Friday, July 29, 2005

On A Break

It's back to the mountains for a few days, and I'll be incommunicado for all purposes of knowing or transmitting the news.


Hope your weekend is as un-stressful as I'm anticipating mine will be.


Tell Us, Mr. Hastert

For the past few days Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has been following the developments of the CAFTA vote that never was, that is, Charles Taylor's "No" vote that mysteriously evaporated into thin air on the night CAFTA was passed. As the story developed it began to sound more and more like some kind of Diebold conspiracy, then as evidence evolved, it began to appear that maybe Taylor was making things up to cover his ass, after being pressured to vote by his Reupblican cronies to vote for a bill much hated in his devastated district. Certainly this story in this morning's NYTimes does nothing to explain or clarify the issue. In a brief mention on the second page, it states:

"One of the strangest votes was by Representative Charles H. Taylor, Republican of North Carolina, who had vowed to vote against the pact because of his concerns for textile workers.
But as the minutes ticked by, Mr. Taylor was one of only two members recorded as not voting. By not voting, he gave Republicans a two-vote victory rather than a one-vote margin.
But on Thursday, Mr. Taylor insisted that there had been an error in the electronic voting system and that he had indeed voted against the measure.
"I voted NO," Mr. Taylor announced in a terse statement on Thursday, saying the House clerk's written log showed his vote and that he would seek to have the vote registered as a "no."
Democrats, who have already lined up a potent challenger to Mr. Taylor for the next election, accused him of trying to have it both ways.
"He seemed to find time to vote for procedural motions and legislation that had nothing to do with North Carolina," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "but he couldn't seem to figure out how to squeeze in the time to vote against a trade deal that could cost North Carolina thousands of jobs.""
I don't know whether some dirty deal went down here or not. It's telling that it seems just as likely that some voting fraud may have occurred as that Taylor is blowing a smoke screen to look good for his constituents--this is the level of trust and honesty the Republicans have established over the last 5 years. We all seen the results of voter intimidation and worse, both in and out of the hallowed halls, blah, blah. But this is what I unexpectedly found to be the part of the Times story that made me most angry:

"It was just before midnight on Wednesday when Representative Robin Hayes capitulated.
Mr. Hayes, a Republican whose district in North Carolina has lost thousands of textile jobs in the last four years, had defied President Bush and House Republican leaders by voting against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or Cafta.
But the House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, told him they needed his vote anyway. If he switched from "nay" to "aye," Mr. Hayes recounted, Mr. Hastert promised to push for whatever steps he felt were necessary to restrict imports of Chinese clothing, which has been flooding into the United States in recent months...
The restrictions Mr. Hastert promised could come soon. Within the next 10 days, the Bush administration is expected to rule on whether to impose import quotas on Chinese sweaters, wool trousers, bras and other goods.
Mr. Hastert "said to me, 'If you vote with me, we'll do everything we need to do in your district to help with jobs,'" Mr. Hayes recalled"
So, Mr. Hastert, can you explain to me why it would be that you wouldn't do everything you could to help Americans whose livelihoods have been devastated? Why would you use peoples' lives as ransom to get your political knob polished? And if you don't care about American lives and Americans in need, why are you holding office?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

First The Wings, Then The Legs

Iraqi women get the treatment. Again.

It wasn't bad enough they were raped, beaten, tortured and killed, or watched their loved ones be, under Hussein. It wasn't bad enough that they were bombed, shot at, blown up, jailed, or watched their loved ones be, under the Occupation. It wasn't bad enough they had to suffer through the Baghdad heat without air, electricity, or clean water.

No, we went in there to shove "freedom" down their throats, and by God, as Juan Cole shows, this is the freedom they're getting:

"The Iraqi newspaper al-Sabah has published a draft of the Iraqi constitution, the language of which is very closely modelled on the Transitional Administrative Law, but which departs from it in key respects...

The second paragraph says: "Islam is the official religion of state, and is the fundamental source of legislation. It is impermissible to pass legislation that contradicts its essential verities or its laws (its essential verities about which there is consensus)...

This language, making it unconstitutional to legislate in contravention of the "laws" of Islam, is much stronger and closer to fundamentalism than the original language of the TAL.I remember debating with Faisal Istrabadi on the Lehrer Newshour in spring of 2004 about whether the TAL itself could be put to theocratic purposes, since it said that you could not legislate in contravention of Islam's essential verities. Faisal was proud of what was presumably his (and Larry Diamond's) language, contrasting essential verities with concrete laws. I pointed out that you could have judges who took those essential verities to include the laws as medieval jurists understood them. But in this draft you would not need a fundamentalist judge for that purpose-- the text of the constitution specifies that parliamentary legislation cannot contradict the shariah or Islamic canon law. This language really does make it an Islamic republic, if it is retained.

Section II, 6/M says, "The state guarantees basic rights for women and their equality with men in all fields, in accordance with the ordinances of Islamic canon law. The state will aid them to harmonize her duties to family with her work in society."
Yes, the Islamic state will help her, much as it has helped her in Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and Afghanistan (oh, they're rolling in freedom over there).

It's not so much that Washington is looking for any substantive change as it is to simply mark some territory; that is, having pissed on a country, we can then move on knowing we've left an impression. And Georgie will go on his merry way as soon as some shiny new bauble catches his eye and the current toy has broken sufficiently to cease providing him the requisite entertainment--just like any prepubescent sociopath with ADD and a predilection for sadism.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Axis Thing Is So Over

Our enemies can now be encompassed by the Red Marker of Freedom in the Playbook of Defense Against Terrorism or Violent Extremism Depending on How Onboard You Are With the Talking Points.

Gear up.

I give you The Cone Of Instability.

He Just Forgot

bse_cow_vert And so it goes:

"The U.S. is investigating a possible third case of mad-cow disease, after a tissue sample from a 12- year-old cow showed signs of the brain-wasting illness.
The brain tissue sample will undergo further tests at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and at a lab in Weybridge, U.K., John Clifford, the department's chief veterinarian, said today in a tele-conference. Results are expected next week."
Clifford went on to say there was no danger because the meat hadn't "entered the human food chain". It was from a cow that had recently had difficulty giving birth. And the brain tissue sample, which had been taken back in April by a local vet, hadn't been forwarded to the USDA till last week, in a typical display of chain-of-evidence buffoonery:
"The vet 'simply forgot to send it in,' he said.
The sample had been preserved in formalin, which prevented it from being tested using a rapid screening test called the Western blot, Clifford said. It provided ``inconclusive'' results under a procedure called the immunohistochemistry test, which the USDA has described as the ``gold standard'' among several tests available. IHC tests will be used in Ames and in Weybridge, using different cross-sections of tissue, Clifford said."
We saw this before in the second confirmed case last month, where the initial tests had proved contradictory, and the ultimate determiunation had to be made by farming out the tissue to the UK. The USDA's idea of a "gold standard" hasn't been very reassuring. But what would you expect from an agency whose prime goal is not to protect the public health but to push marketing flak for ranchers and meat-processing companies? "We want to minimize the impacts upon the markets," Clifford said a year ago.

I don't really hate to say, "I told you so", but when my life is on the line, I actually like to.
I told you so.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bastard Nation Arise

We don't use cable TV. so I rely on my DSL to enjoy what little Daily Show I can get. And this evening I watched Stewart's interview with Rick Santorum. MY Congressman. Lucky fucking me. Stewart was kind and generous and delicate with him, and asked him the kinds of courteous, complex questions we could never hope to hear on the dogfight shows of cable news and Sunday mornings. He was a gentleman the likes of which Santorum, with all his faux decorum and Boy Scout demeanor, will never really be. And what burned itself into my memory wasn't Santorum's blather about homosexuality, or single mothers, or the state of the culture. It was this:

When asked about his ideal family, he said, "A man and a woman, raising their OWN child." Their own child. Not someone else's. Their own.

So all you adoptees out there, who, like me, were raised by non-biological parents, you can now join the ranks of the kids raised by gays, or in single parent homes, or in foster homes or orphanages, as kids who fucked up Rick's American Dream.

main Am I being too sensitive, or deliberately twisting his words? No. This is what he said, and he meant it. The ideal home raises it's own kids, not someone else's. What we are supposed to do with all the children waiting for homes, I'm not sure, but it's clear that whatever is done, it will only be a paltry shadow, a pale imitation, of that magnificent thoroughbred nuclear remnant of the 50's that Rick so adores.

And what's even clearer, given his record, and that of the Jehovahmite right-wing, is that the embryos have it all over the kids on the waiting lists. After all, this is the guy who voted with the rest of the faux-life Republican senators to allow the EPA to continue testing insecticides on poor kids.

Just ask Jeb Bush. He doesn't give a shit about the kids in the system, either.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Appalachian Mordor

So John Roberts has been an advocate for mountaintop removal mining.

MTR03 Writing in the April 2005 Harper's, Erik Reece examined the effects of an increasingly popular coal mining procedure in "Death of a Mountain", laying out a nightmare scenario worthy of Tolkien. He spent a year returning again and again to Lost Mountain, a peak in the Appalachians of eastern Kentucky, to observe its gradual destruction by way of moutaintop removal. The magician working this black magic, a coal company called Leslie Resources, had received a permit to start in the fall of 2003. At that time, before operations began, he wandered the area and did a poetic inventory of its beauties. A year later it was nearly unrecognizable:
"The wasted summit is now a series of tall gray mounds of rock piled to my right. to my left, the entire eastern ridgeline has been carved up and hollowed out; now it is only one wide black crater. And down in front of me, a gray bench has been turned to concrete by the heavy trucks that, over and over, have backed to its edge, then methodically dumped this mountaintop down its side. I'm standing in the middle of a wasteland, a dead zone."
In the interim he catalogued a list of horrors, including the systematic ruination of an ecosystem, and the intimidation of single mothers and communities who dared to speak out against the destruction and poisoning of their homes and the corporate murders of their friends and families.

This is what Roberts has stood behind, defended, and enabled:
"In April 2000, Washington DC lawyer John Roberts filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Mining Association in the federal 4th Circuit Court to block a lawsuit filed by West Virginia citizens opposed to the coal industry's destructive "mountaintop removal" practice. Two years later, Roberts was nominated by President Bush and confirmed to the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals. In April 2004, as a judge on that court, Roberts ruled against environmentalists who were pushing for more restrictive government regulations over copper smelters--many of whose owners are members of the National Mining Association--that emit toxic lead and arsenic pollutants."
MTR09 The destruction has been going on for awhile now. Even media outlets in the big cities have been known to take notice. Effects on communities and human beings were outlined in the Washington Post last summer.

Brave and tireless women like Dianne McFarland, Julia Bonds, and Teri Blanton have fought for years to make mining companies accountable and force the government to enforce what little regulation there is, and Blanton is currently involved with a suit to stop the EPA from issuing further permits to mining companies engaged in this most horrible of land rapes.

MTR02 Roberts may seem like a relatively innocuous choice to some, compared to a legal imbecile like Thomas or a rabid dog like Scalia. But he looks after his masters, and his appointment promises to be just one more piece of the corruption endemic in the White House record on mining issues, and the Bush-directed shift away from regulating industries and toward giving a free hand to corporations to do as they please. And as usual in our "classless" society, only the poor will be forced to bear the worst of the burden.

Pictures courtesy of Appalachian Voices

Housing, Housing, Everywhere, And Not A Buck To Spend

What does a seller do when customers can no longer afford to buy a product, but the product still sits on the shelf, needing to be moved? Say, the odd house?
Would cutting the price sound too unlikely?

A lot of hard-nosed economists and real estate experts have pooh-poohed the idea of a housing bubble, and The Oracle of Nuthin' Much hasn't been able to characterize the current madness as more than "froth". Baba%20Yaga's%20house The likelihood of the floor collapsing from under the housing market has been hard for many to imagine, mostly based on the idea that a bubble will burst only if there are no more buyers to be found, although there are folks cautioning that economic problems could loom with or without a drop in prices. And then the news came down: the housing market has porked up in front of our eyes like a fat man drowning his sorrows in Cheetos and Haagen Daaz:
"The nation's roaring housing market set its second record in three months as sales of existing homes climbed at an annual rate of 4.4 percent in June, to 7.33 million, according to a report released today.
Low mortgage rates and strong demand drove the frenetic sales activity, which far exceeded analysts' expectations. Median prices rose at their highest pace in almost 25 years, up 14.7 percent from June 2004, to a record $219,000. Average sales prices climbed 9.4 percent, to $268,000."
Gleefully, we read that the median price of a home nationally has gone up over 40% in 3 years, and despite this, people are falling all over themselves to take out mortgage applications at an historic rate, at historically low interest. The fact that they increasingly take chances on "creative" financing that more closely resembles a carny con game isn't given much white space. And the connect between long-term interest rates, that ultimately determine mortgage rates, and the decision by China to let the value of the yuan rise, is glanced at but not really examined. Besides opening the door to higher mortgage rates at a time when the cost of housing has gone astronomical, it could also lead to higher cost of living across the board, including energy, cars, and all those cheap-ass goods lining the aisles of Wal-Mart and Target that we've gotten so addicted to. Don't even think about that trip to Europe. The exchange was bad enough before, but already the Euro and pound have risen in response to China's news. And what with the minimum credit card payments going up, there will be less and less discretionary income, made worse by the fact that people already fail to save anything worth mentioning. But you'd never know, from the tone of this article and scores like it making the rounds, that the average American wasn't making a couple hundred thousand a year and casting around in heart-breaking desperation for someplace to spend all that lucre.

That is, unless you paid attention. The bottom line is that, even in these delusional times, you have to be able to come up with the money, or a reasonable facsimile, before you can buy a house.

People in sweaty markets have been playing one end against the other, utilizing creative methods of buying property that, in a saner time and place, they wouldn't have touched with hazmat equiment. But the scent of blood is in the air, and the old tricks aren't enough anymore. Lack of affordable housing has finally started to affect the middle class, and when they can no longer afford to buy housing, all the hot condos and yupscale gated communities in the world aren't going to help the vultures running this show. Let's take a look at what we're seeing now, and what it bodes for the future.

From a December 9, 2004 story in WaPo on the sitch in the D.C. area, one of the worst for overpriced housing:

"The region's home prices are rising faster than its wages, worsening the affordable housing crunch, especially for low- and moderate-income workers such as parking attendants and firefighters, according to a report released yesterday by the Fannie Mae Foundation and the Urban Institute...The region's wages rose 9% on average from 2000 to 2002...but median home prices went up 37% during that time."
We've seen the impact of this before, where the very police paid to protect a community are unable to live there---the "coolie effect", where the hoi-polloi, with their embarassing social awkwardness and inability to afford tasteful furnishings, are blessedly banished unseen to another quarter when the need for them is over. But by their commutes ye shall know them:

"(the new economy) is not housing workers close to their jobs. That leads to lengthy commutes and less time at home for employees, the report said, as well as worsening congestion and pollution that could make the area less attractive to prospective employers..."
So in one of those reverses of fortune so beloved by ironists, a long commute, much like driving large cars in the 70's during the oil crisis, may soon become the hallmark of the less-affluent, rether than its opposite. Add to this the fact that people who do opt for the big plunge into debt are spending so much of their income on their mortgages (often more than 50%) that they can't even afford the simplest pleasures, and more and more of their assets turn out to be merely paper illusions in a creditor's shell game.

"The report recommended that localities promote dense development, which is less controversial than it once was, and require that affordable units be built in the most popular housing markets..."
That will make life more attractive and livable: cramming more and more of the working class into more and more crowded living conditions, while the upper crust gets to slink off to their landscape-challenged developments and bloated McMansions. They think we have problems with agression, crime, and quality of life issues now? And if that isn't enough to divide us, there's this:

"(the report said)recommendations will be difficult to implement because they require people to "reach across lines of race, class and political jurisdiction."
Right. In our "classless" society, about the only institution less integrated than the local church is the local neighborhood. Yet these are the recommendations of Fannie Mae, that government bastion of probity and trustworthiness.

Over a week ago, Jill Barton reported on the dismal fortunes ahead for working people in another overheated market, Florida:

"The red-hot housing market in booming cities across the country has made the dream of owning a home out of reach, not only for low-income families but also for white-collar professionals...
Real estate experts warn that housing prices in many markets are too quickly outpacing the incomes of most workers...
In California, the situation has long been the worst: Only 17 percent of households could afford a home with a median price tag in April,...By May, the median home price in California climbed to $522,590 -- more than double the price in most other states. To buy the typical home with monthly payments of $3,067, a California family would need to earn about $122,700 to qualify for a conventional loan.
The average family in Florida earns nearly $44,000, which fell 26 percent short of the amount needed to finance a median-priced home last year....
(Nationally) ...the typical household earns about $56,323, enough to buy a home costing $250,900 and 133 percent of what's needed to afford the median-priced home of $188,800..."
So to be able to afford these insane costs, people are ready to impoverish themselves or take chances that their lives will hold no nasty surprises like accidents, illness, or other unforseen impacts on their incomes:

"Buyers are choosing (interest-only loans,) adjustable-rate mortgages that keep payments low for a few months to a few years, or 40-year mortgages that allow them to stretch payments over an additional 10 years."
And in the St. Petersberg Times, they report:

"The double whammy of soaring home prices and low-cost housing being replaced by high-end condominiums is slamming the door on the dream of homeownership for many Tampa Bay area residents. It isn't just low-income residents who are being priced out of the market; increasingly, middle-income families are struggling to find an affordable place to live.
...average home prices in Florida have risen 70 percent since 1999, reaching a median sales price last year of $218,600, while the median wage was only $25,670...Developers are snatching up mobile home parks and aging apartment complexes - places that provided affordable shelter for those of limited means - and replacing them with expensive townhomes and condominiums. Displaced residents are struggling to find any other place to live. modest neighborhoods are replaced and property values rise, housing within the reach of working people like teachers, police officers and employees in the tourist industry will disappear..."
And here is the coup de gras:

"Unless the problem is resolved, bankruptcies and homelessness are real possibilities for far too many Floridians."
And not just in Florida.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Political Is Still The Personal

Operation Rescue is pretty satisfied that John Roberts is their saviour:

"Roberts has shown strong conservative credentials with indications that he will not uphold Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that decriminalized abortion. Roberts coauthored a 1990 legal brief that stated, "The court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution."
"A culture of life can never be built as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the land," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman."
Good old Troy Newman, speaking from the expertise of personal experience. Just like the heads of the majority of the anti-abortion clubs. The group bio of OR says it all:

"In 1986, a cadre of men, including Randall Terry and ORW principle board members Rev. Joseph Foreman and Ken Reed, founded Operation Rescue. "

And over at American Street, echidne skewers John McCain and Chris Matthews for their paternalistic and Godlike discussion of what they would allow women to do, or in their absence, allow their male physicians to do. (Note also the assumption on their part that said physicians would also be male.) But let me pick up the small end bit left out of her post:

"MCCAIN: Which is why we come down to the position life of the mother.


MCCAIN: Then you—then you don't get into this equivocation.

Look, this is—can I just add, finally, this is a tough issue.


MCCAIN: As males, all of us, at least most males that I know, are not totally comfortable with it, because we're never going to have to make those kinds of decisions."
Even these blowhards have enough conscience to recognize when they've been pontificating a little too hard about something they will never have to face.

I propose a moratorium on all discussion about abortion for one week, unless one has actually hadan abortion. That's right, just for a week: to actually hear from people who can speak on the subject from first-hand experience, and nothing at all but blessed silence from the rest of the yipping, snapping hyenas, especially those who will never have to face making such a decision through the grace of the Y chromosome. I know women will speak out who've aborted and who regret it, and who will come out against it, but from them I can accept a differing of opinion, because they, at least, have been there. Everybody else, please, give it a break. It would be refreshing to actually hear a dialogue between people who have something to say that's grounded in the personal.

And while we're meandering down this river, how about only allowing people who have actually lived through war as civilians to make the decision as to whether to wage war on others?

The possibilities are endless.

Permanent Irony

Cognitive dissonance, or simple hypocrisy? You decide. From a reprint of last year's Bush Memorial Day proclamation, posted on Paul William Roberts' now-moribund website:

" In respect for their devotion to America, the Congress,by a joint resolution approved on May 11, 1950, as amended (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated the minute beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 31, 2004, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer."

twainlogo Whew! Just one day out of the year. No danger of achieving those ends anytime soon.

It reminds me of Mark Twain's essay in Letters From The Earth, in which he mocked how people pray: outwardly requesting for show the very opposite of that which they truly desire. As Bush and his cronies rattle their sabres in a circle around the world, first at Korea, then Syria, then Iran, then who knows where else, do they really comport themselves as people who actively seek and work for peace? Do any of us really believe, after they lied, cheated and stole their way into this so-desperately desired war, that any of them wants peace? Not 60% of us.

Ethics Inaction

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."---Voltaire

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."---Wm. Pitt

From the June 17, 2005 letter from Physicians For Human Rights to William Winkenwerder, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs at the Department of Defense, on the occasion of the announcement of new guidelines for health professionals involved in or peripheral to interrogations:
"The UN Principles state that “It is a contravention of medical ethics for health personnel, particularly physicians, to be involved in any professional relationship with prisoners or detainees the purpose of which is not solely to evaluate, protect or improve their physical and mental health.”
We note, especially, that this ethical rule is absolute, and has nothing to do with the patient-physician relationship. The physician'’s professional status requires this ethical stance regardless of his relationship with the individual. This is especially important in the interrogation context, where physicians and other health personnel not involved in direct patient care are most susceptible to unethical involvement in abuses.
Rather than applying (your new Medical Program Principles and Procedures) to those “involved in any professional relationship with prisoners,” the new guidelines would apply only to personnel with “any provider-patient treatment relationship with detainees.” That rule allows physicians, psychologists and medics not directly involved in patient care to participate in interrogations and to inflict harm on patients. It means that health personnel can be assigned to assist interrogators, be present or monitor interrogations, review medical records of detainees for the purpose of assisting interrogations, and even – though we have no evidence that this has happened – engage in interrogations themselves. Indeed, it amounts to an invitation to do so."
The DoD's June 27 response to PHR's concerns was merely to rephrase the essence of its policy, with the reassurance that it would:
"...ensure clear separation of duties between personnel providing healthcare to detainees and behavioral science personnel consulting with interrogators".
In other words, let's keep our heads, people: the assurances of ethical treatment only apply to health professionals NOT involved in the torture and interrogation of detainees. Mengele wannabees everywhere cheered, no doubt.

_40174325_graner_ap220 In keeping with the spirit of this non-effort at reassuring the public of our government's ethics related to the treatment of its prisoners, earlier this week the DoD also refused to comply with a court order to release photos and videos related to the abuse of prisoners held abroad---no doubt to spare Americans further anguish over the prospect that we could be complicit in anything so incompatible with our self-image of Girl Scout rectitude.

And now we see Dick Cheney bringing those unmatchable intimidation tactics of his own to bear on Republican senators who have been trying to pass legislation that would at least make an attempt to safeguard against further abuses in the future:
"The legislation, which is still being drafted, includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual.
The three Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman. They have complained that the Pentagon has failed to hold senior officials and military officers responsible for the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and at other detention centers in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan."
McCain is also looking at including a provision to end extraordinary rendition. Granting access to the IRC? Prohibition of the same kind of treatment that would be found unconstitutional by an American court? Interrogations by the book? This stuff could hardly be less onerous, yet it shakes this corrupt and hateful administration down to its blood-soaked shoes. The very possibility that the Infant-in-Chief and his nanny might not be allowed to get their own way gives them the shivering fits. This is how the "We Don't Do Torture" president responds to the prospect of such restrictions:
"On Thursday, just before Mr. Cheney's meeting, the White House warned in a blunt statement that Senate approval of a Republican or Democratic amendment was likely to prompt Mr. Bush's top advisers to recommend he veto the measure."
I suppose while we're in the mode to bring Scott McClellan's words back to haunt him, it's worth ending with this, from his March 17 press briefing of this year:
"The President has made it very clear that we do not condone torture. He's made it very clear to the government that we do not torture. And the President does not believe we should export torture."
But just in case, they want to leave their options open.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Perhaps Monsieur Would Prefer To Take The Mood Elevator?

Did you ever read a Russian novel from the Tolstoy/Dostoevsky era? Do you remember the cozy booths in Moscow restaurants hidden by curtains, where lovers and ne'er-do-wells could escape to consummate their desires, and lose their miseries? I need one of those. And then a phaeton to get out of town fast and find a place where no human hand can find me.

thorazineVia Atrios, I see John Gibson, resident Fox News troll, speaks for the civilized Western world:
"I love the way the Brits have 10 million cameras sticking up the nose of every citizen no matter where they are, except in the loo."
If you need a cleverly worded satiric comment to bring home the horror of the implication inherent in this sentence, you're not going to get it here. I'm too numbed out by the infinite possiblity of human hatred.

Sometimes you just have to take what the universe serves up, and figure it out for yourself.

Helen Thomas Annoys Scott McClellan Into Actually Saying Something

It's fun (for those of us who can still enjoy life without SSRIs) to look back on The Way Things Were and compare them to today. Way back when Plame was being buried, Scott McClellan, like his predecessor Ari Fleischer, said nothing not previously approved by Deputy Chief of Staff Rove (Andrew Card--the actual Chief of Staff--being the mere hood ornament of Rove's Executive Branch Anti-Personnel Vehicle). (Thanks to The Daily Beast for the graphic.)

040809hoThe talking points with which McClellan was released to do battle with the Fourth Estate are embarrassingly obvious in the following exchange. What else becomes evident, contrary to the the gloomy take many of us have on the press, is that he was given a particularly hard time by the gaggle on this occasion, and he retreated into his talking points like a spider into its web. Those talking points have been highlighted for effect, as well as some particularly prescient questions by reporters. Try reading it aloud to a friend for the full effect, and see which of you reaches for the liquor cabinet first!

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
September 29, 2003
12:18 P.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN:( Here follows a Kiwanis-esque enumeration of mundane feel-good irrelevancies...)

And with that, I will be glad to jump right into questions.

Q Scott, has anyone -- has the President tried to find out who outed the CIA agent? And has he fired anyone in the White House yet?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, HelenThomas that's assuming a lot of things. First of all, that is not the way this White House operates. The President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing. Secondly, there -- I've seen the anonymous media reports, and if I could find out who "anonymous" was, it would make my life a whole lot easier. But --

Q Does he think it didn't come from here?

MR. McCLELLAN: But we've made it very clear that anyone -- anyone -- who has information relating to this should report that information to the Department of Justice.

Q Does he doubt it came from the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Does he doubt?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's been no information that has been brought to our attention, beyond what we've seen in the media reports, to suggest White House involvement.

Q Will the President move aggressively to see if such a transgression has occurred in the White House? Will he ask top White House officials to sign statements saying that they did not give the information?

MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, if someone leaked classified information of this nature, the appropriate agency to look into it would be the Department of Justice. So the Department of Justice is the one that would look in matters like this.

Q You're saying the White House won't take a proactive role?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have any specific information to bring to my attention suggesting White House involvement?

Q If you would --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen any.

Q Would you not want to know whether someone had leaked information of this kind?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has been -- I spoke for him earlier today -- the President believes leaking classified information is a very serious matter. And it should be --

Q So why doesn't he want --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- pursued to the fullest extent --

Q Right, so why --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- by the appropriate agency. And the appropriate agency is the Department of Justice.

Q Why wouldn't he proactively do that, ask people on the staff to say that they had not leaked anything?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have specific information to suggest White House involvement? I saw a media report that said "senior administration officials." That's an anonymous source that could include a lot of people. I've seen a lot of "senior administration officials" in media stories.

Q Would they know -- to the White House?

Q Scott, when you say that it should be pursued by the Justice Department -- Justice has not said whether it actually is conducting an investigation. Does the President want the Justice Department to investigate this matter?

MR. McCLELLAN: If someone leaked classified information of the nature that has been reported, absolutely, the President would want it to be looked into. And the Justice Department would be the appropriate agency to do so.STATUE COVER UP

Q And do you know that they are doing this?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a question you need to ask the Department of Justice. My understanding is that if something like this happened and it was referred to the Department of Justice, then the Department of Justice would look to see whether or not there is enough information to pursue it further. But those are questions you need to ask the Department of Justice.

Q But, Scott, something like this did happen, right? Bob Novak had information he should not have had, that he was not authorized to have. So something --

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, all I can tell you is what I've seen in the media reports. And I've seen different statements in the media reports from, the CIA hasn't confirmed or denied that this was a covert agent for the CIA; I've seen media reports to suggest that it was referred to the Department of Justice, and that -- and comments the Department of Justice would look into it.

Q So the President of the United States doesn't know whether or not this classified information was divulged, and he is only getting his information by reading the media?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q He does not know whether or not the classified information was divulged here, and he's only getting his information from the media?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we don't know -- we don't have any information that's been brought to our attention beyond what we've seen in the media reports. I've made that clear.

Q All right. Let me just follow up. You said this morning, "The President knows" that Karl Rove wasn't involved. How does he know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. I saw some comments this morning from the person who made that suggestion, backing away from that. And I said it is simply not true. So, I mean, it's public knowledge. I've said that it's not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove --

Q But how does --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into conversations that the President has with advisors or staff or anything of that nature; that's not my practice.

Q But the President has a factual basis for knowing that Karl Rove --

MR. McCLELLAN: I said it publicly. I said that --

Q But I'm not asking what you said, I'm asking if the President has a factual basis for saying -- for your statement that he knows Karl Rove --

MR. McCLELLAN: He's aware of what I've said, that there is simply no truth to that suggestion. And I have spoken with Karl about it.

Q Does he know whether or not the Vice President's Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby --

MR. McCLELLAN: If you have any specific information to bring to my attention -- like I said, there has been nothing that's been brought to our attention. You asked me earlier if we were looking into it, there is nothing that's been brought to our attention beyond the media reports. But if someone did something like this, it needs to be looked at by the Department of Justice, they're the appropriate agency charged with looking into matters like this --

Q Well, you do know that they are looking at it, don't you?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and so they're the ones that should do that.

Q They're telling reporters that they're looking at it; haven't they told you that they're looking at it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there you have it. There you have it.

Q Haven't they told you? Haven't you asked?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've seen the media reports. There has been no requests made of us at this time.

Q But, Scott, it gets to the question if you know, if the President knows that Karl Rove was not involved, then maybe you can tell us more about what the President specifically is doing to get to the bottom of this, or what has he ordered to be done within the White House to get to the bottom of this?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President wants anyone, anyone who has information relating to this to report that information to the appropriate agency, the Department of Justice. That's what the President wants, and I've been very clear about that.

Q Is the President convinced that there was no White House involvement in this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if I could get "anonymous" to 'fess up, that would make my life a whole lot easier.

Q That's not the question. That's not the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: But there has been nothing -- there has been absolutely --

Q Does the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm answering that.

Q Scott, does he know -- is he convinced that no one in the White House was involved with this?

hogans MR. McCLELLAN: There has been absolutely nothing brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement. All we've seen is what is in the media reports. The media reports cite "senior administration official," or "senior administration officials."

Q But they're wrong, as far as you're concerned?

MR. McCLELLAN: But I haven't seen anything before that. That's why it's appropriate for the Department of Justice, if something like this happened, to look into it.

Q Those media reports are wrong, as far as the White House is concerned?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have nothing beyond those media reports to suggest there is White House involvement.

Q And the President is pretty passive on this, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: There's been no specific information brought to my attention to suggest --

Q He's not doing anything proactive?

Q Let me just -- let me follow up on one of the --

MR. McCLELLAN: He's making it clear that this is a serious -- through his spokesman, me -- that this is a serious matter, and if someone did this, it should be looked into and it should be pursued to the fullest extent.

Q But has he ordered an investigation inside the White House? If he thinks it's that serious, wouldn't you do that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have specific information, Helen, to bring to my attention?

Q No. Are you --

MR. McCLELLAN: If you have specific information, bring it to my attention.

Q Scott, you are answering questions out there for a few days on media reports. I just wonder, isn't there an internal investigation going on to find out what's happened?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Justice Department would be the appropriate agency to look into this. And if something like this happened, the President believes it should be pursued to the fullest extent.

Q Why wouldn't this be the --

Q Can I follow --

MR. McCLELLAN: Ed. I'll come back to you in a minute.

Q Scott, this is clearly a serious matter, with possible penalties being going to jail. It's not going to go away. Why -- and as you said earlier, there probably is a limited number of people with access to this information. It doesn't take much for the President to ask for a senior official working for him to just lay the question out for a few people, and end this controversy today.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, Ed, do you have specific information to bring to our attention?

Q No. But it's not --

MR. McCLELLAN: But are we supposed to chase down --

Q -- for me a big story --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Are we supposed to chase down every anonymous report in the newspaper? We'd spend all our time doing that. That's what -- I think you need to --

Q The anonymous reports, though, allege criminal activity.

MR. McCLELLAN: You need to keep in mind that there has been no specific information, there has been no information that has come to our attention to suggest White House involvement, beyond what has been reported in the newspapers.

Q The implication you're leaving us with, I'm afraid, is that nothing is being done here at the White House to even look into this matter --

MR. McCLELLAN: Wait a second, I made it very clear that if something like this happened, the President believes the Department of Justice should look into it and pursue it to the fullest extent. Leaking classified information, particularly of this nature, is a very serious matter.

Q Do you see any need to appoint a special counsel for this case, as some Democrats are demanding?

MR. McCLELLAN: At this point, I think the Department of Justice would be the appropriate one to look into a matter like this.

Q Can I follow up on that? Does that mean that you would say to the Attorney General, whose responsibility it is to determine whether a special or outside counsel is necessary, that you believe it is not necessary at this point?

BUSH GONZALES SWORN IN MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of career professionals at the Department of Justice that address matters like this. I have made it clear that they're the ones, that if something like this happened, should look into it. You need to direct that question to the Department of Justice. It would be a Justice Department matter; it wouldn't be our place to get involved in that.

Q But wouldn't you like to see all questions about the independence of any investigation taken care of by putting it in the hands of somebody who has no formal statements out there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but I think we're assuming certain things have happened. That's why I said you need to direct a question like that to the Department of Justice, to find out what has happened here, or to get a response to that.

Q Well, clearly, there is, at least on a preliminary basis, an investigation going forward.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, keep in mind what I said earlier, that it's my understanding that in a situation like this, that if information was forwarded to the Department of Justice, the first step would be to look at it to determine whether or not it warrants looking into further. So that's where -- that's what I understand the process is on something like this.

Q Scott, what do you say to people out there who are watching this, perhaps, and saying, you know, I voted for George Bush because he promised to change the way things work in Washington. And, yet, his spokesman --

MR. McCLELLAN: And he has.

Q -- and, yet, his spokesman is saying that there's no internal, even, questioning of whether or not people were involved in this and he's just letting that be handled at the Justice Department, and letting it be more of a criminal investigation, as opposed to almost an ethical --

MR. McCLELLAN: Dana, I mean, think about what you're asking. If you have specific information to bring to our attention --

Q No, but you say that --

67476-BushFrown MR. McCLELLAN: -- that suggests White House involvement. There are anonymous reports all the time in the media. The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.

Briefing continues, but the average human capacity to absorb ironic retrospection may not. Therefore, we end here.

BTW, if you would like to know more about "that old Arab Helen Thomas", and her almost single-handed crusade to get a straight answer out of the Bush administration, look here.

What It's All About

There you have it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Pause To Muse On Nature's Bounty

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Ohio, there was a tremendous plague of Japanese beetles one summer, japanesebeetle-jdh so great that you couldn't walk from one back yard to the next without noticing how plants seemed to writhe under their weight. My dad's solution, back in those benighted days when no one wore bike helmets, was to send me and my friends off with Mason jars full of gasoline to grab every beetle we could find and plunk it in. Bizarrely, this didn't seem to slow them down much---they dogpaddled around that toxic soup like vacationers on their last day at the shore. When the jars were full, we dutifully brought them back so he could toss them, gas and all, on a brick barbecue at the edge of the yard, then stood around watching with delight as he lit the gasoline and all his troubles went up in smoke. This went on all day, and the neighborhood kids were falling all over themselves to get a jar and get in on the fun.

Now, I don't know what's happening in the rest of the country, but in the Philly area these little bastards are everywhere again. You stand in the poison aisle at Lowe's, listening to befuddled gardeners debating the virtues of various teratological compounds, and inevitably you'll hear the word "beetles". Every evening I come home to more skeletonized canna leaves and shredded hibiscus flowers. Nothing seems to work. I've been a big organic gardener in my time, but now I'm dreaming about gasoline pyres.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Blow For Rapists' Rights

Juan Cole gets all feminist today, and ties Bush's anti-woman policies to the regression of women's status in progress in Iraq:

"By nominating a man (John Roberts), Bush reduced the number of women on the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor is no progressive, but she knew what it was like to be locked out of the Old Boys Club, and she ruled in favor of women's issues like affirmative action and reproductive rights...
She is being replaced by a man who has no sympathy for any of the things she stood for..."
Like abortion rights. The National Abortion Federation states that "...As an attorney in the Justice Departments of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Roberts repeatedly argued for the reversal of Roe v. Wade stating that there was "no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution" for the reasoning behind Roe."

In an interesting take, Cole goes on to point out that if abortion rights are outlawed thanks to the addition of Roberts to the Court, it will in essence grant rapists the right to force impregnated victims to carry to term. Then, Iraq:

"The same juvenilization of women, the rendering of them wards of men, can be seen in Bush's Iraq. Contrary to the propaganda Bush's team is so good at producing, the secular, Arab nationalist Baath Party had passed some of the more progressive laws and regulations about women in the Middle East. ... The Bushies like to pose as liberators of Muslim women, but they have brought to power Muslim fundamentalists who are obsessed with subjugating women...
a draft of the new Iraqi constitution contains a provision that puts personal status law under the authority of religious judges. Marriage, divorce, inheritance and other such matters would be judged according to the religious law of the community to which the person belonged. This step would be a big set back for women's rights in Iraq."
Cole wrote about this back in January when the Iraqi Governing Council voted to abolish the 1958 civil personal status laws in favor of religious law, thus leaving women at the mercy of various clerics' interpretations of shari'a. At the time, Paul Bremer wouldn't implement it, but we all know what happened to Paul Bremer. The women who would actually be affected by this didn't look at it quite as sanguinely:

"Women are outraged… this is going to open new doors for repression in the most advanced country on women's rights in the Arab world! Men are also against this (although they certainly have the upper-hand in the situation) because it's going to mean more confusion and conflict all around.
What happens when all the clerics agree that a hijab isn't 'preferred' but necessary? According to this new change in the 'ahwal shakhsiya' laws or 'personal circumstances' laws, all women will have to cover their heads and according to Shari'a, if a woman's husband decides that she can't continue her education or work, she'll have to remain a house-wife."
And in a later post, Riverbend is still stunned:

"I'm not the only one- everyone I talk to is shaking their head in dismay. How is this happening? How are we caving in to fundamentalism?"
The attempt failed back then, but the drafting committee of the new constitution has less than 10 women on a 71-member board. That's under 14% representation for a group that makes up 49.4% of the population. And even the quota guaranteeing women 1/4 of the seats in the new parliament is likely to expire after 2 terms, ensuring even less representation.

Whether Bush's geniuses saw this coming, which makes them deliberate parties to oppression, or whether this blindsided them (unlikely), which would make them too stupid to run this or any other country, the effect is the same. And the paternalism that runs through every other of Bush's contacts with the female constituency soaks through his nomination of Roberts like menstrual blood through a sponge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Bit Of Diversion

Well, by God, this should prove an endless source of amusement for about a fortnight.

UPDATE: So it's Roberts, hand-picked by Bush for his current position on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Most recently he made the news last Friday by chiming in with that insufferable prick A. Raymond Randolph to uphold the decision that the military commission set up to try "enemy combatants" was constitutionally legal, in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a driver for bin Laden accused of war crimes:

"The court said it was well established that the Geneva Conventions "do not create judicially enforceable rights" - that is, accusations of a violation may not be brought in a lawsuit.
The appeals panel also held that Judge Robertson (the lower court) had been incorrect in maintaining that Congress had not authorized Mr. Bush to set up the commissions. Congress gave him the authority to do so, the panel said, in three resolutions dealing with terrorism. In one, the lawmakers authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force" against anyone who had abetted the Sept. 11 attacks, and granted him the authority to act to prevent international acts of terrorism.
In addition, the appeals court said the commissions were not bound by the rules of courts-martial, like allowing for defendants to be present at all times."
Even allowing for the usual lawyerly exaggeration indulged in by defense attorneys, Hamdin's attorney's take on it sounds pretty close to the bone:

""Today's ruling," Mr. Katyal said, "places absolute trust in the president, unchecked by the Constitution, statutes of Congress and longstanding treaties ratified by the Senate of the United States.""
To me as well, the ruling said that Bush had been empowered by Congress and the Constitution to do pretty much as he damned well pleased. And there's no one with whom I'd prefer NOT to entrust unchecked power over the country than that morally-challenged infant in the Oval Office.

This is who Bush wants to appoint for a lifetime of Constitutional rulings. Well, you knew it wasn't going to be Felix Frankfurter.

Wishful Thinking Plays Tag In The Blogosphere

In an e-mail from my buddy. Thanks, Marion!

"Outsourcing Works!

Washington DC., Monday, July 11, 2005 2:57:05 PM

yahoo-bush-pink-slip Congress today announced that the Office of President of the United States of America will be outsourced to overseas interests as of June 30th, the end of this fiscal year. The move is being made to save not only a significant portion of the President's $400K yearly salary, but also a record $521 Billion in deficit expenditures and related overhead.

"We believe this is a wise move financially. The cost savings should be significant" stated Congressman Thomas Reynolds (R-Wash). Reynolds, with the aid of the GAO (the General Accounting Office), has studied outsourcing of American jobs extensively. "We cannot expect to remain competitive on the world stage with the current level of cash outlay," Reynolds noted.

Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of his termination. Preparations for the job move have been underway for some time. Govinda Singh of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India will be assuming the Office of President of the United States as of July.

Mr.Singh was born in the United States while his Indian parents were vacationing on the south side of Niagara Falls, thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 (USD) a month but with no health coverage or other benefits.

It is believed that Mr. Singh will be able to handle his job> responsibilities without support staff. Due to the time difference between the US and India, he will be working primarily at night, when few offices of the US government will be open.

"Working nights will allow me to keep my day job at the American Express call center," stated Mr. Singh in an exclusive interview. "I am excited about this position. I always hoped I would be President someday."

A Congressional Spokesperson noted that while Mr Singh may not be fully aware of all the issues involved in the office of President, this should not be a problem. Mr. Singh will rely upon a script tree that will enable him to respond effectively to most topics of concern. Using this tree, he can address common concerns without having to understand the underlying issues at all. "We know these scripting tools work," stated the Spokesperson. "Mr. Bush has used them successfully for years."

Mr. Bush will receive health overage, expenses, and salary until his final day of employment. Following a two week waiting period, he will be eligible for $240 dollars a week unemployment for 13 weeks. Unfortunately he will not be eligible for Medicaid as his unemployment benefits will exceed the allowed limit. Mr. Bush has been provided the outplacement services of Manpower, Inc. to help him write a resume and prepare for his upcoming job transition.

According to Manpower, Mr. Bush may have difficulties in securing a new position due to limited practical work experience. One possibility is re-enlistment in the Army National Guard. Should he choose this option, he would likely be stationed in Iraq, a country he has visited.

"I've been there, I know all about Iraq," stated Mr Bush, who gained invaluable knowledge of the country in a visit to the Baghdad Airport non-smoking terminal and gift shop.

Sources in Baghdad and Falluja say Mr. Bush would receive a warm reception from local Iraqis. They have asked to be provided with details of his arrival so that they might arrange an appropriate welcome."

Bush's War On American Soldiers

(A piece I did over at Corrente on July 9. Just wanted to have it in the IMCT archives.)

From Ronald Glasser's article in the July Harper's (only available in print), A War Of Disabilities:
"Some 12,500 American G.I.s have been wounded in Iraq. Eight soldiers have been wounded for every one killed, about double the rate for Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. The percentage of soldiers who have undergone amputations is about twice that of any of our past military conflicts; nearly a quarter of all the wounded suffer from traumatic head injuries, far more than in our other recent wars...The true legacy of this war will be seen not in the memorials to those lost forever but in the cabinets of files in the neurosurgical and orthopedic wards at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in the backlog of cases at Veterans Affairs."
Advances in combat medicine and protective armor mean more and more soldiers avoid lethal injuries and are kept alive at the site and the field hospital, while the nature of the conflicts and weapons being used lend to particularly scattered impacts. Ceramic plates inside Kevlar have been a resounding success:
"This body armor protects the chest, back, and upper abdomen, preventing damage to the torso and allowing many soldiers to survive other serious injuries."
But the trade-off is a questionable blessing:
"Saving more soldiers also means higher numbers of amputees and of those blinded and brain-damaged."
Our soldiers have never fought a war like this. As Glasser notes, almost 70% of injuries have been caused by roadside IEDs. Unlike in previous wars, where soldiers were usually attacked and hit from the front or above, this particular kind of combat means they are often hit while riding in vehicles ("...that are not as well armored as their own chests"), and struck from below, beside, or behind:
"Nearly half of all U.S. troops wounded in Iraq since the fall of Saddam have been hit in the lower extremities; 25% have been injured in the hand or arm...Body armor protects a soldier's 'center mass', but the explosions shatter and shred arms and legs."
The high number of soldiers who have lost upper extremities means a high number of expensive prostheses (much more expensive than those for lower extremities) Simply being close to blast sites when IEDs go off can result in internal brain damage--the victims remain functional for the most part, but suffer significant lifelong disability. The number of soldiers with brain injuries, including those life-changing concussions that are often under-diagnosed and are "notorious for their delayed onset", is extremely high. And aside from the destructive effects these injuries will have on the returning vets, their families and their communities, there is a staggering cost to be paid economically:
"The three types of upper-extremity prostheses offered by the military range in price from $5000 to $100,000; patients are given one of each, in order to use them in different situations, In the past two years, there ahve been numerous multiple amputees who have need double and triple prostheses.
Traumatic brain injuries will also create long-term economic problems...
Right now the majority of casualties, including amputees, are kept within the Dept. of Defense's military-hospital system--embedding the costs in a mammoth military budget of some $600 billion annually...
But the wounded stay within the DOD health-care system only as long as they remain on active duty. Every wounded soldier will soon become a veteran and forced to receive any ongoing care through Veterans Affairs. There is little to suggest that the VA--an overburdened and underfunded system--can handle the wounded from Iraq once they are released from Department of Defense care."
The VA is one the place in the DOD that, for all his overheated rhetoric, Bush has failed to adequately fund, in part thanks to his appointee, VA head James Nicholson, who failed to ask for money he knew the agency needed. In fact, the treatment of returning injured soldiers has been one of the great shameful chapters of the horror novel that has been the Bush administration. Most interesting, Democrats in Congress saw the shortfalls coming this past spring and tried to get additional funding included, which Bush and the Republicans both refused to pass. Now we have this:
"The average wait for a VA decision on an initial claim for disability benefits is 165 days; to rule on an appeal of one of its decisions, the VA takes, on average, 3 years. (...some 13,700 veterans have dies as they were waiting for their cases to be resolved.) In Minneapolis the waiting period for an orthopedic appointment at a VA hospital can be more than six months, and patients there have been told to expect a further decrease in services over the next budget period...Hundreds of billions have been given to the Pentagon to pay for this war; to pay for the war's aftermath, VA discretionary funding for 2006 is to be increased by only one-third of 1%."
He ends with a statement from Max Cleland, former head of the VA under Carter, and himself a triple amputee Vietnam vet:
"The VA can't handle what they have to do now; how are they going to handle the flood of physical and emotional casualties, many of whom will be the responsibility of the VA for the rest of their lives?" (Emphasis mine.)
In conjunction with the extensive cuts Bush has made in social programs and medical care, can anyone say the local communities will be able to pick up the crucial care being lost to the crippled VA?

UPDATE: For more info on the plight of returning servicepeople and what you can do to ease it, go here and explore the links.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Freedom Is On The Death March

In the meantime, Afghanistan is moving right along. Zabol province, incidentally, is defined by Wikipedia as "the only Afghan province in which the Taliban have named (in the post-U.S. invasion of Afghanistan era) their own governor and officials to rival those appointed by the government in Kabul."
"Taliban militants kidnapped and hanged a pro-government tribal chief in southern Afghanistan, government officials said Saturday.
Malik Agha Jan and five other family members were abducted in a southern district of Zabol province. Some accounts said they were seized Thursday, while others said Friday...
The killing marked the second time in a week that a local leader accused of having ties to the U.S. military had been slain in Afghanistan's restive south. In addition, suspected Taliban rebels have killed four Islamic clerics since late May, apparently because they supported the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai..."
They're not impressed by the prospect of the free market and the entreprenuerial spirit free-floating in the Hindu Kush.
"At least four districts of Zabol province are controlled by Taliban and Al Qaeda groups at nighttime," Latfullah Mashal, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said in a recent interview.
Because of the instability in Zabol, almost no development or reconstruction has occurred there since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban government...
The U.S. military operates an intelligence network in the province and occasionally raids villages and homes. U.S. forces have engaged in heavy fighting in Zabol since May, killing more than 100 suspected rebels.
The fighting seems to have fostered anti-American sentiment in Zabol and fueled support for the Taliban."
And I'll bet the women aren't getting out of the house much, either. Maybe they should send Pickles down.

Die In Chains, Beast

"You want to see a monster, all you have to do is look in the mirror."

UPDATE: From Juan Cole--

"As his sister-in-law made clear, Rudolph is driven by the ideology of the "Christian Identity" hate group. Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing was likewise connected to Christian identity and their "Elohim City".
Of course, you won't see the headline above in American newspapers, even though any Muslim who acts as Rudolph did would be called an "Islamic terrorist" (a particularly objectionable term because "Islamic" means "having to do with the Muslim faith). It is like talking about "terrorism rooted in Christianity."
Followed by sarcasm and crankiness. Oh, Juan, will you never learn? This is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles, and that means shut up and stop trying to start trouble. After all, Rudolph is the guy who was hidden and protected by an entire town and plenty of comrades de coeur. He's practically an All-American boy!

Maybe they'll propose a holiday in his honor.

Uncivil War

Since I posted yesterday's piece, more carnage erupted in Iraq. On Sunday, after the murders of at least 71 people and wounding of 156, the killing just went on and on. Juan Cole kept track, and had this to say:

"Jalal al-Din Saghir, an Iraqi parliamentarian close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called the weekend's onslaught of suicide bombings a sign that Iraq is slipping into civil war. Shiite neighborhoods in and around Baghdad are seething with rage over the massacre at Musayyib, which used a fuel truck to kill dozens of families out buying ice cream for their children. Some members of parliament are calling for the formation of neighborhood militias. A good deal of anger is being directed toward the newly elected Iraqi government for not preventing these massive attacks, despite its well-publicized "Operation Lightning" of sweeps through Sunni neighborhoods."
Civil war. Where have we heard that before? And they don't know how to stop it, either. Further down in the Times story:

"The surge of suicide attacks torturing the capital has seemingly confounded Iraqi and American forces...
Additionally, no obvious pattern has appeared in the recent string of attacks except that, like the scores of others that have made suicide bombs a prominent feature of this war, they have often singled out Shiites in large numbers or Iraqi and international security forces."
And then there was this:

"Early leads in the investigation into the Musayyib attack suggest that insurgents had carefully planned it for maximum civilian casualties."
The Times story itself quotes a Baghdadi University observer who believes the insurgents' goal is to sow sectarian unrest. Robert Pape said that the goal of suicide bombers is "not to die. It is the kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society in order to compel that target society to put pressure on its government to change policy." What's the policy here? It's the maintenance of foreign, non-Muslim troops, and their occupation of Iraq. But the more outrageously they punish their own, the more divided become the very people they want to rally.

For those of us safe and sound thousands of miles away, the whole thing has the feel of a spiralling nightmare in which one is powerless to intervene. For the people who actually have to try to survive that nightmare...can we ever make amends for bringing this hell down on their heads?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Beyond Karl Rove

baghdad-bombingThe world is still out there.

Yglesias over at Tapped has picked up on the Robert Pape interview Juan Cole linked to last week, and it's good to see this piece getting some feet at a time when it seems people don't want to write or talk about anything except Karl Rove. Why?

Because while the Rove story is exciting and gives liberals an outside hope of bringing down the worst administration in American history (yes, I know how hyperbolic it sounds, but I stand by it), what is happening in Iraq and the motivations underlying that slaughter will have resonance for us far beyond the domestic mess Bushco have made.

Think of it: 27 children targeted and murdered; 87 dead and over 100 wounded Iraqs just yesterday; 29 dead and 111 wounded on Friday. These numbers are huge, and no one in the blogworld with the exception of some Mid-east wonks seems to be paying much attention. And in the background, thrumming along like a bassline to a threnody, the kidnappings of ordinary people go on. The implications for Americans (let alone Iraqis) are becoming enormous. As Cole noted yesterday, Philly Inquirer reporter Trudy Rubin recently returned from a visit to Iraq to report the American-trained Iraqi troops vastly unprepared to take on the protection of their own country (not even counting those that are in bed with the guerillas or too frightened and inimidated to be of much use). In the meantime, the longer these horrors go on, the longer the Iraqis have to mull over our inability to make them stop.

iraq-child We continue to mourn the London dead, but our media blithely throws off these growing numbers of newly-murdered Iraqis as though they were lottery numbers, to be posted out of necessity, but not to be dwelt on--this, too, is an ongoing source of bitterness for many Muslims. Imagine this being said by an American father after a suicide attack on a local gas station in Washington, PA:
"After the bomb I went over there and found my son's head. I could not find his body,"
The upshot is, we're going to be stuck there for a very long time, despite all the bullshit-you-blind spin Bush has been trying to put on this abattoir, unless we're willing to:
    --cut our losses;
    --swallow our pride; and
    --accept that there will be massive reprisals upon our departure
Because, what happens if we accept this Hobson's choice and do leave? The Sunnis, who have been prominently behind many of these suicide attacks (though not all) will likely be massacred by the Shite majority. The Kurds, who are better organized and armed, may be able to take care of themselves, but I doubt they will be exempt from being dragged into a savage civil war.

And if we don't? Well, Robert Pape lays it out:
"The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw...

Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils. When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, that enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways."
Not quite the usual explanation--that it's because they "hate freedom", or they envy our wealth, or they resent our technological superiority. Those are tropes we comfort ourselves with because they make us feel good about things we're already too smug about. They don't challenge us to re-think our relationship with the world and our claim to all that wealth.

And what stops these attacks?
"Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop—and often on a dime."
It's a hard decision to make. If we leave, the country will likely erupt into full civil war, at least for awhile, and we will have to either take steps in conjunction with other nations to alleviate the suffering, or stand by and watch the carnage unfold (we had no problem with that in Rwanda, or even now in the Congo and Sudan). But this doesn't take into account the hopeful likelihood that other Muslim countries will probably step in to help, which may also offer us a chance to create goodwill by making alliance with them in doing so.

If we hang on, I can't see this ending any differently than Vietnam. USA-caskets-iraq3 That is, we dig in and our pride and our piss-poor grasp of reality keep us there while thousands of Americans and Iraqis pay the price, until the drainage on the Treasury and the size of the funeral pyre become so gargantuan that finally, finally, Joe Schmoe will get it, and the whole mess collapses in a heap of unseemly evacuations. This doesn't even take into consideration the possiblity of a draft, which will only hasten things.

Pape's interview should be required reading for everyone who wants to know how to stop terrorism, or at least suicide bombings. The problem is, what he's telling us, we don't want to hear.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Guinea Pig Kids Triptych

The NYTimes discovers the story. And the one they tell is from the standpoint of those who administered the trials:

"In the late 1980's and early 1990's, hundreds of children in New York City were dying of AIDS. The only approved drugs were for adults; and many of the patients were foster children. So doctors obtained permission to include foster children in what they regarded as promising drug trials.
By 2000, the number of children under 20 who died of AIDS in the city that year dropped to 13 from more than 100 per year less than a decade before.
But now, just as the trials are receding into history, they are coming under intense scrutiny. A federal agency is investigating whether guidelines for including foster children in trials were violated. The city's child welfare administration has launched an independent inquiry into whether children were harmed. And when the head of the child welfare system testified about the trials at a City Council hearing in May, angry spectators shouted him down.
All this is happening despite the fact that there is little evidence that the trials were anything but a medical success. Most of the questions have arisen from a single account of abuse allegations - given by a single writer about people not identified by real names, backed up with no official documentation as supporting proof and put out on the Internet in early 2004 after the author was unable to get the story published anywhere else.
The story accused doctors of brutally experimenting on foster children, most of them black, Latino or poor. It said they had poisoned them with toxic drugs, sometimes against their parents' will and without even being certain they were sick. The charges jumped from Web site to Web site, then into The New York Post and into a documentary shown on the BBC. It alarmed black civil rights activists and City Council members, who charged racism."
In other words, the story is a non-story, except for the stink being raised by clueless troublemakers over groundless allegations.

Whether they were groundless or not is another non-story, I guess. But the background is a little more complex than even this long article by Janney Scott and Leslie Kaufmann would lead you to believe, as NIH employee Jonathan Fishbein could tell you.

See my posts from last year here, and here to learn more. They deal with much of what the writers say, but more. The entire history stands out as a classic example of brutally negligent classism, and yes, even racism. I guess it depends whose kids you're talking about.

And don't forget, they weren't fetuses, which automatically downgrades their value.