Saturday, January 8, 2005


Newsweek: U.S. considering "Death Squads" in Iraq. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, with Negroponte over there as "Ambassador". Still, it's very jarring to read that for the US government, Iraq is turning into El Salvador - Middle East Division:

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success--despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

Note, too, that this plan would also escalate the war into Syria - I suppose that may be all part of the neocon plan any way. Still, things have to be pretty crazy over there in Iraq. If we thought 2004 was ugly, looks like 2005 will be uglier.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Iraq in shambles, tortured "conservative" logic, and other commentary of note

Iraq: The Devastation by Dahr Jamail for Tom Dispatch. A tonic to the "happy talk" we tend to get from Bu$hCo. It's pretty clear that Chomsky's words about past US led actions are every bit as cogent in today's Iraq.

In Dissonance: Nuts and dolts - The shadow of El Salvador haunts the Iraqi elections, Marc Cooper notes that Iraq is so fubar that elections are doomed to failure. The neocons think of El Salvador, which was in a civil war in 1982 when it held elections was a shining example of how to hold elections in a wartime environment. Cooper disagrees with the official version of El Salvador's elections circa 1982, but does offer a more chilling example of what the Salvadorans' experience might offer the Iraqis. As Cooper so aptly puts it, "What El Salvador teaches us is that belligerent U.S. unilateralism failed miserably in trying to stabilize that tiny and suffering nation. In the end, it was a U.N.-negotiated multilateral solution that secured the peace and stopped the bloodshed." Expect that to fall on deaf ears.

Tex from the blog posts on Tortured "conservative" logic, where we get a taste of the mentality that dominates the National Review Online. The Bu$hCo Kool-aid Kids approach to all the news of American torture chambers in the name of "liberating" Iraq? Dismiss it all as no worse than frat hazing or boot camp. Huh.

From Julian's Lounge, here's a brief excerpt from Albert Camus on torture from his classic novel, The Fall.

Abu Ghraib Abuse Figure Faces Trial Today in Texas. Someone's gotta take the fall for BU$hCo. Surely he deserves the full weight of the justice system for his actions, but so too do those who at the top approved of torture in the first place.

Human Rights Watch contends that US Abu Ghraib trials are only a "first step toward accountability".

An Australian official apparently watched as an Australian terrorism suspect was tortured by US guards.

Newly Released Reports Show Early Concern on Prison Abuse going back to 2002.

Thought Piece

Grannie, look what we're doing to the land of freedom: The ideals that welcomed my exiled family to the US have been violated

Sara Paretsky

Monday January 3, 2005

The Guardian

My grandmother came to America from eastern Europe in 1911, when she was not quite 13. Her father had been murdered in a pogrom in front of his family. Her mother was afraid the mob would turn on her next, so she sent her eldest child, alone, to the new world.

My grandmother often talked about sailing into New York harbour and seeing the Statue of Liberty, like a second mother, welcoming her under its outstretched arm. She never saw her mother or most of her family again: they perished in the Holocaust.

Her education ended when she left Europe. She worked as a finisher in the garment industry for 50 cents a day, became active in the Garment Workers Union, became pregnant and married at 15. But she knew when she sailed in under the statue that her life would not be in danger again because of who she was or what she thought or said. She had come home to freedom.

I recently completed a speaking tour in Europe in connection with my novel Blacklist, which is set partly in the McCarthy era and partly in the world of the Patriot Act. The book has generated hate mail from people who accuse me of hating America and loving terrorists. When I walked into the US consulate in Hamburg and saw a sketch of the statue on the wall, I thought of my grandmother and wept.

Grannie, this is what we're doing now:

We imprisoned an artist in upstate New York for an installation piece he was creating around genetically modified food. When his wife died suddenly one morning and he called 911, he was arrested for having micro-organisms in the apartment. He was held without charge until a postmortem was completed and showed that the benign, legally obtained organisms in his home had not caused his wife's death. He faces trial in January for having benign, legal organisms in his house, his travel is restricted, and he is subject to frequent drug tests.

We arrested a library patron in New Brunswick for looking at foreign-language pages on the web. We held him for three days without charging him, without letting him call a lawyer, or notify his wife.

We arrested a man at St John's College in Santa Fe for making a negative comment about George Bush in a chatroom from the college library. We put a gag order on all the students and faculty, forbidding them from revealing that this arrest had taken place: the staff member who told me about it could be imprisoned for doing so.

We pressured a North Carolina public radio station to drop a long-time sponsorship from a reproductive rights group, claiming that it is political and therefore not permissible as a donor.

We've seized circulation and internet-use records from a tenth of the nation's libraries without showing probable cause. We're imprisoning journalists for their coverage of a White House vendetta on a CIA agent. We coerced newspapers in Texas and Oregon to fire reporters who criticised the president's behaviour in the days immediately after 9/11. We have held citizens and non-citizens alike for more than three years in prison, without charging them, without giving them any idea on how long their incarceration might be, and we have "out-sourced" their torture to Pakistan and Egypt.

When George Bush spoke at the Ohio State University commencement in 2002, we threatened protesters with expulsion from the university.

We imprisoned an 81-year-old Haitian Baptist minister when he landed at Miami airport with a valid passport and visa. We took away his blood-pressure medicine and ridiculed him for not speaking clearly through his voice-box. He collapsed and died in our custody five days later.

In Germany, there is a feeling of terrible loss and betrayal in the wake of the presidential election. People in their 60s told me that growing up in postwar Germany, they idealised America. Even when our faults were obvious, as with lynch mobs and segregation, these Germans saw America as struggling to become true to its ideals of justice and equality. Now, as Germans see the many ways in which we are turning our backs on those ideals in the name of protecting ourselves from terror, they feel a betrayal deeper than the loss of a lover. They fear, too, that as America moves the definition of radicalism to new points on a rightwing compass, other nations will follow suit. They fear that in a world without a beacon of liberty, there will be no curbs on totalitarian behaviour anywhere.

I never met any anti-American sentiment in Germany, despite the bewilderment that people feel. People were supportive and helpful, even if no one is very hopeful right now.

In Dresden, a man in his 70s said that anyone who thought the worsening war in Iraq, and a worsening US economy, would turn Americans against this administration should look to Germany. He said he remembered the second world war vividly, when people were willing to shed the last drop of their blood for a regime which had destroyed their economy while plunging them into senseless wars.

In Munich, the consul told the audience that the fact I was allowed to say things at odds with our government was proof that free speech was alive and well. He walked out when I was explaining that the State Department had removed all of Dashiell Hammett's books from consular and embassy libraries, after Hammett refused to name names during the McCarthy witch-hunts.

The consul in Frankfurt said that between 75 and 120 casualties from Iraq were flown in every day to the military hospital there, but we aren't allowed to see these wounded on television, nor are we allowed to see the coffins of our dead.

My taxi driver in Frankfurt was a devout Muslim who fled Iran to protect himself and his wife from state- imposed religious and moral standards. He had served in the Iranian army during the Iran-Iraq war, and had lost his mother and both grandmothers. "Why does America want to rule by religion?" he asked. "Religion makes a cruel government."

On the plane coming home, I sat next to an Englishman, urbane, fluent in four languages, travelling every month to South America or the Pacific rim, who told me "you Yanks" had done the right thing in giving Bush four more years. "He's protecting you from terror," the man explained.

I told him about the arrests and interrogations of writers, artists, ordinary citizens. He paused, then said: "You Yanks put a lot of your people in prison, anyway." I was bewildered. He said: "It's a necessary price to pay for protection against terrorism. You'll be glad 10 years from now that you did it."

Grannie, you know that's what a lot of people said in Germany in the 30s - that the torture of Jews, communists, homosexuals and the mentally retarded was a necessary price to pay for moving Germany in a better direction.

When I think of you sailing into New York harbour alone, terrified, and seeing "the Mother of Exiles" lift her lamp beside the golden door, I feel my heart breaking.

© 2004. Sara Paretsky is the author of Blacklist and winner of the Crime Writers' Association Diamond and Gold Daggers

Speaking of Torturegate:

US soldiers 'told to lie' in abuse probe

Testifying before a military trial over alleged abuse of Iraqis by US forces, Major Robert Gwinner said Lieutenant-Colonel Nate Sassaman had ordered soldiers to lie about the bridge incident to the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, or CID.

One of the two Iraqis is thought to have drowned in the Tigris.

"They did not want CID to know that the Iraqis had gone into the water," Gwinner said.

The major was testifying in the court martial of army Sergeant First Class Tracy Perkins, who faces more than 25 years in military prison on charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.


Perkins is accused of killing Zaidun Hassun, 19, by having subordinates force him off a ledge above the Tigris at Samarra in Iraq.

Marwan Fadil, who was also forced off the bridge along with his cousin Hassun, testified on Wednesday that US soldiers tossed the two at gunpoint into the water and laughed as his relative drowned.

The two Iraqis had been detained shortly before an 11pm curfew on 3 January 2004.

Punishing curfew violators by pushing them into water was probably within troops' discretion, Gwinner said. "It was within the scope of non-lethal force, but not one that we recommend, or we will use again."

Report: Abu Ghraib did not stop abuse

Sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners continued at least three months after the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed, according to accounts by alleged victims in the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

Iraqi inmates were sexually assaulted, beaten, administered electric shocks and kept in cages or crates, the magazine said, based on 60 hours of interviews with 10 former inmates, including a 15-year-old boy.

Writer Donovan Webster quotes an inmate saying he was hung naked from handcuffs in a frigid room while soldiers threw buckets of ice water on him.

Webster added that several of the people he interviewed said their mistreatment took place in July, three months after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in late April.

From Alberto to the Insurgency

As someone who served from March 2003 through October 2003 in Iraq with the U.S. Army, I have strong feelings about how national policies affect the troops in the field. Alberto Gonzales, who has recommended a policy that has allowed the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, is now being considered as the new attorney general.

His recommendations have led to the brutalization of prisoners in our own custody. In this way, we may be putting our own servicemen and women in danger if they are captured.

One blisteringly hot afternoon in June 2003, outside Balad, Iraq, I saw a farmer working in a field. He was a short, weathered man in his mid- to late forties, and he was holding the reins of oxen. He said he was angry over the mistreatment of women in his village at the hands of American servicemen during a recent early-morning raid. On that morning, the women were rounded up in a room at gunpoint. Soldiers yelled at them, and they were physically searched and kind of roughed up. Several women were shoved and knocked to the ground. Local insurgents had told him, the farmer said, that they were going to kidnap female American service personnel and treat them in the same way that Iraqi women had been handled -- and even worse. It would be payback, he said.

"Combat doctors" and torture

...Mr. Kahtani was, for example, forcibly given an enema, officials said, which was used because it was uncomfortable and degrading.

Pentagon spokesmen said the procedure was medically necessary because Mr. Kahtani was dehydrated after an especially difficult interrogation session. Another official, told of the use of the enema, said, however, "I bet they said he was dehydrated," adding that that was the justification whenever an enema was used as a coercive technique, as it had been on several detainees.

Australian Guantanamo suspect claims tortured with water, shocks in Egypt

An Australian suspect held by the United States in Guantanamo Bay has alleged he was tortured by water and electrodes during interrogation in Egypt, national radio reported.

Egyptian-born Mamdouh Habib, a Sydney father of four, is one of two Australians held by the United States following his capture in Pakistan in 2002.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said it had obtained previously sealed court documents detailing Habib's claims of torture while in custody in Egypt before his move to Cuba.

According to the papers, Habib alleged his captors filled his room with water, until it was just below his chin, forcing him to stand on tiptoe for hours.

Habib also alleged he was suspended from hooks on the wall of his cell with his feet resting on a large drum, into which an electric current flowed from wires apparently attached to a battery.

If he did not give the answer his captors wanted they threw a switch and a jolt of electricity would run through the drum, forcing him to dance on it, Habib alleged in the documents, according to the ABC.

The claims were made to his lawyers several weeks ago amid suggestions the US authorities were considering returning him to Egypt, it said.

Habib is one of 15 detainees considered eligible by the US government to face trial by a military commission.

His case along with that of fellow Australian detainee David Hicks has been a cause celebre in Australia, as the conservative government has done little to press the United States to return either to Australia for trial.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

How Bad Is Gonzales? Very Bad

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Click the pic for more details on the nomination hearings.

More on Alberto Gonzales and His Likely Confirmation

We Are All Torturers Now

AT least since Watergate, Americans have come to take for granted a certain story line of scandal, in which revelation is followed by investigation, adjudication and expiation. Together, Congress and the courts investigate high-level wrongdoing and place it in a carefully constructed narrative, in which crimes are charted, malfeasance is explicated and punishment is apportioned as the final step in the journey back to order, justice and propriety.

When Alberto Gonzales takes his seat before the Senate Judiciary Committee today for hearings to confirm whether he will become attorney general of the United States, Americans will bid farewell to that comforting story line. The senators are likely to give full legitimacy to a path that the Bush administration set the country on more than three years ago, a path that has transformed the United States from a country that condemned torture and forbade its use to one that practices torture routinely. Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzales himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Americans began torturing prisoners, and they have never really stopped. However much these words have about them the ring of accusation, they must by now be accepted as fact. From Red Cross reports, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's inquiry, James R. Schlesinger's Pentagon-sanctioned commission and other government and independent investigations, we have in our possession hundreds of accounts of "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment - to use a phrase of the Red Cross - "tantamount to torture."


But what we are unlikely to hear, given the balance of votes in the Senate, are many voices making the obvious argument that with this record, Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as attorney general. So let me make it: Mr. Gonzales is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand.

On the other hand, perhaps it is fitting that Mr. Gonzales be confirmed. The system of torture has, after all, survived its disclosure. We have entered a new era; the traditional story line in which scandal leads to investigation and investigation leads to punishment has been supplanted by something else. Wrongdoing is still exposed; we gaze at the photographs and read the documents, and then we listen to the president's spokesman "reiterate," as he did last week, "the president's determination that the United States never engage in torture." And there the story ends.

At present, our government, controlled largely by one party only intermittently harried by a timorous opposition, is unable to mete out punishment or change policy, let alone adequately investigate its own war crimes. And, as administration officials clearly expect, and senators of both parties well understand, most Americans - the Americans who will not read the reports, who will soon forget the photographs and who will be loath to dwell on a repellent subject - are generally content to take the president at his word.

But reality has a way of asserting itself. In the end, as Gen. Joseph P. Hoar pointed out this week, the administration's decision on the Geneva Conventions "puts all American servicemen and women at risk that are serving in combat regions." For General Hoar - a retired commander of American forces in the Middle East and one of a dozen prominent retired generals and admirals to oppose Mr. Gonzales - torture has a way of undermining the forces using it, as it did with the French Army in Algeria.

The general's concerns are understandable. The war in Iraq and the war on terrorism are ultimately political in character. Victory depends in the end not on technology or on overwhelming force but on political persuasion. By using torture, the country relinquishes the very ideological advantage - the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights - that the president has so persistently claimed is America's most powerful weapon in defeating Islamic extremism. One does not reach democracy, or freedom, through torture.

By using torture, we Americans transform ourselves into the very caricature our enemies have sought to make of us. True, that miserable man who pulled out his hair as he lay on the floor at Guantánamo may eventually tell his interrogators what he knows, or what they want to hear. But for America, torture is self-defeating; for a strong country it is in the end a strategy of weakness. After Mr. Gonzales is confirmed, the road back - to justice, order and propriety - will be very long. Torture will belong to us all.

Related: White House Won't Release Gonzales Papers (heaven forbid if the Senate actually had to make an informed decision), Gonzales Promises Non-Torture Policy (and he also has this lovely bridge in Brooklyn for sale), Retired US General on Alberto Gonzales: "He Has Endangered Our Soldiers"

This blogger must be a Republican

A Proud Tsunami Sympathizer

props to Rox Populi for the tip.

Know Your Fascist: Alberto Gonzales

What Bush Lackey Gonzales Wrought

Thanks Gonzales, What Took You So Long?

Gonzales Requested Torture Memo

New Torture Memo

Live Blogging of the Gonzales Nomination Hearings

Say Hello To Cruel and Unusual Punishment!!!

Ironic Synchronicity (captures the Zeitgeist in which monsters like Gonzales are able to thrive), Gonzales Hearing: The President Can Ignore the Law, How to Condemn and Embrace Torture in the Same Breath, and Gonzales Hearing: Tapdancing Around the Issue

You get the basic gist. A vote for Gonzales' nomination is at least at bare minimum a tacit endorsement of torture.

When is a reversal not a reversal?

When the GOP is involved and congressional ethics rules is the issue. The non-flip-flop flip-flop? The flip-flop non-flip-flop? The mind boggles.

Call it courage

Boxer to Stand With Conyers. At least someone had the guts to challenge the Ohio results:

WASHINGTON - A small group of Democrats agreed Thursday to force House and Senate debates on Election Day problems in Ohio before letting Congress certify President Bush's win over Sen. John Kerry in November.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., signed a challenge mounted by House Democrats to Ohio's 20 electoral votes, which put Bush over the top. By law, a challenge signed by members of the House and Senate requires both chambers to meet separately for up to two hours to consider it. Lawmakers are allowed to speak for no more than five minutes each.

While Bush's victory is not in jeopardy, the Democratic challenge will force Congress to interrupt tallying the Electoral College vote, which is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST Thursday. It would be only the second time since 1877 that the House and Senate were forced into separate meetings to consider electoral votes.

"I have concluded that objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate way to bring these issues to light by allowing you to have a two-hour debate to let the American people know the facts surrounding Ohio's election," Boxer wrote in a letter to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, a leader of the Democratic effort.

The action seems certain to leave Bush's victory intact because both Republican-controlled chambers would have to uphold the challenge for Ohio's votes to be invalidated. But supporters of the drive hope their move will shine a national spotlight on the Ohio voting problems.

Bush defeated Kerry, 286-252, with 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

It may be a small step, but if it helps us to highlight the rampant corruption among the GOP in Ohio and nationwide, it's an important step. Boxer and Conyers also send the message to their party's base that indeed the party (or at least a faction of the party) really does give a damn about their constituents and about the fairness of the electoral process.

Junior Caligula Did What?

Bush overcame potential disadvantages in his life? I'm having to do a double-take on that one. Being a moron and an asshole are I suppose disadvantages in their own right, but if so, I doubt seriously that he's overcome them. Hell, the guy's lived a privileged life with all that entails without even having to work up a sweat. I've got more of a claim to having overcome potential disadvantages, and quite honestly I'd be more prone to say I've had it good - I actually had to work for my opportunities, but they've at least always been within reach, and I had some great mentoring from my parents (dad in terms of providing a role model for being a scientist and mom for teaching me the art of pure unadulterated stubbornness - a very handy trait I might add), and educators at both the K-12 level and later on in college. It's been a mostly middle class background punctuated by (fortunately) temporary bouts of poverty. Now I've met people who have had some serious obstacles to overcome (some of them are current students), and we're talking grinding poverty, not knowing where the next meal is coming from, being on the receiving end of bigotry, etc. - old Dubya's "struggles" don't even compare what they go through. Enough ranting. Time to get some much needed sleep!

The Conyers Report

Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio

Worth reading for a capsule summary of 2004's Florida (aka Ohio). Jesse Jackson urges US senators to object to the counting of the Ohio electoral vote on the basis of the various problems during the run-up to election day and on election day itself. Bruce Cole also urges Democrat senators to object to the Ohio electoral vote. Rumor has it that up to six senators will actually step up to the plate and stand with Conyers on this issue. As much as I'd like to believe it, I'll simply register my skepticism at this time. I hope for the sake of the Democrat party that at least a few of the senators are brave enough souls to at least take the problems in Ohio seriously. As I've probably mentioned a few times, a repeat of January 2001 will permanently damage the Democrat party's standing with its base. A party that won't stand up for its voters is a party that eventually won't have voters to stand up for. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Crisis Pictures

Crisis Pictures is now online. Growing out of the Fallujah in Pictures blog, this site looks primed to grow considerably in the next few weeks. Check it out.

Monday, January 3, 2005

And for you science junkies

Nerd Network News - Week of December 27 - January 2.

Props to Science and Politics for turning me on to that one. The same post on Science and Politics points to a useful series on George Lakoff, as well as posts on creationism and conspiracy theories.

A manifesto for the green movement

here at Dave Pollard's wonderful blog How to Save the World.

And here's a quote that dovetails nicely with Pollard's post:

"There are periods in which it certainly seems to some that all standards vanish, and so they yearn for old authorities. And there are always fanatics there to stand for ultimate truth, and to lift from the individual the challenge and "burden" of personal achievement and responsibility. Individuals can - they can - survive without organizations. Organizations cannot survive without individuals, and the most effective organizations are assemblies of individuals who assert their own private power in a group, and do not seek to hide within it.

Organized action is an excellent method of exerting influence, but only when each member is self-activating; only when he or she extends individuality through group action, and does not mindlessly seek to follow the dictates of others."

- Jane Roberts The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events Prentice Hall, 1981 (from the liner notes of the new Revolutionary Ensemble cd and now...

Too funny!

RNC vs DNC - one website supports the relief effort, one does not - guess which is which?

Ah yes, the GOP family values parade (charade) continues. The Democratic National Committee Web site has an appeal for donations to tsunami victims right up at the top of the DNC home page. The Republican National Committee Web site doesn't even mention the disaster, though it does have a lovely story about President Bush, inappropriately titled "Rising Tide."

Rising tide appropriately sums up Bu$hCo and the GOP more generally: a regime and a corrupt political party leaving disaster in their wake.

When economic conservatives & libertarians are calling today's movement "conservatives" fascists

as does Justin Raimondo, it's probably a good idea to listen. These are folks who tend not to use the F word lightly, and their own analyses are dovetailing with those of our more sober members of the progressive movement.

The religious right's response to the tsunami crisis?

Underwhelming, to say the least. In the same post, one finds that the response among religious left organizations is considerably different - they're actively soliciting relief for the tsunami victims. At least the religious left actually shows a grasp of the spirit of the Gospels. Sure can't say the same for the right-wingers who've hijacked Christianity.

Here's another Kos diary worth checking out

LGBT News Roundup, 1/3/2005. Loaded with info. The author (pamindurham) promises to make this a regularly updated diary.

Eliminationists are so entertaining

ome Readers Want to Lock Up Al Neuharth: Apparently, it is now an act of treason to offer an editorial opinion on the Iraq war that goes against the conventional wisdom.

Wow. Some of the letters printed are eye-popping to say the least. Those right-wingnuts don't seem to handle criticism of Dear Leader well at all. Some highlights (or lowlights):

Jerry Martin, San Francisco, CA.: “Yet another self-defeating fool with a large bank account shoots himself in the foot. Their dissent equals treason. The terrorists got him just like all the other rich liberals who side against our victory. They forget that wars end, and then the country takes stock of who was where. I encourage the fool to keep mouthing against our victory over the Muslim jihad, he'll pay the social price in the end.”


Peter Kessler: “And as for the good war, WW II, the lefties were four-square for that one. Yes sir, they were saving the USSR, Stalin and Communism. It's sad we didn't join Hitler until he wiped out the USSR. Alger Hiss and the Uptown Daily Worker (The New York Times) be damned. I see you've joined the club. Well, you're probably a founding member.”


Duggan Flanakin, Austin, Texas: “Neuharth should be tried for treason along with a lot of other blowhards who should be spending their energies condemning the barbarism of our enemies, the same people who destroyed the Twin Towers.“

Boots Harvey, Brentwood, CA: “One must recall that Churchill had to put up with the likes of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce, and his propaganda during WWII. In the end William Joyce was executed for giving aid and comfort to the enemy during war time. Would that the same fate befall Al Neuharth!”

Mel Gibbs: “The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.”

As I understand it, these were the tame letters. So let's recap: several readers would just as soon see Neuharth imprisoned or executed for daring to suggest that Bu$hCo start bringing the troops home from Iraq. Still another reader seems to think Neuharth is a Communist (funny given that the guy is a media executive - that's private sector for those of my wingnut friends who don't quite grasp the simple fact that Soviet media were all government-run) and that the US should have sided with Hitler in WWII. Yeah, these folks are really going to persuade me to accept their brand of "conservatism." All they've accomplished is to make me further appreciate the importance of my Second Amendment rights.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

"Kind of a shame..."

all those innocent civilians who get iced along with the presumed "bad guys". You want banality with your evil? To say that the things one reads nowadays about the occupation of and on-going war against the Iraqi civilians are horrifying is really to understate things a bit. Kind of a shame that our troops are used to kill countless civilians in the name of democratizing them. Then one realizes we've been there before. Groundhog Day. Go back a few years and it was the US/UK/NATO bombing of Bosnia. Before then, we can go back to Vietnam, and so on through well over a century of foreign occupations accompanied by much civilian bloodshed (not to even begin to mention the internal massacre of America's indigenous peoples or of the African-Americans who were iced just for being there). The Great British empire was much the same way, as I'm being reminded while reading Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival. It seems customary for the major world power of the time period to commit brutal acts of atrocity in the name of all sorts of lofty ideals, to show nothing but contempt for the very people whom they intend to "liberate" (where "liberation" means being being liberated from natural resources, livelihoods, traditions, life itself). The rhetoric changes and the weapons become ever more destructive, but the old song and dance remains the same.

The week in fascism

The continuing series of diaries over at Daily Kos: This Weeks Fascist America News 01-02-05. Always something worth reading among the links and commentary.

Speaking of fascism, the Modulator notes that Lew Rockwell hits it pretty close to correct in his statement that the threat to freedom is not coming from the leftists (we're pretty damn solid when it comes to defending civil liberties, damn it!) but from the very folks who've hijacked the "conservative" label. Modulator's only critique is a fair one: today's "conservatives" wouldn't know free enterprise if it bit them in the ass. They do know more than a few things about cronyism masquerading as free enterprise, however.

2004 summarized in verse

The Terrible Beauty of 2004

Daniel Patrick Welch

We hailed the New Millennium

The dawn of change had come

Our future lay before us bright and clear

But somehow now we've lost our way

The future's on the run

As we try to shed our past for one more year

A Terrible Beauty

The Irish poet said

The future and the past become the same

We cannot reach our future

So we live the past instead

Over and over again

The grim machine of empire

Churned out a year of war

A hundred thousand perished at its hands

The rules remain unchanging:

Send the poor to kill the poor

All to grab the oil beneath their sands

A Terrible Beauty

The Irish poet said

The future and the past become the same

We cannot reach our future

So we live the past instead

Over and over again

The cold winds of November

Couldn't nudge the past aside

As people drowned in fear, and cash and fraud

The votes seem to be counted

To favor those who lied

A President who thinks he talks with God

A Terrible Beauty

The Irish poet said

The future and the past become the same

We cannot reach our future

So we live the past instead

Over and over again

And as the new year beckons

Come the tales of untold grief

As tidal waves deliver fear and dread

It happened without warning

Gave survivors no relief

with waters still receding, there are half a million dead

A Terrible Beauty

The Irish poet said

The future and the past become the same

We cannot reach our future

So we live the past instead

Over and over again

So change we must or perish

At the turning of the year

We can stop the cycle if we try

Spend less on war than people

we can break the chains of fear

If we kiss the year and kiss the past goodbye

A terrible Beauty

The Irish poet said

Though when hope lives the past can surely end

Fight for the living

While mourning the dead

Our vow must be never again

Another look at 2004

The year of the sucker punch gives a glance at the lowlights of this year's right-wingnut hyperbole. No real surprises, of course, if you've been paying attention. If you haven't, well, have a seat - you might just pass out.

A top ten list

Top Ten War Profiteers of 2004

From the hip-hop nation

is a new period of politically aware hip-hop at hand? I'd argue it's never really left, although seemingly marginalized (but hey, some of those underground rappers and djs are selling their share of cds): Jurassic 5, The Roots, Mos Def, The Coup, just to name a few. Here's some recent grist for the mill from GNN:

Xzibit: 'Rap needs a message'

Hip-Hop and the 9/11 Truth Movement

The Mosh Continues

Or to take a few lines from p-funk legend George Clinton (the one Clinton whom I'd definitely endorse for Prez): "Free your mind and your ass will follow." "Think! It ain't illegal yet!"

White Ribbon Campaign

Click the pic for more info. The image above is of a magnet that you can purchase here.

Today's Picture

Image Hosted by

Courtesy of So Blog Me!

Responsibility anyone?

Ronald Brownstein writes in For many Americans, Iraq war has no consequences:

Millions of Americans probably learned about last week’s horrific attack on U.S. troops in Mosul while wrapping Christmas gifts or stuffing packages into the SUV after a last-minute shopping blitz .

That jarring juxtaposition may be the perfect symbol for the Iraq war. This grueling, grinding conflict is skittering through American life like a tornado that tears one house to the ground in every neighborhood, while leaving all those around it unscratched.

For the military personnel on the front lines – and their family and friends – the war is exacting bitter costs. For all other Americans, even for the officials whose decisions sent those troops into battle and shaped the conditions under which they are fighting and dying, the war is imposing no discernible consequences.

There's more to read.

It's not just tsunamis killing the world's children

but malnutrition and disease - on a daily basis and much of it preventable.

Science Saves

writes Richard Dawkins:

Not only does science know why the tsunami happened, it can give precious hours of warning. If a small fraction of the tax breaks handed out to churches, mosques and synagogues had been diverted into an early warning system, tens of thousands of people, now dead, would have been moved to safety.

Let's get up off our knees, stop cringing before bogeymen and virtual fathers, face reality, and help science to do something constructive about human suffering.

Dawkins is the author of The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene.

What else is going on in Guantanamo?

All sorts of torture techniques, including the strappado

Looks like something out of the Inquisitions, and is a technique used regularly by Latin American dictatorships. The technique in US gulags is modified by using "handcuffs and a well-placed iron bar or pipe." The effect is the same - excruciating pain, dislocated shoulders, etc.

To Bu$hCo true believers such practices are no doubt a source of pride - the "strict father" disciplining his unruly little brown brothers. To the rest of us though, this is merely another reason to feel shame.