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:: Friday, May 14, 2004 ::

A good point about Abu Ghraib

One of the posters over at Political Animal made a really good point about what MI and the MP chain of command would have known about the abuse, their denials to the contrary.
These prisoners would have been talking to interpreters (either Iraqis paid to interpret for MI or Arabic speaking US MI officers). Regardless, it is unimaginable that the questioning wouldn't have involved the prisoners being asked, 'how are you being treated.....' and then the answer would have disclosed the abuse/torture, etc. Transcripts would have moved up the chain of command. That's just the way it's done.

Furthermore, it is inconceivable that the guards' commanding officer would not have asked the guards what was occurring when the MI personnel were loose in the prison - assuming he/she wasn't actually certain of the MI activities in his/her area of operations.

There is just no way that enlisted personnel could have kept a lid on this. It would have leaked out long ago through normal scuttlebutt.

It is truly insulting to our intelligence that anyone would suggest that there wasn't general knowledge of what was occurring in the prison.
Some prisoners might have been intimidated into keeping silent, but you'd think MIs would be trained to spot things like dog bites, bruised hands and faces, rope and cuff marks, the signs of sleep deprivation.....not to mention, of course, that at least some of the prisoners had wounds that would have required medical attention (dog bites, to name one source). I have to agree. I can't see any way a bunch of enlisted men could keep this quiet.
:: Morat 6:59 AM :: ::

Sweet! Hate mail!

I got some today. I suppose that means some of the two thousand or so people searching for "Nick Berg Beheaded video" were a little unhappy about encountering a point of view that wasn't "Let's Nuke Those Furrners!".

Someone suggested I ask Nick Berg if it was a "publicity stunt", which is a bit stupid. Of course it was a publicity stunt. They wouldn't have videotaped it otherwise. If it was revenge motivated, they'd have shunned publicity -- not sought it.

Still, my favorite came from a "Kevin McClure" who called me, quote, "stupid tree-hugging bastard" and "son of a bitch" and suggested I get a "clue". Tree-hugging bastard. How lame is that? Can't you guys come up with something new? That's like, so, 1980s.

I probably got more, but the junk mail filter is turned all the way up. I do scan it for blog-related material. So I suggest that if you're sending mail, hate or otherwise, you should include my blog name in the title!

Look forward to hearing from you guys again. But do you think you could be a little more vehement? Maybe throw in a bit of incoherent ranting, or maybe some creative spelling? I mean, it's good now, but I like my hate mail to be a little more entertaining. Although thanks do Mr. Walters who thoughtfully sent his single-line response in HTML form. The nice large font, and that lovely blue color was certainly eye catching, even if the sentiments were a little derivative. Keep practicing, and I'm sure you'll get the hang of it soon.
:: Morat 6:38 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, May 13, 2004 ::

Rumsfeld Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq

Oh god, they truly are stupid. We've got children running the government:
Rumsfeld and Myers were accompanied here by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the prison system in Iraq, who told Rumsfeld that a new complex of outdoor camps is going to open soon on the grounds outside the main prison building.

It will be called ``Camp Redemption,'' he said, at the suggestion of the Iraqi Governing Council, and will provide better living conditions for the detainees. Rumsfeld has heard many calls for his resignation in the wake of publicly released photos showing abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces. President Bush has given Rumsfeld a vote of confidence.
Camp Redemption? Great plan there, Einstein. "Sorry about all the rape and torture and stuff. We'll build you a new place and give it a swell name! No one's going to complain about a little sodomy in Camp Redemption".

Who the hell do they think needs to be redeemed? The Iraqis? Not to put a fine point on it, but the Iraqis weren't the one shoving brooms up prisoner's butts, okay? It's like Rumsfeld thinks the problem isn't the torture, it's that the average Iraqi is confused as to why we're doing it. I guess that, in Rummy-land, the Iraqis will say "Oh! You're sticking things up our butts to redeem us! Why didn't you say so? Come here, you old softy!" and all will be well.

If you were putting that MP company in there, as inmates, the name might fly. Right now, however, it sounds like one of those places the wing-nuts send their sons if they think Johhny might be gay....

Ah, for the love of Pete...they really are this stupid. They think that a quick move, a new name, a fresh coat of paint and Bam!, instant forgiveness! I'm sure Rummy will be expecting thrown roses any day now.

Camp fucking Redemption. Sweet lord.

Update: I realize it says "Rumsfeld was told". But trust me, he knew in advance. He's the Secretary of Defense. I somehow doubt Miller surprised him with this one.
:: Morat 1:46 PM :: ::

Tom DeLay -- Champion of Morality

I note, with extreme distaste, Tom DeLay's take on the new photographs (ones showing rape, abuse, dog attacks, etc):
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he thought “some people are overreacting.”

“The people who are against the war are using this to their political ends,” he said.
This is Tom DeLay. The man who regularly gets very upset that state supported universities teach evolution.

This guy runs the US House of Representatives. He is perhaps the most powerful Republican in Congress. American soldiers raping and torturing prisoners doesn't bother him, but evolution does.

And you wonder why things have gone to hell lately?
:: Morat 8:21 AM :: ::

Forced sex?

Why describe it as forced sex?
The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops went beyond the photos seen by most Americans, shaken lawmakers said Wednesday after viewing fresh pictures and video that they said depicted forced sex, brutality and dogs snarling at cowed prisoners.
Every story I've seen calls it "forced sex". Why not call it what it is? Rape.

Even if you're referring to one prisoner being forced to have sex with another prison, it's still rape. You're just managing to rape two people at once.
:: Morat 8:16 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 ::

Abu Ghraib? It's worse....

Even the Republicans are calling it disgusting.
“I expected that these pictures would be very hard on the stomach lining, and it was significantly worse than anything that I had anticipated,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “Take the worse case and multiply it several times over.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., called the images “appalling,” saying they “go beyond” what much of the world has already seen in photos broadcast and published earlier this month.
It's nice to see that the "few bad apples" theory is being rejected.
At that hearing, senators challenged military officials who pinned most of the blame for the mistreatment on a small group of soldiers and on supervisors who provided inadequate training and leadership.

Several senators questioned the defense officials and Taguba about their contention that low-ranking soldiers created the sexually humiliating scenarios by themselves.

“It implies too much knowledge of what would be particularly humiliating to these Muslim prisoners,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “And that is why, even though I do not yet have the evidence, I cannot help but suspect that others were involved, that military intelligence personnel were involved, or people further up the chain of command.”
God this is bad. And it keeps getting worse.

And those Senators are deluding themselves if they think those pictures are going to remain hidden. They'll get out, one way or another. And it's just going to look worse and worse until Bush does the right thing....which is to order a full, open, and impartial investigation into this mess. Everyone who can be prosecuted, should be, to the fullest extent of the law. Those in the chain of command who cannot be prosecuted, or those who didn't know but should have....should be fired. Including Rumsfeld.

Bush needs to make a choice: America's credibility, or his own. He needs to burn everyone even remotely involved -- all the way to the top -- if America wants to retain any shreds of her former credibility, no matter the political damage to himself.

Somehow I doubt he'll do that. Bush has never put America first.
:: Morat 2:17 PM :: ::


I've gotten almost 700 hits today on people search for references to Berg or links to the video footage. To help those people out: No, I don't have a link to the footage. It's graphic, disturbing, and "They cut his head off with a knife while he was still alive" is sufficient for virtually anyone. However, I'm sure if you keep searching, you'll find it.

I think his death was an outrage, a tragedy, and I have no doubt that those who killed him used the torture at Abu Ghraib as an excuse...not a reason. No, I do not think this "excuses" the Abu Ghraib abuse, or in any way justifies what we're doing. Yes, I have higher standards for the United States than I do for other countries, for the same reason I wish my child to grow up to be a better man than I am.

I love my country, and demand the best of it. I condemn all those who would kill or torture the innocent, but I will reserve my strongest condemnation for the failures of the United States. I expect that the dictators and despots of third-world countries will use rape, murder, and torture to keep power. I expect the United States to hold to a higher standard.
:: Morat 1:12 PM :: ::

Hizbollah Slams Beheading of American as Un-Islamic

Interesting and a good sign, I think.
Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group condemned Wednesday the beheading of an American hostage by Iraqi militants as an ugly crime that flouted the tenets of Islam.

'Hizbollah condemns this horrible act that has done very great harm to Islam and Muslims by this group that claims affiliation to the religion of mercy, compassion and humane principles,' the Shi'ite Muslim group said in a statement.
I wonder if there is more to this incident than there appears? There are many factions in Iraq and the surrounding countries, and I don't doubt that several of them would be happy to goad the US into a heavy response.
:: Morat 1:05 PM :: ::

Oh really?

Digby makes a good catch (link via Atrios). Stephen Cambone (Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence) had a little disagreement with Taguba during testimony yesterday. Taguba stated that the last November orders came down that effectively placed Abu Ghraib under the command of the intelligence unit there. Cambone disagreed, stating that the orders were to "work together" and that the intelligence unit was ordered to take charge of the prison, but not take charge of the MPs.

Digby recalls that Cambone came up last July, when Bush started hammering Bremer and Franks over who was in charge of the WMD hunt. After some discussion, it was suggested that Cambone "a little know deputy of Rumsfeld" was in charge. Digby wonders:
This is pure speculation, but it is worth looking into what those interrogators were after in Abu Ghraib. Cambone framed it yesterday as "trying to prevent attacks against American soldiers.," which, I suppose, you could interpret in a number of ways. But, if the focus was finding the non-existent WMD, then you'd have to ask whether the man whose "chief political obsession" was finding them gave the order to take off the gloves.
Good question. I wonder if anyone will ever ask it? Digby noted, yesterday, that the lawyer for one of the accused claimed (on MSNBC) that the military was using the photos to "break" prisoners suspected of having WMD knowledge.

This is bad enough, as it is. There mere thought that this was related to the Great WMD Snipe Hunt turns the stomach. Torture is bad enough. Torture for nonexistent WMDs? If true, the White House is even further out of touch with reality than I thought...

In any event, a really good catch by Digby.
:: Morat 12:35 PM :: ::

Who is John Kerry?

The Onion's latest infograph tries to answer. I'm particularly fond of "John Kerry: A man who has chaired a lot of committees", "John Kerry: A voice of reason who's killed, like, 20 dudes" and "John Kerry: Certainly not worse.".

I'm not sure how I'd get through Wednesday's without The Onion.
:: Morat 10:55 AM :: ::


I often wonder how stupid Kaus really is. Then I read his blog, and I remember: Very.

Today he's joined the Goldberg "Sixty Minutes II should never have printed those pictures, and we should never show any more" bandwagon, using the logic that "Because they showed the pictures, now the Iraqis know -- on a visceral level -- what we were doing, and now they're really pissed." and suggests that they should have done a verbal story (yes, that Red Cross report got so much attention) instead.

I'm still shocked by the unspoken assumption that the Iraqis -- and the rest of the Arab World -- are fundamentally stupid. I'm not sure why, but it appears to be an article of faith that "If you don't speak English, it's because you're retarded" among a great many of the movers and shakers.

News flash for you, Kaus: The Iraqis already knew. People had been allowed to visit -- even if the worst cases where shuffled around to hide them from the Red Cross -- and others to leave. Iraqis knew. What sort of arrogance does it take to assume that if the American media hasn't blared it 24/7, no one knows about it?

That Sixty Minutes report wasn't aimed at the Iraqis. They knew, and were already angry. It was aimed at the American public. We didn't know -- or at least, not many of us.

The Executive Branch decided not to deal with it -- if they weren't actively promoting it. The Congressional Branch had ceded all authority, and the Judicial Branch was mulling over Gitmo -- but hadn't stepped in.

For once the media did it's job. They made public the lapses and failures, and forced Congress and the Executive (and probably the Judicial, by the time it's all said and done) to own up to what they were doing.

And the pictures, and the videos, and the shocking details of the "freedom" we were brining to Iraq must continue to be reported. Because the government has already proven it's not something they'll fix without public pressure.

It all boils down to the type of America you want to live in. Kaus, it appears, chooses the illusion for freedom and ignorant bliss. I prefer the real thing, no matter the price.
:: Morat 9:55 AM :: ::

For the record

I agree with Mark Kleiman on the Nick Berg video. It was a publicity stunt, and the US media is doing right by not airing it.

The difference between that and the Abu Ghraib issue couldn't be clearer. We know Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups are hell-bent on attacking us -- which includes our citizens and those of our allied nations. We know they work through fear.

On the other hand, we don't work through fear. At least, that's the theory. If you can't work out why "Americans torturing Iraqis, innocent and guilty alike" is bigger news than "Al Qaeda gruesomely kills another American", you've got problems.
:: Morat 8:28 AM :: ::

Blog Update

It seems Blogger has sorted out my problems. I haven't gotten email from their support people yet, but I noticed that my disk quota was suddenly much higher. Instead of using 98% of it, I'm now using 24%. I still plan to move to Dreamhost and Moveable Type, but now I can afford to wait for MT's new version to be released, and save up to pay for a year's hosting up front. (I prefer that to monthly fees). So the move will be in the next few months (hopefully sometime in June) rather than over this weekend and next.

Well, assuming that Blogger Support did that on purpose...and it's not just another weird error.
:: Morat 8:05 AM :: ::


Color me shocked. It appears that, once again, the Bush administration simply can't tell the truth:
THE BUSH administration still seeks to mislead Congress and the public about the policies that contributed to the criminal abuse of prisoners in Iraq. Yesterday's smoke screen was provided by Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Mr. Cambone assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that the administration's policy had always been to strictly observe the Geneva Conventions in Iraq; that all procedures for interrogations in Iraq were sanctioned under the conventions; and that the abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison were consequently the isolated acts of individuals. These assertions are contradicted by International Red Cross and Army investigators, by U.S. generals overseeing the prisoners, and by Mr. Cambone himself.
Given that the Washington Post's op-ed page has frequently been at odds with it's war reporting, seeing their lead editorial bashing the scapegoating attempt is pretty surprising.

The fact that Bush is trying to blame a "few bad apples" at the bottom, rather than the barrel full of bad apples he's got at the top, isn't surprising at all. We all know the Bush mantra: The Buck Stops As Far Away From Here As Possible. (Link via Josh Marshall)
:: Morat 8:03 AM :: ::

Dean, Dean, Dean....you still rock.

A bit of happier news, for us Deanies:
Howard Dean is still fighting. It has been more than three months since the former Vermont governor's blazing presidential campaign crashed as spectacularly as it soared out of nowhere. But he is still touring the country, still articulating his blunt assessments of all that ails the United States, still agitating to give George Bush the proverbial one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Texas.
Already, he is backing candidates across a broad spectrum of lower-order political races for Congress and state offices. The idea is to organise to try to beat Republican incumbents wherever they are. It may not be easy to shift political trends to the left in a time of crisis and war, but Mr Dean believes it is essential and - thanks to the extremism of the Bush administration - possible.
When it comes to the war in Iraq, or the growing influence of Christian fundamentalism on public policy, or the mounting budget deficit exacerbated by targeted tax cuts for the wealthy, Mr Dean - in contrast to John Kerry, who beat him to the Democratic presidential nomination - does not believe there is room for compromise with the Bush White House, or any of the like-minded politicians he characterises as "right-wing wackos".

Instead, he believes, the Republicans need to be fought on their own turf, in places where ordinary working-class voters have been persuaded to vote Republican but may yet be open to the notion that they are betraying their own interests.
Mr Dean's first priority is to get President Bush out of the White House. He has differences with Mr Kerry, but he also realises it is essential to vote for him rather than Ralph Nader or any other fringe candidate who could split the anti-Bush vote. "Under any circumstances, one can imagine John Kerry a better president than George Bush," he said. Senator Kerry, he said, is a "thoughtful person" who has an outstanding record on environmental protection.

"I am vigorously encouraging people to vote for John Kerry," he said. "As for those who want work for him or give to him; well, I hope they'll do that too. They have to believe in this. I think [most] people who supported me will support John Kerry. The question is to what degree.

"Ultimately, individual voters will take the decision," he said. "That choice is going to be dependent on what John Kerry has to say, not what I have to say."
No comment, really. I'm just happy the Doctor is still fighting the good fight. Someone has to.
:: Morat 7:44 AM :: ::

Sadly, I can't disagree

Nine out of ten archbishops agree:
The scandal of prisoner abuses by U.S. soldiers in Iraq has dealt a bigger blow to the United States than the Sept. 11 attacks, the Vatican foreign minister told an Italian newspaper.

In an interview published Wednesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo described the abuses as 'a tragic episode in the relationship with Islam' and said the scandal would fuel hatred for the West and for Christianity.

'The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves,' Lajolo was quoted as saying in La Repubblica.
I wish I could say he's wrong. Sadly, however, our actions at Abu Ghraib seemed designed to inflame the Arab world.

I think we've lost the battle of hearts and minds, because our leaders never bothered to learn how other cultures work. Nick Berg's death, horrendous as it was, was relatively quick....and free of shame. As best I can tell -- I'm certainly no expert -- Berg's death would have been seen as far more merciful a punishment than what we inflicted on the men, women and children held in Abu Ghraib.

Something I doubt is coincidence. Al Qaeda's goal, the goal of any terrorist organization, is to claim the mantle of hero -- to be portrayed as standing up to an awful villain. Thanks to Abu Ghraib, we're playing the part of "villain" quite well. And by giving Berg a swift and merciful -- to Muslim eyes -- death, AQ is trying to claim the mantle of "hero".

Morality aside, cultural issues aside....we're losing the PR battle.
:: Morat 7:29 AM :: ::

Coming home to roost

I think whenever Berg's killing comes up, we should ask the real question: Why did Bush place the real terrorist (Zarqawi) on the backburner, preferring to focus on Iraq instead?
With Tuesday's attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself -- but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.
We had him. He was operating out of Kurdish-controlled territory, under our own "no-fly" zone. Saddam couldn't touch him. But we could.

And we didn't. And now he's killed again. Because Bush isn't serious about terrorism. And never was.
:: Morat 7:15 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, May 11, 2004 ::

And so it begins..

Video Seems to Show Beheading of American:
A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq, and said the execution was carried out by an al-Qaida affiliated group to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.

The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit -- similar to a prisoner's uniform -- who identified himself as Nick Berg, a U.S. contractor whose body was found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday.

'My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan,' the man said on the video. 'I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in ... Philadelphia.'

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting 'Allahu Akbar!' -- 'God is great.' They then held the head out before the camera.
Yeah, see, this is what we call "predictable". In fact, without going out on much of a limb here, this is an excellent example of "Why the Geneva Conventions are Important".

Speaking for myself, I'd be against torture purely on moral grounds. However debatable that might be (for some reason ticking time bombs and such always come into play), there are also purely pragmatic reasons. There's an unspoken element of "I won't rape your soldiers/civilians if you won't cut the genitals off my soldiers/civilians" to the whole process.

Had we not been cheerfully raping, beating, humiliating, and sodomizing captured -- and often innocent, it appears -- Iraqi civilians, we'd have a bit more of a moral high ground here. But, sadly, the response "We didn't kill any of them on purpose, those where just accidents during the torture" isn't as effective as "We haven't been abusing and killing (even accidentally) your soldiers and civilians".

Those people who cut Berg's head off, who killed him on film as a "warning" are bad people. They are, in Bush's parlance, "evildoers". The problem here is that, by the exact same standards....so are we.

You might point out, and probably correctly, that this particular group of people would have found a reason to kill an American, or never needed one. It doesn't change my point. I think I'd like a bit more moral daylight between America and terrorist organizations. I'd like to feel that yes, we are the good guys. Instead, thanks to our behavior in Iraq, I get the feeling we've been staring to long into the Abyss.

So I'm sure we'll "bring it on" and "punish the evildoers" and even more innocents -- along with a few guilty -- will end up in Abu Ghraib and the entire Iraqi nation will not believe they are all being tortured, and that will lead to some revenge killings, another muscular US response....

Update: Just to be clear on this: Yes, it's an outrage. It's disgusting, upsetting, and I've avoided the video like the plague. I thought that was a fairly obvious reaction, but sometimes it's worth it to state the obvious. On another level, however, I'm upset by how little difference there is between our actions and theirs. I'm firmly comfortable with a "shades-of-grey" worldview, but when it gets down to whose hats are blacker, well....
:: Morat 11:21 AM :: ::


Josh Marshall points out a tiny little flaw in Senator Inhofe's outrage at today's hearings.
Clothing himself in shame, Sen. Inhofe on Abu Ghraib: 'I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment ... These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.'

Of course, according to American military intelligence officers, 70% to 90% of the detainees were there by mistake.
I noticed that when the words left Inhofe's mouth, which leads me to what I consider a critical question about US Government: Why is it that I, a mere bystander know more about this than Senator Inhofe?

Maybe we should start quizzing Senators to make sure they're doing their homework, and thus have enough current knowledge to sit on their respective committees. Either that, or we need some stern ex-teacher to slap their knuckles with a ruler, or wash out their mouths....because it's either gross incompetence or habitual lying.

There's no excuse for Inhofe not knowing this. It's his damn job.
:: Morat 10:35 AM :: ::

Off the Kuff: Morris Meyer interview

As part of "Teas Tuesdays", Off the Kuff scored a nice interview with Morris Meyer, the Democratic candidate for CD06. Morris is getting decent support from moderates and even some Republicans, mainly due to his opponent's (Joe Barton) shameless pandering. Texas schools are bad enough, without trying to balance tax breaks for local industries on top of them.

Meyer is pretty interested in the blog and online community, including guest-posting on Eschaton. I sincerely hope it pays off for him, and not just because Joe Barton is a worthless waste of space. Go check the interview. Feel free to send a few dollars his way (and add that extra 36 cents to show it as a blog donation).
:: Morat 10:00 AM :: ::

Nader sues for spot on Texas' ballot

I weep with sympathy for this poor soul:
Ralph Nader went to court today to win a place on the Texas presidential ballot, after falling short in a petition drive.

Nader filed a federal lawsuit in Austin challenging Texas ballot access rules as the deadline passed for him to gather enough signatures to get on the state ballot this year as an independent.
I have to admit, it's really hard not to start taunting Nader for acting like a whiny child. It just sounds so much like a tantrum.

He can act like there's a vast conspiracy against him, but the simple fact was he couldn't get 60,000 people (or about 0.3% of the population of Texas) to agree he was a good enough candidate to even get on the ballot.

I don't think, to date, he's on the ballot anywhere. And not all the lawsuits and all the lands will make poor Nader popular again.
:: Morat 8:37 AM :: ::

Surrender? Never!

Steve Gilliard has a damn good point. Ain't nobody gonna surrender to the CPA now.
Juan Cole notes that Sadr has expanded his war after he refused to surrender to Coalition forces. Gee, that's a mystery. How his fellow clerics could expect Sadr to walk voluntarily into custody after our activities in our Abu Ghraib penal colony is beyond me.

There is no way a sane person would walk into Coalition custody now.
Isn't that helpful? When you take "surrender" out of the "Surrender or die!", you end up facing people with nothing left to lose...and less fear of death than of capture.

(Of course, the whole thing reminds me of that Eddie Izzard line about "Cake or death!" and what happens when you run out of cake).
:: Morat 8:12 AM :: ::

Aura of Leadership

I think George Bush is learning -- painfully and slowly -- why it pays to be a leader, rather than simply cultivate the aura of one. Real leadership is hard, of course. It requires sacrifice, painful decisions, and often forces you to act for the good of others rather than in your own self-interests.

Looking like a leader, in this day and age, requires only that you never change your mind, never admit failure or mistakes, and be fairly subtle about blaming other people for your mistakes.

The problem with the mere aura, however, is that sooner or later you make a mistake too big to be ignored, too important to shift the blame, and the repercussions of which cannot be fully avoided. A real leader can take responsibility, fix the mistake, and ensure it never happens again. He's not dependent on an image of infallibility, after all. But George Bush can't. Three years of mistakes are waiting in the wings, and admitting error or culpability means that his whole image comes crashing down.

The problem for George is that, either way, he's screwed. Either he admits to his mistakes and moves to fix them (which includes a thorough house cleaning up and down the chain of command), and dismantles his image as a strong and sure leader, or he continues to act like nothing's happened while images of naked and tortured Iraqis destroy his image of compassion and American values.

Either way, he's damaged goods. A real leader would take the political heat, even sacrifice his re-election, in favor of moving to repair such drastic damage to America's image and authority. But not George Bush. To him, looking like a leader is more important than being one....and his re-election is more important than America's safety.
:: Morat 7:32 AM :: ::

Does this ever end?

It seems like each time I finally seem to have my family's finances under control, some little annoyance pops out of nowhere and destroys it again.

I suppose it was inevitable. I was finally starting to save money again, so why wouldn't I get a letter about a credit card debt that's more than 6 years old?

Yeah, I got a lovely little letter in the mail yesterday. Turns out my wife had a credit card way back in 1996 or so. She swears she paid it off in 1998, but I've now got a letter from a collections agency demanding three grand. (Well, actually they're demanding half that, which happens to be the amount due).

The problem is, she has no way to prove she paid it six years ago. They, obviously, don't wish to take her word for it. So now I have to deal with a massive debt that may or may not have been paid six years ago. I hate this crap, I really do.

More substantial posts later and on topics you'll actually care about, I have to yell at the collections agency for awhile.

Update: What is it with piss-poor customer service? I've gotten sarcasm and outright hostility from two of the six people I've talked to at this agency. Given that they want me to give them a large sum of money for a debt that isn't mine, and that my wife is certain she paid, you'd think they'd be polite. As I can't prove (heck, I don't even know for sure. All this predates my marriage by several years) it was paid, and if it was paid it was paid to a company that went bankrupt in 2002, I've pretty much resigned myself to coming up with the money. Sure, it's my wife's debt (I'm not sure what -- if any -- legal responsibility I have for debts my wife incurred before we were married), but it has to be paid sooner or later, although I hate the thought we might be paying it twice.

Luckily, the last lady I talked with (I have her name and direct number) was much more helpful. We'll contact them in October (after my wife has started teaching) and work out a payment plan then. They've stuck a note in my file which should, hopefully, prevent us being hassled until then.

Amusingly, one of the managers hassled me about referring to my wife -- and the debt -- in the third person. As in "my wife's finances this, my wife's debt that". They're a collections agency. Do they honestly think I'm going to say anything that can be construed as taking responsibility for this debt? Hell no.
:: Morat 6:36 AM :: ::

:: Monday, May 10, 2004 ::


Dreamhost is looking good (plus they'll throw a little money at Off the Kuff, since I found their service through Charles Kuffner) and I think I only need the basic package (500MB disk space, 25GB a month). Since Off the Kuff is Moveable Type, it obviously has everything needed there. I'll be doing the MT install myself, as will probably make the effort to drag my old data with me.

I won't be doing it until this until Friday (I was a bit overzealous paying the bills this week) probably, but Skeptical Notion will almost certainly be moving sometime in the next few weeks. It'll be about 120 dollars for a year (I'd rather pay up front), so as soon as I have the cash together I'll be signing up.
:: Morat 12:46 PM :: ::

Ah crap..

Well, it appears I am using roughly 98% of my Blogspot Plus quota. (25 Megs). I deleted a few large images, which is annoying, but I can post again. However, it looks like Skeptical Notion will be moving.

Can anyone recommend a good host? Oh, and I suppose I might as well upgrade to Moveable Type while I'm at it. Anyone have any experience converting Blogger to MT?

Suggestions? Dangers? Worries? Fears? A little help here.....

Update: How does Atrios manage this? The man has far more stuff on his system than me. Maybe he bought the bigger Blogspot package....back when Blogspot existed (I paid for the 25MB).

I was considering Dreamhost but I'm a bit unsure of my needs. 500MB of space and 25GBs a month sounds like plenty.....Urgh.
:: Morat 12:10 PM :: ::

New blogger stuff

Looks like Blogger added some new functionality, as well as a new interface. I'm trying to decide whether I should switch to Blogger's new comment functions, or continue to use Haloscan. Any suggestions?

Update: I seem to be having some disk quota issues, so my blog might be acting weird until I figure out what the hell is going on.
:: Morat 10:57 AM :: ::

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