Monthly Archives: June 2007

Ethiopians regretting joining Bush/Cheney’s “war on terror” in Somalia

When is the world and the US gonna figure it out?

Washington Post:

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Thursday that his government “made a wrong political calculation” when it intervened in Somalia, where Ethiopian troops are bogged down in a fight against a growing insurgency.

Addressing Ethiopia’s Parliament, Meles said his government incorrectly assumed that breaking up the Islamic movement that took control of most of Somalia in June 2006 would subdue the country. He also said he wrongly believed that Somali clan leaders would live up to unspecified “promises.”

“We made these wrong assumptions,” Meles said on a day when a roadside bomb killed two Ethiopian soldiers in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and two aid workers were shot dead in northern Somalia.

Opposition members of Parliament have accused Meles of making the same mistake in Somalia that critics say the United States made in Iraq: launching a military intervention without having a political plan.

Many Ethiopian intellectuals and political leaders opposed the intervention because they said it would inevitably create the conditions for the sort of Somalia-based terrorist attacks that Meles intended to contain by invading the country.

In December, Ethiopian forces backing Somalia’s transitional government dislodged the Islamic movement, which was popular for the relative security it had brought after years of brutal warlord rule.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Fred Kagan:an idiot running a war, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Politics, Somalia

Bush says Iraq should be like Israel

I guess there’s no point in trying to figure out the Middle East at this point, is there, Bush? Just say whatever stupid thing pops into your mind, no matter how offensive it might be to Iraqis or Arabs.

┬áIn Israel, Bush said, “terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it’s not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq.” ‘

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Bush is the biggest earmarker (and hypocrite) of them all:

Democratic and Republican appropriators are accusing President Bush of urging Congress to pack spending bills with pet projects despite his high-profile crackdown on earmarks this year.

A House Appropriations Committee report accompanying legislation funding the Department of the Interior shows that Bush requested 93 of the 321 earmarks in the bill. A panel report for the financial services and general government spending bill showed that Bush requested 17 special projects worth $947 million, more than any single member of Congress.
Senate appropriators have identified more than 350 earmarks in the military construction spending bill requested by the president.

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Expose makes Cheney’s attack on Iran most unlikely

Though George W. Bush professes to not reading the papers, Condi Rice and Bob Gates certainly do, and I would therefore suggest that the Cheney expose’ in the Washington Post will have an important effect: the somwhat-sane will carry the day, and prevent Cheney’s last insane act, bombing Iran.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, Countdown to attack on Iran, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Middle East, Politics

John Roberts disappoints even the American Enterprise Institute

John Roberts is proving to be a poor choice as Supreme Court Chief Justice, and even the American Enterprise Institute sees it. Norman J. Ornstein:

The Wisconsin Right to Life case was couched by Roberts in careful, narrow terms, but was not simply a tiny adjustment in campaign finance law. It was a direct, in-your-face rejection of a key part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The decision reopened a huge loophole that had been closed by Congress through a careful, narrow, deliberative approach. Congress, contrary to the overheated rhetoric of reform opponents, did not ban any ads. It took phony issue ads that were designed to elect or defeat candidates and made sure they used only the same funds that other campaign communications used. It did so by setting a clear, bright-line standard so it was evident to all what the rules were for funding broadcast ads close to an election.

Roberts erased the bright line and basically dissed Congress. He turned the process for defining such ads on its head, making it almost impossible to define what constitutes a campaign ad. The practical reality of Roberts’ new standard is that if anyone simply asserts that an ad is about an issue, no matter how slender the pretext or blatant the campaign message, the entity or shell organization funding the ad can use corporate funds or union dues and get away with it. The floodgates have been opened up again, to the detriment of our campaign discourse, and huge, corrupting money will be back in the game as a result. Just as important, it shows not a careful, conservative deference to Congress, which made BCRA a model of careful, reasoned deliberation relying on research, data and on the court’s reasoning in Buckley v. Valeo, but a willingness by Roberts to toss aside Congress’ conclusions to fit his own ideological predispositions.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others are right that it could have been much worse; the critical core of BCRA remains and only three justices–Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy–indicated their willingness to throw the whole law out. But it is not a good sign either for campaigns or for the future integrity of the court.

The Supreme Court’s concern about the First Amendment took a totally different turn the same day with the decision involving freedom of speech by students. Although the banner “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” unfurled by Joseph Frederick across the street from his Juneau, Alaska, school could mean anything–and probably simply meant “Look at me! Look at me!”–Roberts used exactly the opposite standard for freedom that he applied to WRTL, assuming that the meaning of the banner was encouragement of illegal drug use. That was his pretext for denying Frederick’s speech rights. In his WRTL decision Roberts wrote, “Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.” Apparently, that principle applies only where it fits the ideological predisposition of the chief. And once again, we saw a willingness to go with a deeply divisive 5-4 pattern that ultimately will be bad for the court and bad for the country.

….Roberts is the chief justice. I thought from his confirmation hearings that this would be a different court, moving to the right but in a less divisive way. It appears I was wrong.

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Winning and losing in Iraq

Anonymous Liberal:

McCarthy says that “we will rue the day we leave Iraq without routing radical Islam.” But what does that even mean? How exactly are we supposed to “rout” an ideology? If we “surge” a few thousand more troops, will “radical Islam” surrender? And is there any reason at all to believe that we can kill all the radical Islamists in Iraq, much less do so without creating legions of new ones? Our very presence in Iraq has served as the rallying cry for a whole new generation of jihadists, who are popping up all over the globe and continue to flock to Iraq for valuable on the job training.

In McCarthy’s view, the only acceptable policy is to keep fighting in Iraq until we’ve defeated the terrorists. But that’s a Sisyphean task, a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. And, of course, the only reason foreign terrorists are even in Iraq is because we are. There’s no reason to believe that these foreign jihadists would stick around (or that Iraqis would let them stick around) if we were to leave.

The bottom line is that we can’t allow ourselves to be drawn into a perpetual, self-sustaining battle just because some guys in a cave in Pakistan will taunt us if we change course. The only way we really “lose” here is if we resolve to continue pursuing unattainable goals.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Fred Kagan:an idiot running a war, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Karl Rove:Bush's brain or Bush's as'hole?, Middle East, Mitt Romney: double guantanamo, Politics, Rudy Giuliani: NYC doesn't even like him, Think tanks

Africa rejects US “security” plan

Hmmm…Africa would rather not get in bed with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney….wonder why?


The Pentagon’s plan to create a US military command based in Africa have hit a wall of hostility from governments in the region reluctant to associate themselves with the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and fearful of American intervention.

A US delegation led by Ryan Henry, principal deputy under-secretary of defence for policy, returned to Washington last week with little to show for consultations with defence and foreign ministry officials in Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti and with the African Union (AU). An earlier round of consultations with sub-Saharan countries on providing secure facilities and local back-up for the new command, to be known as Africom and due to be operational by September next year, was similarly inconclusive.

The Libyan and Algerian governments reportedly told Mr Henry that they would play no part in hosting Africom. Despite recently improved relations with the US, both said they would urge their neighbours not to do so, either. Even Morocco, considered Washington’s closest north African ally, indicated it did not welcome a permanent military presence on its soil.

“We’ve got a big image problem down there,” a state department official admitted. “Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the US. They just don’t trust the US.”

Another African worry was that any US facilities could become targets for terrorists, the official said. Economic incentives, including the prospect of hundreds of local jobs, had not proved persuasive.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Fred Kagan:an idiot running a war, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Middle East, Somalia

San Francisco dining: Firecracker Chinese restaurant

Hey, it’s in the Mission District, so that’s fun right off the bat. (1007 Valencia St.)

This informal place has an interesting decor, good service, reasonable prices, and the food is great. We had 6 different dishes and every one was great. Hint: the food doesn’t seem to be quite as spicy as it’s billed.

No headache afterwards, so you can be sure they don’t use MSG.
Highly recommended.

old review from the Chronicle.

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The lake that gave Mission Dolores its name and location, and how it came back to life in the 1906 earthquake

thumbnail of old map

The City of San Francisco was named after the Catholic mission there, which was in turn named after St. Francis of Assisi. But the Mission there is almost universally referred to as the Mission Dolores. Apparently, it was named informally after a small lake (or a lagoon within the lake) upon whose shores it was built. Early Spanish explorers gave the lake the name Lago de las Dolores because they saw Indians weeping on its bank, or because it happened to be raining that day. The mission was built there because it seemed to be a good place to obtain fresh water and grow crops. The lake no longer exists; it has been largely filled in and almost forgotten.

The best way to understand the lake is to go to the southwest corner of 17th and Mission, and look up and down both streets. You will notice that you are actually in the center of a basin that has been somewhat filled in but is still about 20 feet deep, that extends several blocks in every direction.

The spot at the southwest corner of 17th and Mission is very near what was the deepest part of the lake. The lake extended about two blocks in all directions. If you look west on 17th street, you can see that the Mission Dolores is three blocks away, at Dolores between 16th and 17th.

Now walk west on 17th a block and a half to Albion, which marks roughly the western shore of the lake; look north up Albion a half block to Camp, where the fathers built their first crude shelter, June 29, 1776.

Now walk a few feet farther west on 17th and turn south down Dearborn, still the shore of the old lake, to 18th. You have now reached the creek which fed the lake. Look to your right, west, up the creek, on 18th, past the BiRite Market, past the edge of Dolores Park, toward the heights of Twin Peaks.

Looking west on 18th, from Dearborn

Looking west on 18th, from Dearborn

This was a ravine, called Arroyo de las Dolores, containing the creek coming down from Twin Peaks. The Mission Dolores was built one city block north from the edge of the ravine and about the same distance west from the shore of the lake, and dedicated in 1791. Water exited the lake at about what is now 16th and Howard, going east down 16th, and then draining generally east to the Mission Bay tidal wetlands and then to the San Francisco Bay.

Bayard Taylor who saw the Mission valley in 1849 says: “Three miles from San Francisco is the old mission of Dolores situated in a sheltered valley which is watered by a perpetual stream fed from the tall peaks towards the sea. * * * Several former miners in anticipation of a great influx of emigrants in the spring, pitched their tents on the best spots along Mission creek and began preparing the ground for gardens. The valley was surveyed and staked into lots almost to the summit of the mountains” (Eldorado pp. 64, 298-9).

As is implied in the passage above, eventually the lake was drained and filled in with dirt, and built over. In 1906, the loose fill dirt created havoc during the earthquake).

According to a recent geologic paper:

The ground deformation on Valencia Street between 18 and 19th streets was arguably the single most devastating event of the 1906 earthquake.

One eyewitness describes a famous scene on Valencia:


Along Valencia Street from 21st to 17th, there was a hole big enough to bury at least 50 people, not to mention horses. The old Valencia Street Hotel, where I had played sliding over the banister, was lying flat on the ground and all the people in it had lost their lives, was the report.

Valencia Street was an old creekbed, [actually the creek ran through there, but it was perpendicular to Valencia, more or less under 18th Street; but whether it was the lake site or the creek site that collapsed is of little importance.] which had been filled in and then built on. The severe jolts of the quake caused the soft-packed fill to settle suddenly, leaving gaping holes in the street. The buildings on top of the fill reeled with the force of this settling, and houses for several blocks leaped off their foundations. The four-story Valencia Hotel [718 Valencia, almost at 18th Street] collapsed like a tower of cards. Its top floor landed intact in the middle of the street with the bottom three floors flattened underneath, crushing at least 15 people. [Here is my favorite image looking north at the Valencia Hotel and surroundings, and here is another image, from the other side of the hotel, looking south.]

This scene found its way into the 1936 movie San Francisco. As Clark Gable searches desperately through the city’s rubble for Jeannette MacDonald, he comes upon the collapsed hotel. A policeman tells him, “Those on the top floor stepped right out their windows to the street. The others were out of luck.”

That this was literally true can be seen in this photo.
Another eyewitness recalled:

I was curious to see the nearest fire at the corner of 22nd and Mission St. Our house was located at 931 Dolores Street in the block between the 22nd and 23rd Streets. As I ran across Valencia St. going to the Mission St. fire, I noticed on my left down Valencia St. a small old three-story hotel. (Evidently it had been built over a subterranean faultline.) The first story had partly sank in the earth while the second and third had fallen out into the street. That was the first structural destruction I had witnessed.
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Another image of the Valencia Hotel can be seen here

Here is another image looking north along Valencia toward 18th. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that the ground is trying to collapse down to the right or east, down the old watercourse that was covered over by 18th St, with some help from broken water mains.

The total devastation of Valencia in the area of 19th and farther north can be seen here, in the aftermath of the fire that swept through a few days later, burning most everything north of 20th Street. Partly because the Mission Dolores was built west of the lake on solid ground, and thus not in the later fill, it was undamaged in the 1906 quake.

Much of the Mission District was in ruins but, unlike many other areas of the city, it did not burn in the first two days. The shifting soil apparently ruptured the water mains between Valencia and Mission, but the fire department was able to keep the Mission District from burning by using the Twin Peaks water coming out of the hydrants on Valencia.

At the fire which destroyed the building at the northwest corner of Mission and 22nd streets immediately after the earthquake, there was no water to be had east of Valencia Street, but the double hydrant at the northwest corner of 22nd and Valencia and the southwest corner of Valencia and 21st St. furnished an abundant supply, which, with the aid of the cistern at 22nd and Shotwell St., extinguished the fire.

Some of the damage along Valencia, in fact, was probably caused by the burst water mains:

Botzbach was a bookkeeper at the Valencia Hotel, where it is believed at least 80 people were initially trapped by the quake, and later killed by the firestorm that swept through the city. Some are also believed to have drowned by burst water mains which flooded the collapsed hotel.

A geologic investigation in the aftermath of the earthquake provides more interesting details of the upheavals along Valencia.


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New twist in Libby’s appeal: was Fitzgerald’s use of classified documents illegal?


The issue is whether or not Fitzgerald was entitled by his position to view classified documents that Scooter Libby wished to use to prove that he was too busy to remember who said what, and when. The Libby defense team contends that he was not, as a US attorney, entitled to do so, by law. They then use the fact that he did view these documents, anyway, as an argument that Fitzgerald was acting unconstitutionally, as a superior officer of the executive branch, but without Senate confirmation.

The appeals panel of three judges who are hearing the emergency appeal on Libby’s immediate incarceration have reportedly rejected an amicus brief written by several law professors. Meanwhile, trial judge Reggie Walton has filed a 30 page brief detailing his reasoning on the major appeals issues.

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