Sunday, March 30, 2008

Washington Beach

Washington Beach
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Yet another photo from our long weekend last week.

Disappointment Point Lighthouse

Tourists at the lighthouse.

Lighthouse tourists

Lighthouse tourists
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world

Richard and Lighthouse

Richard and Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world

Disappointment bay

Disappointment bay
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world

Disappointment Point Lighthouse

More from the long weekend. This is down near Long Beach, WA.

Lighthouse Keeper Housing

Lighthouse Keeper Housing
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Picture from our long weekend last week.

Easter candle and card

Easter candle and card
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Picture from Easter 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Island of Misfit Sex Toys


We were on our way home last night when the co-signer mentioned stopping some place for a bite to eat. Earlier in the week I had read a review of a Kirkland wine bar and restaurant that intrigued me so it was off to Brix we went. Unfortunately, I hadn't remembered either the name or the exact location of the restaurant. We spent a little time searching for it, but not that much time. I recalled that it was on 100th St. near the waterfront and that was all the co-signer needed to guide us to the area and to spot the restaurant.

I did recall from the review that Brix had a nice bar, served mixed drinks as well as wine, and had reasonably priced, tasty food. On these points I was not disappointed. We were there fairly early and so could have had a choice of several tables. Instead we opted for the bar which I think was the best choice. Our bartender, despite being quite busy, did not make us wait long before taking our order. She kept an eye on us and came once we put down the wine list and looked prepared to order. The co-signer ordered a Manhattan, which was prepared very well - just the right amount of bitters. I ordered a glass of "The Ghost of 413" by the Giant Wine Company. The Seattle Times had given that wine a good review. The generous pour of wine began promising, offering a nice bouquet that hinted at black cherries. Upon first taste the wine offered up plenty of fruit, quite nice. However, soon the fruit dissapated and left a slightly chalky aftertaste. "The Ghost" portion of it's name is certainly correct as it's flavors leave the mouth fairly quickly and one begins to wonder if they were really there in the first place. Still, a nice wine if not a satisfying one.

The bartender asked me how I felt about the wine. In essence, I passed along the above review. She then asked me what kind of wine I like and I explained that I like a range of wines for different occassions, but that I was looking for something more satisfying - with fruit that would linger more. She suggested that I try an Aussie wine by Tait called The Ball Buster. It certainly earns it's name. The wine, like The Ghost, is mostly syrah. However, The Ball Buster is lush and oppulent, full of fruit with flavors of blackberry and cassis. It's nose let's you know that you're in for a big flavor and the mouth doesn't disappoint. I was surprised to read at the link above that the wine was high in alcohol as I certainly couldn't gather that when I was tasting it. Later, the bartender tells me that's her favorite wine by the glass that she sells. It's certainly delicious.

We opted to order small appetizer plates for dinner. It offers us a light meal to share. Increasingly, this is how we enjoy eating when we go out. All too often restaurants serve entrees that are too large to eat in one sitting without feeling like an extra trip to the gym was going to be needed before breakfast the next day. To add insult to injury those same restaurants charge an exhorbitant price to go along with that doggie bag meal that is almost always a pale imitation of what might have been the previous night's fantastic meal. So, for us, it's nice to dip our tastebuds into a few well prepared appetizers and enjoy the ride home comfortably.

In this instance, Brix scores well. First of all, they have many appetizers from which to choose. Those range from something simple, such as a cheese and fruit tray, to something more substantial, such as the crab mac and cheese, and to salads. We chose the pear salad with bleu cheese and candied walnuts, the seared scallops with orange anjous and mashed potatoes, and the aforementioned crab mac and cheese. Before our orders arrived the bartender brought us a small basket of bread - foccacia flavored lightly with rosemary and served with thyme infused olive oil. It was a simple beginning full of flavor. The salad arrived next. It surprised me that the pear had been run over a mandoline and cut into tiny, thin strips. At first I didn't recognize the pear for what it was. Only when it hit my palate along with the mixed greens and bleu cheese did I realize what those strips were. It was a very good salad and the candied walnuts were done well (ie, not overly sugared).

The crab mac and cheese and the scallops arrived next. To the wait staff and kitchen's credite, these items did not arrive while we were eating the salad. To have 3 plates at the bar would have been too much. Instead, our next appetizers arrived just after we finished our salad. Three scallops of medium to large size were served on a long rectangular plate at the other end of which sat a wave of mashed potatoes that had washed up there leaving a trail in it's wake of potatoes and orange anjous. The scallops sliced easily and were seared perfectly. Brushing them through the orange anjous and picking up a bit of potatoes provided my mouth with wonderful pleasures. I've had (and prepared) scallops with some sort of orange sauce before. The addition of potatoes to this dish mellowed out all of the flavors and pulled them together. It was a nice touch.

The crab mac and cheese was definitely delish. A creamy cheese sauce that was light and tasty smothered the elbow pasta. A generous portion of crab accompanied the dish - just enough to enjoy the flavor and not so much that it overwhelmed. We noticed a small bit of crab shell in the dish as we enjoyed it, so be forewarned.

So, the meal was fine, the drinks were good and the wait staff was knowledgable and properly attentive. What about the atmosphere? It was very nice. The ceiling was a bit high which lent to a spacious feeling, but also added to the noise level. Still, I didn't feel it was overly noisy. Rather, I felt it was more like a nice neighborhood meeting spot. The co-signer noted that while we were there Brix was mostly occupied by women or couples. Men, as pairs, were not the norm. I enjoyed eating at the bar. We struck up conversations with not only the bartender, but a couple of locals, also adding to the neighborhood feel of the place. If I decide to order an entree in the future, a table might be nice, but there's enough room at the bar to enjoy such a dish and mix it up with the regulars.

I liked Brix and would certainly recommend it to anyone - not just wine lovers. Oh, and on that note, Brix's wines by the bottle menu is nice. I've seen better lists with a wider range of selections, but there's plenty on here to enjoy and you'll probably find something that would please you. Don't expect to find a well-aged Leonetti. All of the wines that I saw were under $100/bottle with the vast majority being in the $40 - $70 range.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bear Sterns

Over on the side bar I've been posting Google Feed Reader items that I enjoy from other blogs and news sources. I used to make a whole posting of those things under the title of Quickies. When Google began offering this widget I was able to stop doing those types of posts, which are just regurgitation of other people's work. It's a bit of ego tripping to post what one reads, but these generally reflect what I've been reading an interested. Most of the time I don't draw attention to such stories again and I often change the stories posted within 24 hours.

However, I was going back over the feeds I brought to notice yesterday and read this one over about Bear Sterns. It contains these highly illuminating lines that gets tossed into the piece with no follow up:
Because bankruptcy is increasingly a venue for the sale of assets—rather than traditional reorganizations—a court may well approve a controlled liquidation of the company. But it would almost certainly require a meaningful market test, to assure that the assets received the highest and best price. Today, even with JPM sweetening its offer, we have no idea what the real market value of the company is. The JPM process appears designed to make sure we never find out.
A follow up question to this quote might be: what motive do these financial institutions have for obfuscating their real value and balance sheets? It seems to me that until we know the depth of this crisis our financial institutions will continue to experience credit crisis after credit crisis as times come along and reveal that they really do not trust each other and they ask the Fed to mitigate the problems. The Germans have suggested that more openness would actually aid in stemming the crisis for it will bring some down, but leave others in much better standing. In other words, we'd know who deserves credit and who doesn't. By not promoting more transparency in the system, the Fed is extending the malaise.

As someone who has worked in the tech industry and who promotes more openness and more data sharing in the tech world, I see the financial system's reluctance to pursue this course as archaic. The Fed's participation in this protectionism is hurting the system. Japan, after all, has had a sputtering economy for over 20 years based on this course of action. Do we really want to emulate the Japanese model on this?

More here on what Bear Sterns might be able to get away with legally to prevent share holders from challenging this deal. Question: was the $2/share offer a fake designed to make it look like the Board was protecting investor interests when it "renegotiated" the $10/share offer? Once again, why the machinations? What's going on behind the curtain?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quote of the morning

This cracked me up:
I must have missed the day when all the TechCrunch male bloggers (and for the record, most of the male tech bloggers) turned into something I'd want to see shirtless. I haven't seen any women begging for an Arrington or Scoble calendar; have you?
FWIW, she's right on the money in her criticism.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I don't normally do this sort of thing, but this is friend and she needs help. If someone knows of a doctor who can assist her with her spine injury, then please email me and I'll pass along the information. There's a follow-up (more positive) video post here.

Pirates and Emperors

A couple of things

First, the dust up about Obama and his former minister (the man retired from the church last year - a point that people tend to overlook). From an atheist's standpoint, the belief in the supernatural of any sort is to be rather, well, "touched in the head". Therefore, whether Obama agreed with his minister's position or not, the very fact that he's attending church makes him no worse or better than Clinton or McCain. There's no reason to differentiate between the degrees of craziness in religions. As to the minister's political views? Some of defensible, many are not. But how that makes Obama any more susceptible to them as opposed to JFK following the Pope or Romney following his elders (weren't Republicans going to great lengths recently to calm the electorate about possibly nominating a Mormon?) or McCain following Robertson and crew, I don't know. It's just political/media theater.

Secondly, regarding the Obama/Clinton/McCain passport mess. What I want to know is why aren't there safeguards - not just for the candidates, but everyone - to prevent this stuff? Why are contracters allowed to see this data in the first place? Why are trainees allowed access to even read live data, particularly during a training session?

Finally, this from the Washington Post - not surprising, but still alarming:

In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Mu¿oz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Mu¿oz writes.

But the tough talk dissipated as the war situation worsened, and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Mu¿oz's account suggests that the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration's standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention.

Now playing on VLC: Olivia Ruiz - Paris
via FoxyTunes


This is a cute commercial. Normally, I don't go in for the euphemisms, particularly if they involve animatronic creatures, but this one made me giggle a little.

Now playing: Koop - Koop Island Blues
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, March 20, 2008


For fans of this band there is a new book on them just published on Amazon. It is written by a person who put her own sweat, time, and money into researching it and getting interviews and photographs for it. She's a big fan as well. This book holds a great deal of promise and I can't wait to read it. The book is titled Music For Vagabonds - The Tuxedomoon Chronicles by Isabelle Corbisier. Congrats, Isabelle!

Vista SP1

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 went live yesterday. It's available for those who want it via Windows Update. It won't automatically download to your machine until April, but users can get it now. I did so and, after you finish cleaning up the coffee you spit out for me being an early adopter, you can read further of my experience.

First of all, the update, like the operating system, is large. It's a minimum of 120MB. That will take some systems a little while to download. My machine was up to date on all of it's patches and such so my download came in at 121MB, but the website warns that updates might reach 400+MB (I assume that this is a rare case where no patches have been applied yet).

The update went smoothly. One of the new functions of Vista is that some updates don't complete until a restart has been commenced. This actually was true of older systems as well, but they didn't have a splash screen informing the user as to why the shut down was taking so long. Vista does that and it's good, but being new it might confuse some users as to why, after Windows Update claimed that the update was complete, are they now getting a screen on shutdown saying that the update is finalizing.

Lastly, when logging in, each user is faced with a warning message that reads something to the effect of "Windows Mail has encountered an error and is shutting down". A similar message appears for IE8. What both programs are really doing is finishing their updates and adding in the personal settings. However, the dialog box doesn't explain that. It's needlessly worrying to the user and may cause some panic. How do I know this? Because I was drug out of bed last night by the co-signer due to the messages. To be fair to her, she's been experiencing other odd problems with the OS before the update (her profile disappeared and appeared to lock) and these dialog boxes could have been related for all she knew. Like I said, needlessly worrying. Why not say, "Windows Live Mail is finishing updates" or some such?

Otherwise, clean install. It's working fine thus far.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Right fucking on!

On the money and done in an amusing manner.

Danny Boy

Now playing: Joey Negro - Make A Move
via FoxyTunes

Bumpy ride

We've seen this economy go through some twists and turns lately, but it'll be nothing compared to today. With the Fed signaling that it was assisting a bailout of Bear Stearns using JP Morgan Chase as it's conduit, they are going to cause a panic in the market and further devaluation of the dollar. This will result in more inflation and a staggering economy - stagflation. Did we learn nothing from the Japanese experience? Why aren't we demanding a full accountability and an opening of the books rather than hiding them? We would be better served to get the bad news out there and deal with the aftermath quickly. America, your leaders are failing you.

Now playing: Muslimgauze - Isfahanic Sheikh
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rice to meet with terrorist

Kindasleazy Rice and Stephen Hadley are to meet with Lebanese war criminal (a euphemism for terrorist), Samir Geagea, Al Kamen reports. I thought that Bush's government doesn't make deals with terrorists?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Something for hump day

From the description:
An exotica dance routine scene found while watching a cheap 60's Lucha Libre VCD brought back from Mexico by a friend of mine. (merci Mathias!)

Blue Demon Contra Los Cerebros Infernales (1968), Luchador, mad scientist and zombie pussies ... the perfect blend!
brought to us by PCI Linkdump.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Frankly, I don't care much about Spitzer. He's not my governor and wasn't making a play for any office that I would vote for - yet. It turns out that the man was caught not because he was involved in prostitution, but because the IRS noticed financial transactions that were suspicious and might have indicated some sort of bribery or blackmail or some such. From this NY Times story:

There, in the Hauppauge offices of the Internal Revenue Service, investigators conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks found several unusual movements of cash involving the governor of New York, several officials said.

The investigators working out of the three-story office building, which faces Veterans Highway, typically review such reports, the officials said. But this was not typical: transactions by a governor who appeared to be trying to conceal the source, destination or purpose of the movement of thousands of dollars in cash, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The money ended up in the bank accounts of what appeared to be shell companies, corporations that essentially had no real business.

The transactions, officials said, suggested possible financial crimes — maybe bribery, political corruption, or something inappropriate involving campaign finance. Prostitution, they said, was the furthest thing from the minds of the investigators.

Soon, the I.R.S. agents, from the agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, were working with F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors from Manhattan who specialize in political corruption.

I am rather unforgiving of the sanctimonious who get caught in hypocrisy. In my view, prostitution should be legalized and regulated as it’s a losing battle. Much like the so-called drug war, the criminal element is attracted to it in part due to big rewards which are inflated thanks to it’s criminalization.

Spitzer prosecuted those laws and even sounded outraged at the people who ran and used prostitution rings. Now he’s caught using them himself. On top of it, as the Times notes, he’s caught possibly flouting financial laws of the sort he used to prosecute Wall Street types for flouting. Indeed, he built his career on that.

So, the man gets caught in a double hypocrisy. I don’t feel sorry for him any more than I feel sorry for Craig or Vitter.

Monday, March 10, 2008

When they think they aren't being recorded

Actually, I think that this lady is probably still proud of her remarks. She's one of those self righteous bigots whose special brand of hate, founded in Anita Bryant, is teflon coated and only gets stronger the more she is attacked. Who is she? She's Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern. Listen to her words and be in awe of the hatred and fear she has - the gays are a worse threat to the nation than terrorism.

Monday, March 03, 2008


After waiting for 2 weeks for the book to show up at the library, I finished it in 2 days. The book, Pretties, is the follow up to Scott Westerfeld's Uglies and is the second in a trilogy. Granted, it's a young adult title so the plotting and the language aren't exactly taxing stuff, but the real reason I finished it so quickly was because I became engrossed in it. This book is better than the first one. Perhaps it's because Westerfeld didn't have to lay down any background set up. He could get right to the meat of the story. And meat there is. The tale follows our main character, Tally, and her friends after they have been turned into pretties. They all have similar eyes, noses, cheek structures, and muscles. Their immune systems have been boosted so they almost never get ill. Theirs is a life of parties, drinking, and vapid social chatter. What could be better? Except that there's something else in the operation in addition to the cosmetic stuff that the city leaders do to people that makes them vapid - some to their brains and it's done without knowledge or consent.

Tally meets Zane, the leader of the clique, the Crims. Zane knows something's up beyond his good looks, but he can't suss it. Tally is the key. She turned herself in to become a pretty, but she can't remember why exactly. Her details about being part of the rebel group, the Smokies, are hazy. Together, Zane and Tally work to uncover the secret. They are aided by a member of the Smokies in their quest. Dr. Cable, who runs Special Circumstances is on to Tally and Zane and is keeping a close watch.

Westerfeld combines the adventure and mystery well. He keeps the pace of the book fast, but offers just enough time for Tally to think like a teenager. In those sections he weaves in parts of typical teen concerns, but does so in a way that the setting allows for a subtle reading of the terms. It's just very natural for Tally, Zane, and Shayna to act and think as they do. The plot of the book isn't hard to figure out, but as with many an adult book from my teen years (Heinlein in particular) the fun is in the ride to the end. Still, Westerfeld throws in a couple of curve balls. There was one section that I hit that I wondered where the hell he was going with it. In the end that section made perfect sense and it was clearly a set up for a plot line in the third book, Specials.

I've already reserved the third book. Sno-Isle libraries has 19 copies and I'm number 33 in line for one. As before, it's likely to take about 2 weeks to get a copy. I'll probably wait a week or so and then place a hold on Extras. It's a book that was published last year that takes place in the same world, but happens years after the third book in the trilogy. Like Assimov, Westerfeld couldn't just let the trilogy end. Also like Assimov, I'm very happy he didn't.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Middle East

It is almost a cliché of American politics. When a president enters into his final 2 years in office, he seeks solace in potential political victories. Congress tends to become increasingly restless as a partner as it seeks, like the rest of the country, a new leader and the next agenda in order to get itself re-elected. Thus the president becomes a lame duck, a seat holder until the next person comes in to take the reigns. The job of the current president is, in essence, not to muck it up too much for the next president.

What this translates into is a leader without a mission. What is he to do if he cannot really effect the agenda at home? Oh, he'll try to use the bully pulpit to press his concerns, but as we saw this past week, the president is often mocked for attempting to do so. That's the real reason most presidents remain mum during the election period - they are leaders without a great deal of power and are prone to being irrelevant or, worse, the butt of a joke.

Hence comes the cliché. Seeking relevance, the president almost always decides to do a lap around the globe and participate in the one area where, constitutionally, they have real power: foreign policy. Reagan did it, as did Clinton. Bush is doing it as well. His trip to Africa (which mirrored Clinton's, a man he mocked and despises) last week was a sad display of a leader who is searching for respect in the larger world while his own country turns the page on his political elegy.

For Reagan and Clinton, this wasn't a particularly striking thing to do. Both had happily dove into foreign policy while in office. One might argue about the effects of their policy decisions, but make no mistake that both men relished in working with other leaders and seeking to leave the world a better place than the one they found when they took office (again, a better place at least in their might argue the results). For Bush, however, a man who has shunned foreign policy and indeed, celebrated the fact that he had little to no experience in it when he took office, turning to this approach in the twilight of his career has been remarkable for both it's hypocrisy and naiveté if not for it's execution. Take, for instance, his attempts to bring peace to Israel. How's that working out for him? From the Washington Post this morning:

Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, said that key players in the region are moving beyond the Bush administration. "The feeling is that if you keep the flash points on a lower or somewhat higher flame, it will give you more cards when a new administration comes in," he said, speaking in a phone interview from Israel. "Everyone is sucking up to the Iranians," he added.

The signs of American irrelevance are apparent throughout the region. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, hailed as a potential peacemaker by the Bush administration, mused last week to the Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour that in the future it might be necessary to return to armed struggle against Israel. And Syria, which received an unexpected invitation to Annapolis, believes that the peace summit was "an exercise in public relations" and that Bush has no interest in peace, as Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha put it last week.

Wow, that's gotta make it difficult for Kinda-sleazy Rice. After all, it's her mission to actually make the process work. Bush isn't doing any of the heavy lifting in the negotiations. He doesn't ever want to get his hands dirty. He just tells people what he dreams of and trusts it to them to do the work, just as he's always done in his privileged life. If it works out, then he takes the credit and if it doesn't, then he can throw his loyalist to the wolves and say it wasn't his fault. He tried, after all. More from the WaPo:

Ghaith al-Omari, a former adviser to Abbas and now advocacy director for the American Task Force on Palestine, faulted the Bush administration for not nurturing a process that it started. He noted that the administration has appointed three generals to assess various aspects of the issue, but that few people in the region understand their roles. Rice's two-day visit this week is her first substantive trip since the conference in November.

"There is no push from the Americans," he said. "We are still waiting to see what they will do. It is surprising how little has happened. If you guys are going to run out of steam, why create all these expectations?"

...Neither Hamas nor Iran was invited to Annapolis but, as Ahmadinejad's courting of Mubarak suggests, the administration's effort to divide the region into "moderate" and "extremist" camps has not succeeded. After the phone call between the two men, Iran's foreign minister declared that diplomatic ties with Cairo would soon be restored.

Meanwhile, Hamas has gained popularity as Israel has attempted an economic blockade of Gaza. Hamas bulldozers burst through the Gaza-Egyptian border in January, while Hamas rockets last week reached Ashkelon, an Israeli city of 120,000 that generally had been safe from Hamas attacks.

...Before the Annapolis conference, a group of U.S. foreign policy specialists -- including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton -- wrote Bush to argue that "a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation." But State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday, "It's pretty hard to say that Hamas has a legitimate role to play in this process if their main policy is to promote terror."
Please, my apologies if that last line made you spit up your beverage via laughter, outrage, or a combination.

There is hope for the region to resolve this latest flare up in it's struggle for peace. As noted above, the US role is irrelevant. It's really up to Israel and the Arab countries to reach some sort of truce and then for the Arab countries to reign in Hamas. Rice will merely be the postal deliverer for the process, the ceremonial postal deliverer that is. Of course, she and Bush will claim credit, but as Haaretz notes, the real work will be done without his involvement:
This is a new situation in which the IDF operates in a wide scope, the television footage is extremely hard to watch, the number of dead Palestinians since Wednesday is close to 90 and the physical damage inflicted is enormous.

All these factors make it easier for Hamas to swerve public opinion its way and direct it towards a large-scale operation in the West Bank that would run deeper than a quiet protest. Arab leaders could soon find the situation to be out of their control.

The problem facing Israel at the moment is how to confine the incursion within the limits of Israel's struggle against Hamas and the rocket barrage, and not turn it into a war that seems to be directed against all Palestinians.

The line between these two stages is tricky and dangerous. Therefore the Israeli government should not give up on trying to get Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries to initiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.


A wonderful editorial in the Independent today from a former British veteran of the Afghanistan war regarding that exercise. A large snippet:

In September 2006, British forces attacked and occupied what was until that point a thriving agricultural town. This means that the local farmers, who are poor cash-croppers exploited by opium barons, grow a great deal of poppy. But the British arrival, as in other towns across Helmand, brought nothing but military might – no means of development, no improvement in local living standards and no alternative to the poppy.

The most basic tenets of counter-insurgency were abandoned in the Army's haste to see action. Violence ensued as poppy farmers and opium traffickers teamed up with the Taliban to oppose the foreign occupiers. As the first British bombs fell, killing Afghan civilians, the battle for hearts and minds was lost.

The fighting rages still and opium production has soared to new heights. Overwhelming firepower (the kind that Harry co-ordinates) cannot resolve the fact that the British campaign in Helmand is illogical; we are trying to fight our way to winning hearts and minds and losing the trust of the population in doing so. Scores of civilians have been killed by British ordnance in Helmand. In 2007, at least 6,000 people died in the conflict across Afghanistan, of which approximately 1,400 were civilians. At least 500 of these deaths were directly attributable to Nato forces, mostly in air strikes; 89 British troops have been killed and 329 injured.

As General Sir Richard Dannatt has pointed out, we are there for the good of the Afghans, but at the moment we are having the reverse effect. The Taliban are resurgent. Funded by millions of dollars of opium money, they are responding to greater British troop numbers by increased use of suicide bombing tactics.

The US's top intelligence official, Mike McConnell, stated last week in Washington that security in Afghanistan is "deteriorating" as President Karzai controls only about 30 per cent of the country and the Taliban 10 per cent, with the remainder under tribal control. Put simply, this is a disastrous military adventure and not a just war.

Perhaps Prince Harry knows this. More likely, however, is that he's not too bothered about it because, for him, as for every other young officer, seeing active service is more important than any other consideration. This attitude is perhaps unavoidable in a highly trained professional army in which "cracking on" and doing what you're told is an institutional requirement.

But the Army has over the past few years of the "war on terror" exceeded itself when it comes to blind obedience. Take the Iraq war. In 2003 my fellow officers and I knew the WMD issue was a blatant ruse, but we cared little. Scenting action we ignored the fact that we'd been told a pack of lies, and satisfied ourselves with the vague notion that it was all for the good. We simply craved active service.

Given the monumental human tragedy that has unfolded in Iraq over the past five years, you'd think that further military adventures hatched on the backs of MoD fag packets would have been guarded against, but along came Helmand province.

Tragically, the fact that many soldiers are killed in these operations serves only to strengthen the myths of heroism and sacrifice that the Army relies on to pursue these adventures in the first place. These ideals allow the admirable personal qualities of soldiers killed on operations to be readily confused with the nature of the conflict. Partly a psychological defence mechanism, it allows soldiers to come to terms with the deaths of their colleagues without calling into question the fundamental reason for such deaths.

This graveside reasoning goes roughly like this: "He loved his job and the Army; he was an honourable man; therefore his death can only be honourable and worthwhile." Following this line of reasoning after the deaths of friends and colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan, I eventually found the answers wanting, became disillusioned and left. But if a few disillusioned officers leave, it makes no difference to the Army; there are always more fresh faces arriving from Sandhurst.

So if the Army is blinkered in its lust for action, and lied to by its government, surely the media are there to point out unpleasant truths. At this point the images of Prince Harry blasting away on a machine gun seem dangerously close to propaganda. While his bravery and commitment are beyond doubt, his 10-week stint in Helmand has revealed itself as a PR recruiting stunt, cooked up by the MoD and facilitated by the media's collusion.

Rather than highlighting the appalling truths about the war in Helmand, the media, dazzled by the heroic ideal that Prince Harry so perfectly embodies, perpetuate the myth that this is a just war fit for heroes. The frenzy of coverage in Friday's papers (with the conspicuous exception of this newspaper) was facile; "Watch Prince Harry fighting in Helmand," proffered one broadsheet website.

This is war reduced to entertainment, willingly ignorant of the truth that young men like Harry, both British and Afghan, are dying violent pointless deaths in Helmand province. Outrage is the only response to this, not entertainment.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Rich stuff this week from Bush. His press conference was amazing. Take for instance his comment on gasoline:
"Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?" Bush responded. "That's interesting. I hadn't heard that ... I know it's high now."
Sounds like his father did - out of touch. Of course, I'm not surprised. If, as Ann Richards noted, his father was born with a silver foot in his mouth, the son was born with two in his mouth and snorting coke from a silver tray. Then came this comment from the press conference:
"What's lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?" Bush asked rhetorically. "What's lost is it'll send the wrong message. It'll send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It'll give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity."
Like this country has never put people in prison for their political beliefs? Like they still don't? I mean, yesterday it was reported that a staggering 1 in 100 adults are incarcerated! Oh, and next week Bush is going to meet with the leader of China - a country that regularly locks people up for their political beliefs and suppresses human rights. From Amnesty International's 2007 report:
An increased number of lawyers and journalists were harassed, detained, and jailed. Thousands of people who pursued their faith outside officially sanctioned churches were subjected to harassment and many to detention and imprisonment. Thousands of people were sentenced to death or executed. Migrants from rural areas were deprived of basic rights. Severe repression of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region continued, and freedom of expression and religion continued to be severely restricted in Tibet and among Tibetans elsewhere.
But, it's OK for Bush to meet with leaders who suppress human rights. Why? Because he talks with them about the abuses:
Bush stressed the need to remain engaged with China and said he regularly talked to Chinese President Hu Jintao "about religious freedom and the importance of China's society recognizing that if you're allowed to worship freely, it will benefit society as a whole."
And so did Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Dad, and Clinton. Little has changed. Yet talking with Raul Castro and Chavez or Kim Jong Il would bring the wrong message?!!? WTF?

Finally, we have this gem from last week. Bush was touring a genocide memorial in Rwanda. He was moved by what he saw and offered this thought:
A clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces that tend to divide people up inside their country are unbelievably counterproductive.
Great. The fucker learned that in the final year of his presidency. Wouldn't we have been better off if he had this knowledge going in?

Mashup of Clinton's new attack ad

I saw this and laughed. A couple of friends of mine have told me that they refer to Hillary Clinton's politics as "Republican Lite". This mashup revealing the tactics behind her latest attack ad would seem to suggest that these friends have been on the money.