Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Protecting the Alaskan wilderness 

Our tax dollars at work,

DILLINGHAM, Alaska - From Anchorage it takes 90 minutes on a propeller plane to reach this fishing villa Alaskan bush at its most remote. Here, tundra meets sea, and sea turns to ice for half the year. Scattered, almost hidden, in the terrain are some of the most isolated communities on American soil. People choose to live in outposts like Dillingham (pop. 2,400) for that reason: to be left alone.

So eyebrows were raised in January when the first surveillance cameras went up on Main Street. Each camera is a shiny white metallic box with two lenses like eyes. The camera's shape and design resemble a robot's head.

... By mid-February, more than 60 cameras watched over the town, and the Dillingham Police Department plans to install 20 more - all purchased through a $202,000 Homeland Security grant meant primarily to defend against a terrorist attack.

Via Digby.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lest I forget 


In just two days, at least 150 people have died in the violence threatening to tear apart Iraq. One of them, Hussein Fadhil, was just 13.

The teenager was in front of his school in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, getting ready to walk into the building when a bomb exploded Sunday, the start of the school week in Iraq.

"He was so happy that morning, as usual," said Hussein's brother, Mohammed. "As I turned my back, I heard a huge explosion and found my brother on the ground screaming."

Hussein suffered serious neck wounds, and was put in a car and sent off to the hospital. He died on the way.

Schools and children have increasingly become targets in a bloody conflict pitting Shiite and Sunni Muslims against each other as Iraq teeters on the verge of civil war. The violence has reached immense proportions in recent weeks, with dozens dying every day and overwhelmed Iraqi authorities seemingly incapable of stopping attacks.


Three groups of gunmen kidnapped at least 24 Iraqis working at a currency exchange and two electronics stores in Baghdad on Tuesday, the interior ministry said. South of the capital, a car bomb exploded as police exchanged fire with two suicide bombers at a police station, wounding at least a dozen people.

The attacks follow two days of violence in Iraq that left at least 151 dead, including 16 people killed Sunday in a military assault on what Iraqis claim was a mosque. Shiite politicians halted negotiations on a new government in response to the assault.

.;.. Fifteen gunmen wearing military uniforms but arriving in civilian cars stormed the Moussa Bin Nasir Exchange Co. in the southwest Harthiyah neighborhood at about 1 p.m., kidnapping six people and stealing tens of thousands of dollars, police said.

At around the same time, seven gunmen in civilian clothes ran into a Daewoo International electronics store in the downtown Karradah district and snatched three employees, including the store manager, police said. A half hour later, masked gunmen in military uniforms and helmets stormed a different branch of the same company in eastern Baghdad, abducting 15 employees, Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. They also arrived in civilian cars.

The mass kidnappings came a day after gunmen abducted 16 employees of an Iraqi trading company in Baghdad's upscale western neighborhood of Mansour. Those kidnappers also wore uniforms and masks when they entered the headquarters of the Saeed Import and Export Co. Police said they went through papers and computer files before taking away their captives, al-Mohammedawi said.

Bush blames Iraq debacle on Hussein 

On Bush's speech,

President George W. Bush said former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's brutal divisive legacy, rather than the US-led invasion, was to blame for Iraq's current sectarian violence.

"Today, some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing ... In fact, most of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He was a tyrant who exacerbated sectarian divisions to keep himself in power," he said.

Forgive me, but if the base cause of the insurgency is indeed the actions Hussein's former regime, we would have known what we were getting ourselves into before we invaded.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More bad news 

Perhaps the most important incorrect prediction about the Iraq fiasco is coming true in time,

Sectarian violence has displaced more than 25,000 Iraqis since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine, a U.N.-affiliated agency said Tuesday, and shelters and tent cities are springing up across central and southern Iraq to house homeless Sunni and Shiite families.

The flight is continuing, according to the International Organization for Migration, which works closely with the United Nations and other groups. The result has been a population exchange as Sunni and Shiite families flee mixed communities for the safety of areas where their own sects predominate.

Also, those schools we reopened are now kidnapping territory.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bad News 

Sharp interview

Good news 

The Afghan Christian convert has been released and The Twin Cities will remain a two paper metro.

Brazil is expanding rain forest protection.

On the downside, a huge centipede ate a mouse.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"As Iraqi's stand up, we will stand down" 

Notwithstanding Bush's recent musing that future presidents - not he - will decide when and how to exit Iraq, he has been fond of saying, "As Iraqi's stand up, we will stand down".

This would seem to mean the exit strategy isn't at all tied to a neat ending, but to whether we can train a proxy army to take over the task of engaging the sectarian violence for us.

On to Iran ... until we prop up a semblance of a government there to take our side in a civil war.

Bush's speech 

Three items from Bush's press conference yesterday.

From Busy, Busy, Busy,

Discussing the War on Terror and (le'havdil) Operation Iraqi Freedom today, Mr. Bush said:

... I don't want to be argumentative, but I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America.

Which brings to mind other typical uses of this particular semantic construct...

  • ... I was very careful never to say you couldn't lose money.
  • ... I was very careful never to say I love you.
  • ... I was very careful never to say I was still on the pill.
  • ... I was very careful never to say I've been tested recently.

Josh Marshall notes the excerpt that made me physically cringe,

There's so much water under the bridge at this point. But the president just won't stop lying about the immediate exigencies of his decision to go to war. Here's how he described it this morning in an exchange with Helen Thomas ...

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences ... and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

Of course, that's not what happened. We were there. We remember. It wasn't a century ago. We got the resolution passed. Saddam called our bluff and allowed the inspectors in. President Bush pressed ahead with the invasion.

Yesterday wasn't the first time Bush uttered that lie ... he initially spun this short yarn, ironically, with Kofi Anan at his side.

To top off the trifecta, prior to claiming "I also saw a threat in Iraq", Bush predictably addressed Thomas' query on Iraq by speaking of Afghanistan and 9/11 (full video of exchange).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What hath Bush wrought? 

Freedom and stuff,

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the days of the Taliban, those promoting Christianity in Afghanistan could be arrested and those converting from Islam could be tortured and publicly executed.

That was supposed to change after U.S.-led forces ousted the oppressive, fundamentalist regime, but the case of 41-year-old Abdul Rahman has many Western nations wondering if Afghanistan is regressing.

Rahman, a father of two, was arrested last week and is now awaiting trial for rejecting Islam. He told local police, whom he approached on an unrelated matter, that he had converted to Christianity. Reports say he was carrying a Bible at the time.

Won't play well with his dwindling "base".

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Oh oh 

The parent company of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is buying the metro's other large news daily, the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Ideally, I'm for divided government and ideologically mal-aligned newspapers ... what do you think? Ought we prevent a monopoly on ownership of all news dailies in a large urban area?

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