John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica



 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006
In and Out for the New Year


Guys, buy your better half some frivolous fun.  Click on any image above for more details.  Remember: a gift from Home Depot doesn't exactly say, "Let's go to bed early tonight."  I think I've explained this enough.

Ding-Ding-Ding!

You only have until Friday, the 15th, to vote for your favorite blogs (more than once) in the 2006 Weblog Awards.  If you're you like me, you just might want to vote simply because there are certain blogs listed as finalists that you hate, like this one, or this one.  I cast my ABTMFer votes in several categories.

"Democrusader" was not included

Every year, the Miriam-Webster english dictionary posts their top ten most often looked up words.  Sadly, despite my mediocre Technorati blog ranking, "Democrusader" has not been catching on as a word beyond my limited sphere of influence, as much as I had hoped.  I'll keep working on making up new words.  Of course, my sphere of influence is actually only defined as my cat.

For your spelling purposes only, here are the top ten words of 2006:

  1. truthiness
  2. google
  3. decider
  4. war
  5. insurgent
  6. terrorism
  7. vendetta
  8. sectarian
  9. quagmire
  10. corruption

The only thing that gets my underwear in bunch about these top ten words is that they must have stolen them from me, didn't include Democrusader, and we all get to use them as technorati tags until 2009* until Bush leaves.  Stephen Colbert is now on notice at Thunderstorms!

* Articles of impeachment were filed in the House of Representatives by Georgia representative Cynthia Mckinney last Friday against President Bush, VP Cheney, and Secretary of State Rice.

 






Friday, December 08, 2006
Iraq: The hope of the Kurdistan model


 Click to view

From MediaStorm:

Iraqi Kurdistan is an expansive look into the daily lives of the Kurdish people of northern Iraq.  These images provide an alternative perspective on a changing culture, one different from the destruction and discord that dominates so much media coverage of the region.

Here are policemen seated on the floor, eating lunch and laughing, old men taking care of their fields and young girls celebrating at a suburban birthday party.

There is also hardship and tribulation, to be sure; the Iraqi Kurds endured generations of brutality under Saddam Hussein.  His genocidal campaigns cost close to 200,000 lives.  But as Iraqi Kurdistan documents, the region is mostly peaceful today.  The people enjoy more autonomy and women's rights continue to grow stronger.

Documented by photojournalist Ed Kashi during a seven-week stay in 2005, the photographs of Iraqi Kurdistan are presented in flipbook-style animation; gradual changes between still images simulate motion.  The thousands of images that comprise this project are as striking as they are bountiful. Watch it now.

In-depth analysis

With the release of the much publicized Iraq Study Group's report (read PDF), it's quite plain that the Bush administration is slowly being dragged out of its state of being In Denial concerning Iraq and literally being pushed into doing its job.  However, I've watched several press conferences with Dubya answering reporter's questions and I can only say that I'm not encouraged by his adlibbed or impromptu answers.  The very tone of the Democrusader's voice even while staying "on message" and dutifully parroting the new talking points he has committed to memory is petulantly defensive.  I can't count the number of times that I've heard the president whine, "Look, I understand that ..."

The ISG does recognize the relative peace and security in the four provinces that make up Kurdistan in northern Iraq.  The simplistic characterization of the populations living in Iraq generally follows the post-Gulf War no-fly zone delineations: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the middle, and Shia in the south.

Turkey and other neighbors

In order to understand how Kurdistan has not erupted into the chaos of sectarian violence that has engulfed other provinces in Iraq, one has to consider Kurdistan's history and its geographical situation between Iraq and Turkey.

I remember at the start of the current Iraq War, the U.S. government had some diplomatic trouble getting co-operation with its Cold War ally, Turkey.  Turkey felt that if Iraq was liberated from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds would immediately want independence and sovreignty.  This would be a problem for Turkey since southern Turkey is chockful-o-Kurds.  Those Turkish Kurds would want to join up with Iraqi Kurds and geographically carve out an ethnically autonomous Kurdistan, redrawing the national boundaries of Turkey.

While the ISG report has publicized the idea of working with Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Syria, to hopefully stem their deleterious influences and find some mutual regional security understanding, certain political forces within Turkey are not very helpful to peace and security in northern Iraq, and that is quietly being addressed. It's also not very helpful that some Saudi charities are raising money to give to Sunni insurgent groups or that officials in Jordan allow those insurgent leaders and middlemen to be pampered and disconnected from the chaos in Iraq.

Lydia Khalil from the Jamestown Foundation published a very informative and succinct article yesterday entitled, "The Kurdish Security Network in Northern Iraq," which explains how the Kurds have avoided much of the sectarian chaos in the rest of the country.  What I found particularly informative about her analysis is that Kurdistan's relative success had several factors that are being talked about among our political leadership in Washington, now.

The way forward

The major point of "The Levin Plan" about which I blogged stresses that political solutions in the current Iraqi government have to be used to find some chance of anyone's definition of success or victory in Iraq.  The ISG report echoes this point.  I believe that the way forward, whether one looks at the Levin Plan or the ISG report findings, should simply look at the example set in Kurdistan for peace, security, and prosperity.  The Kurds had to unite politically, control their own Peshmurga militia, and get on with life.  It worked.

Once the al-Malaki government can make the hard political decisions and reign in the Shia militias, there may be hope for the rest of Iraq.  It's not going to be easy. Some of the recent comments by the Shia SCIRI leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, during his recent visit to Washington, hinted at the decades-long hatred because of Sunni oppression.  He flatly denied that any Shia militia were involved in death squads and said that those news accounts were lies and propaganda coming from SCIRI's political enemies.  Even so, al-Hakim is another critical player that could shepherd along a political solution in the al-Malaki government.

If Nouri al-Malaki can create some unity among the Shia power brokers in his government and then reach out to the minority Sunni leaders, he may be able to bring Iraq back from the brink and put the country on a positive track.  I think if al-Malaki could use the example that the Kurdistan model represents, there is hope.

  






Sunday, December 03, 2006
Blogdrive and ISS upgrades


 Blogdrive upgrades!
As shown on the left, the co-founder of Blogdrive briefly explained Friday's much anticipated upgrade:

"We are installing new equipment at the data center today and will need to shut down parts of the web site. Shutdowns should be less then 10 minutes at a time."

Tiring from holding the old Blogdrive in his left hand while pointing to the new enhanced Blogdrive, he did not elaborate beyond that statement.

It was mentioned some weeks ago in the message forums that Blogdrive was experiencing some power reliability issues from their data center.  This had the effect of shutting down servers or causing them to turn off and then back on.  When that happened, Blogdrive users experienced problems while the servers had to resync the data across the servers.

California has been infamously known for its electricity problems.   One need only check the headlines or the wiki entry on "rolling blackouts."  While some of the larger issues in regulation and policy concerning the electrical grid in CA may have been addressed, the CA Independent System Operator corporation provides a day-to-day electrical grid system status page online for the public.  The CA ISO still had to issue warnings and alerts on power demand this past year, although they tuck it away in this PDF document.

All in all, things are looking very good for the future here on Blogdrive.  While the Blogdrive Team is not likely to issue any official statements on service reliability that are forward-looking and positive on Update, I certainly can.  My positive outlook about the future of Blogdrive is not simply cheerleading, but based on several factors:

  • When the problems started, the BD Team took immediate action.
  • They spent countless sleepless nights troubleshooting
  • Finding no obvious problems in their software and hardware, they re-located all their servers to a more reliable data center.
  • BD made significant capital investments in their business, buying new equipment

This tells me that the co-founders of Blogdrive and their team of professionals are committed to the future of Blogdrive.  This also tells me that they fully understand that service reliability is their number one priority.

In other power, performance and upgrade news

NASA is launching another space shuttle mission (STS-116) this next Thursday evening at around 9:30pm EST. The STS-116 mission is being described as one of the most technically difficult missions in the International Space Station (ISS) construction missions so far.

While the last mission installed a new set of solar panels, the primary task for this current mission is to basically unplug the ISS from its prototype configuration and start rewiring the ISS for its final, or permanent power system configuration.  The shuttle will also be carrying key ISS construction components: another main truss segment (P5) and some large funky thing called the SpaceHab single logistics module which is a fancy name for a closet in space.

The STS-116 Discovery crew consists of:

These brave, dedicated, and educated astronauts should not only be held up as heroes and people of stature in their own countries of birth, but also for the entire world.  Kids: do your homework, study hard, and take our human race out to the stars.

 


Friday, December 01, 2006
Phriday Night Phaves


It's Phriday Night!  It's time for Phriday Night Phaves!  If you have a active blog here on Blogdrive and your profile is linked to it with an image, you might be a future Phriday Night Phave.  It's very much like Blogdrive's main page of featured subscribers and profiles, except that I get to add my comments about them and so do you.  There are thousands of very interesting people on Blogdrive, so I am just going to highlight a few at a time.

logansackett

PROFILE: logansackett
LOCATION: Colorado Springs, CO
BLOG: Herb Thiel
CREATED: 10/4/04

Logan Sackett is the hero of numerous novels by the great western American novelist, Louis Lamour.  Herb is a traditional family man with four daughters, but his fatherly strictness seems to be tempered by a generous amount of humor, as evidenced by the musings in one of his other blogs, Herb's Humor.  One of his entries there that made me laugh simply says, "Aliens are coming to abduct all the intelligent, good looking and sexy people. You will be safe. I'm just saying goodbye."


savedbygrace

PROFILE: savedbygrace
LOCATION: Decatur, AL
BLOG: savedbygrace
CREATED: 3/26/04

I first noticed Rita's blog while surfing Blogdrive to compile my Finding God on Blogdrive list that was used for a Blogdrive main page poll, almost exactly two years ago.  Rita is a devout Christian and an active member of her Calvary Assembly of God church. She often quotes biblical scriptures and shares stories of compassion and faith.  A long-time Blogdriver, Rita has received well over 1000 comments! 


frisky_kittie

PROFILE: frisky_kittie
LOCATION: Orlando, FL
BLOG: eKittie
CREATED: 3/16/06

Frisky_Kittie, aka Kat, is relatively new to Blogdrive, but is no stranger to the online world, knitting needles or her many pets.  She recently moved to the Orlando area from rural northern Minnesota.  I'll be watching her blog to find out how she may react to a Winter without sub-artic temperatures and several feet of snow with which she is so likely familiar.  When you read her blog, you may discover why her header image looks suspiciously like the Napster logo.  I think I figured out why she is called Frisky, though.  *couLATEX?ghs*


nicolekathleen

PROFILE: nicolekathleen
LOCATION: Meadville, PA
BLOG: maybesomeday
CREATED: 6/11/04

Nicole Kathleen has been Blogdrivin' since the end of high school and into her first years of college.  She's young, pretty and thoughtful.  Her blog is mostly personal, but its many entries read like a version of a popular Tom Wolfe novel.  Is she Charlotte Simmons?  No, but Nicole Kathleen has her own story to tell from her experiences at college.  From just a quick glance at the characters that live with her, I think she has many tales she hasn't yet told.  This is one blog everyone will find interesting to read.


I added Malthus
to my Pheatured Phaves.
Check out his very interesting blog!


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Thursday, November 30, 2006
Iraq: A study of oil


 Iraq is no fucking video game
Well, it seems that the President's recent foreign policy trip has revealed the obvious fact that many people in the Middle East dislike Bush nearly as much as people here in the United States.  Political leaders must also sense that Bush is becoming even more irrelevant to the long term security and prosperity in the region.  Even Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki acted like GOP candidates acted earlier this month during their political campaigns and avoided being tied too closely with Bush.  Malaki has his nose in the winds of political change and is hedging his bets.

Here is an obvious observation.  Baghdad is in such chaos that Bush and al-Malaki could not meet there in the heavily guarded Green Zone.  It has been widely reported that PM al-Malaki's decision to meet with Bush in Amman, Jordan caused his own supporters in the Iraqi parliament to temporarily boycott his government.

Dan Murphy reports in the Christian Science Monitor how the Bush/Cheney administration leaked a memo to the New York Times disparaging al-Maliki and explaining options in Iraq even before the President landed in Amman to meet with the Iraqi PM.  This current Bush/Cheney administration has a foreign policy and resulting diplomacy that can only be described as schizophrenic.

Put yourself in the shoes of anyone around the world that has to deal with George W. Bush.  I can only imagine that the leaders of many nations in the world -- friend and foe -- can only pray to their individual God and beseech that they stay in office or live long enough to see the departure of this nutbag and his fellow crazies from the White House. 

If you were anyone living in the world -- besides an American citizen with no historical perspective, possessing the attention span of less than one day, and usually fed disinformation and useless fluff from our McMedia establishment -- you wouldn't trust an American president either.  Dealing with the United States for a majority of countries is like swimming naked with a great white shark whose belly is full of gold.  You hope you might get some prosperity, but you could be ripped to shreds in the process.

Do your own research

Learn about Operation Ajax: how our American CIA overthrew the democratically elected Iranian leader, Dr. Mossadeq, in the 1950s.  We installed the Shah of Iran who brutalized the population with his Savak secret police. Why did we do this?  Oil.

When the Islamic Revolution occurred in Iran, the Shah was deposed and Iranians took our U.S. embassy.  The Iranians held our citizens hostage for over a year.  We have not had normal diplomatic relations with Tehran ever since.

When Reagan was in office, we funded both sides of the Iran-Iraq war.  How immoral is that?  We sold billions of dollars of weapon systems to both governments, Iraq openly and Iran covertly.  We provided Hussein with the chemical weapons he used to kill tens of thousands.

When it became apparent that Hussein was winning the war, George H.W. Bush (41) used his Kuwaiti contacts to provoke Hussein.  That administration encouraged Kuwait to drill sideways into oil fields in Iraq. At the same time, Bush 41 didn't even suggest that Hussein's growing anger and subsequent invasion would be a problem, giving him an unspoken green light.

Why do you think Hussein was so incredibly surprised that Bush 41 launched the Gulf War?  Hussein got pwned.  We got cheap oil.

The Clinton administration maintained the no-fly zones for its 8-year-long duration, and kept the betrayed and very pissed-off Saddam Hussein in the Sunni box in central Iraq surrounding Baghdad.  Meanwhile, the Kurds in the north prospered and Baghdad suffered under U.N. sanctions. (Trivia: Saladin was a Kurd)

In 2000, Bush 43 is (s)elected.  In 2003, Bush decides to knock the entire hornet's nest out of the tree.

Why? Oil.

While George Bush's father called on the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the South to overthrow Hussein, now that the idiot son has Saddam Hussein weeks away from an appointment with the exectioner, he is now courting the Sunni Arab nations in the region to save his Democrusader ass.  It's not going to happen.  He's lost Iraq to al-Qaeda Sunni extremists and extremist Shia loyal to Tehran.  Good job, fucktard.

George Bush and the PNAC neocons who were jobless after the end of the cold war with the Soviet Union now have to live with the results of their ideological, illogical and schizophrenic meddling in the affairs of other nations.  Friends and foes are now simply watching the reaping of the seeds sown by the PNAC poster boy in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Iraqi PM al-Maliki is also a politician.  He knows he has to swim with the great white shark, but he also knows that Bush will be long gone before the hundreds of thousands of Moqtada al-Sadr supporters and his growing Mahdi militia will be gone from Iraq.

When the Bush/Cheney administration was publicly making their case to invade Iraq, all I could think about was how long the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has endured. America is not liberating anyone.  We have an occupying military force in Iraq because the neocons want Iraq to eventually evolve into a government that will be our friend, sell us cheap oil, and oppose the Iranian influence in the region.

Here's the core problem with Bush's victory in Iraq plan, other than it seems to be failing miserably.  People basically don't like to have their country invaded or occupied.  Whenever any repressive Middle Eastern regime has power, they generally only allow their citizens one outlet of freedom.  Whereas westerners have freedom of speech and expression to vent their disagreements with their government, the sole outlet left to many communities in the Middle East to express their outrage lies in the religious sector.  This has the effect of secret, private radicalization of religious adherants.  This religious extremism has occurred in a dozen repressive regimes.

What can we do? Let's leave the Shia-Sunni historical battle for them to work out. They don't need Americans in the middle.  Our presence in Iraq only unites them against our troops.

How many U.S. Marines' lives is it worth to you for driving that gas-guzzling SUV, mini-van, or pickup truck?  If only a fraction of U.S. consumers made smarter choices, our demand for foreign oil would be dramatically reduced and the Middle East would not be the "strategic national concern" that it currently is.


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