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:: Thursday, April 08, 2004 ::

Gone for Easter!

Be back Monday. Until then, I'm on holiday....
:: Morat 3:01 PM :: ::

Administration wages war on pornography

I hadn't blogged on this for very good reason. It's stupid. It's so monumentally stupid than even Instapundit thinks it's stupid (No, I won't link to him. I have standards):
In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.

Department officials say they will send 'ripples' through an industry that has proliferated on the Internet and grown into an estimated $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting Fortune 500 corporations such as Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel.
What I find most amusing, once the anger and rage over the misuse of critical resources fades, is that this case will likely do exactly opposite of what Ashcroft intends. By ordering the tapes online, then trying the case in Pittsburgh (where the tapes were ordered from), Ashcroft hopes to use a more conservative "community standard" (the bar for prosecution here) to crack down on anyone he wants, anywhere in the US.

If anything, Ashcroft is going to drive the last nail into the "community standards" coffin, by demonstrating how bloody stupid it is for the "community standards" of one tiny suburb to somehow affect the ability of people in LA or New York or my tiny suburb to order whatever porn they want off the internet.

Too bad Ashcroft will be long gone from office by the time this is dealt with, because I'm pretty sure the ultimate outcome would serve him right. The look on his face if SCOTUS handed down a ruling stating (basically) "As long as it's not kiddie porn, and you take precautions not to sell to kids, the government has no need -- and no real ability -- to get involved". I can easily see this decision coming down, especially in light of the Lawrence decision. The internet removes the entire "naughty adult bookstore in my neighborhood" problem and reduces it to something that happens pretty much solely in the privacy of your home....a place Lawrence took great pains to declare pretty much "off limits" to government.

Update: In the comments, Jillian points to this picture of Ashcroft, made entirely of little porn images. (Click on the picture to see the "big" version). The big version isn't safe for work, obviously.
:: Morat 7:43 AM :: ::

Iraq

I don't know what to say. It's all gone to hell, like I feared it would. I hope Bush, somehow, pulls a rabbit out of his pocket and fixes the situation. I was surprised, very much so, by how patient the Iraqs were and how much of a chance they actually gave us. I am not surprised by the fact that Bush screwed it up.

Anyone familiar with his history would know that complex problems and nuanced solutions are beyond him...and the crew of rogues he surrounds himself with.

I'm guessing that Bush sees two possible solutions: Authorize the use of extreme force (a real "shock and awe") or bug out entirely. I don't think even Bush is up to ordering the use of daisy cutters -- or God forbid, nukes -- on civilian areas, so I'm guessing he's going to think long and hard about bugging out. Given they're already creating fortified bases for the US Army, I'm guessing they've seen this coming for awhile. Pulling back to our enclaves and leaving Iraq to burn would be pretty consistent with Bush's approach to problems.
:: Morat 6:54 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, April 07, 2004 ::

Just a thought

Matt's post on the "Pre-emptive Tet Analogy" reminded me to highlight a point about all this fighting. (The same point, in fact, that keeps getting lost about the Tet offensive and the point Matt makes in the post).

It's not that I think, even for a moment, that the US Army can't put down this insurgency. It can (although subduing Fallajuh will probably take more than the 1200 marines we've got there. It's the size of Cincinnati, for Pete's sake) easily enough.

The problem is that it's been a year since we "won the war". It's been a year since Commander Codpiece got off his little jet and pranced around under his "Mission Accomplished Sign". It's been a year of occupation, rebuilding, and a constant flow of "good news" from the White House.

And what do we see on the ground? We've lost control of three cities, minimum. We've lost thirty soldiers in only a few days. We're looking at a potential alliance between the Sunni and the Shia. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is proof positive that Commander Codpiece is either lying to us...or is being lied to. This isn't the work of "Terrorists and renegade Ba'athists", and it takes a great deal of contempt for the American public to claim it is.

The lesson here is this: It's not sunshine and thrown roses in Iraq. It never has been. And those who have spent the last year explaining that all the bad news was liberal bias or Anti-American bias or anti-Bush lies....well, you guys have some serious explaining to do.
:: Morat 7:23 AM :: ::

U.S. Hits Fallujah Mosque; 40 Said Killed

As if it wasn't bad enough:
U.S. Marines in a fierce battle for this Sunni Muslim stronghold fired rockets that hit a mosque filled with people Wednesday, and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed.

The fighting in Fallujah and neighboring Ramadi, where commanders confirmed 12 Marines were killed late Tuesday, was part of an intensified and spreading uprising involving both Sunni and Shiites stretching from Kirkuk in the north to near Basra in the south.

An Associated Press reporter in Fallujah saw cars ferrying the bodies from the mosque, which witnesses said had been hit by three missiles. There was no immediate confirmation of casualties.
We hit a mosque. A mosque, and apparently killed a chunk of people inside. That's going to calm things down. I expected Iraq to get worse -- and kept hoping I was wrong -- but I figured it'd drift steadily downhill. I didn't expect this. Open fighting in three cities? A potential alliance between the Shia and Sunni? (Just as a reference: It's like the Hatfields and the McCoy's deciding to lay down the feud and deal with a common enemy).

Damn I hope it calms down. But I'm starting to think it's way too late for that.

Update: Yes, I realize the Marines were taking fire from the Mosque. Unfortunately, few people in Iraq are going to care, and it appears that we managed to kill quite a few regular ole' worshippers in the process. I don't blame the Marines, who were merely trying to keep themselves alive. I blame the idiot who has them fighting street to street in an elective war. (That's you, Bush, in case you were confused). The AP reports (via Kos) that the strike on the mosque was approved....just in time for afternoon prayers. Which just goes to show the problem in Iraq, that we'd make that sort of mistake by bombing the mosque during afternoon prayers. Before, after....much different story (still bad PR in Iraq, but not insurmountable).
:: Morat 6:58 AM :: ::

Iraq Update

Bad.
The American dream to bridge ancient Iraqi sectarian rivalries turned nightmarish Tuesday as Shiite and Sunni religious and tribal figures put aside their differences and publicly aligned against the occupation, vowing to rid Iraq of the American-led invaders.

In the past 72 hours over 18 U.S. soldiers and well over 100 Iraqis have died in vicious fighting across Iraq. U.S. aligned coalition forces also took significant casualties of an unconfirmed number in fighting in four southern cities.

Before last week the primary forces resisting the U.S. occupation were a combination of former Baath Party members and Sunni religious figures, but after fighting broke out between the coalition and a militia led by a young radical Shiite cleric, much of Iraq turned to complete chaos.

There are also indications that the two groups have come to an agreement to join with an al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group thought to have conducted widespread terrorist attacks against U.S. and Iraqi targets alike.
I'm sure that's just my liberal bias, and that someone out there can point out a new school opening or something. And lest I be accused of downplaying the prowess of our military, I'm certain the US Army and the US Marines will quash this rebellion....and all those fighters will move underground, and go back to killing a soldier or two a day using IED's and ambushes.
:: Morat 6:30 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, April 06, 2004 ::

Al-Sadr supporters take over Najaf

Things continue to go well in Iraq:
Supporters of maverick Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr controlled government, religious and security buildings in the holy city of Najaf early Tuesday evening, according to a coalition source in southern Iraq.

The source said al-Sadr's followers controlled the governor's office, police stations and the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shia Muslim's holiest shrines.
How this plays out depends on al-Sadr's popularity...and what more senior clerics decide to do when the US Military tries to crack down on him.

My take? al-Sadr alone would stretch US troops. He's got a large following. Add that to the Sunni insurgency in Fallajuh, and things in Iraq look bleak. Here's hoping for a few rays of light somewhere. (Link via Atrios)
:: Morat 11:56 AM :: ::

Fluffy Pagans

This was simply too funny to pass up. And, sadly, too often true:
I preface this by saying that I am a pagan, and I have nothing but affection for other pagans. Do not be offended if your name is, in fact, Raven Silverwolf or Silver Ravenwolf or Sparkle Glitter Starlight Wolfpuppy. All that I am about to say is filled with love and concern for you.

It's easy to mock pagans. We stick out. We're kind of dippy and strange, we wear funny clothes (at least a few times a year), we insist on lecturing you about how St. Patrick actually murdered Druids and the whole 'snake' thing is a smokescreen while you're trying to chug your third mug of green beer in peace. A good portion of us have read too much Tolkien for our own good, and our version of church seems to involve buying a lot of weird stuff at stinky shops. We're easy targets. But it doesn't help when a vocal portion of the 'community,' (a word I use loosely, as there is a great deal of variety in pagan beliefs and groups, and I certainly haven't noticed a 'community' pitching in when I'm out of incense over here), insists on naming themselves ridiculous things like Raven Summerhaven and Wolfheart. And forcing their Kinko's co-workers to call them by that name in public. (Sometimes they spell it 'Ravyne,' which makes my brain bleed. But then I don't spell it 'majick' either, so I'm out of the club, anyway.) Now, there is nothing wrong with new names, and the Native American tradition of animal names is a long and noble one. But in addition to making the rest of us look like a pack of rabid D & D players who got their hands on a copy of Let's Go To The Zoo! somewhere along the line, these names show a stunning lack of creativity, or even an understanding of the traditions of which they claim to be a part. Mostly, it's about looking cool.
I know, one way or another, a number of pagans. They range from fiercely intellectual to, well, somewhat sad and drippy and very reminiscent of Magrat.

Most of the ones I know tend to be more the intellectual type, and I don't have to believe in their religion to engage in fascinating conversations, which often teach me quite a bit more about my friends than I knew before.

Still, I know a few sappy ones, and they tend get on my nerves.. There's just something offputting about cheerful religiosity coupled with an appalling lack of intellectual investment.

For some unknown reason, I tend to feel people should have -- at the very least -- invested a bit of thought into their religion.

I tend to put the sappy pagans into the same pile I place the Christians who outwardly wonder why "All those people have ashes on their foreheads today" and the Buddhists whose understanding of Buddhism starts and ends with "Hey! Nice robe!". (Or, for that matter, vegetarians who lecture me about the evils of eating cowflesh, while happily buffing their new leather shoes....)

I don't mind you having a religion. I applaud you for it. I just ask that, maybe, you know a little bit more about it than I do. Because if I, noted non-Buddhist, know what the Eightfold Path is and you don't, then one of us hasn't been paying attention.
:: Morat 11:19 AM :: ::

Troop rotation

Fester does a nice analysis of exactly where the US Army can get more troops, and the problems associated with using them.

Bottom line: We either ignore commitments in Afghanistan, or use troops that aren't battle-ready for one reason or another. And God help us if North Korea gets pushy. All we've got left is the Navy and the Air Force...and while they can make life hell on any conventional army, they can't stop one.
:: Morat 8:38 AM :: ::

Fining Oprah

I can't believe they're stupid enough to go after Oprah:
The crackdown on smut on America's airwaves has entered new and surprising territory following reports that less than open-minded federal regulators have turned their attention to an unexpected target - the perennially popular Oprah Winfrey Show.
[...]
'If they fine me, they gotta fine Oprah - the darling of the world,' Stern told his listeners two weeks ago. The DJ directed them to his website where he provided a transcript of a Winfrey broadcast about teenage sex and included instructions how they could file a complaint with the FCC. Sources at the FCC confirmed that the agency had received about 700 complaints about Winfrey. While most of them might have been spurred by Stern, apparently they have been enough to prompt a formal investigation.
Stern's got them against the wall, admittedly. They find him for something Oprah does, and he can make a stink about it for weeks....and people will listen. But going after Oprah? Better for the FCC just to look like hypocrites. Less damage in the long run.
:: Morat 7:55 AM :: ::

Pentagon delays U.S. troops' trip home

Well, it appears that "increasing troop commitments" isn't exactly the worst case contingency planning reported yesterday, but the new reality:
Since the war began a year ago, senior military leaders have given frequent assurances to troops and their families that Iraq duty would be no longer than a year.

Now, those assurances have met the reality of Iraq, where military leaders are planning for the possibility that anti-U.S. violence will spread. U.S. troops are stretched thin around the world, and the Pentagon has few options to increase the force in Iraq if necessary.
On Monday, a senior official with U.S. Central Command said that the return home of about 24,000 U.S. troops who were scheduled to leave in the next few weeks would be delayed as their replacements arrive. Central Command's responsibility includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I wonder what the operational readiness is of these units? I'd imagine that between a year of active combat duty and the harsh conditions of the desert, neither soldiers nor equipment are anywhere near "at their best".

Which means, in the long run, more flag-draped coffins.
:: Morat 7:44 AM :: ::

News woes

I didn't watch the news any this weekend (or yesterday, for that matter) preferring to spend time with my family -- and adjusting to that damn time change, which always leaves my grumpy and out of sorts for weeks afterwards.

So I scan the headlines and a few things pop out: First, Iraq is exploding. We've lost (as best I can tell) at least 10 to 12 troops since Saturday. We're apparently moving to arrest al-Sadr, which might move the Shia fully off the fence. They're not allies, but they're not currently trying to kill us....so I'd prefer a bit of pragmatism. I don't care what sort of man he is, or what he's done. He's got a private army, and many of the Shia follow him, and we're about to arrest him. I think that perhaps justice should wait until we have enough free troops to enforce it, hmm?

Speaking of, I note that the US is considering moving more troops to Iraq.
U.S. military commanders have begun studying ways they might increase troops in Iraq (news - web sites) should violence spread much more widely, a senior officer said Monday.

Generals believe they have enough forces to handle the attacks that have been coming from various quarters, including the recent violence by a Shiite militia group, but they want to know what is available if the situation gets worse, said the officer, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity.
My first response to this was to giggle. (Which I, sadly, did yesterday while watching CNN. Bush was speaking of al-Sadr, and talking about how one person "using force" to get his way couldn't work...the irony was choking). As best I understand the situation, the US military is pretty much fully deployed. Our Guard and Reserve units are also tapped out. In fact, I understand that even maintaining current troops levels is becoming increasingly difficult, and that maintaining the status quo is slowly breaking the Army by screwing with training schedules....and Pete knows it's hampering recruitment.

Our options are: (1) Break the military for years to come. Ignore training, commitments, long-term goals and focus on shoving every warm body into Iraq. (2) Get more foreign troops in. (3) Hire mercs.

First, I think it's damn sad that number "3" isn't met with tears of hysterical laughter. I'm still rather stunned that we're so badly stretched that we have to hire mercs to guard our own convoys. That, if nothing else, should tell you how strained our forces are.

Two is out of the question. Foreign countries are bailing on us, not rushing to help out. It appears that only the White House is blind to the mess they've made.

That leaves crippling the military. Continuing the stop-loss orders, ignoring training rotations, cutting leave, yanking troops from bases all over the world, ignoring prior commitments....and activating whatever is left of the Guard and Reserves. All of which, I might add, is really going to cut into recruitment for a few years. Unless we start up the draft.

Of course, that's assuming we're gone by the end of summer....something I don't see happening. In light of Bush's 2000 campaign attacks, it's pretty ironic, isn't it? By the time we vote, pretty much the entire Army is going to be unready for duty. They're be too busy getting shot at in Iraq to train, to rest, to do all the myriad things that made them the best fighting force on the planet.

:: Morat 6:56 AM :: ::

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