Thursday, March 31, 2005
From the BBC:
"The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown...Not that we haven't already had proof enough of high-level culpability for the approval of torture and policies leading to torture, what with the Bush memo. But the extent of the cover-up is finally beginning to be grasped:
The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez...
The memo authorised techniques including putting prisoners in stressful positions, using loud music and light control, and changing sleeping patterns.
It also authorised the presence of muzzled military working dogs to, as the memo puts it, "exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations"... "Gen Sanchez authorised interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the army's own standards," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in the union's statement."
"Army investigations have generally found that, where proven, abuses were not the result of policy set by senior leaders."Sanchez himself denied granting permission for the abuses that took place in Abu Ghraib. Now that this has come out, no doubt Bush will give him a Medal of Freedom and promote him to head of the Joint Chiefs.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
No, I lied. It's not all that easy, if you want to do it right. And it's probably not a terrible lot of fun, given the subject matter. But with the government making a beeline toward ever more invasive legislation to limit your options, it has become an important issue for many people. And because of that, having a living will drafted and executed, ready to be adjusted over time according to one's changing needs or perspective, can be an essential safeguard to peace of mind and an infinite kindness to the people you love.
The first thing you must do decide what it is you want. Explore the many scenarios that could happen, and ask yourself how you would want to be treated in those circumstances. For comprehensive info, turn to the American Bar Association's Consumer Toolkit, which includes tests to help users establish criteria for treatment or non-treatment. Also helpful is The Living Will: A Guide To Health Care Decision Making, which takes a broad overview and divides it into easily comprehensible steps. Elder Options of Texas, also offers definitions of advanced directives, DNRs, living wills, and durable power of attorney.
When you know what kind of care you would want under most possible circumstances, you'll need to choose a document in which to memorialize your wishes. These can include a Do Not Resusitate order and/or an advanced directive (a/k/a living will). A sample living will can be found here, at Free Legal Forms, and another here, at The People's Lawyer. A simple example of a DNR order can be found here. Remember: each state may have different laws as applied to these forms, and you must do the legwork to be sure of being in compliance.
The next step is to sit down with the people who will have to carry out your wishes if the worst happens, and tell them what you want. This includes your physician and your loved ones, and any person you may choose to act on your behalf as a health care proxy or with power of attorney. Don't just throw out a casual comment and expect that it will be remembered or will hold up in court.
We know how that works out.
Monday, March 28, 2005
"Since taking office more than four years ago, the Bush administration has quietly pushed ahead with a broad, largely successful effort that has resulted in a major overhaul of protections to health, safety and the environment.The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the OMB released its 2005 report on nominations for Regulatory Reform of the US Manufacturing Sector, a good part of which suggestions the White House has endorsed. Some real eye-openers there if you choose to wade through it, including a suggestion that, due to the burden, restrictions surrounding the exposure of workers to hexavalent chromium (see page 61) should be lifted or relaxed for small business. Hexavalent chromium, also known as Chromium 6, was the agent that poisoned so many of the folks Erin Brockovitch went to bat for. A human carciniogen when inhaled, it is also a mutagen and can permanently damage DNA.
The strategy has been to use regulation, decree and rule making to achieve what Congress has blocked. "
These same "culture of life" mavens who pulled out the big guns to save one politically-beneficial life are more than happy to let the plutocrats keeping pumping mercury toxins into the air, remove safety regs from the workplace, compromise regulations protecting the public from tainted food and drugs, and pull the rug out from under beneficiaries of FMLA. OMB Watch has a very nice summation of the coming storm here, which includes:
With a little luck and the usual rollover from the Dems, this administration can have the entire country looking like 1880s Chicago in a matter of a generation.
Weakening even further the rules governing maximum hours that companies can force their truck drivers to work Exempting more auto industry manufacturers from the requirement to submit information of potential defects to an early warning database Rolling back a 2001 rule that lowered the reporting threshold for lead Allowing mine companies to avoid improving work conditions by instead rotating miner shifts to reduce workers’ exposure to diesel particulate matter Weakening protections against Listeria for makers of ready-to-eat meat products
In the NYTimes today, I rise to see this:
"Congress Ready to Again Debate End-of-Life Issues"Not content to let this dying dog lie in peace, the motley fools on the hill are dragging it off its deathbed and dressing it up like an organ grinder's monkey, in preparation for taking it to the debutante's ball, where they will all take turns whisking its moldering corpse around the dance floor in the ghoulish hope of re-election points from the audience:
"After a string of fruitless legal and legislative efforts, the central question in the Terri Schiavo case - Who makes end-of-life decisions when the patient's wishes are disputed? - is headed back to Capitol Hill, where debate over broader legislation has already begun.No, it wasn't enough that we were all treated to one tragic circus. We need to get our noses in where it doesn't belong and make everyone's end-of-life decisions for them. And why? Because a few disability rights groups and religious conservatives think the average American can't tell the difference between someone in a wheelchair who wants to live, and a pathetic brainstem wearing a nightgown. So off they go:
On Sunday, lawmakers of both parties agreed that Congress has a role to play in such cases and should contemplate legislation that would give added legal recourse to patients like Ms. Schiavo. While it is difficult to predict whether such a measure could pass, the Schiavo case has clearly pushed thorny questions about end-of-life care to the fore on Capitol Hill, as well as in state legislatures around the nation.
The Republican-controlled House already passed a bill that would allow the federal courts to review cases like Ms. Schiavo's, in which the patient has left no written instructions, the family is at odds and state courts have ordered a feeding tube to be withdrawn. That bill evolved into one that was narrowly tailored to Ms. Schiavo.
Now some Democrats, prodded by advocates for the disabled, say Congress should consider whether such a law is needed."
"Already, the Senate health committee has scheduled a hearing next week to debate the Schiavo case and discuss "the urgent need for Congress to examine current health care practices used in the care of non-ambulatory individuals," according to a statement by the chairman, Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming.Enzi already has finely-tuned sense of humor, doesn't he, subpoenaing a woman whose cortex has liquified to speak before the Senate? (Not that they would have noticed a problem.) And that "urgent need to examine current healthcare practices" might make better sense to some if they thought to deal with the urgent needs of the 45 million uninsured. But why quibble? Personally, I can't think of a better boon to my quality of life than the state forcing itself between me and my doctor while it lets my uninsured daughter flounder without the medical attention she needs.
The hearing was initially scheduled for Monday; in a fruitless effort to keep Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube from being withdrawn, Mr. Enzi called Ms. Schiavo and her husband, Michael, as witnesses, noting pointedly that it was a federal crime for anyone to impede their testimony. Later, when Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was withdrawn, Mr. Enzi postponed the hearing until April 6."
But don't worry. The decision to spend money and resources on people who don't want them will only be made for those with the ability to pay, and can be fiscally balanced by keeping poor people off the tubes. And once the Republicans get their malpractice caps passed, that will include a lot more of us.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
It's a holiday weekend and I don't know how much chance I'll get to post. But, as usual, I invite you to check out the archives, which, if nothing else, offer an interesting retrospective of the events since last November.
As for Robert Newton in the Blackbeard getup? It's one of my favorite movies, and I don't need any reason better than that.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Update: For those who have been wondering about these little guys, they are cotton-top tamarins, little squirrel-sized monkeys who live in South America. They are among the cutest and friendliest of primates, and like all tamarins, they are endangered.
The species include the golden lion tamarin,
whose coat is stunningly gorgeous,
and the emperor, who looks like
a little old mandarin.
The cotton-top is the Gary Shandling of the bunch, hence the title of the post.
The males, even young unmated ones, share childcare of even the newborns, and they have been observed talking to their young to encourage them to eat solid food and learn to speak. If you are interested in the babies, see here.
No equivalent between tamarins and the smarmy evil of the current Executive and Legislative branches is intended. The picture below explains how I made the connection:
Thursday, March 24, 2005
"After giving George W. Bush far too easy a ride in his first term, the Democratic leadership in Congress promised that the second term was going to be different. "This is not a dictatorship," announced Senate minority leader Harry Reid. The new head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, declared, "The President neither has the mandate he thinks he has nor a majority to make policy." But three months of watching the Democrats' stumbling, often incoherent responses to Administration appointments and initiatives shows clearly that the party is making the same mistakes that cost it so dearly in the 2002 and 2004 elections."It goes on to enumerate the many incidents of political S&M going down on Capitol Hill---the ANWR mess, the bankruptcy sell-out, tort "reform", the disgraceful capitulations on each of Bush's recent political nominations, most especially Gonzales. You know the drill.
But good old Lefty offers this helpful development:
"Perhaps being shamed publicly, and being pressured by the grassroots, will help Congressional Democrats get their act together. Toward that end, we've initiated a biweekly "Minority/Majority" feature that identifies--by name--Democrats who give succor to the GOP. (It also praises those who've helped the cause of Democrats becoming the majority party again.) If Democrats don't define themselves as an effective opposition soon, they could end up being an ineffective one for a long time to come."Ineffective would be one, more tactful, way of putting it.
Go read it now, and keep an eye on it later. Remember: l'etat, c'est vous.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
That's the argument inherent in this assault on workers' rights across the states, as governors begin to unilaterally eliminate union agreements for state employees, with the argument that the granting of collective bargaining rights was only "by executive order". (In other words, noblesse oblige, she explained, as she held her stomach in a nearly vain attempt not to retch.) And remember--what the right hand giveth, the left hand can always take away:
Within hours or days of taking office this year, Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Matt Blunt in Missouri eliminated collective bargaining agreements for state employees, affecting about 50,000 workers. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher did the same when he took office in 2003. In each case, the agreements had only been granted by executive order, not by law.That's right. Why would I want my tax money going toward a fair wage and working conditions for the people charged with carrying out the work of the state on my behalf? Fuck 'em. If they don't like it, let them try WalMart. Why should I care if low wages, overwork, lack of resouces, and constant pressure to do more with less lowers morale and productivity, results in more sick time and higher turnover, and ends up costing me far more than just treating them decently in the first place?
In Mississippi, where state employees don't have collective bargaining rights, GOP Gov. Haley Barbour supports a legislative effort to eliminate existing civil-service protections. In Oklahoma, the GOP-controlled state House approved a measure to repeal a law granting collective bargaining to municipal employees.
Blunt said the union rules of the business world should not apply to government. "Fundamentally, public employees are different than private sector employees their employer is the people of Missouri," he said on his first day in office. "Taxpayers should not be bound by collective bargaining agreements."
This is America. This is the land of I've Got Mine, Jack. Like they say in the pulpit, "Them that's got shall get, and if they ain't got, they don't deserve gettin'."
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
"All-in-one-leave banks have stormed through offices like rhinoviruses. The number of companies offering them swelled from 20% in 2000 to 67% today, according to CCH Inc., a human resources firm in Chicago. The epidemic comes as the number of sick-leave days continues to decline or vanish. Just three years ago, the average sick leave provided by companies with sick-leave policies for employees was 9.3 days. Now it's 6.9 days, plunging to 5 for most paid time-off sick-leave plans."And as the top dogs of industry increase their earnings along with their perks, those at the bottom of the food chain get less and less:
"Nearly half of U.S. workers don't get any paid sick leave — for low-wage earners, it's 75%. Unlike 139 other nations, the U.S. doesn't guarantee paid sick leave...And the current administration nurtures just the climate to encourage this peonage-making. Common Dreams offered a tight roundup of the Bushco assaults on labor in just the first two years in office. AFSCME continued the chronology. You need only remember the recent passage of the bankruptcy bill, the fight against overtime, the horror at the mere mention of the minimum wage, and the Big Pharma giveaway disguised as Medicare reform to know on which side of the fence your government squats.
Companies are cutting or eliminating vacation leave (nearly a third of American women don't get any; a quarter of men), pensions, health insurance and ergonomics rules. Meanwhile, the Economist reports that corporate profits in the U.S. are higher than they've been in 75 years as benefits — including sick leave — shrink.
Only one segment of wage earners has not had benefits slashed. "Professionals, managers and CEOs have great benefits," said Robert Drago, a Penn State economist and work-life expert."
We may not realize it, but we have been down this road before. The question is whether we have learned anything this time out.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Special "Do As I Say" Edition
First up, and always on everybody's weblog, the tittilating tale of Terri Schiavo. Terri's body is on the auction block, and up for grabs. Who will pony up the moral currency to get to her first? Well, if little Brandi Swindell, 28, of the great Midwest has anything to say about it, it'll be chalk one up for the forces of righteousness. Sez the NYTimes:
"(Ms. Swindell), who said she traveled from the Midwest to spend the next few days staging a hunger strike in support of Ms. Schiavo's parents, said she would not mind being arrested in an attempt to come to Ms. Schiavo's aid.So one must therefore assume that Ms. Swindell was in the forefront of the movement to block Bush from waging an illegal and un-necessary war on Iraq, and that she was also among the citizens petitioning her government for relief for the Guantanamo detainees, and is still recovering from her last hunger strike during the US refusal to intervene in Darfur, and iseven as we speak making her fellow citizens aware of the horrors being continued in the heart of the eastern Congo. Eh?
"I think this is a grave human rights violation," Ms. Swindell said, "and I can't just sit by."
Next up, that court jester of international diplomacy, Donnie Rumsfeld, who just has a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, doesn't he? This time it's a stern warning to the children of Iraq, when he goes:
"Mr. Rumsfeld noted the ferment, turnover and slippage inherent in the process as Iraq has moved from post-invasion governing council to interim government to transitional government.Well, the mind boggles. This coming from a member of what has got to be the most nepotistic, heads-up-each-others'-asses excuse for an administration in my lifetime. And the part about the US having so much invested--as opposed to the uncounted hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqi dead and maimed, the ruined businesses and infrastructure, the civil war, the stolen historical patrimony, the fast-dwindling rights of the distaff population--well, I'm sure that finger-waving is bound to straighten up those darned kids.
He then warned that Iraqis had to "be darned careful about making a lot of changes just to be putting in their friend or to be putting in someone else from their tribe or from their ethnic group."
"This is too serious a business over there," he said on the program "Fox News Sunday," "and the United States has got too much invested and too much committed and too many lives at stake for people to be careless about that."
And finally, while we're in the Tigris Valley, there's this:
Kidnappers have been a major, if under-reported, problem since the invasion, targeting well-off and middle-class Iraqis for easy money, and there is a tremendous anger and frustration about it, unhelped by the American tendency to ignore it.
US Frees Iraqi Kidnappers
So They Can Spy On Insurgents
local police attempts to crack down on wave of abductions
""The Americans are allowing the breakdown of Iraqi society because they are only interested in fighting the insurgency," said a senior Iraqi police officer. "We are dealing with an epidemic of kidnapping, extortion and violent crime, but even though we know the Americans monitor calls on mobiles and satellite phones, which are often used in ransom negotiations, they will not pass on any criminal intelligence to us. They only want to use the information against insurgents."That's all right. They'll fix his ass.
Update: Mustn't leave out this, from CBS News courtesy of Tom over at Corrente:
"At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel."But thoses folks, being generally walking, talking, breathing on their own, and capable of thought, probably don't count as "human life".
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Vitalism, raised by Garret Keizer in the article the post references, is the belief that a non-tangible force, unmeasurable by science, is necessary to the creation and existence of life. Keizer uses it to describe the heartlessly reductive proof used by so-called "pro-lifers" to determine whether a life worth saving exists.
In this proof formulation, the mere presence of breath or physical movement of some kind in a human/human fetus equates with full personhood and grants that being every legal and moral right we recognize for our species. In fact, carrying the right DNA tag seems to be the only criteria the Vitalistas need for kindly giving others permission to make decisions about whether to allow someone a merciful death or force them into a long, painful and humiliating one. As Keizer suggests, people who wouldn't even allow a dog to suffer are perfectly content to sit back and watch a human being bear the most horrific and long-term agonies on his or her way to that final blessed moment of relief.
And on the other side of the debate, those who have fought for the right of individuals to make their own choices about the kind of death they will have are so cowardly about it that they have accepted the ridiculous idea that taking someone like Schiavo off a feeding tube and letting her slowly starve is somehow morally superior to putting an end to her suffering immediately with a humane morphine drip. Caught between such opposing camps of "humanitarians", is it any wonder Hunter Thompson chose a gun?
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
"...affluence is becoming more widespread, thanks in part to baby boomers who have reached their peak earnings years. The net wealth of U.S. households hit record levels at the end of 2004, bolstered by rising real estate prices and an improved stock market, according to the Federal Reserve."The worst fears in this time of unparalleled money-raking seem to center around the bottom falling out of the larks'-tongues-in-aspic market:
"A major downturn in the economy could hurt the luxury market. There is also the risk of oversaturation as more marketers pile in, leaving little room for makers of copycat products without strong brand identities.Heaven forfend!
"There will be intensifying competition because, for obvious reasons, this is a high-margin area -- that's why everyone likes to get in it," said Bill Hummer, chief economist at Wayne Hummer Investments in Chicago. " If there is an oversupply, the margins will drop sharply and some players will withdraw from the market."
Fueling much of the growth are the "mass affluent" -- people who are not super rich, but who enjoy extravagances like $500 suede satchels from Coach Inc. or $690 day spa visits to Mandarin Oriental."
Mind you, there is not one shred of evidence cited in this article for the purported (love that word!) growth of this "mass affluent", except the word of the Federal Reserve, as in Alan "we were all wrong" Greenspan, who we all know has his palsied finger on the pulse of America. The reporter gaily babbles:
"Affluent households, with annual earnings of at least $100,000, should number more than 20 million by 2010, up 32 percent from 2004, according to the Conference Board."Soaring home values"--those inflated bubbles all over the country, that, when they burst, will precipitate an incredible loss of assets for millions of people, millions of people already on the knife-edge of bankruptcy from credit debt, so many of them that it motivated the entire credit industry to bully an anti-consumer bankruptcy bill through that practically allows people to be taken out and shot for debt. And I don't know about you, but my inheritance funds are looking pretty thin, given that I have no one to inherit anything from, and my stock portfolio consists of a retirement account run by my employer that may or may not be there when I curl up my toes, depending on whether Bush and Norquist can complete their economic holocaust plan in time. And I'm lucky...pensions are dying out fast, and 401ks are still too young to be judged effective replacements. And then there are the vast millions who don't even have that.
Many baby boomers aged 40 to 60 are sitting on ample savings from inheritances, 401k retirement plans and investment income. Soaring home values in many U.S. markets also have helped create a sense of prosperity, with gains from real estate far outpacing those of stocks. "
Seems just months ago the Census Bureau came out with its 2004 Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey,the gist of which can be found here, and which is boiled down to this, by the Population Reference Bureau:
"(September 2004) U.S. poverty rates rose in 2003 to their highest levels in five years as the number of American children in poverty jumped by over 700,000, according to a report issued late last month by the U.S. Census Bureau."And:
"The sharp rise in poverty for children (from 16.7 percent to 17.6 percent of all children under 18, the highest jump in 13 years) accentuated an upward trend in U.S. poverty rates that has been underway since 2000."And this, from a U.S. Census Press Release from August of 2004:
- "The number of people below the official poverty thresholds numbered 35.9 million in 2003, or 1.3 million more than in 2002, for a 2003 poverty rate of 12.5 percent. Although up from 2002, this rate is below the average of the 1980s and 1990s.
- The poverty rate and number of families in poverty increased from 9.6 percent and 7.2 million in 2002 to 10.0 percent and 7.6 million in 2003. The corresponding numbers for unrelated individuals in poverty in 2003 were 20.4 percent and 9.7 million (not different from 2002)."
The bottom line is this: when your government and its media shills keep telling you things are great, it's easy to believe it, if all you pay attention to are the number of McMansions going up on shrinking green space around you, and how the lives of TV families are framed. But if you're still stepping over homeless men sleeping on grates in winter, and the soup kitchens are pleading for help, and more and more people you know are being downsized, you might want to revisit your assumptions.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
1) Karen "You-Don't-Get-Feet-That-Big-From-Walking-All-Over-Karl-Rove" Hughes, of all blessed people, is named Undersecretary for State for Foreign Affairs? Let me let Condi describe this kickback fest as only she can:
"Today, I am pleased to announce that President Bush intends to nominate Karen P. Hughes as the State Department's new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. Karen will have the rank of ambassador and, if confirmed, she will undertake a broad review and restructuring of our public diplomacy efforts. I can think of no individual more suited nor more suited for this task of telling America's story to the world, of nurturing America's dialogue with the world and advancing universal values for the world than Karen Hughes."Do you think she writes this stuff herself? Can anyone tell me one single thing in Hughes' bag of tricks that makes her qualified to bridge the gap between the shit-kickers in Bush's base and the gaily-clad Thracians of the Eurasian subcontinent? Why, she can't even work that magic on me, and I speak the language (except that I don't talk in code and when I say something I actually mean it.)
2.) Paul Wolfowitz, previously named as a possible head of the World Bank, is back on the short list again? Didn't we go through this once already? What happened to Carly Fiorina, former head of Hewlitt-Packard, who was proposed after Wolfowitz? I don't know that a rich corporate diva would have been a better choice than a rich corporo-utopian fascist, but...Paul Wolfowitz, for Christ sake?
3) ANWR. Well, we saw that coming, didn't we? Was there any question that, once the Republicans got their last tentacle around the voting bloc in the Senate that this, and much worse, would be coming?
4) Bush not only admits running his own Pravda, but he's proud of it. "Nyah, nyah, nyah nyah, nyah," he says in his best grade school playground voice.
"There is a Justice Department opinion that says these -- these pieces -- are within the law, so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy," the president told a news conference."And that would be the same Justice Department that got behind detentions of unspecified length without charge, and jettisoning that whole habeas corpus thing, right?
5) The entire weight of the sober body of the U.S. Congress is thrown behind hearings on---wait for it---steroids in baseball!! Is this a matter of national security? No. Is this an issue of public health or safety? No. Is this a chance for a bunch of overpaid, power-driven moral midgets to grandstand on a matter that, despite having no relevance to the work they are being paid to do, is a great gosh-gee opportunity to rub elbows with ballplayers while at the same time geting on the front pages and pretending to work? Damn straight!
6) Rob Portman from Ohio gets the nomination to replace Robert "Fuzzy" Zoellar as U.S. Trade Rep. This guy is anybody's nightmare on any issue you care to name, but his appointment can't do much worse to the working poor of the world than Zoellar's did.
7) And finally we have this: a political dogpile on the tragic Schiavo case by those vultures in the House of Representatives who like to portray themselves as being "the party of less government". Well, I guess it depends on whose government we're talking about. For instance, if you mean the government of gun-selling shitheels who scream like gutted women at the idea they might be required to take responsibility for the murders they cause with their "anyone with the cash" sales philosphy, or if you mean the rich fucks holding forth in their McMansions about the horror of their hard-invested money being taxed to feed poor children, then I suppose they are the party of less government.
But when it comes to families making intimate, heart-rending decisions affecting no one but themselves, why then by God, let's bring out the full weight of the U.S. Congress (when they're not too busy getting baseball autographs) and squash those decisions flat like bugs! Your sex, your body, your life is not your own, people. But if the government won't let you have a humane death, maybe you can get your hands on a gun (provided your hands still work). No one will dare stand in your way, then.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
I'm off on business travel, and will probably not be able to post through the week, either here or at Corrente and American Street.
When I get back I'm going to disable the comments for awhile, so if you have anything to say to the general public while you're here, you better get it in now. My contact info is on the sidebar if you need to notify me of any unexpected inheritance or job offer.
In the meantime, you can amuse yourselves by rifling through the archives, and be amazed at the overwhelming evidence of perception and foresight exhibited therein. Or, if you share my sensibilities, you can just whip up a frothy tropical confection and listen to Tom Waits and Wang Chung till your eyes cross and you don't give a shit who the government disappears. Here's a handy recipe I particularly like. Wear something colorful while you shake it:
* 2 oz Light Rum
* 1 oz Triple Sec
* 1 tsp Powdered Sugar
* 1 tbsp Almond Syrup (Orgeat )
* 1 tbsp Grenadine
* 1 tbsp Lime Juice
* Crushed Ice
Shake with ice and strain into large glass 1/2 full of crushed ice. Top with a maraschino cherry and a pineapple wedge. Top with a dash of 151-proof rum for extra kick.
So consider this an open thread if you want, maybe in the revered tradition of beloved Billmon. Drink up, friends.
"This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source...Jesus Jones speaks for me---
Yet in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper "covert propaganda" even if their origin is made clear to the television stations...
The explanation begins inside the White House, where the president's communications advisers devised a strategy after Sept. 11, 2001, to encourage supportive news coverage of the fight against terrorism. The idea, they explained to reporters at the time, was to counter charges of American imperialism by generating accounts that emphasized American efforts to liberate and rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq...
An important instrument of this strategy was the Office of Broadcasting Services, a State Department unit of 30 or so editors and technicians whose typical duties include distributing video from news conferences...
United States law contains provisions intended to prevent the domestic dissemination of government propaganda. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, for example, allows Voice of America to broadcast pro-government news to foreign audiences, but not at home. Yet State Department officials said that law does not apply to the Office of Broadcasting Services."
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now
there is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
watching the world wake up from history"
why can't we get anymore of these guys?
And whatever happened to Tiki culture?
These drinks are a dying art! And why can't I find a Polynesian restaurant within 200 miles of the nation's 5th largest city??
"...there hath passed away a glory from the earth." Oh, William, things just aren't funny anymore. If I could just get a decently made Mai Tai, maybe it would all come out right.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
And I'm burnt from a night of schmoozing over microbrews at the meetup after the "Funeral March For Social Security" yesterday. More about that later, but I did get a chance to talk to Howard's brother, Jim Dean, and a couple bloggers: Chris Bowers of MyDD, and Spindentist (Steve) from the The All Spin Zone, who has a report. What a hotbed of political activism Philly is turning out to be! People of all races, ages and from all walks of life were there, and it was a great antidote to the gloom I've been sinking into of late.
So nothing too heavy today. The New York Observer has a fascinating article on the recent penchant of the Dating Class for breaking into one another's e-mail accounts to snoop:
"On a slow night, Anne, a 23-year-old assistant at an art consultancy, will get drunk at home with her friends and, instead of watching a movie or gossiping about men, they'll break into one of their old boyfriends' e-mail accounts. 'My friends and I have a few glasses of wine, and it's like, 'Let's go read [his] e-mail!' Anne said, making an inbox sound like a pirated cable box free of charge, only slightly criminal and endlessly engaging. The girls guffaw at his misspellings and giggle about his dating mishaps. They are as careful as cat burglars and never get caught. According to Anne, 'It's fun! It's so entertaining.'"Go read the whole thing. It's like Sex in the City with punctuation.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Well all right. If you just can't help yourselves, here:
Are you happy now?
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
"China issued the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004 Thursday in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004 issued by the U.S. on Feb. 28.They aren't listening to us any more. Like kids grown up enough to begin to recognize the hypocrisy in their parents' "do as I say, not as I do" spiel, China and other countries around the globe are thumbing their noses at our attempts to be self-righteous about human rights. And it's a goddamned shame, because we had so much potential to be a force for change in the world. The moment seems to have passed us by. We will diminish, and go into the West.
Released by the Information Office of China's State Council, the Chinese report listed a multitude of cases to show that serious violations of human rights exist on the homeland of the United States.
"In 2004 the atrocity of US troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the dark side of human rights performance of the United States. The scandal shocked the humanity and was condemned by the international community. It is quite ironic that on Feb. 28 of this year, the State Department of the United States once again posed as the 'the world human rights police' and released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. As in previous years, the reports pointed fingers at human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions (including China) but kept silent on the US misdeeds in this field. Therefore, the world people have to probe the human rights record behind the Statue of Liberty in the United States," said the report."
"In the evening's most emotional moment, Hersh talked about a call he had gotten from a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.Now, since the ACLU has obtained Pentagon documents via the Freedom of Information Act, it's been just a steady report of atrocities coming out of the news, like this:
"He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?"
"U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq filmed themselves kicking a gravely wounded prisoner in the face and making the arm of a corpse appear to wave, then titled the effort "Ramadi Madness" after the city where it was made.The article goes on to enumerate a variety of incidents first hinted at in the NYTimes last Thursday, about which I wrote a couple days ago. The difference here is that this newly-released information goes into even greater detail and reveals more incidents, and what it especially points up is the amount of thought, consideration, and extended effort these soldiers put into tormenting prisoners, and how enteratining they all thought it was.
The video, made public on Monday, was shot by Florida National Guard soldiers. They edited and compiled it into a DVD in January 2004, with various sections bearing titles such as "Those Crafty Little Bastards" and "Another Day, Another Mission, Another Scumbag."
The soldiers' unit served in the restive Sunni Muslim city Ramadi, about 70 miles (110 km) west of Baghdad, before returning home a year ago."
We're not talking about a few kids who were under pressure and shot the wrong person, made a tragic mistake, or were being ordered by superiors to do wrong things. This is pure sadism, the kind of pull-the-wings-off-flies cruelty that permutates into dangerous, even fatal behavior in adults. We are not safe with these people running loose among us, yet the Pentagon blithely dismisses their acts as "not criminal". And many of us are so paralyzed with the fear of being accused of "not supporting the troops", that neither the media nor much of the internet is speaking out about these things. It's time to rectify that.
Update: Via Juan Cole, a transcript and partial video of the recordings referenced above, here.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
"A leading Communist party official said force would be a last resort if reunification efforts fail.Sure it will. And the US is bound to protect Taiwan if that happens.
China has considered Taiwan a renegade province since communist forces drove nationalists from the mainland in 1949, and has repeatedly threatened to use military power against the island if it declares independence.
"Using non-peaceful means to stop secession in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity would be our last resort when all our efforts for a peaceful reunification should prove futile," Wang Zhaoguo, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC), told the session.
In the event of any conflict, China would take the utmost care to protect civilians and foreigners, as well as their property, Wang stressed."
And China holds our debt, which is getting bigger and uglier every day. Not to mention our desire to utilize China as a market for capital expansion. Not to mention that within 20 or 30 years China may eclipse us in any number of ways both economically and militarily. This sets the stage for some scary realpolitick, especially with Bolton, king of conciliation, heading for the UN.
I see troubling possiblilities for conflict here, not to mention the potential for another Iraq happening in Syria. Hunker down, kids, and keep your ears covered.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Thanks so much to farmer, Lambert, Leah, Xan, RDF, Tom and Tresy for allowing me to be one of you, and for thinking highly enough of my ravings to ask me. I'll try not to disappoint.
You can read my first post here, but I'll be putting a couple more up later this a.m.
"...I don't believe that authoritarian governance produced most episodes of terrorism in the last 60 years in the region. Terrorism was a weapon of the weak wielded against what these radical Muslims saw as a menacing foreign occupation. To erase that fact is to commit a basic error in historical understanding. It is why the US military occupation of Iraq is actually a negative for any "war on terror." Nor do I believe that democratization, even if it is possible, is going to end terrorism in and of itself.
You want to end terrorism? End unjust military occupations. By all means have Syria conduct an orderly withdrawal from Lebanon if that is what the Lebanese public wants. But Israel needs to withdraw from the Golan Heights, which belong to Syria, as well. The Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank must be ended. The Russian scorched earth policy in Chechnya needs to stop. Some just disposition of the Kashmir issue must be attained, and Indian enormities against Kashmiri Muslims must stop. The US needs to conduct an orderly and complete withdrawal from Iraq. And when all these military occupations end, there is some hope for a vast decrease in terrorism. People need a sense of autonomy and dignity, and occupation produces helplessness and humiliation. Humiliation is what causes terrorism."
Well, duh. All the wars fought in all the earth over all human history have been about territory--saving your own or taking someone else's. But we spend so much energy generating propaganda to hide this fact from ourselves and others that we actually start to believe the lies we tell ourselves about it. The excuses we manufacture to enable us to wage war are just the finger pointing at the moon of territorialism, but we want so desperately to believe well of ourselves that we see that finger and think it is the moon.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Can you find the cognitive dissonance?
From the NYTimes yesterday:
"In the most explicit statement of the administration's policies, Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, said in written Congressional testimony in January that "the policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States." Mr. Gonzales said then that he was "not aware of anyone in the executive branch authorizing any transfer of a detainee in violation of that policy."But in the same story:
"The unusually expansive authority (for rendition, the practice of exporting prisoners to other countries for interrogation) for the C.I.A. to operate independently was provided by the White House under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said."What kind of evidence are the American people waiting for before they call this president a liar? How much more of this do they have to have their noses rubbed in before they finally admit their government is run by goons:
"Under field conditions since the start of the Afghan War, Agency and allied interrogators have often added to their no-touch repertoire physical methods reminiscent of the Inquisition's trademark tortures - strappado, question de l'eau, "crippling stork," and "masks of mockery." At the CIA's center near Kabul in 2002, for instance, American interrogators forced prisoners "to stand with their hands chained to the ceiling and their feet shackled," an effect similar to the strappado. Instead of the Inquisition's iron-framed "crippling stork" to contort the victim's body, CIA interrogators made their victims assume similar "stress positions" without any external mechanism, aiming again for the psychological effect of self-induced pain.Ever since the Rodney King video was played, I have been stunned by the ability of human beings to ignore what is plainly right in front of their eyes, and how even the most intelligent of them can see a pile of dogshit and call it a flower. Back at the NYTimes story:
Although seemingly less brutal than physical methods, the CIA's "no touch" torture actually leaves deep, searing psychological scars on both victims and - something seldom noted - their interrogators. Victims often need long treatment to recover from a trauma many experts consider more crippling than physical pain. Perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to escalating acts of cruelty and lasting emotional disorders. When applied in actual operations, the CIA's psychological procedures have frequently led to unimaginable cruelties, physical and sexual, by individual perpetrators whose improvisations are often horrific and only occasionally effective."
"In public, the Bush administration has refused to confirm that the rendition program exists, saying only in response to questions about it that the United States did not hand over people to face torture. The official refused to say how many prisoners had been transferred as part of the program. But former government officials say that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A. has flown 100 to 150 suspected terrorists from one foreign country to another, including to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan."Syria (the big bogeyman of the moment!), Pakistan (remember how they helped bin Laden escape our troops--with Washington's assistance? See pgs. 128-134 of Seymour Hersh's "Chain of Command"), Saudi Arabia (the real source of the 9/11 killers), and Egypt... ah, Egypt.
Well, guess what, boys and girls, patriots and dissidents, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Freepers and Kossacks? We are the very people we used to despise. We are all complicit. We have lain down with these dogs, rolled in the rotten carcasses of the dead and dying, and we all smell so bad even God has turned away. We are shamed, and shameful. We have no moral authority left to show our faces anywhere in the world and complain about somebody else's unattractive habits. We are a nation of liars who have embraced a government of lies, and we continue to lie to ourselves every goddamned day to keep the bloody wheel turning. Peter Beinert writes a long pissant rant in TNR about how liberals, who used to be good little Nazis back in the McCarthy era, are failing their country by not getting behind Bush's War on Terra sufficiently, and the whole left blogosphere falls all over itself to say it ain't so. Well, fuck that. Bush couldn't have had more complicit and compliant little lapdogs if he'd ordered them up from The Sharper Image. The evil isn't that we failed to line up in sufficiently tight formations to be reamed by Bushco's propagandameisters. The evil is that we continue to let him sit in that chair in the Oval Office and speak for us. The evil is that we are so cowardly and spineless that we didn't even have the guts to get out into the streets like the Ukranians and demand his head.
The evil is that we have been spoon-fed the most ghastly evidence of horror and degradation for years now, and we no longer even care.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Wal Mart is kind enough to agree to pay, oh, I don't know, let's say--$135,540?--to get the gubmint off their backs on that kiddie labor rap. And just to make it worth their while, let's throw in this:
"A provision also promises to give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before the Labor Department investigates any other "wage and hour" accusations, like failure to pay minimum wage or overtime."It's good to be king.
Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends
How many sadists does it take to screw an Iraqi?
"A homemade video compiled by Florida National Guard soldiers in Iraq showed members of the unit kicking a bound prisoner and showing his bullet wounds to the camera, but no criminal charges were brought against them, according to military investigative files released Friday."And don't forget the raping of women. And the beating of people while they're tied up. And how many sadists does it take to amount to more than just "a few bad apples"?
"...one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington."
said Minority Leader Harry Reid about the Oracle of Nuthin' Much, Alan Greenspan. The emperor's clothes are coming off!
The Sibel Will Speak
Remember Sibel Edwards, the FBI translator who tried to bring security issues to her bosses' attention after 9/11, and was silenced mightily? James Ridgeway at the Voice gives an update on her progress toward getting a hearing. This has been an ordeal for her. It's a given that too many people's oxen may be gored by her testimony, and given the way our current government is run, it's a wonder she didn't suddenly "disappear" one day. But the muzzled media have been pliantly cooperative in keeping her hidden in plain sight, so there's probably been no need for Bushco to send out the goons.
Friday, March 04, 2005
Like the vicious murders of Judge Lefkow's family, which:
"...have generated intense chatter on the websites of white supremacists in the US.And to stick the knife in a little bit more:
Among the internet messages on the Vanguard News Network, which has a motto 'Uncensored News for Whites' was this one:
"There is nothing illegal or harmful in being happy about this incident. I can barely contain my glee".
"Her husband was a labour lawyer who had argued cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the poor and who had marched with Martin Luther King in the fight for civil rights in the 1960s."We've had to suffer attacks on our liberties by the likes of John Ashcroft and watched as immigrants and dissidents were tossed into legal limbo while the Regime whipped up the country into a xenophobic froth of panic, all in the name of fighting terrorism, while the activities of real homegrown terrorists--nice white, conservative types--have pretty much gone unchecked. And this in spite of the Oklahoma bombing, after which, I may add, no one started freaking out and proclaiming that "everything had changed" and that steps had to be taken to start a war, create a new governmental agency, and turn our laws and lives upside down.
Or there's that slithering spokesmodel for Bush's Norquistation of America, Alan "I've got mine, Jack" Greenspan, whose been riding on his special status as the Oracle of Nuthin' Much to sow more panic, this time about the imminent demise of Social Security, just in time to give the flagging Bushco juggernaut a shot in the arm. Interesting, considering that less than a month ago he was saying there was no immediate crisis . But even then he was talking out of both sides of his mouth. The man has developed a record of manufacturing "expert opinion" to rescue his Master's economic agenda whenever the holes in it begin to show. It eludes me how he's managed to hold onto any credibility at this point, yet Wall Street goes to its knees and practically burns offerings to him every time he opens his mouth. And now, just to be sure no one mistakes him for human, he's suggesting a "consumption tax", i.e., a national sales tax whose regressive nature will always hit the poor the hardest. And to think there's a woman in the world who willingly sleeps with this ghoul.
Then there are those guardians of our welfare, the US Congress, poised to sell us out with the fabulous bankruptcy bill (but don't worry, to make it more palatable, Kennedy's pushing to add a bump in the minimum wage as an amendment). No one's talking about actually fighting this bill, which exemplifies all that's unfair about the current zeitgeist, and no one is countering with any regulation on the predatory soliciting methods credit companies and lending corporations use on the poor and the too-young. No, no, responsibility and austerity is fine for consumers, but hands off the executive cash cow. The Repubs and business interests are making the usual groundless claims that Satan will possess the economy if the poor schmucks at Wendy's get an extra 50 cents an hour. The Dems have their heads up their asses, searching fruitlessly for a reason for their existence (hint, guys: it ain't up there).
Thursday, March 03, 2005
...don't you believe it
when they tell you that your face won't do and you've got to make one up
when they try to sell you the latest miracle drug;
don't you believe it.
all your sisters before you fell victim to fictional love upon love upon lover
but you just take your time and try to figure out some kind of truth
and try to find someone who's tryin' to figure it out just like you
we've been bought and sold and we don't even know their names
we've been caught and thrown to the lions, don't look for the cage
you can't see it -- it's everywhere
got a feelin' that really there's only one road left to choose
so if you'll cover for me, i'll cover for you
and don't you believe it
when they tell you that your life won't do
and you've got to make one up
don't you believe it ...
Tonio K. © 1979 Worthless Music (ASCAP)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Well, soon they may both have a resume that includes a gig hawking for The Money Store. The difference here is that while Rizzuto pushed ads for a corporation that made money making loans to poor people, Wolfowitz will take over an entity that makes money for big business by making loans to poor people.
"Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy secretary of defence, has emerged as a leading candidate to replace James Wolfensohn as the president of the World Bank...Indeed. I can't imagine why anyone would object to putting him at the reins of one of the two major lending machines for financially weak countries around the globe...except maybe because this is the guy whose agenda for world domination was instrumental in sending us into an illegal war that could pull us into a years-long slow bleed of capital and human beings, and that since world domination is really all about market expansion, it makes sense to set someone like Paul into such a strategic seat. I would expect that if this happens, it will surely put the nail in the coffin of the last scintilla of the World Bank's conscience. But why should this surprise us? Expansionism has a long, proud history in our country, and this will just eliminate the middleman.
The nomination of Mr Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the Iraq war and a former US ambassador to Indonesia, would likely be highly controversial, and could raise new questions about the process by which the World Bank chief is selected. One administration official said his nomination “would have enormous repercussions within the development community”."