Friday, April 07, 2006


Gay marriage ducky-style

Despite religious fundamentalists' insistence that sexual orientation is a choice—homosexuality being the "unnatural" option—various members of the animal kingdom go their merry gay way, giving the critics a big "vaffanculo," as Supreme Court Justice Scalia likes to say.

The Swedes are quite proud of a pair of male ducks—well, sheldrakes if you want to get personal. The Local reports

In the middle of mating season, a couple of male ducks returned to a park in southern Sweden, for the third consecutive year, ignoring the siren calls of all the lady ducks around them.

Far from the torments of bird flu and temptations of the opposite sex, the two common shelducks appear only to have eyes for each other - in a sort of ducky gay marriage.

"We can state that they act exactly like a couple (composed) of a man and woman, the bigger one always defending the smaller duck," Lennarth Blomquist, in charge of bird management in the southern city of Malmö, told the TT news agency.

"Shelducks mate for life," he said, indicating that these two ducks have found in each other the love of their lives.

I like to think of them as Ozzie and Harry. Same-sex marriages definitely occur in nature, though critics are likely to maintain that this case only reflects what can happen in a permissive environment such as Sweden's.

Related post
The gay fungus of Vancouver Island (10/17/05)

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Israel said to be feeling nostalgic for Syria

Officers report a sharp increase in border incidents between Hizbollah fighters and Israeli units on the northern border [of Israel]....

The situation is now regarded as so serious that many senior Israeli officers openly admit to missing the restraining influence of Syria over Hizbollah. —Con Coughlin writing in "Iran's spies watching us, says Israel" for the Daily Telegraph

Wondrous as this quote is, I'm afraid the story is a bit of propaganda to justify—and prepare the British for—an attack on Iran. The aptly named reporter "Con" Coughlin is to the Daily Telegraph as Judith Miller was to the NY Times.1

Aside from the laughable narrative of Israeli military officers regretting Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, Coughlin paints a picture of Israel practically supine in the face of Hizbollah, who have ceased to be agents of Syria and are now agents of Iran.

Senior Israeli military commanders say Iran has spent tens of millions of pounds helping its close ally, Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militant group that controls southern Lebanon, to set up a network of control towers and monitoring stations along the entire length of Israel's border with south Lebanon.

"This is now Iran's front line with Israel," a senior Israeli military commander said. "The Iranians are using Hizbollah to spy on us so that they can collect information for future attacks. And there is very little we can do about it."

In comparison with these vile Iranian puppet masters the Syrians2 were sweeties—

"When the Syrians were in Lebanon it was easy for us to control Hizbollah," said an officer with Israel's northern command. "If things got too tense we could put pressure on Damascus and the Syrians would act quickly to calm things down."

"Iran is playing a very dangerous game of cat and mouse on our northern border and it could easily spiral out of control at any moment," said the officer.

Yes, such as at the moment when the U.S. or Israel launches an attack on Tehran.

And apparently the Israeli air defenses are vulnerable—

In recent weeks Hizbollah sent unmanned aircraft on reconnaissance missions over the border to photograph sensitive Israeli military installations. The spy planes returned to base before being detected by air defence systems.

What were the planes made of? Balsa and rubber bands?

Related post
Israeli troops in "Iraq" (3/6/06)


1In 2000, David Leigh wrote in the British Journalism Review—

[R]eaders of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with a dramatic story about the son of Col Gadafy of Libya and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper’s then chief foreign correspondent, and it was falsely attributed to a “British banking official”. In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.

2In 2004 the blogger at Flit (right-wing judging from the links) noted Coughlin's efforts against Syria,

I find it remarkable that [Glenn] Reynolds and many others continue to give credence to Telegraph reporter Con Coughlin's breathy scoops, when as Henley pointed out some time ago, the guy has been a funnel for British intelligence trial balloons for years, apparently, and his post-Iraq war work seems calculated to bolster Bush and make the case for a new Syrian war.

Sure enough, Coughlin is the only reporter to play up David Kay's alleged statements that Iraqi WMDs are now in Syria... statements Kay goes out of his way to disavow in other interviews with Reuters and the Times. And, of course, that is the only version of the Kay story you will see on numerous pro-war websites today.

When you're a whore, shamelessness is an absolute must. [back]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


The Pottery Barn Rule revisited

In September I referred to the mythic Pottery Barn rule attributed to NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In his book Plan of Attack Bob Woodward claimed that Colin Powell had warned Bush of this "rule" as plans were being made for the invasion of Iraq. In my own writing I presented the rule in a form I thought was the most sensible construction: "You break it, you pay for it."1 But that is not what Friedman actually said. His formulation was "You break it, you own it." And it looks as if he meant it.

Last Thursday Friedman was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Here's where I spewed my coffee—

Terry Gross: President Bush sent a message to the Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that Bush doesn't want al-Jaafari to remain the Prime Minister in the next government. Is that an appropriate kind of message for the President to be sending?

Tom Friedman: Well, you know, I'm of two minds about that, and I don't know exactly what message the President sent. But we have equity there. You know, over 2000 Americans have died there. Thousands more have been wounded. We've spent billions of dollars. And we do have a right to say that this guy is completely inept at running the Iraqi government as proven by the last two years.2 And if he's only in place there because a militia-leading thug name Muqtada Sadr wants him to be there, well then, excuse me, we're going to let you know that. [my transcription]

Yes, according to Friedman, thanks to the invasion and the concomitant loss of American lives and money we now have at least partial ownership of Iraq per our "investment."3 And like any stockholder we have the right to tell management what we think. Actually it appears that the American share of equity is so great that the U.S. may actually tell management—the Iraqi government, that is—what to do.

Ordinarily I wouldn't bother you with the blatherings of Thomas Friedman, because there is no reason I know of that anyone should care what he thinks. But then I read the text of the Condi Rice–Jack Straw press conference held in Baghdad this Monday, and there was that equity theme again—

Straw: .... We have emphasized, Secretary Rice and myself, time and again that who becomes nominated and then elected to these leadership positions, including the prime minister, is a matter for sovereign decisions by the sovereign parliament, the Council of Representatives of Iraq; but the international community, particularly the United States, whose forces have lost so many brave men and women, and the United Kingdom a similar situation relative to the strength of our forces, that we are entitled to say that whilst it's up to you, the Iraqis, to decide who should fulfill these positions, somebody has to fill these positions and fill them quickly....

Rice: .... [W]e came here principally to underscore the importance of bringing to a close the negotiations on the formation of a government, the appointment of the most important positions, those who will govern and lead Iraq....

... And indeed the international partners, particularly the United States and Great Britain ..., have a deep desire and I think a right to expect that this process will keep moving forward, because it is after all the political process that will disable those who wish to engage in violence against the Iraqi people.

All this was accompanied by a great deal of ass-kissing of Grand Ayatollah Sistani and the Shias, and a slew of denials that Rice and Straw were in Baghdad to throw their weight around. Here Condi lays out her specifications for the next prime minister—

QUESTION: Al-Iraqiya. A lot of news that says that you support this certain candidate and refuse other candidate. Yesterday some ... read from the signs ... on the face of Secretary Rice, that you were much happier with Adil Abd al-Mahdi than you were with Al-Jafari. Was this truth? Is this the truth that you are supporting one and not the other?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, I would caution against trying to read my facial expressions.... It is not my responsibility or the responsibility of Secretary Straw to determine who is going to be the prime minister of Iraq; that can only be determined by Iraqis. We know that the largest voting bloc out of the democratic process [the Shias of the United Islamic Alliance] will nominate that person; that is also only fair in a process like this. But the only question that we have had is how this gets done now.... and in order to do that, you have to have a prime minister named.... It needs to be a strong leader, who's a unifying force and someone who can bring stability and meet the challenges that face the Iraqi people, but it is not our job to say who that person is going to be.

Not us. No, really!

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there an Iraqi journalist?

SECRETARY RICE: I think this woman, this woman all the way in the back.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Don’t you think that this an interference in the Iraqi affair in determining its fate, then especially that Iraq is supposed to be sovereign and this is against the principles of democracy?

SECRETARY RICE: Okay. The question was whether or not this is interference in Iraqi affairs. Iraq is sovereign. And is it also -- is it democratic to do this, I guess, is the way to put it.

First of all, we've been very clear that Iraq is indeed sovereign....

.... But ... there must be — and soon — responsible leaders in those positions is something that I think the international community has a right to expect.

Jack Straw then reminds again of the joint U.S.–British purchase—

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: And could I just underline ... that we will recognize anybody who emerges democratically as the prime minister and vice president, president, and other leaders, whether it's Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. C. But please, the Americans have lost over 2,000 people. We've lost over 100. There are 140,000 overseas troops here, helping to keep the peace in Iraq and billions -- billions -- of United States dollars, hundreds of millions of British pound sterlings have come into this country. We do have, I think, a right to say that we've got to be able to deal with Mr. A or Mr. B or Mr. C. We can't deal with Mr. Nobody. And that's a problem, okay.

This gave Condi an opportunity for one of those "lighter" moments—

SECRETARY RICE: Jack, I'm sure we'd be all right with Miss A, B or C, too, right? (Laughter.)

It appears that the equity-ownership of Iraq is a theme now being emphasized by the Administration, abetted by war cheerleaders such as Friedman—always presented of course with some sort of denial of the implications. But it seems to me that the time has come to sell our shares.

Related posts
Lessons in sovereignty - Part I (9/19/05)
No. Not some troops; all troops (9/25/05)


1This was also the title of an article from December 2004 by Naomi Klein for The Nation [back]

2This doesn't entirely make sense. Al-Jaafari has only been Prime Minister since April 7 of last year.

But if a mere year or two of ineptness justifies the overthrow of al-Jaafari, what are we to do about George Bush, who has been inept in running the American government now going on six years? [back]

3Invasions appear to be such a wonderfully efficient method of acquiring equity. I imagine a number of nations would like to follow suit, though I thought the practice had more or less been frowned upon since the end of the British Raj. [back]

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Quip of the Day

Mary J. Blige demands "No Dairy or Pork of Any Kind!!" for her preconcert meal, even though she doesn't look neocon.NY Times columnist and NewsHour talking head David Brooks writing in "On the Road With JK and the V.P."

Thank God it was a right-winger who wrote those words. Crucifixions of accused "anti-Semites" can get really ugly this close to Easter.


Advice of the Day

When a conference delegate asked whether Christians should buy control of newspapers that are for sale, longtime conservative activist Paul Weyrich said there was no need.

"Newspapers are a dying industry," he said. "There won't be any newspapers 20 years from now. Buy television."

—Wayne Slater writing in "Conservative Christians losing faith in GOP"

Now try substituting the name of any other group of religious adherents—Muslims, say—into this quote, which contemplates a takeover of the media, and imagine the reaction. Or try substituting some political or economic persuasion other than "conservative" capitalism—democratic socialism, say—and see how that fits.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Health Concern of the Day

[D]ocuments about a secret interrogation centre which the War Office operated in central London between 1945 and 1948, where large numbers of men are now known to have been badly mistreated, are still being withheld by the Ministry of Defence. Officials say the papers cannot yet be released because they have been contaminated with asbestos. —Ian Cobain in"Revealed: victims of UK's cold war torture camp"


How the Army is coping with its recruitment shortage

The Army has taken a number of steps to bolster enlistments—lowered the educational requirement, lowered the IQ requirement, stopped eliminating tattooed enlistees unless the drawings are in the middle of the face, and now welcomes the drug addicted so long as they lie. Alas that hasn't been enough. Soldiers on their second or third tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan are beginning to consider other career opportunities. Universal conscription—the Draft—is out of the question. And the pools of Reservists and National Guardsmen are exhausted. What to do?

Ever resourceful, the Army has managed to soldier on. But how? Well, if the Army were a business, we would say they were poaching.1 You see, they're pulling men from the Navy. When a sailor gets put under Army command he's known as an "Individual Augmentee" or "IA."

I hadn't heard of the program until I saw an article by Sandra Jontz in today's Stars & Stripes: "Sailors learn Army basics to prep for downrange deployment." So I did a little investigating and discovered Juliana Gittler's article from March 5. She writes—

The number [of augmentees] “has doubled in the last two months, and it’s only going to get worse,” said Lt. j.g. Michael McPhearson, Commander, Naval Forces Japan regional force protection officer. He fills requests for augmentees in Japan.

Navywide, 2,695 sailors were made augmentees at the start of fiscal 2006 compared to 637 the prior fiscal year, according to the Augmentation Division of the Bureau of Personnel.

The command expects that number to quadruple in the near future, to 10,000 sailors, according to a report from the director of the Navy’s Augmentation Division. And as the Navy runs short of sailors in the States, it will continue to look overseas to fill those positions, McPhearson said.

Augmentees deploy for either six months or a year, plus travel time and five weeks of training.

Pretty sneaky, huh? You join the Navy to see the world, and before you know it you're hip-deep in sand.

There's a comment from a Navy man over at the Randi Rhodes forum—

I personally am in the navy and this is talked about every day. I consider myself safe from IA [individual augmentee] being designated for submarines. But I know of quite a few going either going or are there now. It started out as just the security guys working at Gitmo. But now they need more "bodies" in Iraq and I guess the Navy isn't doing anything important.

The Navy has a website chockful of useful information for the augmentee about to depart for Iraq. The first 3 tips for the soon-to-be deployed are—

  • Get your overseas screening done.
  • Get your Last Will & Testament done or updated. Also for your spouse, if you are married.
  • Get Powers of Attorney (general and durable) as appropriate.

And expect to be welcomed—

Please bring ... a positive attitude: you are handled like a pawn, please just go with the flow. They have been processing people since 9/11 and will let you know about it too.

The Navy hasn't had any problem meeting its recruitment quotas. In January of this year, the Navy was said to be "flush with recruits." If word gets out that the new recruits are just joining the Army (or the Marines) through the backdoor, that may come to a quick end. If you know anyone who's considering joining the Navy, you might want to alert them to the Individual Augmentee program.

April 5, 2006

This is a sad update—

April 4, 2006
DoD Identifies Navy Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Hospitalman Geovani Padillaaleman, 20, of South Gate, Calif., died Apr. 2 as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was permanently assigned to Bethesda Naval Hospital, USNS Comfort Detachment and operationally assigned to Third Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, 2/28 Brigade Combat Team.

Follow-up post
BC3: Yet another strategem for replacing the missing Army (4/17/07)

Related post
Ground Force of the Day (9/15/06)


1This could lead to more incidents of "recruiter's rage," a syndrome that was documented even before the current war. In 1997 the Boston Globe reported that—

Last year, an Army recruiting sergeant in Florida attacked a Navy recruiting station with a tire iron because a Navy recruiter and he were competing for the same candidate.

In April 1995, 10 Navy recruiters in Chicago were accused of forging high school diplomas for unqualified candidates. That June, an Army sergeant in Colorado was charged with burglary after he lifted ceiling tiles between his office and the Navy recruiting station next door in an effort to get the names of prospective candidates.

This time it could be a Navy recruiter wielding the tire iron. [back]

Metaphor of the Day

god's-eye view

Usage: The focus of U.S. air power has shifted from dropping bombs to giving U.S. troops a “God’s-eye view” of what’s on the ground.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Environmental Threat of the Day

Air travel is our fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and the most pernicious, since emissions at altitude have more than twice the impact of those on the ground. —British "Leader" in "Soon we'll pay the true price of air travel"

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