iraq.
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Monday, February 19, 2007

Brickbats, glass houses and the wild blue yonder

Rick Moran, the genius who can't take 30 seconds to figure out I'm a woman, calls me a a monumental idiot for this post. I swear the rightwingers have a sixth sense for when you're down. I just put in about 50 hours of work in 4 days on a sum total of 17 hours of sleep and I'm looking at 3 more days just like it. I'm crawling through the hours in complete exhaustion and posting on the fly, so I'll admit it wasn't the most articulate post I've ever put up on the blog. I didn't even have time to proof it and I see that I made a few typos but my summation of the situation and his were essentially the same. In fact, Moran wrote a much better post than mine. His only errors are of omission. He notes well:
Musharraf has also banned air operations against the Taliban (although he has relented on a few occasions when a high value AQ target was sighted) and denied entry even by Special Forces – although there have been hints that he has simply turned the other way with regards to both American and French Special Operations that have been run in the northern Afghan-Pakistani border area.
What he fails to remember is the PR disaster those high value strikes engendered. If memory serves we got a couple more of the proverbial #3 AQ leaders. No actual high value targets were proven to be hit unless you count the US pressure that led to exposing the identity of a double agent, Muhammad Naeem Noor Kahn. But allegations of innocent civilian deaths abounded and only served to exacerbate the prevailing anti-US sentiment. And I bet the on the scene footage made for a helluva AQ - Taliban recruiting tape.

Moran calls the left ignorant and deluded for blaming Bush's failure to follow through in Afghanistan? He asks what our troops could have done except battle livestock once we "drove the Taliban out of the country?" Where to start?

For the record, I wasn't one of those "patriotic lefties" who supported the invasion of Afghanistan. I'm patriotic, but I'm also pragmatic and I've never believed you could fight terrorism with military might. But that aside, let's pretend it was a practical solution. Number one, we were supposed to be invading to get Osama and destroy the AQ. The Taliban were just a convenient aside. Number two we didn't drive either group out of Afghanistan. We drove them out of Kabul and in five years we still haven't secured the country outside of the captial city. Moran rightly points out we couldn't chase them into Pakistan in hot pursuit but what we could have done was commit the same level of force that we instead put into Iraq, to secure the border so they couldn't get back in.

Instead we abandoned that mission to a handful of troops and both the Taliban and AQ enjoyed unfettered access to both countries. The war lords who had been suppressed under Taliban rule arose again, partly with our help, and the drug trade flourished where the Taliban had all but eliminated it. Today fully half of Afghanistan's GDP rests on opium. An unregulated, untaxed and extremely lucrative black market is even now financing the training camps and underwriting the resurgence of our allegedly vanquished enemies. Bush is right now trying to get money to fight an additional war on poppies too. We ought to win a lot of hearts and minds by poisoning the Afghanis' land and water -- but that's another issue.

Back to the point at hand, once we secured the border, we could have commited our resources to rebuilding the already fragile infrastructure we destroyed, as we promised we would, in trying to find Osama in the first place. If the indigenous Afghanis had alternate economic choices, they wouldn't be growing poppies and they wouldn't be vulnerable to recruiting from the terrorist groups. The US misadventure in Afghanistan brought the people death and destruction, hunger and deprivation. The Taliban and the AQ then return with money and protection. Who do you think they're going to side with?

Call me an idiot, and leave aside why we should have trusted that a guy who supported the Taliban right up to 9/11 was really going to do anything to stop them, but I have to think if we had prevented the Taliban and AQ from leaving Pakistan once they were over there, Musharraf would have had more of vested interest in doing something about them.

Moran calls it irrational to point out that every decision Bush has made since 9/11 has only increased the level of the anti-Americanism and fostered international terrorism across the board. I think it's more irrational to excuse Bush's inept foreign policy and deny that it's had that effect. And I find it downright dangerous and irresponsible that he and his cohorts are now effectively encouraging Bush to blunder into the border zone with bombs to try to fix his previous grievous errors, when clearly it can only make things worse.

And yes, I blame Bush for the colassal mess he created. I predicted this moment would come from the day the courts declared him president, but I take no comfort in being right. I only wish I was as wrong as Rick and his fellow diehard White House supporters.
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Word up Warmongers - defending your mistakes is killing the troops

The Bush disaster deniers are out in full force, apparently inspired by the inane drivel at Investor's Business daily yesterday. Robert Farley rounds up the usual winguts posts of approval on this smear job that attempts to justify their wholly misplaced support for an inept "war," while Jeff Jacoby expands on IBD's insult to any American with an IQ higher than that of a carrot that hasn't been zombified by irrational Bush support. That the leaders of this smear job against legimately concerned Americans aren't that stupid only makes their scurrillous accusations all the more offensive and even evil.

Blue Texan reads their agenda straight from their little neo-con play book.
Either way, the way they see it, it's a win for them. If we "win" (though they tellingly never define what this actually means) they can claim they were prescient. If we "lose" they can claim they alone stood up for America while the liberal media and the Democrats stabbed the troops in the back.
Meanwhile, as these "oh so concerned and patriotic" warmongers continue to play their mean spirited word games in order to avoid admitting their own complicity in promoting the ongoing House of Horrors, once called the Middle East, these fine upstanding supporters of the troops studiously ignore the WaPo series on the mistreatment of our war wounded and continue to try to convince themselves, and their remaining loyal fanbase, that they really still are in the majority.

Who the hell do they think they're fooling? The warmongers need to get a clue. Supporting this war does not support the troops and no amount of high sounding rhetoric will change the painfully apparent fact that the only thing they are supporting is their wrongly placed trust in an inept president and his failed policies. Perhaps they see it as some kind of courage of conviction. All the rest of us see is a weak and cowardly defense of a failed position - and a willingness to sacrifice soldier's lives merely to save their own face.
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From foreign death trap to homeland hell hole - recovery is just another word at Walter Reed

The WaPo continues its series on the atrocities our wounded troops are suffering at Walter Reed. Today's installment focuses on those "lucky" enough to be staying in the good outbuilding, Mologne House, a four-story hotel on a grassy slope behind the hospital and on the battle the injured must fight at home for appropriate care and promised benefits.

One reason these soldiers are stuck in outpatient facilities for so long is the most egregiously injured must wait to have their disability level designated. Many times, the Pentagon's bureaucrats are desiginating the soldiers at low or zero disability levels because of "pre-existing" conditions. For instance saying one soldier's confusion wasn't caused by head trauma from being blown up in Iraq but rather a natural progression from his retardation as evidenced by the remedial math class he took in grammar school. The PTSD victim that received mental health services as a troubled teenager, gets no benefits because he was going to lose his mind anyway.

The recruiters had no problem signing up these kids and the military had no problem deploying them but when it comes to keeping their promise to take care of them when they get home, suddenly they're pre-damaged goods. And the wingnuts are accusing us of perfidy?

I'm working today and I'm already sputtering with outrage overload but I don't have time to get into this today. I don't whether to scream, cry or break the crockery out of body-wracking fury. What I'd like to see is some serious secret rendition on every mealy mouthed stay at home war supporter and see them all wake up on the front lines of the conflict they so blithely support. Let those effers do a little surging and come home to fighting another hellish war with the bureaucracy and see how long their stalwart support holds.
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Another fine mess in Afghanistan - AQ rising

Well isn't this just great? Along with the Taliban, al Qaeda is resurging in Afghanistan. I could have told you this was going to happen when Musharraf signed that "peace accord" with the tribal leaders along the border that basically created a revolving door between Pakistan and AQ country in Afghanistan. Now there's reports of AQ training camps operating freely in the treaty zone in Pakistan. Kind of blows a hole in the fly paper theory you could drive a Mac truck through. While we are busy fighting "them" there (in Iraq), our formerly "vanquished" adversaries were rebuilding their forces somewhere else there and we're even less safe than ever here. It's like I've been saying for the last two years at least. We won Kabul in 2001 and deposed the Taliban but the Afghanistan was never won and our enemies were never destroyed, they were simply disbursed.

So while our Great Decider Bush was busy deciding whether he wanted Osama dead or alive, or didn't care about him anymore, the real terrorists weren't waiting around to for his final answer. And now we have a hell of bigger problem. Musharraf's government is holding on by a thread as it is. He can hardly afford to rile up the Islamic extremists without risking a major coup. The US can hardly go in and start bombing the place willy nilly without triggering the same reaction and possibly riling up a bunch of countries in the region whom we are sure possess nuclear weapons. Not to mention the inevitable civilian deaths in such a strategy would really get the people in terrorist recruiting country even more energized.

It surely would have been better if Bush had finished the first war he started before he expanded the front all over the globe. It couldn't be anymore screwed up if he did it deliberately. Makes you wonder if creating international chaos wasn't the goal from the beginning.

Michael van der Galien has more thoughts and reactions from around Blogtopia.
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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Iran just a distraction factor for the White House?

Jurassic Pork reaches behind the firewall and produces the latest Frank Rich op-ed and it's an especially good one. Rich offers a comforting theory on why the Bush administration would be dishing out such transparently false propaganda on Iran. He traces the origins of the current alarmist press releases and points out that dressing up old news as "urgent new developments" is a time tested distraction strategy at the White House.
We know what Mr. Bush wants to distract us from this time: Congressional votes against his war policy, the Libby trial, the Pentagon inspector general’s report deploring Douglas Feith’s fictional prewar intelligence, and the new and dire National Intelligence Estimate saying that America is sending troops into the cross-fire of a multifaceted sectarian cataclysm.

That same intelligence estimate also says that Iran is “not likely to be a major driver of violence” in Iraq, but no matter. If the president can now whip up a Feith-style smoke screen of innuendo to imply that Iran is the root of all our woes in the war — and give “the enemy” a single recognizable face (Ahmadinejad as the new Saddam) — then, ipso facto, he is not guilty of sending troops into the middle of a shadowy Sunni-Shiite bloodbath after all.
I'm willing to entertain that theory. It beats the hell out of staying up nights worrying that Bush finally has gone completely bonkers and is just about to pull the nuclear trigger.
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Wallace exposes Feith lie on air at Fox

This is astounding. In a momentary lapse into sanity, Fox News allows Chris Wallace to practice journalism and expose Doug Feith's lie from a previous program.

It says something about the state of our media when a practice that used to be the norm for newscasts now feels so singularly shocking. One can only hope this is the beginning of new trend.
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Unparalleled Perfidy Inanity

Jack Grant, I think he was writing for Wizbang at the time Dean Esmay*, once accused me of posting the longest string of non-sequiturs in the history of the English language - or something like that. I wore that crown with an odd pride for many years but I'm afraid I've been dethroned by this cliche ridden, embarrassing excuse for an editorial by Investor's Business Daily. It's not even worth picking apart since it shatters on its own weakness at even a cursory glance.
Short version. Damn that Murtha and his party for insisting on sending troops that are fully trained and properly equipped into a battlezone instead of being herded into the sandpit like dazed sheep at the slaughterhouse. And curse him for asking that the battle weary soldiers be given reasonable deployment criteria, appropriate rest periods and the guarantee that tours of duty won't be extended into infinity against their will. Because, everyone knows exhausted soldiers fight better and they have to got to fight until we win or die trying. Not that we hopeful Republicans can actually define victory, but we'll know it when we see it and we'll let you know when we get there.
Which I figure will no doubt be about the time the US goes bankrupt from passing out most of our revenues to the military contractors these guys invested in and is left defenseless by a completely depleted military.

Correction: *The memory plays tricks on us old people. I had to google the darn quote after Tobacco Joe commented. It wasn't Jack at all, but rather Dean Esmay who made that remark.
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Hillary muddies her own message

In my post about the new self-appointed elite of Leftopia, I made one glaring omission. One of the most egalitarian and inclusive bloggers in all of Blogtopia, who deserves your support and links is Kevin Hayden of American Street. I've heard rumors he's shutting down that site and I hope it's not true, but in any event it's still running now and he has the quote of the day on Hillary's arrogant stance that made some buzz today.

Good ole Hill, apparently thinks Bush's "the decider never apologizes" position sounds pretty good if you think you've got a chance at taking up residence in the White House and refuses to back down on her initial support of the Iraq invasion.

Kevin sums up my feelings on the matter.
That just seems like more DLC-think. Stale, warmed-over, Repubican Lite approaches don’t strike me as leadership.

Fortunately, there’s several candidates in the field I could easily vote for. But as I’ve stated for several years, if Hillary emerges as the nominee, I can always find a third party candidate worthy of my support.
Amen to that. Hillary immediately follows up with a call for a troop pullout within 90 days in Iraq that rings rather hollow considering her unwillingness to admit her mistake in supporting the invasion in the first place. It smacks of the political trickery of conflicting messages we're bombarded with daily from the White House rather than any kind of principled position to me.
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War wounded mistreated at home

The war wounded arrive from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan by the busload. When you hear our soldiers are being treated at Walter Reed hospital, one tends to envision gleaming white halls and state of the art equipment. Unfortunately for our brave soldiers who have been injured in the line of duty, the reality falls far short of that pretty fiction. Once their ciritical care is completed they are sent to outbuildings on the hospital campus like Building 18, a roach and rodent infested holding pen with moldy walls and rotting floorboards literally coming down around their ears.

No hospital employee keeps track of them. Injured soldiers of higher rank are put in charge of keeping track of hundreds of their fellow injured peers. The staff has no idea where there are and don't seem to care. Head trauma patients are routinely "lost" because they can't remember their appointments or even negotiate the hospital grounds.
[Shannon's] eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.
Even worse, many of the injured have to prove they even exist to the faceless bureaucracy that so willing threw them into the sandpit, only to deny its commitment to them when they return broken.
Sometimes, the Army has no record that a soldier even served in Iraq. A combat medic who did three tours had to bring in letters and photos of herself in Iraq to show she that had been there, after a clerk couldn't find a record of her service.

Shannon, who wears an eye patch and a visible skull implant, said he had to prove he had served in Iraq when he tried to get a free uniform to replace the bloody one left behind on a medic's stretcher. When he finally tracked down the supply clerk, he discovered the problem: His name was mistakenly left off the "GWOT list" -- the list of "Global War on Terrorism" patients with priority funding from the Defense Department.

He brought his Purple Heart to the clerk to prove he was in Iraq.
Historically an injured soldier would be treated and released to civilian life but with the wars having stretched our "volunteer" military so thin, it would appear nothing short of death will guarantee even the most severely injured won't be recalled to the front.
Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.
Some receive orders to return to active duty while still in wheelchairs, disoriented and drooling from medications being used to treat their injuries.

The arguments over how to support our troops has been going on as long as the wars. The popular accusation among the warmongers is that if you don't support the war, you're not supporting the troops. Yet you don't hear a whisper from these same White House cheerleaders when the GOP cut veteran's benefits and refused to fund research for head trauma injuries - the most common injury in this day of improved body armor. Not a word about Bush's proposed budget that calls for slashing funding for the VA system when he conveniently leaves office in 2009. As if his endless war will be over and no injured soldiers will be hurt by these cuts.

The military promises the recruits everything when they sign up. The failure of the White House, enabled by the GOP, to deliver on even the most basic of these promises -- decent health care -- is criminally negligent and should be prosecuted as a war crime.

The cavalier attitude of the president's supporters about this unacceptable treatment leaves me sputtering in inarticulate disgust. All I can say is that any loudmouthed warmonger that allows these conditions to persist without raising holy hell about it wherever and whenever they can, is not supporting the soldiers - they're just supporting the war machine and each other.

Update: John is right. The general in charge should be fired for allowing this to go on.
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Saturday, February 17, 2007

You buy your ticket, you take your chance

The buzz this morning is about the hate machine's favorite spokesgal, Michelle Malkin's remark.
I have to tell you, in general, I’m skeptical of anything that has Bill of Rights tacked on to it.
In Malkin's case, as we know from her voluminous lunatic rantings on the matter, she really means it. She actually does disapprove of universal human rights and really hates the idea of equal treatment for anyone and anything not stamped with the wingnut approval label.

However, much as I hate to agree with Malkin even slightly, I have to question the wisdom of this move.
One day after hundreds of passengers were stranded on JetBlue flights for up to 11 hours, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said she plans to introduce legislation in the Senate for a passengers' bill of rights. A spokesman in Boxer's Washington office said Boxer is working with Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who is drafting legislation for the House following a similar incident in December.
I can think of ten things more important to address than whether people get stuck on airplanes and it's just this sort of "news" driven politicking that allows the GOP to paint the Democratic Party as partisan and frivolous. Furthermore, you just know the wingnuts are going to use to this to continue to flog their false Pelosi plane scandal.

I don't know how these plane delays even made such big news. People stuck in airports during snowstorms. Wow. Is there anybody who hasn't been stuck on the tarmac? I know I have and under worse circumstances. Air travel by its nature is fraught with delays. Does this really require Congressional action?

Personally, I'd like to see the Democrats addressing the rescue of the original Bill of Rights, starting with dismantling the Patriot Act and ending secret domestic surveillance.
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