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.)