Friday, June 16, 2006

Who is the US fighting in Iraq?

A February 2006 report from the International Crisis Group which provides a detailed look at the evolution of the insurgency, and describes its four main groups: Tandhim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (recently decapitated), Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-’Iraq, and al-Jabha al-Islamiya lil-Muqawama al-’Iraqiya. In Iraq, the U.S. fights an enemy it hardly knows. Its descriptions have relied on gross approximations and crude categories (Saddamists, Islamo-fascists and the like) that bear only passing resemblance to reality. This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents’ own discourse [particularly their websites], reveals relatively few groups, less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than assumed, whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising. [from]

"This is my happening, and it freaks me out!"

A sequel far removed from its namesake, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the 1970 sex-drugs-rock-violence classic by Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert, gets a special-edition DVD release this week. Also, at retroCRUSH, a trio of interviews with Casey, Roxanne and the ultra-eccentric Z-Man. [from]

Happy Bloomsday!

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
-- Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:
-- Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!
Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.

"Do you know how many Ronald Blankenships there are?"

Ronald Wayne Blankenship, a candidate in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for Jefferson County sheriff, says it's coincidence that a man with a criminal past shares his name and birthdate.
It's strange but true, he says, that both he and a man who faked his own death in 1990 are married to women named Judy Ruth Green Stonecipher Blankenship.
Blankenship calls himself an underdog. The Bessemer shoe shop owner received 12,218 votes or 25.9 percent in the June 6 primary last week. He did little campaigning and spent little money. He is vying for the Democratic nomination for sheriff with Ron McGuffie, a former sheriff's deputy and dispatcher. Blankenship, 63, beat out veteran lawman C.D. Horton to make the runoff.
Little was known about Blankenship during the campaign. He refused to release personal information and declined to be interviewed, citing fear of identity theft.
Blankenship, who said he's a former policeman, 20-year Ford Motor Co. worker and U.S. Navy veteran, said he's never been in trouble. "I stand before the Lord," he said. "I've never been convicted of anything."
Vestavia Hills police Lt. Rick Miller said he's surprised Blankenship is running for public office because he knows Blankenship is the man he arrested in 1990.
"I will be happy to meet him at the county jail and take his fingerprints and compare them," Miller said. "I want to get to the bottom of it, too. If Mr. Blankenship says that's not him, that way we'll know once and for all."

Colbert Interviews Congressman Westmoreland

Colbert was priceless last night. His guest was Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and I guess he never heard of The Colbert Report before. He will now.
(rough transcript)
Colbert: You have not introduced a single piece of legislation since you entered Congress.
Westmoreland: That's correct.
Colbert: This has been called a do nothing Congress. Is it safe to say you're the do nothingest?
Westmoreland: I, I, ..Well there's one other do nothiner. I don't know who that is, but they're a Democrat.
Colbert: What can we get rid of to balance the budget?
Westmoreland: The Dept. of Education.
Colbert: What are the Ten Commandments?
Westmoreland: You mean all of them?--Um... Don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal Um... I can't name them all. emailer Ruth asks: Does this guy deserve a $3,300 pay raise?
The guy co-sponsors a bill about the Ten Commandments and doesn't even know them. Priceless.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

IAEA chief: Iran not an immediate nuclear threat

Iran does not pose an immediate nuclear threat and the world must act cautiously to avoid repeating mistakes made with Iraq and North Korea, the head of the U.N, nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the world shouldn't "jump the gun" with erroneous information as he said the U.S.-led coalition did in Iraq in 2003, nor should it push the country into retaliation as international sanctions did in North Korea.
"Our assessment is that there is no immediate threat," the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize told a forum organized by the Monterey Institute of International Studies south of San Francisco. "We still have lots of time to investigate."
"You look around in the Middle East right now and it's a total mess," he said. "You can not add oil to that fire."
The recent violent history in Iraq bears an important lesson for diplomacy with neighboring Iran, the diplomat said. "We should not jump the gun. We should be very careful about assessing the information available to us," he said.