Saturday, August 7, 2004

Groupthink and Bu$hCo

One of the themes I've periodically returned to on this blog is summed up very nicely in this LA Times article, Groupthink Viewed as Culprit in Move to War. A clip or two:

"Groupthink," an insular style of policy-making, has been identified as a chief culprit in all. And to these, the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday added the process leading to the decision to attack Saddam Hussein in March 2003.

Irving Janis, a Yale psychologist, coined the term in 1972 to describe a decision-making process in which officials are so wedded to the same assumptions and beliefs that they ignore, discount or even ridicule information to the contrary. When members of a cohesive, homogeneous group value unanimity and agreement on one course of action more than a realistic appraisal of alternatives, they are engaging in groupthink.

Experts said Friday that while groupthink was not entirely responsible for the acceptance of faulty intelligence information on Iraq, the Bush administration was, by design, particularly susceptible to that risky style of decision-making.

"Groupthink is more likely to arise when there is a strong premium on loyalty and when there is not a lot of intellectual range or diversity within a decision-making body," said Stephen M. Walt, academic dean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "The Bush administration has been an unusually secretive group of like-minded people where a very high premium is placed on loyalty."


The commonly cited "symptoms" of groupthink are a fundamental overconfidence that gives members an illusion of invulnerability and a belief in the inherent morality of the group.

The groupthink dynamic also is characterized by a pressure to conform that often leads group members with different ideas to censor themselves. But groupthink is most likely to occur when all or most members of a group share the same views.

In that sense, it is the opposite of collective wisdom, said James Surowiecki, a financial writer for the New Yorker and author of the recent book, "The Wisdom of Crowds."

"What's really striking about groupthink is not so much that dissenting opinions are crushed or shouted down, but they come to seem improbable," he said. "Everyone operates on the idea that this is true, so everyone goes out to prove that it's true."


"Collective wisdom," by contrast, comes when "each person in the group is offering his or her best independent forecast," he said. "It's not at all about compromise or consensus."

He said a guiding principle of the Bush administration seems to be that "everyone needs to be on the same page to reach a decision." To reach good decisions, he said, "I think it's exactly the opposite."

Friday, August 6, 2004

Just reading that Rick James died

at age 56...way too young.

Here's a website devoted to the p-funk legend.

Take your political pulse


The kind of candidate who gives conservatives a bad name

Unabashed Racist Wins GOP Primary in Tenn.

Whatever disagreements I might have with mainstream conservatives, they're generally a decent, sane bunch. Unfortunately one can find examples of people who will gladly use the conservative label for their own unseemly purposes (David Duke come to mind?). A clip:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - An unabashed racist will represent the Republican party in the November election for a congressional seat after a write-in candidate failed to derail his effort.

With 86 percent of the primary vote counted Thursday, write-in candidate Dennis Bertrand had just 1,554 votes compared to 7,671, or 83 percent, for James L. Hart, a believer in the discredited, phony science of eugenics.

In November, the GOP candidate will oppose Rep. John Tanner, a Democrat who has represented the northwest Tennessee district for 15 years.

Hart, 60, vows if elected to work toward keeping "less favored races" from reproducing or immigrating to the United States. In campaign literature, Hart contends that "poverty genes" threaten to turn the United States into "one big Detroit."

What is eugenics, you might ask? Well, here's an overview that you might find helpful.

Homeless Protesters, Coming to a GOP Convention Near You!

via Steve Gilliard, The Homeless march on New York.

Aug. 5, 2004 On Aug. 30, the first day of the Republican National Convention in New York, Cheri Honkala is going to march from the United Nations to Madison Square Garden with or without a protest permit. Behind her will be homeless women and their children, men furloughed from rehab centers, public housing tenants, wheelchair-bound people without healthcare and poor people hanging on to life by their fingernails. Arrayed against them will be walls of police in riot gear, armed with the latest in high-tech crowd-control devices and ready for mass arrests. For the past two weeks, Honkala and her followers have been marching across New Jersey, and undercover police have been videotaping and photographing them. Fearing violence, Honkala has put out a call for international human rights observers to watch over her group during the RNC.


This is the germ of the movement that many activists have long dreamed of building. Endless words have been spilled bemoaning the lack of diversity on the left, the devolution of protest into a subculture for the disaffected children of the middle class. Attend any organizing meeting for protests against the Republican National Convention and you're bound to hear someone remark, wryly or sadly, on the crowd's whiteness. Honkala, though, has managed to organize and radicalize people who never before contemplated any kind of political action, people who regard McDonald's as a delicious treat rather than a corporate abomination. They are people who've already suffered a lot and are choosing to suffer a little more in the service of her vision.

The movement, as everyone who marches with Honkala calls it, is built around the conviction that homelessness is a societal failing, not a personal one. When most people think of homelessness, they imagine the ragged, disoriented people who sleep on the streets of most cities. Many of those people need treatment for drug problems or mental illness, and when such people come to Honkala, she refers them to rehab programs. But as she emphasizes, there's another side to homelessness, one that's invisible to most Americans. It's made up of people who've slipped off the last rung of the economic ladder and can't get a leg back up. Many of them are single mothers with children. People like her.

According to a 2003 survey of 25 American cities commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, families make up 40 percent of the homeless population -- a number that's increased since the previous year. Worse, that figure may understate the problem. A national study by the Urban Institute found that children alone make up 39 percent of the homeless population.

These people frequently try to maintain the façade of normality, sleeping on friends' floors for as long as their kindness holds out, then in shelters or cars. But funding for the social programs and the subsidized housing that such families need to escape homelessness has dried up under the Bush administration, meaning that parents and children are remaining homeless for longer, making it ever harder to hold on to ordinary life. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a decade ago the average length of time that New York families stayed in shelters before finding permanent housing was five months. Now it's almost a year.

I want to second some of Steve's commentary on the story:

New York will be seriously different than Boston, for this reason alone. A blogger with some gumption would be tagging along to see what happens, because there is every likihood that the cops will tee off on these people, especially if they don't have locals with them. The NYPD is not the LAPD, but it can be willfully stupid and will arrest people on a lark.

Let's hope there's some bloggers out there willing to step up and observe Honkala's crew as they try to hold a peaceful demonstration. With the GOP in a state of near desparation, there's definitely the potential for violence against these protesters and there is the need keep an eye on the NYPD just in case. Spread the word.

Fun with stats

via JuliusBlog:

Julius provides the following factoids:

    • Whenever his ratings dip, there's a new terror alert.

    • Every terror alert is followed by a slight uptick of Bush approval ratings.

    • Whenever there are many unfavorable headlines, there's another alert or announcement (distraction effect).

    • As we approach the 2004 elections, the number and frequency of terror alerts keeps growing, to the point that they collapse in the graphic. At the same time, Bush ratings are lower than ever.

The usual caveats apply, as Julius notes. That said, there is an interesting pattern that emerges. Mortality salience leads to a bit bump in the despot's approval ratings.

L and proud of it

Brian Morton on the L word:

But what is a liberal? A liberal is someone who believes that there is a place for government, and the Constitution clearly outlines it. A liberal is someone who knows that unchecked private power leads to inequality, corruption, graft, and hatred.


Liberals know that the only check on the robber barons of Halliburton, the criminals of Adelphia, the stock swindlers, and the inside traders is the strong regulatory mechanisms of a diligent government. We know that when government does its job there are no savings-and-loan collapses that cause thousands, if not millions, of honest, hard-working people to lose their life savings while two or three white-collar criminals get away with millions and short stints manicuring the greens at Allenwood federal penitentiary. We know that when a strong and attentive government keeps its eye on the market, there are no predatory energy traders, like the ones at Enron who laughed at the prospect of cheating little old ladies out of their savings while literally stealing millions and millions of dollars from the citizens of California--and in the end, only a handful of people walk away in handcuffs on the evening news.

This is what liberals believe:

We believe in a government that keeps our food safe via the Department of Agriculture, repairs our roads and the interstate highway system via the Department of Transportation, keeps our skies the world's safest through the efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration, and dispenses the world's safest and most modern medications under the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration.

By and large, our government provides us on the whole with honest police, safe oceans, clean drinking water, and a decent public-education system. If you take these things for granted, feel free to move to some Latin American country, where the bribe is still the most efficient method of arranging public services. Move to Africa, where health care is nonexistent. Move to Russia, where years of distrust instilled in the populace from the old Soviet system keeps a population wary and the Communists not too far removed from the seats of power.

That's the liberal vibe in a nutshell: basically positive, with an understanding of the need for checks and balances to keep the scene positive. It's a vibe I've been grooving on for much of my life, proudly.

From the "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" Department:

David Sirota and Christy Harvey have the skinny on the Iraq War/Occupation scam in their article, They Knew.... The bottom line is that Bu$hCo knew that they had at best a flimsy case for war in the first place.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Bu$hCo's Subsidiary: Fear, Inc.

Clockwork Orange! TNN Looks At The Fear Factor

Looks at the "Terra Alert" as another political ploy to gain votes for Junior Caligula.

How To Save The World on Nature and Humans

David Pollard has this rather fascinating blog that I like to visit periodically, in large part because of his writings on human behavior on a macro level (as opposed to a micro level where I typically concentrate my own research). He comes at the problem of sustainability from a solid evolutionary perspective that is quite forward-thinking and radical (in the truly positive sense of the term). One post that caught my eye today is THE TRUTH ABOUT NATURE, PART ONE in which David summarizes the underpinnings of his own environmental philosophy. Agree or disagree, this cat has some things to say that are indeed thought-provoking and is laying out issues that we will have to wrestle with in this century (even more so those of my childrens' generation). Well-worth checking out.

Bush's war in Iraq still FUBAR

Here's a roundup:

Rebel Cleric Calls for Uprising as Clashes Erupt in Najaf:

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called for a national uprising against American and coalition forces today as a two-month truce between Mr. Sadr and the United States military appeared to collapse.

In Baghdad and Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq, insurgents loyal to Mr. Sadr prepared for clashes with American and British troops.

But the heavy fighting appeared to be mainly in and near Najaf, a Shiite holy city and Sadr stronghold 100 miles south of Baghdad. An American Marine helicopter was shot down in Najaf this morning, although the crew was reported rescued.

Later, insurgents attacked an American convoy with a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire near Najaf, killing one soldier and wounding five, all from the 13th Corps Support Command, the United States military said.


"Fight the blasphemous, fight the Americans," Mr. Sadr said in a statement issued in Najaf.

Whether Mr. Sadr's call for rebellion will provoke clashes nationwide, as it did in April, or fizzle out, as it did last October, is unclear.

But Baghdad, which has recently been racked by a spate of kidnappings of both Iraqis and Westerners, was extremely tense as word of Mr. Sadr's call for an uprising spread.


In Sadr City, a huge Shiite slum in northwest Baghdad, masked Mahdi Army guerrillas controlled intersections and checked cars. Iraqi policemen and American soldiers remained outside the area, while military helicopters roared low over central Baghdad.

Juan Cole has a summary of some of the other hot spots around Iraq.

The Age reports that Turkish ban disrupts US supplies:

A vital supply route for the United States military was in jeopardy yesterday after Turkish truck owners announced that they were suspending trips into Iraq.

The decision was made in an attempt to secure the release of two drivers held hostage by kidnappers. The plan to stop the deliveries coincided with the release of a videotape on an Islamist website showing the murder of a Turkish worker in Iraq.

There's also reports of militants attacking a police station south of Baghdad in the town of Mahawil, resulting in five deaths. This same article reports that a US military helicopter was downed in Najaf resulting in injuries but fortunately no fatalities.

A far cry from the cakewalk these goons in the White House were promising last year.

Update: Jeanne's post on her blog Body and Soul, Iraq becomes Afghanistan: Or How To Find An Invisible War has an excellent round-up of the Iraq debacle. Yes, Bush's war is still going on (and going badly), regardless of whether or not the editors of our newspapers and news channels choose to actually report what's going on.

Bu$hCo's America: Freedom to Obey, and Only to Obey Take Two

Bush volunteers turn away protesters

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - Two young supporters of DFL congressional candidate Leigh Pomeroy were turned away from President Bush's quarry rally in Mankato today.

Nick Burkhardt and Matt Klaber of Mankato initially were denied rally tickets after making unfavorable comments about the president while waiting in line for three hours. They later were given tickets, but when they got off the shuttle bus at the quarry they were told they couldn't go in.

They agreed to leave, but a Mankato West High School teacher who was accompanying them says he also was asked to leave when he tried to defend the boys.

Global geography teacher Jim Walz said he wanted to stay and was told by a Bush official that he would be arrested and escorted out if he made any attempt to protest during the rally.

Walz says if appearances by the President of the United States are treated as private political events, then cities are right to bill the campaign for the expenses of local law enforcement.

Fascism, American style. That's what Bu$hCo has to offer.

A summary of Bush flip-flops

Who is the best flip-flopper? It's not Kerry, it's Bush. That's right, the master flip-flopper is none other than the current Commander-in-Thief, the man of steal, Old Junior Caligula himself.

Stupid President Quotes: The Saga Continues

Bush Insists His Administration Seeking 'new Ways to Harm Our Country'

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of "Bushisms" on Thursday, declaring that his administration will "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people."

Bush misspoke as he delivered a speech at the signing ceremony for a $417 billion defense spending bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.

File under Freudian slips.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Mortality Salience and Presidential Elections

This kind of fell beneath my radar, basically as I was out of town and away from all computer access at the time, but worth noting all the same: Fear of Death Wins Minds and Votes, Study Finds (via Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest):

"President Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the Sept. 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Talking about death can raise people's need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

'There are people all over who are claiming every time Bush is in trouble he generates fear by declaring an imminent threat,' said Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who worked on the study.

'We are saying this is psychologically useful.'

Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said generating fear was a common tactic.

'A lot of leaders gain their appeal by helping people feel they are heroic, particularly in a fight against evil,' Greenberg said in a telephone interview from Hawaii, where he presented the findings to a meeting of the American Psychological Association.

'Sometimes that may be the right thing to do. But it is a psychological approach, particularly when death is close to peoples' consciousness.' "

"In one we asked half the people to think about the September 11 attacks, or to think about watching TV," Solomon said. "What we found was staggering."

When asked to think about television, the 100 or so volunteers did not approve of Bush or his policies in Iraq. But when asked to think about Sept. 11 first and then asked about their attitudes to Bush, another 100 volunteers had very different reactions.

"They had a very strong approval of President Bush and his policy in Iraq," Solomon said.

The volunteers were aged from 18 into their 50s and described themselves as ranging from liberal to deeply conservative. No matter what a person's political conviction, thinking about death made them tend to favor Bush, Solomon said. Otherwise, they preferred Kerry.

"I think this should concern anybody," Solomon said. "If I was speaking lightly, I would say that people in their, quote, right minds, unquote, don't care much for President Bush and his policies in Iraq."

That's all Bu$hCo has to run on: fear. If they can get you to be afraid, they've got some hope in hell of getting Old Junior Caligula back in the White House to enable them to forcefeed more right-wing authoritarianism to Americans. Invoking the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th is the easiest way to do that. Expect more images of burning buildings and corpses this fall - that's all Bush has to offer. The social psychologists who've been developing and testing terror management theory are onto something critical about human psychology: when faced with death, we'll trade freedom for presumed security. The despots have known that all along.

Bu$hCo's America: Freedom to Obey, and Only to Obey

Bush rally was sad day for democracy is a column worth posting in its entirety (it's fairly brief) and pondering:

The phrase "this is what democracy looks like" changed meaning as the protest of President Bush's appearance in Springfield unfolded. Initially, the phrase described the thousands of people lined up with tickets, waiting to enter the field house, being reminded not all people in southwest Missouri thought this president deserved four more years of leadership that had launched wars resulting in thousands dead and tens of thousands wounded, a national debt increasing at $1.69 billion a day, and an atmosphere of secrecy in America.

The Secret Service told protesters where to gather; the location was excellent. Democracy was working: People were exercising their right to assemble while others exercised their right to protest.

But when police told protesters they had to move about 200 feet away, while the people supporting Bush remained in place, the atmosphere grew tense. When protesters complained to local police, they replied, "We're just following orders." Then the protesters called the media: It was time for citizens to know how democracy was working in Springfield, as protesters had been herded into a "free speech zone."

When gatekeepers announced final seating for those with tickets, protesters with tickets tried to get in, but their tickets were grabbed and torn up, and police threatened them with arrest if they argued back. One woman screamed, "You're tearing up my ticket," and hit back at the man when he started shoving her with his chest, trying to shut her up. The police arrested the woman. Two other people were "taken down": a young girl who could not back up fast enough because there were so many people behind her and a man who is charged with trespassing because he was standing on property his own tax dollars partially funded.

All this, while the Bush supporters passed by, granted access to the president of us all because they would shout his praises at the appropriate moments.

When "this is what democracy looks like" arose from the protesters this time, it had an ominous tone. People were being taken down, and the picture was not pretty.

Quite sad, really. I suppose that Junior Caligula's campaigning is merely hitting an extreme point of a trend among GOP presidents that started with Reagan a couple decades back. I recall Reagan stumping for George "Papa Doc" Bush on Cal State Fullerton's campus during the waning days of the 1988 campaign. Although they didn't keep protesters out per se, it was made crystal clear that no anti-Bush or pro-Dukakis signs were going to be allowed inside the auditorium where Reagan was speaking. Fortunately this was back in the day when there were no "free speech zones" and so there was some sizeable protest activity (at least for a GOP bastion such as north Orange County, CA) easily witnessable by all. That scene came closer to being "what democracy looks like" than the scene described in the above column.

I realize that politicians like their appearances to be scripted, and that they much prefer to have unanimous cheering rather than having to deal with angry hecklers, but one of the norms inherent in our own peculiar form of "democracy" (or more properly, democratic republic) is that said politicians have to accept and face their protesters as well as their supporters. What GOP presidents have been doing in recent years is to increasingly go against that well established norm in favor of a more rigidly regimented approach to public appearances in which any form of dissent or protest is not to be tolerated. I find it sadly ironic that self-described "conservatives" would be so willing to trash well-established norms of discourse, though then again Bu$hCo and their enablers are hardly conservative in the more conventional use of the term (unlike real conservatives, Bu$hCo et al are more properly regarded as right-wing authoritarian extremists showing emergent fascist tendencies).

Total disaster

Yeah, that title reads like an expression I used quite a bit as a teen on the US west coast in the early 1980s. It's also an apt description of the situation in Iraq, as Robert Fisk makes clear after several weeks checking the scene there.

Here's a clip:

Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.

Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn't Blair realize that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn't President Bush realize this? The American-appointed "government" controls only parts of Baghdad -- and even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Ayad Allawi, the "prime minister," is little more than mayor of Baghdad. "Some journalists," Blair announces, "almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq." He doesn't get it. The disaster exists now.

So much for the Hippocratic Oath

Doctors and Torture links to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on the apparent complicity of medical professionals in the torture of human beings at Abu Ghraib, Camp Delta, etc.

Fun with compare and contrast

How do John Kerry and Junior Caligula compare? Let's just say Old Junior hasn't changed my general opinion that C- students should not be placed in any position of responsibility in which others' lives are on the line - and that especially includes the office of President of the US.

Holy Shitoly

In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror, by Michelle Malkin via & Atrios.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

The hard part: putting our fanatics on a short leash

Steve Weissman sings the gospel on Jesus, Jihadis, and the Red-State Blues, offering the reader a taste of the mentality of our various holy warriors:

Ah, Babylon. We are, it would seem, approaching the End Time, for which millions of American Christians fervently pray. The Israelites have rebuilt their kingdom, as prophesied, and Jesus will soon return to earth, where He will raise his believers bodily into the heavens in what they call the Rapture.

That is the good news. The bad, at least to me, is that two-thirds of the Hebrews - having rejected Christ again - must perish in their Great Tribulation. Satan the Anti-Christ, Armageddon, and eternal damnation to follow.

Scoff at your peril. Apparently, our president doth not. Nor do his fundamentalist mentors, from the Rev. Billy Graham and son Franklin to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and a host of others, all Christian Zionists and staunch supporters of the Jewish State. Now we see the hot times they have in mind for Jews.

How far does Mr. Bush go with this "dispensational theology," as believers call it? No one seems to know. But he swims in their Apocalyptic current, which might explain why he so blithely gives the Islamic jihadis the endless war they crave.

Believers in a radically politicized jihad, or holy war, fervently seek a righteous, rejuvenated Islam, one that recaptures all lands that Moslems once ruled, especially those now dominated by Jews and Christian "crusaders." Organizing themselves for over a hundred years in clandestine groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis directly shaped both Hamas and al-Qaeda. But now thanks to Mr. Bush, his overly militarized War on Terror, his use of torture and sexual humiliation, and his sending troops to occupy Iraq, the once small minority has gained greater support among the world's Moslems than anyone could have reasonably expected.

Believers in the End Time desperately need Israel to keep hold of the Holy Land, or else - as they read Biblical prophecy - Jesus will not return to whisk them away. A quintessentially American messianic movement reaching back to the 1830s, the End-Timers historically shied away from politics. But now they regularly mobilize the Republican faithful and boast of a fellow-traveler in the White House. With bin Laden filling in for the Anti-Christ, no wonder they look to the most powerful nation on earth to give them other-worldly hope.

The two groups of holy warriors - Islamic and Christian - reinforce each other at every turn, holding the rest of the world hostage. Except in their often brilliant use of political tactics, neither lives by reason. Both threaten those of us who try.

That's the kicker: you can't reason with a bunch of loonies spoiling for a holy war. About the best one can hope for is to keep them neutralized and to minimize the damage they are likely to inflict. Weissman offers some broad steps that need to be taken to accomplish the task at hand:

  1. Remove these fanatics from positions of political power. One such opportunity affords itself this November.
  2. Organize, organize, organize in our efforts to convince Kerry that the US needs to stop its occupation of Iraq pronto, assuming Kerry wins the Presidency; and to minimize Bu$hCo's damage in the event that Junior Caligula is back.
  3. Look for a serious approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict. A reasonable solution probably exists, and while it might not satisfy the most fanatical among the Likudites, Palestinians, and Christian End-Timers, would hold the promise of taking the momentum away from the holy warriors - both in the Islamic world and the Christian world.

Food for thought.

Stupid President Quotes: "You Can't Handle the Truth, Junior" Edition

Josh Marshall has kindly provided the text to one of the passages of Emperor George The Clueless from yesterday:

“Let me talk about the intelligence in Iraq. First of all, we all thought we’d find stockpiles of weapons. We may still find weapons. We haven’t found them yet. Every person standing up here would say, 'Gosh, we thought it was going to be different.; As did congress, by the way. Member of both parties. And the United Nations. But what we do know is that Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons. And ... umm … but let me just say this to you. Knowing what I know today, we still would have gone on into Iraq. We still would have gone to make our country more secure. He had the capability of making weapons. He had terrorist ties. The decision I made was the right decision. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

Huh. This was what I saw on the tv right before we left for home. Not surprisingly, my jaw nearly dropped. Solid evidence contrary to BU$hCo's claims doesn't seem to make a dent in the rhetoric of these bozos.

And while we're on the topic of lies and the lying liars who tell them, here's Bob Harris's take on the moral midgets in the White House when it comes to their so-called war on terra: Bush manipulates the war for his own gain. Again.

I like how Harris concludes his post, and present it for your consideration:

So... Bush and company have manipulated the war on terror. Again.

Not for our safety. For their own political gain, using fear to manipulate the vote, at an untold cost in law-enforcement response, productivity in the affected cities, and the actual defense of this nation, which seems frighteningly incidental to the enormous dumbshow we're being served.

Of course, this same crew sold us the Iraq war on the basis of wild exaggerations, instead of fighting Al-Qaeda full-force. We can't pretend to be surprised.

Bush does not deserve one more minute in the White House.

He deserves scorn. Shame. Contempt. And with any luck, impending unemployment.

And with even more luck, he deserves an impending date with a war crimes tribunal.

Bu$hCo's Human Rights Record: Absolutely Wretched

Here's a Rolling Stone feature article on the Abu Ghraib scandal, New documents implicate U.S. forces in rape and sodomy of Iraqi prisoners: A look inside the secret file of Abu Ghraib. Want to know more about the conditions that Abu Ghraib prisoners have been subjected to? Let's just say that the story never really goes away, and there's always something new to add to the mix. Here are a few clips:

The new classified military documents offer a chilling picture of what happened at Abu Ghraib -- including detailed reports that U.S. troops and translators sodomized and raped Iraqi prisoners. The secret files -- 106 "annexes" that the Defense Department withheld from the Taguba report last spring -- include nearly 6,000 pages of internal Army memos and e-mails, reports on prison riots and escapes, and sworn statements by soldiers, officers, private contractors and detainees. The files depict a prison in complete chaos. Prisoners were fed bug-infested food and forced to live in squalid conditions; detainees and U.S. soldiers alike were killed and wounded in nightly mortar attacks; and loyalists of Saddam Hussein served as guards in the facility, apparently smuggling weapons to prisoners inside.

The files make clear that responsibility for what Taguba called "sadistic, blatant and wanton" abuses extends to several high-ranking officers still serving in command positions. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who is now in charge of all military prisons in Iraq, was dispatched to Abu Ghraib by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last August. In a report marked secret, Miller recommended that military police at the prison be "actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees." After his plan was adopted, guards began depriving prisoners of sleep and food, subjecting them to painful "stress positions" and terrorizing them with dogs. A former Army intelligence officer tells Rolling Stone that the intent of Miller's report was clear to everyone involved: "It means treat the detainees like shit until they will sell their mother for a blanket, some food without bugs in it and some sleep." In the files, prisoner after prisoner at Abu Ghraib describes acts of torture that Taguba found "credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses." The abuses took place at the Hard Site, a two-story cinder-block unit at the sprawling prison that housed Iraqi criminals and insurgents, not members of Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. In one sworn statement, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee number 151108, said he witnessed a translator referred to only as Abu Hamid raping a teenage boy. "I saw Abu Hamid, who was wearing the military uniform, putting his dick in the little kid's ass," Hilas testified. "The kid was hurting very bad." A female soldier took pictures of the rape, Hilas said.

The prison was filled far beyond capacity. Some 7,000 prisoners were jammed into Abu Ghraib, a complex erected to hold no more than 4,000 detainees. Prisoners were held in canvas tents that became ovens in the summer heat and filled with rain in the cold winter. One report found that the compound "is covered with mud and many prisoner tents are close to being under water." Another report described the conditions in one compound: "The area is littered with trash, has pools of water standing around latrines, and the bottles of water carried by detainees for water consumption are filthy. The tents lack floors and are inadequate to provide protection from the elements." Detainees wore soiled clothes because laundry facilities were inadequate; mentally ill detainees were "receiving no treatment."

In a series of increasingly desperate e-mails sent to his higher-ups, Maj. David DiNenna of the 320th MP Battalion reported that food delivered by private contractors was often inedible. "At least three to four times a week, the food cannot be served because it has bugs," DiNenna reported. "Today an entire compound of 500 prisoners could not be fed due to bugs and dirt in the food." Four days later, DiNenna sent another e-mail marked "URGENT URGENT URGENT!!!!!!!!" He reported that "for the past two days prisoners have been vomiting after they eat."

Pretty hairy to say the least. Note again that the guy who is currently in charge of Abu Ghraib is the same guy who is responsible for hatching the plan to abuse the living hell out of the detainees - with of course a wink, a nod, and a smirk from the White House brass. Sickening.

I'm Back

The time away was good. Managed to steer clear of much of the mass media silliness, and instead subjected my kids to a number of British comedy tapes that my parents have collected over the years (Keeping Up Appearances, The Good Neighbours, etc.), as well as that classic Weird Al Yankovic flick, UHF, and so on. My wife had a great time at her writing conference, while the rest of us managed a mini family reunion out in central Oklahoma. My youngest sister burned a couple cds of Oklahoma-based protopunk (some of which is featured in this Oklahoma Gazette cover story that she wrote recently: Anarchy in the OK), which I will comment on in another post. All in all, quite nice.

Of course as we were getting ready to head out, I noticed old Junior Caligula on the tv yammering about his usual "war on terra" drivel (the guy looks and sounds more clueless and generally over his head with each new press appearance). I guess the big thing is the new terror alert, that for all its hype about being based on new information turns out to be more of the same bovine fecal matter: the "new" intelligence info is several years old! Christ! What is wrong with these people?

I did see a bit more in the way of Kerry/Edwards yard signs and bumper stickers around the greater OKC area than I recall seeing for Gore/Lieberman back in 2000. This is the stuff that's likely falling under the radar among the pollsters: Bush's opponents are a bit more forward than four years ago. Among those who should be fairly receptive to Bush I've noticed a good deal of dismay. As I've mentioned before, my parents who are solid conservatives have lost any interest in voting for the guy under any circumstances. As my dad puts it, Bush "blew it." The only question is if enough of the electorate is sufficiently convinced that Bush blew it to affect their voting behavior this November. As many of you may have noted before, I have cause for cautious optimism in that regard.