Saturday, December 25, 2004

While you enjoy this Christmas day

read this and this. And while your at it, this and this.

we made it safe and sound

Southern Cal is usually quite nice this time of year, and this year's no exception. The worst part of the drive was through eastern New Mexico due to snow and bitter cold. Second day was much smoother - other than for my daughter getting motion sickness! Much planned over the next few days so I expect that blogging activity will be extremely light. For those of you who've become regular readers, you have my heart-felt thanks. Peace.

WaPo eye on the Bu$hCo lie

War Crimes

THANKS TO a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, thousands of pages of government documents released this month have confirmed some of the painful truths about the abuse of foreign detainees by the U.S. military and the CIA -- truths the Bush administration implacably has refused to acknowledge. Since the publication of photographs of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in the spring the administration's whitewashers -- led by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- have contended that the crimes were carried out by a few low-ranking reservists, that they were limited to the night shift during a few chaotic months at Abu Ghraib in 2003, that they were unrelated to the interrogation of prisoners and that no torture occurred at the Guantanamo Bay prison where hundreds of terrorism suspects are held. The new documents establish beyond any doubt that every part of this cover story is false.

Though they represent only part of the record that lies in government files, the documents show that the abuse of prisoners was already occurring at Guantanamo in 2002 and continued in Iraq even after the outcry over the Abu Ghraib photographs. FBI agents reported in internal e-mails and memos about systematic abuses by military interrogators at the base in Cuba, including beatings, chokings, prolonged sleep deprivation and humiliations such as being wrapped in an Israeli flag. "On a couple of occasions I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water," an unidentified FBI agent wrote on Aug. 2, 2004. "Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more." Two defense intelligence officials reported seeing prisoners severely beaten in Baghdad by members of a special operations unit, Task Force 6-26, in June. When they protested they were threatened and pictures they took were confiscated.

Other documents detail abuses by Marines in Iraq, including mock executions and the torture of detainees by burning and electric shock. Several dozen detainees have died in U.S. custody. In many cases, Army investigations of these crimes were shockingly shoddy: Officials lost records, failed to conduct autopsies after suspicious deaths and allowed evidence to be contaminated. Soldiers found to have committed war crimes were excused with noncriminal punishments. The summary of one suspicious death of a detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison reads: "No crime scene exam was conducted, no autopsy conducted, no copy of medical file obtained for investigation because copy machine broken in medical office."

Some of the abuses can be attributed to lack of discipline in some military units -- though the broad extent of the problem suggests, at best, that senior commanders made little effort to prevent or control wrongdoing. But the documents also confirm that interrogators at Guantanamo believed they were following orders from Mr. Rumsfeld. One FBI agent reported on May 10 about a conversation he had with Guantanamo's commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who defended the use of interrogation techniques the FBI regarded as illegal on the grounds that the military "has their marching orders from the Sec Def." Gen. Miller has testified under oath that dogs were never used to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo, as authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld in December 2002; the FBI papers show otherwise.

The Bush administration refused to release these records to the human rights groups under the Freedom of Information Act until it was ordered to do so by a judge. Now it has responded to their publication with bland promises by spokesmen that any wrongdoing will be investigated. The record of the past few months suggests that the administration will neither hold any senior official accountable nor change the policies that have produced this shameful record. Congress, too, has abdicated its responsibility under its Republican leadership: It has been nearly four months since the last hearing on prisoner abuse. Perhaps intervention by the courts will eventually stem the violations of human rights that appear to be ongoing in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. For now the appalling truth is that there has been no remedy for the documented torture and killing of foreign prisoners by this American government.

For those who voted for Bu$hCo, this is your legacy - not freedom, but torture. Merry effin' Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

You Left End of the Dial Blogging Forecast

for the rest of this year calls for very light blogging. Will have access to a computer on a very occasional basis at best while visiting relatives in Southern California. Have a happy and safe holiday season! Peace and God Bless.

Don't know whether to be depressed or angry

US suffers worst Iraq attack yet

Nineteen US soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a US military base in Mosul, making it the worst single incident for the US military in Iraq.

At least three other people died and more than 60 were injured in the attack on a dining tent at noon (0900 GMT).

The US reported a single blast at Camp Merez, south-west of the city, which militants claimed as a suicide attack.

US President George W Bush offered his condolences but stressed that troops had a vital mission of peace in Iraq.

He said that it was sorrowful when lives were lost at any time of year but particularly in the week before Christmas.

Speaking at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, he said the violence should not affect elections scheduled for January.

"I'm confident democracy will prevail in Iraq," he said.

Vulnerable area

A statement attributed to the Ansar al-Sunna militant group on an Islamist website said one of its suicide bombers had carried out the attack.

Lt Col Paul Hastings, a spokesman for Task Force Olympia in northern Iraq, said it was unclear whether a mortar or explosives had been used.

Witnesses said they heard several explosions and saw smoke rising from the base.

One US officer, Capt Brian Lucas, told AFP news agency that three foreign military personnel had been killed along with the 19 Americans. Casualty accounts had initially referred to a number of Iraqi civilians being killed.

The BBC's James Reynolds, who was embedded with US troops at the base last month, says the dining hall has always been seen as vulnerable.

A US army colonel had told him he feared what would happen if insurgents managed to fire rockets into it.

The hall was shielded by towering concrete walls - but it had no protected roof. The army is building a more fortified dining hall nearby, our correspondent adds.

Before Tuesday's attack, the worst single incident for the US military in Iraq was a helicopter crash in Mosul in November 2003, which killed 17 soldiers.

The two Black Hawk helicopters collided as they took action to avoid ground fire.

A Left Coaster Round-Up

"Where are the shoppers?"

Christ for sale!

Bu$hCo: "I'm the Anti-Christ your mother warned you about!", and why Jesus was a liberal

Chevy Chase got it right: Junior Caligula is a dumb fuck! (or instead of "love me, I'm a liberal" let's try "I'm a liberal and if you don't like it go fuck yourself!")

Dude, where's my dollar?

While the rich kids enjoy "chill out rooms" the poor get left out in the cold

Bu$hCo to world: "it's our gulag and we can torture if we wanna"

Note: the first headline is the one used by the Left Coaster's authors; the remainder are my own snarky summaries (with the snark directed at the ones who deserve it most: Bu$hCo and his worshippers)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Thinking outside of the comfort zone

Heavy Metal Hell-spawn : The Bible vs. Leaded gasoline and a summary by the same author A Rosetta Stone to the Culture Wars : Lead Poisoning. Bruce Wilson at American Samizdat offers his own capsule summary:

...the concerns of the American religious right about "societal decay" in American culture, in 1960's through the 1990's, were actually grounded in empirical fact - rates of violent crime, murder, teenage pregnancy, divorce, declines in SAT and other test scores, and a broad range of other proxy measures for societal pathology, or dysfunction, peaked in the late 1980's to the mid 1990's. In other words symptoms were real and - in mocking those concerns, the left goaded the religious right towards a paraxysm of hatred and political activism to the point where it can now forcibly legislate it's solutions to these presumed societal ills. But those solutions are based in magical thinking - in fact, there was a common factor which accounted for most of those trends. It was not the removal of the Bible from US classrooms : It was leaded gasoline.

The "moral majority" types are and were always full of shit. I'm sure plenty of us who were old enough to remember the 1970s and 1980s could tell you that, while at the same time acknowledging that there were some real signs of societal decay. You didn't have to look too far. I don't recall mocking the apparent facts - teen pregnancies were up, violent crimes were up, school performance was declining, etc. Rather, it was the solutions proposed by the religious extremists that I and many of my peers found utterly ridiculous.

That all said, I like the lead exposure hypothesis mainly because it is parsimonious - it offers a very simple, concise explanation for the data at hand better than the religious right's alternative explanation. It requires fewer assumptions, variables, etc. Besides, the relgious right-wingers have a real difficult time with the fact that teen pregnancies, violent crime rates, divorce, etc., all seem to be comparatively worse in the very parts of the US where Christian fundamentalism has its greatest influence. There's also some interesting predictive power - if new technologies are developed that will increase lead exposure in the environment, we can as social scientists alert policy makers to some unwanted potential social consequences likely to be associated with those technologies. And here's the kicker - none of this requires any magical thinking or draconian anti-Constitutional legislation.

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

A blast from the past:

I can tell you this: If I’m ever in a position to call the shots, I’m not going to rush to send somebody else’s kids into a war.

– George H. W. Bush

Both he and his son have done precisely what George Sr. promised not to do.

Music For Grading Exams

Here's what was spinning in the cd player last night & this morning:

  • DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid - Rhythm Science (2004, Sub Rosa)
  • Digable Planets - Blowout Comb (1994, Pendulum)
  • Mos Def - Black on Both Sides (1999, Rawkus)
  • Visionaries - Sophomore Jinx - (1999, Up Above)
  • Various - Rawkus Presents Soundbombing II (1999, Rawkus)
  • The Roots - Things Fall Apart (1999, MCA)
  • Common - Can I Borrow A Dollar? (1992, Relativity)
  • Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus (1997, Rawkus)
  • Jurassic 5 - Power in Numbers (2002, Interscope)

Democrats Eye Softer Image on Abortion

The Left End of the Dial Eyes Third Parties

Tonight's Must Read

The War Prayer - the text of a Mark Twain piece and pictures of the consequences of the US war against Iraqis.

A picture and a quote

"If it requires a uniform it's a worthless endeavor" (George Carlin)

Separated at birth?

Junior Caligula and Ted Bundy:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by

Which one's Junior and which one's Ted? Click the link to find out.

A few words on individuals with antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy (which Ted Bundy was diagnosed with, and which one might argue characterizes the currrent Prez):

"The adult antisocial personality shows irresponsible and antisocial behavior by not working consistently, breaking laws, being irritable and physically aggressive, defaulting on debts, and being reckless. He or she is impulsive and fails to plan ahead. IN addition, he or she shows no regard for truth nor remorse for misdeeds.

It is estimated that about 4 percent of adult American men and 1 percent of women are antisocial personalities (Robinson, et al., 1984). Pimps, confidence artists, murderers, and drug dealers are by no means the only antisocial personalities. Business executives, professors, politicians, plumbers, salespeople, carpenters, and bartenders have their share of antisocial personalities as well

The concept of psychopathy is closely linked to the writings of Hervey Cleckley and his classic book, The Mask of Sanity (1976). On the basis of his vast clinical experience, he formulated a set of criteria by which to recognize the disorder. Unlike the DSM criteria for antisocial personality disorder, Cleckley's criteria for psychopathy refer less to antisocial behavior per se and more to the psychopath's psychology. For example, one of the key characteristics of the psychopath is poverty of emotions, both positive and negative. Psychopaths have no sense of shame and even their seemingly positive feelings for others are merely an act. The psychopath is superficially charming, and manipulates others for personal gain. The lack of negative emotions may make it impossible for psychopaths to learn form their mistakes, and the lack of positive emotions leads them to behave irresponsibly toward others. Another key point is that Cleckley describes the antisocial behavior of the psychopath as inadequately motivated; it is not due, for example, to a need for something like money but is performed impulsively, as much for thrills as anything else.

Currently, most researchers identify psychopaths using a checklist developed by Hare and his associates (Hare et al., 1990). The checklist identifies two major clusters of psychopathic behaviors. The first describes a selfish, remorseless individual who exploits others. The second characterizes an antisocial lifestyle. Among Axis I diagnoses, psychopathy is often diagnosed as well when there is abuse of alcohol and other drugs (Smith & Newman, 1990).

Placing Grand Theft Auto in Context

Kid Oakland dropped a pretty cool post on Daily Kos a couple days ago: tupac biggie gta. What he does is to check the fantasy world in GTA with the reality that faces America's underclass - especially our African-American community. Kid Oakland uses the words of rappers such as 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. to help make the point, along with citing some stats that tell us what many young African-Americans face. One of the replies on the roots of rap also deserves attention.

On a personal note: the worst of the grading is out of the way. Just have to complete term sheets and turn them in later this morning. The stats final was especially a pain to grade - but I was already expecting that, so I wasn't disappointed!