Monday, February 26, 2007

Scorsese, baby

While I was psyched to see Martin Scorsese win best director finally on Sunday night, I was kind of disappointed that "The Queen" lost out on best film. Being a huge fan of the original Hong Kong film "Infernal Affairs," it's hard to measure the film without thinking about all the wonderful things that got cut out.

But Stephen Frears "The Queen" really knocked me out, especially the foreshadowing of what would later happen to the film's "hero," the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Apologies to all of my readers, but it's really tough for me to blog here since I'm working nearly 24-7 at Raw Story now as Managing Editor. So busy, that it's tough for me to even find the time to link to the articles I've written there, and the ones by our other talented writers, as well.

But here's a link to my Oscar article, Orchestra drowns out Gore's 'announcement' at Oscars:

Pressed by Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio to announce something important at the 79th Academy Awards on Sunday night, former Vice President Al Gore - an Oscar nominee himself for his hit global warming documentary - took a little too long to get to the 'kicker,' so the orchestra drowned him out.

Gore appeared as a special guest of DiCaprio's, who told the crowd that the Oscars had turned green, as he used the occasion to call on the US government to introduce legislation that would enforce a reduction of carbon emissions.

Read the rest at Raw.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Um... Knowing Would Be Far Worse

Twice today, President Bush said something bizarre at his press conference, yet not when reporter (not even yesterday's Snow battler, CNN's Ed Henry) called him on it.

"General Pace says that these bombs found in Iraq do not by themselves implicate Iran," one reporter said at the conference. "What makes you so certain that the highest levels of Tehran's government is responsible?"

Bush responded, "Mm. Let me -- the -- what we do know is that the Qods Force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. That -- we know that. And we also know that the Qods Force is a part of the Iranian government."

"That's a known," Bush continued. "What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Qods Force to do what they did."

The president added, "But here's my point: either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is is that they're there. What's worse -- that the government knew or that the government didn't know?"

"I'd like to follow on Iran," another reporter said later. "Critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq, specifically about WMD that turned out to be wrong, and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran. Is that the case?"

Bush answered this question almost identically, "I can say with certainty that the Qods Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops. And I'd like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Qods Force was ordered from the top echelons of government. But my point is, what's worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it's happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops."

How could it possibly not be worse if the orders came from the top? And how could no White House reporter throw that talking point back?

In what scenario would a rogue element in the government be worse than a nation's leaders approving what most other countries would consider an act of war?

Who would argue that if the president were behind the leaking of a CIA operative's name then it would be a lot worse than if White House officials did it on their own initiative? Evidently, Bush wouldn't argue with that logic, since he later ducked questions about whether or not he authorized Administration officials to leak Valerie Plame's name.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Iraqi Individual Replacement Training

Sean Harder, reporting for Georgia's Savannah Morning News, reveals that 143 or more US troops deployed to Iraq from Fort Stewart last month missed their final combat exercise, and one eighteen-year-old soldier is already dead:

Last week, one of those soldiers - Pvt. Matthew T. Zeimer, 18 - was the first from the brigade to be killed when he was hit by enemy fire in Ramadi, the stronghold of Iraq's Sunni insurgency.

Zeimer arrived at Fort Stewart on Dec. 18 after basic training and deployed to Iraq just a few weeks later. He missed the brigade's intensive four-week mission rehearsal in October when more than 1,300 trainers and Iraqi role-players came to the post as part of the most realistic training program the Army offers for Iraq operations.

The fact some of the brigade's 4,000 soldiers missed that training raises questions about how well the Army is preparing troops for war in the face of accelerated and repeat deployments.

Zeimer did attend Individual Replacement Training, a 10-day course that trains soldiers in weapons use, Iraqi cultural awareness, rules of war, first-aid, navigation and dealing with media.

Individual Replacement Training or I.R.T. is exactly what it sounds like: a theater-specific course for fresh troops (or returning troops) to prepare them so that they can replace troops already deployed.

A Google search reveals that the length of I.R.T. varies from base to base, ranging from seven to ten days total (and if you followed that link, you'd also probably be wondering like me, why it is that Googling "individual replacement training" returns such a small amount of results, considering we've been at war for six years).

"Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Division, acknowledged the pace of deployments means some soldiers 'show up later than you'd like,'" Harder reports. "He said IRT, however, gives troops all the war-fighting skills they need."

Perhaps Zeimer didn't need the "most realistic training program." Perhaps he had all the training he needed. Perhaps the time spent in I.R.T. learning how to "deal[ing] with the media" helped hone his war-fighting skills more than "realistic training" would have.

I've never gone through the training and can barely find any information on the specifics of the exercises or procedures, so I have no way of knowing enough to say that it's ridiculous that an eighteen-year-old could learn all he needs to know to fight in a war in only ten days.

But I can ask one question, at least.

Why the hell aren't Iraqi troops and police getting swift I.R.T. so we can pull our brothers and sisters out of Iraq sometime fucking soon?

While I have no idea if ten days is enough, I'm damn sure that going on four years should be long enough to make some sort of significant progress. I mean it's not like Bernard Kerik spent enough time over there to fuck things up like the Oklahoma hacks who ran FEMA for Bush.

But, according to this McClatchy Newspapers article, written by Tom Lasseter, "[m]any of the Iraqi forces whom the U.S. is counting on to defeat Sunni Muslim insurgents, disarm Shiite Muslim gunmen and assume responsibility for keeping the peace have been infiltrated by sectarian militias and are plagued by incompetence and corruption."

"Two weeks with American units that patrolled with Iraqi forces in west and east Baghdad found that Iraqi officers sold new uniforms meant for their troops, and that their soldiers wore plastic shower sandals while manning checkpoints, abused prisoners and solicited bribes to free suspects they'd captured," Lasseter reports (and make sure you follow the link to read about the "pornography on a cell phone" incident).

Lasseter writes that because of the poor state of Iraq's fighting forces a "U.S. withdrawal almost certainly would mean even more widespread carnage," (which his editor should have told him was at least arguable) then adds that "[c]ontinuing to prop up the Iraqi forces, however, almost certainly would lead to more American casualties, but not necessarily to victory," which is why escalation is not much of a strategy.

"Iraqi troops are 'immeasurably' better than they were, and they continue 'to gain in both confidence and in capability,' U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Monday," Lasseter continues. "Although the U.S. has spent $15.4 billion since 2003 to train and equip Iraqi forces, Caldwell conceded that the country's military and security forces still have 'deficiencies in both leadership and logistics, and have yet to win the trust of Iraq's ethnic and sectarian communities.'"


$15.4 billion spent over the last four years, and hardly anything to show for it but 3,115 dead Americans.

In all seriousness, I doubt it would take much more than an hour of I.R.T. to prepare the next Administration in 2008 more than the half-ass squad that sold us this pile of shit in the first place (unfortunately, I have to put "us" because even though plenty of us knew better, we didn't have any say in the matter, and our cries of Caveat Emptor went unheard).


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Purple Reign


I believe Prince just gave the greatest performance I have ever seen in my life, live or on television.

That was completely unexpected.

Prince's new song "Guitar" can be downloaded for free at his website, and I'm sure video of his Super Bowl performance with rain falling, pigeons soaring, purple lights glowing, marching band performing, and lots of gyrating will be all over YouTube in about twenty minutes or so.


Whoops. Not for free, at the purple one's site. It'll cost you $1.99.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Aqua Teen Hunger Force shut down Boston

Sorry, I've been kind of busy:

House Majority Whip touts 'diversity' to herald start of Black History month

Bush: Future generations face cuts in Social Security, Medicare unless 'we act' now; New budget will 'eliminate the deficit by 2012'

Obama's 'trying to figure out' if he's 'going to Hollywood' or getting 'voted off island'

Update: Man arrested in bizarre Boston marketing ploy

Web video 'exposes' the 'Real McCain'

Lieberman agrees Iraq resolutions 'encourage the enemy'

Biden: 'Failed' Bush policy on Iraq 'emboldens the enemy'

Call me? Ex-Rep. Harris hands out business cards at State of the Union

Paper: Bush authorized troops to kill Iranian operatives in Iraq

Gingrich's '24' scenario: US, Israel face potential 'second Holocaust' which could lead to 'greater dictatorial societies'

Cheney downplays Iraq violence; Not 'terrible situation'

Edwards: 'Iran must know world won't back down'

President Bush calls anti-abortion group to thank them for helping to 'build the culture of life here'

Bush 'not somebody who is going to cease to be bold,' says spokesman Snow

Groups seek records on warrantless mail surveillance that Bush authorized through 'signing statment'

Page Six claims Albany Democrats worried about 'closet cases'

Op-Ed: McCain's 'volatile temper' may derail Straight Talk Express

'Unprecedented:' Evangelical, scientific leaders unite to respond to climate change problems and defend 'life on earth'

In letter to editor, Pentagon critic apologizes for questioning integrity of Gitmo lawyers

Senator Obama officially launches presidential exploratory committee

O'Reilly, expert spar over lawmakers' body language during Bush's State of the Union

CNN debates use of other 'F' word as gay slur

Fox host sees 'State of the Union scowl' on Senator Clinton

Veterans not convinced Bush made his case for escalation

Democratic 2008 candidate believes Cheney is 'dead wrong' on Iraq

Video: Leak trial lawyers 'can't find' twelve who like Cheney

New Pentagon detainee manual could lead to executions based on 'hearsay evidence'

How the media does and doesn't 'ID' Independent Lieberman by Brian Beutler


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