Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thinking Out of the Box: A New Approach to the War in Iraq

No, don’t think I have changed my mind and suddenly support the war in Iraq, because I don’t. But I found a very interesting article while reading a blog called The Middle Ground called the Lessons of Counterinsurgency. The article describes a regiment that has taken a new approach to the war in the Iraq, and a much more logical approach, if you ask me. And so far, this approach has spelled success. Now I don’t know if the article is factual or if propaganda is an issue, but I do know this: the steps shown in this article are steps I would recommend, both to our armed forces and to our president if it wants to have any success fighting in the region.

The 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment was pretty pitiful, evidently, in their first tour of Iraq in 2003-2004. Col. H. R. McMaster was charged with reworking the regiment to be a counterinsurgency unit. He began by recognizing that the enemy was just people, and left standing orders that all soldiers would “treat detainees professionally”, a change from the previous tour where a prisoner was beaten to death during questioning. “Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the enemy,” McMaster said. And it’s a great point; violence only breeds violence, and our inhumane acts against Iraqis only breed more martyrs.

Then he started breaking down the misconceptions. He banned the use of slang words to refer to the Iraqi people, taught 1 out of every 10 people under his command basic conversational Arabic (so that someone in every small unit could have basic exchanges with Iraqis), and he distributed reading material to all soldiers that included studies of Arab and Iraqi history, as well as texts on counterinsurgency. He decided to live in the Iraqi town that was soon to be his responsibility, so that he could experience the life in that city, Tall Afar.

Hickey also has spent months living in the city, perched in the Ottoman-era ramparts that dominate it. He slept at the base only rarely. From his position downtown, he said, "I hear every gunshot in the city." His conclusion: "Living among the people works, if you treat them with respect." When the electricity goes out for Iraqis, he noted, it does for him too, even though he has a generator for military communications.

Then, when it came time to rid the city of the terrorist elements that were thriving in Tall Afar, McMaster broke the US military mold in a number of ways. He was slow, deliberate and thoughtful, as opposed to rushing in guns blazing. He worked with the local Sunni population, who had found a new respect for this regiment, to employ methods that had been successful over the centuries in the Middle East against this exact situation.

And he had a plan to maintain the peace without entombing our troops in the region. Within a short time of liberating the city from the terrorist groups, a police force of 1400 people, predominantly Sunni Muslims, backed by 2000 Iraqi troops had set up multiple strategic outposts to control the city without using extensive force deployments or predictable rescue routes (preventing terrorist attacks on troops leaving bases). The city already has a working city council and an activist mayor.

Insurgent attacks in the area are down from 6 a day to 1 a day. And that number still appears to be decreasing. McMaster is leaving Tall Afar this month knowing that it is in capable hands, though those hands aren’t as sure, and are pushing for McMaster to stay. But this type of understanding of the conflict is obviously in short supply in the US military, and its needed where the battles are still pressing.

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Posted by Scottage at 1:09 AM / | |  

Friday, February 17, 2006

Top 5 on Friday

Top 5 Ecstasy Inspiring Songs
1. Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky) – Nelson Pigford and DeEitta Little
2. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
3. She’s Not There – Santana
4. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen
5. The Core – Eric Clapton

Honorable Mention: Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones; School, Supertramp (recent addition)


Posted by Scottage at 2:51 PM / | |  

Why the Abu Ghraib Photos Produce Less Controversy than the Mohammad Cartoons

I was reading a post on Renegade Eye’s blog which dealt with the Abu Ghraib photos, and published them. I must admit, just looking at them made me queasy (thus I’m not posting them here). So the question that kept being brought up is, why the Muslim community isn’t protesting the torture depicted in these photos while they are protesting the cartoons of Mohammed. Well, I believe it is because these protests had little to do with the Mohammed Cartoons and a lot to do with Muslim leaders positioning themselves as capable of combating the West, and by doing so uniting the Muslim community behind one leader, who would create a super-power.

I have done quite a bit of writing on this point, and you can find it within the blog, especially in posts about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who I believe to be the leader that could unite the Muslim world behind him. He certainly has the ground troops to combat any Western power, not only in the Iranian army and new-ally Syria’s army, but also in the form of massive protests from the general Muslim populace all over the world, which Ahmadinejad has now proven he can muster at any time, without a valid or urgent issue motivating those Muslims to protest.

In terms of medium-range weaponry, the West does have the edge. New the first feeling is that the West is vastly superior in air power. But is that 100% true? The second or third best air force in the world has belonged for a long time to Russia, who has become a recent ally of Iran. If Ahmadinejad can say that he will have backing from Russia’s Air force in a war, then the US has an advantage, but not a huge one. As far as medium range ballistic missiles, Ahmadinejad has recently purchased new missiles and developed others, so that he has excellent mid-range capability.

So what remains is the long-range capability. In some senses, Ahmadinejad has some long-range capability with the various supporters they have in Western countries. The willingness of terrorist organizations to use citizens like these as weapons means Ahmadinejad does have some long-range capability. But what he really needs, to prove to leaders around the Middle East that he can face off against the West, is a nuclear missile with long-range capability. And every day he gets one step closer. Some people predict that he will have some enriched Uranium, enough for a small weapon, within a year, though it will take longer to actually create the bomb.

To me, it is like a large chess match where one side has to create their own pieces. And by the way, I know there are people out there who think Muslims are not smart; you’re kidding yourselves, 100%. I’ve known many brilliant Muslims, and the consistent warfare in the region has trained military leaders in the region better than they might be trained in some other countries. Other people may portray the Muslim community as the black pieces, and the Western countries as the white pieces, the Middle East as the evil empire and the Western countries as the forces of good. Have no doubt about it, if the Abu Ghraib photos show anything, it’s that we’re both a shade of gray.

So let’s get back to the original question: why isn’t the Muslim community protesting over the Abu Ghraib photos when they are protesting over the Mohammad photos? It’s because the protests over the Mohammad cartoons had nothing to do with the Mohammad Cartoons; they were just an excuse to incite violence. It was the movement of a pawn which forks the Western countries, or forces them to lose a piece (basically, the movement of the pawn jeopardizes two opposing pieces, while the pawn is protected enough to force the opposition to sacrifice a piece). And like in the chess game, you don’t over-extend your pawn, or he’s in trouble.

Why is Israel such an issue in the mind of Ahmadinejad? Because it’s a protected piece in the middle of his board, a knight that do a great amount of damage and is protected from afar, making it impossible to take the piece. And why is there such an emphasis on developing nuclear weapons? Because this is Ahmadinejad’s queen, and without a queen he can spar with the opponent, but never can he really contend. Certainly not in the eyes of the Muslim community and not in a real war either. The threat of nuclear response will always be out there so long as Ahmadinejad can’t respond. That will change drastically if Iran is a nuclear power.

Are we happy with whom we have manning the chess board? Is it acceptable to have so many of our pieces dedicated to a side battle, while the other side is aligning their pieces for all-out attack? If the answer to either is no, we have a serious problem, because this is probably the biggest threat facing the Western world today.

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Posted by Scottage at 12:16 AM / | |  

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Adopt a Glacier: Global Warming Increases Melting in Greenland’s Glaciers

With so many human, made threats in the world today, few people are focusing on the potentially greater threat of global warming. But in today’s annual meeting of the American Associate for the Advancement of Science, scientist warned (again) that there are consequences for inaction, and that these consequences may be realized earlier than anyone thought.

The huge southern Greenland glaciers are melting at a rate far quicker then previously thought. Over the past five years, the amount of fresh water dumped into the Atlantic Ocean from these melting glaciers, indicating that current projections for rising sea level have been underestimated drastically. And with current surface air temperatures rising, it appears the only hope for maintaining the icebergs is increased snowfall in Greenland.
"The behavior of the glaciers that dump ice into the sea is the most important aspect of understanding how an ice sheet will evolve in a changing climate," Eric Rignot, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, told The Associated Press. "It takes a long time to build and melt an ice sheet, but glaciers can react quickly to temperature changes."

Think that the effects on your life will be minor? Guess again? Up-to-date predictions indicate that the increase in sea levels could have “runaway effects” by the time today’s toddlers reach middle age. This could greatly increase the damage seen in major storms, and will effect “conveyor belt” currents, which are responsible for keeping the Northeastern United States and Northwestern Europe, especially Britain, warm despite their northern latitudes. Freshwater from the glaciers slow the currents.

A few weeks ago scientists determined that “conveyor belt” currents had slowed by 30 percent in recent years, an alarming statistic. And the slowing of the currents have also sped the melting of the glacier tongues, which push down into the sea. The melting of these tongues allows glacier melting to further increase, and allows the melted ice to flow easier into the sea. The melting of these tongues has been witnessed for the past few years in Southern Greenland, and now the glacier tongues in Northern icebergs are beginning to melt as well.

Scientists worry about the recurring nature of history, how history does repeat itself, and believe that this may trigger at some point a new ice age. So perhaps we all need to go to Greenland, take pitchers of newly melted water from the icebergs, and pour it back on the icebergs to help restore the icebergs and to remove some of the fresh water from the jet stream. Otherwise, the many man-made dangers in the world today may become nothing more than an afterthought to the natural disasters that await us.

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Posted by Scottage at 5:15 PM / | |  

CNN Attacks Cheney Interview

CNN has spoken out against the interview Dick Cheney gave to Fox News yesterday, indicating that Cheney purposefully took the interview with conservative-friendly Fox to avoid any challenging questions. Jack Cafferty, a CNN commentator, said "it’s a little bit like Bonnie interviewing Clyde. ... I mean, running over there to the Fox network -- talk about seeking a safe haven."

Of course my fellow Democrats felt the need to chime in against the VP, and called for a more balanced interview. Democratic Sneator Frank Lautenberg said "Now that he feels forced to talk, he wants to restrict the discussion to a friendly news outlet, guaranteeing no hard questions from the press corps."

People, let’s keep our eye on the ball. Today, the coastguard seized $66M in cocaine, a death squad was arrested in Iraq, and Neil Entwistle was extradited to Massachusetts. 40,000 Pakistanis marched protested the Mohammad cartoons, and Hamas nominated an outspoken moderate, Ismail Haniyeh, as the next Prime Minister of Palestine. Russia issued a stern warning against an air strike in Iran, and scientists issued an urgent alarm after multiple glaciers breaking up of the coast of Iceland.

None of the major online news outlets had all seven of these stories on their websites main page; in fact, none had more than three of these stories highlighted. But every online major news outlet I review daily (CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, Google, and Drudge) had the Cheney interview, and the president’s support of his explanation, as one of the top stories.

This is not like the use of an obviously partisan commission to study our response to Hurricane Katrina. This is not some sort of a tragedy or conspiracy, it is an accident, and does not representative of Cheney’s motives or agenda. Let’s stop turning this into a federal case, and start focusing on the real issues that are facing the world today. This non-story is occupying way too much of the country’s attention.

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Posted by Scottage at 2:32 PM / | |  

A Few Quick Referrals

OK, don’t worry, I will dedicate the majority of my writing time to serious issues, like Iran, Iraq, and the Thursday Threesome (ok, maybe that’s no so serious, but we all need a bit of humor in our lives, right?). But first I wanted to take a minute to point out a few bloggers who have amazing blogs and/or have helped me in developing my blog. Yes, these blogs are in my blogroll, but with a number of other blogs. And these blogs deserve some special attention.

Let’s start with two sites that are both amazing sites and have owners have been tremendously helpful in increasing the quality of and readership of my site. First is AbbaGav, an Israeli blogger who displays an excellent balance of political satire and fresh perspectives into the current political situation. If you are trying to increase traffic to your site, AbbaGav celebrated his one year anniversary of blogging with an excellent post on how he’s become so popular. Check it out.

Soccer Dad has also been tremendously helpful as I’ve tried to improve my site. Soccer Dad reports predominantly on issues around the Middle East, as well as posts on how to increase site traffic. While I may not always see eye to eye with Soccer Dad, he continually challenges my presumptions, and has helped me crystallize my views, sometimes even alter them to allow for an alternative perspective.

Finally, Desert Peace has become a true friend in the blogosphere, and he is an amazing writer. Perhaps a bit farther left than me, Desert Peace has been instrumental in pushing me to prove my arguments. His posts represent in-depth looks at many issues I would never even think about, but which are crucial to maintaining peace throughout the world. If you want some really interesting reading, check out his post on the newly erected Museum to Tolerance; I guarantee it will get you thinking!

So anyway, thanks to all the people who have made such a difference in my blogging experience, and especially to these bloggers. If you have any suggestions to make my site better, please let me know, as I’m dedicated to making my blog a good source for an alternative perspective.

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Posted by Scottage at 12:29 PM / | |  

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney Interview with Fox News on Hunting Accident

OK, just a quick post here, while typing my last post, about the need for someone to take responsibility in the Katrina incident, I was watching the interview with Dick Cheney being broadcast on Fox News. The first thing that is noticeable is that Cheney immediately takes full responsibility for the incident. The second is that he seems sincerely sorry to have hurt his friend.

Maybe I’m a sucker, and being played by a politician. But Cheney looked sincere. He says his first instinct was to get medical attention for his friend, and then to contact Whittington’s wife. He asked the third personon the hunt, Ms. Armstrong, a parks official and gaming specialist, to contact the media, and make sure an accurate report was made on the incident. It appears Armstrong did not show urgency in reporting the issue, which is not 100% surprising since she’s not a politician.

In hindsight, should Cheney have made sure he contacted the media immediately, and disclosed details himself? Yes, perhaps he should have. But would you or I have done anything different, or would any moral person care first and foremost about their friend? I would have done the same as Cheney, but I can’t speak for you. But, after this interview, do I believe that far too much time has been spent on a non-story, a simple mistake? Yes, you can question Cheney’s judgment but not his morals. Let’s move on to important issues.

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Posted by Scottage at 3:17 PM / | |  

Chertoff Takes Responsibility for Katrina Lapses…or Does He?

I have to admit, when I read the headline on ABC News, I was pretty psyched: “I am Accountable: Michael Chertoff tells senators he accepts responsibility for “many lapses” during Katrina.” I had just taken a beak from studying for the GMATs, opened up Fox News for my first look at the news in four or five hours, and suddenly one of my prayers had been answered. Someone in the US government was accepting responsibility for this tragedy. While I agree with Ezzie that we need reform to be the result of inquiry into the Katrina failures, I also believe there needs to be blame assigned to someone.

This is not out of spite or a desire to attack the Republicans. My belief is that government exists to protect people, whether from elements within a society, from elements outside of the society, or elements outside of the control of the society (elements of nature). All of the basic functions of government are geared towards this goal, including initiatives like health care, which defends against disease, education, which develops the skills to defend against all enemies, and social security, which defends against abandonment in old age. And municipalities bond into larger governments because of greater defenses associated with the greater size of the constituency. It is this reason the United States isn’t just 50 autonomous governments working independently with no central government.

But what good is that government when it does not protect its members against the most basic dangers, and when it defends other nations from similar disasters better than it defends its own citizens? Our response to the Tsunami was better than our response to Katrina, as the United States quickly created a coordinated effort to relieve the victims quickly and efficiently.

But one of two things happened with Katrina: either the United States appointed a point person (Chertoff, Brown, or someone else) to spearhead our efforts in Louisiana and the surrounding areas, and that person completely dropped the ball, or the US did not appoint a point person to this incident, and as a result valuable information fell through the cracks. Somehow, which happened must be defined. From the Katrina Commission’s report.

"Probably the worst element of this catastrophe, personally, is not criticism I've received or criticism the department has received by committees and commentators, but the vision of people who did have their suffering unnecessarily prolonged because this department did not perform as well as ... it should have been able to do."

So it was with great anticipation that I opened the Fox News article, only to find that while Chertoff said he was accountable, he then refuted that statement completely. He started on the right path:

"I am accountable, and I accept responsibility for the performance of the entire department — the bad and the good," Chertoff said. "One of the most difficult and traumatic experiences of my life … was the process of anticipating and managing and dealing with the consequences of Katrina," he added.

Perhaps most deplorable was Chertoff’s August 30th trip to Atlanta to attend a conference on Avian Flu. This was one day after Katrina hit, and Republican Senator Susan Collins admitted he was “curiously disengaged” from the Katrina incident at the conference. Chertoff’s explanation was horrible:

He reiterated earlier statements that he did not realize that levees in New Orleans had been breached on the day of the storm — despite Brown's claims to the contrary. "When I went to bed, it was my belief … that actually the storm had not done the worst that could be imagined," Chertoff said.

Are you kidding me? I knew we were looking at a major disaster by the night of August 29th, and I knew that from watching CNN, which had excellent coverage of the Hurricane, and where you could see the damage as it was unfolding. Of course, during the commercials I could go to Fox News of MSNBC, because they had the same coverage. So are we now to believe that Chertoff doesn’t get cable, or that he didn’t care enough to turn on the TV?

CNN had a very different headline to the same story: Homeland Security Chief Defends Katrina Response. In this article, they start with Chertoff’s refuting that he was detatched, and claiming he knew the risks associated with Katrina:

"I have to say that the idea that this department and this administration and the president were somehow detached from Katrina is simply not correct in my view and in my recollection of what happened," Chertoff told the Senate Homeland Security panel. We were acutely aware of Katrina and the risk it posed."

Chertoff has claimed he put Michael Brown in charge of Katrina relief. While Brown has specifically refuted that he was put in charge of the situation, and has also claimed (with the help of supporting documents) that he tried to show people proof that the storm would be this bad, Chertoff addressed the situation by indicating he didn’t know Brown was incompetent. But he never addresses the very real possibility that Brown was more competent than we all thought, and that he presented the materials to Chertoff and the president 2 days before the storm, and they didn’t authorize action.

"If I knew then what I know now about Mr. Brown's agenda, I would have done something different," Chertoff said. Brown quit his post following widespread criticism after the storm, later blaming Chertoff and others of dragging their feet and ignoring his warnings about massive flooding.

On the other hand, Republican Rep Christopher Shays indicated that Chertoff made a crucial mistake in not declaring a catastrophic event in New Orleans. Had Chertoff, or anyone in the government, either listened to Brown, if we believe Brown, or paid attention to the documents he did send around to Chertoff and others in the White House, if we don’t believe Brown’s words, a great deal more could have been done to support the people of New Orleans.

"He could have declared this a catastrophic event, and instead of waiting for the states to ask for help -- and they waited too long -- we could have just started to give them help," said Shays, who co-authored the report.

In my opinion, the United States had a responsibility to assign a point person to handle all necessary relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina. I believe that person should have been assigned on August 27th, when Michael Brown distributed documents indicating the storm would be much worse than expected. But at the least that person should have been assigned on August 29th, when even generally distributed news stories and television footage showed that this was a catastrophe.

If this point person was assigned, then that person needs to take responsibility for the incident, in order for the healing process in the region to begin. If no point person was assigned, then Bush has to take responsibility for not assigning that point person. To me, it’s just that clear.

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Posted by Scottage at 3:04 PM / | |  

West vs. Middle East: A Humorous Approach

OK, this is hysterical. AbbaGav has gone way above and beyond creative to make a great satire on the whole West vs. Middle East conflict this really funny spoof, entitled Family Feud – Clash of Civilizations.

The post includes a complete round of Family Feud, inclusive of many of the key leaders from both sides of the conflict. The narrative captures many of the key nuances of the conflict. If you want a laugh while getting a fresh perspective on one of the key issues facing us today, check out this post. You’ll be very happy you did!


Posted by Scottage at 12:58 AM / | |  

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Italy makes T-Shirts of Danish Mohammed Cartoon

OK, anyone who has read my blog knows that, in relation to the Mohammed cartoon scandal, I come out on the side of freedom of the press. I think it’s essential to back our media, as freedom of the press is a key ingredient of a free society. Denouncing this freedom is to denounce the very freedom that makes our society, and many other societies around the world, great. The Danish papers had a right to publish the cartoons, and papers around the world had an obligation to reprint them when the issue became so huge in the world political scene.

There is a huge disparity between journalism, as demonstrated by news outlets around the Western world, and promoting hatred. And I’m sorry to say, Italy’s Reform Minister, Roberto Calderoni, is on the wrong side of that line. Calderoli has decided to show support for the Danish press amidst the anger being shown by the Muslim community by creating T-shirts with the various Mohammed cartoons emblazoned on them, and hand them out to anyone who wants one.

"I have had T-shirts made with the cartoons that have upset Islam and I will start wearing them today," Ansa quoted Calderoli as saying. He said the T-shirts were not meant to be a provocation but added that he saw no point trying to appease extremists.

"We have to put an end to this story that we can talk to these people. They only want to humiliate people. Full stop. And what are we becoming? The civilization of melted butter?" Calderoli said.

Calderoli is a member of the Northern League Party, a far-right anti-immigrant party which points to the growing crime rate and rampant unemployment in Italy as the fault of vast immigration to Italy over recent years. The party is quickly growing in popularity, to some extent because of the party’s anti-Islamic views, as shown by a number of statements by Calderoli and others in the party. For example, the party pushed and got passeda tax benefit that would encourage native Italians, and only native Italians, to have more children.

"I am proud of the fact that the baby bonus will only go to Italian citizens. I say to all those Ali Babas that either Allah or their governments will have to think of them.”

I’ve been very vocal about my concerns regarding various extremist figures in the Muslim world. But extremists anywhere are dangerous, and Calderoli certainly fits the bill of an extremist. While I do support free press and free speech, we’ve already seen how the cartoons inflame the Muslim world, so why upset that side of the world further? There are so many ways to show support for the Danish press, why do so at the expense of the feelings of the Muslim community? In my opinion, this protest is over the top.

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Posted by Scottage at 10:00 PM / | |  

Bush Spokesman McClellan has Heated Debate with Reporter over Cheney Shooting Incident

NBC News chief correspondent David Gregory had a verbal confrontation in the press room today indicating that McClellan should not be a jerk. The confrontation occurred as Gregory asked for more information on the Dick Cheney shooting incident, and why the White House did not disclose the information earlier:

'David, hold on, the cameras aren't on right now,' McClellan replied. 'You can do this later.'

'Don't accuse me of trying to pose to the cameras,' Gregory said, voice rising. 'Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question.'

'You don't have to yell,' McClellan said.

'I will yell,'' said Gregory, pointing a finger at McCellan at his dais. 'If you want to use that podium to try to take shots at me personally, which I don't appreciate, then I will raise my voice, because that's wrong.'

'Calm down, Dave, calm down,' said McClellan.

'I'll calm down when I feel like calming down,' Gregory said. 'You answer the question.'

'I have answered the question,' said McClellan, who had maintained that the vice president's office was in charge of getting the information out and worked with the ranch owner to do that. 'I'm sorry you're getting all riled up about.'

'I am riled up,' Gregory said, 'because you're not answering the question.'"

Ever get the feeling that the White House, this White House administration in particular, is a bit more like a three-ringed circus than the government of the only remaining super-power? Where is the dignity and proper decorum that is always supposed to accompany the office? If anyone finds it, let me know.

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Posted by Scottage at 12:20 PM / | |  

Israeli Singer and Beacon for Hope Shoshana Damari Dies at 83

Singer Shshana Damari passed away last night as a result of severe complications from Pneumonia. Damari was more than just a singer, she was an icon, a symbol of hope and resistance in a country has always needed, and still needs today, such symbols. She was the voice of independence, releasing her first album in 1948, and was beloved by all who every heard her sing or met her. She will be missed by all Israelis.

I had the fortune to meet and spend a tiny bit of time with Damari and her then-musical partner, Boaz Sharabi, in 1996 on Kibbutz Beit Hashita. In March of that year, she lost a son to terror, and seemed only to be the heart-broken women who we saw around the cheder-ochel every day. But on Israel’s Memorial Day, Damari showed what she was all about, getting up before the thousand person kibbutz and singing Hatikva at the end of the holiday in a tear filled performance with Sharabi.

As many people here know, Memorial Day flows right into Independence Day in Israel, and in the Independence Day morning she sang a few songs with the kids from the Kibbutz. I talked to her later that day, when she was operating a ride the Kibbutz had rented for the kids. She told me that it hurt to sing, that she missed her son, but that this only meant that she was feeling the same thing that most of the mothers in Israel had felt at one time or another. And that since Memorial Day had finished, it was time to get on with life.

Damari was more than an amazing voice; she was a pillar of strength, and a source of inspiration for the Israeli people and Jews around the world. I hope that Israel does the appropriate thing and gives her the a military funeral, symbolic of all that she has done and meant to the people of Israel throughout the years.

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Posted by Scottage at 11:01 AM / | |  

Interested in some Good Live Music?

Are you a classic rock and roll fan, like me, looking for some good live tracks to listen to (unfortunately not for downloading? Then you have to hit a new web site called Wolfgang’s Vault. The Vault purchased all the tapes and merchandise from legendary rock promoter Bill Graham, and they have now set up a live streaming site playing back individual tunes, as well as selling t-shirts and posters from the many concerts that Graham promoted.

Graham promoted some of the greatest acts of all time, including The Alman Brothers, The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Santana, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Elton John, to name a few. I listened for a few songs, heard a great “She Caught the Katy” by Taj Mahal and “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago. Neil Young is doing a pretty serious Cinnamon girl from 1970 right now, and I’m bopping.

Anyway, I just found it, and believe the site is new. If you’re looking for some good music to make your day go faster, give it a try.

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Posted by Scottage at 1:11 AM / | |  

Monday, February 13, 2006

White House Criticized over Dick Cheney Shooting

People who know me know that I’m not the biggest fan of our present administration. But in this case, I have to side with the Bush administration, as I really believe they did nothing wrong here…well, besides shooting Harry Whittington, which at the very least wasn’t too nice.

Democrats are accusing the White House of withholding information on the shooting for 24 hours, and then only releasing the information because a rancher called the story in to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. But in all honesty, is this a capital case? Do we believe that Dick Cheney shot a generous campaign contributor intentionally? Whittington appears to be in pretty decent shape, they did put him in the ICU as a precautionary measure, but he seems to be doing well at this stage of the game.

All jokes aside (which is sort of a bummer, because I have a lot of jokes for Dick Cheney now), if we believe that this was anything more than an accident, then yes, it should be disclosed to the public. But if it is an accident, and there are no serious consequences, does it have to be disclosed? Is it a matter of national security? Or is are the politicians spending more time attacking each other, again, then they are running the country? There are plenty of real stories to legitimately criticize either side, let’s stick to them.


Posted by Scottage at 5:14 PM / | |  

Katrina Congressional Commission a Farce

CNN received advance copies of the report delivered by an 11-person panel of Congressmen tasked with investigating all issues relating to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Unfortunately, all 11 Congressmen were republicans, so it’s no surprise that, while the panel did admonish the president, it shielded the president from direct blame by spreading blame equally over everyone associated with the incident. Two democratic congressmen indicated as much, and accused the commission of not being thorough.

The House committee "worked diligently" to meet its mandate of conducting "a full and complete investigation," the two congressmen wrote. "But due to the committee's short deadline and the refusal of the White House to provide access to essential documents, key questions remain unanswered. We therefore renew our call for an independent commission to examine the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina." The two lawmakers said the report "largely eschews direct responsibility."

Republicans on the committee say the report is fair and unbiased. Republican Rep Christopher Shays said the report is tough on everyone, from the president to the department of Homeland Security. “It's a blistering report. But I think it's fair."

So the end conclusion is that a commission of republicans looks at this tragedy, say everyone screwed up, and that’s it? No real blame is going to be assigned? All those Americans left without food, water, safety, and no one takes the blame? Tell that to the thousands of people still displaced from the storm, to the people who lost loved ones, to others who were attacked while trying to find shelter.

For people who waited for help that took days to arrive, and for people who wanted to leave before the storm and couldn’t get out because there were no vehicles to get them out of the region, this should not be enough. For every person who trusts our government to protect us from tragedies just like this one, who saw documents last week clearly showing that two days before members of our government knew the storm would be this destructive, this should not be enough.

Demand more from our government! Demand a real bi-partisan inquiry into the events surrounding the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.


Posted by Scottage at 2:49 PM / | |  

Monday Music Mambo

The Monday Music Mambo is out, and I am happy to present my answers below!

David Bowie or David Lee Roth? OK, this is one of those ‘depends on the situation’ answers. If David Lee Roth is with Van Halen, no question, DLR! But if he’s solo, there are few worse. I like some of Bowie’s stuff, and really am bored by other Bowie songs. So it could be either.

Hotel Calfornia or Heartbreak Hotel? Hotel California (easy one there)

KISS or Love? Not a fan of Kiss, and never hear of a band named Love. However, if you want to include Prince’s song “Kiss, that would be my answer.

Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page? They’re both great, but I have to go with Hendrix.

Faith Hill or Faith No More? Sorry, but both make me lose faith. Or lose my lunch, or something. How about George Michael's Faith?

Safety Dance or The Hustle? Safety Dance. Neither are great, but neither are horrible either.

George Clinton or George Strait? George Clinton (Bow wow wow, yippee yo yippee yay, bow wow yippie yo yippee yeah).

Elvis Presley or Elvis Costello? Elvis Costello
Little Richard or Lil' Jon? Little Richard, but I would prefer to take Little Steven of the E Street Band

Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger? I like both, but Mick is the man.

Keith Richards or Joe Perry? Again, I like both, but I’ll give the nod to Keith Richards.

Live album or studio album? Live album, any day of the week and twice on Sunday (er, Monday)

Fender or Gibson? Fender – personally, a 1980 Statocaster with an American body and Japanese pickups will do me just fine.


Posted by Scottage at 10:52 AM / | |  

Random 10

Ten songs from my random play list for the weekend (with a bit of commentary), coming up:

1) Dreams I’ll Never See – Molly Hatchett {Classic southern rock ballad}
2) You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party – Beastie Boys
3) Mysterious Ways – U2
4) Love on the Rocks – Neil Diamond {Definite contrast from the Beastie Boys}
5) Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues – Jim Croce
6) Wasted Time (Live) – The Eagles {you know the chorus, sing along}
7) Woman from Tokyo (Live) – Deep Purple {really cool 27 minute long version)
8) One Love/People Get Ready – Bob Marley & The Wailers
9) Highway to Hell (Live) – AC/DC {Awesome version}
10) All Along The Watchtower (Live) – Bob Dylan and the Band {Amazing, just amazing}

And as for a picture that represents my weekend, I'll try this one:

Yeah, I didn't get my work done this weekend...spent too much time on the blog. Have a good Monday everyone!


Posted by Scottage at 1:26 AM / | |  

Dick Cheney, Time for a New Set of Glasses

So, Dick Cheney takes his friend, Austin millionaire Harry Whittington, and one other friend out for a hunting trip in Texas. They’re all wearing the orange vests, there are three of them, so keeping track shouldn’t be that hard. Whittington goes into a bush to grab a bird he shot, is coming back with the bird, and Cheney, who’s following a bird with his gun, shoots Whittington at point blank range. Not a great way to treat a guest, huh?

Evidently, Whittington is not badly hurt:

"It broke the skin," she said of the shotgun pellets. "It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that. Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been. The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came."

So what’s the scoop, did Whittington give money to a democratic candidate, or does he have a document implicating the White House in one of their many scandals? Or perhaps Cheney didn’t notice the bright orange vest in his line of fire. Any which way, I am definitely not accepting that invitation to go hunting down in Texas. With my blog, I’m sure Cheney would shoot twice more after I was on the ground from the first shot.


Posted by Scottage at 1:12 AM / | |  

Goodbye Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwon backed out of the Olympics yesterday, as her groin injury prevented Kwon from skating at a competitive level. On Saturday morning, she tried to skate, but was unable to perform her first two moves. A veteran of competitive skating, she immediately knew her final run at Olympic gold was over.

"I would love to compete in my third Olympics, but I love and respect the sport, and I think it's all about the United States bringing the best team to the Olympic Games," Kwan said. "I wouldn't want to be in the way of that."

Immediately after removing herself from the Olympic team, NBC contacted her, asking her to be an announcer for these Olympics. But Kwan refused, saying that she didn’t want to be a distraction for the rest of the Olympic figure skating team. Just like Kwan, always thinking about the team first.

"Michelle Kwan means more to the United States Olympic Committee than maybe any athlete that's ever performed," USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said. "She's been a leader, she's been gracious, she's somebody that cares for so many youngsters that are training in our country. She's a real loss to all of the United States Olympic Committee and to the United States of America, and I think to the world. She's made a courageous decision."

Kwan is an example of a true sports hero, a balance of grace and beauty, humility and excellence. She built her reputation on self- discipline and work ethic, a model citizen with, believe it or not, no public scandals on her record. Kwan was an amazing representative of the United States sports tradition for over a decade and a half, and she will be sorely missed. Thanks for the memories, Michelle!


Posted by Scottage at 12:48 AM / | |  

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Great Overview of Danish Mohammad Cartoon Situation

I stumbled across this blog today, which is basically a list and overview of the best blogs on the Danish Cartoon issue. It’s extremely well done. If you are looking to learn more about what others think Mohammad cartoons, check out some of these posts.


Posted by Scottage at 9:34 PM / | |  

Mohammed Cartoons and Outrage in the Islamic World: an Alternative Perspective

I was at a blog site this afternoon called, enticingly enough, Jerusalem is the Place to Be. Gotta say, this sounds like my type of blog! Well, the first piece is a poem purporting a very interesting perspective on the reactions of the Muslim world to various atrocities, such as 9/11, other acts of terrorism, atrocities towards women and children, and the kidnapping of innocents, as well as the reactions to the cartoons of Mohammed, and asks the simple question, why outrage over the cartoons and not over these other atrocities?

The author agrees with my perspective that only approximately 5% of the Muslim people are radicals, and that they are generally speaking the only supporters of violence and these unspeakable acts. But, the author questions, where is the outrage at the acts of violence by members of their own faith, supposedly in the name of the faith?

I tend to make very clear the distinction between the radicals, a very vocal minority in the Muslim communities, and the general population. But what responsibility do the 95% of Muslims have to do something about the 5% that are defiling the good name of Islam with the blood of innocents?

As many who have watched my blog know, I believe that the Muslim community considers themselves to be oppressed, and are looking for a group that can lead them out of this oppression towards a brighter day, though what that bright day constitutes is up for debate. As such, the radical groups act as their champions; they may not like their methods, but they hope for good results.

But certainly, from the perspective of the enemy of these radical groups, which unfortunately I must say the West is, we must recognize that this attitude, and the lack of action and push for restraint by the Muslim people must, to some extent, apply some limited culpability to the group. I believe that how much culpability I would assign would differ tremendously from how much the author would assign, and perhaps would differ from how much you would assign.

But no stand is ever made against these acts, so they get worse and worse. At some point the good Islamic people, who do not believe in murder and hatred as a way of life, need to take a stand, and dictate what Islam will stand for in the world.


Posted by Scottage at 5:26 PM / | |  

US Prepares For Military Options against Iran’s Nuclear Program

For months I have been advocating military options to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, predominantly in the form of bombing runs so as not to engage ground troops in Iran, and have been told time after time that we have to explore diplomatic routes instead, and that we have time, that we can wait. The US is beginning to realize that time may be shorter than they thought, and are making plans to prevent the situation from escalating. But is the United States too late? It’s a question that I’ve spent some time on in this blog, and a topic which I will continue to revisit until this threat is eliminated, as I think it is perhaps the most important issue facing the West today.

Pentagon strategists are creating plans for “devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites” as a “last resort” to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, is coordinating efforts as central command and strategic planners work together to identify targets, plan weapons needs, and work out logistics for an attack.

"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."

Below is a map of potential targets for a US missile strike, as well as a comparison of the United States’ effective weapons arsenal that could be employed for an attack like this, versus the missile defense system recently invested in by Iran. The map also gives a good picture of the region and Iran’s missile arsenal versus distances to strategic targets. Basically, I think this is a very informative map, and well worth opening.

Now the United States still sees an air strike as a last resort, and they believe that it will be two years before Iran has the knowledge to create an atomic bomb, and even longer before they can create a bomb. But recent reports out of Iran say that the timetable is shorter, that they will have the knowledge in 9-15 months. An air strike would most probably include an aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers with 40,000 lbs of precision weapons and bunker-busting devices. While these armaments are in place, only now is the US moving conventional ballistic missiles into their Trident nuclear subs, a process that will take about 2 years.

Britain is against military action, fearing that an attack on Iran would incite more protests (and more violent protests) like the ones we saw this past week over the Mohammed cartoons. Additionally, they worry that an attack will cause more reprisals in the West and that attacks may not prevent Iran from creating a nuclear bomb. Iran has dispersed their nuclear plants, burying some deep underground, and the United States actually is hoping to slow down the nuclear program, as there may be no hope of stopping it.

I’m encouraged to see that the United States is starting to take this seriously. But again, you look at the reasons why Britain is against this strike, and they make a strong case for why we may be past the point where this strike will be effective. We need to find some option to deal with Iran, but I’m not sure what option will be effective at this stage in time. Let’s hope that, by beginning to engage in the process, our brilliant military minds will come up with a solution for this conundrum.


Posted by Scottage at 2:20 AM / | |