Archive for June, 2006

No “good news” in Ramadi. Bad news to blame.

Events | Posted by admin
Jun 12 2006

Maybe the reason why right-wingers keep harping on lefty bloggers and the press is because the bad news is really not all that good.

Fear of Big Battle Panics Iraqi City (Los Angeles Times):

BAGHDAD — Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.

U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said.

U.S. military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway.

Thousands of families remain trapped in the city, those who have fled say. Many can’t afford to leave or lack transportation, whereas other families have decided to wait for their children to finish final examinations at school before escaping.

“The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water,” said Sheik Fassal Gaood, the former governor of Al Anbar province, whose capital is Ramadi.

“People in Ramadi are caught between two plagues: the vicious, armed insurgents and the American and Iraqi troops.”

Residents have been particularly unnerved by the recent arrival of 1,500 U.S. troops sent to reinforce the forces already stationed at the city. Street battles between troops and insurgents have been raging for months, but the troops’ deployment left residents bracing for a mass offensive to take the town back from insurgents.

“It is becoming hell up there,” said Mohammed Fahdawi, a 42-year-old contractor who packed up his four children and fled to Baghdad two weeks ago. “It is unbelievable: The Americans seem to have brought all of their troops to Ramadi.”

The fearful city is haunted by memories of the battles that raged in nearby Fallouja in 2004. Determined to purge that city of insurgents, U.S. Marine and Army units lined up to the north and pushed south through the heart of Fallouja. They cleared one neighborhood after another in intense, constant street fighting. By the time the sweep was over, the town was largely destroyed.

Wow. There’s a lot of bad news here. To be Fox Fair and Balanced™ for a moment, where is all that good news and why isn’t the press reporting it? A city as large as Minneapolis or St. Louis teetering on the edge of disaster does not excuse reporters from going into Ramadi to tell ‘Muricans all about the opening of new schools and health clinics or the restoration of water and sewage services… which will probably… ummm… not survive… an American/Iraqi seige… ummm… yeah… never mind.

Nonsensical.

Events | Posted by admin
Jun 11 2006

This is just plain strange, any way you look at it.

Guantanamo suicides ‘acts of war’ (BBC):

The camp commander said the two Saudis and a Yemeni were “committed” and had killed themselves in “an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us”.

Lawyers said the men who hanged themselves had been driven by despair.

A military investigation into the deaths is now under way, amid growing calls for the detention centre to be moved or closed.

Walter White, an international lawyer who specialises in human rights, told the BBC the Guantanamo camp was likely to be considered a “great stain” on the human rights record of the US….

…Rear Adm Harris said he did not believe the men had killed themselves out of despair.

“They are smart. They are creative, they are committed,” he said.

“They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

All three men had previously taken part in some of the mass on-and-off hunger strikes undertaken by detainees since last August, and all three had been force-fed by camp authorities.

They had left suicide notes, but no details have been made available.

Okay, so maybe Harris isn’t getting out as often as he might like, leaving him prone to making such boneheaded comments. I don’t know. But then there’s this, headline linked with the above article:

Guantanamo suicides a ‘PR move’ (BBC):
A top US official has described the suicides of three detainees at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a “good PR move to draw attention”.

Colleen Graffy told the BBC the deaths were part of a strategy and “a tactic to further the jihadi cause”, but taking their own lives was unnecessary.

But lawyers say the men who hanged themselves had been driven by despair.

A military investigation into the deaths is under way, amid growing calls for the centre to be moved or closed.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newshour programme, Ms Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, said the three men did not value their lives nor the lives of those around them.

Detainees had access to lawyers, received mail and had the ability to write to families, so had other means of making protests, she said, and it was hard to see why the men had not protested about their situation.

Huh?

“Act of war?” “A good PR move?” Holy cats! Orwell couldn’t have dreamed up such tortured no-win arguments for Animal Farm or 1984. From the start, the administration has tried to redefine torture and even human rights, cloak Guantanamo in secrecy, and deny the detainees any semblance of due process. Excuse me for being more than a little skeptical of its claims that the three detainees committed suicide for any other reason greater than their own personal despair.

Crazy talk redux.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Jun 10 2006

Hmmm… Where have we heard this before:

Bush says Iran has “weeks not months” to respond (Reuters):

President George W. Bush said on Friday that Iran has “weeks not months” to respond to a U.S.-backed offer aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and said Tehran needs to suspend uranium enrichment.

Bush said if Iran does not suspend enrichment, “there must be a consequence” and that it would be action taken in the U.N. Security Council.

“We have given the Iranians a limited period of time, weeks not months,” to respond to an offer for an incentives package for Iran to ensure it does not pursue nuclear weapons, said Bush.

Is Bush laying the groundwork for another war?

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s just crazy talk on my part. Bush couldn’t possibly be thinking of invading yet another country, not with his hands full over Iraq and Afghanistan… which just happen to be on either side of…

Okay, hold on here. How about this: The administration knows that the costs of an additional war will be astronomical compared to what we are paying for in Iraq… except that the warmongers of 2003 promised us that the war could be paid for using Iraq’s oil revenues…

Drat.

Ummmm… Okay, okay, I have it now. Bush wouldn’t dare invade a nation of eighty million who are suspecting such a move… or would he?

A preventable tragedy.

Interesting | Posted by admin
Jun 09 2006

Here is an example for our need for a strong social infrastructure.

Pedestrian killed by truck in Coon Rapids (Minneapolis Star-Tribune):

An 80-year-old woman was killed Thursday night when she was struck by a pickup truck while walking across a street in Coon Rapids.

The Coon Rapids woman, whose name has not been released, was crossing Hanson Blvd. near its intersection with 121st Avenue NW. about 8:50 p.m., said Deputy Police Chief Tim Snell.

She was hit by a northbound truck driven by a 44-year-old Coon Rapids man, Snell said.

The accident is under investigation.

I have lived in Coon Rapids some years ago. One serious problem I noted back then was the lack of sidewalks on many residential streets and the general lack of pedestrian friendliness throughout most of the city. This isn’t exclusive to this Minneapolis suburb, though. Many suburbs of Chicago, St. Louis, and the area in and around Fort Myers, Florida also suffer from this lack of conscientious civic planning, preferring to give lip-service to the notion of pedestrians possessing a right-of-way while giving automobile drivers the sense that they are the top of the transportation food chain.
As our nation grows older, we will find an increasing need to make our cities easier for pedestrians to safely navigate. That requires electing local, state, and federal politicians who are willing to stake out these positions and others that thoughtfully and equitably improve the quality of life for all Americans.

Gay-bashing, presidential style.

Local | Posted by admin
Jun 07 2006

I just can’t get used to Bush’s thinly veiled gay bashing.

President’s Statement on the Senate’s Marriage Protection Amendment Vote (White House):

Today’s Senate vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment marks the start of a new chapter in this important national debate. I thank the Senators who supported this Amendment, but I am disappointed the Senate did not achieve the necessary number of votes to move the amendment process forward. Our Nation’s founders set a high bar for amending our Constitution – and history has shown us that it can take several tries before an Amendment builds the two-thirds support it needs in both houses of Congress. My position on this issue is clear: marriage is the most fundamental institution of our society, and it should not be redefined by activist judges. The people must be heard on this issue. And as this debate continues, each American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect, and dignity.

Let’s review:

First, how does the Gay and Lesbian Discrimination Marriage Protection Amendment protect marriage? Neither Michelle or I feel as if two men or women deciding to make a lifelong commitment to each other will undercut our relationship. A note to Bush and Company: Go “protect” someone else’s marriage. You don’t speak for us.

Second, what is this “national debate” Bush cites? If it is a debate between one group of people who are homophobic and itching to write discrimination into the Constitution and another group who think that the first group consists of a bunch of ignorant jerks who want to deny a group of people basic legal rights because two people who want to establish a life-long commitment with each other just happen to have the same biological plumbing, then okay, maybe there is a national debate.

Third, will Bush and his gang of homophobes please, please, please publicly and specifically name those ethereal, wicked “activist judges” they fear so much? My guess is that they would not name such names as Alito, Scalia, or Thomas. No, those are “activist judges.” They are “doormat judges” for the neo-conservative movement.

Fourth, if marriage is so flippin’ “fundamental” an institution, why not “protect” it by doing away with divorce? I never get an answer to this from people who worry that a marriage between Steve and Luke or Cindy and Mary will do far greater harm to the institution than a Mark or Susan divorcing.

Lastly, I am going to call bullfeathers (I’d call it something more crude, but I want my grandmothers to continue reading this blog without blushing too much) on Bush’s last line: “And as this debate continues, each American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect, and dignity.” Forget that he just spent the last few sentences outlining a prescription for intolerance, disrespect, and heaping indignities on a group of people. Forget that our Dear Sniveling Leader does not mention gays or lesbians in the “national debate” he wants us to have when he knows full well that this is at the core of his “Marriage Protection Amendment.” No, what is truly insulting is that Mr. “Is our children learning?” Bush begins a sentence with “and!” This president isn’t simply a bigot. He is an ignorant bigot.

Well, at least the president and Congress can get back to the real priorities and address poverty alleviation, improving our public infrastructure, and putting together a universal health care package, reducing the deficit (with a nod to Ellen T. who added this comment to a recent post), cleaning up the mess that has become Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan… *scree-ee-ee-ee-eech-ch-ch!!!*

Oh, wait a dog-gone minute. The government of Haves need to make sure that our nation institutes a system of anti-democratic, hereditary wealth by doing away with the Estate Tax. Sorry, everyone, the demands of the nouveau-riche need to be placated as Congress and the White House seek to elevate a select group of people to the status of becoming our nation’s aristocracy.

Note to Pawlenty and Minnesota Republicans: Pro-tax cuts = anti-Minnesota.

Interesting | Posted by admin
Jun 02 2006

Okay, here’s the ‘sitch:

State falls to 16th in tax ranking (Minneapolis Star-Tribune):

Minnesota has tumbled to 16th place among the states in total state and local taxes as a portion of income, its lowest ranking since at least 1958, according to a preliminary summary of the latest U.S. Census data released by the Minnesota Taxpayers Association.

Minnesota for three decades has almost always been in the top 10 in most bottom-line measures of tax burden. The drop from eighth place in 2000 to 16th in 2004 is bound to make waves in a crucial election year.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the leader of a conservative interest group hailed the new ranking as a major achievement by a fiscally conservative Republican administration.

Leaders of liberal interest groups say the tax decline already has been accompanied by shabbier public services, more economic inequality and lower rankings on some key quality-of-life indicators.

“This is just great news, a very big deal,” said David Strom, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, an aggressive anti-tax advocacy group that got Pawlenty to sign a no-tax-increase pledge when he ran in 2002. The League has no connection to the Taxpayers Association, a nonpartisan research organization founded in 1926.

“When we Republicans took control of the House in 1998, Speaker Steve Sviggum and I used as a benchmark goal getting out of the top 10,” Pawlenty said. “These numbers bounce around every year but this is great progress and it sends a good signal to those who might want to invest in our state.”

Sounds great, eh?

Well, that one part, mentioning the decline in public services and our general quality of life, should give everyone some pause for reflection.

Are our roads better? Not by the number of potholes I have to avoid when driving on I-94 through downtown Minneapolis. Are our streets safer? Not if I take into consideration that Michelle was held up at her bus stop, our home was burglarized, teenagers holding large parties at a house down our street only to end in gunshots. All that occurred in a six-month period. Oh, I forgot to add the drug deal I witnessed across from my home along with the other rash of similar burglaries, hold-ups and party-busts that have also taken place during that time, too.

Are our schools better? Not if it has meant yet another year of layoffs for Minneapolis teachers. Resources have been stretched so thin that the district is barely holding itself together. I have observed the decline in the quality of education personally and very up close. Four years ago, when our schools were much better, I witnessed that while our resources were still modest, we could still teach, maintain a sound, respectful learning environment, and offer a sense of hope and opportunity for our students. Today, however, I fear we may be losing that as our kids witness meager materials, less-than-acceptable time with teachers who are finding themselves with thirty-five or more students each hour — a number that effectively limits the opportunity for teachers to offer a truly thought-provoking, engaging, and intellectually-stimulating education that will allow their students to leave as capable thinkers and actors who can positively impact their community.

Ask yourselves these questions and many more: Is our system of health care better? Ask anyone who lost their job or found themselves priced-out of their health plan. Has public transit improved? Not if cuts in bus routes and hikes in fares are any indication. Has our state’s environment become cleaner? Think about those increased number of air pollution alerts in recent years and judge for yourself. Again, ask these questions and more. Do it between now and November. Then figure out for yourselves whether we should really care if our state ranks first, sixteenth, or last in tax rates if it means a living in a state that will grow increasingly nasty, brutish and short for more and more people.

Tax cuts are not “progress,” as Pawlenty put it, if it means that our civil society regresses as a result of those cuts. My vote this November will go to those who support all the residents of this state, not simply the selfish and greedy who want to live in their own private fiefdoms.