Sunday, July 31, 2005

Writing and reading...

One of the joys in reading bloggers' work is that occasionally one discovers a real storyteller. is one of those folks. Happily enough, he's posted a new and poignant story today.

A couple of writers in the group I associate with have recently decided that it would be very neat to have a number of us write a Christmas short story, which they would edit and find an agent for and get the stories published in a small book.

Shouldn't be difficult. The group is full of accomplished and published writers.

The two writers did a lot of planning, and presented the idea last week. It was well received by all but a couple of us.

I'm one of the ones who decided to not participate. Reason being that I don't think short...I think novel length. Not to say I haven't written short stories. I have. Had a couple published and that satisfied that challenge just fine. No need or desire to write any more. Had already written my first book. It's in my closet, never published. Right beside four more. No two alike.

At this point, I've got a novel that's in print and on Amazon. That pretty well satisfied me. Have no idea whether I'll find something I want to write about badly enough to keep me interested for the next two years or not. Takes me a couple of years to write a novel. And when it's through, it's through. If it doesn't sell, up on the shelf in the closet it goes.

Writing is a funny thing. As one writer said, "You can't make a writer write." Truer words were never spoken.

Morialekafa, it seems, writes when he's frustrated out of his mind with the state of the world. Writing, he steps right out of this world and into one of his own creation. Much like sitting down to read for most of us. Which is why, I believe, that there will always be books in their present form. So I'll go now and finish the novel I began reading last night.

They're in the money...

Cheney's boundless Iraq profiteering
By The Age

"The Age" -- -- Things are going well in Iraq for the invaders. Well, at least for some people, such as US Vice-President Richard Cheney. He is receiving more than $US1 million ($A1.3 million) a year from Halliburton, the company of which he was CEO from 1995 to 2000, in "deferred remuneration" while he is VP. He is worth every penny.

Last week, two Democrat senators and a house member wrote to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld asking if he knew about Halliburton's latest money-making dodge in Iraq. Keep in mind that Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root, have a nice little earner going in supplying support for the US Army and for, ostensibly, putting out oil well fires. The Centre for Public Integrity in Washington counts Halliburton's windfall at more than $US10 billion - a little bit coming from the US Treasury but most coming from Iraqi oil revenue that is supposed to be used to reconstruct the country for the benefit of the people. The centre counts another 30 members of the Defence Policy Board with ties to American companies with $US76 billion (as of 2002) in largely uncontested and un-auditable military contracts.

The Democrats reckon that Halliburton may have overstepped even its sloppy moral line by making life impossible for another American company that has committed the crime of undercutting the Vice-President's company.

In their letter to Rumsfeld, the Democrats say that US company Lloyd-Owen International is being prevented from delivering fuel to Iraq from Kuwait (Who says the liberation hasn't been a success? What next? Ice to the Inuit?) by forcing LOI trucks to use a civilian crossing where the checks are so slow that the company can't get its 140 trucks a day through. The speedy, wave-'em-through military crossing is controlled by who? The Iraqi military? The US military? Nope, by the Vice-President's firm, which is also in the fuel delivery business.

The Democrats say that the LOI crime is delivering fuel to Iraq for 18 US cents a gallon while Halliburton provides the same service at $US1.30 a gallon. The LOI spokesman says he could understand if Halliburton simply doubled the price, to 36 US cents a gallon. But at $US1.30 a gallon even a Texas carpetbagger should blush.

Halliburton has a $US2.5 billion contract for managing the fuel distribution system in Iraq. The man from LOI says that "we have not, to date, seen a functioning KBR (Kellogg Brown and Root) piece of equipment to where we deliver". He also says that his chaps have only come across one KBR employee at these sites.

LOI needed Defence Department ID cards to make its deliveries and, in order to get them from - you guessed it - Halliburton, they had to make a delivery for Mr Cheney of construction material to Fallujah last month. The convoy was attacked and three men were killed and seven injured. KBR staff were ordered not to provide any assistance to the injured. "Many people volunteered to help, but were told not to by our management," according to a Halliburton employee. Presumably the convoy crew were a bunch of mercenaries, in Iraq to make a buck.

As George the Smaller told an audience at the West Point and Virginia Military Institute, America is "the single surviving model of human progress".
Copyright © 2005. The Age Company Ltd.

Hoo-boy!!! More on Ohio:

Just read more on candidates, Schmidt and Hackett on Crooks & Liars blog via Raw Story:

Jean Schmidt: Queen of the Talking Point
Jean Schmidt appeared on Hard Ball last night to have a chance to tell us why she should win the OH-2 election.

Umm...I was going to make a "wicked witch of the west" comparison, but let us say she hasn't found a talking point she doesn't like. When Gregory asked her if Hackett has more credibility about Iraq because he was a veteran and had served there. Jean replied that she went to a soldier's funeral. When David pressed her on Hackett's experience, she replied that he sounds like Nancy Pelosi. When Gregory says that she sounds like the president's talking points, she hesitated...and well just watch. David, don't mess with her talking points. At one point she starts yelling at Gregory... pretty pathetic.

Atrios calls her the Worst Candidate Ever

Americablog says: Not to mention, craaaaaaazzzzyyyyyy.

Check out about three and a half minutes into this interview - she kind of starts to lose her cool in a kooky way. Also, she's one big GOP talking point, no substance whatsoever. With regards to Iraq, she thinks it's all going real well. "The best defense is a good offense," is what she'd tell President Bush about the war. Uh huh.Oh, check out 6:40 into the video, she loses it again. What a fraking witch. Oh my! Gee, tightly strung much? Then she gets on a roll and just doesn't stop even for air, she gets more and more and more wound up. Oh my God, what a nut!

Gen Wes Clark says vote for Hackett...

It's going to be a close race in Ohio come Tuesday when voters choose between Republican Schmidt and Iraq vet and Democrat Hackett. I am, of course, pulling for Hackett. Read on:

Saturday, July 30, 2005
Schmidt can't recall Ach favor
By Howard WilkinsonEnquirer staff writer

Republican congressional candidate Jean Schmidt's media consultant said Friday she had no recollection of lobbying the governor's office on behalf of Cincinnati businessman Roger Ach's Internet lottery business when she was a state representative, as was reported Friday by the Toledo Blade.

But her Democratic opponent, Paul Hackett, jumped on the story, saying Schmidt "should have been lobbying for her constituents."

The Blade on Friday quoted documents released by Gov. Bob Taft's office that included a November 2001 e-mail written by Taft staff member Jon Allison complaining that Schmidt "continues to bug me on the Internet lottery."

Ach wanted to persuade the governor to back his plan to sell lottery tickets through his Internet business.

One year after the e-mail, Schmidt received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Ach.
Schmidt was campaigning in Brown County on Friday and could not be reached for comment, but her media consultant, Fritz Wenzel, said he discussed the Blade story with Schmidt on Friday morning and said she could not recall any conversations with anyone in the governor's office about Ach's business.

"This was one of hundreds of issues she faced as a legislator and it was not the kind of substantive and significant issues that she paid close attention to," Wenzel said.

The Hackett campaign called a press conference at its Batavia office where the Democrat claimed the story was more proof of his contention that Schmidt is entirely too close to the ethical problems swirling around the Taft administration.

"She's a good runner, but she can't run from her record," Hackett said, referring to his opponent's marathon running.

The Schmidt campaign put out a statement Friday afternoon saying Hackett was turning to "baseless attacks" because "his liberal Democratic views do not match up with voters of the 2nd Congressional District."

Facing an opponent in Hackett who volunteered for a seven-month tour of duty in Iraq, Schmidt plans to show her own support for the military with a Sunday rally featuring some Clermont County families who have paid a heavy price for service in Iraq.

At 3 p.m. Sunday in Union Township's Veterans Memorial Park, Schmidt will join the family of Sgt. Chuck Kiser, the Army reservist and Amelia native killed last year in Iraq; Keith Maupin, the father of Sgt. Matt Maupin, who has been listed as missing since his convoy was hit near the Baghdad airport in April 2004; and Sgt. Paul Brondhaver, a member of the Felicity-based 216th Engineer Battalion who was seriously injured while serving in Iraq last year.

Hackett, a Marine, picked up the endorsement of a four-star Army general Friday.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, issued a statement Friday urging 2nd District voters to go to the polls Tuesday and cast a ballot for Hackett. The candidate returned from Iraq in March after a tour of duty with a Marine civil affairs unit.

Clark said Hackett's experience in Iraq "means he understands what it takes to kill our enemies, support our friends and do everything it takes to win the war on terror and keep America safe."

Internet Etiquette Rules:


“I disagree with what you say but I’ll defend unto the death your right to say it. ”

If Voltaire were alive today he’d have a hard time selling that idea, and it was such an impressive idea too. Even a radio program of the 1940s, Mr. District Attorney, appropriated it for a stirring lead-in. I knew what Voltaire said before I knew who he was.

Today, not many really care what another person says. I suspect there’s just so much news out there it’s easier to decide what we want to believe then ignore everything else. Even those of us who had sworn to defend the Constitution pick and choose which things we are willing to stick our necks out for once we shuck our uniforms.

That includes me, a guy out of step with my old Navy shipmates because I’m a bleeding heart liberal. I only listen to Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and folks like that when I feel like cussing. I claim cussing is therapeutic. My wife says it’s childish. I’m glad my wife and I don’t communicate by e-mail. We probably wouldn’t be good friends.

I think the whole problem is the Internet. It’s just too easy to find exactly what we want. E-mails are passed around touting this or that belief. In the meantime, relationships built up over decades of service become strained. It’s hard to talk about the good old days when someone tells you “YOU ARE FULL OF *#%*%@#”

Thus I’ve come up with some handy rules of etiquette for the exchange of e-mails:


If you don’t want your ideas challenged, don’t send them to people who think.

Complete agreement is necessary at battle stations, otherwise it’s dangerous. The closest thing to total agreement is found in Saudi Arabia. You want that?

I have as much right to answer an e-mail as the original poster had to send it to me. I also have the right to send it to the same addressees.

“Don’t send me that crap” means little if you’re sending me crap.

I have the absolute right to ignore such admonitions as “If you don’t agree with this, delete it.” Once it lands in my mailbox it’s mine. I’ll do whatever the hell I want with it.

All unsubstantiated claims are subject to question unless it’s something so obvious it cannot be disputed. “God wants you to vote Republican” does not fit that description.

Purveyors of urban legends deserve to be embarrassed. If you don’t care enough about what you send to check it out, I’ll be more than happy to embarrass you.

Claims of the paranormal are encouraged as long as they are accompanied by proof of the paranormal.

I’m not religious but I have just as much right to discuss religion as a religious person. For example if a president thinks God wants him to wage war, I’d like to talk about it with him, or with God.

I also intend to criticize the commander in chief when he stymies science such as stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. I have diabetes and would like for science to find a cure before a surgeon starts whacking off my leg like they did to my brother. I need my legs for walking, or if I meet some of my old shipmates, for running.

The best way to honor the Bill of Rights is to use it. Please remember that the next time you feel like telling someone “sit down and shut up!” Yes I was told that recently, and in those exact words.

If the Boy Scouts tell my grandkids that I’m not morally straight because of what I don’t believe, it’s my moral duty to defend myself.

Stubbornness isn’t a virtue. It is just stubborn.

The wisest thing a person can say is “I don’t know.”

Or it might be to say “I changed my mind.” I don’t know.

Disagreement isn’t tantamount to “bad.” Neither is science.

Never make a list of more than ten rules.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Los Alamos bloggers had NASA's number...

July 29, 2005 :

Behind Chunks of Foam, a Failure to Confront Hazard
NASA was never forced to attack shuttle debris peril, and apparently rejected wider solutions.
By Ralph Vartabedian, Times Staff Writer

In a history that includes technical setbacks and failures, NASA has always bounced back with a solution over the four decades of human spaceflight.But its finding that large pieces of foam fell off the shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank during Tuesday's launch shows that the space agency has failed to solve the cause of the Columbia accident that killed seven astronauts on their return voyage in February 2003.

In the months after the Columbia disaster, NASA learned that foam debris falling off the external tank damaged the sensitive thermal protection system on the orbiter. Columbia burned up over Texas when superheated gases penetrated its wing. NASA then spent more than two years and $1.4 billion trying to improve safety.

However, the recommendations made by Columbia's accident investigators did not force NASA to confront the problem head-on. The board told the space agency to "initiate" a program to eliminate foam debris and "initiate" a program to strengthen the orbiter's thermal protection system, but it did not make NASA adopt a 100% fix to either system.

It also appears that in 2003, NASA rejected efforts by outside experts who proposed comprehensive fixes to the foam problem, because the proposals required aggressive redesigns or advanced foam technology that might have required significant investments.The path NASA took instead was to fix, at limited cost, an old launch system that it planned to get rid of by the end of the decade.

Retired Navy Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, acknowledged Thursday that the recommendations to NASA left open a window that would have allowed the same scenario of foam debris falling off and damaging the orbiter's thermal protection system."

We had precious little faith that they could stop this stuff from coming off," Gehman said in an interview. "And lo and behold, they couldn't."Nonetheless, Gehman defends the decision, saying any binding requirement to fix the system "wasn't reasonable."Gehman said neither his accident investigators nor NASA had any definitive explanation for why foam even fell off the tank, let alone a proposal for how to stop it."At the time, we got mixed and inconsistent explanations why foam fell off," Gehman said. "When we went into the body of research, it was inconsistent and unpersuasive."

John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and another member of the Columbia board, acknowledged that he thought the board should have issued a tougher recommendation on fixing the foam."Could we have been tougher? Hindsight is wonderful," Logsdon said. "We put together a set of recommendations that provided a context in which the shuttle program could move forward. They had budget and schedule constraints."

Even NASA officials acknowledged that they erred. "We decided it was safe to fly as is. Obviously, we were wrong," Bill Parsons, manager of the shuttle program, said Wednesday.

Instead of fixing the debris problem, the board focused many recommendations on allowing astronauts to survive such a foam strike. It required advanced photography of the launches to determine whether debris damaged the orbiter, a capability to repair wings in space and a rescue plan in case astronauts were marooned in orbit.

While such measures might save the lives of astronauts, they would not save the space program from a debilitating loss of another shuttle or a delay in launches, as it is now facing. NASA officials say they do not know how long it will take to fix the new foam problems or how it could affect the future of the space program. Until those solutions are in hand, the shuttles are not supposed to fly.

Outside experts tried to get NASA's attention in 2003 on advanced research they thought might help the space agency keep the foam stuck to the massive external tank. On Thursday, they said they were largely rebuffed by NASA insiders who said they did not have the resources to consider new technology.

Steve Nutt, senior associate dean for research at USC and head of the engineering department's foam research center, submitted a proposal in 2003 to NASA for a fiber-reinforced foam that his team had developed.Nutt's lab at USC pioneered a system of mixing chopped glass or aramid fibers into the foam, creating dramatic improvements in strength and the ability to resist cracking.

"They said the technology had merit, but the interest kind of dried up," Nutt said. "They said they didn't have the research-and-development budget to assess this technology."Nutt said NASA never had the information necessary to decide whether his technology would work on the shuttle. He added, "I don't want to bad-mouth NASA. I feel really sorry for those guys. I would still love to talk to someone at NASA."

A second outside proposal submitted by Oscar Weingart, a materials science expert who had spent a career in composites, suggested winding tiny lightweight filaments around the external tank. The concept would have used 800 pounds of carbon filament to create a strong net around the foam, at a cost of less than $1 million.

Several academic experts in materials technology said the proposal looked promising. Weingart, who holds five patents for filament technology, said he received a brief form letter thanking him."It went into a rat hole, as far as I can determine," Weingart said.

Apart from a major redesign, NASA also passed on even modest changes, including modifying the section that fell off Tuesday. NASA considered changes to the Protuberance Air Load ramp, or PAL ramp, in December 2004, noting that it had fallen off on two previous launches. It considered three options to fix the problem, according to NASA documents. But in the end, the agency decided it was safe to fly without any changes.

Paul Czysz, a retired professor of aerospace engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and a former NASA consultant, said in an interview Wednesday that NASA's inbred and political culture kept it from solving the foam problem after the Columbia accident. "The bureaucracy of NASA tends to reinvent what it has already done," Czysz said.

Foam has bedeviled NASA since the beginning of the shuttle program. Foam has fallen off the external tank in nearly every shuttle launch. The hard foam is intended to prevent ice from forming on the outside skin of the tank, which would represent another debris threat at launch. It also insulates the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

During launch, the foam skin is several hundred degrees on the outside and several hundred degrees below zero on the inside, while the aluminum tank is flexing, vibrating and being buffeted by aerodynamic forces thousands of miles per hour.

James McGuffin-Cawley, professor of material science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, compared the situation to getting foam to stick to a soft drink can that deforms easily. "It is amazing to me that it works," he said.

Indeed, if the accident board had written a tougher recommendation, the result could have ended the shuttle program."The accident board agonized whether to write a tougher recommendation, knowing it could not be met," said Howard McCurdy, a space expert at American University. "If they had written that into the report, they knew the shuttle might not have ever flown again."But what the agency is left with is a serious crisis." The chance of a bad outcome is much greater," McCurdy said. "It is a very devastating message."

John Pike, executive director of, a research group in Alexandria, Va., said that accident investigators and NASA regarded the shuttle as an old system unworthy of a major investment, and that the Columbia fixes were much more modest than the fixes after the 1986 Challenger accident, which blew up on launch."Most people will not put a lot of money into a car they are planning to get rid of, and the shuttle is an old car we are getting ready to get rid of," Pike said. "They basically looked at the fixes and said, 'This is good enough for government work.' "

The shuttle grounding leaves the space program not only with a technical problem but with an international political mess, said Louis Freidman, executive director of the Planetary Society. Europe and Japan have invested billions of dollars into modules for the space station that only the shuttle can launch. If the project were to fail, it could undermine U.S. leadership in space programs and raise doubts that the U.S. could be trusted to deliver, Freidman acknowledged."The very fact that they have grounded the fleet is a very, very big deal," he said. "NASA should call an emergency meeting of the International Space Station team members and decide what they can do if the shuttle is not available."

Times staff writer John Johnson Jr. contributed to this report from Houston.

Taps brings tears...

One of the best columnists in the LA Times, Al Martinez, a former Marine, reminds us of one of the toughest jobs Marines have to do:

July 29, 2005

As the death-teller, he too became a casualty

I can see the man in full-dress Marine Corps uniform walking down a pathway from his car toward the house in a suburban Idaho neighborhood. The house is built of brick and has a look of permanence about it, structured to withstand the erosions of time and harsh weather. The garden is neatly cultured. The pathway is concrete.

He remembers these details years later, in his nightmares and in sudden flashes of retention and, most important, he remembers the face of the thin, middle-aged woman, a banker's wife, who sees him coming and is waiting on the porch to greet him. She turns toward the front door and calls, "Oh, Bill, a friend of Jimmy's has come to see us."

A moment after those words are spoken, she looks back at the man walking toward her. She sees his grim expression, and she knows. She gasps and says, "Oh, no …." And after a pause that will last a lifetime, he tells her that her son is dead.

It was the first of a dozen or so times that he has had to inform families that someone they loved, someone they raised, someone they married, someone whose life they valued beyond their own had died in Vietnam. They remain a part of the makeup of the man who had to tell them. It was his job. He never saw combat, never fired a weapon in anger, never faced an enemy head-on but is as much a victim of war as anyone could possibly be.

His name is Martin Young. After 22 years in the Marines, he lives in a small mining town that shall remain anonymous. A hesitancy even to have his name revealed is rooted in the fact that the memories of his final duty in the Corps were so terrible that he was diagnosed as suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder, a pathology usually limited to those who have been involved in the killing that war necessitates.

The long walk to the brick house seems longer as he thinks about it now, the impact of emotion altering memory to suit the effect. "Marines aren't supposed to be wimps," he says, his voice fading as we speak. "But I remember her face and I hear taps and I dissolve." Her face, a pretty face, still twists in grief and horror in his mind as she realizes why he's there. "The irony is that her son died from malaria," he says, "not combat. There was an incident where four or five Marines died from the disease in 24 hours. Parents worry about their sons being blown up or coming home maimed. But it was a mosquito that put him down. A ... mosquito."

I heard from Young when I wrote about the sound of taps. It is a call, he said, that he hoped never to hear again. Part of his job as a casualty notification officer — which he calls a "death-teller" — was to arrange a funeral for the fallen warriors. Taps was the final goodbye. The melancholy dirge of a single bugle entwined his memory with the longevity of steel and ultimately became a significant part of the disorder that drove him to the edge of a breakdown.

The assignment left him with an abiding sense of shame: "I felt guilty about being a weakling. Here I was a fancy Marine Corps officer in dress blues standing before the dead lad's parents while taps was sounded, all the while ready to burst into tears." His voice trembles. He says no more.

Today, Young seeks contentment in a small town, 6,000 feet high, about a hundred miles from the nearest city, reading and losing himself as much as possible in photographing birds and flowers. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he worked as a writer for a hospital in Fresno, preparing newsletters, scripts for audio-visual presentations, speeches, ads and letters. But even in an ordinary world, the past wouldn't leave him alone. He would awaken from nightmares screaming the commands he gave at the funerals, haunted by the ghosts of sounds and images, of faces and rituals.

"The experience drove me to the verge of craziness," he says, "so much, in fact, that I had to quit work. The rage kept bursting out for no justifiable reason. I blew up at people that deserved nothing of the sort."

Young feels it almost a duty to talk about it now. America must realize that many are touched in terrible ways by war. When sons die, dreams die and something in anyone associated with the man or woman dies. And in ways beyond either Young's grief or mine, something in the culture dies.

He wanted everyone to know how deep and lasting are the wounds of war, beyond the rhetoric of cause and effect, beyond political rationale, beyond flags and bugles, even beyond taps. Wars last forever in the collective psyche of those who celebrate it and those who suffer from it.All that Martin Young has to do is close his eyes, and it screams in his head.

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at

Cowards put on their sheets...

Jul 29, 2005
Hate Groups Turn Focus on Hispanic Immigrants
By Bill PooveyAssociated Press Writer

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Organized hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan have historically terrorized blacks and Jews in the Southeast. But the recent influx of Hispanic immigrants to the region has given hate groups a new target, and officials say Hispanics are increasingly targets of hate crimes.
Former Klansman Daniel Schertz, a 27-year-old from the southeast Tennessee town of South Pittsburg, was indicted in June on charges of building pipe bombs to kill Hispanic immigrants.
Imperial Wizard Billy Jeffery of the North Georgia White Knights denied any connection to the bomb plot and said he banished Schertz from the group, but he readily admits he isn't happy with the flow of immigrants to the region.
"The blacks fought for their civil rights. These illegal immigrants are coming in here and having everything just handed to them," Jeffery said.
Advocates say there are no precise statistics on hate crimes against Hispanics. Victims don't always call the police because of their precarious immigration status.
"People feel they will not be protected, and they are risking deportation," said John Bernstein, director of federal policy at the National Immigration Law Center in Washington. "That is more and more a problem with hate crimes."
Hate crimes against Hispanic immigrants have been common in other parts of the country, but Southern states saw their Hispanic populations boom in the 1990s. Arkansas' Hispanic population rose by 337 percent during the decade, Georgia's by 300 percent, Tennessee's by 278 percent and South Carolina's by 211 percent.
One of the first signs of organized anti-Hispanic activity in the South occurred in Gainesville, Ga., in 1998, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama group that tracks hate crimes.
The American Knights of the KKK held a rally on Hall County Courthouse steps, followed by a cross-burning in nearby Winder. A few years later, in 2001, the nation's largest neo-nazi organization, the National Alliance, staged a rally in Hall County.
Santos Aguilar of the Alianza Del Pueblo, an advocacy center for immigrants in Knoxville, said he believes the number of hate groups taking aim at immigrants continues to grow.
"The majority of the crimes are not reported to the law enforcement agencies," he said.
While a member of the North Georgia White Knights, Schertz was caught by an undercover federal agent and a confidential informant. Court records show he took them shopping for bomb materials at a home improvement store.
"Once at Lowe's, Schertz picked out five end caps and some silicone for the pipe bombs he was making," the agent's affidavit says. He then explained how to wire the explosives.
After returning to a shed at his home, Schertz gave instructions "down to the proper order of laying gun powder and shrapnel material." He made five pipe bombs and sold them for $750, records show.
Schertz is charged with teaching and demonstrating how to make a weapon of mass destruction and interstate transport of explosive material with intent to kill or injure. He is being held without bond.
Schertz's attorney, Mike Caputo, declined to comment on the charges, but said he was working on a plea agreement. He said Schertz is a military veteran and has no previous criminal record.
His Klan leader, Jeffery, said Schertz was thrown out of the Klan for unrelated disobedience in mid-May - weeks after the alleged bomb making and selling in April.
"We kicked him out for breaking his oath that he swore before God," Jeffery, 43, said in a telephone interview. "We are not a violence-making group, and we don't believe in that. This isn't the '50s and '60s."
Federal agents say hate groups always deny involvement when one of their members is charged with a crime.
"There are always a percentage of these people who are ready, willing and able to go off," said James M. Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Nashville field division.
Cavanaugh said that "when the group burns the cross, worships under the swastika, you dehumanize the people ... that has been a plague on the world for centuries."
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report counted 762 active hate groups in the United States in 2004. South Carolina had the most, with 47, and Tennessee had the most Klan chapters, with 13.
David Lubell, director of the Nashville-based Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said the Schertz case shows how supremacist talk can prompt violence.
"It is what happened in the civil rights movement. All of a sudden it is acceptable to incite hatred of immigrants, whether Latino, or from Africa, or Asia or wherever," he said.
Lubell said "usually it is a lone wolf kind of person who listens to these messages and acts on them ... This is just a symptom of what has been anti-immigrant sentiment, much more freely used by radio talk show hosts, anti-immigrant groups and even politicians."

Sadists = BushCo/Rumsfeld

Nothing would serve these individuals better than a healthy dose of their own medicine:

Bush Won't Block Abuse of Detainees
By Helen Thomas
Hearst Newspapers
Thursday 28 July 2005

Washington - President Bush, who bills himself as a "compassionate conservative," refuses to rule out cruel, abusive treatment of prisoners of war and detainees.
He has gone so far as to threaten to veto the vital $491 billion defense bill if an amendment barring mistreatment of prisoners is attached.
This is the president who - along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - was shocked last year when he saw photos of leashed naked prisoners under US guard at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.
The irony is that Bush's close adviser, Karen Hughes, has just been put in charge of the State Department's public diplomacy division to improve the nation's tattered global image. Millions spent on this effort will go to waste if we do not wipe out the impression that the United States tolerates torture.
There have been a dozen Pentagon investigations of POW abuse - the latest by Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who recommended that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Guantánamo Bay prison, be reprimanded for failing to supervise the mistreatment of Mohamed al-Kahtani. He admitted to being "the 20th hijacker" for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Schmidt said, but was blocked from entering the United States by an alert immigration agent.
But Gen. Bantz Craddock, commander of the US Southern Command, overruled the recommendation that Miller be punished. Miller has a reputation for aggressive methods in the prisons and for introducing dogs at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, where he was sent to beef up the interrogations.
Al-Kahtani was threatened with dogs and made to "perform a series of dog tricks," according to an unclassified version of Schmidt's report released earlier this month.
Al-Kahtani also had to stand naked in front of female soldiers, and was forced to wear female lingerie and dance with a male interrogator. Also he had his copy of the Quran squatted on by an interrogator.
These revelations did not evoke universal outrage on Capitol Hill. Sen. James Imhofe, R-Okla., was incensed that investigators put so much energy into the inquiries.
"It's hard to see why we're so wrapped up in this investigation," he said. "We have nothing to be ashamed of."
Last week, Bush dispatched no less an emissary than Vice President Dick Cheney to warn members of the Senate Armed Services Committee against any congressional intervention on detainee interrogations.
The White House told Capitol Hill that Bush's advisers would urge him to veto the multibillion-dollar military bill "if legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was a prisoner of war for six years during the Vietnam War, is proposing an amendment that would set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department. He would limit the questioning techniques to those along the lines of the Army field manual, which is undergoing revision.
McCain also proposes all foreign nationals held by our military be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which would block the practice of holding "ghost detainees." Unfortunately it would not cover the CIA's practice of "extraordinary rendition" where we send detainees to other countries for possible torture.
McCain's key amendment prohibits the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of any person in US custody. The amendment was based on the UN Convention Against Torture, which the United States has ratified.
The administration says the treaty doesn't apply to foreigners outside the country. The White House opposes any restrictions it thinks would tie the president's hands in wartime.
The sadistic, humiliating treatment of Iraqis, Afghans and others rounded up by US forces has disgraced the country.
But Bush and Rumsfeld have taken no responsibility.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer in charge of military police at Abu Ghraib, was demoted and given a written reprimand. But otherwise low-ranking MPs have been forced to take the fall.
It is high time that the Pentagon stopped investigating itself.
Sen. Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed an amendment to the defense bill to create an independent panel to review the detention and interrogation practices that have led us down this shameful path.
Meantime, consideration of the defense legislation, including the controversial amendments, has been put off until fall. Let's hope wiser and kinder heads prevail by then.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Los Alamos speaks...

From: :

From Anonymous:

I find myself feeling irate that we have 7 astronauts in space who are facing the same kind of reentry that killed their predecessors in the last shuttle flight. Yes, I am aware that NASA now says the lost foam from the liftoff didn't damage the orbiter, but NASA has grounded all future shuttle flights, which suggests it doesn't have much faith in the safety of the shuttles. The part I find so appalling is the fact that the shuttle Discovery was found unfit to fly on June 28 and NASA sent it off anyhow.

Maybe this set of astronauts will survive and I hope and pray that they do, but what I see is an agency so concerned about publicity that it didn't listen to its own safety advisory team. It appears that only luck prevented a disaster and we still don't know that such a disaster has been prevented.

I think of LANL's many failures to enforce safety rules and to repair reported hazards over the years, which resulted in accidents such as the one that caused a laser burn to a student's retina, and radiation uptakes, and numerous near misses. LANL advertises a deep concern for the safety of its employees but in the end fails to enforce its own rules over and over again -- usually in an attempt to get work done in a hurry, to meet deadlines, or just because they think something else is a higher budgetary priority.

Nanos tried to solve the problem with a stick. That approach was an utter failure. I just see a model of LANL's problems in the current NASA Discovery problem. The only possible solution is the ability to face the truth and to tell higher ups what they do not want to hear. It would help a lot if telling the truth wasn't career suicide and coverups were.

posted by Doug Roberts : 7/28/2005 04:14:00 PM

What's wrong with them? This...

From: .....

Past all Dishonor

Most of you probably don't remember this book by James M. Cain. It has been over fifty years since I read it and aside from the title I don't remember much about it. As I recall it takes place at the time of the Civil War or immediately in the aftermath. It has to do with a man who, under the spell of a woman, ends up doing things that he would not otherwise do. He just keeps degenerating in his morals and behavior. The reason I bring it up here is that it seems to me the perfect description of the current Republican Party.

It is clear that Bush/Cheney and the neocons have taken over the Republican party and are in complete control. But what about those Republicans who are not neocons, those who consider themselves more traditional Republican conservatives. Are they so stupid they don't realize what is happening? Can they possibly be unaware that Bush/Cheney, et al, deliberately lied to start an unnecessary, immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional "war." I don't believe they are all that stupid. But why, then, do they continue to support the Bush/Cheney administration?And now, even though it is perfectly obvious that Rove, Libby, and no doubt others were engaged in a conspiracy to trash Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, and committed an act of treason, they are going out of their way to come up with the most fantastic explanations and excuses for this absolutely unforgivable "outing." Can they truly be so stupid as to believe this didn't/isn't happening? Of course not. They have to know.They also have to know that the Democratic party, being currently in control of nothing, can realistically do nothing to stop all of this.

Bush/Cheney should clearly be impeached (and tried for war crimes as well). But the only way this could come about under the present circumstances is if Republicans themselves realize they need to rid us of this cancerous tumor that is destroying our country. But they do nothing. They just continue to support Bush/Cheney no matter how outrageous the offenses to the American public, the nation, and, indeed, humanity. It is not at all clear that the Democrats would do much even if they could. Many of them seem to go along as fellow travelers, especially those that follow the DLC which is simply a branch of the Republican party. The DLC sucks from exactly the same corporate teats as the Republicans. Nonetheless, it is true that Democrats are rendered impotent because of our strange system that disenfranchises entirely the minority party (this is something that sorely needs correcting).

But it remains true that Republicans could do something if they had any genuine interest in our nation's well-being. They alone have the power to start impeachment proceedings or at least demand accountability from Bush/Cheney and the neocons. But they do nothing. The only explanation I can see is that they must realize the crimes committed are so terrible, so monumental, so egregious, so unforgivable, they know that to admit to them would destroy the Republican party for an extremely long time, if not forever. Even here, however, you see loyalty to party before loyalty to the nation, justice, decency, and yes, even to humanity itself. They are truly past all dishonor.
posted by morialekafa at 9:10 PM

Found those Roberts memos...

From NY Times via

News Analysis: Court Nominee's Record Reveals an Advocate for the Right
By David E. Rosenbaum
The New York Times
Thursday 28 July 2005

Washington - The early 1980's were a heady time for conservatives in Washington.

Ronald Reagan was president, and after years on the outside, some of the strongest voices in the conservative movement - men like Edwin Meese III, James G. Watt, William Bradford Reynolds and Theodore B. Olson - were in high positions in the government and were determined to reverse what they believed to be years of liberal policies in areas like civil rights, environmental protection, criminal law and immigration.

John G. Roberts, a young lawyer in the Justice Department in 1981 and 1982 and on the White House counsel's staff from 1982 to 1986, held positions too junior for him to set policy in those days.

But his internal memorandums, some of which have become public in recent days, reveal a philosophy every bit as conservative as that of the policy makers on the front lines of the Reagan revolution and give more definition to his image than was apparent in the first days after President Bush picked him last week to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

On almost every issue he dealt with where there were basically two sides, one more conservative than the other, the documents from the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library show that Judge Roberts, now of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, advocated the more conservative course. Sometimes, he took positions even more conservative than those of his prominent superiors.

He favored less government enforcement of civil rights laws rather than more. He criticized court decisions that required a thick wall between church and state. He took the side of prosecutors over criminal defendants. He maintained that the role of the courts should be limited and the powers of the president enhanced.

Mr. Roberts was only 26 when he joined the Reagan administration and 31 when he left. But the ideology he expressed as a young man helps explain why conservative activists seem pleased with him, even though others Mr. Bush might have picked have a more detailed public record of conservative advocacy.

Consider Mr. Roberts's stands on some of the hottest political issues of the 1980's as revealed in the newly public documents:

Busing In 1985, when he was an assistant White House counsel, Mr. Roberts took issue with Mr. Olson, an assistant attorney general at the time, on whether Congress could enact a law that outlawed busing to achieve school desegregation.

Mr. Olson, who considerably outranked Mr. Roberts and who was one of the nation's most widely known conservative lawyers on constitutional matters, was arguing that Congress's hands were tied because the Supreme Court had ruled that busing was constitutionally required in some circumstances.

Mr. Roberts wrote in a memorandum to the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, that Mr. Olson had misinterpreted the law. He said evidence showed that by producing white flight, busing promoted segregation rather than remedying it.

"It strikes me as more than passing strange for us to tell Congress it cannot pass a law preventing courts from ordering busing when our own Justice Department invariably urges this policy on the courts," he wrote.

Sex discrimination: Mr. Roberts also challenged Mr. Reynolds, who was assistant attorney general for civil rights and another prominent conservative who outranked him.

In 1981, he urged Attorney General William French Smith to reject Mr. Reynolds's position that the department should intervene on behalf of female prisoners who were discriminated against in a job-training program. If male and female prisoners had to be treated equally, Mr. Roberts argued, "the end result in this time of state prison budgets may be no programs for anyone."

Judicial restraint: Mr. Roberts consistently argued that courts should be stripped of authority over busing, school prayer and other matters. In a letter in November 1981 to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, for whom he had clerked and whom he considered a mentor, Mr. Roberts wrote that he and his colleagues in the administration were determined to "halt unwarranted interference" by the courts in the activities of Congress and the executive branch.

A month later, he wrote to Rex Lee, who was the solicitor general at the time, that courts were "ill-suited to policy making because they are limited to the facts presented to them."

Court-stripping is still an issue in American politics. Last year, the House approved legislation that would prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize same-sex marriages in other states. The measure never became law.

Presidential war powers: In 1983, Arthur J. Goldberg, the former Supreme Court justice, wrote a letter to the White House questioning President Reagan's constitutional authority to send troops to Grenada without a declaration of war.

Mr. Roberts replied with a ringing endorsement of the president's power. "This has been recognized at least since the time President Jefferson sent the Marines to the shores of Tripoli," he wrote. "While there is no clear line separating what the president may do on his own and what requires a formal declaration of war, the Grenada mission seems to be clearly acceptable as an exercise of executive authority, particularly when it is recalled that neither the Korean nor Vietnamese conflicts were declared wars."

Affirmative action: Mr. Roberts held that affirmative action programs were bound to fail because they required "the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."

"Under our view of the law," he wrote in 1981, "it is not enough to say that blacks and women have been historically discriminated against as groups and are therefore entitled to special preferences."

Immigration: Mr. Roberts took strong issue with a Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law that had allowed school districts to deny enrollment to children who were in the country illegally. The court had overreached its authority, he wrote, and the Justice Department had made a mistake by not entering the case on the state's side.

Church-state: Mr. Roberts was sharply critical of the Supreme Court decision outlawing prayer in public schools, and he said the court had exceeded its authority when it allowed any citizens to challenge the transfer of public property to a parochial school.


On Leno via Raw Story.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Making $$$$ on death...

There are laws against war profiteering, but does BushCo give a damn about laws? Hell no!

From :

Halliburton announces 284 percent increase in war profits
25 July 2005

Halliburton announced on Friday that its KBR division, responsible for carrying out Pentagon contracts, experienced a 284 percent increase in operating profits during the second quarter of this year. The increase in profits was primarily due to the Pentagon's payment of "award fees" for what military officials call "good" or "very good" work done by KBR in the Middle East for America's taxpayers and the troops.

Despite the scandals that plague KBR's military contracts, the Pentagon awarded $70 million in "award" fees to the company, along with four ratings of "excellent" and two ratings of "very good" for the troop logistics work under the Army's LOGCAP contract. The Pentagon has provided preferential treatment to Halliburton on a number of occasions, including the concealment from the public of critical reports by military auditors.

Audits conducted by the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency determined that KBR had $1 billion in "questioned" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors consider "unreasonable") and $442 million in "unsupported" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors have determined contain no receipt or any explanation on how the expenses were disbursed).

But the top Pentagon brass ignored these audits and rewarded KBR's work anyway.

Halliburton's earnings announcement comes on the heels of new reports showing the Iraq and Afghan wars have already cost U.S. taxpayers $314 billion and that another ten years of war will cost $700 billion.

In another coup for Halliburton, a federal judge this month decided that whistleblowers may not sue U.S. companies for fraud if payment for services was made in Iraqi, not U.S., money.

Halliburton was paid over $1 billion in Iraqi oil money during the first 15 months of the occupation. The judge's ruling means the False Claims Act cannot be used to offer large rewards to corporate insiders who reveal wrongdoing or overcharges for services. The law is considered America's most successful deterrent against contractor fraud, but the judge's decision will help Halliburton and other contractors avoid tough scrutiny in Iraq.

Who's an American, anyway?

Are Stupid White Men Really Stupid?

“We have been children long enough. We must now unshackle our minds and begin acting as independent beings.” – Noah Webster, First American Dictionary
By Dom Stasi

Two framed pictures hang on my office wall. Each is accompanied by a timely message.

The frame atop holds a portrait of colonial patriot Samuel Adams. (Yes, the beer guy. My hero on so many levels.) Below the picture are his words, written at America’s birth: “The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men.”

When I look at the framed document and I see the idealized portrait - Sam Adams of the set jaw and steely eyes - I feel as though he is reaching across the centuries and speaking directly to me, admonishing me to beware the artifices of designing men.

Then I lower my eyes. What I see lowers my spirits as well. For immediately below the Sam Adams quote hangs another frame. This one contains a front page from the London Daily Mirror. Above the newspaper’s headline floats another picture, this one of a befuddled-looking, newly “reelected” George W. Bush. The headline reads: “HOW CAN 59,054,087 PEOPLE BE SO DUMB?”
If you'd really like to know, read the rest of this well written, well thought out article at:


Action & Reaction...

Scared out of our minds
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The New York Times
TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2005

GLASGOW I was visiting London last Thursday when a second wave of attacks hit the city, just two weeks after the traumatic events of July 7. It is hard to avoid feeling vulnerable to this invisible enemy who does not play by known or explicit rules. Of course, that is precisely the anxiety that terrorists seek to produce. But its opposite - complacency - is not an option.

The truth is that neither human beings nor modern societies are wired to respond rationally to terrorism. Vigilance is easy to muster immediately after an event, but it tends to wane quickly, as the attack vanishes from public discourse. We err twice, first by overreacting right after the disaster, while we are still in shock, and later by under-reacting, when the memory fades and we become relaxed.

Terrorism exploits three glitches in human nature, all related to the management and perception of unusual events. The first and key among these has been observed over the last two decades by neurobiologists and behavioral scientists, who have debunked a great fallacy that has marred Western thinking since Aristotle and most acutely since the Enlightenment. That is to say that as much as we think of ourselves as rational animals, risk avoidance is not governed by reason, cognition or intellect. Rather, it comes chiefly from our emotional system.
Patients with brain lesions that prevent them from registering feelings even when their cognitive and analytical capacities are intact are incapable of effectively getting out of harm's way. It is largely our emotional toolkit, and not what is called "reason," that governs self-preservation.

Second, this emotional system can be an extremely naïve statistician, because it was built for a primitive environment with simple dangers. That might work for you the next time you run into a snake or a tiger. But because the emotional system is impressionable and prefers shallow, social and anecdotal information to abstract data, it hinders our ability to cope with more sophisticated risks.

For example, the death of an acquaintance in a motorcycle accident would be more likely to deter you from riding a motorcycle than would a dispassionate, and undoubtedly far more representative, statistical analysis of motorcycles' dangers. You might avoid Central Park on the basis of a single comment at a cocktail party, rather than bothering to read the freely available crime statistics that provide a more realistic view of the odds that you will be victimized.

This primacy of the emotions can distort our decision-making. Travelers at airports irrationally tend to agree to pay more for terrorism insurance than they would for general insurance, which includes terrorism coverage. No doubt the word "terrorism" can be specific enough to evoke an emotional reaction, while the general insurance offer wouldn't awaken the travelers' anxieties in the same way.

In the modern age, the news media have the power to amplify such emotional distortions, particularly with their use of images that go directly to the emotional brain.

Consider this: Osama bin Laden continued killing Westerners after Sept. 11, though indirectly. How? A large number of travelers chose to drive rather than fly, and this caused a corresponding rise in casualties from automobile accidents. Yet these automobile accidents were not news stories - they are a mere number. We have pictures of those killed by bombs, not those killed on the road. As Stalin supposedly said, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."

The third human flaw, related to the second, has to do with how we act on our perceptions, and what sorts of behavior we choose to reward. We are moved by sensational images of heroes who leap into action as calamity unfolds. But the long, pedestrian slog of prevention is thankless.

How can we act on our knowledge of these human flaws in order to make our society safer?

The audiovisual media, with their ability to push the public's emotional hot buttons, need to play a more responsible role. Of course it is the news media's job to inform the public about the risk and the incidence of terrorism, but they should try to do so without helping terrorists achieve their objective, which is to terrify.

Television images, in all their vividness and specificity, have an extraordinary power to do just that, and to persuade the viewer that a distant risk is clear and present, while a pressing but underreported one is nothing to worry about.

Like drug companies, the news media should study the side effects of their product, one of which is the distortion of the viewer's mental risk map. Because of the way the brain is built, images and striking narratives may well be necessary to get our attention. But just as it takes a diamond to cut a diamond, the media should find ways to use images and stories to bring us closer to the statistical truth.

(Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who teaches risk management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is the author of ''Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and the Markets.'')


Even one by Willie Nelson!

Here are the latest picks from Publishers Lunch Weekly, and they're certainly all worthy books:


Michael Thomas's MAN GONE DOWN, about a four-day journey of a nameless narrator who is desperately trying to reconcile his past while he finds himself broke and living in the bedroom of a friend's six-year-old child, to Elisabeth Schmitz at Grove Atlantic, by Eileen Cope at Trident Media Group (NA).


Ted Botha's THE GIRL WITH THE CROOKED NOSE, about an artist and renowned forensics expert whose specialty is reconstructing what murder victims, however decomposed, looked like when alive, who is brought in by Mexican authorities to help solve the murders of almost 400 women, which occurred over the period of a decade, to Will Murphy at Random House, by Luke Janklow at Janklow & Nesbit (world).


Former Director of the Forensic Biology Department of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City Robert C. Shaler's WHO THEY WERE: Inside the World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort to Identify the Missing, which resulted in the identification of 1,591 victims of the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack, to Elizabeth Stein at Free Press, for publication in October 2005 (world).

ER doctor, historian and professor of bioethics at Tulane Medical School, Robert Martensen's SOMEWHERE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH, using stories from author's practice to address the new moral and existential questions patients, their families and the culture now face because of recent advances in medical technology, to Eric Chinski at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, in a pre-empt, by Susan Arellano at Susan Rabiner Literary Agency (world).

History/Politics/Current Affairs:

J.R. Norton's SAVING GENERAL WASHINGTON: Why Everything the Right Wing Tells You About Your Country's Founders is Wrong, examines how those on the right have appropriated America's Founding Fathers and reclaims their progressive legacy, to Ashley Shelby at Tarcher/Penguin, in a nice deal (world).

Former Dean of Harvard College Harry R. Lewis's EXCELLENCE WITHOUT A SOUL, explains how our great universities lost sight of the essential purpose of education, to Lindsay Jones at Public Affairs, by John Taylor Williams of Kneerim & Williams at Fish & Richardson (world).

Bill Yenne's RISING SONS: The Remarkable Story of the Japanese-American GIs of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team In World War II, the untold story of 'Nisei' Japanse-American troops fighting in Europe, overcoming prejudice at home to become the most decorated unit in US Army history, to Sean Desmond of Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, by Jake Elwell at Wieser & Elwell (world, except Japan).

MemoirWillie Nelson's THE TAO OF WILLIE, to William Shinker at Gotham, with Lauren Marino editing, for publication in May 2006, by David Vigliano of Vigliano Associates (world English).


FilmDoctoral candidate at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University Daniel H. Wilson's HOW TO SURVIVE A ROBOT UPRISING, tips on defending yourself against the coming rebellion, to Paramount, on behalf Michael Deluca Productions, based on a pitch by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant (RENO 911!), in a major deal, by Justin Manask at Intellectual Property Group, on behalf of Laurie Fox at the Linda Chester Literary

A Tough One...

Grunts' view of war riveting
• Over There,
10-11 pm Wednesdays, FX

Bullets chopping holes in the sand dunes around him, forbidden by his idiotically public-relations-minded officers to shoot back, advance or retreat, the sergeant is wide-eyed and nearly speechless at the question from the young recruit crouched next to him: What's our objective? Roars the sergeant in helpless rage: ``We should try to stay alive for the next 15 minutes!''
That's the way you see the war in Iraq in Over There: from a desert foxhole. This searing new drama has nothing to do with the immaculate battle lines drawn on a Pentagon map or the colored bars across a State Department psy/ops chart. It's a grunt's-eye-view, blurred with terror and exhaustion, smeared with sand, sweat and blood. If you can stand to watch it at all -- and for some people that may prove nearly impossible -- you won't be able to tear your eyes away.
No television show, and perhaps no film either, has ever documented the minute-to-minute lives of combat soldiers the way Over There does. From battlefield toilet etiquette (''You want privacy, go where we can't see you; you wanna stay alive, go where we can'') to the exquisitely torturous moral decisions made in a split second as a car (full of civilians? or suicide bombers?) speeds toward a roadblock, it colors in the intimate details of a GI's life the way Ernie Pyle might have done if he'd been equipped with a video camera.
Over There follows the lives of seven recruits (two of them women) newly arrived in Iraq and their veteran sergeant, known as Sgt. Scream for reasons that are instantly obvious. Though the show's focus is determinedly narrow -- Over There is about the troops, not the geopolitics of Baghdad or Washington -- its canvas is broad; the story stretches not only to their families back home, but to a military hospital in Germany where one soldier will soon be in rehabilitation after his leg is blown off by a booby trap.
Like countless war movies extending back to Battle Cry and beyond, Over There concentrates on how their shared interest in survival bonds together a socially, economically and racially disparate group of individuals who back in the States would be unlikely to even meet much less befriend one another.
One is a ghetto doper, another is earning college money and a third is a pragmatic new mother who sees the Army as a job like any other. (''Mommy's at work and everything's fine,'' she tells her infant son in a video e-mail after the squad's first combat engagement.) Their motivations for enlistment are as varied as their backgrounds; Tariq, an Iraqi-American recruit from Detroit, joined up in a burst of 9/11 patriotism, while Angel, an Arkansas teenager with a honey voice, couldn't face the folks back home after he failed a choir tryout in New York. Most mysterious of all is the squad intellectual, an alienated Ivy League grad known as Dim, reflecting the other soldiers' opinion of the mental acuity of somebody with a Cornell degree who winds up as an Army rifleman.
War movies, with only 90 minutes to roll out their characters and watch them grow, usually reduce them to one-note stereotypes. Over There, with 13 hour-long episodes to tell its story, has time for both subtlety and complexity, and a writing staff more than capable of producing it. When Dim, staring at the body of the first enemy gunman he's killed, murmurs, ''Smaller than I thought,'' he's talking about more than just the corpse.
Killing is central to the war in Iraq; on both sides, the war is not about territory but body counts, and the violence in Over There is terrifyingly sudden, frequent and grisly. The show is unflinching in its display of what high-tech weaponry does to a human body. Even more shattering is a hospital scene where a camera pulls back from a tight shot of a single soldier to reveal a long row of bedridden amputees.
That might sound like a political subtext at work, but Over There, though anti-war in the broadest and best sense -- no one can watch this without cursing the stupidity of the human race for its failure to find another way to resolve disputes -- is resolutely apolitical. Though producers Steven Bochco (who created NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues) and Chris Gerolmo (who wrote the screenplay for Mississippi Burning) do not shy away from the war's deepest uglinesses, they are equally insistent on providing them with context.
So Over There's soldiers watch queasily, but without protest, as an intelligence officer tortures a captured terrorist. Are they war criminals? Does it make a difference that he's a colonel and a veteran, and they're rookie privates? Does it make a difference that the prisoner was captured while using a 6-year-old girl as a hostage? Does it make any difference that he's hiding a cache of 20 stolen Stinger missiles that could inflict thousands of casualties on U.S. troops and even civilian airliners? Moral distinctions that usually seem so sharp in our living rooms become uncomfortably hazy on the screen of Over There, where war's ambiguities loom large.
Lending an added element of incertitude is the show's eerily beautiful cinematography. Time-lapse shots of swirling dust and shimmering heatwaves make the desert not just a malevolent presence but a living character; pastel twilights contrast starkly with the lethal scenes played out beneath them. At times Over There almost resembles a deadly martial kabuki, as when two soldiers, both out of ammo, fumble clumsily with their equipment for what seems an eternity before one finally jams a clip into his rifle and kills the other.
Even a high-tech war sometimes reverts to the principles of Gettysburg or even Thermopylae. Over There may be ripped from the headlines, but it's an old story, as old as human tears.

Hey, Turd Blossom!!!

Trudeau Defends 'Turd Blossom' Reference, Says Editing Strips Is 'Not Acceptable'
By Dave Astor
Editor & Publisher
Tuesday 26 July 2005

About a dozen newspapers have pulled or edited Tuesday's and Wednesday's "Doonesbury" comic strip.

New York - Why did Garry Trudeau use Karl Rove's "Turd Blossom" nickname in Tuesday and Wednesday's "Doonesbury" strips?

"Given that I'm writing for a general audience, I try not to use crude or vulgar language gratuitously," replied Trudeau, after E&P e-mailed him several questions this afternoon. "But in this case, I felt that Bush's nickname for Rove was illuminating. 'Turd blossom' has so many connotations, none of them flattering. It's a small masterpiece of nastiness."

About 10 to 12 newspapers pulled or edited the "Turd Blossom" strips, according to an Associated Press story. Trudeau is OK with the pulling part, but not the editing part.

"Editors obviously have a responsibility to determine what's appropriate for inclusion in their papers," said the Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist. "The syndicate and I accept that from time to time individual editors may object to particular strips and decide to drop them. What's not acceptable to us, however, is for editors to alter the content of a strip and represent it as what I sent them. In most cases, changing the dialogue compromises its meaning or rhythm or humor. Sometimes, the strip no longer even makes sense. Who benefits from that? We'd prefer that an offending strip be dropped altogether."

In today's "Doonesbury" comic, an aide tells Bush: "Sir, we're still getting pretty beat up on the Rove revelations.
We can't get traction on any other issue. It's just the leak thing 24-7!"
Bush responds: "Yeah, I know. Karl's sure been earnin' his nickname lately."
Aide: "Boy Genius? I'm not so sure, sir."
Bush then calls out to Rove: "Hey, Turd Blossom! Get in here!"

Does Trudeau think many newspaper editors and readers are aware that "Turd Blossom" is a real nickname for Bush's close advisor, not one made up by the cartoonist?

"My assumption was twofold -- that many people already knew it, and that most others would infer it was real from the way I teed it up," said Trudeau. "I also felt that those in the latter group would be as tickled to learn of it as I was."

The cartoonist did say he was careful to limit himself to a couple of "Turd Blossom" mentions. "Twice seems enough for readers to enjoy," he observed. "I don't want to push my luck."

Trudeau, whose "Doonesbury" strip appears in about 1,400 newspapers, acknowledged that it can be difficult for editors to decide what language their comics readers will tolerate. He noted that "public mores are in constant are in constant flux."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Raising hell with stupidity...

A writer friend who is also an RN has lost her temper over this one:

Someone on radio is reading a letter from a 'liberal Democrat' who is protesting the media description of Roe v. Wade.

He says abortion was never illegal, that there was a time when abortions could be prescribed by physicians if the mother's life was in danger, not as a matter of convenience. But his overarcing point is that abortion has never been illegal.

Well, I'd like to tell this guy that the day he can get pregnant is the day he can have an opinion.

If abortion was never illegal, then why did physicians lose their licenses if they performed abortions when they saw a need, be it physical or psychological? Why were women judged and shamed as if they had committed a crime? Why were they browbeaten and threatened and hounded by law enforcement and the clergy until they would name their doctor?

If abortions were legal, why did hospitals ban them even if the mother's life was at risk? Why were pregnant women allowed to die in hospitals because taking the baby to save the mother's life, technically an abortion no matter the trimester, might lose the hospital its accreditation?

As an RN, I don't know any woman who has ever had an abortion or any nurse who has ever scrubbed in on one who would describe it as a matter of convenience. I have stood beside brave doctors who had to make the decision whether to go ahead or back away. I have tended to women whose lives would never be the same again, regardless of the reason their pregnancies were terminated.

If a law had to be passed to make a woman's right to her body her own, to LEGALIZE abortion, then it surely must have been illegal before that law. Because to pass a law to legalize something already legal would be like legalizing butterflies or bubblegum or the air we breathe.

So if people like these are going to write letters and argue the issues, then let them get their facts straight. And let self-righteous, pious talk show hosts who read these misdirected missals have the common sense to think before they open their mouths. If they're going to legitimize what they do by using 'Dr.' in front of their name, then perhaps they should reflect on the responsibility that goes along with the title.

What about other charities?

Bush to host summit promoting corporate gifts to religious charities

WHITE HOUSE President Bush says he'll hold a White House summit next spring to encourage corporations and foundations to give more money to religious charities.Bush announced the summit as he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with 17 leaders of black churches and community groups.
Jim Towey (TOO'-ee), who heads the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says his staff checked the policies of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies and found that 17 percent of their foundations ban or restrict donations to religious organizations.
Towey says next year's summit will show how corporate donations can be targeted to support religious groups' social work instead of their worship.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

Room 'n board in DC house!

July 25, 2005 : California

At This 'Animal House,' the Party Is Democratic
The veteran California congressman's Washington town house is a shared home away from home for several like-minded lawmakers.
By Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — By day, veteran California Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) advises party leaders on long-range strategy. He fights for increased school aid on the House Education and the Workforce committees. And, as befits one of the most senior members of Congress, he grapples with a host of other weighty issues.By night, Miller has another job. He presides over a nocturnal domain known as "the animal house."

For more than 20 years, Miller has operated what amounts to a boarding house for fellow lawmakers. And if Miller is not quite the real-life equivalent of "Animal House" star John Belushi's character, his establishment bears more than a passing resemblance to its bacchanalian namesake.

Miller's tenants tend to forget that empty beer cans go in the trash, not the living room. There are crickets in the closets and rats in the walls. The lawn hasn't seen a mower in years. The television set is so old, a would-be burglar once passed it over.What prompted Miller to get into the boarding house business was a problem that faces many members of Congress. Unless they have large personal fortunes, they are hard-pressed to maintain houses both in Washington and back home on their salaries — now $162,100 a year.That means many members need a cheap place to crash during the week.Enter George Miller, to the sound of opportunity knocking.

The 60-year-old Miller came to Congress 30 years ago. He and his wife, Cynthia, his high school sweetheart, bought a 15-foot-wide, two-story painted brick building with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.Five years later, the youngest of the Millers' two children, Steve, wanted to return to California for school, so Cynthia took the children home and the congressman started commuting on weekends. (The Millers have been married 41 years, and Miller deadpans that the secret of a good marriage is being "bicoastal.")

With his family in Martinez, Miller had room to spare in the Washington town house, not to mention a burdensome mortgage. Soon afterward, then-Rep. Marty Russo (D-Ill.) came looking for temporary shelter during a snowstorm. He never left. Miller decided to collect rent and open up spaces for two more colleagues.Miller likes to joke that his house is "a finishing school for senators." The revolving cast has included two House members who went on to the Senate: Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York. Miller also notes that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was a neighbor during her House career."Boxer's in the auxiliary," Miller said. "She used to bring over healthy food and try to get us to go jogging."Boxer was swimming upstream.

Leon Panetta, the former Democratic congressman from Monterey who lived with Miller until he left for the Clinton administration, remembers there was usually so little food in the house, he had to protect breakfast cereal from marauding roommates — especially Schumer."My son was interning at the State Department one year and he stayed with us," said Panetta. "The poor kid used to buy cereal to have in the house because we didn't have much food. Schumer used to eat his cereal. If there was any food around, Schumer would eat it."Panetta, on the other hand, was so neat that he made his bed every day — with hospital corners.That was not the norm at Hotel Miller.Panetta said Russo used to complain that another tenant who got to the bathroom before him every morning would leave a ring around the tub.Durbin, who slept downstairs during his House years, was known to whip out a golf club if the rats got too bold.These days, Durbin and Miller have bedrooms upstairs, Schumer and Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) have beds in the living room.

"It's not as exotic as people think," Miller said of the living arrangement. "Sometimes we talk real business and a lot of times it's just politics and strategy. And sometimes it's just watching 'Law & Order.' "When they do watch the NBC drama series, Miller said, Schumer often does not understand the plot."He has to keep asking you, 'Who is that person? Why did he do that? Why is she saying that?' I'm like, 'Shut up! We'll send you the tape.' "

The house has few rules, but perhaps the strictest is: No Republicans."The Constitution says you have to vote with them, it does not say you have to eat or live with them," said Miller, an unwavering liberal who earns a 100% approval rating from Americans for Democratic Action, one of Washington's oldest liberal organizations.

Born in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 1945, the only boy among four children, Miller was a baby when his father was first elected to the Legislature.Miller remembers skipping school to join his father on legislative rounds, where he met the likes of Gov. Pat Brown. Miller had just started law school when his 54-year-old father suffered a fatal heart attack in 1969. Miller decided to run for the vacant state Senate seat. He won the primary but lost the general election.Miller returned to law school and went on to a succession of jobs in state government. And in 1974, when an opportunity to run for Congress arose, he ran and won. Miller now ranks 12th in seniority in the House, tied with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.).They are the last of the so-called Watergate class of Democrats elected in the wake of the Nixon White House scandals.

"I love to get up in the morning and go to work," Miller said. "I love to find a problem and see if I can work it out. Some might say I've got it all wrong, [but] I believe government can be a very positive force."As much as he enjoys battling the GOP, he also delights in persuading Republicans to cosponsor legislation. Earlier this year, he got Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) to join him in proposing a bill to provide $17 billion in scholarship funds without taxpayer expense. But the House leadership keeps blocking his efforts.Still, he said, "I don't think you can just walk off the field of play."

Besides, what would become of George Miller's nocturnal brood if he left?"Living by yourself is kind of dreary," said Miller, recalling that the late House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill (D-Mass.), who roomed with a colleague, once told him to get a group house together. "The house is a little bit of a sanctuary. It's our hole in the wall."

Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta — who roomed in Miller's house when he was in Congress — said the Millers had a piano downstairs that they moved out so Panetta could move a bed in. "In those days they gave [storage] trunks to members of Congress," he said. "They don't do that anymore."

Bathroom time is not a problem at the group house, said Miller, because his roommates leave early for the gym. "There's no line, no sign-up," said Miller, who said his own early morning trek is for "a good cup of coffee. I go to the gym later."

Miller doubts his children will follow him into politics. His oldest, George, lost one race for an Assembly seat and is doing so well in business that the congressman doubts he'll try again. And his youngest, Steve, "loves politics but would never run for office," in part because people would taunt the child about the father's votes. Maybe the grandkids? "They'd be pistols," said the congressman.

We're leaving, regardless...

From, The Times of Oman:

US-Iraqi task force to decide on US troop exit

BAGHDAD –– US and Iraqi authorities are to set up a body to decide on the crucial question of how and when US troops will hand over security in the war-torn country to Iraqi forces, the US embassy said Sunday. The new joint task force will meet next week and report to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari on handover plans in 60 days, US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in a statement. "The joint task force will establish criteria and conditions that will help determine when Iraqi security forces ... will be capable of assuming full responsibility to secure Iraq," the new ambassador said.

US President George W. Bush has refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of the 138,000 US forces from Iraq, but has said that US forces would stand down as Iraqi forces gradually take over. "

The handover will start with cities which fulfill the conditions," said a senior Iraqi official who declined to be named, without saying what the conditions were. "This task force will establish no timeline; but, instead, identify conditions sanctioned by the leadership of the Iraqi government and the multi-national coalition," said Khalizad. "As these conditions are met, transfers of security responsibility will be implemented progressively and noticeably to the Iraqi people," Khalilzad added.

The joint task force will be headed by Jaafari's national security advisor Muwaffaq Rubaie, and will including representatives from coalition forces, as well as from the Iraqi interior and defence ministries. Another four joint task forces will also be set up to deal with budgetary issues, reconstruction efforts, infrastructure protection, and detainees.

The Pentagon on Thursday reported to Congress on the readiness of Iraqi security forces to take over security duties from US troops. Pentagon officials refused to comment on the specifics, but acknowledged that only a small number of the 171,500 Iraqi soldiers and police were ready to mount independent counter-insurgency operations. The readiness of Iraqi security forces is a key condition for the drawdown of US-led forces in Iraq as insurgents continue to wage a nationwide campaign of shootings and bombings, much of it targetting Iraq's fledgling forces.

Maintaining a high-level of troops in Iraq has put severe strains on the US military, and the rising US death toll -- which Sunday reached 1,766 -- is eroding US public support for the war. According to a document by British Defense Secretary John Reid, which was leaked to Britain's Mail on Sunday, Washington hopes to hand over control of security to Iraqi forces in 14 out of 18 provinces in the country by early next year, allowing it to slash US-led troop levels to 66,000 from 176,000. –– AFP

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What's this fresh insult?!!!

With cause, I'd say this writer friend is angry. What the hell happened to Freedom of Speech, I ask? Outrageous. I'm with this writer all the way. Read it and weep:

"Interesting thing. I was headed to eat & listening to John Elliott on Air America. Gal named LeeAnn called in. She's from here. Said if you think Americans' freedom of speech isn't being stepped on right now, think again.

She works at the VA Hospital. Says they had a staff meeting, where it was announced that they WILL NOT talk bad about or talk against this administration or the president. If they do, the VA says, they will be fired.

One, I'm thinking speaking their minds have gotten really 'bad' among staff and the patients. Two, I'm thinking how dare the admin. send shit so far downhill, how dare they tell someone who's fought for this country what to think or say, AND how dare the VA pass along the shit?


In Iraq as in America....

From Independent Clearing House, a timely quote:

An English Plea For Peace With The American Colonies

My Lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act with success, nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in the strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of Majesty from the delusions which surround it. You cannot, I venture to say, you CANNOT conquer America.

What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst; but we know that in three campaigns we have done nothing and suffered much. You may swell every expense, and strain every effort, still more extravagantly; accumulate every assistance you can beg or borrow; traffic and barter with every pitiful German Prince, that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign country: your efforts are forever vain and impotent-doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies, to overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and of plunder, devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty!

If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms! -Never! Never! Never!: William Pitt - - November 18th 1777

Stay outta those places!!!

A former Green Beret has a few comments about the guy in the AOL article:

Click here: AOL News - Hiker Rescued After Five Days in Lava Field Near Volcano

This is one LUCKY person. I have trained in that area, and it some of the most viscious terrain I have ever seen. NASA used to own it, because it resembles the surface of the moon, but it was too rough on the lunar rover, and their equipment, so they gave it to the Army.

You go there for thirty days, with a brand new pair of boots, and at the end, you throw them away because they are shredded by the razor sharp rocks. The rocks are covered with a fine powdery dirt, but it offers no protection. A simple stumble and fall can lead to being medevac'd with severe injuries. And survival there is a definite challenge. Besides the fact that you are in this huge valley between a live volcano, and an extinct one.

I have to wonder at anybody's intelligence that would actually choose to go to a place like that, although many people do it. Don't they understand that is what the National Geographic channel is for?

The training areas in Hawaii are so limited, that the Army has to use that hell hole. The "Hawaiian Government" has real tight restrictions on everything. In most of the training areas you aren't allowed to even dig fighting positions, because it disturbs the ecosystem...

Any troops stationed at Schofield Barracks for a tour learn the terrain so well in the very small training area there, that they don't use maps. Caused problems for us when we were trying to train the cadre for the 25TH INF's Sniper school, most of the NCO's map reading, and land navigation skills were so atrophied, we had to teach them the basics, before moving on to the skills they needed to complete the course..
I'd say it's a whole lot smarter, if you're determined to see the lava in a volcano, to get thee to a helicopter and fly over that sucker!

But BushCo is so smart!!!

From Raw Story:

Iraq: This is now an unwinnable conflict
As he completes another tour of duty in the chaos of Iraq, award-winning reporter Patrick Cockburn charts how Bush and Blair's 'winnable war' turned into a mess that is inspiring a worldwide insurgency
Published: 24 July 2005

The Duke of Wellington, warning hawkish politicians in Britain against ill-considered military intervention abroad, once said: "Great nations do not have small wars." He meant that supposedly limited conflicts can inflict terrible damage on powerful states. Having seen what a small war in Spain had done to Napoleon, he knew what he was talking about.

The war in Iraq is now joining the Boer War in 1899 and the Suez crisis in 1956 as ill-considered ventures that have done Britain more harm than good. It has demonstrably strengthened al-Qa'ida by providing it with a large pool of activists and sympathisers across the Muslim world it did not possess before the invasion of 2003. The war, which started out as a demonstration of US strength as the world's only superpower, has turned into a demonstration of weakness. Its 135,000-strong army does not control much of Iraq.

The suicide bombing campaign in Iraq is unique. Never before have so many fanatical young Muslims been willing to kill themselves, trying to destroy those whom they see as their enemies. On a single day in Baghdad this month 12 bombers blew themselves up. There have been more than 500 suicide attacks in Iraq over the last year.

It is this campaign which has now spread to Britain and Egypt. The Iraq war has radicalised a significant part of the Muslim world. Most of the bombers in Iraq are non-Iraqi, but the network of sympathisers and supporters who provide safe houses, money, explosives, detonators, vehicles and intelligence is home-grown.

The shrill denials by Tony Blair and Jack Straw that hostility to the invasion of Iraq motivated the bombers are demonstrably untrue. The findings of an investigation, to be published soon, into 300 young Saudis, caught and interrogated by Saudi intelligence on their way to Iraq to fight or blow themselves up, shows that very few had any previous contact with al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist organisation previous to 2003. It was the invasion of Iraq which prompted their decision to die.

Some 36 Saudis who did blow themselves up in Iraq did so for similar reasons, according to the same study, commissioned by the Saudi government and carried out by a US-trained Saudi researcher, Nawaf Obaid, who was given permission to speak to Saudi intelligence officers. A separate Israeli study of 154 foreign fighters in Iraq, carried out by the Global Research in International Affairs Centre in Israel, also concluded that almost all had been radicalised by Iraq alone.

Before Iraq, those who undertook suicide bombings were a small, hunted group; since the invasion they have become a potent force, their ideology and tactics adopted by militant Islamic groups around the world. Their numbers may still not be very large but they are numerous enough to create mayhem in Iraq and anywhere else they strike, be it in London or Sharm el Sheikh.

The bombers have paralysed Baghdad. I have spent half my time living in Iraq since the invasion. The country has never been so dangerous as today. Some targets have been hit again and again. The army recruiting centre at al-Muthana old municipal airport in the middle of Baghdad has been attacked no fewer than eight times, the last occasion on Wednesday when eight people were killed.

The detonations of the suicide bombs make my windows shake in their frames in my room in the al-Hamra hotel. Sometimes, thinking the glass is going to shatter, I take shelter behind a thick wall. The hotel is heavily guarded. At one time the man who looked for bombs under cars entering the compound with a mirror on the end of a stick carried a pistol in his right hand. He reckoned that if he did discover a suicide bomber he had a split second in which to shoot him in the head before the driver detonated his bomb.

The bombers, or rather the defences against them, have altered the appearance of Baghdad. US army and Iraqi government positions in Baghdad are surrounded by ramparts of enormous cement blocks which snake through the city. Manufactured in different sizes, each of which is named after a different American state such as Arkansas and Wisconsin, these concrete megaliths are strangling the city by closing off so many streets.

For all the newspaper and television coverage of Iraq, the foreign media still fail to convey the lethal and anarchic quality of day-to-day living. The last time I drove into west Baghdad from the airport in early July we were suddenly stopped by the sound of volleys of shots. This turned out to be the police commandos, a 12,000-strong paramilitary force which is meant to be the cutting edge of the government offensive against the insurgents. On this occasion they had loaded coffins wrapped in Iraqi flags, containing the bodies of two of their officers murdered that morning, on to the backs of their pick-ups and were weaving through the traffic, firing over our heads. Drivers slammed on their brakes since people detained by the commandos, often for no known reason, are often found later in rubbish dumps, having been tortured and executed.
The government, whose members seldom emerge from the Green Zone, make bizarre efforts to pretend that there are signs of a return to normality. Last week a pro-government newspaper had an article on the reconstruction of Baghdad. Above the article was a picture of a crane at a building site. But there are no cranes at work in Baghdad so the paper had been compelled to use a photograph of a crane which has been rusting for more than two years, abandoned at the site of a giant mosque that Saddam Hussein was constructing when he was overthrown.

The same quality of make-believe mars British and American policy in Iraq. The current motto of both governments is to "stay the course in Iraq". This may be useful propaganda at home but Iraqi government officials counter that London and Washington have no "course" in Iraq, only a policy of endless zig-zags.

For future historians Iraq will probably replace Vietnam as the stock example of the truth of Wellington's dictum about small wars escalating into big ones. Ironically, the US and Britain pretended in 2003 that Saddam ruled a powerful state capable of menacing his neighbours. Secretly they believed this was untrue and expected an easy victory.

Now in 2005 they find to their horror that there are people in Iraq more truly dangerous than Saddam, and they are mired in an un-winnable conflict.