Saturday, December 30, 2006

On the Occasion of the Death of Saddam Hussein


The old year is dying fast. What a special year it's been, too: a year of recurring thanatological celebration. So what better way to ring out the old year than to...kill something else? And what better way to send a message of our continuing, unwavering support toward current allies, than to celebrate the death of an old one?

Because as history has repeatedly shown us, nothing solves a problem like death.

In fact, the more dying there is, the better the world gets.

And if the media can make a few bucks off some medieval displays of that death, and desensitize the paying masses even further into Romanesque barbarity, why, surely God will love us even more. Now, I know there are some wet blankets out there who worry about a backlash now that Saddam is dead, but, really, people. Even if there was, how would we know?

I can hardly wait to see what awaits us in the new year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Goode Will Toward Men

turkeyAh. It must be Christmas. The tree is up and somewhere a turkey is simmering:
Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) is coming under sharp criticism for lashing out against the decision by Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who will become the first Muslim member of Congress next month, to use the Koran during a swearing-in ceremony.

In a recent letter to constituents, Goode, a five-term congressman from Rocky Mount, wrote that he does "not subscribe to using the Koran in any way" and added: "The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."
No, this kind of hate-and-fear campaign couldn't just die an ignominious death after Dennis Prager's booboisie tirades. No, it had to pick up steam and become a rallying cry for every bigoted, ignorant lout who thinks his religion is better than your religion. Let's hear some more of that Christ-like forbearance we've come to expect from His followers, crying out in the extremity of their persecution at the hands of the unsaved:
“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped,” said Mr. Goode, who vowed to use the Bible when taking his own oath of office.
You can read the full text of the letter, blessedly short as it is so as not to tax small minds, here. Mind you, this creature sounding the alarm against people who don't look or pray like he does is the same toad who took plenty of money from Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc. employees, to the tune of $48,551, to plant a military center in Goode's district and have Wade's company run it. Wade, identified as a co-conspirator in the Randy "Duke" Cunnigham scandal. But then, graft and corruption in the pursuit of mammon is the only real god that counts with these people, who then hit the churches on Sunday to assure themselves they are righteous in their greed.

And like any true believer, Goode is proud of his hate and ignorance, and defies anyone to try to make him say otherwise:
Goode's press secretary Linwood Duncan said, "He has no intention of apologizing and he stands by the letter."
Merry fucking Christmas.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Thoughts To Keep You Warm While You're Trolling For PlayStation 3

poverty_mapFrom the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Poverty USA page, these statistics pull a brittle skin of numbers over the grinning skull of impoverishment that waxes over Bushland:

For the fourth consecutive year, the poverty rate and the number of Americans living in poverty both rose from the prior years. Since 2000, the number of poor Americans has grown by more than 6 million. The official poverty rate in 2004 (the most current year for which figures are available) was 12.7 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2003. Total Americans below the official poverty thresholds numbered 37 million, a figure 1.1 million higher than the 35.9 million in poverty in 2003. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004)

On average, more than one out of every three Americans - 37 percent of all people in the United States - are officially classified as living in poverty at least 2 months out of the year. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004)

The number of Americans living in severe poverty - with incomes below half of the poverty line - remained the same at 15.6 million. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004)

Since 1999, the number of poor Americans suffering from "food insecurity" and hunger has increased by 3.9 million - 2.8 million adults and more than one million children. In 2002, 34.9 million people lived in households experiencing food insecurity - that is, not enough food for basic nourishment - compared to 33.6 million in 2001 and 31 million in 1999. (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Household Food Security in the United States, 2002, October 2003.)

The American Midwest and South saw the greatest numbers of people entering poverty in 2004; the number in the Midwest rose from 6.9 million to 7.5 million, while the South rose from 14 to 14.5 million people. Yet the two regions stand at the opposite ends of the percentage of people living in poverty for all regions in America. In the Midwest and Northeast, 11.6 percent of all people live in poverty, compared to 12.6 percent for the West, and 14.1 for the South – the highest of all. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004)
tour But stats don't really bring home the nuts and bolts of the daily grinding fear that people in poverty have to grapple with, day after day. View the USCCB's short (2 minute) movie, here, to get an idea of how difficult it can be. And then re-visit this old post of mine, where I break it down in print.

More on this later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Random Act of Kindness that Has Been My Life


That I had the incredible luck to be born into a country that has never known war or famine in my lifetime, a country insulated from the horrors of daily living endured by most of mankind. That I had the luck to be adopted into a comfortable middle-class family. The luck to go to school in safety, and not only graduate, but to be able to go past high school. The luck to meet a man who has been not only my great love, but my best friend, early in life, and to have lived almost my entire life with him in companionable equity, without fear of violence or enslavement or cruelty. To have had a child who is loving and forgiving and kind, and to have been able to raise her in safety, free of hardship and disease.

The luck that enables me to wake up every day without fear that I may be kidnapped, gang-raped, sold into slavery; to turn on a tap and get drinkable water, or turn on a stove and have cooking fire, instead of risking my life scrabbling for miles to find wood or a poisoned well. To take sanitation and sewerage for granted. To eat when I want. To be able to afford to live in a safe place. To be able to afford much more than this.

And thankful that I have the good sense to know that none of this has anything to do with my own deservingness as a human being, but rather the sheer random luck of the universe.

Because if we really got what we deserved, most of us would have a lot LESS, and for that reason alone we need to have "There but for the grace of God..." tattooed on each of our foreheads, and "Let he who is without sin..." on our chests---especially the Social Darwinists, Punishment-Heads, Christianist Dominionists, and Warmongers who have been trying so hard to transform my country into Afghanistan with advertising.

I'm thankful for things like forgiveness, and empathy, and inclusiveness, and love. And food. And drink. And for the internet, so I can share with you the menus created by Chef John Sharpe for his Native American Thanksgiving Feast.

Have a wonderful day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Radical, Disguised

Revolutionary%20America,%201763-1783%20Button Via Angry Bear, and in, of all places, the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page, I discover that newly-elected Virginia senator Jim Webb has been nurturing the sentiments of a Eugene Debs:
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century...

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes...
He's raising the issues of racisim and discrimination here, at a time when government has been turning its back on the idea of affirmative action and even the idea that one social group remains at the bottom of the economic ladder because of, and solely because of, skin color and the historical baggage that color carries. Nowhere in our national dialogue on class have we been blinder, than to the obvious evidence that whites have been trying to escape blacks since the Southern Strategy, and that the resulting segregation has created an intractable economic and educational chasm between the races that continues to shame us all. And our history on this is so bowdlerized that we don't even know how advantage for whites at the expense of blacks was built into our most beloved entitlements from their inception in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. It takes a lot of courage for Webb to raise this issue in the current climate of Social Darwinism. But he knows that, to gain popular support, he must appeal to everone's bottom line ("this will hurt you, too!") before positioning it:
But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life...
And now for the real coup de gras (bolding mine):
More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest.
He's talking about the ouster of political leaders, of course, but I think lurking in this statement is more: the possibility of real violence--mobs, riots, and tmass disregard for laws no longer seen as relevant. Most important and most amazing (for a machine political winner), Webb places this issue at the top of the American Hierarchy of Needs:
With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.
Like the shrewd union organizers of old, Webb knows that you can't overcome class barriers unless you overcome the divisive policies of an economic elite, and help people understand that their common interests as workers and human beings are more important than where they come from and the colors of their skin.

As Eugene Debs once said:
We are not going to destroy private property. We are going to establish private property -- all the private property necessary to house man, keep him in comfort, and satisfy his wants. Eighty percent of the people of the United States have no property. A few have got it all. They have dispossessed the people, and when we get into power, we will dispossess them. We will reduce the workday and give every man a chance. We will go to the parks, and we will have music, because we will have time to play music and desire to hear it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Planet of the Apes

God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages. ~Jacques Deval, Afin de vivre bel et bien

prbdI read Pride of Baghdad today, and had tears in my eyes when I fianlly put it down. I vaguely remembered the tale the book was based on, but it was so long ago that I'd forgotten most of it: in the earliest days of the American invasion of Iraq, 4 lions were driven from their cages when the bombing of the city destroyed the Baghdad Zoo. Mad with fear and hunger, they fled for days through that man-made hell before being discovered by American soldiers:
Tuesday, 22 April, 2003
US Troops Kill Baghdad Lions

Four starving lions which dug their way out of a Baghdad zoo have been shot dead by American soldiers, the military says.

Two of the big cats lunged for the US troops who then fired at them, one soldier said.

Sergeant Matthew Oliver said three lionesses and one male lion clawed their way out of their outdoor pen through a crumbling wall.
It's a beautiful book.
The depictions of the city in ruin are dreamily compelling. (UPDATE: The inestimable Elayne Riggs reminds me that I forgot to mention artist Niko Henrichon by name; this is his second work, but his future looks secure, judging by the quality of his work.)pride_65_72_colors
Writer Brian K. Vaughan made a deliberate decision to tell the story in the lions' voices as a way to get under the skin of a war-weary, atrocity-jaded audience:
What he wanted to do, Vaughan explains, was 'to tell a story about the suffering of Iraqi civilians'. But telling a realistic story about the suffering of Iraqi civilians would not, of itself, hit home sufficiently hard: 'It's weird. You can threaten and kill a baby in a movie, but put a dog in jeopardy and people will walk out. You make a more immediate connection to a giraffe than a person. It sounds psychotic, that you can feel more for an animal than a human.'
It doesn't sound psychotic to me. It sounds to me as if we have been excusing our torment of each other for so many thousands of years by dehumanizing each other, that we have finally arrived at a point where we can only feel pity for creatures that don't remind us of ourselves.

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. ~Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tell Donald It Was Only Business; I Always Liked Him


I’m listening to the vaunted press conference of George Bush that’s going on right now, and I’m guessing this will be remembered as one of the weirdest, most arrogant and bile-filled crankfests yet to spew out of the Whiner-in-Chief in the history of his presidency. Snark, snark, appreciative/nervous laughs from the gaggle, snark. Of course there’s the mandatory fake-humility of a call to bipartisanship, couched within a “fuck-you, Dems” remark about hanging on to his principles (as if he had any). His hubris and defensive bullying really knows no bounds.

But the real news is that this Yalie brat has finally given one of the architects of our poisonous foreign policy the heave ho, “after a series of thoughtful conversations”:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hard-driving and super-confident Pentagon boss who came to symbolize President Bush’s controversial Iraq policy, is resigning, President Bush announced today.
The president said he would nominate Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and now president of Texas A & M University, to replace Mr. Rumsfeld.
While praising Mr. Rumsfeld as “a superb leader in a time of change,” Mr. Bush said both he and the departing secretary recognized the “value of a fresh perspective.”
Only days ago, Mr. Bush had voiced confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld, as he had consistently done since the start of his presidency. But Tuesday’s elections produced a furious reaction from the American public over a military campaign that has cost the lives of nearly 3,000 members of the armed forces and that many people of all political stripes have described as poorly managed.
Neither of these men has ever had a fucking “thoughtful conversation”. They’re both always too busy thinking about how to strong-arm their listeners into capitulation. But this albatross finally put on one too many extra pounds. The really delightful part is that it stands as a kind of victory for the much maligned and scapegoated CIA. The really amusing (in a gallows humor kind of way) thing about it is the number of false starts this professional suicide has had. In February 2005, after more than a year of demands, suggestions, and pleas from all corners that he resign, Rummy offered the revelation that he’d already tried twice to resign, in a scenario that was beginning to take on the Pacino-like flavor of The Godfather Part III:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he twice offered President Bush his resignation during the height of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, but the president refused to accept it.
This didn’t settle the ingrate masses, who continued to demand somebody, somewhere, be held to account. So in April of this year, Bush had to step up and tell them to sit down and shutup:
"I have seen firsthand how Don relies upon our military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how best to complete these missions" of fighting terrorists while simultaneously transforming the military, Bush said. "Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation."
Full into the midterm elections, the noise of the great unwashed became so unbearable that Bush was forced into the hyberbolic frothing of the insane:
Now in its fourth year, the war in Iraq is the top issue in the election. Bush said he wanted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the top architect of the war, and Vice President Dick Cheney to remain with him until the end of his presidency.
"Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them," Bush said.
Fantastic! And this, right after the 3rd worst month for American war deaths since before mission accomplished! Not a good job, or a hard job, or the best job he can, but a fantastic job! Can a medal of freedom be far behind??

This is all just part of that lovable package we like to call George “Directions? We don’t need no stinkin’ directions!” W. Bush. The Chief Executive Screw-Up. The only leader of our country who was never a leader of our country. Why, it’s what he does! First it's:
...Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
Then it's:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown resigned Monday after coming under fire over his qualifications and for what critics call a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina's destruction.
You thought all that “stay the course” bushwa just meant he had a rod up his ass and not a clue. But really, he’s constantly adjusting…really.

After the fuckups.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Rocketship of Fools

foolsThis ran in the Times Online yesterday, and I haven't seen a whisper of it in the NYTimes:
THE SPECTRE of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.

The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.

The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.

All want to build civilian nuclear energy programmes, as they are permitted to under international law. But the sudden rush to nuclear power has raised suspicions that the real intention is to acquire nuclear technology which could be used for the first Arab atomic bomb.
I blame the Bush administration for this. The casually arrogant way that Bush and his apparatchiks have castrated the American diplomatic culture, their blithe, hypocritical disregard of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties, and their doofus stick-poking into Arab affairs masquerading as "policy" (hands off Lebanon, hands off Gaza, hands all over Iraq, rattle the swords at Syria as the CIA's latest disappeareds are dumped off in dungeons for some not-torture, and do a one-eighty on democracy when the result turns embarassing). I didn't need the NIE to tell me these long years of malfeasance and ineptitude were putting us, and the rest of the world, at greater risk.

In times like these, it's hard to invent anything as ridiculous as these real-life media vignettes building up to the perfect nightmare, but it's still possible (and desirable) to escape into fantasy.

Read the script of Dr. Strangelove:
Have you read much about the disarmament
talks, Major?

Well, I know they've been going on for
years, and they haven't gotten any place.

Not yet, Major. Not yet.

And I guess they won't until they agree to
let us inspect inside their country.

You're very naive, Major. Don't they say
they want disarmament?

Yes, sir. But so do we.

But we mean it because we are a peace-
loving country. Are they a peace-loving
country, Major.

I don't know, sir. But they're just as
anxious to avoid a nuclear war as we are.
War just doesn't make sense any more, for

But war doesn't make sense precisely because
the weapons can kill an entire country -- right?


(the prosecutor makes
his point)
Then don't you realize the Bomb gives us
Peace not War? And, if that's the case, I
ask you again: Why do they want disarmament?

Well, sir, like I said, for the same reasons
we do. I mean, all the experts say the most
likely way for War to start nowadays is by
an accident, or a mistake, or by some mentally
unbalanced person --
(lets his voice trail off)

MANDRAKE's discretion was unnecessary for it would never occur
to GENERAL RIPPER that anyone would think him mentally unbalanced.
Juxta, George Bush.


(Or: What's the Matter with Kansas, Part Infinitude)

best_caduceusHIPAA? We don't need no stinking HIPAA!!!
TOPEKA, Kan. - An abortion doctor plans to ask for an investigation of the state attorney general and Bill O'Reilly over comments by the Fox television host that he got information from Kansas abortion records, the doctor's attorneys said Saturday.

Dr. George Tiller said he will ask the Kansas Supreme Court on Monday to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and take possession of the records of 90 patients from two clinics.

Attorney General Phill Kline obtained the records recently after a two-year battle that prompted privacy concerns. He has said he sought the records to review them for evidence of possible crimes including rape and illegal abortions.
"Information"? No not just "information". We're not talking about faceless statistics; we're talking about individual women's and girls' medical records that O'Reilly is claiming to have specific knowledge of:
During a Friday night broadcast of "The O'Reilly Factor," the conservative host said a "source inside" told the show that Tiller performs late-term abortions when a patient is depressed, which O'Reilly deemed "executing babies."

O'Reilly also said his show has evidence that Tiller's clinic and another unnamed clinic have broken Kansas law by failing to report potential rapes with victims ages 10 to 15.
And how did this come to light? Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, a McCarthyesque witch hunter whose current re-election campaign seems to be floundering, was doing a little snorgling with one of the fascist megaphonies, no doubt in hopes that it might boost his sagging numbers:
Kline, an abortion opponent and Republican in a tight race with Democrat Paul Morrison, was interviewed by O'Reilly during the segment.

"Our information says that on almost every medical sheet - and obviously we have a source inside here - it says, 'depression,'" O'Reilly told Kline during the broadcast. "I don't know whether you have that information or not - I don't know - but that's what it says."
Whether or not the files in question were redacted, as the article indicates, does not mean that a reporter with a serious desire to find one of the patients couldn't do it with the information in the records. But with regard to liability:
It wasn't clear Saturday whether O'Reilly's source had broken state or federal laws by divulging patient information or whether O'Reilly or his staff had viewed any records themselves. A request to Fox in Washington to interview O'Reilly or someone associated with his show wasn't answered Saturday.
I'll bet. But this is what happens when the nation's power-mongers and state-religionists ally to demonize other people's morality. Still, according to my understanding of it, there has been a likely violation of HIPAA, and the patients whose confidentiality has been breached can fight back:
(NJ Superior Court's) Community’s decision determined that if a covered entity has failed to protect PHI, it may not then bring a lawsuit to defend the privacy rights of the affected patients. The opinion does not prevent covered entities from citing the privacy rights of patients when presented with demands for the disclosure of PHI. Nor does the decision preclude a covered entity from engaging in litigation or motion practice to defend the privacy rights of patients whose PHI remains confidential. The decision leaves intact the covered entity’s power to report wrongful disclosure or receipt of PHI to the government and to the patients whose PHI has been disclosed. The government may address the HIPAA violations via criminal penalties, and the patients may pursue civil claims to defend privacy rights.
Regardless of the state in which the injury occurred, the injured parties have the right to file a complaint with the Federal Office of Civil Rights. For the women in this case, that would be Office VII:
Region VII - IA, KS, MO, NE
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
601 East 12th Street - Room 248
Kansas City, MO 64106
(816) 426-7278; (816) 426-7065 (TDD)
(816) 426-3686 FAX
The on-line complaint form can be found here, and sent to As for private lawsuits, I'd guess any ACLU attorney familiar with HIPAA law would be happy to take down O'Reilly and Kline together.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Riggsveda Zeitgeist

Sick of the campaign blues:

And daily affronts on the street:

Surrounded by fools:

Yet blessed by the luck of the blissfully ignorant:

And grateful that things aren't worse:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

When Jokes Go Bad

MfA's Partisan JabMore than 2000 Americans died after Bush flubbed his little joke, and the American people voted him back into office. But somehow Kerry's remarks are on a par with child molestation or apostasy. This, in itself, seems a meta-joke so monstrous that it almost makes you believe there's a God. Funny folks, you fellow Americans of mine.

Thanks to Music for America for the video.


Samuel L. Jackson has had it with the Republicans, too:

What else is there to say? Vote 'em off the plane on November 7th.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bush's Goat-People

America. It's what's for dinner. We wait with painful expectation for the next scandal (Kerry hates the troops! Democrats are terrorists!), the next lie to be manufactured, the next script to be written and the roles for us to be assigned. Tell us anything, and if you use the right buzzwords, we'll fall for it. Like these little guys below, we get whipped up into such a lather that we simply can't contain ourselves anymore, and flop! We go hooves up in a paroxysm of dither and ferment:

A week later we won't even remember who all the fuss was about, but for a few hours the scandal will be the only thing that matters, and the powers that be will have taken that momentary abdication of our power to work their will.

The goats, having served their purpose, are sold off for meat.

Barnyard Politics

"Education -- if you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well," said Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat. "If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
To quote our whimsical Secretary of Defense, "Oh, Henny-Penny, the sky is falling!" Somebody told the truth. It's too bad he left out the punch line: "Just ask President Bush."

So now it's dogpile-on-Kerry time again:
Some Democrats defended the senator, but others privately cringed. An unnamed Democratic congressman told ABC News: "I guess Kerry wasn't content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too."
Oh, bravo, sir! Displacement is so much more constructive than confronting the source of the problem.

So, keeping alive a completely meaningless cockfight, CNN wants to know "who should apologize" over the artificial horror engendered by John Kerry's clumsy comment on why kids should do well in school:
President Bush has called Kerry's comments "insulting" and "shameful" and said the Democrat from Massachusetts owes an apology to the U.S. military. Kerry said the president owes the troops an apology for misleading the country into the war in Iraq. What do you think? Does Kerry owe the nation's military an apology, or does Bush?
Rather beside the point now, since Kerry already apologized. We truly are a nation of fainting goats.
fainting goat
Here's what I told them:

Everyone knows--and you in the media have reported on it for years--that kids with fewer options and less money are not only more likely to enter the military for a chance at education and career-training, but the recruiters themselves focus their efforts on poor and minority candidates far more than on rich ones.

That doesn’t automatically mean that highly-educated and wealthier people don’t also join up (though they are far more likely to be officers)--and it doesn’t mean that the poor kids who do join aren’t doing it for patriotic reasons as well.

But come on…to deliberately ignore the fact that the infantry of this volunteer military is mostly made up of the working class is simply bad faith, the same bad faith in which that buffoon in the White House twists Kerry’s words to accuse him of disrespect for the troops. He gets up on the bodies of the “troops” to try to make some political hay, and you, you recorders of history; you let him get away with it. You sit there and allow Bush, a man who spent his entire so-called “military service” pulling strings and eluding responsibilities while his poorer contemporaries died like flies in the jungles of south Asia, accuse a real war hero of disrespect for the troops, and yet fail to question what standing he has to make such accusations? Bush has consistently laid out budget after budget cutting funds for veteran’s needs, and has sent billions unaccounted for into Iraq while failing to ensure the soldiers and their families got enough armor and enough pay to keep them out of the field hospitals and the food banks.

So tell me this---who disrespects the troops:
Kerry, who fought in war, who lost dear friends in front of his eyes and had the courage to speak out against it, who tries to impress on kids at a turning point in their lives that failing to take advantage of education reduces their options and pushes them towards the devil’s bargain of the volunteer service?
Or Bush, who has never spoken a single word about the “troops” that wasn’t steeped in opportunism and disingenuousness, and who has never experienced one minute of the terror and loss of war?
But forget all that. It's so much more fun to play the wounded ignoramus. Where are my smelling salts, Miz Liza?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Horror Show

homecoming2Best Halloween viewing to commemorate the deaths of 103 Americans in Iraq during October 2006?

Hands down it's got to be Joe Dante's zombie movie Homecoming, a primal scream at what may go down in history as America's most hideously wanton war:
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what a fucking mess we're in," (Dante) continues. "It's been happening steadily for the past four years, and nobody said peep. The New York Times and all these people that abetted the lies and crap that went into making and selling this war-—now that they see the guy is a little weak, they're kicking him with their toe to make sure he doesn't bite back. It's cowardly. This pitiful zombie movie, this fucking B movie, is the only thing anybody's done about this issue that's killed 2,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis? It's fucking sick."
After all the whining on the Right about Hollywood's liberal bias, you'd think we'd have seen movies like this coming out a dime a dozen, but we haven't. Why? Because, as is the case with many Republicans, Hollywood is motivated by the profit margin, and making anti-war statements, especially in today's political climate, is self-immolation. Dante himself recognized it:
"You can't do theatrical political movies; people don't go to them. You can't do them on television, because you've got sponsors," he says. "Michael Moore's last picture made a lot of money, but he was vilified for it so much he's practically in hiding."

Dante hopes Homecoming functions as a wake-up call—not so much for politicians but for filmmakers. "If this spurs other people into making more and better versions, it will have done its job. I want to see more discussion," he says. "Nobody is doing anything about what's going on now—compared to the '70s, when they were making movies about the issues of the day. This elephant in the room, this Iraq war story, is not being dramatized."
The movie itself veers wildly between satire and tears; the scene in the diner between an older couple and a dead soldier they call out of the rain is unexpectedly touching. I can't think of any movie more fitting for the day, and the election season, than one about the dire necessity of voting these bastards out of office, even if one has to come back from the dead to do it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Chocolate-Eating Surrender Monkeys, We

Theobroma%20cacao%20Echter%20Kakaobaum%207It's National Chocolate Day! No better time to remember, as Kevin Drum warns, that we are 100% dependent on foreign chocolate-making resources! Call your senator; let's make tax breaks for carob growers the priority it should be.

And on this day in history:

1919 -- Senate passes the Volstead Prohibition Enforcement Act. Country needs a drink.

1929 -- Stock Exchange collapses (Black Friday), starting the Great Depression, & world economic crisis. After criminalizing liquor, is it any wonder?

1965 -- Pope Paul VI formally absolves the Jews of collective guilt for the crucifixion of Christ. The rest of us can now stand down.

1970 -- J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accuses Nixon administration of conducting an illegal war in Laos without congressional knowledge or approval. As with the later Bush wiretapping scandal, the country goes on about its business and the president makes things even worse.

This look backward into the tar pit of history is brought to you by Dave Brown's The Daily Bleed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

No Brain, No Pain

(Warning--photo at end of post is disturbing.)

So dunking terrorists in water is a no-brainer for Cheney:
Cheney is asked if he agrees "dunking a terrorist in water" is okay to save lives. "I do agree," he says. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation.
Hennen follows up, asking "Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" Cheney's answer: "It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President for torture."
Wearing cotton coat and pants, Xiao was sat down beside the cell vent in a very uncomfortable position, unable to stretch or lie down. Although the water dungeon area was very small, he still could not support his body against the wall. Then Fang and Zhen started to pour water onto the floor, soaking Xiao’s coat and pants with freezing-cold water. After Fang and Zhen repeatedly poured water into the dungeon, Xiao’s body was completely soaked. Ice-cold water and the chilly wind together covered his body like piercing knives.
"The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt…According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the waterboarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said Al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two and a half minutes before begging to confess."
In Uruguay, North-American and Brazilian instructors were brought to deliver torture "lessons." Here torture included: "standing guard" (standing still), the "telephone," the "submarine," electric torture in all its forms, the "airplane"(hanging victims from their arms), the "rider" (forcing the naked victim to sit for hours on end on a metallic rod shoved between the legs), live burial, burns, psychiatric torture, and even aggressive dogs (Uruguay Nunca Más 1992). The tortures used in Paraguay were: the picana, the "bat" (hanging victims by their wrists), the "submarine," and the "foetus" (forcing victims to adopt a crouching position for hours).
"The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show...

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets," according to a summary of his interview.

Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al-Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.
Detainees held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have been subjected to sleep and sensory deprivation, held in painful stress positions, forced to stand for long periods of time, interrogated while nude, and otherwise mistreated. According to The New York Times, the CIA submerged a detainee in water to simulate drowning. These techniques are clearly designed to inflict a degree of pain and humiliation to soften up prisoners for interrogation, without leaving visible scars. Such techniques are in violation of U.S. legal obligations under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Geneva Conventions. And they are in many cases identical to techniques of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that have been used by repressive regimes around the world, and condemned by the United States.
“We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."
The Chinese, from whom we’ve borrowed other great “robust interrogation” ideas, must have been able to get plenty out of this man:


Can we look forward to the inclusion of The Death of A Hundred Cuts in our next interrogation program? Because, you know, easy moralism just doesn't cut it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bigly, Hugely Inhuman

So tell me now:
How much longer to do we have to listen to this being spread around the mainstream media before we can finally call it hate speech?

And Next Week, George Has Some Good Ideas For a New Surgical Technique

From WaPo, via Brad Delong, George Will weighs in on the flummoxing tendency of the average wage earner to look with muley pessimism on the current gubmint ballyhoo of an economic environment favorable to the odd oligarch:
Prosperity Amid the Gloom - Economic hypochondria, a derangement associated with affluence, is a byproduct of the welfare state: An entitlement mentality gives Americans a low pain threshold -- witness their recurring hysteria about nominal rather than real gasoline prices -- and a sense of being entitled to economic dynamism without the frictions and "creative destruction" that must accompany dynamism. Economic hypochondria is also bred by news media that consider the phrase "good news" an oxymoron, even as the U.S. economy, which has performed better than any other major industrial economy since 2001, drives the Dow to record highs...
Shorter George Will: You puling little punks! Get over it!

I got yer "low pain threshold" right here, George. But it's more a low pain threshold for listening to self-appointed oracles pontificate about things they have next to know personal experience with.

Does anyone write about the economy these days who has ever, even once in their life, had to worry about whether they could put food on the table?

Does anyone write about the health insurance crisis who ever had to go without coverage while their kids were little, sweating it out with crossed fingers?

No, it's just an endless vomitorium of "dreck", as you so keenly put it---dreck with no empirical basis, spewed out by any well-fed frat rat with a college connection and a bidness degree who's managed to parlay his ability to write a compound sentence into a comfy gig telling the rest of us to stop paying attention to our own experience and quit whining. If we didn't have obedience and bovine conformity drilled into us from kindergarten, maybe we would give these guys the total freeze-out they so richly deserve.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Nobody Fucks Up Better"

That's the new Republican campaign motto.
You want a terror attack? We can do that!

The message of the new bwaaah-hah-hah RNC television ad is supposed to be that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are still out there threatening us, and a vote for Democrats is a sure invitation to terrorists to come back and try it again. That's what it's supposed to be, but that's not how it feels as it plays out. Are we intended to watch the spot showing us Osama directing his minions to "kill the Americans" in 1998, but forget that 3 years later we got the Twin Towers, Shanksville, and the Pentagon, not on Clinton's watch, but Bush's?

Let us revisit those exciting days of yesteryear...

mypetgoat After falling into a deer-in-the-headlights fugue for 12 minutes in front of the kids at Emma T. Booker Elementary School, Bush tells the country:
"We're going to hunt down and find the folks who committed this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand."
The folks? The folks are back at the old homestead, cooking up a storm for Sunday's potluck. But this is Bush, the Great Mis-Communicator, and by now we've come to expect this kind of tonal flub. The Veep then proceeds to disappear down the rabbit hole, and Bush flies around uselessly in Air Force One like a confused mud wasp while trying to figure out what a real president would do.

Osama bin Laden was suddenly on everyone's radar , and only 6 days after the attacks the gauntlet was thrown:
"Speaking with reporters after a Pentagon briefing on plans to call up reserve troops, Bush offered some of his most blunt language to date when he was asked if he wanted bin Laden dead.

"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West� I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"
Remember how it was "all Osama, all the time" for the next--oh, at least 3 months, until it was time for the Saddam show? And then, in March of the following year, we saw this curious priority reversal:
"So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you."

"I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

"This thing about . . . let's put 100,000 of our special forces stomping through Pakistan in order to find bin Laden is just simply not the strategy that will work."
And then, with need to distract us from the meltdown of Iraq in order to hold onto the throne, it was time to bring him back up on the national screen, which Bush was happy to do at an October 2004 debate:
"Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.

Of course we're worried about Osama bin Laden. We're on the hunt after Osama bin Laden. We're using every asset at our disposal to get Osama bin Laden. "
Gosh. Who could have guessed that someone out there in TV Land would have stayed awake during the last 4 years? Do you think anyone has noticed that it's been the Republicans who've had control of all 3 branches of government, had their way completely in matters of national defense and foreign policy, and yet still haven't been able to get the one man who symbolizes terror more than any other? Well, no matter. They can still use him like a boogeyman to scare the little children of America, even if they can't actually, you know, get him.

In fact, this is a gang that never did find "the strategy that will work"...for anything. Yet we're supposed to be grateful that we haven't had another 9/11 since they let the first one happen--even though we've had not one whit of evidence that they have thwarted further attacks--and sit in awe of their clever manipulation of America's enemies despte the fact that they have helped those enemies expand their ranks in ways previously unhoped.

And most important, we're supposed to watch this latest ad blitz, with its whiff of Roviana, this proud parading of one's weaknesses and fuck-ups as if they were one's greatest achievments, and buy the whole lying package: that the very people who allowed terrorism to achieve its greatest victory on our soil, and then made the world even more dangerous for Americans through foreign policy screw-ups that fomented even more hate and vengeance, are the same people whose protection we can't afford to lose.

Scary Halloween Update: As if we didn't have enough evidence of Bush's disingenuous bobbing-and-weaving act, Think Progress has this:
STEPHANOPOULOS: James Baker says that he’s looking for something between “cut and run” and “stay the course.”

BUSH: Well, hey, listen, we’ve never been “stay the course,” George. We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job, and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting to tactics. Constantly.
rocky2Well, hey, listen, that's the problem with being president and people recording your every word, George. Words are harder to kill than mere reputations and infantrymen.

And sometimes...
they come back!!


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why Should WE Care?

Do the streets of Philadelphia and Peoria have to look like this before Americans begin to care about what is being done with their money and acquiesence in Iraq?

street of blood

And still they refuse to be grateful:

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Wednesday blamed American officials who ran Iraq before its own government took nominal control for bringing the country to the present state of chaos.

"Had our friends listened to us, we would not be where we are today," Zebari said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Asked which friends he was referring to, Zebari said:

"The Americans, the Coalition (Provision Authority), the British. OK? Because they didn't listen to us. The did exactly what they wanted to do.... Had they listened to us, we would have been someplace else (by now), really."
No, they don't listen to anybody. Which is what makes the fact that they are setting their sights on hegemony in outer space even more insane:

President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."

The document, the first full revision of overall space policy in 10 years, emphasizes security issues, encourages private enterprise in space, and characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy.

"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," the policy asserts in its introduction.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said in written comments that an update was needed to "reflect the fact that space has become an even more important component of U.S. economic, national and homeland security."

Face it: these people are mad with power, and there is no place safe from their predations. As long as we prop them up with our silence or our eager cooperation, they will keep trying to expand their reach, and the innocent and powerless will pay for it in blood.

Riverbend finds the new Lancet study estimates of more than half a million Iraqi dead credible, because there is no one she knows who has not lost a family member because of the war.

Can Americans say the same thing? How many American families in a country of 300 million are affected by the deaths of 2784, or the woundings of 44,779? Is it only the draft that will bring it home to them? Is it only when they and their loved ones face the prospect of being sent to Iraq and losing their lives or a piece of their brains that they will get off their lazy, selfish, ignorant, mean-hearted, easy-out-seeking asses and care about it?

Christ, I wish they would care about something.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Owl Pellets of Progress

Remember the howls of derision that greeted The Lancet's now 2-year old report of 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq? Well, the study has been updated, so prepare for the screech owls of denial to tune up for a mass hoot:
A careful Johns Hopkins study has estimated that between 420,000 and 790,000 Iraqis have died as a result of war and political violence since the beginning of the US invasion in March, 2003.

Interesting conclusions are that we are wrong to focus so much on suicide car bombings. The real action is just shooting enemies down with bullets. Only 30 percent of the deaths have been caused by the US military, and that percentage has declined this year because of the sectarian war.
Why, look up in that tree! There's one now:
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said "many experts" found that a 2004 study by the same group "wildly inflated the findings." That study said the war had caused 100,000 Iraqi deaths.

"This study appears to be equally flawed," he said. The new study said the deaths have resulted from coalition military activity, crime and religious violence.
Seems like only yesterday we heard Bush saying:
"We've made good progress. Iraq is more secure."
Sorry. That was all the way back in August. Who could have anticipated the Iraqis would die like flies?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Demonizing The Right

Because I'm not a house-broken liberal, and unlike some, I don't think impeachment is going too far. In fact, I'm not even sure the Ninth Circle is far enough:


Although the book may be stretching it a bit...

Or, for those who prefer the classics:

dante 2

And here he is--after realizing Cheney used him like a cheap latex love doll--condemned to chewing on the Veep's head for all eternity, while John Belushi and Father Christmas look on:

dante 1

Thanks to schmoo on the run for the first image, and Gustave Dore via Digital Dante for the others.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Safer, But Not Yet Safe

Given the recent developments, it may be time to turn this clock ahead:


Here's what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists had to say about U.S. policy toward Korea last year:
The current administration's hope that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons seems fanciful at this point. [11] What incentives could possibly persuade it to give up its weapons program, dismantle its nuclear complex, and agree to an intrusive verification regime? It seems highly unlikely that North Korea would agree to abandon the very thing that gives it leverage with its neighbors and the United States.

President George W. Bush's first-term policies failed to move North Korea toward the goal of disarmament and instead proved to be counterproductive. Admonitions that North Korea is an "outpost of tyranny" and part of the "axis of evil" have tended to increase the North's already substantial fear and paranoia of the United States. The hardliners around Bush believe that isolation, pressure, and sanctions will cause North Korea to collapse and that it should not be rewarded for any positive steps it might take. The six-party talks, held in August 2003, February 2004, and June 2004, have yielded little. The United States proposed a step-by-step process for further talks, but North Korea recently rejected further negotiations...

A nuclear-armed North Korea could trigger an arms race in East Asia and beyond. This prospect has already prompted the United States to expand its nuclear targeting doctrine, enlarge missile defense programs, and plan the development of new nuclear weapons, such as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. A nuclear North could further harden the U.S. posture toward the country and reinvigorate extended nuclear deterrence strategies in the region.
Worse, Japan might decide to build its own nuclear weapons program, which would surely provoke a Chinese response and in turn cause reverberations in India and Pakistan. There could also be repercussions in Taiwan and South Korea, both of which built fledgling nuclear weapons programs before U.S. pressure shut them down. Recent public disclosures of secret South Korean nuclear research do little to increase trust and allay fears.
Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has already suggested redrafting his country's constitution to acknowledge and beef up its military might. We can expect, along with China's furious protests, that Abe will be re-thinking his options here.

This is a bad time to be saddled with a leadership whose idea of diplomacy is a gun to its neighbors' heads.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

An Elephant Crackup--D.C. Edition

"...what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture."


Unfortunately, the rest of us broom-carriers will be the ones sweeping up the massive mess left behind.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cockeyed Optimism, Bush-Style

And while you're over there, Harper's Ken Silverstein has a tidbit at least tangentially related to Hastert and Boehner, and certainly related to the current political atmosphere of pragmatic cruelty: their recent quash of a toothless resolution protesting the Japanese enslavement and systemic rape/murder of tens of thousands of "Comfort Women" during WWII:
Several members of the International Relations Committee did push to soften the resolution (removing, among other things, language that explicitly defined the treatment of comfort women as a “crime against humanity”). The advocates reluctantly accepted those changes, and on September 13, the Committee passed the resolution by unanimous consent.

Supporters believed the measure was now unstoppable. They expected it would soon be put on the “suspension calendar,” which would allow the resolution to pass the full House with a simple voice vote. The only obstacle to passage at that point was potential opposition from House Speaker Dennis Hastert—also of Illinois, and a former colleague of Michel's—or House Majority Leader John Boehner, who controls the voting calendar.

On September 22, twenty-five congressional co-sponsors of the measure, including Mike Honda of California, the leading Japanese American in Congress, sent a letter to Hastert and Boehner asking them to bring the resolution to the floor before Congress adjourned for the November elections. But mysteriously, no word was heard from the G.O.P. leadership about when the resolution would be brought to a vote.

Exactly what happened next is not clear, but word on the Hill is that the Bush Administration, Michel, and other Japanese lobbyists went to work on Boehner—and on Hastert, who reportedly is hoping to be named ambassador to Japan after he retires and who made clear that he was unhappy with the resolution. By last Wednesday, Boehner's office had made clear that the comfort women resolution would not be brought to a vote before the end of the week—a key deadline since Congress would be adjourning until after the midterm elections.
BTW, the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute, Article 7, description of "crime against humanity" includes this definition: "Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;" But we don't recognize the ICC anyway, thanks to Bush. We don't recognize anything, anymore, except the power of the Little Martinet to define the rules of the game, and then toss the game board away when something else shiny catches his eye.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

You Can Ride Across In My Mouth, Said The Crocodile

Shorter Newt Gingrich:
"Here's hoping Wal-Mart's new voter registration drive bullshits its employees blind into voting for candidates who will ensure their continued coolie status while giving big corporations carte blanche to exploit that status. Because only by enabling companies to keep their prices low by using coolie labor can coolie labor afford the basic staples to live on that will keep them going back to work at coolie wages for big corporations.

And that's what makes America great!"

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Cried Because I Had No Habeas Corpus, Until I Met A Man Who Had No Skin

While lies, corruption, incompetence, and hypocrisy continue to erode our lives here at home, Tom Englehardt offers us a glimpse into the pit of Hell.

Well. One of many, I guess.

The Republic Expires

Patrick Leahy's speech to the Senate prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is worth reading (scroll down some). Here's a sample:
"We need to pursue the war on terror with strength and intelligence, but we need to uphold American ideals. The President says he wants clarity as to the meaning of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act. Of course, he did not want clarity when his administration was using its twisted interpretation of the law to authorize torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees. He did not want clarity when spying on Americans without warrants. And he certainly did not want clarity while keeping those rationales and programs secret from Congress. The administration does not seem to want clarity when it refuses even to tell Congress what its understanding of the law is following the withdrawal of a memo that said the President could authorize and immunize torture. That memo was withdrawn because it could not withstand the light of day.
It seems the only clarity this administration wants is a clear green light from Congress to do whatever it wants. That is not clarity. That is immunity from crime. I cannot vote for that. That is what the current legislation would give to the President on interrogation techniques and on military commissions. Justice O'Connor reminded the nation before her retirement that even war is not a ``blank check'' when it comes to the rights of Americans. The Senate should not be a rubberstamp for policies that undercut America's values. "
I'll be in mourning for the next few days.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Whole Lott of Stereotypin' Goin' On, Updated

So the House passed the latest reversal of the Magna Carta without a sweat, aiming their usual transparently false accusations of "coddling" at those who saw the Act for what it is--an attack on American ideals, the Constitution, and a big fuck-you to the rest of the world just guaranteed to do bin Laden's propaganda work for him.

Now the Senate takes up the momentous work of finishing the job. Just now I heard Trent Lott on NPR's Morning Edition (not yet up on the website) deriding concerns about interrogation techniques. In a racist monologue I'd thought he'd learned better to indulge by now, he went on about the use of dogs: why would anyone be afraid of dogs? How ridiculous! And now a quote:
"Haven't they (the prisoners) ever delivered laundry? Weren't they ever barked at by a dog?"
Why, no, Senator, I believe you must have them confused with the Chinese.

God help us all.

UPDATE: Thanks to the good Senator and the help of 12 faithful Democrats, an early Christmas gift of the nation's heart and gonads was handed over to Little King George, enabling him to define the "Geneva Convention," and "torture," and "unlawful enemy combatants" (which may or may not include American citizens depending on how pissed he gets at them), and "material support to terrorists," as he sees fit, as well as to pick and choose which prisoners, if any, may be allowed to demand reasons for their incarceration.

Evidently Lott 'o' Laughs was on a regular racist roll Thursday morning, judging by this conversation he had with reporters after the morning circle-jerk:
President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence in Iraq.

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."
Putting aside for now the welcome news that Lott and Bush and the Republican Stormfront are not obssessing about the bloody timebomb they've set in place in the mid-East, this little nugget speaks for itself---of the insular, ignorant, hateful mind that voiced such regret at the loss of the good old days of Massa Strom's assault on the Presidency.

Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? That's a tough one, Senator. Not something that good, God-fearing Christians like you would understand, eh? Because you're used to being persecuted for your faith, not the other way around:
"A lot of people in Washington have been trying to nail me for a long time. When you're from Mississippi and you're a conservative and you're a Christian, there are a lot of people that don't like that."
Yes, it's always the Christians that get it in this foul world, isn't it? That is, unless you count Leo Frank.

Or the Moriscos.

Or der Juden.

And as for the Shia and Sunnis, "how do they tell the difference?" You mean like, how did the Serbs know who was Albanian? You're right. They DO all look the same:


Maybe if we'd insisted on maintaining a democracy in 2000, and if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stop The Torture Bill

The best summing up of what's at stake in the Military Commissions Bill of 2006, for those caught up in it as well as for the soul and spirit of the United States, comes from a professor of law at the University of Toledo, Benjamin Davis, who biopsies the thing at the Pitt Law School site, The Jurist. Not only does he point out the specific roads to hell down which the law takes us, he explains the overarching affect it will ultimately have:
The compromise drafters appear to be decoupling these military commissions from international law, from domestic courts-martial, from other types of traditional military commissions, from any other law. These alien unlawful enemy combatants, these human beings, are in fact being decoupled from "all the laws but one," in the words of President Lincoln. The power of this effort should not be
underestimated because as the lone superpower, the act does no less than push out to the world a state practice that would bring us back to pre-Geneva Convention standards for these people, worthy of only "special process".

From this view, these individuals have committed such heinous crimes that their process and punishment should be in a carefully controlled hermetically sealed environment that should not contaminate any other procedures that might impact more "deserving" characters...

In the 18 sections below I examine the provisions that struck me that - taken as a whole - give us the outline (if we wish to look) of this "special process". We must remember that this special process is being created using all the ordinary words we have seen before. That is in one sense the genius of this effort. By carefully pulling together points strewn in many places including Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, words that are familiar are able to create a unfamiliar "special process".

200px-AbuGhraibScandalGraner55For this special process, this group of human beings is segregated from the rest of mankind. They are segregated and by that segregation they are declared a different type of human being. Based on the responses of Republicans and Democrats, the American Congress, the President and by extension all the American people are willing to have these people declared as different. Moreover, the United States Government is willing to have these rules applied to aliens and in that sense is making a statement to all countries who might seek to invoke diplomatic protection for these non-Americans. Those countries must now consider ("are you with us or against us?") whether their countrymen are truly a different type of human being such that they will acquiesce in the American determination of segregation.

This, I would suggest, is the essence of the decision that is going to be made this week by this Congress on this legislation. Is America going to declare certain human beings beyond "all the laws but one" depriving them of common levels of human dignity? This type of separation resonates in American history at many points - in the Constitution in its treatment of slaves, in the reservations for Native Americans, in the exclusion of Asians, in the status of women...

It points a question mark at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rest of the International Bill of Rights. We are asked to think that this might only be for the current "difficulties" but the legislation does not have any sunset provision. A permanent track is created and any Congressperson or Senator who might seek to amend it in the future is likely to be immediately excoriated for being "soft on terror". Much power is centered in the President and the unitary executive in the implementation of the process with extremely limited judicial review.

This is what bothers me greatly. For on every occasion I can remember where this kind of special process occurs there is a person who stands up in front of the all powerful in that process and asserts his human dignity. A person like David Wainapel, the late husband of a late friend who challenged a Nazi camp commander in the center of his concentration camp. David Wainapel was considered by that special process as a non-human, but David asserted his humanity. I suspect that these alien unlawful enemy combatants and their lawyers will assert their humanity in front of this special process and the question will be whether we are capable of seeing that humanity (which is to see the evil of which we are each capable for those of them who are guilty) and whether we deny what we are capable of by denying their humanity. And by that denial, I fear we produce an abomination in our lust to end the presence of these persons. In a sense, their victory will have been complete in having us put such effort in creating such a special process for them. We give them their status by our treatment of them - the strangest aspect of all this.

Something deep in the American soul was stirred by the 9/11 events. Something that reminds me personally of what one sees in the eyes of lynch mobs in the old pictures. Except, now those standing are not exclusively white but are a rainbow coalition to ban certain aliens from the benefits of human dignity. There is a coldness to the hate. There is a precision to the process of destroying these persons. There is a determination and an exquisite intelligence with which this is done - through processes that are oh so democratic.

Those pushing this special process have so much power to sway us. All politicians are afraid if they stand against this that millions of dollars will come raining down on them from "the other side" (Republican or Democrat) for being "soft on terror". Persons of great stature have bought into this compromise (McCain et al) giving psychic cover for those to vote for this language. The rest of the world could make an outcry but one feels that the efforts so far are perfunctory - half-hearted - maybe because the rest of the world wants this special process to develop that they can apply to their special group.

It might be possible for some lone Senator or some lone Congressperson to stand up and say "This is too much for mankind. We have fought too long to not create these kinds of special processes." We await that champion of human dignity in all its frailness. My fear is that there is no one.
Mine, too.

Call Arlen Specter
and demand this act and its so-called compromise be stopped in its tracks.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Republicans ARE the Torture Party

Every American with a voice on the net should have this on the front page:

Your're either with it, or against it.

Thanks to digby for the link. Go here to get yours.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Take Me Home, Internet Roads

Matrix%20System%20Failure-720593So in West Virgina, broadband access has fallen behind the rest of the country:
Because of the state's sparse population and rugged terrain, most high-speed Internet providers have not expanded their service to large portions of the state...

Although West Virginia lags behind the rest of the nation, the lack of broadband deployment is not confined to the Mountain State, said Michael J. Copps, commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission.

"The problem is that we do not have a strategy to get the broadband job done," he said. "We don't have a way to bring together the people in this room."

The United States does not compare well with other developed nations in terms of broadband accessibility, Copps said. The U.S. is ranked 16th in one survey and 21st in another.

"As far as I can tell, we're the only country on the face of God's green earth that doesn't have a broadband strategy," he said.

Some of the countries that rank higher in those surveys, such as Canada, have more territory and less population density than the U.S., he said.
(Copps, you may recall, was the troublemaker who launched himself on a whistlestop tour of the country back in 2003 to conduct the hearings Colin Powell's kid wouldn't, in order to sound the alarm on the impending trust-fest that would have been unleashed had the FCC granted permission for a single entity to own more than 35% of a media market).

And how does a place like Canada accomplish what we, with all our chest-pounding about the free market, can't seem to? Maybe this?

Imagine a world where internet access is thought of as a public good, a service so indispensible that it is considered, and administrated, on a par with telephone service? Imagine a world where internet is considered a public utility, where your access is protected and enabled by a network of government and non-profit agencies, or if provided by private business, is regulated and overseen by a public watchdog to ensure against monopolies, price-gouging, and unacceptable service quality!

But, no. Here in the land of the Big Grab, even the idea of a local municipality being able to provide such a crucial service is considered an outrageous trespass on the freedom of giant corporations to establish and maintain their hegemonies, so much so that even liberal politicans cave the moment Verizon starts flashing its cash.

No. Instead, we have what is not jokingly referred to as "faith in the free market and private enterprise". In America every faceless commercial monolith is regarded as the creation of a plucky little guy who worked 3 jobs to build a dream, a Horace Greeley, a mythical self-made man, an entreprenuer to whom we, as Americans, owe all we are and all we ever will be. Let us not to the monopolization of true empires admit impediment! Because one day it could be me!

And besides, it's common knowledge that if we just let that wild maverick out there dream his dream, and work his magic, we'll all be flying around in hovercraft and experiencing giant holographic adventures in our own homes someday, and the price of everything, freed at last from the hobbling regulation of government, will plummet. Like cable television! Remember cable? How many cable providers do you have access to now? What do you pay for it, compared to pre-deregulation days?

How did all that free market jive work out for you?