Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wow!!

Spain has joined the ranks of nations that allow gay marriages!

This is such happy news. Unfortunately, it makes me think about the U.S. and the ignorance and bigotry that still allows states to pass laws banning gay marriage. I believe that there's certain powers that should be granted to the states, but I also believe there are basic rights that should be extended to all people including the right to not be discriminated against because of your sexual orientation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Fabulous End to Pride Month





Canada Lawmakers Approve Gay Marriage Bill

I can remember back in 1996 when my college friends and I thought Hawaii might become the first state to legalize gay marriages, and how some of my friends talked about going to the Netherlands to get married. And then how I teased my cousin, Bill, that he must get his partner Bob to Ontario, Canada and get married since his sister had finally gotten married at age 40-something. He laughed and said maybe if it became legal in Massachusetts. A year later that became reality. I'm so very happy to see our neighbors to the north doing the right thing.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What's Your Live 8?

With all these Live 8 concerts being set up, I thought to myself, "Julia, what kind of line-up would make you take out a loan and do whatever it takes, even risk death, to get to an all day music festival?" Here's my list (difficulty=only 8 musical acts allowed):
  • Radiohead
  • U2
  • They Might Be Giants
  • The Smiths
  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • Depeche Mode
  • Soul Coughing
  • XTC

Hey, I know a few of these groups are broken up but I can dream, right? And yes, I've heard the news about a potential Smashing Pumpkins revival.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -- Benjamin Franklin

I've recently been welcomed into the beer blogging community over at A Good Beer Blog. My first post was about legislation in NY state to create a beer trail. The post is here. A good many thanks to Alan for taking a chance on a Western NY woman who probably knows diddly about beer when compared to the other contributors on the blog.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Bush Lied.. People Died: Part 1,700 and counting

The full text of the Downing Street Memo.

Text of the Downing Street Memo - a document containing meeting minutes transcribed during the British Prime Minister's meeting on July 23, 2002

• As originally reported in the The Times of London, May 1, 2005

SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY

DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell

IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY

Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Conclusions:

(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

MATTHEW RYCROFT

(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)



********************************************

Cast of Charaters–who are the people mentioned here?

Below is a breakdown of the various individuals mentioned in the memo - all of whom were present during the meeting with the Prime Minister.

- Foreign Policy Advisor - David Manning
- Matthew Rycroft - aide to Manning, wrote up the minutes of the meeting.
- Defence Secretary - Geoff Hoon
- Foreign Secretary - Jack Straw
- Attorney-General - Lord Goldsmith,
- Cabinet Secretary - Sir Richard Wilson
- Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee - John Scarlett,
- Director of GCHQ - Francis Richards, head of the UK's "signals intelligence establishment", an intelligence agency, which reports to the Foreign Secretary.
- Director of SIS (aka MI6) - Sir Richard Dearlove, identified as 'C' in the meeting minutes, heads the UK's foreign intelligence service
- Chief of the Defence Staff - Admiral Sir Michael Boyce
- Chief of Staff - Jonathan Powell
- Head of Strategy - Alastair Campbell
- Director of Political & Govt Relations - Sally Morgan

We will be posting a revised version of this list with descriptions of the various roles and their US equivalents soon.

Though it is sometimes difficult to equate a given official to his or her US counterpart, it's clear that this was a meeting at the highest level within the UK government.

Attendees included three members of the Cabinet (Prime Minister Blair, the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary), the nation's most senior bureaucrat (the Cabinet Secretary), three out of the four top people from the UK intelligence community (the JIC Chair and the heads of MI6 and GCHQ), the head of the armed forces and four of the innermost circle of the PM's political advisors.

The relatively junior level of the author bears no relevance to the contents, which describe the thinking and opinions of the principals.

More Congrats

A big congrats goes out to Richard & Kim on the birth of their baby girl, Emily Rose. Emily came into the world this morning, weighing 8 lbs 7 oz. This is the first girl for both Richard and Kim, so there is much rejoicing. All this really means is lots of corruption from me, but we won't tell them that just yet!

Resigning For the Political Machine

The big story of the day to the north of Chautauqua County is the surprise announcement by Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples that she will resign as of June 30th to impress upon the State Legislature the need for a County Control board. That is her official statement for why she is leaving office.

Here is my take which was explored by WBFO as well. Deputy County Comptroller Thomas W. Mazur has offered to take over for Nancy when she leaves office. Either way, a Republican must be appointed upon Ms. Naples' departure. Aside from all the politics, missteps, and incomptency around the comptroller's office and Erie County government, this is what is generally called a mid-term departure. What happens, usually, is that when an elected official leaves office another person of the same party is appointed to that official's seat. This is to guarantee that the people being represented by that official retain a voice in the governmental sphere.

What it really is, in my opinion, is a chance for the political party of that person to ensure that they have a candidate for the next election with some sort of incumbancy. Both parties do this frequently. I've seen it happen, with much success, in the Chautauqua County Legislature and now Nancy Naples is setting things up for whoever takes over to have a greater advantage over Democratic Candidate Mark Poloncarz. Here's just another example of politicians thinking about what's best for them and the party and not what's best for the people and the community.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Leading An Investigation About Yourself

Mark Felt was ordered to lead several investigations into the identity of Deep Throat. I found this hilarious. Here's the guy who "outs" Nixon and then makes some clever, and necessary, moves to throw off those around him trying to find out whom the leak is coming from. I don't know if Mr. Felt had a sense of humor about this at the time, but I like to think he would sit at his desk and chuckle as he read the reports on the investigation findings.

Summer Reading

Continuing with a literary thread, I thought I'd post some of the books I hope to get my hands and mind on this summer. How many copies are available at the library and funds in my wallet will determine my success.

Emma by Jane Austen
Waking Beauty by Elyse Friedman
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life In Italy by Frances Mayes
In Tuscany by Frances Mayes
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Dress Your Family In Corduroy & Denim by David Sedaris
The Mothers Recompense by Edith Wharton

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Book Meme

Answer on your own blogs, please, and spread the love. The questions!

Name three books on your book shelf. One from each end and one from the middle.
I have several book shelves, but here's a smattering:
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
A Man With a Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton


What reading material is in your bathroom?
Whatever gaming books Matt has picked up lately and America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

Favorite authors and why.
Martha Grimes - For her Superintendent Jury mystery series
Edith Wharton - For her detailed scrutiny of the late 1800s New York society
J.K. Rowling - For writing fantastic books, in general, and getting kids excited about reading
Dan Brown - For writing well-researched suspense books that lead to you believe it could be true
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - For being there when I needed volumes of books to read in college
Douglas Adams - For writing a type of sci-fi that I could enjoy and that made me laugh out loud
Deborah Crombie - For writing a mystery series where you feel like you know the
characters, but there's not so much romance that it's chick lit
Sophie Kinsella - For writing decent chick lit
Gordon Korman - For writing hilarious young adult books that I can still read over and over again even after junior high (see Don't Care High and A Semester In the Life
of a Gargage Bag)

Least favorite authors and why.
Stephen King - I don't like horror
Romance Novels.. the Harlequin variety - Why don't we just call it soft core and get over it?
Most Bestsellers - Shoddy product with too much violence or contrived romances

What author is over rated?
That guy on the bestseller's list who writes those thriller/crime books.

Would you (have you) picked up a woman (or man) in a bookstore?
Hah! I can do better than that! I picked up a guy in a bookstore during winter break of my freshman year in college. It was the old Village Green bookstore on Monroe Ave. in Rochester, NY. I forget his name, but we started talking and then went to Gitsi's for some coffee since it was close by. He called me once after that to see if I wanted to go to the movies, but I blew him off and said I was going back to school and was too busy to go out. So cruel, I was then.

Do you eat while you read? If so what’s your food of choice?
Yes. A huge mug of tea. If it's the middle of the afternoon, sometimes I'll throw in apple slices, cucumber sandwich, and a cookie as a quick afternoon tea.

Name one book you’d recommend for someone searching for meaning or insight or inspiration.
Literature is so personal. I'm reluctant really, but here's one:
The Ghost of Hannah Mendes by Naomi Ragen

Name one book you’d recommend for a day on the beach or a rainy day in the house.

Beach: A Year In Provence by Peter Mayle. I read all the books our library had by him last summer. It made me want to go to France to have some truffles despite my adversion to all foods in the fungi group. A great escape set of books.

Rainy Day: Even though it's a YA book, I like to drag out Through A Brief Darkness by Richard Peck. It has a rainy feel to the story.


Do you judge a book by its cover?
Sometimes.

In the bookstore, what section do you head to first?
The new fiction section

I pass this onto:
Matt B.
Heidi
Mike S.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Brief Catch-Up

Matt and I are in the house but the phone company just turned on our phone last night. We'll have to deal with dial-up service (once I get the new numbers) until our DSL gets connected. Matt is fuming that we'll probably go almost 2 full weeks without Internet access at home. The people at Alltel should be glad if they have all their limbs when this is over. At least we don't have to pay transfer fees now.

In other news, we're extending our congratulations to Chuck & Lori on the birth of their son, Benjamin Stephen, yesterday morning! The little kid weighed in at 8lbs, 4oz and is in good health. We're proud to say that Lori began to go into labor while hanging out on our new front porch with us Sunday night.

Also, a big congrats to our friends Sean and Anne on their engagement this past weekend. Sean asked the big question while they celebrated Jaw's 30th Anniversary in Massachusetts. We couldn't be happier for them and I personally think it's awesome that my matchmaking skills actually worked on them in 1995. Yes, you read that correctly.. 1995.

Away, Away

We're on a mini-vaca in an area where they're experiencing forest fires (thanks asshole arsonist). It's an area that makes Clift...