Friday, September 14, 2007

Bush on Iraq: "It's getting better. Wait, not so much. Oh, now it's better again."

Well which is it, Mr. President? A month ago you told us that the Iraqi government wasn't making satisfactory progress. Then last night you say have patience, because “they're getting some things done.”

From today's Washington Post:

In his speech last night, President Bush made a case for progress in Iraq by citing facts and statistics that at imes contradicted recent government reports or his own words ....

Bush also asserted that Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, was once an al-Qaeda stronghold but that “today, Baqubah is cleared.” But in a meeting with reporters on Aug. 27, the head of the State Department team in Diyala said the security situation was not stable, hampering access to food and energy, though he acknowledged that commerce was returning to Baqubah ....

Bush also thanked “the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq.” But the State Department's most recent weekly report on Iraq said there are 25 countries supplying 11,685 troops — about 7 percent of the size of the U.S. forces.

Bonus Poetry Break!

I heard this poem this morning on my drive in to work, and thought you might enjoy it, too. Visit the Writers Almanac for more interesting reading on a Friday morning, and support public radio.

Love at First Sight

You always hear about it—
a waitress serves a man two eggs
over easy and she says to the cashier,
That is the man I'm going to marry,
and she does. Or a man spies a woman
at a baseball game; she is blond
and wearing a blue headband,
and, being a man, he doesn't say this
or even think it, but his heart is a homing bird
winging to her perch, and next thing you know
they're building birdhouses in the garage.
How do they know, these auspicious lovers?
They are like passengers on a yellow
bus painted with the dreams
of innumerable lifetimes, a packet
of sepia postcards in their pocket.
And who's to say they haven't traveled
backward for centuries through borderless
lands, only to arrive at this roadside attraction
where Chance meets Necessity and says,
What time do you get off?

— Jennifer Maier

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Safe when the President visits, Anbar Province now witness to assasination of ally sheik

Just in from the Associated Press:

Bomb kills sheik working with US

BAGHDAD - The most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province, 10 days after he met with President Bush, police and tribal leaders said.

Officials said his assassination would be a huge setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, because it sends a message to others who are cooperating with coalition forces or thinking about cooperating against al-Qaida.

The Interior Ministry swiftly ordered plans for a monument built to honor Abu Risha as a “martyr,” Khalaf said. It would be build either at the explosion site, or at the center of Ramadi, he said.

And tonight, President Bush will speak to the nation at 9 pm EST (I can only guess it's so late because he didn't want to miss My Name is Earl, which runs at 8), and according to his spokespeople will be touting the progress in Iraq and asking for our patience.

Wait, I think I've heard that one before ....

Holy Joe Lieberman: "Please, please, please can't we attack Iran, too?"

That crazy Joe Lieberman wants to know why, since we're already in Iraq, can't we just go ahead and attack Iran, too.

He asked this of General Petraeus at the hearings yesterday, and really looked like he was about to cry when the general said no, we should really just deal with Iraq, um, in Iraq.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars, you can watch the exchange here.

Watchdog asks: Why is Bush's kid brother getting federal bucks?

From The Raw Story:
An independent watchdog agency has asked the Department of Education to investigate why President Bush's younger brother, Neil, has received money earmarked for the president's signature education initiative to sell a curriculum program that has not been subjected to the rigorous evaluation it deserves.

Neil Bush, 52, who has no background in education, founded Ignite! Learning in 1999 with donations from his parents and a slate of international business interests. The company produces "Curriculum on Wheels" devices — computer/projectors that are pre-loaded with software aimed at preparing students for standardized tests that are the central tenet of the president's No Child Left Behind law.

Gee, I have no idea why I'm so sceptical about the No Child Left Behind programs. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dept. of Really Important News: The Pint Lives On!

From the New York Times:

Britons and the Irish can still down a pint of beer, walk a mile, covet an ounce of gold and eat a pound of bananas after the European Union ruled today that the countries could retain measurements dating back to the Middle Ages.

Under a previous European Union plan, Britain and Ireland would have been forced to adopt the metric system and phase out imperial measurements by 2009. But after a vociferous antimetric campaign by British skeptics and London’s tabloid press, European Union officials decided that an ounce of common sense (or 28.3 grams) suggested that granting a reprieve was better than braving a public backlash.

They also feared that forcing Britain to abolish the imperial system would have damaged European Union trade with the United States, one of three countries, including Liberia and Myanmar, that have not officially adopted the metric system.

Equal time for felines

In the interest of promoting canine and feline diversity, we give equal time here to Sybil, the new cat at 10 Downing Street:

Yes, I (heart) this cat, too!

Wednesday Poetry Break

Late For Summer Weather

He has on
an old light grey Fedora
She a black beret

He a dirty sweater
She an old blue coat
that fits her tight

Grey flapping pants
Red skirt and
broken down black pumps

Fat Lost Ambling
nowhere through
the upper town they kick

their way through
heaps of
fallen maple leaves

still green-and
crisp as dollar bills
Nothing to do. Hot cha!

— William Carlos Williams

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I will pray for peace today

On this day, it's hard to know what to write. I thought about it all morning on my drive to work, and I have so much running through my head that I don't know where to start — or where to end up.

Six years ago I was a Special Education teacher in a middle school in Baltimore. I didn't see a whole lot of what was going on in “real time,” because I was mostly trying to calm scared kids. At the same time, I was worried about my parents and brother who live only a few miles from the Pentagon, and my other brother who worked only a few miles from the Pentagon. Only later did I find out that my uncle and his wife were in New York City, and that he was getting ready to go pick up his photos from the camera shop in the first floor of the World Trade Center. (He had not yet left to pick up the pictures when the first plane hit, so thank God he was safe. Someone found the pictures many months later and tracked him down in Arizona to return them to him!)

So mostly what I remember from that day is the anxiety, worry, and effort to reassure the kids that they were safe with us at school. (Which became harder as more and more parents came and took their kids out of school. The ones left behind got, understandably, a little paranoid as they day wore on.)

And then when I went home, my partner and I watched the news and just couldn't even process what was going on. It was a strange place to be, geographically, because we were so close to DC, and pretty close to Pennsylvania and New York, too. So there was this fear hanging over us: will we be next? (Which is, of course, the whole idea behind terrorism.)

Six years later, I've had many cases of the “six degrees of separation” syndrome. I have met people who had a son in the Towers who barely escaped, people who had a meeting at the Pentagon that they missed, and a dear friend of a dear friend who's husband was killed at the Pentagon — days before his wife was due to have their baby. At the same time, many other friends who work in DC looked out their windows and saw the smoke rising across the river at the Pentagon.

And my cousin was sitting on a bench on the National Mall, trying to absorb what was going on (there was nowhere to go, anyway, as the city was basically shut down), and a reporter from the New York Times stopped to interview him.

Six years later, and we live under more security and regulation than ever before. And I don't feel any safer today than I did on that day in the classroom with those scared kids. We are occupying and fighting in a country that has become a breeding ground for the very type of people who attacked us on September 11 — but it is very important to remember that when we entered Iraq, the actual people who attacked us had no connection there. Al Qaida has since moved in to take advantage of the power vacuum we created when we ousted Saddam Hussein. So, since September 11, we attacked a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, and created haven for the terrorists who did attack us.

So I will pray for peace today. And I will pray for all the 3,000 people who died in this country on September 11, 2001. And I will pray for the people of Iraq, where 3,000 people are killed every three months. And I will pray for our military service men and women, 3,771 3,774 of whom have died since we invaded Iraq.

I will pray for peace today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

From the brilliant mind of Pat Oliphant

(Click for larger image)

Just How Gay Is The GOP?

“Because baby, it just keeps popping up, scandal after scandal, homophobic lawmaker after anti-gay preacher after gay marriage attacker after hooker-loving “family values” adulterer, Bob Allen to Ted Haggard to Jim West to Glenn Murphy Jr. to David “Diaperman” Vitter, so many examples of a militant loudmouthed Christian Republican suddenly caught with his pants down around his boyfriend’s ankles that, after so many headlines, the notion that these cases might be rare or exceptional simply vanishes and you are left only with the undeniable fact that, oh my God, the American right is simply teeming with so much murky, pressure-cooked homoeroticism it might as well be a Young Republicans kegger at Mark Foley’s pink Miami Beach condo.”

Yowza! Catch your breath, and then read the rest of Mark Morford at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Meanwhile, back in my hometown ....

I was looking for some local elections information this morning to post on my other blog. I was hoping to post polling hours, names of candidates, etc. But a quick google provided this top story from the Baltimore Sun: “Police raid elections warehouse”

So much for the integrity of the elections process:
Baltimore police raided the city's elections warehouse yesterday and arrested an employee who they say illegally copied hundreds of movie DVDs and then stored some of them at the facility, the same place where voting machines and other election supplies are housed.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Oprah raises $3 million for Barack Obama

I know he likes to portray himself as an outsider of Washington politics, and this is not Washington it's Hollywood. But I still find it interesting from this wire report just how much money is flowing around Barack Obama these days:

Tickets to the sold-out private event went for $2,300 apiece ... Visitors were bused to Winfrey's secluded home from an equestrian center about 10 miles away. A solid line of limousines, BMWs, Bentleys and a few hybrid Priuses disgorged well-dressed guests.

Then it was off to a private luncheon and on to Winfrey's cocktail-hour shindig, here a different brand of very American generosity would be on display.

Obama already enjoys the support of Hollywood moguls like David Geffen and effrey Katzenberg, and Winfrey's fundraiser is another chance for him to tap California, which was his top donor state from April through June with a total take of $4.2 million.

This is “outside”? Read more here.

Presidential candidate poll numbers: Catch the fever!

Yeah, I know. Not so much. But if you are interested in finding out where everyone who's running stands in the polls today, Gallup has a new one out. An easier to read version is at My DD:

Clinton 45 (48)
Obama 24 (25)
Edwards 16 (13)
Biden 3 (1)
Richardson 2 (2)
Kucinich 2 (2)
Dodd 1 (1)
Gravel 1 (1)

Oh yeah, and the other guys:

Giuliani 32 (34)
Thompson 22 (19)
McCain 15 (11)
Romney 10 (14)
Huckabee 5 (4)

"It’s kind of humiliating to watch an American President get rolled by a two bit, corrupt petty shaykh"

Last week in Anbar Province, President Bush made time to visit some of his shadiest friends in the area. From Think Progress,

During his “surprise visit” to Iraq earlier this month, President Bush met with Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council who “has a rather unsavory reputation as one of the shadiest figures in the Sunni community.” Time magazine wrote that “Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him.” Marc Lynch writes, “It’s kind of humiliating to watch an American President get rolled by a two bit, corrupt petty shaykh.”