Wednesday, October 31, 2007

put your mask back on


"There's nothing we can do to stop you"
Torie Bosch, in Slate:
"A new survey reveals that of all the 2008 presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani would make for the scariest Halloween costumes."

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

a Sibel Edmonds update, and some other items

photo:Brad Freidman

an update from Lukery: FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds: 'I Will Tell All, & Name (new) Names'

and from Sarabeth at,"US breaks radio silence on Maher Arar"

an older item, from Arar himself, in Counterpunch:"What they did to me"

(Maher Arrar's own website is here.)


Mere Islam has some new, link-rich posts up, the first in several months:
"Islamofascism in historical context"
"A Detailed Response to a Brain-Washed Marine"

and finally "Riverbend" from Syria, "Blogging without borders"

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

movie poster saturday: Ice station zebra

ice_station_zebra impawards dot-com2
image courtesy

There was a story that Howard Hughes liked watching Ice Station Zebra over and over again when he'd reached his nutty recluse stage. (Keep in mind this would be in the late 60s- early 70s, before video tape recorders were readily available. Of course I imagine being able to afford a 16mm print of the film wasn't exactly a big deal to Hughes.)

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Lenny Bruce's "Thank you maskman"

Have a nice Friday.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Arnie n' GWB

I hate to admit this photograph from the BBC amuses me, suggesting as it does that Arnold is annoyed by something Junior is saying.

meanwhile, here's the mustaches of the nineteenth century blog.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sibel Edmonds, the motion picture


via Lukery: "The Sibel Edmonds case: the real culprits of 9.11"

Much as I hate to say it, but this promotional trailer seems a bit too slick to me, making Sibel Edmonds come across more like a Hollywood diva playing a real-life whistleblower than a real person.

I hope this just a symptom of some unfortunate editing choices and not a reflection of someone who started out as earnest but who has since acquired an inflated sense of self-importance. Don't get me wrong-- Sibel Edmonds' experiences working for the government, and her subsequent struggles are important-- it's just that she doesn't do her cause any justice if she has since become pompously self-righteous in her presentational style.

Sibel Edmonds' official site, Just a Citizen

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the end of the world: then and now, and maybe later

images:wikipedia, calendars of the world

Exhibit One, from our wiki friends:

1844Millerites and members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church* were greatly disappointed that Jesus did not return as predicted by American preacher William Miller (pictured).

The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerites, a Christian denomination, in the United States. Around 50,000 people joined the movement that was to receive Jesus on October 22nd ,1844. Based on an interpretation of the event portrayed in Daniel 8:14, they waited to see the Second Coming as the event that was to be fulfilled on the appointed day. The specific passage reads, in the (King James Bible), as: And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (Daniel 8:14)

The Great Disappointment is viewed as an example of how the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance manifests itself through failed prophecies which often arise in a religious context. The theory was proposed by Leon Festinger to describe the formation of new beliefs and increased proselytizing in order to reduce the tension, or dissonance, that results from failed prophecies. According to the theory, believers experienced tension following the failure of Jesus' reappearance in 1844 which led to a variety of new explanations. The various solutions form a part of the teachings of the different groups that outlived the disappointment.

Initially I wanted to post this on Monday, i.e. October 22nd, but Rob had a really nice post up and I figured I didn't want to steal his thunder by announcing the end of the world, especially since, if you're 163 years late-- what's one more day? (sometimes, I like to put things off. Other times I just find I have to. One way or another it seems like the story of my life...)

Anyway: I really wish people would make more of a fuss about (the history of)the end of the world, because I think we're living in another day and age when millenarian looniness seems to be screwing with people's thinking, and a reminder of past foolishness in this area strikes me as pretty useful.

About 10 years ago I was working at such-and-such a place, and many of my co-workers were preoccupied with some dubious best-seller about hidden numerical codes in the bible, and they would invite me to their home-study sessions-cum-get-togethers in which (I guess) they discussed this, or prayed, or who knows what. (I never went.)

While I don't know particularly much about the history of religions, my impression is that the afore mentioned William Miller was the trouble maker who started the modern craze over end-times eschatology, whereas Christianity pre-Bill Miller tended to de-emphasize the rubbing of our hands together with messed-up glee and the hoping for the end of creation and the fiery deaths of people who weren't us.

(Long before I'd heard of Leon Festinger and cognitive dissonance I had a hard to define sense of unease about people who grooved on the end times-- how can it possibly be psychologically healthy to aspire all the usual things people aspire to, to make a life for themselves and maybe get married and have kids and plan aspire for the kids to have happy futures while you are simultaneously taught to long for the destruction of civilization?)

Exhibit 2, from Calendars of the World:

When will the Islamic calendar overtake the Gregorian calendar?

As the year in the Islamic calendar is about 11 days shorter than the year in the Christian calendar, the Islamic years are slowly gaining in on the Christian years. But it will be many years before the two coincide. The 1st day of the 5th month of C.E. 20874 in the Gregorian calendar will also be (approximately) the 1st day of the 5th month[Jumada al-awwal] of AH 20874 of the Islamic calendar.

May 1st, 20874.

About 2 years ago I came across this interesting nugget o' knowledge. It occurred to me that maybe for the religious numbers crunchers who appear so eager for Armageddon the convergence of the Christian and Islamic calendars, due in a mere 18,867 years, might be the signal from God they were looking for. And, instead of getting hyped-up to wreck the world and all that rot, they're supposed to make sure the world lasts at least another 18,800 plus years, with naturally occurring fresh water and air, trees and flowers, animals still roaming free, and maybe some peace on earth and a convergence of religions and men.

Now, I am not a religious sort per se, and I'm definitely not trying to suggest some sort of half-baked spiritual movement. We have those in abundance, and they don't strike me as being terribly useful. Call it a wistful thought experiment, designed to provoke or soothe or both. It would be nice if we could stick around and manage to civilize ourselves-- but could we do it in a mere 18,800 odd years?

*10.24 addendum: Herbert Ford notes in the comments that the Seventh Day Adventists were not formally established until 1863. (Actually the Wikipedia entry on the 7th Day Adventists notes this as well, although it describes them as having evolved from the Millerites.)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Failure by Design

Sometimes it is good to sit down and look at the design of manufactured wars especially when it comes to the paths we took that led us to the insanity of the U.S. invasion of the Middle East. In the year 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower made his famous military industrial complex speech where Eisenhower warned of the dangers that were inherent in the post WWII development of the military industrial complex.

The salient part of the speech I have copied below.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

No matter your opinion of Eisenhower there is no doubt that he was quite correct and that his warnings were not frivolous. Today there have been 3,018 publicly reported defense contracts totaling at over a staggering 216 billion dollars since October of 2006. Some of the major players are Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, and McDonnell Douglas.

This is hardly chump change so the stakes are high. This would be a good time to review the history of the Department of Defense which in actuality is the Department of War especially when you consider U.S. history since the end of the cold war. The Department of War was created in 1789 which was renamed as the Department of Defense in 1949, so it would be good to keep in mind that when we say defense, we mean war. And indeed we have not been attacked since WWII unless you consider 9/11 but that was not an attack by any nation state which of course is why Bush must tell us we are waging a war against terror, there is no nation called terror on any global map.

The energy industry has also played a role in our path to the Middle East. Indeed most of Bush’s cabinet has some connection to the energy industry, so much so that it might not be too much of a stretch to infer that the energy industry along with so-called defense industry (war industry) is in charge of our foreign policy if it can thusly be dignified with that name. For really you could say that when we say foreign policy what we really mean is the use of brute force or the threat of brute force. From East Timor to the Middle East it has been a bloody path, and one that is paved with enormous amounts of cash for the war industry and energy industries.

Really the only way to make sense out of this is to follow the money. Never mind the flag waving rhetoric used by our government and its lackeys and stooges in the news media of which there is no shortage on both sides of the isle liberal and conservative alike. War is and always has been about the gain of something tangible -- be it goods or money. In fact anthropologists will tell you that all wars are about the build up of goods by one country needed by another and Iraq has been no exception to this rule nor will Iran when the time comes to pulverize that nation and there is little doubt that that time is near at hand.

I believe it is important to keep these things in mind because it explains much. Some cannot understand why the Democratic Party has not ended the occupation of Iraq, ended the torture of prisoners, or done anything substantial to block the rising police state in America. Some cannot understand the true nature of Bush’s supposed failure in Iraq. The answer is that these are failures by design or put more simply they are successes not failures at all. If you desire to suck a nation dry of its life blood would you want it to have a strong government? Would you want the inhabitants to be prosperous and comfortable? Of course not for if you had to deal with a strong government you would not be able to grab the prize and if the inhabitants were prosperous they would have the time and energy to fight you more efficiently, no, you are much better off with a nation in disarray and a weak government. And as for bringing the troops home why would you do this if you were planning to attack Iran? As for the “failures” of the Democratic Party I believe that
Chalmers Johnson put it quite succinctly in his recent essay at Tom Dispatch the most important part of which I have put below emphasis added.

With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level. In my opinion, however, he underplays the roles of American imperialism and militarism in exploiting the 9/11 crisis to serve vested interests in the military-industrial complex, the petroleum industry, and the military establishment. Holmes leaves the false impression that the political system of the United States is capable of a successful course correction. But, as Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, puts it: "None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of checks and balances…. The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them."

Latest from Tom Dispatch: Chalmers Johnson and Tom Engelhardt

Saturday, October 20, 2007

deborah kerr 1921-2007

Deborah Kerr passed away on Tuesday. Why I find this hard to believe, I don't know-- it's a little like when Cary Grant died; they were supposed to be around forever.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

the possible return of Friday middle eastern pop star blogging

photo of Dina Hayek(link appears to now be corrupted.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

the ides of October

skimble:"we are not better off today",
...For American voters who want a better economy, there is no other choice. The Democratic Party is now the party of business — they have won the title by default.

Mary Jo Foley,ZDNet: "Why are Windows machines automatically updating themselves?"
The mystery continues. After Patch Tuesday last week, some Vista users noticed that Windows Update had changed their Automatic Update settings and rebooted their machines without their consent. A Microsoft spokesman says the company has no idea what happened and is asking for help.

By John Dickerson, in Slate:"Rudy's Debating Secret: Why Giuliani keeps trouncing his opponents when they go head to head"

(summary: the secret appears to be-- he knows his facts, he thinks quickly on his feet, and he often seems to make a point to obscure the afore-mentioned facts in ways that are easy to miss in the to-and-fro of a debate.)

xymphora discusses the ever-powerful Armenian lobby

Dang it:the illustration the New Republic refused to run,meant to accompany an article about cursing. Via cursor.( no, really...)

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

breaking the sound barrier

the Bell X-1 flew faster than mach 1 for the first time on 14 October 1947-- 60 years ago today. In my usually cursory looking about for info about the day's topic, I found out that X-1 pilot Chuck Yeager is A. still alive(and married to a woman 36 yrs his junior of whom his kids apparently disapprove) and
B. Has recently endorsed Duncan Hunter for president.(!?)

Milestones like this one, and their assorted peripheral data make me think again of a topic I often return to, of how I used to be able to appreciate things like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier and how cool-looking the X-1 is without the disagreeable tangential reflections about all sorts of other stuff that kinda spoiled it-- how the US changed since 1947, from the New Deal and the country that mostly still manufactured our own stuff and cared about domestic job creation, to the present shaky state of things.

Yes, I recognize it wasn't all peachy in '47; desegregation was still waiting in the future and we did intern thousands of Japanese-Americans during the war years, just because people were scared and it was politically useful, to name just two things.

Still, the Bell X-1 did look pretty cool.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

oh yeah, THAT Glauberg plateau

fierce stone warrior from the glauberg plateau

the English language front page of Wikipedia has a section, perpetually refreshed a little before midnight, called "did you know"(from wikipedia's latest articles). Today's(10.14.2007) page:

From Wikipedia's newest articles:

...that archaeological finds from the German Glauberg plateau include a life-sized statue of a warrior (pictured) dating from around 500 BC?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

th' world clock

apropo of Al Gore,jr(hereafter "Big Al") winning the Nobel prize, here's the world clock, via the open mind, where you can see a larger and more legible version of the world clock. Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to encode it so that you can choose a large screen version directly at HZ.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

since you insist on content...'s some content!

actually, I occasionally visit other lazy blogger's blogs and post comments like,
"hey, how about some more content?" or(and I think this is much more polite): "hello-- more content please."

the caption at Lisa Nova's site reads:

"Gov. Mitt Romney meets a medical marijuana patient--Oct. 6
October 09, 2007, 05:05 PM
Clayton Holton of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana asks Gov. Mitt Romney if he will have seriously ill patients like himself arrested for using medical marijuana with their doctor's approval. Gov. Romney doesn't answer the question and turns his back on Clayton."

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Monday, October 08, 2007

winning is everything

Jaques Villeneuve fr won his 1st race

from "The presidential primary scam: why the game is rigged, and why true democracy is only a secondary factor in the nation's rush to nominate the next president", by Michael Sherer, in today's

FACT: Not all votes will count. The Republican Party plans to punish every state that votes before Feb. 5 by denying half of that state's delegates access to the floor of the Republican Convention next year. At the same time, the Democratic Party is planning to punish the vast majority of its January voters, perhaps more than 2 million, by removing all the delegates from Florida and Michigan. Both parties are likely to reinstate the delegates later in the summer, but in the case of a contested convention, no one should hold their breath.

FACT: Political power brokers in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada have forced the Democratic candidates to pledge not to campaign in Michigan and Florida before the end of February, which means the citizens of those states will have to vote without ever seeing or hearing directly from their candidates. This is justified because Michigan and Florida disobeyed national party orders in order to hold their primaries in January. These states also have more voters than the four other states combined, threatening to upend the traditional hand-shaking privileges in the diners of Des Moines and Manchester. In the meantime, Democrats in two of the nation's largest states will never get to meet their leaders -- unless, as mentioned before, they throw a fundraiser.

About a week ago, Barack Obama traveled to Florida for a fundraiser at the home of Tom Scarritt, a Tampa trial lawyer. Afterward, he walked across the street and answered a half-dozen questions from reporters, a sin that prompted an immediate denial from the campaign. "It wasn't a news conference," claimed Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director. This is what it has come to: Presidential campaigns trying to deny that their candidates spoke in public. Even Obama cowered. "I was just doing you guys a favor," he told the Tampa Tribune, after a reporter in the street pointed out that he was breaking the rules by speaking outdoors, where the public might hear. "We won't do it again."

Sherer also talks to U of Virginia's Larry Sabato, who seems to think the Constitution needs to be amended to fix the present system.

(Or maybe is just saying so apropo of a book he's hawking. I don't know why, but Sabato has always rubbed me the wrong way and struck me as a tv-whore type of academic. I haven't read his book but I know I'm pretty leery of casual talk of amending the constitution as if it were a trifle, especially since we live in an age where there are tons of folks who would gladly amend the hell out of the constitution to make society profoundly hostile to immigrants, gays and women seeking abortions-- and that's probably just for starters. I'd rather live with the imperfect document as it is than unbar the door just now. Sabato's book is entitled A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country .)

I know a lot of people would like to see a single national primary that took place over the course of one week in all 50 states, something Sherer doesn't mention but an idea which inevitably gets bandied about when people discuss reforming the primary system. I certainly agree with Sherer that the parties are behaving badly by penalizing Florida and Michigan, but I don't agree with the notion of a no-fuss, no-muss single primary, as the imperfect system we now have at least allows for the possibility that a less-well funded candidate might emerge to challenge the front runners.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but with our current, woefully inefficient system, I see at least a oh-so faint sliver of a possibility that a viable anti-Hillary, or even an actual anti-war(!) democrat might emerge. If we had a single national primary there wouldn't be even the remotest chance of something like that.

The problem is not so much the system as the voters who insist on voting with an eye to practicality and who fear "wasting" their vote on a second or third-tier candidate. I want to tell the people who fear wasting their votes in the primaries-- "what the hell is your problem? You're going to vote for whoever the party tells you nominates in the fall anyway, so why are you afraid of "wasting" your vote in the primary?"

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Eleven Percent Solution

Reading the news today I was struck by the content of what passes for political discussion in the news media not to mention blogs that are politically oriented. Basically I find it awful. Why? Because the national discussion or perhaps the national illusion is centered on political tactics kind of a who’s who on who is the cleverest in their presidential campaign. While it may help us while away the hour sitting in our ivory tower it is not really very interesting.

For example McClatchy offers up this rundown on Hillary Clinton. You don’t have to click on the link if you don’t want ‘cause you won’t miss much if you don’t unless you are interested in political tactics, something that makes me yawn and take naps.

While Hillary may or may not be the winner take all for the Dems I kept thinking as I read the article that this may be a very good or very bad interpretation of a viable Hillary Clinton but it completely side-steps the issue of do we really want Hillary for president. I suppose it is great that she can speak in full sentences and that she is politically savvy but still, do we want Hillary?

What ever happened to, you know, like issues? Excuse my naiveté but I mean really would it not further the cause of democracy if we knew where the candidates stand on issues rather than can they whoop mean and nasty ol’ Karl Rove? Oh Christ, this is not very pragmatic of me is it? After all winning is everything even if it means the death of more people.

Then we have the political blogs like Digby who during a speech claimed that liberal bloggers have dragged the Democrats kicking and screaming to the left and later wonder why the Democrats have not ended the occupation like they promised. “They promised, they promised, not fair not fair!” Well goo-goo, gah-gah. Um, I hate to say this but as the polls show Hillary in a clear lead and that Hillary has stated she would like to continue the conflagration in the Middle East by taking on Iran I am a bit mystified how blogs have dragged the Democrats kicking and screaming to the left. Does any one in their right mind believe that our national leaders of any ilk really care what bloggers think? If the truth be told there are very few who care what bloggers think.

Looking at this Pew poll from April 2007 showing the percentage of people who get their news from different news media “news blogs” come in at a very low second to last of eleven percent of those polled beating only Rush Limbaugh who thankfully only rates eight percent. This hardly lends credence to Digby’s claim of self congratulation and self-delusion of importance. Even if Digby is read by a few thousand people that hardly constitutes a majority.

Worse still if you go to the Pew link (and very few will) and scroll down to the caption of "which audience know the most" we see that readers of so-called news blogs rate a very low 37 percent while viewers of Limbaugh rate a much higher 50 percent. Well who would have guessed that people who watch Limbaugh have more knowledge than blog readers? Not that I like Limbaugh in any way what-so-ever but I mean really. Interestingly those who go to at least seven different news sources score the highest in knowledge as opposed to those who say go typically to only one or two news sources.

So is the eleven percent solution claimed by the news blogs having a great effect on our ship of state? The answer is probably not. My point here is not to disparage blogs or even Digby who I agree with on many, many issues but rather if we intend as citizens to change the destructive and murderous behavior of our government then we need to be real with ourselves about how much of an affect we are having, then perhaps we can improve the percentages. Maybe.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Grain of Salt

After watching War Made Easy it makes you wonder about people in general. President after president using the same rhetoric almost literally word for word to lead our nation into one useless and unneeded war after war and you and have to ask how can we keep falling for it time and time again. Some say we have a short memory though I am more inclined to believe that we are just self-absorbed, thoughtless and subject to lazy thinking.

The role played by the press is surely part of the problem. They were quite instrumental in the lead up to the Iraq War but part of the blame must lay with us. Though the press bombarded us with the rhetoric handed out by the Bush administration and failed most miserably to ask even the most logical questions that should have been asked why anyone would believe that bringing freedom to a country on the other side of the planet requires our military to murder these people by the hundreds of thousands is a bit much. How difficult is it to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Why would anyone believe that it is our duty to take on such arrogant actions? I mean c’mon people I can recall my sixth grade teacher telling my class that when you read the newspaper you need to take what they say with a major grain of salt. Is the maturity and awareness of the average American less than that of a child in sixth grade? Apparently so. Our sixth grade teacher even pointed out that you should beware of statements like “they said” or “sources have said” or “officials say” meaning that just who are these unnamed people, what are their qualifications and why should we believe them when we know none of these things. I’m talking sixth grade here folks, sixth grade.

Despite the fact that no WMD were ever found and no connection between 9/11 and Iraq was ever made with even the most minimal shred of hard evidence people still trust what the news reports not because people are stupid but because they are lazy in their thought processes.

Now the same thing is occurring with Iran. We hear the same claims by an administration that has been thoroughly shown to be morally and factually bankrupt though the difference now is that our leadership has garnered so much power that it no longer matters what we believe or do not. Worse still congress is even more hawkish on attacking Iran than President Bush is if that is possible.

One scene from War Made Easy still plays over and over again in my mind. It is a haunting scene where American soldiers force an Iraqi family out of their home at gunpoint and the camera pans in on the face of a young girl who must have been only eight or nine her face convulsed with fear. I cannot get it out of my mind, and indeed I don’t want to. Is this what America stands for? Our big brave troops terrorizing small children -- does this look like something you can support -- believe in, or even condone? The truly sad and tragic fact is that this is nothing new. We have been doing this in one form or another in one country or another for over 100 years yet all too few are aware of this.

Yes Bush is awful as has every other American president been for the last century, no, the press are not the searchers of truth, guardians of the flame or anything remotely resembling such things but how hard is it to think, to wonder, to ponder why we should trust any of these people?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Iraqdoc 2008

In the past I've postponed my plans to go to Iraq from the summer of 2007 to the fall(i.e., now) and now I am postponing again, to February of 2008. The main reason is money. I estimate I need another $4500-5000 more than what I presently have. My plans have also changed, insofar as I now mean to go to Jordan and Syria, and I don't think I will make it into Iraq. In the meantime, I've been working on some other posts, which I will put up soon.

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