Friday, February 02, 2007

Comet McNaught over Italy, from
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Iraq By the Numbers

Number of additional combat brigades current U.S. commander in Iraq General
Casey says are needed: 2

Number of additional brigades Bush is sending: 5

Number of additional troops Bush announced he is sending : 21, 500

Number of actual additional troops in this escalation
when support troops are added
(according to Congressional Budget Office) : 35,0000 to 45,0000

Number of bodies found in Baghdad yesterday: 100

Bush's request for spending on Iraq in 2007: $100 Billion

Estimate of 2008 request for Iraq: $140 Billion

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, James Joyce, who liked to have his books published on this date.
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Mike Tomlin, new head coach of the still-World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Daily Babble

I know it's killing you to know. Not the exact date of heat death for the planet, or the formula for minimum humiliation in Iraq. No, not even the likeliest Harry Potter characters to give up the ghost.

No, what you're really dying to ask is, who does Captain Future like in the Super Bowl?

First of all, I must point out that at this moment the PITTSBURGH STEELERS ARE THE SUPER BOWL WORLD CHAMPIONS. The year isn't over yet, jagoff.

Okay, you've got your Indianapolis Colts, which team the Steelers creamed on the way to the Bowl last year, and their cute QB, Payme Manning. And the Chicago Bears, another of the classic teams of the NFL, along with of course the Pittsburgh Steelers. And their working class quarterback, whatshisname, who by the way I would not count out. Maybe not a glamor boy, but canny and maybe even capable.

The Bowl is unique this year because for the first time there is a black head coach on the sidelines. In fact, there are two. Racism in pro sports is an old story, and a continuing one. It might have taken until 2147 for there to even be a black head coach in the NFL if it had not been for the Rooney Rule, instituted by Dan Rooney, head honco of the Pittsburgh Steelers, (the Rooney family has always owned the Steelers, through three generations) which mandates that every team with a head coaching vacancy must interview at least one qualified non-white candidate for the position.

This rule, coming out of a city with its own history of sports racism, was important to the hiring of those coaches in this year's Bowl, as indeed it was to the recent hiring of the first black head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin.

But back to the Bowl. I've got my own strong pull to da Bears, having gone to college in downstate Illinois. So I wouldn't be crushed if they won. But my sentimental favoritism has to go with the head coach of the Colts, Tony Dudgy, who was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator as a very young man, with the Pittsburgh Steelers of Chuck Noll. I don't recall meeting him on those few occasions when I interacted with that team for a story, but I do remember his post-game interviews on TV. The thing about Dungy is that he's not only a great football guy, he's a good person. And that's very much the Steelers Way. Even today, management emphasized that they hired Mike Tomlin first of all because he was a good person. Tomlin said the same about assistant coaches he has since hired. It may sound strange, very un-football and un-Steelers, but it is has been a characteristic of the Rooney Steelers since the beginning (sometimes a notable difference from other teams in town.)

So I'm saying win it for Tony. I'm rooting for him. Because he's a Steeler, and even if they play to a draw, I don't think the Steelers get to keep the championship. Which is maybe a rule they should look at.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

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Molly Ivins

“If Mark Twain has a female counterpart on today’s political and journalistic scene, it is Molly Ivins. She has that miraculous ability to slice and dice an entire raft of political horse-dung with a single simple sentence, laced with wry, seeded with sweetness, and so often utterly cleansing and clarifying.” --Harvey Wasserman


Columnist and author Molly Ivins died Wednesday. She was 62. Intelligent, intrepid, incisive, heroic, and incredibly funny. And irreplaceable.

There are many tributes on the web today. But Democracy Now! is a good place to start.
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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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The Next President

Since the last time the '08 election was mentioned here, a lot has happened. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson have announced their interest or candidacy, as have several Republicans, while John Kerry announced he won't run.

On the Republican side, the prohibitive frontrunner John McCain has been slipping nationally, due to his odd support for more war in Iraq, and is said to be tanking in the New Hampshire primary, for the same reason. Rudi Guliani leads most national polls now, though there are doubts that Republican primary voters will smile upon some of his positions or personal history. But some political types feel that if he could get through the primaries--and he would be helped if primaries in bigger states are moved to be held earlier in the process--he would be formidable in the general election.

The Democratic field is considered to be stronger as a whole, and historic: the two leading contenders are a woman and a non-white man. If you consider Richardson the fourth contender (after John Edwards), then there's a Latino as well. Hillary Clinton remains the prohibitive favorite, with name recognition and money, and an emerging strategy of galvanizing the female vote. Barack Obama started strong, but is still far behind at this point. John Edwards is still very strong in Iowa but runs third in national polls.

I hope we get good debates among candidates when there is still a viable race, though the media would like to pick a candidate long before then, and others apparently would like that as well. Front-loading the primaries with big states, especially California, may do that, but even before then, there is the apparently necessary but very unseemly struggle for money. I don't mind that candidates have to get money, but if the stories are true, they also try to deny other candidates from receiving money from their big donors, and that's pretty seamy.

Right now the attention is on Hillary, and she's getting a pretty even-handed press. How she will deal with the negatives that have followed her, and the role of Bill Clinton, probably even more popular today than when he left office, will determine a lot.

What prompts these campaign observations now is the sudden move by Senator Barack Obama to take leadership in the matter of Iraq. He is introducing binding legislation that spells out the procedure and conditions for troop withdrawal from Iraq beginning in May and ending in March 2008.

While the Senate and the Democratic party in general is going at this with deliberate speed, working on sense of the Congress resolutions, seeing how to peel away Republicans anxious not to be saddled with Iraq, Obama has leapfrogged ahead. While introducing a clear, definite plan is close to astonishing, it could be just the start of something. Obama's rhetoric has favored common sense solutions, bipartisanship in working together for all the people. If he can actually lead in Congress to get something like this bill passed, it would go a long way towards establishing his leadership abilities. His presidential star would definitely rise.

Frank and
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All in a Day's News

Tuesday's news was like a review of a year or two of posts here at Dreaming Up Daily. Once again, the Bushites are sending the escalation of U.S. troops into battle in Iraq without enough body armor and other necessary equipment, while (according to this Washington Post story) "The increase would also further degrade the readiness of U.S.-based ground forces, hampering their ability to respond quickly, fully trained and well equipped in the case of other military contingencies around the world and increasing the risk of U.S. casualties, according to Army and Marine Corps leaders." At the same time, a government report questions whether the National Guard has the equipment it needs for emergencies in the U.S.

Update: A Pentagon report shows how dire the situation is for troops now: without the equipment they need.

Where are all those billions and billions of dollars going, you might well ask. Jeremy Scahill has this answer:

Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.

Bush's mercenary army (and his several attempts to use it in US emergencies, such as New Orleans) has been mentioned here more than once; it's getting wider press now because the helicopter shot down in Iraq the other day belonged to Blackwater, the major mercenary company.

Meanwhile, at the Scooter Libby trial, a parade of testimony, much of it from within the Bush administration, reaffirms that VP Cheney did request the CIA to send someone to investigate the rumor that Iraq was buying nuclear material from Niger, that when the conclusion of that investigation (by Joseph Wilson) contradicted what Cheney wanted to hear and what Bush claimed was true in order to justify invading Iraq, Cheney and Libby blamed the CIA and specifically Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent and Wilson's wife. And that Libby lied about how he learned of Plame, which was from Cheney.

Both the House and Senate have begun committee hearings on the Climate Crisis. While the Senate looks into the matter itself, the House Oversight Committee heard testimony about how relentlessly the Bushites attempted to suppress climate science. Nearly half of climate scientists surveyed personally experienced attempts to interfere or suppress even the mention of global warming, while half of them felt the interference was so severe that they resigned.

This confirmation of previous stories about this political and dictatorial abuse received new relevance with the revelation by the New York Times that Bush has issued an executive order requiring that all government agencies have a political appointee--appointed by the President--to supervise regulatory rules. In the most political of all administrations, this is yet another bald attempt to control health, safety and environmental regulations of industries, and thwart the will of Congress in the regulations they pass. So soon, not only will "global warming" be banished from official Newspeak, but also such bothersome words and concepts as "pollutant," "health hazard" and "dangerous."

Monday, January 29, 2007

by Paul Klee.
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Iran This Time

Though Bush's intentions regarding Iran are unknown as yet, what's clear is that he's not getting a pass this time, thanks to the deceptions about Iraq. Several cable news shows have been all over this, and David Sanger in the New York Times writes of the denials from the White House but adds: To many in Washington, especially Mr. Bush’s Democratic critics, the new approach to Iran has all the hallmarks of an administration once again spoiling for a fight.

Iran's role in Iraq, and especially the supplying of weapons (which some report as unproven) are what the Bushites are talking about now, but the Big Fear behind it all is the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Israel has been particularly insistent on this, saying that the usual estimate of a decade before Iran has that capability is wrong, and they'll have them much sooner.

In the midst of all this ginned-up angst about nuclear capabilities, comes a report in the Guardian that says:

Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.

Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.
Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved.

Some Iranians are themselves working this deception, these sources say, for instance by telling the International Atomic Energy Commission that it plans to install a cascade of 3,000 high speed centrifuges critical to making nuclear material, when it is in fact nowhere near capable of doing so. So as the Bushites play with fire, they have odd partners.

While this evaluation of Iran is only one point of view, it's worth noting the sources, and also the other knowledgeable reporting that the political situation in Iran is not as solid--nor as solidly behind the idea of nuclear weapons-- as the Bushites maintain. What's important here is to find out the facts, and not go crazy again over a Big Fear fit either promoted by the calculating or by the unsophisticated, who aren't equipped to evaluate the information they receive. I suspect there are a lot of both in this White House.