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 - washingtonpost.com: 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!"