Jim Downey's picture

One step at a time.

So, the end of March I posted the poll about pot. In comments there, I said this:

But I listen to what people are saying, and how they are saying it, in different contexts. I look at the costs associated with our War on (Some) Drugs. And I just think that we're approaching something of a phase-change in thinking in this country. Yeah, it might be a form of 'decriminalization' which is so weak as to be de facto legalization (and I would interpret it as such), but I think we'll see something fairly radical happen within a couple of years.

This morning, the news:

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I heard the news when the radio went on this morning at 6:00, and just started laughing:

OSLO – President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision designed to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.

* * *

The award appeared to be a slap at Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The Nobel committee praised Obama's creation of "a new climate in international politics" and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage.

"The award appeared to be a slap at Bush . . . " No shit, Sherlock. I can just imagine heads exploding all across the Right today.

Heh. Hehehehehe . . .

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You gotta admit, the man had style.

I haven't written much about him, but I have always admired Abraham Lincoln. And not just for the usual sixth-grade Civics reasons. In early adulthood I explored the man's personal history - his personal story - and ever since I have tried to keep up with at least some of the current scholarship about him.

Why? Well, because he was smart in how he handled himself. And furthermore, because he learned how to be even smarter as he went through life, even when he knew that he was faced with impossible situations. Here's one example of this, which I had forgotten until a recent comment on a MeFi thread jogged my memory. Lincoln had been involved in a public argument with another Illinois politician, and had pushed the man too far - to the point where he was challenged to a duel. Here's the full story, but I want to concentrate on this passage:

Due to the fact that Lincoln was the one who had been challenged to the duel, tradition gave him the privilege of choosing the time and location of the duel, as well as the weapons that were to be used. Being a man of humor and wit, and having no desire to kill Shields, or allow himself to be killed; Lincoln put together the most ridiculous set of circumstances that he could think of regarding the logistics of the upcoming duel.

Jim Downey's picture

It's the Christian Crusader!

Time now for another great episode of the Christian Crusader in "Huntin' Ragheads!":

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince's executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to "lay Hajiis out on cardboard." Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince's employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as "ragheads" or "hajiis."

OK, what the hell am I talking about? That the founder of The-mercenary-army-formerly-known-as-Blackwater (now called "Xe") was more 'dirty' than you may have suspected. From The Nation:

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Spin, spin, spin.

Got an email from a friend this morning. It was short, almost despairing:

I agree with David Brooks. He makes sense. Is this some alternate reality I've fallen into and can't get up?

My friend was talking about this column from Brooks last week:

Cheney Lost to Bush

President Obama and Dick Cheney conspired on Thursday to propagate a myth. The myth is that we lived through an eight-year period of Bush-Cheney anti-terror policy and now we have entered a very different period called the Obama-Biden anti-terror policy. As both Obama and Cheney understand, this is a completely bogus distortion of history.

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"We're not at war with people in this country."

A friend sent me this Wall Street Journal article yesterday:

White House Czar Calls for End to 'War on Drugs'

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country."

OK, that's not the same thing as actually changing drug policy, but how you say something matters a lot. As Radly Balko says:

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Is this man the luckiest or the unluckiest person in the world?

Hard to say:

Japanese man certified as double A-bomb survivor

TOKYO — A 93-year-old Japanese man has become the first person certified as a survivor of both U.S. atomic bombings at the end of the Second World War, officials said Tuesday.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi had already been a certified “hibakusha,” or radiation survivor, of the Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombing in Nagasaki, but has now been confirmed as surviving the attack on Hiroshima three days earlier as well, city officials said.

Mr. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on Aug. 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. He then returned to his hometown of Nagasaki just in time for the second attack, city officials said.

“As far as we know, he is the first one to be officially recognized as a survivor of atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Nagasaki city official Toshiro Miyamoto said. “It's such an unfortunate case, but it is possible that there are more people like him.”


Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)

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As Radley says:

Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed to Death in Her Own Home While They Planted Drugs in Her Basement, Then Threatening an Informant So He Would Lie To Cover It All Up

About this item:

Ex-Atlanta cops sentenced in deadly botched raid

ATLANTA – A federal judge sentenced three former Atlanta police officers to prison Tuesday for their part in a botched drug raid that ended with the death of an elderly woman in a hail of gunfire.

Jason R. Smith, Gregg Junnier and Arthur Tesler received sentences ranging from five years to 10. Kathryn Johnston, 92, was killed by police gunfire during the 2006 raid at her home.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Sarah Palin And The Get 'Er Done Vote

I had never even heard of Sarah Palin until Vox Day picked her as the VP nominee two full days before it was announced by the McCain camp. (How the heck did you see that one coming, Vox?)

Now, a week or so later, I am a bit worried.

You see, like Mrs. Palin's future son-in-law Levi, I'm also a fuckin' redneck. I like to to camp, hunt, ride dirt bikes, shoot guns, and hang out with the boys. Like Todd and Sarah, I too have five kids. I worked in blue-collar, 12 hours a day, up-to-your-elbows-in-grease jobs most of my adult life. I like country music. I wear a cowboy hat. I ride horses. I drink Coors Light. I listen to the Blue Collar Comedy guys, and think Larry The Cable Guy is an unsung comedy genius.

Like I said - a redneck.

The one thing I don't share with my farmer-tanned brethren is god belief. I don't have any, but most of them do. This places me into a really weird position politically. For most of my life I voted Republican. Heck, I was a conservative Republican. But the overt and covert religiosity, and the growing dominionist, theocratic themes in the GOP turned me away. I switched over to the Libertarian Party - but it's not a great fit for me either. I don't think I'll ever be a registered Democrat. I just don't identify with enough of their platform. That's not to say that I won't vote for a Democrat though, or for a Republican for that matter, if I decide that they happen to be the best person for the job.

In any case, my point is that Sarah Palin could have stood up at the Republican National Convention and read the phone book (well, People Magazine, anyway,) and the redneck "Get 'er Done!" folks would have still voted for her - not McCain alone - in droves.

I am *already* hearing it from my redneck friends and family members. "She's just like us!" They exclaim. "That nice Levi boy is going to marry Bristol, and she's not going to kill her baby! And her mom supports her!" And what about "Iron Dog" Todd Palin, commercial fisherman, champion snowmobile racer, and oil field worker? "The First Dude is a real man - did you hear how he finished a snowmobile race with a broken arm? Very cool. I think it'd be awesome to hang out with him and have a beer." Not to mention the absolutely golden video of little Piper Palin licking her hand and smoothing down Baby Trig's hair was about the cutest thing they say they've ever seen.

Do not underestimate the redneck vote. They will rise up in a flurry of mullets and "Who Farted" hats and absolutely crush Obama and Biden if those two don't get their poop in a group and do something quickly. (Here's a tip, Barack my friend; I like you, but ease up on the anti-gun stuff, and please try to stop coming across like an Ivy League asshole when you talk to us regular joes. It's going to lose you this election if you're not careful.)

I don't know if McCain made this choice, or if it was orchestrated by Rove, but whoever did it thought it through. It is either an act of sheer genius that will sweep McCain into the Oval Office, or Palin will self-destruct even past the point where getting the redneck vote can save her. The Republicans are betting that she holds it together, obviously, and she well might.

If she does hold it together, then we might all be in a lot of trouble. Because make no mistake about it, she is a far, FAR right religious theocrat who has used her political power in the past to endorse her own wacky theology. She seems to believe that she was chosen by her God to do well in the political arena, spurred by her prophetic pastor's encouragement from his pulpit - and the VP nod is only going to fuel their conviction that she is being supported supernaturally by Binky The Magic Space Clown (or whoever she thinks made the universe with magic.)

In short, we've got to win this one folks. If we don't, we're screwed. McCain is just too damned frail to have someone like Palin sitting in the on-deck spot.

Your thoughts? What am I missing here? Is it as bad as I think it is?

Jim Downey's picture

The Other Shoe.

I've written previously about screws-ups with control of nuclear weapons and components thereof. And the recent dismissal of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne also caught my attention, with the explanation that this was due to a failure to properly safeguard the handling of nuclear materials. Now it seems that there was more behind that dismissal than was initially indicated:

US N-weapons parts missing, Pentagon says

The US military cannot locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, according to several government officials familiar with a Pentagon report on nuclear safeguards.

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Go read this.

By UTI's own brilliant DarkSyde:

An Open Letter to the Media

* * *

But this diary isn't about Tim Russert, it's not about you; it's about some other people who you occasionally cover and for whom you may now feel an unwanted and yet inseparabale kinship. It's probably too early to say this, and yes, I apologize if anyone feels this is crass or inapproriate, but I'm going to say it anyway: The same intractable pain that has reached out cruelly and gripped you with despair is felt by every mother and father, brother and sister, and friend and spouse of every single soldier killed in Iraq. Those men and women died doing a job that paid peanuts, most of them at a young age. Despite whatever loyalty they may feel to their comrades in arms, odds are good that quite a few of them would have rather been somewhere else right up until the moment their bodies were ravaged by fire and red-hot lead. The gut punch, horrific beyond comprehension, is their departed died for a mistake or a campaign of intentional deception, take your pick.

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So, whad'ya think? Someone stand up and say that bombing Iran is madness? Release plans to the media?

Top U.S. Air Force official resigns: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley has resigned, and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne may also be on the brink of resigning, the defense publication InsideDefense.com reported on Thursday.

"Top-level Pentagon officials gave Moseley the option to resign or be fired during a meeting this morning," the website reported, quoting an unidentified military official. "Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne also could resign later today," it said.


UPDATE, 4:40 CDT: Seems that the spin is that this action was taken in response to the screw-ups in handling the nuclear weapons that the Air Force controls:

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Death of a woman.

Friends, this is what our war has brought:

Mother who defied the killers is gunned down

Five weeks ago Leila Hussein told The Observer the chilling story of how her husband had killed their 17-year-old daughter over her friendship with a British soldier in Basra. Now Leila, who had been in hiding, has been murdered - gunned down in cold blood. Afif Sarhan in Basra and Caroline Davies report on the final act of a brutal tragedy.

Leila Hussein lived her last few weeks in terror. Moving constantly from safe house to safe house, she dared to stay no longer than four days at each. It was the price she was forced to pay after denouncing and divorcing her husband - the man she witnessed suffocate, stamp on, then stab their young daughter Rand in a brutal 'honour' killing for which he has shown no remorse.

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What he said:

And to finish:

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Will we, or won't we?

So - simple question: do you think that the US will launch some kind of significant attack against Iran sometime before the elections in November?

I ask because for months this has been the supposed plan - and there are indications that the information coming out of Iraq seems to be setting up justification for taking this action.

Personally, I think that it would be nearly suicidal for us to do so for a whole bunch of reasons. But almost nothing that the Bush Administration might do could surprise me at this point, no matter how stupid.

So, will we, or won't we?

Jim Downey

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Brave Sir Robin

Our guys out in Iraq don't get the recognition they deserve. Placed in impossible situations, surrounded by a country in which half the population hates your infidel guts, and the other half expects you to do their fighting for them, with impossible goals set by pencil-pushing political fuckwads back in Washington - they still manage to pull it out of the fire and make progress.

Case in point. Our military units in Sadr City have been tasked with helping the Iraqi Army take the lead in the fight against the Iran-trained and equipped "Mahdi Army" Shiite militia. So, when the other shoe drops and the bullets start flying, do the Iraqis step up to the plate?

Well, some of them do. Others? Not so much. They "bravely ran away", leaving a ragged hole in the combined Iraqi/American line for the militia to exploit.

[link] Major Sattar calmly explained that he was leading the remainder of his 80-man company away from the fight. As if to underscore the point, a convoy of Iraqi vehicles piled high with furniture was parked in front of the American position.

Abandoning the stronghold, however, would allow the militias to move in again and seed the road with roadside bombs. Other Iraqi units had stood their ground through several long firefights, and Captain Veath was surprised that the major’s unit was leaving after holding off another militia attack.

“You went through a whole battle and are now removing yourself?” Captain Veath asked incredulously. “Are any of your men dead?”

Major Sattar acknowledged that his unit had several wounded but none killed. But he and other Iraqi soldiers insisted that they were poorly equipped to battle the militias. Iraqi forces, they said, were short of ammunition, had only a few armored vehicles and were up against militia fighters they said were equipped and trained by the Iranians.

“We are not afraid,” the major responded.

He also complained that he had no means to communicate directly with the American troops.

“That is an excuse, and you know it,” Captain Veath shot back. He argued that one of the major’s platoons was situated just 100 yards from some of the American Stryker vehicles and that the two sides had agreed that the Iraqis could send a runner over to the vehicles to ask for help if necessary.

The Iraqi commander returned to his convoy and Captain Veath followed, promising a Stryker escort if the Iraqi soldiers would only return to their positions.

Dozens of excited Iraqi soldiers began to join in the discussion. As tempers flared and voices rose, Sergeant Angulo ordered the company’s soldiers to stay close to Captain Veath.

The Iraqi convoy drove off, and the Americans began to scramble to find a new Iraqi unit to plug the gap.

Look, folks, I wish this damned thing never started. Thanks, President Bush. However, the cold hard facts are that we are in this thing up to our eyeballs. We need to figure out a way to disengage from this war without completely destroying the country of Iraq, leaving it to the tender mercies of the Iranian theocracy. The regular citizens there don't deserve that.

What a clusterfuck.

Dirk Diggler's picture

Assud the Hamas Jihad Bunny

First of all, let me say that I am fairly sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. One of the most amazing and dynamic professors I had in college was this man. However, the conflict between the Israeli's and the Palestinians is a huge mess that effects everyone in the world, directly or indirectly. Until a peaceful settlement can be reached, violence will be the regions main export.

Of course religion does absolutely nothing to help. As a matter of fact, religion is just another issue to divide us, cause more conflict and further complicate issues. That's why I get so upset when I see video's like this:

And here is a longer version.

Dirk Diggler's picture

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Crazy

*The Good*

TooManyTribbles put together an AWESOME video collage of her favorite atheist/free thinking websites. And yes, UTI is in there at about the 2 minute 10 second mark. I had no idea there were so many of us.

*The Bad*

I implore everyone to read John Scalzi's hilarious report on his trip to the Creation Museum. It will make you laugh, cry and shake your head. He also includes a 101 picture photo tour so none of us will ever have to go. It started as a small joke this summer and only got better. Scalzi promised to go the museum if he could raise $250 for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He wound up raising over $5000.

*The Ugly*

Jim Downey's picture

Your tax dollars at work.

So. Would you be at all surprised to find out that over the last 50 years your tax dollars have gone to support such things as remote viewing, spoon bending, even attempts to walk through walls or kill with a thought?

Probably not, if you've been paying attention to what your government has been up to, and the strangeness that surrounds any authoritarian organization such as the US military and (so-called) intelligence agencies. But to see it all nicely wrapped up in three one-hour long programs for the UK Channel 4 is something else altogether. From the Google video site hosting the programs:

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Three years in the making, Jon Ronson’s Crazy Rulers of the World explores the apparent madness at the heart ... all » of US military intelligence.

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Fun with Chemistry!

OK, as noted in another thread, I like things that go boom, things that burn, all that 'rapid oxidization' stuff. Now, remember from your high school chemistry class that fun demonstration (do they still do this these days?) of what happens when you drop a piece of metallic sodium into water? Well, how about dropping 20,000 pounds of the stuff into a lake?

As someone mentioned in the MeFi thread where I came across this, it brings to mind the delightful segment from Brainiac where they played with small amounts of rubidium and cesium. Good times, good times...

Jim Downey

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