Monday, December 31, 2007

For the New Year

One of my real video, just music. Thanks to the goodly soul who posted this:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Don't Look for the Cage, It's Everywhere

Suicidal women.

Naked deaf people.

Sleeping men.

A man walking away from a cop during a traffic stop.

Is there anyone so innocuous that they aren't potential targets for our taser-happy thin blue line? Innocuous or not, any encounter we have with the police these days seems to have the potential of scaring the bejeesus out of our heavily-armed home guard, and if they get jumpy, the tasers might come out. And if the tasers come out, you might join the 275 people who have died from tasers in the U.S. since their use began in 2001 (ah, that halcyon year!) Well, who would have thought they'd have gone and died on us? It was just a little 50,000 volt tap! Here's what Amnesty International's briefing on tasers, submitted recently to the Justice Department, has to say about those who die:
"AI’s records show that most of those who died were shocked more than once and 92 were subjected to between 3 and 21 shocks. One man was shocked repeatedly while in handcuffs in cycles lasting 19, 12 and 10 seconds; another man died after being shocked for 57 continuous seconds. AI said that the ability to prolong the electrical cycle beyond five seconds, for as long as the officer keeps his or her finger depressed on the trigger, may dangerously increase stress levels, and that “the psychological and physiological effects of prolonged or repeated shocks requires urgent review by relevant independent experts”.

AI further stated: “The degree of tolerable risk involving Tasers, as with all weapons and restraint devices, must be weighed against the threat posed. It is self-evident that Tasers are less injurious than firearms where officers are confronted with a serious threat that could escalate to deadly force. However, the vast majority of people who have died after being struck by Tasers have been unarmed men who did not pose a threat of death or serious injury when they were electro-shocked. In many cases, they did not appear to have posed any significant threat at all”.

Of 291 reported deaths, AI has so far identified only 25 individuals who were reportedly armed with any sort of weapon when they were electro-shocked; such weapons did not include firearms.
They also point to a troubling trend that indicates the increased use of Tasers in unnecessary situations may be the result of simply having the option of what is perceived as a quick, easy, non-lethal method to handle any situation, no matter how slight:
"AI expressed concern that many US police departments are using Tasers as a routine force option to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who are not a serious risk. Such cases included children as young as nine. Such usage appears to contravene international standards which require that police should use force only when “strictly necessary”, in proportion to the threat posed."
Here are your tax dollars at work. First up, a little sadismo:

And next, some straight-out ego-tripping:

Before you go out next time for a drive, or even just go to bed, you may want to sew up a nice shirt and pants out of Thor Shield. It's likely to become the new American uniform.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Warning

From Trent Reznor and David Vincent, author of The Art of Mental Warfare, via Crooks and Liars.

Get the book.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life Out Of Death; Death Out Of Life

From The Power of Myth, pp. 65-66:

esoteric_dance_shiva_and_kali_dh64smCAMPBELL: Life is, in its very essence and character, a terrible mystery, this whole business of living by killing and eating. But it is a childish attitude to say "no" to life with all its pain, to say that this is something that should not have been.
MOYERS: Zorba says, "Trouble? Life is trouble".
CAMPBELL: Only, death is no trouble. People ask me, "Do you have optimism about the world?" And I say, “Yes, it’s great just the way it is.” And you are not going to fix it up. Nobody has ever made it any better. It is never going to be any better. This is it, so take it or leave it. You are not going to correct or improve it.
MOYERS: Doesn’t that lead to a rather passive attitude in the face of evil?
CAMPBELL: You yourself are participating in the evil, or you are not alive. Whatever you do is evil for somebody. This is one of the ironies of the whole creation.
MOYERS: What about this idea of good and evil in mythology, of life as a conflict
between the forces of darkness and the forces of light?
CAMPBELL: That is a Zoroastrian idea, which has come over into Judaism and Christianity. In other traditions, good and evil are relative to the position in which you are standing. What is good for one is evil for the other. And you play your part, not withdrawing from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but seeing that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder: a mysterium tremendum et fascinans [a mystery frightening and fascinating]. "All life is sorrowful" is the first Buddhist saying, and so it is. It wouldn’t be life if there were not temporality involved, which is sorrow, loss, loss, loss. You’ve got to say “yes” to life and see it as magnificent this way; for this is surely the way God intended it.
MOYERS: Do you really believe that?
CAMPBELL: It is joyful just as it is. I don’t believe there was anybody who intended it, but this is the way it is. James Joyce has a memorable line: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”. And the way to awake from it is not to be afraid, and to recognize that all of this, as it is, is a manifestation of the horrendous power that is all creation. The ends of things are always painful. But pain is part of there being a world at all.
MOYERS: But if you accepted that as an ultimate conclusion, you wouldn’t try to form any laws or fight any battles or...
CAMPBELL: I didn’t say that.
MOYERS: Isn’t that the logical conclusion to draw from accepting everything as it is?
CAMPBELL: That is not the necessary conclusion to draw. You could say, “I will participate in this life, I will join the army, I will go to war,” and so forth.
MOYERS: “I will do the best I can.”
CAMPBELL: “I will participate in the game." It is a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts. Affirmation is difficult. We always affirm with conditions. But affirming the way it is, that’s the hard thing.

The elemental fact, present in our consciousness every moment of our existence, is: I am life that wills to live, in the midst of life that wills to live. ... The essence of the humane spirit is: Preserve life, promote life, help life to achieve its highest destiny. The essence of Evil is: Destroy life, harm life, hamper the development of life.
- Albert Schweitzer

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
- Joseph Campbell

To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your life depends on it; and when the time comes, to let go.
- Mary Oliver

Higher beings from outer space may not want to tell us the secrets of life, because we're not ready. But maybe they'll change their tune after a little torture.
- Jack Handey

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Here There Be Spoilers

All you need to know about Harry Potter or any other aspect of life on earth: 20050626020514!Benjamin_west_omnia_vincit_amor_1809

It's love.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Memorial Day Meditation

From the Dayton International Peace Museum:albert

Community Affirmation:

We who live in the shadow of the mushroom cloud and the dangers of bullets on our streets today declare our hope in the future.
From the diversity of our religious traditions,
We have come to renew our belief in the holiness of the earth and the sanctity of all life.
We declare we are at peace with all people of good will.
We need no leader to define us an enemy
Nor tell us we need weapons for security.
Instead, we affirm that our earth’s security rests not in armaments, but
In the justice of adequate housing and food,
In the justice of meaningful education and work,
In the justice of an economic order that gives everyone access to our earth’s abundance,
In the justice of human relationships nourished by cooperation,
In the justice of safe, clean and renewable energy, instead of the perils of nuclear power.
We affirm people over poverty, community over privatism,
Respect for others regardless of sex, race or class.
We choose struggle rather than indifference,
We choose to be friends of the earth and of one another rather than exploiters,
We choose to be citizens rather than subjects,
We choose to be peacemakers rather than peacekeepers,
We choose a weapons free future,
And we will settle for nothing less.
We unite ourselves with sisters and brothers the world over,
To join together in communities of resistance to the threat of weapons.
We unite ourselves with trust in the Spirit of Life.
Justice and Love can overcome the machines of destruction.
Before us today are set life and death. We choose life
That our children may live.
Let it be so.

Send a check to the Lambaréné Hospital, founded in Gabon by Albert Schweitzer in 1913, and the only functional hospital there to this day. If you want to remember someone, remember someone who loved life and did something about it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

It Depends On Whose Life It Is

I don't have much to add to the (admittedly) anemic debate wheezing the last 2 weeks in the wake of the Virgina Tech killings. The logical questions that arise---why the database meant to screen out the mentally unstable failed to work with Cho, why the smallest and mostly symbolic attempts to regulate the flood of deadly weapons continue to go down in defeat, why the most liberal of our candidates can't even muster the guts to ask these questions in the first place---are beaten down under a barrage of faux outrage lamely connected to some kind of "sympathy" for the feelings of the survivors.

But I will say this: the obvious comparisons to the endless abbatoir in Iraq are valid, whether they hurt Bill O'Reilly's tender sensibilities or not. And they only heighten the filthy hypocrisies of the ludicrous conservative Supreme Court shedding copious tears for one kind of fetus over another in the service of their political agendas, while the so-called "pro-life" flank averts its self-righteous eyes, not just from the suffering of other nations' children while we ply this God-damned war, but also from the children at our own feet, suffering after birth with no Operation Rescue to parade disgusting billboards on their behalf. As Eric Alterman writes:
Did you see that report earlier this week about increasing infant mortality in the southeast United States, particularly among blacks? It's here, and it led me to muse for a book-to-be-named-later as follows:

And remember the Finns? Not surprisingly, perhaps, they devote less than half of what we do to medical care, as a percentage of GDP, and yet their infant mortality rate is half of that of the United States -- and one-sixth that of African-American babies -- and their life expectancy rate is greater. Perhaps all that education has made them smart enough to invest in preventative care and universal coverage. Then again, improving on U.S. infant mortality rates is a bit like besting a vegan in a burger-eating contest. Even China's infant mortality rate is less than half of that of the Southeast United States, as well as that of our national capital.

And the Supreme Court decision on abortion, coupled with the Harvard Medical School study again dismissing any link between abortion and breast cancer led me to muse further on the reality of "choice" in much of America.

The state of Mississippi, for instance, home to nearly three million people, is also home to a single abortion clinic. It also boasts the highest infant-mortality rate in the nation and ranks 43rd among the 50 states in the number of women who have health insurance. In 2004, Mississippi failed to meet national standards on the length of time it took to restore foster children to their birth families and to place a child for adoption. Meanwhile, the counseling provisions also require that patients in Mississippi be told that abortion may increase the risk of breast cancer, despite the fact that the National Cancer Institute reported no scientific evidence exists to support this contention, a view supported when the British medical journal The Lancet examined dozens of studies of the same issue. (Yet another study, released in 2007 by members of Harvard Medical School examining data from data from 105,716 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study, which was established in 1976 to study a wide range of health issues affecting women, also found no such link.) Mississippi is also one of only two states that require a minor to get the consent of both parents to have an abortion, (though if the minor has been impregnated by her father, she needs only the consent of her mother). Not surprisingly, Mississippi can boast the highest teen birthrate in America. While this unhappy trend has declined nationally in recent years, in Mississippi it continues to increase, including particularly girls under the age of 15. Mississippi may appear to be an extreme example, but, in fact, it is not all that unusual. In fact, at the end of 2005, it earned a measly eighth place on the honor roll of states that "defend life" according to the rankings of the pro-life organization, Americans United for Life.
Clean up your own houses, you fools and jesters of the right-wing, before you start telling the rest of us how to live. Your priorities are showing.

UPDATE: I don't remember this story getting play on anyone's front page this week:
AUSTIN, Texas Apr 27, 2007 (AP)— A 27-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a makeshift bomb that was found outside a clinic where abortions are performed, authorities said Friday.
Paul Ross Evans has been charged with use of weapons of mass destruction, manufacture of explosive material and violating freedom of access to clinic entrances, according to a statement issued by the Austin Police Department.
Authorities were not saying how they identified him, said police spokeswoman Laura Albrecht. He is in federal custody.
The bomb was discovered Wednesday, and authorities had asked area abortion providers to be vigilant after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that banned a type of late-term abortion.
The bomb was found in a bag in the parking lot of the Austin Women's Health Center. After an employee found the package, a bomb squad detonated the device.
It contained an explosive powder and two pounds of nails, said David Carter, assistant police chief.
Had the bomb detonated, it could have injured people 100 feet away, police said.
Two pounds of nails. Welcome to the self-cannibalizing world of Iraq.

The question now is, how will the Right handle Terrorism when it has a white face and a home-grown accent and grows straight out of its own hate-filled belly? Don't expect to see this story shoved down your throat on Fox, or anywhere else for that matter. Mr. Evans' case will be quietly handled with the hushed shame of an idiot child being relegated to the attic of a proper 19th-century family's home. And some asshole in some extremist group will be waiting for him with open arms when the law-and-order types let him out on parole.

UPDATE TWO: Via Crooks and Liars, a link to a story of the ATF giving the hook to a nest of Alabaman survivalist paranoids with delusions of cavemanhood:
Simultaneous raids carried out in four Alabama counties Thursday turned up truckloads of explosives and weapons, including 130 grenades, an improvised rocket launcher and 2,500 rounds of ammunition belonging to the small, but mightily armed, Alabama Free Militia...

Agents encountered booby traps at one site. They found trip wires and two hand grenades rigged as booby traps at the Collinsville camper home of 46-year-old Raymond Dillard, who holds titles of both militia major and fugitive from justice on an unrelated federal case in Mobile.
"We were prepared," Cavanaugh said. "We suspect booby traps with these types of groups."
My guess is that none of the gentlemen nabbed in this little action will be spending any time in Guantanamo tied up in stress positions, because people like this are too "American" to ever be considered truly dangerous. Even after Oklahoma, we continue to tolerate their presence until they create the kind of un-ignorable critical mass worthy of a rogue state. Instead, we haul people away for wearing liberal phrases on T-shirts, and strip 800-year old protections against unlawful imprisonment out of our law. I suppose as long as we hang on to our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, we can just blow the motherfuckers away when they come to illegally jail us.

Except...wait. That didn't really seem to help these guys, did it?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sons of the Revolution

"..if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," you have to be ready to kill them. End of discussion.

Fuck Israel. I don't want to see the world going up in a puff of smoke or devolving into Congo-in-the-round, and I don't want to see more of my people coming home to be fitted with bionic legs or to roam the streets in search of a cozy box, and I don't want my kids to shoulder George Bush's unpaid bills, and I don't want to kiss my pension and healthcare goodbye just to make Israel feel better.

But don't be upset with the House Dems. After all, they're only doing what they all do---caving to the loudest courtiers with the biggest wallets. Be upset with yourselves, if you actually believed for one minute that common sense, decency, and truth would ever win the day.

Morality in Black and White

Speaking of arbitrary morality, does anyone talk much about the disparity between the reaction to the crack plague of the 80's compared to the current response to the methamphetamine epidemic? The Montana Meth Project is a perfect example; from the subtitle of the webpage we read:
Prevention. Outreach. First-time use. Who was worried about "outreach" and "first-time use" when crack was decimating black communities? Outreach back then meant the long arm of the law reaching out to haul your ass to prison, and the drug was considered so heinous that first-timers were never cut any breaks. In fact, they ramped up the prison time for crack users well beyond that for other types of (white, middle-class) cocaine users, and the only compassionate approaches aimed at prevention and rehab were ususally spearheaded by black leaders and social workers. Young black addicts were demonized: Crack Babies! Crack Whores! Crack Killers! The fact that it was the black neighborhoods themselves that were suffering most of the crime, and that white users who went slumming for dope were mostly let off the hook, never even entered the public mind.

But now that HBO will be running its documentary "Montana Meth" on March 18, you can bet that white America will be poppin' the top on a big ol' can of empathy for the mostly white, rural, and working- to middle-class addicts of this horrendous drug. Already the remarks made by politicians have tipped their hands:
"We are noticing that a lot of kids in junior high and high school that are A students and that have a great home life are starting to get hooked on meth, and it's going to wreck their lives (says Rep. Jeff Johnson, Minnesota)."

"It's like acknowledging a family problem," says Rep. Teresa Henry. "Where you think if we just don't talk about it, it will go away or it will reflect badly on the family. And the reality is a significant number of members of our community family are in trouble and are struggling and we all need to respond to it."

They talk of how innocent the victims are, how beautiful the towns are that they hail from, how tragic the whole thing is, and how the only real solution is shutting down access to the materials from which the drug is made. No white politician in the 80s ever raised the possibility that crack was a problem of our "community family".

Yes, meth is a problem, and it does send people round the bend. And prevention and education are powerful tools if they are used by truthful, credible people. And the horrorshow mess we made of the crack problem should not be repeated with meth. But the rank cruelty of the differences in how they are perceived, and the blatant racism of it that eludes the average Yuppie (just like it eluded him during Katrina), should be highlighted at every possible moment. It's not just abuse of substances that ruins a community; it's the reaction of the community to it. In the case of crack we made a bad situation worse, not just for the immediate term, but for generations to come. Rubbing the faces of its victims in further legal inequities only seals our fate, and theirs.

Tough Moral Choices: Love or Bone-Deep Chemical Burns?

It's good to know that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace has his moral outrages in the right priority. Because while he finds the use of white phosphorus in heavily populated civilian areas perfectly acceptable:
"Q But in its final paragraph or so, it takes particular issue with the use of white phosphorus in urban areas. And based on what we have learned so far, have you banned the use of "Willy Pete" or are you considering banning it? Or will it continue to be used?...

GEN. PACE: White phosphorus is a legitimate tool of the military. It is used for wo primary purposes. One is to mark a location for strike by an aircraft, for example. The other is to be used -- because it does create white smoke -- to be used as a screening agent so that you can move your forces without being seen by the enemy.

It is not a chemical weapon, it is an incendiary (sic) [It is not an incendiary weapon as defined by the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons], and it is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they are being used for marking and for screening.

Q But you and I have both seen the results of "Willy Pete" in Vietnam. And when it's on the skin, it doesn't stop burning until it goes all the way through or runs out of oxygen. It's a pretty tough weapon. Do you want to use it in urban areas such as Fallujah?

GEN. PACE: No armed force in the world goes to greater effort than your armed force to protect civilians and to be very precise in the way we apply our power. A bullet goes through skin even faster than white phosphorus does. So I would rather have the proper instrument applied at the proper time as precisely as possible to get the job done in a way that kills as many of the bad guys as possible and does as little collateral damage as possible. That is just the nature of warfare."
...same-gender love is right down there with....oh....having an affair?
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff said he backs the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" limits on gays serving in the military because he believes homosexual acts are immoral, the Chicago Tribune reported in Tuesday's edition.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the newspaper he felt the immorality of homosexual acts was comparable to a member of the armed forces having an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in an interview with the newspaper. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way."
Well, in that case, Pete, I suggest you haul our asses out of Iraq, and that's just for starters.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

In Defense of the 28th Amendment

SayNoToGunsFrom the NYTimes, we find that D.C’s attempt to protect itself from out-of-control gun violence gets the high hat from the conservative District of Columbia Circuit court:
“Interpreting the Second Amendment broadly, a federal appeals court in Washington yesterday struck down a gun control law in the District of Columbia that bars residents from keeping handguns in their homes.

The decision was the first from a federal appeals court to hold a gun control law unconstitutional on the ground that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals, as opposed to the collective rights of state militias. Nine other federal appeals courts around the nation have rejected that interpretation.”
While legal scholars, NRA creeps, and gun control advocates go round and round over the subject of whether the 2nd Amendment has ANY limits whatsoever, people continue to die at incredible and accelerating rates in the US from gun violence. Massacres at high schools hardly raise an eyebrow anymore, and neither do people going postal at fast food restaurants, worksites, or on the roads.

We find ourselves slowly falling into a reactive posture over these things, shrugging our shoulders and sighing that if this is the way it’s going to be, then we need more cops, more jails, more guns to defend ourselves. Of course, the first 2 “solutions” don’t STOP the killing; they only mop up after the fact, and despite a growing gulag of monstrous proportions that has devoured 1 of every 32 citizens, violent crime during the punitive Bush era has recovered and exceeded previous rates with kudzu-like speed, and has thunderously failed to rehabilitate those who have fallen into it. (Of course, when you convert the goal of the penal system from rehabilitation to pure punishment, you inevitably end up with a revolving door of damaged and more dangerous criminals. And unless you plan on simply warehousing human beings for life for everything from smoking a joint to having sex with a teenager 2 years younger than themselves, you’re going to end up with worse problems then you had when you first sentenced them, while money that could have been spent on rehabilitation and restitution is thrown down the ever-widening rathole of a corrupt, inhuman and ramshackle prison system.)

As for the last—arming oneself to the teeth in anticipation of a home invasion or a shoot-out on the freeway--we know that instead of preventing violence, this is more likely to cause it. For a gun to be useful, it needs an owner who can use it. Most owners of handguns do not spend their weekends shooting, becoming intimate with what their guns can do, and taking gun safety courses. Most times an emergency arises at a time when they will be unable to get to their guns. If they can, they may end up unable to get off a shot, or shooting the wrong person, or shooting when there was no real emergency at all. As for those who own rifles and shotguns (which includes my own immediate family), in addition to the drawbacks listed above, these large and unwieldy weapons are hard to use in an emergency situation where one may be trying to maneuver in the dark and maintain a low profile. Gun extremists (and they ARE extremists, in the sense that they will not engage in any reasonable dialogue, will brook no limits on their abilities to keep arms, and reject all attempts at compromise or empathy) keep droning the old NRA mantra that only criminals commit crimes, so we only need to round up and eliminate the criminals, and completely overlook the fact that guns often make the criminal, and not the other way around. Men with no previous record who shoot their wives, grampas who kill their grandkids, commuters who take exception to the manners of other motorists, all of these people murder and maim with guns, and none of them are “criminals” in the sense of having been acting-out felons and scofflaws. It is the guns, so readily available, so socially acceptable, that MAKE them criminals. The fact is that, as with sexual abuse and predation, most people are harmed by those who know them, especially those in their
own families. When these combustive relationships are combined with gun ownership, it’s inevitable that tragedies will occur. In addition, ridiculous and dangerous “open carry” and “castle doctrine” laws have been popping up like poison mushrooms in benighted areas around the country, and have already resulted in tragedies that require no restitution from those who caused them. “If you kill my child by accident because you thought someone else might harm you, wouldn’t these newly-rediscovered wild west ethics allow me to kill you or your child as well?” Thus, two families who previously had no grievance with each other have now become enemies; can vengeance and blood feuding be far behind?

Gun owners make up about 25% of the population. Not all of them are extremist in their views of gun control (for instance, my family is in favor of legitimate, considered controls), but enough are to guess that about 20% of the U.S. population is holding the remaining 80% hostage to their demands that absolutely no restrictions on gun ownership are acceptable, thanks to the bribes paid by the NRA to our eminently corruptible representatives in Washington and various state capitols across the land. As a result, pleas to merely control their own environments from communities riddled with gun violence are dismissed and trampled under by a machine that never gives an inch.

So what is the solution? If this case goes to the Supreme Court I think the decision will be upheld, given the conservative bent of the court now, and given that Alito himself has indicated while serving in Philadelphia that he had no problems with machine guns in private hands. And even I believe that the wording of the 2nd Amendment gives rights of firearms ownership to individuals, not just “militias” or those who belong to them. A simple reading of history reveals that it was common for families to have guns when they could afford them, and guns were a necessity for those who moved west to settle the interior, even before the Revolution. This understanding would have informed the writing of the 2nd Amendment.

The question is: does the phrase “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” mean that laws affecting or altering gun ownership in any way are absolutely unconstitutional? What does “infringed” mean? Who includes “the people”? What is a “Militia” and how does it relate to any present-day organization? And what may constitute “Arms” today, in this age of hyper-technological weaponry?

These are questions on which every argument about the 2nd Amendment has turned, and if the Supreme Court decides against gun control, it’s time to realize that this amendment is as hopelessly out of date as the Constitutional clause in Article IV ensuring that an escaped slave be extradited back to his master. With a 27th Amendment we could re-visit this debate without the constriction of trying to make a colonial statute fit around a modern situation that has changed so drastically those who drafted the 2nd would not even recognize it. Let’s start from the premise that, yes, individuals do have the right to keep guns, and that right is also a tremendous responsibility that entails the potential infringement on the rights of others. In a nation where even the use of an automobile requires intense training, certification, insurance and registration, it is not unreasonable to suggest the same for those who own weapons of deadly force so simple to use that a toddler can wreak havoc with them. It’s time to look at the mess we have made and determine to fix it, and to start from scratch without the irrelevant arguments we have heretofore derived from an equally irrelevant ancient law.

Update:  Title was changed.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bush's War on American Soldiers (Still Fighting)

Given the amount of publicity that Bush's War on Soldiers has finally started to get, I'm running the piece below, originally posted in July 2005, once more.

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

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

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

Saturday, February 24, 2007

And Now, A Word About the Gun Culture...

doofis Terrorists!



Terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists terrorists!!!!!!

If you didn't want to be lumped in with them, why would you act like them? You're fucking lucky they live in a country that tolerates your extremism, even as you refuse to tolerate others' mere ideas.

If I had my way most guns would be loaded onto a rocket and shot at the sun, and the arms manufacturing industry would be re-tooled into clinics, day care facilities, and recycling plants. But since that isn't going to happen, the least we can do is try to take the worst of their killing machines out of circulation.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On the Death of My Best Friend's Brother

Rest in peace, Alan. This, this, and this is how I'll remember you. And the Moody Blues, and Mad Magazine, and Lost in Space, and Star Trek, and eggnog at the old house at Christmastime. And Grove City, and the Air Force, and "many, many spacemen".

Enjoy your new ride.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Little Owl

In the midst of death, a tiny struggle to give life a chance, and a brief glimpse at the spark that makes us human:
Baby%20Owl%201From: John Mayberry Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:47 AM

Ms. Miller--I fear we were too long in addressing the wing problem. The droop is still there after six days being wrapped. However; it does not seem to affect him adversely. He can and does fly for short distances and appears to be gaining strength daily. I believe he will increase his distance as his strength builds. He is not a quitter, I’ll give him that. The area we are assigned to is part of Saddam’s old hunting preserve. When we first arrived there was any number of animals running wild. It was not uncommon to see hyenas, jackals, wolves, coyotes or antelope crossing the streets in the early mornings and evenings. There were and still are feral cats here in great numbers. They are known as jungle cats and have little to no fear of humans at this point. An average weight for one of these is approximately 30 pounds while some have reached as much as 50 lbs. They are ravenous in their foraging and I could not stand to think of this guy enduring that fate. He looked as if he had borne enough trouble on his young shoulders already so we have taken him in.

His feathers are coming along quite well. He really appears to be in good health other than the wing situation. I worry more now about him becoming “domesticated” and unable to fend for himself when we leave here. I understand the laws of nature and realize the need for them but it doesn’t make it any easier when I think of what may happen. I suppose it would seem silly to many people for me to worry about a bird dying when there are people dying everyday but I can not help it. I would like to think that at least one underdog had a chance in this place. I often go out to his place during my breaks and just sit with him. I know he is a raptor but he also has personality in abundance and he takes my mind off of all the ugliness for a while. Since the wing is not going to be a factor in his recuperation, do you have a suggested time line for release? I do not have any idea in that area. I can tell he is stronger and gaining more strength daily but is that enough of an indicator to act upon? I do want to give him every chance possible. Also if you think we’re interacting with him too much, let us know if that should be amended as well. I will close for now and await your reply. I do want to thank you for all of the help and advice you have provided to me. It has meant a lot. And if you want to post these emails and pictures, it is fine with me. Take care. John
Updated%20Owl%20Pics%20(06-24-06)%20005%20(5)It's a sweet, ultimately heart-breaking story. People like this convince me that it's the Divinity we carry within that allows us to recognize our oneness with the rest of life, and create small, peaceable kingdoms of rescue and domestication. Because we carry that spark, we can teach great predators to learn our communications and accept our jesses, and teach mortal enemies to live together in affection. And every evil act we commit against ourselves and our fellow creatures, we redeem with acts like the one linked to above. It is the miracle of our existence that the experience of hell brings out not only the worst in us, but also the best.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another Brick in the Hackocracy

dog&pony4From the administration that brought you the Sago Mine disaster, new and improved tuberculosis, and Vioxx, we can look forward to yet another fox in the henhouse:
Insiders say that Michael Baroody, chief lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a powerful trade group that opposes aggressive product safety regulation, is President Bush's choice to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The CPSC is currently powerless to enact new rules or levy fines because it has had only two commissioners since Chairman Hal Stratton, another Bush appointee, abruptly resigned six months ago to become a lobbyist.
Nice work. And so perfectly in keeping with the Bush policy of undermining the very functions of government agencies by assigning them leaders who are either antagonistic to them, utterly incompetent, or both. And, too, how like Bush to weasel his appointment in through the back door so elected representatives of the people won't have a chance to deny him:
Bush is expected to make his appointment during the long President's Day weekend, while Congress is out of town...

But David Baker, a lawyer who represents companies before the CPSC, said he has heard from a number of "private Republican lobbyists" that the appointment "is likely to be a recess appointment."

Under a recess appointment the nominee can take his or her place at the commission for one year without Congressional approval.
The agency has been unable to act because it hasn't had enough members to vote, and this isn't the first time:
This is the third time Bush has left the CPSC without a quorum. In the CPSC's 35-year history, the only other time the commission has gone so long without a quorum was during the adminstration of Bush's father, George H.W. Bush.
Hmmm. Big surprise. Unfortunately, it appears to have come as a genuine surprise to the very people who should have been aware of it all along: those in the Senate and House with oversight responsibilities:
"The lack of quorum? I'm sorry, I don't know," Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who sits on the subcommittee with CPSC jurisdiction, said. "There hasn't been an appointment? That's unfortunate. How long has that appointment been delayed?"

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said he is planning to discuss the topic with some of his staff members but said, "I have not followed that issue very clearly."

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) did not return three phone calls from ConsumerAffairs.Com while Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) would not step off the House floor to be interviewed. Both also serve on committees with oversight responsibility.
Welcome to the hackocracy. Hope you survive it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Snake Oil Redux

Thanks to Josh Marshall and Juan Cole, who have put together some concise, easily accessible information about it, we can clearly see the lies Bush is circulating for what they are. This bunch can't even competently pull off a con job without the primary elements unravelling in front of our eyes, although I must admit, this little storyline is disintegrating in record time. As before, they can't even get all their generals on board. Now here's just one more reason not to buy their snake oil; the final slide, courtesy TPM Muckracker, shown at the now-famous "anonymous" briefing:
As one commenter at Muckraker noted wryly:
"What rank horseshit! The last slide says that "Iraqi and Iranian detainees" have told them in detail about when, where, and how Iranian arms shipments are crossing the border. Instead of telling a bunch of credulous reporters--and the world--that you know these details, why not use the information and actually CAPTURE such a shipment? THAT might be convincing!"
And given that the slide says this information was received in the last 60 days before the briefing, it would seem there was plenty of time to act on this intelligence...that is, if it were true. Now, thanks to the National Security Archive by way of the NYTimes, we can indulge in our nostalgia for pre-war lies by perusing the CentCom PowerPoint Slides shown to the White House and Rumsfeld in 2002, and recall how well that worked out, too. (NOTE--all you need to know about that is this first entry in the chronology of events at the bottom of the page: "November 21, 2001 - President Bush asks Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about contingencies for war with Iraq, and directs him to initiate planning.")

Marshall, who jumped on board the Let's Invade Iraq! Express back in 2002, is sensibly cautious about all this. Those of us who were never gulled in the first place know it's not just caution that's called for with this nest of vipers. Start putting the pressure on the people whose salaries you pay. And make it hurt.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's My Inquisition, Too: Special Cultural Contamination Issue

5-ChloeSpencerThe blogs are a-flutter with the discovery that the TV show 24 is an apologist vehicle for torture, and the troops are digging it!

Many seem to have been prodded into this revelation by the February 12th New Yorker article by the estimable Jane Mayer, and made thoughtful about it by the LA Times piece referred to by Kevin Drum. Despite Keifer Sutherland's dismissal of torture as an ineffective tool for info-gathering, right-wing creator Joel Surnow ensures that the show plows along week after week, like some kind of PG-rated Hostel, exploring the wonderful world of pain permutation. Surnow, "close buddies" with Rush Limbaugh and now stretching his artistic palette to include a possible "Daily Show for conservatives", was the keen mind behind such quality work as Falcon Crest, and the reactionary, pastel-ridden Miami Vice, so this is not a surprise.

What has surprised me since the show's inception has been how many people whose judgment I trust have been sucked into watching 24, which quickly lost its attraction for me after the fifth or so episode. Maybe it was how my husband would screech a Sutherlandish "People are gonna start dyin' here!" everytime I turned it on, or maybe it dawned on me early that there were an awful lot of inquisitoral scenes being driven by a protagonist too ready to pull out the pliers. And I know it was definitely the intensifying aroma of right-wing ideology that started wafting off the plotlines and scripts, and when watching a television show starts feeling like one is listening to Alberto Gonzales at a Senate hearing, it's time to look elsewhere for my entertainment. Maybe, too, it had to do with the perpetually scowling Chloe, who has got to be one of TV's most annoying supporting parts. prison_break_promo_1And I realized that I could satisfy my action-loving inner leftist by watching Prison Break instead, where only bad guys torture, and the good guys are fighting, against nearly impossible odds, a govenment and justice system corrupted by a most mundane evil.

The military's concern is that its rank-and-file are getting off on the idea of righteous torture, and that it could predispose them to carry 24s armchair philosophy of terror-fighting to the actual people they deal with. After all:
"...The kids see it and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about 24?"
In a culture that has imbued the tube with a credibility once reserved for clergy, the quest for truth stops with the cri de couer: "But it was on TV!"

Fascination with torture is one of the worst kept secrets of childhood. Kurt Vonnegut remembered this when, in a piece title "Torture and Blubber" published in the NY Times back in 1971, he wrote:
"Agony never made a society quit fighting, as far as I know. A society has to be captured or killed--or offered things it values. While Germany was being tortured during the Second World War, with justice, may I add, its industrial output and the determination of its people increased. Hitler, according to Albert Speer, couldn't even be bothered with marveling at the ruins or comforting the survivors. The Biafrans were tortured simultaneously by Nigerians, Russians and British. Their children starved to death. The adults were skeletons. But they fought on.

One wonders now where our leaders got the idea that mass torture would work to our advantage in Indochina. It never worked anywhere else. They got the idea from childish fiction, I think, and from a childish awe of torture.

Children talk about tortures a lot. They often make up what they hope are new ones. I can remember a friend's saying to me when I was a child: "You want to hear a really neat torture?" The other day I heard a child say to another: "You want to hear a really cool torture?" And then an impossibly complicated engine of pain was described. A cross would be cheaper, and work better, too.

But children believe that pain is an effective way of controlling people, which it isn't--except in a localized, short-term sense. They believe that pain can change minds, which it can't. Now the secret Pentagon history reveals that plenty of high-powered American adults things so, too, some of them college professors. Shame on them for their ignorance."
Some children never lose this fascination with torture, and some discover inside themselves a deeply receptive niche for it that only needs the righteous justification of the ticking time bomb myth or the satanic opponent myth to be relased into full, horrific flower. Thus we see once-ordinary men and women transformed into Charles Greniers and Lyndie Englands, not only in the military but in our prison systems and law enforcement.

Professor David Luban wrote the definitive smackdown against the these myths in his 2005 article "Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Time Bomb", in which he noted:
"Ticking-bomb stories depict torture as an emergency exception, but use intuitions based on the exceptional case to justify institutionalized practices and procedures of torture. In short, the ticking bomb begins by denying that torture belongs to liberal culture, and ends by constructing a torture culture."
Because ultimately, the end result of the infection and contamination of our culture with these justifications for the unjustifiable is that we are no longer ourselves. We lose the identity we once had, the standing we once believed we had, as a good and decent people. Untimately, the line between entertainment and real horror is erased, and we find ourselves indulging in public entertainments that depend on humiliation, torment, and yes, even physical torture. When the cultural Assumption of Righteousness excuses everything, everything is permissible with the right excuse, until finally, excuses are no longer needed at all.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mushroom Love

Now it really begins.


Cue the Valkyries.


Rev up the sacrificial stone.


Happy days are here again! We go to war on the same half-assed "evidence" that worked the first time; except that last time we had Colin Powell to look us in the eye. This time we've got "senior U.S. military officials" who demand anonymity as a condition of revealing their aluminum tubes. Does anyone doubt this is the work of Cheney and Bush? That no one would be able to push this compost unless the administration was orchestrating it?

Come on, George. Be a fucking half a man for once in your pitiful life, and own up.

Poison Pie

My personal Obnoxiousness Radar has been working overtime lately, and not just because we are ruled by bumbling incompetents whose grasp of the intricacies of foreign policy conduct is on a level with 4th grade boys. (Thanks, George and Dick, for the next generation's worth of fear, hate, and intractable international relationships you've set in motion for us; thanks, too, for all the current and future lost opportunities for peaceful resolutions resulting from your Jerry Bruckheimerization of the Defense Department, and castration of State. Thanks for your theocratic-corporate hijack of the federal government, the new definition of "torture" and the new theory of presidential infallibility, and the progress we've made on the road to quasi-monarchy and the Gulag Intercontinental [with your eyes on the potential for space, can the Gulag Galactic be far behind?]).

No, it's not just Douglas Feith playing dumb about a needless war he helped create, and it's not just Scooter Libby lying his ass off to shield one of the most loathesome weevils to feast on the heart of the Republic since its inception. It's not just the sight of those invertebrates in the Senate mumbling amongst themselves in a desperate attempt to fend off the appearance of having an opinion about a war that's destroying all stability in the Mid-east as well as the last of their own tattered morality.

It's also getting up every morning and listening to NPR air self-cannibalizing opinions amongst black leaders and academics that maybe Barack Obama just isn't "black" enough to be credible with African-American voters. It's listening to Bobby Rush proudly label himself a "race" politician as he dismisses his former opponent, implying that Obama's success will be had at the cost of his "blackness". It's listening to people wonder how Obama will be able to relate to American blacks without having had a legacy of slavery, lynching, and racism behind him, while they suggest maybe Hilary Clinton (whose experience of slavery and lynching is well-known) might be more acceptable. It's listening to the astonishing idea that a man born in a black African village, to a black African father, is somehow less black because he has been well-educated, well-traveled, and not living in poverty, while at the same time hearing that, well, he may be all right after all because he identifies himself as black and married a black woman, even though he has a white mother. And then it's listening to Tucker Carlson talking out of his ass about how Obama's affiliation with a black church, a church that affirms parishioners' committment to support and uplift other African-Americans, raises questions about whther Obama is a "real" Christian, and about his ability to represent whites.

And speaking of the unchristian accusing others of being unchristian, it's listening to Bill Donahue, one of the great religious bigots polluting the airwaves, pissing and moaning about how some bloggers working for John Edwards had mean things to say about Catholic doctrine and the Church's behavior towards women (we all know how fair and tolerant the Church has been with women throughout its existence). The fact that the blogosphere is chock full of people spouting off pungent, informal critiques seems lost on Donahue; the fact that there is a difference between criticism and expressions of pain rooted in personal experience and true hate speech is a distinction he refuses to acknowledge; and the fact that the postings in question occurred before Edwards hired them is irrelevant to him. Conveniently forgotten, too, are all his own contemptuous remarks on the religious convictions and creeds of others, his swipes at Judaism and Islam, and his convenient amnesia when Catholicism is smeared by right-wingers like Jerome Corsi. His idea of being a good Catholic is to shut your yap, and buy into his revisionist approval of Pius XII. After all, the Nazis did their best to exterminate bad could they have been?

And while we're on the subject, it's the rabid attempts at muzzling anti-war and human rights advocates by smearing them as anti-Semites every time one suggests American foreign policy irrationally favors Israel, that the Christian Right pushes for such favoritism because it furthers their own mtyhological agenda for The Rapture, and that maybe, just maybe, the Palestinians are being subjected to human rights abuses. Because these are views held by liberals, and because many liberals are also Jews, we now have the weirdness of Jews being labelled anti-Semite in the U.S. for criticizing the Israeli government, while Jews in Israel doing the same thing are just...Israelis. I suppose this was to be expected in a country where even the mildest protest of abuses of power results in everything from inferences of traitorism to death threats.

What else? Well, there's the death of public civility on streets, trains, buses and in cars, and the failure of American parents to teach their children anything at all about manners and etiquette. This has led to the Cincinnati rock concert philosophy of life: that we all must be in a constant battle for supremacy with one another, whether it's who goes through a door first, gets a parking space, or gets to change lanes. All of this is directly anathema to the idea behind etiquette: that in order to create a tolerable and decent community, we must all behave graciously and with grace toward each other, meaning at times we back off, suppress our egos, and let someone else have something at our own expense out of sheer kindness. Meaning we treat others as if they were our dear friends, or at least unfortunately demented relatives not responsible for their own behavior.

And maybe starting at this most personal level, we could infect the rest of our culture with it, and some day see an end to the poisons benoaned above. It could be a start.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Aarrgh of the Covenant

jesus_for_bush_9_1 For some reason many people find Chris Hedges' work "controversial"---possibly in the same way that some people find heliocentrism controversial. Personally, I can't understand how a man speaking plainly about the obvious dangers we face when we look in the mirror is controversial, except that the most self-evident truths are often the most painful, and we're prone as a race to kill the messenger. Well, hone those axes and pitchforks again, folks, because Hedges turned the article "...that no major publication will print" (as well as numerous observations and articles of the last couple years) into a full-fledged book: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America. And few others have the standing he does to make that charge. Tracing the movement to its authoritarian racist beginnings, he proposes that it has flourished because of the steady erosion of social infrastructure brought on by the coporate-government fusion of the last decades, and suggests that, given the its current entrenchment, it would only take a crisis like another 9/11 to bring the Christian Right fully into control of the government.

In an interview to Michelle Goldberg of Salon in January, he said:
For me, the engine of the (Christian Right) movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again. You can't deform your society to that extent, and you can't shunt people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences.

Democracies function because the vast majority live relatively stable lives with a degree of hope, and, if not economic prosperity, at least enough of an income to free them from severe want or instability. Whatever the Democrats say now about the war, they're not addressing the fundamental issues that have given rise to this movement.

But isn't there a change in the Democratic Party, now that it's talking about class issues and economic issues more so than in the past?

Yes, but how far are they willing to go? The corporations that fund the Republican Party fund them. I don't hear anybody talking about repealing the bankruptcy bill, just like I don't hear them talking about torture. The Democrats recognize the problem, but I don't see anyone offering any kind of solutions that will begin to re-enfranchise people into American society. The fact that they can't get even get healthcare through is pretty depressing.
He wrote a piece on the subject at Alternet the same month, and later, on NPR, he discussed it again. You can read the first chapter here. Then watch his interview with Stephen Colbert (thanks to Crooks and Liars) here. A note on this, though: I enjoy Colbert, but his stage persona really got in the way here. I would have liked hearing Hedges express more of his anger at the hijacking of his faith. He is a deeply spiritual, deeply committed Christian, and these are the people we need to hear from most.

Nobody writes like Chris. Nobody. Get this book. Just watch out for the angry mob.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Support the Troops; Send Them to Washington

John Warner is trying to craft a resolution against escalation that the Senate can approve, and some clockwork Republican yes men have cranked up that old piano roll, "Underming the Troops". Now here is a man who, regardless of what you think of his politics, proved himself in the Navy and Marine Corps during World War II, Korea, and beyond.

So who the fuck is Jim DeMint, Mr. "Gays and single mothers should be barred from teaching", Mr. "Been a senator for less than a minute", Mr. "Zero military service under his belt", who is DeMint to pass judgement on John Warner's leadership?
"“It is clearly not an act of leadership,” said Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who joined two of his colleagues Wednesday in dismissing Mr. Warner’s proposal as they sought to hold off a Senate repudiation of the president’s plan."
You can run along home now, Jimmy; the grown-ups will handle it. And speaking of grown-ups, here's what the troops think, Jimmy:

Join the Troops. Stop the Escalation.
(Thanks to BagNews Notes for the link.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oh, Molly

Another brilliant, beautiful soul leaves too soon.


Remember her for these fighting words, almost one year ago to the day:
"Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can."
More here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Living in Slaughterhouse-Five

An amusing distraction, courtesy of "the lovely and talented PaulM. Kienitz":

I am:
Kurt Vonnegut
For years, this unique creator of absurd and haunting tales denied that he had anything to do with science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Thanks to Michael Froomkin for the point.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Doomed to Repeat It

Maybe I dreamed it, or maybe I remember right. But the most tragic thing about this cartoon...

darfur that I seem to recall Oliphant used it while the Rwanda genocide was going on. Whether he did or didn't doesn't matter. While David Brooks turns his face from a real genocide, really happening right now, he blathers on The News Hour about the "genocide" that could happen if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq, and actually believes us moral because of it.

Will God ever forgive us oour pride and brutality? Will we ever forgive ourselves?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night---Just Bush

It's almost become boring now, this never-ending assault on our civil liberties and constitutional rights by Bush and his hired guns. How else explain the media's lack of attention or comment after Bush shoehorned another signing statement onto the back of an otherwise mundane postal office bill in December, in which he arrogates the right to open Americans' mail without a warrant based only on his own questionable discretion? Here it is in all its glory:
The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.
Here's what the ACLU had to say:
In 1996, the postal regulations were altered to permit the opening of First Class Mail without a warrant in cases where the Postal Inspector believes there is a credible threat that the package contains dangerous material like bombs. In passing the new statute, Congress reiterated the express prohibition in existing law against opening First Class Mail without a warrant. The regulation authorizing an exception where there is a credible threat that a package may contain a bomb still exists, but is quite narrow.

(ACLU Executive Director Anthony D.) Romero said the Bush signing statement does not specify whether there are special circumstances beyond those already established in the law that would allow him to open mail without a warrant and if so, what they may be. For example, the ACLU questioned whether the “exigent circumstances” would include the singling out of mail addressed to or from people on government watch lists, which are notoriously flawed. Such deliberate ambiguity, Romero said, “raises a red flag because of President Bush’s history of asserting broad powers to spy on Americans.”

Romero also noted that the signing statement was issued by President Bush during the Congressional recess and a year after revelations that his administration was claiming authority to secretly wiretap Americans without a warrant.
Time enough for the old American amnesia to take effect.

You can contact your representatives and let them know this is unacceptable, either by picking up the phone, or going here. Don't assume that the changeover effected by the last election will save you. With people like Nancy ("He is the commander in chief, Charlie. We don't get that choice") Boyda on your side, you can be pretty sure nothing has changed.