a Someone should care, maybe not you....: September 2005 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

My thoughts on many things including the army, war, politics, the military corrections system, chaos, life, books, movies, and why there is no blue food. Feel free to comment on what I say. Feedback is nice.

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

29 September 2005

No updates over the weekend

I am going to be off in Mississippi or Louisiana with a volunteer group from my church doing hurricane cleanup. Everyone have fun a be safe.

Here is a pic fopr you to look at. Afghan children. Whenever I had to ask myself "what the hell am I doing here?" I could think of these kids and others like them here and there, and in Iraq. They are why I think we need to be there.

28 September 2005

More news from Afghanistan

Afghan Interior Minister to Resign
The Interior Minister of Afghanistan is going to step down. Ali Ahmad Jalali says he wants to resume his academic career in the US.
This is the official story. The rumors surrounding the event say that Jalali is unhappy with the governments plan to appoint various former military and ethnic leaders (read Warlords) to posts within the government.
Jalali had been a leader in the fight against the Soviets and an instructor in the Afghan military. In the late 80s he emigrated to the US and became a US citizen in 1987. He was a reporter for Voice of America prior to accepting the position of Minister of the Interior in the Karzai government in 2002. His wife and children continue to live in Maryland.
You will recall my earlier comments on the facility with which Afghans change sides and accept others that do so. It appears that Mr. Jalali has been americanized in that respect.
Interestingly enough he is not the only US citizen to serve in the Afghan Government.
His departure is unfortunate because the afghan government really needs some people who are not directly tied to the anti taliban war. Who can resist the endemic urge to give a hand to old allies. Even when those old allies are not people who should be running governments. You should never let the guys with the guns make the rules .

26 September 2005

Who are the bad guys?

I was checking the BBC headlines this evening and came across this article delineating who makes up the insurgency in Iraq. Now I thought this was important because way too many people in the US have this image of "THE INSURGENCY" as though there were some monolithic bloc of people in Iraq who hate us and are trying to kill us. (this despite the fact the MOST attacks in Iraq are carried out against other Iraqis.) The BBC article identifies four groups, Al-Queda in Iraq, The Mehdi Army, Saddam loyalists, and the Ansar al Islami.
I think everyone knows who Al-Queda in Iraq is, the face of the foreign fighters, this group is out to make Iraq a fundamentalist Islamic Terrorist state along the lines of the old Afghanistan. Many, if not most, of their attacks are carried out against the Shiite majority in Iraq using the theory that if they can start an internal religious civil war the US will bail out fast.
The Mehdi army, is one of the many Shiite militias that would be big players if that civil war kicks off for real. This is the group that has twice taken up arms against the US openly. It hasn't been decimated and it's leaders killed pretty much for political reason in Iraq. The leader of this group, Moqtada al Sadr, is a politically savvy young man who is playing a dangerous game but seems to be pulling it off. Currently he is, at least verbally, supporting the government and the election process in Iraq. This could change again at any random minute.
The Saddam loyalists are just that, hold outs from the old Baath party and members of the political/military elite that want to be back on top running the show again. We could take them out of the fight by putting them in the government but the rest of the country wouldn't stand for it and, thankfully, we are not so blinded by "real politik" and overeagerness to pull out that we would consider it. This group has already lost the most and has the least to gain by continuing the fight. I personally rather suspect that most of them will eventually flee the country and form some little exile group to hang around in Paris and bitch to the Press and the various international organizations about how persecuted they are. Just like all the other little exile groups hanging out there.
The Ansar al Islami is a bit different situation. This group rose as an opposition group to other Kurdish resistance/rebel/terrorist groups (depend on who you ask) in the north of Iraq. The main groups were primarily interested in an independent Kurdisatn with them in charge. The Ansar was interested in an independent Kurdistan with them in charge that was fundamentalist. I personally am a bit surprised that the BBC is crediting them with this much influence as they were pretty ruthlessly crushed by the US forces allied with the mainline Kurdish forces back in 2003. Here is a good article that explains their situation. Ansar al Islam

Michael Yon, in one of his old posts Battle for Mosul II goes into some detail about the insurgency in the area of Mosul. It is very interesting reading and quite informative about how the factions there operate. He breaks them down as "former Regime elements" (Saddam loyalists) and "extremists" which are all of the Al-Queda in Iraq variety. Mosul is a primarily Sunni tow so the Shiite forces don't have a big presence there and the Kurds are not welcomed either.

25 September 2005

It lives in my Memory.....

There was an old Apple Tree in the orchard,
It lives in my mem-o-ry
If my Pappy had of knowed it, he never would have growed it
‘cause he died in the old apple tree.

Does anyone out side of my immediate family know this song? I recall my parents teaching it to us when I was quite young. It was one of those things we did while traveling across the country in the back of a car. (In my memory it actually goes “There’s an old apple…” “There was…” makes a bit more logical sense considering how things work out.)

Say good-bye, say good bye, say good-bye to the old apple tree. If my pappy had of knowed it, he never would have growed it cause he died in the old apple tree.

There are probably verses that I don’t know or don’t remember but it starts off with the narrator telling how his or her father takes the wife or daughter of a local big wig out to a dance/party. He keeps her out way too late.

One night Pappy took Sister Jordan, out to the jamboree,
When he brought her back at sunup,
Brother Jordan* got his gun up,
and chased Pappy up in the tree

Repeat chorus

Now I think it was my mother who once told me that when she was a child they originally said “Bishop Jordan” instead of “Brother Jordan”, and in a Mormon community that has some significant connotations. At any rate, the local stalwart has run the father up the tree and then summons the lynch mob……

When the neighbors came out after Pappy
Up in the tree was he.
So they took a rope and strung ‘im
By the neck and then they hung ‘im
From a branch of the old apple tree


The final verse is short and concise

Put the apples in a basket
Cut the tree down for a casket
And now Pappy’s gone with his tree.


I wonder about the origins and history of the song periodically. What happened to Pappy's wife? What happened to the children after the neighbors killed him? did the narrator ever feel the urge to hunt "Brother Jordan" down and take revenge? I know I could probably take the first line and Google it and get all sorts of info but I really don’t want to do that yet. It would take away from the feeling of ownership I guess.

Not quite a cheerful little song although it has a quite bouncy little tune. If I was really, really cruel, I would sing it and make an audio file that plays when you read the post and force you to listen. But they discourage torture in the civilian world as much as they did in my old job.

23 September 2005

Afghanistan from the air

This picture is of an unidentified Afghan village taken from the gunner's window on a Chinook helicopter. One of the advantages of being the "MI guy" was that you and your interpreter were the first two guys on the chopper. We were cargo, the infantry got on after us so they could get off before us to secure the landing zone. This of course always put me right next to the side door gunner so I could take pictures out the window while we were enroute. It was a priveledge I used constantly.

In the picture you can notice the characteristic fortress style of Afghan architecture. Walled compounds were the norm in many parts of the country and entire extended families would live inside the compound. About the only places I didn't see walled compounds was in the cities or towns (and often houses in Kabul would still have walls.)and in the mountains where there just wasn't enough flat ground to build walls.

22 September 2005

A Sign of Change

As I was driving up to my parents house this afternoon I saw two guys pushing a stalled SUV out of the intersection ahead of me. It is a bit of a difficult push because in the direction they had to go there is an uphill grade. (I have helped push cars there before.) Suddenly another SUV pulls over ahead of them and three girls (okay, young women) jump out, run back and help the two guys push the vehicle up the slope and out of the road. When they are out of the road, the girls shake hands with the guys, high five each other and jump back into their vehicle and zoom away.

No Good Deed goes Unpunished.....

The law of unintended consequences has reared it’s ugly head once again. In the country of Niger, (and when did the pronunciation of this place change anyway?) there has been great ranting about a famine and starvation. So the international aid agencies rushed together a big package of food aid to send the country.
Now this famine was caused by a drought last year or two. This year there have been plentiful rains and the farmers are expecting a bumper crop of millet. Unfortunately for them, the food aid is arriving at the same time as their harvest so there will be plentiful food all across the country that is FREE. Thus driving the prices of locally produced food way down. So the farmers will be unable to sell their crops for enough money to pay off the debts they incurred during last years droughts so they will lose their farms, and go out of business. So guess what happens next year? Right, no food gets produced so there will be another famine. Not to mention the other negative effects that the collapse of the farmers will have on the already beyond shaky economy of the country.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to try and do good.

19 September 2005

Masala in the evening

Well, we'll go for variety tonight.....

Topping the news off, The British army staged a breakout for two soldiers in Basra who had been arrested by local Iraqi police after negotiations for their release broke down. Actually, some sources say the release came about as a result of negotiations. But few negotiations involve tanks (or more likely judging from the picture I saw Armoured Personnel Carriers) knocking down the wall of the jail. It seems the two men were working undercover and managed to tick off the locals. Considering that in the days of the Empire the UK was know to go to war over similar events, things were relatively calm. No one it seems is quite sure, (or at least no one is, as of yet, talking) about how the soldiers ended up in jail.
BBC Breakout!

IN further news from the British army, a Private from Grenada, was awarded the first Victoria’s Cross to be given out in more than 20 years. Congrats to him
Victoria Cross

The Afghan parliamentary elections took place with a fairly low turn out of voters. (around 50% which puts them up with the US) Observers feel that the sheer number of candidates may have confused and intimidated a lot of the voters. Putting a list of 5,800 candidates (including provincial offices) in front of an illiterate man (or woman) and telling him to choose the best ones could have that effect. Ed in Afghanistan EdblogsAfghanistan talks about this in his Politics and Development post. It is interesting how he in Afghanistan paints a pretty optimistic picture but some of the press point out nothing but the down sides. How typical.

Speaking of that trend, I am reminded of one of our fellow bloggers. Polanco Consulting in the comments section of a recent post (200 billion) included this statement
“Can you really trust the testimonials of people who are struggling to believe they're doing something worthwhile so as not to face the true reality of war? Maybe some of the troops believe the propaganda, and the others are just not well informed.” So PC has unilaterally decided to disregard any opinions from those in Iraq that disagree with what she has decided is right. That is one way to handle the issue I suppose. Personally, I have found that closing my eyes and ignoring people rarely makes things better. Especially when the people in question have a better grasp of what is going on than I do.
Note: PC and I disagree on a lot of stuff. We seem to agree on some too. (the need for educational reform for instance) She makes an interesting read and her comments section has great debates. I am jealous.

The Mayor of New Orleans has woken up and smelled the coffee. He is calling off the announced return of 100,000 plus citizens of the city. He is even calling for (another, what is this, the third?) “mandatory” evacuation of the city. Not because there is no running water or a secure power grid but because there is a new hurricane forming up down off Florida. It would really suck if that thing were to roll over New Orleans. (of course that could settle the rebuild question too)

Speaking of other bloggers, the Zombieslayer did a great post on Race and Class. The debate has been furious. I am jealous again. It doesn’t help that I was thinking of a very similar post that I will postpone for awhile now. Race issues being what they are, the situation will soon rise again. (sort of like a zombie…. Hey ZS! Take care of this damn thing will you!?!)

Enough for tonight! Have a good evening.

17 September 2005

Attention Ladies and Gentlemen..

I have just come across a great post explaining that great question of the Anti War faction, "Why is the National Guard in Iraq?" Now I have answered that a few times in comments on other blogs but I don't recall doing it here. And I am not going to do so right now. I will leave it to this post and encourage those of you who feel it is wrong that the NG is over there go and read it. It will give you a good perspective from a Guardsman who is in Iraq. (To no great surprise to me, a lot of what he says is very similar to what I have said.) Go, read, let me know what you think.

Why are Citizen Soldiers in Iraq?

16 September 2005

Russian leftovers

Since a request was made to see some of the stuff the Russians left in Afghanistan I put together this little compilation of photos that I took in August 2003. All of these pics were taken in the same village in the mountains of south eastern Afghanistan. The bombs you see are clearly just lying around the village, the two large rounds lying next to my M-16 were brought to me by two little girls who picked them up and brought them when they saw we were looking at stuff like that.

Which leads to an interesting tale. When I first arrived in Afghanistan, one of the early interrogations I did was of a man who had been detained because the US Soldiers found a large stack of landmines in his barn. Naturally enough they suspected him of caching weapons and preparing them to plant in the roads or to make IEDs out of. His story was a bit different He said his children would pick them up and play with them. When ever the kids brought one home he took it away and put it in the barn so they wouldn't get it again. But they kept finding new ones. I really didn't believe his story until those two little girls brought be the two shells.
Land mines, unexploded rounds, guns, bullets, are just lying around. Needless to say there are many injuries/fatalities from these things.

The scary thing I suppose about the big bombs (and the little ones) is that the older they get the less stable the explosives inside them are. So they could go off if someone kicks them, or a pebble falls on them, or just because someday. And it might be today, or it might be in 10 more years. If we had tried to blow those bombs in place we would have probably flattened two thirds of the village. The one you just see the end of sticking up out of the ground was literally less than ten feet from an occupied house. We took GPS readings on the locations and the infantry LT was going to report them to the engineers so someone could come in and clean them up. These were not all of the bombs in that village. Just the ones the elders took us to see right in and around where we were operating.

PS - As I recall the Guy with the landmines in his barn was determined not to be a threat and was let out after a couple of months with a stern warning to report landmines to the police at once instead of keeping them in the barn. I hope we were correct in our read on him.

15 September 2005

Bagram AF

I thought about writing but couldn't really come up with anything that interested me enough to write about today. So you get a picture. This was taken in November 2003 from the roof of the building I worked in. We are looking towards the North East. Just a nice view. (Except for the tents, wire, and assorted junk brought in by us or left by the Russians.)

14 September 2005

Some times..... (link fixed)

There are times when you really wish you could do this......

The Devil's Panties

13 September 2005

...I may have been mistaken. A "war" story.

Early one evening in late 2003 a call came over to our office in the “Facility”, the Interrogation/Detention center on Bagram Air Force Base.  Seems there was a guy in the CSH (Combat Surgical Hospital) that needed to be screened to see if he was a candidate for occupancy in our building.  I got the call and took one of our interpreters and off we walked.
It turns out this fellow had walked up to an AMF (Afghan Militia Force) checkpoint and started shooting at the soldiers.  They quickly returned the favor with more accuracy than he had, then they picked him up and called for the US.  We picked him up and flew him to Bagram where he was patched up.  He was in recovery when I came in to see what his story was.

He was a young kid, said he was 17 which looked about right.  He was an Afghan but had been born and raised in the refugee camps across the border in Pakistan.  For the feast of Eid at the end of Ramadan a mullah had come to their mosque to preach a sermon.  In this sermon he told the men gathered together there that they had an obligation to go and fight the infidels (us that is) and the religious traitors that served us (the Afghans that accepted the new order).  He promised them blessing form heaven if they killed and American or an Afghan soldier, all the usual blandishments.  This young kid felt the spirit.  He went home and the next morning took his father’s Ak-47 and walked into Afghanistan.  (Yes, it is that easy for armed men to cross the border)  He went up to the first Afghan military checkpoint he could find and started shooting at the first soldier he saw.  This soldier was in the process of cutting wood so they could cook their dinner.  Our budding Jihadist turns out to be a lousy shot and the soldier dropped his ax and grabbed his AK and returned fire.  With much better effect.
So now our fine young friend was lying wounded, scared and alone in a hospital being run by the accursed infidel.  He was obviously a bit confused as to why we hadn’t killed him.  (My interpreter incidentally wasn’t helping; he was new and was reacting rather hostilely to the story.)  I got all this information from the boy and then asked him one last question, “Did you really think you would have gone to heaven for killing a man while he was chopping firewood?”  The boy paused, looked around, and replied “I may have been mistaken.”

The sad thing, I suppose, is because this kid was caught in the act of attacking coalition forces he stands practically no chance of getting released.  I wrote up my report and recommended him for a guest pass to our facility once he had healed up.  (Despite his callow youth he potentially had info we needed to get.)  Now if it were up to me we should have followed in the steps of the old British or French colonial armies and drafted the kid.  Put him in the Marine Corps and send him to Korea or something.  Let him really learn about Americans.  He was young and made a stupid mistake.  But we don’t do that kind of thing anymore.  So this kid will probably spend the next several years, maybe the rest of his life sitting in a concertina cage.  

No shit you were mistaken……

12 September 2005

A Karzai suggestion

Well, leaving the turgid waters of American politics I will return to another area of passion for me, Afghanistan.  President Karzai of Afghanistan has suggested that the US and other coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan need to refocus their efforts.  He questions the current strategy saying "We and the international community and the coalition must sit down and reconsider and rethink whether the approach to the defeat of terrorism that we have taken is the right one."
Now, all you folks eager for the US to take their ball and go home don’t get too excited.  He is not questioning that part of the strategy.  What he suggests is "I believe we have to go to the sources of it, where terrorists are trained, where terrorists are prompted up."
Guess where that is.  Pakistan.  Of course for political reasons Karzai cannot just up and suggest that the US send forces into Pakistan.  (or that he would like to send forces into Pakistan).  Pakistan would have kittens.  But despite official denials, that is EXACTLY what he is suggesting.  And he makes that suggestion with good reason.  
The Taliban has been staging out of  the tribal territories in Pakistan ever since we kicked their butts out of power.  Everyone in Afghanistan knows this.  Everyone in Pakistan knows it too.  The problem is that there are A LOT of people in Pakistan that still think the Taliban are the good guys.   These are the same people that are pushing the Pakistani insurgency in the Kashmir.  They are the hard line fundamentalist Moslems who really would prefer to live in a 16th century world.  (Maybe with cell phones though and AK-47s)  Now I have to give the government of Pakistan some credit here.  When 9/11 came down and the whole Al Queda/Taliban mess came out in the open bright light of day they backed us up.  They had been the primary supporters of the Taliban ever since the group was organized and the ISI (Pakistan’s Intelligence Service) had deep ties with them.  Despite this the government dropped the support (officially) and went to war.  Unfortunately, they were somewhat limited in how far they could push that war right at first for several reasons.  The first being that not every one in the ISI or the Army thought this was a great idea.  And in a country where governments have been overthrown by the military many times (guess how the current president of Pakistan got the job) you just can’t tick off groups like that without the serious threat of coups and civil war.  The second reason is the rather bizarre political situation along the Afghan Pakistan border. These are the autonomous tribal regions.  Technically they are part of Pakistan but the central government has very little actual control over what goes on there.  AS it says, the tribes pretty much rules themselves.  And these tribes are all Pashtuns, just like the ones across the border in Afghanistan.  Just like the Taliban.  And these tribes really don’t care that much about what is happening on the other side of the planet.  But they do get pretty passionate about their fellow tribal types, their religion, their ethnic codes, and their independence.  They are also armed to the teeth.  Despite these problems Pakistan has captured or killed many Al Queda operatives and a few Taliban ones.  Not bad all things considered.  
Pakistan has offered to build a fence along the border to help cut down on the infiltration.  This would be a purely symbolic gesture.  The terrain along the border is such that a fence wouldn’t last a week.  That and to be perfectly honest, the Afghans really wouldn’t be happy about that either.  Afghanistan has never accepted the Durrand line(Note:  This link give a nice history of the situation but it is VERY biased, and hence makes my point) as the border.  In fact Afghanistan has traditionally claimed all of northwest Pakistan as part of Afghanistan.  (to the point of nearly going to war with Pakistan over it back in the 50’s.)*   So despite US pressure on the Afghan Government to accept the current boundaries, I doubt Karzai is willing to accept a permanent fence marking this line.

An interesting side line to this.  When I was in Afghanistan doing interrogations I would always ask the subjects “Who is the enemy of Afghanistan?”  100% of the people I asked that question answered “Pakistan”.   They blame Pakistan for all of the troubles since the departure of the Russians.  I’ll go into further reason for that in some later post.

*  Back in the 50’s when the Afghan king was threatening war with Pakistan over the Pashtun lands he went to the US for help in modernizing his army.  He wanted weapons, training the whole deal.  The US said no.  The world being as it was at the time, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union promptly stepped up and offered to help.  This was the beginning of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan that reached it’s acme with the invasion and the subsequent Najibullah regime, and it’s nadir with the Soviet’s precipitous departure in the late 80s.  Which involvement of course laid the foundation for the rise of the Taliban and all the subsequent problems.  Ain’t it wonderful to see things come back and bite you 50 years later?

11 September 2005

Good Bye Big Easy

When the rebuild New Orleans, because we all know that it will be rebuilt, right in the same spot to await another big hurricane to come and do it again someday, they really ought to change it’s nick name to The Big O or something.  Because the “The Big Easy” is dead and will soon be gone.  Now why would I say that?  Well consider this.  Part of what gave New Orleans it’s edge was the friction between the old and the new.  The fact that there would be an old run down building right next to a modern fancy one, the richest house in the city would have one of the poorest right across the street.  There was always that pull between the classes, the races, the ethnicities in the city.  And that is going to change in a big way with the reconstruction.  
Think of all the areas with older slightly rundown buildings that could be rented cheaply (or at least cheaper).  A lot of these areas have been flooded out and many if not most or all of the buildings will have to be torn down and rebuilt.  Now, are they going to be rebuilt as old rundown cheap to rent places?  I think not.  The owners of the land are going to be seeing big dollar potential in building condos and developments that will bring in BIG $$$$.  Not low cost housing.  So a lot of the poor in New Orleans are going to find themselves priced right out of town.  I suspect there will be some areas that were damaged but not so badly that they need to be torn down where owners might decide not to rebuild but merely to touch up so there will be low rent districts.  But not many, because the good old federal government, at the urging of congressional leaders from Louisiana and all of the multitudinous and varied entitlement groups, will be throwing money around so people can rebuild.  And property owners aren’t dumb, why rebuild cheap when the Government will pay you to rebuild fancy?

In addition to losing the “edge” the city had due to the mixture in the city, it will lose a lot of it’s atmosphere too.  Yeah, the French Quarter is still there, relatively undamaged.  But the areas surrounding it to a great extent are not.  They will be rebuilt.  And that will kill the atmosphere entirely because new building just haven’t got what the old ones had.  Now there may be an attempt by planners to make it “hip” and “funky” like the old places.  Ever noticed how places designed to be “hip” and/or “funky” are usually just foolish?  You can’t design strange little out of the way shops, and odd corners.  These things have to just happen.  And they won’t be happening anymore.  If we are really, REALLY unlucky we will end up with some Disnified version of old New Orleans.  (Which would be a fate worse than the hurricane).

At any rate, developers and land speculators are going to be descending on the corpse of New Orleans like vultures.  Something new will be built there.  But it won’t be “The Big Easy”.

10 September 2005

Rights for security?

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller former hear of MI5 in the UK said the following is a speech made on 1 September.  
She said civil liberties were valued and there was no wish to damage those "hard-fought for" rights.

"But the world has changed and there needs to be a debate on whether some erosion of what we all value may be necessary to improve the chances of our citizens not being blown apart as they go about their daily lives," she said.

As for this, I say NO.  Not only NO but HELL NO.  I am not willing to sacrifice any of my civil liberties for security.  Maybe I am selfish, I don't know, but frankly the road to a totalitarian state come from making small sacrifices of rights for the "good of the people"  I don't want to go there.    

09 September 2005

Two little things

There have occured two things in the last day that bother me from a constitutional perspective.

1. They are confiscating guns from private citizens in New Orleans. But while they are doing that they are not confiscating guns from private security forces that people have hired to protect their property. So if you can afford Blackwater security you can have a guard armed with an M-16 rifle watching your property. But you cannot, it seems, sit there an guard it yourself with your legal privately owned firearm. Just seems wrong to me.....

2. A Federal appeals court ruled today that the Federal government can detain a US citizen on US soil for an indefinate amount of time without allowing him access to attornies, trial, habeus corpus, or even being charged with a crime. This is blatently unconstitutional.

08 September 2005

Short tonight

Very short, no politics. I am tired of politics. I think I annoyed the heck out of a reader today over on her blog. Sigh. Instead of a rant, or a story, or a recipe, (I would do one of those but I didn't cook today)I'll just post a few links to other interesting blogs.

1. Hooah.net - The Milblog formerly known as the NationalGuardExperience. the poster was a NG soldier over in Afghanistan. Now he is back and still ranting. He apperently became marginally famous over a list of what not to send in a Care Package.

2. Nothing to See here... Hasn't been updated in awhile but it has some real good stories about being an SF operator in Afghanistan. Also some good discussion of issues. but, unfortunetly, not current. No posts since June 12.

3. About Afghanistan an Afghan blog by an Afghan, living in the US. I just found this one so I haven't read alot of it but what I have seems good.

3. Three Score & ten or more The writings and thoughts of a retired theatre profesor, Mormon, puppeteer, and self professed fool. (Actually, he hasn't retired from being a Mormon) I mentioned this one awhile ago but I like it. Still relatively new so there isn't much there yet. His story about a day in elementary school is very good.

4. Shortpacked Not a Blog. A web comic that I rather enjoy. Link goes to the very first strip. Read and be amused. (or realize just how strange my sense of humor must be)

5. Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive Just what it says. An Archive of REALLY REALLY cool pictures.

Well that is enough for now, I'll give you more of my favorite links some other day.

07 September 2005

Nuclear Boogeymen???

Well, the other day I came across a story in the New York Times that surprised/shocked/pleased/amused (pick any combination of those adjectives you like) me. I haven’t heard much about it since then. I guess it has been overshadowed by the Katrina mess or maybe it is just not being pushed because it isn’t gloom, doom, and destruction. In fact, it is a refutation of gloom, doom, and despair on a big scale. The nuclear boogeyman of Chernobyl has been shot right between the eyes and it looks like he may be down for the count.

A panel of 100 experts appointed by the UN report that the expected disastrous effects of the Chernobyl melt down have been greatly exaggerated . Instead of the predicted horrors and gloom it seems like there is actually a relatively minor aftereffect. At the time of the accident and in much of the (hysterical) analysis since it was predicted that tens if not hundreds of thousands of people would die as a result of the meltdown. The new study says the number will be closer to 4000. Only 50 people, all of them reactor staff or first responders to the accident, died from direct radiation exposure at the time of the accident.

Despite the wide dispersal of radiation after the accident there has been no observable increase in the incidence of leukemia, a blood cancer widely associated with radiation exposure. Nor has there been an increase in birth defects or a decrease in fertility. Indeed, the biggest aftereffect seems to be a mental stress brought on by everyone predicting destruction and disaster. There was an increase in thyroid cancer among those who drank contaminated milk but thyroid cancer is treatable and only 9 of the 2000 people reported to have come down with it died from it.
After the disaster everyone was evacuated from an 18 mile exclusion zone around the reactor that still exists. Dr. Fred A. Mettler, leader of the team analyzing health effects for the Chernobyl Forum, a research group comprising United Nations agencies and representatives of affected countries says that people were evacuated from areas that have radiation levels lower than were he lives in New Mexico. In the areas still classified as contaminated there is less background radiation than naturally occurs in large areas of Brazil, China, and Great Britain. Agricultural products from the contaminated areas are generally below national and international action levels.
Indeed it could be said that the worst side effect of the disaster has been the aura of despair caused by the wild reports of doom. "People have developed a paralyzing fatalism because they think they are at much higher risk than they are, so that leads to things like drug and alcohol use, and unprotected sex and unemployment," said Dr. Mettler. Government payments to people effected by Chernobyl is draining the economies of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. More than 7 million people are receiving some sort of compensation from their governments. In the Ukraine and Belarus this amounts to better than 5% of their annual budgets. The report concluded that “The extensive system of Chernobyl-related benefits has created expectations of long-term direct financial support and entitlement to privileges, and has undermined the capacity of the individuals and communities concerned to tackle their own economic and social problems,"
For something that is supposed to destroy us all radiation really hasn’t quite lived up to it’s reputation. Chernobyl is a bust and one of the most nuked locations on the planet, the Bikini Atolls, is described by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine as …”the Garden of Eden.”, and is considered to have some of the best SCUBA diving and salt water fishing on the planet. The IAEA’ Bikini Advisory group stated “although the residual radioactivity on islands in Bikini Atoll is still higher than on other atolls in the Marshall islands, it is not hazardous to health at the levels measured. Indeed, there are many places in the world where people have been living for generations with higher levels of radioactivity from natural sources - such as the geological surroundings and the sun - than there is now on Bikini Atoll...By all internationally agreed scientific and medical criteria...the air, the land surface, the lagoon water and the drinking water are all safe. There is no radiological risk in visiting the lagoon or the islands. The nuclear weapon tests have left practically no cesium in marine life.”
They do say that if you eat the coconuts for long enough you might get a dosage higher than the recommended international safety levels.

So, I guess life isn’t going to come to screeching halt anytime soon from radiation. and of course things are still developing and it takes more than ten or even twenty yers to see all of the effects of things like this. But still, it seems the doomsayers may have overstated the disaster yet again.
I think studies like this should make people a bit more secure about things like that waste storage place in Nevada too.
Just my thoughts……

05 September 2005

Enough politics.... more bread.

I awoke this morning with the urge to eat fresh bread, so out came the cookbook. by lunch time I had finished and the long loaf on the left is already gone, warm with butter and rasberry jam. This Nan recipe comes from the book you see behind the bread, Afghan Food & Cookery.

5.25 cups flour (I used 3 whole wheat, remainder white)
1.5 tsp salt
1 pkt yeast
4-5 tsp vegetable oil (optional)
2 cups warm water

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Add the yeast and mix to combine the dry ingredients. Mix in vegetable oil (I used olive oil) and rub in with hands. Gradually add the warm water to the flour mixture and mix with hands until a smooth round, soft dough is formed. Knead for another 7 to 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. Form into a ball, cover with a damp cloth and let sit in a moderately warm location and let sit for an hour or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 500degrees. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and place in oven to get hot. Divide dough into four equal sized ball, shape or roll out the dough into oval shapes about 1/2 inch thick. Wet your hand and make deep grooves down the center of each. According to the book groves are made by hand when a women cooks the nan and they are cut in when a man makes it.) I used various implents to decorate/cut the nan.
Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and place the nan onto it. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the nan is golden brown. I cooked mine on a pizza stone in the oven, one or two loaves at a time.

03 September 2005

And the feeding frenzy starts anew.....

The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, has died at his home in Virginia the age of 80.

This will of course set off the rampant raging, screaming, fits by the left and the right over who should replace him.  The most annoying, from my point of view, are the strident abortionists, pro and con.  It is like many of them can't see the rest of the world outside of a uterus.
Bush will of course appoint a conservative and there will be much weeping and wailing from the left that the "right" to an abortion will be taken away.  Which is of course balderdash.  As long as Bush is replacing the conservative wing of the Supreme Court all he does by appointing another conservative is restore the status quo ante bellum.  Really nothing to get terribly excited about. (on the abortion front)
I am much more concerned about a possible appointee's views on civil liberties, private property, the entire first amendment, and little things like that.  Maybe it's a guy thing.....    

My Katrina Rant. (it isn't pretty)

Okay, I have been avoiding a lot of Katrina writing. It seems everyone is doing it so why join in the free for all? Nothing really new to add. But my limit has been reached. I am tired of elected officials, and other blaming the executive branch of the government in the Person Of George W. Bush for the disaster in New Orleans. I mean, come on folks, it is NOT the job of the President of the United States to deal with this. It is the job of numerous elected officials, appointees, and bureaucrats to deal with these issues. NOT THE PRESIDENT!
Let’s start at the bottom shall we? The mayor of New Orleans. I’ll give him credit. He called for the evacuation of the city, he said it was mandatory, he warned that it wasn’t “a drill”. He got a lot of people out of the city. But if the situation was that bad why didn’t he finish? Get more people out? Well, people are poor, they haven’t got cars, they don’t want to go, blah blah blah. He could have used the city bus systems vehicle to move people out. He could have ordered hospitals to move their patients, he could have asked the Governor to activate the National Guard to come down and help get people out. He knew what the projections for a Cat 5 hurricane hitting the city called for and he didn’t do any of those things. He told people to go to the Superdome. Ok, it seems like a big strong place (unless the power goes out, and it always does) When he told people to go there he OBVIOUSLY failed to lay in enough supplies for them. He fell down on his job. Or, more likely, he expected someone higher than him to take up the slack.
The Governor, she could have followed up on all of that stuff in NO and the neighboring communities. She could have activated more of her Guard units and pre-positioned them with food and water ready to move in at once to affected areas.
And don’t give me the old, “but the Guard has all been called away to Iraq by W’s illegal war” drivel. There are more than 11,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard, about 3700 of them are in Iraq. Even now only 3800 of the remaining forces have been activated. Now I’ll grant her that some Guard units were called up, there were about 200 at the Superdome and a few others scattered about. But nothing like enough to prepare for what was obviously going to be a major crisis. And if there weren’t enough ready even then, she could have asked some of her neighboring states (inland) to activate some units to help out. They would have, it is a standard practice. Doesn’t seem to have been done.

Everyone makes a big deal out of the fact that the money for flood control in Louisiana from the federal Government was cut. So why didn’t the state step up and cover it? (“They are a poor state.” Apologists will whine) Well choices have to be made and they decided that flood control wasn’t on the top of their list either despite the fact that they live there. I heard an interview with a former Mayor of New Orleans the other day. He states that in their disaster preparedness meeting it was always acknowledged that if a Cat 5 Hurricane hit New Orleans disaster would be the result and there was nothing they could do about it short of building about a 100 foot wall around the city. Everyone knew there was a problem but no one on LOCAL level seems to have done squat to prepare. They all expect the Feds to provide. They could have put a 10 cent a beer tax on at Mardi Gras and raised money to prepare. (but of course it would have been siphoned away for local pork projects)
And if I hear one more person say or imply that the problems in the area are the result of some sort of racist plot I’ll probably bust a blood vessel. (I change the channel if the Black Congressional caucus even shows up on the news now) I guess Whitey steered the hurricane to hit the poor blacks. (Ignoring for the moment that while there may be a majority of blacks affected there are a lot of whites down there too) When in fact you consider that the Mayor and the city council of New Orleans are black (or should I be PC and say “African American”? It seems to be the thing unless of course you are in the Black Congressional Caucus.), it really seems strange to blame the disaster on the white guys. I’m not even going to get into the looting, the absolute confusion and chaos on the local level as further evacuation efforts proceed, (Noticed how the mayor said martial law had been declared but the Army says no it hasn’t?) The elected officials of Louisiana have had YEARS to prepare a plan for this. And it seems they have done nothing except wait for the Federal Government to do something.
Pathetic, just pathetic.

Note: I am not absolving the Feds in this. Their response has been slow and not very well planned out either. I rather suspect this is at least in part due to FEMA having been absorbed by that monstrosity of an agency, Homeland Security. New levels of Bureaucracy to deal with will always slow things down.
It is UGLY and it is going to get UGLIER.

02 September 2005

Good news!

Well, I was doing research preparatory to writing a follow up story on John Horne, the Army SSgt who was sentenced to three years in prison for a mercy killing. You can find my original story on SSGT Horne here. In this follow up my intention was to compare Horne’s story with a report in the press of the incident that was highly critical of Horne and the army and to examine the differences in the story and try to reconcile the issues. Instead I came across some very good news. Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas has just reduced Horne’s sentence and he will be getting out of prison on the 14 of September. This is not as good as a pardon but it is a big step in the right direction. Hopefully while doing this they dropped some of the charges against him and he will not have to go through life with a murder rap following him. I haven’t found any details on that yet but I will keep looking and let you know.
Here is a link to the article in the Raleigh Durham News & Observer talking about it. It is nice to have some good news every once in awhile.

For further info check this webpage www.freessgjohnny.com or email susanajjames@yahoo.com

01 September 2005


This is a post that many of you may find dull and/or uninteresting. But I like it. It is my monthly examination of my Blog and review of it’s stats.
In August I had 201 visits to my Blog. This is up from 76 in July. Page views were 697 up from 224. Good improvement. I had visitors from 7 different countries and 30 different states in the US. I also had visitors from “other”. California had the most visitors with 39 followed by Michigan of all places with 25, followed by New York, Oregon, Other, Florida, and Virginia to round out those with double digit visitors.

74% of my visitors use Explorer, 16% use Firefox. 66% use Windows XP, 20% Windows 98, and 12% OS X.

I had visitors arrive from the Google, MSN, and Yahoo search engines, also from technorati.

Mondays had the most visitors, Saturdays the fewest. The busiest single day was Aug 03 with 21 visitors.

In my Google Adsense, I had 32 clicks on the Google ads making me a total of $9.12 in August. That makes a total of $13.08 since I started Adsense. You guys are NOT making me rich.

Well, things are growing and will hopefully continue to grow. Just out of curiosity, I would like it if everyone who reads this would tell me how you found me here and what convinced you to keep coming back.
Thanks for reading!

Chechnya photo

In my time spent surfing the net for various reasons I have come across a lot of interesting and or disturbing things. This photo is probably one of the most disturbing of them in many ways. The ambiguity of the photo makes it so thought provoking. You have no idea if the man with the gun is comforting the child or has just shot her parents. (or both) The Website I found the picture on is sort of the Russian version of photobucket or Iphoto. An interesting place to surf.
(If any of you speak Russian maybe you could communicate with the poster of the pics and find out if he was the photographer and what was going on....)