Friday, June 18, 2004

The handwriting was on the wall

for any who would have cared to stop and read the political graffiti that Junior and his homeys were tagging on any spare wall they could find. Case in point: Neologic posts an article from the UK Daily Telegraph from about one and a half years ago, titled The US may use torture against terrorism, which as Neologic notes turned out to be quite prophetic indeed. Think about it for a while, within the context of the news we've seen subsequently. Right in front of us a Constitutional crisis of sorts has been playing out as the Executive Branch has worked furiously to rewrite the rules so that it remains untouched by any legal ramifications of its policies. Like the urban dwellers who learn to ignore much of the graffiti that they travel past on their way to and from their various errands, we as citizens have largely ignored the somewhat subtle changes in the balance of power in the US as we go through our usual business of watching reality shows and more reality shows.

Extreme Makeover, Blogger Edition

Figured it was time for a facelift for The Left End of the Dial, changed the template and then tweaking it a bit to my liking. So far, me likey. Hopefully gets rid of a bug I'd noticed (and at least one of my readers had noticed) with the previous template: namely a tendency for readers to only be able to view a screen shot, rather than view the entire front page.

Change is good.

Say hello to

Educated:.:Democracy, a promising and fairly new blog.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Pile those Whoppers High and Deep

Burger King The White House continues to cook up Whoppers in mass quantities. Seems like only yesterday, our Dear Leader, Junior Caligula, was prancing around in a flight suit and declaring the end of combat operations in Iraq. That "Mission Accomplished" banner was supposed to be his shining moment. So much has changed.

And what about those Whoppers? So much was promised, and yet by the time we receive our Whoppers they were missing a few ingredients: WMDs, flowers from thankful Iraqis for our troops, instant democracy and prosperity for the newly-"liberated" Iraqis, cheap oil and cheap gasoline. The Whoppers also were served with ingredients that were specifically not ordered, such as continued military deaths and injuries long after the mission was accomplished, massive Iraqi civilian casualties, emergence of terrorist cells that had previously been nonexistent, and the beginnings of civil war. To top it off, the fries were stale and the soda tasted watered down. Sure left a bad taste in my mouth.

Spade of Hammerdown does some apt summarizing of the sad state of Iraq Whoppers and the related post-9/11 Whoppers. Pure chewing satisfaction.

Home of the Whopper

The White House.

One warning though. Do not order their daily special: 9-11 Al Qaida and Saddam Sausage Links. They are stale, and are really just a disguised version of The Whopper.

Just remember, at Burger King The White House, you can "have it their way. The Whopper, the whole Whopper, and nothing but the Whopper.

Sean Hannity must have once worked for Burger King.

He sure knows how to serve the Whopper.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Nuremberg Revisited

William Rivers Pitt lays down the law regarding the use of torture. Here are some highlights, starting with an excerpt of U.S. Code 2340:

1) "torture" means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) "severe mental pain or suffering" means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from -

(a) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(b) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(c) the threat of imminent death; or

(d) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

U.S.C. 2340A reads as follows:

(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

(b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection A if -

(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or

(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

Now let's ponder some of those now infamous photos of the Abu Ghraib torture victims, using the above as a context:

A review of a segment of the photographs released from Abu Ghraib reveals:

Men ordered to masturbate in front of each other and in front of female American soldiers, a humiliating experience which offends their religion (see: "The application of procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality");

Men ordered to simulate homosexual sex with one another, a humiliating experience condemned by their religion (see: "The application of procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality");

A man, hooded, standing on a box with electrodes attached to his fingers and penis, who was told that if he stepped off the box, he would be electrocuted to death (see: "Prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering, the threat of imminent death");

A naked man menaced by, and then attacked by, a vicious dog (see: "Prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering, the threat of imminent death");

A man lying dead swathed in a plastic bag with two U.S. soldiers grinning up at the camera and flashing a thumbs-up sign (see: "Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life").

Keep in mind that these photos that have been released thus far are only the tip of the iceberg, and from what Seymour Hersh has seen (he's viewed the complete set), what's been done in the names of American citizens & taxpayers is beyond words.

Of course those compassionate conservatives in the White House have an amazing propensity for rationalizing torture, though the mental gymnastics needed for such rationalizations won't win any gold medals:

The March 2003 report goes on to say that torture can be justified by necessity. This 'Doctrine of Necessity' would have us believe that any horror performed against another human being is justified because it supposedly ensures that no more terror attacks will happen. The rationale reaches back to the disgraced and discredited Nuremberg Defense, once put forth by the Nazis, which would pardon dealers of death and agony because they were just following orders. In this case, according to these Bush administration memos, those orders came from a President not bound by law because of the aforementioned Necessity Doctrine.

There are two clear holes in this disturbing rationale:

1. The Convention against Torture, given the force of American law in 1996, states: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Simply put, there is no rationale available to George W. Bush or any of his people that removes them from the need to obey the law.

2. The original reason for the development of these legal excuses for torture came about because American military and intelligence officials felt they were not getting enough information from Taliban and al Qaeda detainees using 'conventional' interrogation techniques. The people tortured in Abu Ghraib, however, were not Taliban, were not al Qaeda, were not capable of perpetrating the kind of terrorist attacks against the United States which created the rationale for this 'Necessity Doctrine' in the first place. Those tortured and killed were not terrorists, but were Iraqi civilians unjustly swept up by American forces. There is no aspect of the 'Doctrine of Necessity' which can justify the torture and murder of innocent people.

Emphasis added.

War criminals are rather handy at making up excuses and rationalizations, but at the end of the day, none of those excuses or rationalizations will even begin to wash off their blood stained hands.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Left End of the Dial Evolves

I am now a "flappy bird" as opposed to a "slithering reptile" in the blogging ecosystem.

Every once in a while, as I surf a few random blogs

I'll find something that captures my eye. In this case, I found by happenstance a married couple, each with their own blog: Victoria Left Wing Liberal Commie Agitator and Karl Subversivity. Vic is a staunch liberal and I am gathering that Karl is an anarchist (I can just imagine the conversations in that household). Some interesting and cool links in that vast samizdat we call blogtopia.

It's morality, stupid

as Amy Sullivan reminds us.

A couple clips:

One of the complaints I often hear from conservatives is that religious liberals are moral relativists, that they don't believe in evil. To which I respond that my liberal and religious mother believes very much that evil exists and that it is personified by Dick Cheney.

That usually gets a big laugh out of everyone else and a shamefaced chuckle out of the conservative, who is forced to admit that sometimes evil really is in the eye of the beholder.

And after discussing the new ad by, she writes:

If that doesn't do the trick of reminding Bush and his administration of their moral responsibilities, perhaps they need a refresher Bible lesson. Evangelicals usually know their Gospel pretty well, but I'll provide this brief reminder. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that while those who care for the least of their brothers in humanity will be blessed, those who do not will be condemned to eternal punishment. As examples of those who should be cared for, Jesus singles out those who hunger, thirst, are sick, or in prison. "I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me," he charges.

Maybe this is a good sign for those who worry that Bush allows his faith to have too much influence on his policy. That doesn't seem to have been a problem here. Fortunately, there are religious leaders who are willing to call him out on it. Because in the end, the question we ask ourselves should be not "Can we do it?" (or "Can we get away with it?") but "Should we do it?"

Whenever I see blogs, articles, and organizations actively disabusing the notion that observing a religion's tenets requires the embrace of some sort of mindless authoritarianism I am indeed pleased. Heck, when I see various right-wingers take ownership of morality, I often find myself referencing some other players in the New Testament gospels - the Pharisees come readily to mind. Truth is, too many of the leaders on the right-wing of the spectrum wouldn't know a moral/ethical action if their lives depended upon it. Theocracies and wannabe theocracies are littered with tales of corruption. This White House and its various enablers are no exception.

More Torturegate Scandal Blogging

Crime and Punishment versus Truth and Consequences, summarizes some of the coverage of Junior Caligula's Grand Crusade's Torture Chambers (I'm sure that's not the euphemism the White House would endorse) via the Guardian and WaPo as well as a selection of posts of a few of the big names among blogtopia.

Is the cover-up worse than the crime? Well, that's the old mantra we've been chanting since Nixon's fall from grace in the 1970s. Indeed it may be a fairly apt generalization. However, I'm inclined to agree with TNRO that in the case of Abu Ghraib (and other US Gulags) that the crime is considerably worse than the coverup. The efforts to cover up just make the Bushies look like the fools they are - in other words provide some dark comic relief to something that has many of people of conscience ready to scream.

The last paragraph closes the post nicely:

It’s clearly too late in Bush’s term to have him impeached, and I doubt he will resign because he is convinced he is doing God’s work. But after the likely Democratic coup this November, he and his fellow “patriots” will be more readily accessible to those who seek to hold him accountable. For sure, historians will massacre his presidency in a way that will make it appear as nothing more (and certainly nothing less) than a stain on the American experience.

Indeed, given the tremendous damage Bu$hCo has caused on so many levels and given the legalities involved both nationally and internationally, bringing to justice these various White House players who have done their utmost to neocon America and the rest of the world is truly the only acceptable alternative. To do otherwise will just show the rest of the planet that Americans are not serious about addressing our leaders' own human rights violations, remove any legitimacy that US leaders might once have had in demanding that the leaders of rogue nations be brought to justice, and simply sets a poor example to fellow Americans (hey, not only is it okay to commit criminal acts as long as you don't get caught, but, hey even if you do get caught no one's going to do anything any way - that's sure a lesson today's schoolyard bullies don't need to learn).

Sunday, June 13, 2004

If you haven't been reading Chalmers Johnson

You need to...

Our First Victory Was Zapatero.

Check it out.

A little something for Midnight Oil fans

Ex-Midnight Oil Singer Runs for Office. Peter Garrett, who fronted the band for its quarter-century existence, will be running for a seat in Sydney as a Labour Party member. Midnight Oil was one of the more intelligent and thoughtful bands that I recall from the 1980s alternative rock heyday (when that term "alternative" actually meant something), and it's always been refreshing to see that Garrett has been willing to put his money where his lyrics were with his personal history of activism and now apparently as a politico. I suspect he'll do well.

Stupid is as stupid does

Digby's got a series of posts on the state of the rogue American union. Take the whirlwind tour, with our first stop: Bad Books for Stupid People, that gives some idea of the "intellectual" origins of the use of dogs to torture Iraqis. Leave it to the neocons to rely on cheap stereotypes of a culture of which they know next to nothing in the first place. Our next stop is War Criminal Factoid, which explains that the so-called "brains" behind those oh-so-lovely torture interrogation techniques, General Geoffrey Miller, is an artillery officer. Yep. That's right. The guy is not an expert in interrogation. Our tour continues with Rogue State Chronicles, which notes some of the political and historical context in which the current US war crimes are occurring.

Digby also tips readers off to a torture link dump compiled by Sisyphus Shrugs that serves as a useful compendium of Junior Caligula's own Torturegate scandal.

These are dark times in which we live. Dark indeed. Even my brief respite from yesterday, spent with my kids travelling some of the OK panhandle back roads ends up unsatisfying against such a backdrop - at bare minimum it has made the joy found in such respites much more short-lived than it should.

Two thought pieces that should be read together:

The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012, is a work of fiction that raises a number of interesting issues. I found some of the author's conclusions a bit grating (let's just say he's a lot more gung-ho about ROTC than am I), but overall think that he's offered the reader much food for thought. Could a military coup really happen in the US? Those who scoff at the idea might want to ponder the story of the frog eventually boiling to death as the water gradually heats up.

Trends discussed by Dunlap get a more contemporary treatment by Billmon, in his post A Very American Coup. In particular, Billmon correctly notes that increases in partisan nature of the military can easily occur so gradually as to be unnoticed. In essence, what Billmon and Dunlap are noting is a phenomenon that social psychologists have researched for decades: namely a foot-in-the-door effect. Once one commits to an initially minor request, subsequent increases in the level of commitment are facilitated. As the requests become more involved, they may easily appear to the participants as logical outcomes of their previous level of commitment.

There's much that could be said about both of the above articles. However, I don't think I could do them much justice with a brief summary. In any case, both are excellent thought pieces worthy of your consideration.

Black gold...Texas tea...

Take an oil price over $40 - then quadruple it

A clip:

In 1956, a Shell geologist called M King Hubbert predicted that oil production in America would peak in the early 1970s.

No one wanted to hear this, so the industry took the standard way out when faced with such a predicament. It laughed in derision.

Irritatingly for the oil men, Hubbert was right. US oil production peaked in 1970 and has been in steady decline ever since, which is why America has to import 60pc of its oil. That world oil production will also hit Hubbert's peak is inevitable - the big question is when.

Ken Deffeyes, whose book Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage came out in 2001, has his bet on Thanksgiving Day (that's late November) 2005, though we won't know if he's right until well after then.

...Another who shares this view is Matt Simmons, who heads Simmons & Company, a Houston based energy-investment bank. Simmons is working on a book that is based on 40 years of industry documents and claims his findings are "truly scary".

...He points out that no big Saudi oil fields have been found in 30 years, and the biggest, Ghawar, is responsible for half of all Saudi oil production since 1948. "It is clear to me that we should be preparing for the day that Ghawar goes into a tailspin. We are not at all prepared for that," he said.

...Although there will still be plenty of oil to go around when Hubbert does peak globally, that's the point at which production can no longer meet demand and oil prices leap. If you think it's expensive to fill up the motor now - just wait.

Oil fell well below $40 a barrel this week, but don't bet on it staying there. Simmons reckons that the correct price for oil so that demand is controlled while humankind comes up with another plan is $182 a barrel.

Simmons, Campbell and Deffeyes are not loved by the oil business, though they are being taken more seriously than ever before.

I get the feeling it won't be that long before my economy car that we purchased a few years ago will be viewed as a gas guzzler (let's face it, 30-35 mpg isn't that impressive any more).