Friday, June 30, 2006

Burning the Constitution at the Altar of Fear

We lose our freedoms at the altar of fear. ~ Kahlil Gilbran
California Conservative has yet another whining little piece bemoaning the fact that we liberals aren't sufficiently terrified of the seven Miami terrorist wannabes who fantasized about blowing up the Sears Tower. My reply is reprinted here.
It could be that we liberals don’t get the willies scared out of us as easily as you do. This bunch of wannabes, the Miami Seven, had no plans, they hadn’t even figured out how to buy guns (the reports said that “no weapons were found”). I’m sorry, a terrorist who can’t even find any guns in this country is just pathetic.

I realize that Attorney General Gonzales said they were prepared to wage a “full ground war against the United States.” But as Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) points out, “if you’re going to wage a full ground war against the United States, you need to field at least as many people as say a softball team.”

If there is a difference between conservatives and liberals it is that we are made of sterner stuff. We don’t get terrified by impotent rantings. We don’t wet our pants because a small group of unarmed nobodies have done nothing but talk.

There are people to be concerned about. Some are jihadists, others are Aryan Nationalists. But I refuse to quake in terror at the sound of every nocturnal bump. And I refuse to burn the Constitution at the altar of your fear.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One Vote Margins

When I see a well planned vote, such as the flag burning constitutional amendment, that loses by one vote, my cynic-nerve starts buzzing. I believe the vote was orchestrated. There was a Gallup Poll showing a majority (54%) of the public opposes the amendment. Even the right-wing blog RedState thought is was a bad idea. The news media was mostly snoozing; if there was going to be a genuine close vote the media would have been abuzz.

This was a congenial affair with a pre-ordained result. The votes were assigned to create the final result. Hence the sight of Feinstein voting Yea and Hillary Clinton voting Nay. The anti-firebug freaks would applaud a valiant effort. Us this-is-just-silly folks would be appeased. And, no harm would be done to the Constitution.

This is just proof that the Senate can play nice as long as there is nothing important at stake.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Valueless Pundits

Pundits like David Broder and Jason Zengerle are consistent in attacking the blogosphere. Broder believes we're mean to President Bush and not nearly as skilled with the English language as, well, for example, him. Zengerle thinks we are simple-minded rubes being led like sheep. They both believe that all will be lost if we don't return to listening to their words of wisdom. They want and need this to be true. They can only tolerate their peers, other pundits, disagreeing with them.

Before the Protestant Reformation, priests were the only path to God. Before blogging, pundits were the brahmins who told us what to think regarding politics. With the Reformation, every man could become his own priest. With blogs, every man can become his own pundit. Broder, Zengerle, and their ilk are immaterial in the internet age. They are no more important than Kos or Jane Hamsher or, gee, even me.

They just don't like having competition in the marketplace of ideas.

Art is "George Fox on the Mount of Vision" Governor's Reception Room, State Capitol, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. ~ by Violet Oakley

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Perspectives in California Earthquakes

Living with California's Zipper, the San Andreas Fault, for half a century tends to give perspective. If healthy respect is the most I can generate from living in one of the most seismically active regions of the planet, what hope does a group of rag-tag religious fanatics hiding in caves have to scare me?

The news predicting a major earthquake in Southern California was old news for me. I have known about the blockage in the fault at what is known as the "Big Bend" since I was a child. When it slips, and it will, the Pacific tectonic plate will shift 30 feet northward and 24 million people will experience one hell of a shaking.

Earthquakes, to me, are as common as snowfalls in Buffalo. This map is too large and detailed to reproduce on Blogger. It marks with a red dot each of the 140,000 Southern California earthquakes recorded in a 15 year period (1978-1992). That's right, about three 30 earthquakes a day. Most are tiny and hardly felt, some, like Northridge in 1994, do this.

The Big One will be about 1000 times more powerful than the Northridge quake. It will make Katrina look like a Mardi Gras parade. As for the worst that Bin Laden can do ... pffft.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some Campaign Ads Just Write Themselves

Ned Lamont, here is you campaign commercial. Run a few seconds of Ann Coulter endorsing Joe Lieberman,
I would admire a politician, not as much as basically your run of the mill garden-variety Republican, but as far as Democrats go like Lieberman ~ Coulter on Fox News
Add a few of her fascist comments like,
My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building. ~ Coulter in New York Observer, August 26, 2002
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. ~ Coulter, 2001 column
the 39 million greedy geezers collecting Social Security. ~ Coulter, WorldNetDaily, December 2, 2003
and let the voters decide.
Additional source: Wikipedia
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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Spelling Bees Are a Communist Plot

I'm re-reading my previous post this afternoon because, well I love my own writing more than words can say, and I discover several creative spelling alternatives. I spelled chocolate as chocolote, twice. I forgot that to demonstrate requires a little demon, I spelled it demostrate. And a little Fingerfehler typed the word to as t-h-e. While I corrected the errors because there is a seventh grade English teacher I'm still terrified of, I feel no contrition. Rather, I must point out my similarity with other masters of the language.
  • I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way. ~ Mark Twain
  • My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. ~ A. A. Milne
  • Correct spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by schoolma'ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world. ~ H. L. Mencken

  • Mark Twain's Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
    For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.
    Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.
    Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spikingwerld.

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Laugh

From Fat to Thin, and Back Again
Chocolate maker Nestle is buying weight loss company Jenny Craig. This is a perfect example of a vertical monopoly. Nestle will sell us the products to make us fat and provide us with the service to make us thin again. To celebrate getting thin we will buy some Nestle chocolate and start the whole cycle over again.

The Champagne of Planets
Those of us who cling to the belief that the Earth is the center of the Universe have had a tough time with scientists the past few centuries. Now comes news to cheer our hearts. The Earth is surrounding by giant, fizzy bubbles. We're floating in a celestial sea of champagne.

When All Else Fails, Run a Commercial

The United States is making a glitz, million dollar television commercial to convince Iraqis that suicide bombings are not cool. It will show a Matrix-style, slow-motion explosion to demonstrate that bombs kill people. Just a guess, Iraqis probably already know this. The best part, it is being filmed in Los Angeles and most of the "arabs" in the production are Latinos.

Ten Commandments - More What You'd Call
"Guidelines" Than Actual Rules
Three of the top contenders for President from the Party of God, you know, the Republicans, are self-confessed adulterers. John McCain dumped his wife who raised his three children for the rich, young hottie he had cultivated an affair with who would finance his political ambitions. Newt Gingrich famously harrassed his first wife over divorce negotiations while she was hospitalized for cancer. He has a special attraction to young staffers. While mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani brazenly took his mistress to official functions. They will still run on a holier than thou platform.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Future of Political Ads*

*if Democrats are smart.
Look at What Would Jesus Do? from the brilliant young activist Ava Lowery of Peace Takes Courage.

You know the traditional political commercial, they all look pretty much the same no matter which party is doing them, right? They show the candidate with family walking in some pretty spot (here in California that is almost always the beach), talking to a small group of elderly folks, and playing with his children if he has any (and someone else's children if he hasn't). A couple of innocuous policy positions nobody could disagree with are included and, voila, another media consultant has pocketed a sweet profit. With the uninspiring pablum that passes for political discource today, it is a wonder election turnouts aren't lower.

But, I can hear my consultant friends telling me that campaign commercials must be uplifting and inspiring. Try Making History for inspiration. What about attack ads, they tell me? Only attack ads really work. Tell me one political commercial you've seen that was a more powerful attack than Who Is George Bush?

Boldness wins elections. Only boldness deserves to win elections. Ava Lowery's productions are bold statements of principal that touch the heart and soul. A lot has been made about the death threats that Ms. Lowery, age 15, has received. That only makes my point. Even hard right-wingers can see the power of her message and have nothing to answer her. All they can do is lash out, impotently. It isn't the money that goes into a commercial that matters, it is the message.

If Ava Lowery inspires the future production of political commercials, Democrats will win in a landslide.

The Truth Is Out There,
It Is Just Stamped 'Secret'

Press Secretary Tony Snow says "there's a lot going on" in Iraq. True enough. If you want to know what is going on, don't listen to Tony, hunt down some secret embassy memos. A secret cable from the US embassy in Baghdad reveals a different Iraq than you'll hear described by the Propaganda Ministry.

Working for the Embassy is Hazardous
Guards in the Green Zone are harrassing US embassy employees, loudly announcing that they work in the embassy: "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people." Embassy employees are keeping their work secret even from their own families.

Life Would Have to Improve to Become Hell
Death is so common, many neighborhoods hold funerals every evening. Fuel lines are as much as 12 hours long. Electricity is one hour on, six hours off. Temperatures are 115 degrees. "
Even upscale neighborhoods 'have visibly deteriorated' and one of them is now described as a 'ghost town.'"

Watch What You Wear
Women are being harrassed to cover their faces, the full Taliban abaya. Men are being attacked for wearing shorts or jeans in public. Even children are attacked for wearing shorts.

And It Is Hopeless
"In March, a few (embassy) staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."

Update: Think Progress has the original document.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

Remember today the fathers who have lost their sons in George Bush's War.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Ten Commandments Primer

Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (GA-8th CD) embarassed himself this evening on the Colbert Report by not being able to remember the Ten Commandments. Normally, such ignorance would bore me, but Westmoreland is one of the co-sponsors of HR 214, which require the Ten Commandments be posted in the chambers of the House of Representatives. He should know what it says before sponsoring legislation requiring it. As a service to Westmoreland and other benighted Republicans, I present a simple primer.

The Ten Commandments
  1. Thou shall have no other Gods before me. For many Republicans, the worship of money is placed above God. Ralph Reed, running for lieutenant governor in Georgia, prayed hard at the altar of Jack Abramoff's payoffs, to the tune of at least $4.2 million.
  2. Thou shall not make graven images. One of the great ironies of our times is that when Christian devotees of Alabama Justice Roy Moore worship at this huge slab of granite it was because it is a graven image of the Ten Commandments.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Whenever you name God as justification for your petty hatreds of liberals, gays, immigrants, and Democrats, you are breaking this one.
  4. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. I feel bad pointing this out, but Saturday is the sabbath. Sunday worship is a remnant of Roman paganism.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother. The bureaucratic nightmare that is Bush's prescription drug program was a cruelty inflicted upon the elderly to service drug company profits.
  6. Thou shalt not kill. Some 40,000 civilian Iraq War dead.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, 'nuff said.
  8. Thou shalt not steal. I could use Jack Abramoff again or Duke Cunningham, but Halliburton's war profiteering is a better example.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Bush, Cheney, Frist, Hastert, Santorum, the Swift boaters, Ann Coulter. Where do I start? Where does it end?
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's everything. Coveting defines Republicanism. Power, money, oil - coveting what others may have is the core belief of evangelical Republicans.
The last commandment is found in the Constitution instead of the Bible, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

You cannot use your political power to erect crosses (another graven image, by the way) or post your favorite biblical quotes in government buildings. That violated the covenant upon which our country was founded. Erect a cross on you own front lawn or post the Ten Commandments at your place of business, these acts are protected by the Constitution. But don't compel the government to express your religion for you. It's lazy and it's wrong.

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Got your Global Warming Proof Right Here

Shrinking Canadian glacier.
I can find any argument I want from the Global Warming deniers. Most base their opinions on the theory that, once you dismiss all of the symptoms, there is no definitive proof. My favorite denier is the guy who admits it is happening but believes Global Warming will be a boon to mankind.

Like cancer, the symptoms are the most important clues to diagnosing a plantary disease. What are the symptoms?
  • Warmer Temperatures. Seems obvious. Nineteen of the 20 hottest years in historical record have occured in the last 25 years.
  • Warmer Water and More Intense Rain. Not just all the catagory 4 and 5 hurricanes, there have been historic floods in Europe the past several years.
  • Droughts. The heavy rain in some places means severe droughts in others. The current East Africa drought is of biblical proportions. Global warming is a zero sum game when it comes to rainfall.
  • Shrinking Glaciers. The linked article includes photos showing what has happened to several glaciers in the past 100 years. Glaciers are freshwater reservoirs in many parts of the world. As they disappear, so will the freshwater they hold.
  • Rising Sea levels. As the oceans heat up and the polar ice caps melt, the oceans will rise. Of course, the Global Warming deniers will claim that it will not make any difference if the oceans rise a few feet. It will make a difference to the people living on this Polynesian atoll. Their homes will completely disappear.
  • Deadly Heatwaves. In 2003, a heatwave in Europe killed 30,000 people. A nationwide heatwave in 2005 killed scores of Americans. Japan, India, and South Africa have also had killer heatwaves. Deniers like to pretend only the winters are getting warmer. It is the summers that will get us.
  • Wildfire. Near Flagstaff, over 1000 homes are currently endangered by wildfires. In my hometown, San Diego, in October 2003, wildfires destroyed over 2400 homes, burned over 370,000 acres, and killed 17 people. For days, the smoke was so thick you could look directly at the sun at noon with your naked eye. Texas, Colorado, Alaska, Australia, Europe, and Africa have all seen massive wildfires in recent years. Photos of the San Diego inferno are here and here.
more research:, National Academies Press

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Canoeing Down Fire Dog Lake

I'm floating across Fire Dog Lake and I notice a couple of interesting things in the water with me.

Joe Lieberman's Divine Right to the Senate
Uber-hawk, pro-war to the last drop of American blood, Lieberman has spent the past five years shilling for George Bush. This has earned him, not unexpectedly, heaping praise from Republicans as a good little Democrat. And, it has earned him a strong primary opponent. Joe's reaction is to hint at bolting the Democratic Party and running as an Independent. Joe believes the Senate seat does not belong to the people of Connecticut, it is his personal property. One of his spokespeople said it was insane to allow the voting population of the state to "terrorize" a three-term senator.

There once was a time that Joe Lieberman served the people who elected him. No longer. He now serves in the Senate to serve himself and inflate his own ego. It is a sad decline of a once proud man.

All Will Be Well If We Only Close Our Eyes
President Bush's quick trip to Iraq is proof things are going well - as long as we don't notice that that Bush was afraid to tell most of the Cabinet. Forget not trusting the Iraqi leadership (FDL's point), Bush didn't even trust his own leadership. Bush did not even want the Secretary of Labor to know he was going to be out of the country for a few hours. That is a level of terror that is hard to imagine. All is very much not well.

I'll return to original thought when I can find one.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

What Is the Worth of a Man?

Philosophers and poets have wrestled with this question since the dawn of civilization. The Bush Administration, with the inhuman calculus that they are noted for, has answered this riddle. When US servicemen kill civilian non-combatants in Iraq, the American goverment pays $2500 in compensation.

One average Iraqi man is worth...
  • a San Diego doghouse (at housing prices over $400/square foot).
  • Seven small cows (at current prices of $70 per hundredweight for Kansas feeder cattle).
  • Two minutes of Tommy Franks time (the general who commanded the invasion force into Iraq charges $75,000 per speech).
  • 4 to 5 pounds of a marine (the death benefit gratuity to marine families is $100,000).
  • 4 grams of Osama Bin Laden ($50 million reward).
  • Half of an American's forehead (used for advertising purposes).
  • A 1987 Ford Taurus station wagon.
  • The fine for sending one junk fax in California.
  • Less than the weapon he was killed with (the M249 automatic weapon costs $4000).
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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Three Gitmo prisoners commit suicide. Base commander Rear Adm. Harry Harris raged at being deprived of more time to torment them.
They are smart. They are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.
How cunningly sinister those Arabs are. Four years of cruelty inflicted upon them with no hope of it ever ending and, at the end, the only thing they can think about is how to make Harry Harris' life inconvenient.

How are the prisoners treated? Look closely at the picture above, or better still, the one to the left. He is wearing earmuffs, blinders, mittens, and a face mask. It is called sensory deprivation. The prisoner is also short shackled, he cannot move from the painful position he has been forced into. As practiced at Guantanamo, this is clearly torture.

When prisoners attempt hunger strikes they are restrained, a tube is shoved up their noses and down their esophagi, and food is forcibly pumped into their stomachs. Without any anesthetic.

The title of this post quotes Dante's Inferno, it is inscribed on the gates of Hell. It should also be on the front gates of Gitmo. The imprisonment is endless as is their torment. We Americans have created a Hell on Earth.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Republicans believe that Gitmo is a tropical paradise. Here is a photo of Republican Congresswoman Melissa Hart (PA, 4th CD) on her recent vacation trip to Gitmo. Notice how happy she is. Obviously, a wonderful time was had by all.
Additional links: 60 Minutes interview of a former Gitmo translator, treatment of hunger strikers, early report of prisoner mistreatment, Gitmo eyewitness, Hominid Views, Liberty Street.
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Friday, June 09, 2006

Congress of Clowns

What purpose does the legislative process serve now adays? This past week, anonymous Republican staffers removed a ban on building permanent military bases in Iraq. The ban was passed by both the House and Senate and included in an emergency spending bill. It was deleted by unelected clerks.
SEC. 7032. None of the funds made available by title I of this Act (HR 4939) may be made available to establish permanent United States military bases in Iraq, or to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq. ~ text of the Sen. Biden amendment.
Both houses pass language that expresses the will of the people that we do not want permanent colonial bases in Iraq. That language disappears down the Memory Hole without so much as a "fuck you" to the legislators who voted for it. To his credit, Rep. David Obey (D-WI) tried to restore the language in the conference committee but Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) blocked the effort.

Add in Sen. Arlen Specter, who gave it up like a five dollar whore over the Administration's warrantless wiretap law breaking. Once feigning outrage at the warrantless taps, Specter's new legislation makes warrants optional. Specter wants to grant a blanket amnesty to everyone in the Administration who broke the law and violated the Constitution. With his signing statements, President Bush rewrites any legislation that reaches his desk to fit his mood.

The result is a legislature that serves no function except making noise and taking bribes. Laws debated and voted upon are rewritten behind closed doors. The result bears no resemblance to the original legislative intent. Senators are so timid they shrink from confrontation and willingly throw away the law and the Constitution as if it were confetti. As Glenn Greenwald points out, theirs is a cowardice shared by both Republicans and Democrats.

Congress has become a joke. Since they are jokes by their own acts, that makes them clowns. George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove are laughing at our Congressmen as they swallow each humilation. There once was a thing called courage in politics. Now, there are only red noses and floppy feet.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Head of a Slime Mold Is Dead

The internet and cable news shows are atwitter with the news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead. The liberal blogs are happy, the conservative blogs are unhappy that the liberal blogs aren't more happy, and cable news is just thrilled they have something to fill all of their empty hours. So, what does it all mean?
  • The world is better off without him.
  • It will make as much difference as the capture of Saddam Hussein did. (ie. none)
    Two 500-pound bombs are not nearly as destructive as I thought. I would have thought that much fire power would have left just a few red stains on the rubble. Check out the official Pentagon picture. You can see a zit on his cheek but not a scratch on his face. He looks like he's sleeping.
The slime mold reference in the headline refers to the fatal flaw in American anti-insurgency efforts. The US military believes, as an article of faith, in decapitation as a battle strategy. They believe that if you "cut off the head, the snake will die." Asymmetrical warfare is more like slime mold. Slime mild is a small cell, amorphus blob that grows to massive proportions if it is in the proper, nurturing environment. You can hack away at perceived heads all you want and it will do no damage. The best way to control it is to discourage its growth.
Slime mold can be pretty, though.
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Death, Drugs, and War - a History

America has fought three major colonial wars in her history - the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1913), the Vietnam War (1965-1973), and the Iraq War (2003-present). All of them have two things in common - war crimes and extensive drug use by American soldiers.

Philippine Insurrection

Following our victory in the Spanish-American War, the United States bought the Philippine Islands from the Spanish. This came as a surprise to Filipinos, who had declared themselves an independent country. We sent over troops and told the Filipinos they had new masters. The ingrates decided to fight. The fighting quickly devolved into a classic asymmetrical guerrilla war. The drug of choice was smoking opium to dull the fear and guilt. The war crimes included concentration camps, torture, and summary executions.
It is an inevitable consequence of war that the innocent must generally suffer with the guilty ~ Gen. J. Franklin Bell, U. S. Army
I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. ~ Instruction from Gen. Jacob Smith on how to deal with any Filipino prisoners over the age of ten.
There was an active anti-war movement that included Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie.

Vietnam War

Drug Use
Pot smoking started early in the war. Marine commanders estimated 70 to 80 percent of their soldiers were smoking pot. Heroin, usually smoked or snorted, eventually took over. In 1971 U.S. Army medical officers estimated that 10 to 15 percent of enlisted men used heroin; other estimates go as high as 90 percent. The reason for the drug use was fear, bordom, and the uselessness of the battles.
War Crimes
While My Lai is being talked about again, there were many less famous crimes. Soldiers went into the bush with orders to pacify an area, to clear it of the enemy. But this was a guerrilla war where anyone - men, women, children, the elderly, the lame - anyone could be the enemy. Where anyone can be the enemy, everyone becomes the enemy.

Iraq War
Drug Use
There is an interesting twist in this war. The Pentagon is the most active drug pusher in theater. There is no time, no interest in caring for soldiers who have been traumatized by the conflict. Drug them up and keep them out there is the order of the day. Antidepressants and tranquilizers like Valium instead of R&R or counseling; "go-pills" to keep the soldiers awake and wired for 24 to 48 straight hours; sleeping pills to undo the effects of the go-pills and numb away the nightmares.
It concerns us when we hear military doctors say, "It’s wonderful that we have these drugs available to cope with second or third deployments.” ~ Joyce Raezer of the National Military Family Association
Remember the predictions that the army was on the edge of breaking? Well, it is broken and the only thing keeping it together is drugs. American street gangs are marketing more traditional drugs like heroin to the troops. Military families are distraught over what is being done to their children and spouses.
War Crimes
When Rush Limbaugh reads this (yea, right) I want him to realize I am neither ecstatic nor gleeful. Like Vietnam and the Philippine wars, what is happening now is the natural outgrowth of placing good, decent American servicemembers in impossible situations, ordering them to do the absurd, and riding them until they break. As before, the guerrilla fighters are ghosts. Like during the Philippine war, our soldiers have come to fear even the children.

Conservative talking points dismiss each incident that becomes public, like Abu-Ghraib and Haditha, as an aberration. The aberration is when they become public at all. For those interested (I suggest you not consider the chances of NSA surveillance if you go here), this is an Iraqi resistance website that lists the war crimes they believe we have committed. Most of the links on this site are to western news sources; several are also no longer valid. My point in linking to it is to show that many incidents have been reported upon that have never filtered through to the public conscious.

Additional Links: Common Dreams, Another Fine Mess, Information Clearing House

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Legalizing Abu-Ghraib

This is the fine hand and blunt fist of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. The Army Field Manual is being rewritten to permit torture using "humiliating and degrading treatment." No more canards that what Lyndie England and Charles Graner did to prisoners in Abu-Ghraib were aberrations. No more claims that we would never permit such things ... nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

There are a few, minor, problems with this rewrite mostly being that it is patently illegal.

The United States ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1994.
torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
This applies to any prisoner held for any reason. The right-wing meme that you can do anything you want to unlawful combatants falls beneath this treaty. The Geneva Convention, which specifically deals with prisoners of war, prohibits, "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." And then to reinforce the law, last year's McCain Amendment says:
No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
By law and by treaty humilating treatment of prisoners is torture and is illegal. The Bush Administration is trying to play an Alice In Wonderland game, pretending the clear language of the law doesn't mean what it says.

Interesting Links: Conservative Andrew Sullivan calls the United States a "rogue nation", Protein Wisdom thinks it's just hunky-dory, Philadelphia Freedom Watch, Blogotitlan, Nether World, First Draft, Politics Made Simple, Blognonymous

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Stanley Cup Thoughts

Life isn't only politics. I have a secret passion. Okay, not so secret. I love ice hockey. Not the thuggish, "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out" style of hockey. I love the fast, flowing artistry that is the game at its finest.
Bobby Orr was the first great offensive defenseman. His end-to-end rushes were things of beauty.
I came by this love honestly. My father was born and raised in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. Ice hockey is in the blood there. When I was young, my father introduced me to hockey and pizza at about the same time. Both became addictions.
Doug Harvey anchored the defense of the greatest dynasty in sports history, The Montreal Canadians of the 1950's.
I have wonderful memories of Saturdays eating pizza and watching the Toronto Marlboros junior hockey games on television. What they were doing on San Diego television was a mystery to me even then.
Gordie Howe was the greatest hockey player ever prior to Wayne Gretzky. This is Gordie in his prime. At the age of 51, he played in the NHL All-Star Game along side the 19 year-old Gretzky.

Fortunately, minor league hockey arrived in San Diego in 1966. The Western Hockey League was one step below the NHL. I didn't see the greats but I could watch some pretty damn good players.
The San Diego Gulls fed my passion for the game throughout my high school years.

Bobby Hull was the great goal scorer of the 1960's. His slap shot traveled nearly 120 MPH.

I began losing interest in the game when the goons took over. People who could barely stand upright on ice skates were going to the major league solely for their fighting skills. My interest returned with the coming of the Great One.
Wayne Gretzky was a magician. He was the Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan of ice hockey. He wasn't just the best that every played the game. He was so much better than second place that comparisons were impossible.
Every hockey team needs a goaltender. Gump Worsley may not have been the best to ever wear the pads but he is in the top half dozen. I just loved his nickname. Who couldn't root for a guy named Gump. Besides, Gump played when goaltenders didn't wear masks. They were a different, crazy breed of man back then.

During last year's labor lockout it seemed that the owners and players were conspiring to kill off the sport. I'm happy my cynicism was wrong. Major league hockey used the time off to study what the game had become. They changed some rules to reward speed and tone down the thuggery. The result is a game that appears the same to the unseasoned eye, but is faster, flashier, and better than it was before. My only regret is that Wayne Gretzky couldn't play under these rules. What he would have done.

I'll return to depressing subjects like war and politics next time.

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Do It Yourself On-Line Presidential Leadership Quiz

This is not to be missed. The Do It Yourself On-Line Presidential Leadership Quiz was all the proof I needed that I, too, have what it takes to be Leader of the Free World.
My thanks to Nikahang Kowsar whose cartoon I have shamelessly borrowed.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Decay of the Art of Lying

As Mark Twain noted in his day, it is not the custom of lying that has suffered. You will seldom be wrong if you assume everything coming from the Bush White House is a lie. It is the skill in the art of lying that has suffered.
No high-minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted. ~ Mark Twain, On The Decay Of The Art Of Lying
Take the case of Tony Snow. Just last Friday at his press briefing (proudly preserved here) Tony said that Iraq's Prime Minister had been misquoted when he said American troops “smash civilian cars and kill on a suspicion or a hunch,” and called the Haditha massacre a crime.
The wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously....Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies. ~ Twain, ibed ibid
It was a poor effort. Prime Minister al-Maliki was speaking Arabic, always a tricky translation. Snow could have claimed the al-Maliki was really praising the tulip blossoms along the Tigris and no one in the White House briefing room could contradict him, but Snow just babbled about it being convoluted. Bad form. It does not help that Condi Rice called Snow a liar on Fox News today. Tony, your friends need to have your back.
If one is to be called a liar, one may as well make an effort to deserve the name. ~ A. A. Milne
What about the case of Karl Zinsmeister? Replacing Karl Rove as chief domestic advisor requires more than having the same name, he needs a certain skill with fabrication. The Z-man (So, what do you think Bush's nickname for him is?) rewrote a story about him published in a Syracuse, New York weekly newspaper and plopped it on his own website. When you do this, you have to be certain all the original copies have been destroyed. (Study the Memory Hole from 1984.) This lame effort is just getting him sued by the Syracuse New Times and "zinsmeistering" is a now a new word meaning, "The practice of reprinting news stories under the original author's bylines, but re-written to suit your purpose."
Oh, I used to tell lies but I've given it up. The field is overrun with amateurs. ~ back to Twain
An argument could be made, not by me, that George Bush had mastered the political lie. We went to war because of MWDs that were not there. The Iraqi people would greet us a liberators, celebrating our soldiers occupation with explosive devices. IEDs are just firecrackers that remove limbs. But, this was not mastery of lying so much as brazenness. His brutish, blustering practice has demeaned the art. That it has worked so well helps explain the popularity of velvet paintings of Elvis.
The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way. ~ Samuel Butler
When Republicans speak you feel insulted that they think you would believe their load of horseshit. They don't even try to plant a few flowers, fry a little bacon, something to cover the stench. It's like they don't care. Where is the creativity? Where is the pride of workmanship? If Republicans can't govern honestly they should at least learn to lie with panache.
The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might. ~ Twain again
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Friday, June 02, 2006

The Young and the Restless - White House Edition

I want to believe. There are some stories that go beyond the realm of gossip, that you know must be accurate without any supporting evidence. From Wayne Madsen via Pissed On Politics comes the intriguing report that Laura Bush has moved out of the White House and is living in a suite of rooms in the Mayflower Hotel, four blocks from the presidential mansion. Laura caught George, the story goes, having an affair with Condoleezza Rice.

Now is a good time to insert this photo. Okay, I know, hideous. Besides, their relationship is far more likely dominatrix and submissive. Witness the photo below.

So, can it possibly be true? The best evidence is a Freudian Slip Condi made in a dinner speech a couple of years ago.
"As I was telling my husb-...As I was telling President Bush." ~ Condi Rice via Boiling Mad
This is a slip that just doesn't make sense. Rice has never been married. My husband is a phrase that should never accidently cross her lips. Unless their relationship is more complex than employee-boss. When I heard it, my ears perked and my spider-sense tingled.

Of course, Laura Bush uses the Mayflower Hotel frequently for special events so the presence of her entourage may simply be a matter of security and convenience. But, I would rather not believe that. Never let the risk of the truth get in the way of a really sweet story.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

It Is the Nature of This Sick War

A pregnant woman being rushed to the hospital to give birth is gunned down at an Army checkpoint; both mother and child die. Willy Pete (white phosphorus) is dropped on the civilian population of Fallujah, burning to the bone any flesh it contacts. Haditha. It is the nature of the Iraq War that American soldiers continue to commit what the civilized world considers to be war crimes.
Reading between the lines of a San Diego Union-Tribune article reveals Iraq is a hell for both American troops and Iraqi civilians.
Three years of breaking down doors and rushing into small, dark rooms where Marines might encounter a man with a gun or a family frozen in terror. Three years of chasing snipers who shoot and then fade into the crowds. Three years of seeing buddies dismembered or killed by roadside bombs when their big hope is to go home in one piece. ~ Rick Rogers, San Diego Union-Tribune reporter.
It is a mistake to pretend that atrocities are rare. It is the rare ones that get publicity. At Abu Sifa on March 15, 2006 American soldiers killed six adults and five children, one child was six-months old. (the official battle assessment claimed four dead - one woman, two children and one "enemy") According to reports, the Iraqis were bound and blindfolded before they were shot. As Dahr Jamail points out at Truthout, massacres have become the norm.

The killing of an Italian intelligence officer at an American checkpoint in Baghdad last year got headlines. But checkpoint shootings are common, the victims rarely have their fates noticed.

It would also be a mistake to pretend these atrocities don't take a toll on the Coalition soldiers forced by circumstances and superiors to preform them. Suicide and Post Tramatic Stress Disorder are epidemic with returning troops. Spc. Douglas Barber suffered with the memories of what he had done in Iraq. One day last January, Doug Barber embraced the muzzle of his shotgun and pulled the trigger.
All is not OK or right for those of us who return home alive and supposedly well. What looks like normalcy and readjustment is only an illusion to be revealed by time and torment. Some soldiers come home missing limbs and other parts of their bodies. Still others will live with permanent scars from horrific events that no one other than those who served will ever understand. We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out. ~ Douglas Barber, January 12, 2006 (four days before his death)
That this war is a disaster is well known. How disastrous has yet to be discovered. It is an unmitigated evil that corrupts all it touches.

Addition links: Story of a British soldier who tried to commit suicide by inducing a policeman to kill him from Scotsman. Predictable Atrocities by Wade Sanders. More on Douglas Barber from Bradblog and Doug Basham. Art is a detail of Massacre of the Innocents by Guido Reni, 1612.

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