Saturday, May 14, 2005

From the "Mission Accomplished" Department:

Amman, Iraq, and Al-Qaim by Dahr Jamail:
It feels uncomfortable writing about Iraq from Amman, but my close friends, Abu Talat (my close friend and interpreter) and intuition have all provided the same message-do not go inside Iraq at this time. So I've been in Amman now for about a week, and will resume posting stories from here soon. We've been working on a couple of stories about Iraqis in Amman ... those should be out soon. ... Abu Talat phoned his family today in Baghdad. They’ve had no electricity for four days. They told him (uncomfirmed) that all of Iraq has had no electricity for several days. As Abu Talat says, “Baghdad is running on the generator.” Of course the gas crisis persists augmented by the lack of electricity, along with constantly increasing attacks. ... The situation around Al-Qaim where “Operation Matador” is ongoing, appears to be a micro-version of Fallujah. The military and corporate media continue to portray the situation as if “foreign fighters” have taken control of Qaim and surrounding villages (as was said about Fallujah) when reports from the ground state that interviews with the fighters have them all saying they are Iraqi. ... Another similarity between Qaim and Fallujah is that now there is a humanitarian crisis in Qaim from the fighting. There are 1,300 displaced families (approximately 80,000 people) from Qaim and the hospital there was destroyed amidst fighting on 8 May between resistance fighters and locals. On the 9th there was no electricity or water in Qaim and the surrounding areas and schools were closed. On the 11th US warplanes continued to bomb Obeidy and other nearby locations. ... The loss of life continues unabated….in the last week at least 37 US soldiers have been killed, while at least 450 Iraqis have died amidst a huge surge of ongoing attacks since 28 April, when the Iraqi government was officially announced. Abdul-Khaliq al-Raqwi, the director of communications for the Iraqi Government in al-Qaim, confirmed to Al-Jazeera that 2 US helicopters were shot down in Qusaybah this past Wednesday. The military denied this, even though witnesses on the ground confirmed the report as well.

Did the Elections Make things Worse? from Juan Cole's blog (he also has a round-up of other news coming out of Iraq):
"Two weeks of intense insurgent violence have made it crystal clear that Iraq's parliamentary elections, hailed in late January as a triumph for democracy, haven't helped to heal the country's deep divisions. They may have made them worse. The historic election sheared off a thin facade of wartime national unity and reinforced ethnic and sectarian tensions that have plagued Iraq for centuries. Iraqis immediately began playing the roles the election results delivered to them: victorious Shiite Muslim, assertive Kurd, disaffected Sunni Arab. Within those groups lies a mosaic of other splits, especially between secularists and Islamists vying for Iraq's soul."

Suicide bombings continue to be the norm as Iraqis continue their day-to-day existence often lacking electricity, water, food, and employment as the US enters year three of its brutal occupation.

On a somewhat related note to Bu$hCo: desecrating a religious document, such as the Quran, is a very, very stupid move. Did I mention that doing so was very stupid? Just in case our right-wingers don't quite grasp the concept, let's repeat once more: desecrating a religious document, such as the Quran, is a very, very stupid move. "But why?" you might ask. Perhaps it has to do with how thoroughly pissed off the faithful become as a reaction. Or to put it another way: how do you think our fundamentalists in America would react if they heard of a POW camp run by a Muslim nation was flushing Bibles down toilets in order to break down American POWs?

"The Black Kent State"

Thirty-five years ago today at Jackson State University:
After the firemen left, the police and state troopers marched toward a campus women's residence, weapons at the ready. At this point, the crowd numbered 75 to 100 people. Several students allegedly shouted "obscene catcalls" while others chanted and tossed bricks at the officers, who had closed to within 100 feet of the group. The officers deployed into a line facing the students. Accounts disagree as to what happened next. Some students said the police advanced in a line, warned them, and then opened fire. Others said the police abruptly opened fire on the crowd and the dormitory. Other witnesses reported that the students were under the control of a campus security officer when the police opened fire.

Police claimed they spotted a powder flare and opened fire in self-defense on the dormitory only. The students scattered, some running for the trees in front of the library, but most scrambling for the Alexander Hall west end door. There was screaming and cries of terror and pain mingled with the noise of sustained gunfire as the students struggled en masse to get through glass double doors. A few students were trampled. Others, struck by buckshot pellets or bullets, fell only to be dragged inside or left moaning in the grass.

When the order to ceasefire was given Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, a junior pre-law major and father of an 18 month-old son lay dead. Across the street, behind the line of police and highway patrolmen, James Earl Green, 17, was sprawled dead. Green, a senior at Jim Hill High School in Jackson, was walking home from work at a local grocery store when he stopped to watch the action. Twelve other Jackson State students were struck by gunfire. The five-story dormitory was riddled by gunfire. FBI investigators estimated that more than 460 rounds struck the building, shattering every window facing the street on each floor. Investigators counted at least 160 bullet holes in the outer walls of the stairwell alone bullet holes that can still be seen today.

The injured students, many of whom lay bleeding on the ground outside the dormitory, were transported to University Hospital within 20 minutes of the shooting. But the ambulances were not called until after the officers picked up their shell casings, a U. S. Senate probe conducted by Senators Walter Mondale and Birch Bayh later revealed. The police and state troopers left the campus shortly after the shooting and were replaced by National Guardsmen. After the incident, Jackson authorities denied that city police took part.

Representative Conyers Goes After Abu Gonzales

May 12, 2005

The Honorable Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We are writing to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high-ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441, or the Anti-Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. 2340 by allowing the use of torture techniques banned by domestic and international law at recognized and secret detention sites in Iraq, Afghanistan Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

One year and 10 investigations after we first learned about the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib, there has yet to be a comprehensive, neutral and objective investigation with prosecutorial authority of who is ultimately responsible for the abuses there and elsewhere. While more than 130 low-ranking officers and enlisted soldiers have been disciplined or face courts-martial for the abuses that occurred, there have been no criminal charges against high-ranking officials. Yet the pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules. It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast rules aside. If the United States is to wipe away the stain of Abu Ghraib, it needs to investigate those at the top who ordered or condoned torture. As a result, it is in our interest to finally show the world that we are taking these matters seriously and resolving them free of political taint.

Some of us previously asked Attorney General Ashcroft to appoint a special counsel to investigate these abuses on May 20, 2004. Unfortunately, we received no answer to our request. The need for a special counsel is now more important than ever as the Administration and military have repeatedly exonerated high-ranking officials, or declined to even investigate their actions, even as other official investigations linked the policy decisions by these officials to the crimes that occurred at Abu Ghraib. The Administration's haphazard and disjointed approach to these investigations appears to have insulated those in command and prevented a full account of the actions and abuses from being determined.

As you know, under Department of Justice regulations, the Attorney General must appoint a special counsel when (1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted," (2) the investigation "by a United States Attorney Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department," and (3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter."1 In the present case, all three requirements have been met.

First, federal criminal laws are clearly implicated. The Anti-Torture Act criminalizes acts of torture - including attempts to commit torture and conspiracy to commit an act of torture - occurring outside the United States' territorial jurisdiction regardless of the citizenship of the perpetrator or victim.2 The Geneva Conventions generally prohibit "violence to life and persons," "outrages upon personal dignity," and "humiliating and degrading treatment."3 Violations of the Geneva Conventions also constitute a violation of U.S. federal criminal law under the War Crimes Act.4 The Administration has acknowledged on several occasions that the United States is bound by the Geneva Conventions with respect to Iraqi5 and Taliban prisoners,6 and that a violation of the Conventions would invite prosecution under the War Crimes Act.7 Numerous investigations have uncovered such violations. The Taguba report found instances of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners.8 The Army's Inspector General's report found 94 incidents of detainee abuse at detention sites in Afghanistan and Iraq.9 And, the Schlesinger report confirmed five instances in which detainees died as a result of abuse by U.S. personnel during interrogations.10 The repudiation of the August 2002 memorandum you wrote as White House Counsel in December of 2004 suggests even the Administration realizes its policies contributed to actions which violated federal criminal law.11

Therefore, given the Administration's concession that the Geneva Conventions apply to Iraqi and Taliban prisoners, given its concession in the Gonzalez memo that a violation of the Conventions would also constitute a violation of federal criminal law, and given the flagrant violations of the Conventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay which have been confirmed by official investigations, it is clear that a prima facie violation of federal criminal law exists. It is also evident that high-ranking Administration officials, including the Defense Secretary, as well as high-ranking military officials, may have authorized these actions and are potentially subject to criminal prosecution as well.

Second, there is an obvious conflict of interest. A special counsel is necessary not only because high-ranking Administration officials, including Cabinet members, are implicated, but also because you personally, and the Department of Justice generally, may have participated in this conspiracy to violate the War Crimes Act. It has been confirmed that the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, and you yourself as White House Counsel, encouraged the president to withhold Geneva Convention protections from Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay detainees. If the conflict of interest provisions in your regulations mean anything, it is that when the Attorney General may have contributed to the abuses that were committed, the Department of Justice has no business conducting the investigation and should instead turn to a special counsel.

Finally, there can be no doubt that the public interest will be served by a broad and independent investigation into both the allegations of abuse at U.S. detention sites as well as the role of high-ranking officials in authorizing and allowing these abuses. To date, a number of investigations into allegations of abuse at United States detention sites have been conducted, including ten official investigations. These investigations concluded that the leadership failure of officers such as Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the senior commander in Iraq, contributed to the prisoner abuse.

For example, the Army Inspector General and former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger found in separate reports that the policies issued by Lt. Gen. Sanchez and his subsequent actions once the abuses at Abu Ghraib were known contributed to the perpetration of these abuses. The Schlesinger investigation also found that other top military officials were responsible, concluding, "There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels."12 Similarly, the Kern-Fay-Jones report concluded that the actions of Sanchez and his most senior deputies, such as Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, "did indirectly contribute" to some abuses.13 However, these inquiries were not empowered to impose punishments on those it found culpable, and they were not empowered to examine the role of high-ranking officials, including members of the Administration, in the perpetuation of these abuses.14 And, in spite of these findings, many of the reports refused to hold these high-ranking officials culpable. In fact, we recently learned the Army absolved four top officers, including Lt. Gen. Sanchez, of wrongdoing. To date, only one high-ranking military officer has been punished as a result of these inquiries, and many view her punishment as a mere slap on the wrist. As a result, it is not yet clear to the world that the United States is taking these abuses seriously.

The public interest demands we determine who is ultimately responsible for these abuses. While Private Lynndie England and other low-ranking officers have pled guilty, those who ordered and authorized their actions appear to have been protected by the military and this Administration. Because so many high level officials, including you, have been implicated in these events, the only way to ensure impartiality is through the appointment of a Special Counsel. Indeed, our nation's integrity is at stake. We must reassure the world that we will fairly and independently pursue legal violations wherever they occur.

We await your response on this important matter. At no point during this Administration has a Special Counsel been appointed.15 Please contact us through Perry Apelbaum or Ted Kalo of the Judiciary Staff at 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 if you have any questions about this request. Link

About fifty-something Congresscritters co-signed the above letter. John Conyers has been an invaluable watchdog over these last several years, and it pleases me that he continues to fight that good fight for a more ethically responsible government.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Impeachable Lies


Click the pic to find out more. It's time for our own Orange revolution.

Today's Contemporary History Lesson

A Chronology of US War Crimes & Torture, 1975-2005 by Tom Stephens.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Feeling lucky? Norm at Onegoodmove has the video segments of John Stewart's and Jay Leno's coverage of the apparently gay-bashing gay mayor of Spokane. I saw Stewart's segment last night, and my wife watched Leno's - we'll both vouch for them as quite funny. I swear, I had always gone with the conventional wisdom that if one of my kids ever turned out to be gay that I'd advise them to stay as far away from the gay-bashing crowd as possible. Now that we're finding that these very same folks are being outed, maybe I was wrong. If one encounters a gay-bashing mayor from Spokane, chances are he really is a man's man. Maybe I'll send his office a Spongebob Movie dvd as consolation.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Second Quote of the Day

Let us not overlook the obvious: Dominionism is about dominion--over women, children, the poor, people of color, alternative sexual orientations, and the earth. It fits so nicely with fascist tyranny. Link

The Judeo-Christian tradition resonates well in America. Christian Fundamentalism (aka Dominionism), on the other hand, is fundamentally un-American. In fact I'll go so far as to call the fundies as I see them: fundamentally anti-American and ironically, given their nominal avowals of faith, anti-Christian. They hate the Constitution. They hate the Enlightenment-era mindset that guided the founding of the US. They hate anything that seems even remotely egalitarian, or that even remotely appears tolerant of the wide variety of ethnic, religious, and lifestyle backgrounds within our borders. They've been smearing real Americans for ages, and for a long time have been able to get away with doing so. No longer will that be the case.

Other excellent blog entries on the Dominionists and their hate agenda can be found at Earthside and Orcinus.

A sign I like:


The folks over at Grassroots Democrats seem to walk the talk when it comes to the sort of liberal populism that I find to my liking. The billboard is also useful as a reminder that we will not allow the right-wing extremists to continue to hijack the Christian faith. The veritable line in the sand has been drawn. We shall overcome!

More Bu$hCo "Family Values"

Bush appointee Hager forced sodomy on ex-wife:
Late last October Dr. W. David Hager, a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and Bush Administration appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), took to the pulpit as the featured speaker at a morning service. He stood in the campus chapel at Asbury College, a small evangelical Christian school nestled among picturesque horse farms in the small town of Wilmore in Kentucky's bluegrass region.
..

With the autumn sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows, Hager opened his Bible to the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel and looked out into the audience. "I want to share with you some information about how...God has called me to stand in the gap," he declared. "Not only for others, but regarding ethical and moral issues in our country."

out in the audience, Linda Carruth Davis--co-author with Hager of Stress and the Woman's Body, and, more saliently, his former wife of thirty-two years--was enraged. "It was the most disgusting thing I've ever heard," she recalled months later, through clenched teeth.

According to Davis, Hager's public moralizing on sexual matters clashed with his deplorable treatment of her during their marriage. Davis alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent. Several sources on and off the record confirmed that she had told them it was the sexual and emotional abuse within their marriage that eventually forced her out. "I probably wouldn't have objected so much, or felt it was so abusive if he had just wanted normal [vaginal] sex all the time," she explained to me. "But it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."

Linda Davis's allegations take on even more gravity in light of Hager's public role as a custodian of women's health. Some may argue that this is just a personal matter between a man and his former wife--a simple case of "he said, she said" with no public implications. That might be so--if there were no allegations of criminal conduct, if the alleged conduct did not bear any relevance to the public responsibilities of the person in question, and if the allegations themselves were not credible and independently corroborated. But given that this case fails all of those tests, the public has a right to call on Dr. David Hager to answer Linda Davis's charges before he is entrusted with another term.

Let's see, this guy is on the FDA committee entrusted with regulating women's reproductive medications, and he's got a reputation for sodomizing his then-wife w/o her consent - let's just call it as we see it: the guy is a rapist. Here's an idea: boot him out of that office and require he be chemically castrated.

"Houston, we have a bigger problem now..."

Yesterday, on the blog Come and Take It, I posted about the recent military recruiting scandal - about threats a recruiter made to a potential recruit. Well, not only are recruiters apparently threatening to send arrest warrants to those who don't show up for recruiting appointments, but they're also going so far as to threaten hard prison time or even execution:
That's when, he says, Army recruiters crossed the line and started harrassing him.

"He told me I pretty much had two options," Ammons said. "I'd go before a judge and get a sentence of 15 years but he had the option to double it. It was either that or they were going to put me in front of seven other people with rifles and shoot me." Link

The story with this kid is that he signed up for delayed entry and then decided later that the military wasn't going to work out for him. I can understand recruiters wanting to hang on to a recruit and to try to persuade this kid to reconsider, but they crossed a line in the process:
Army regulations, we discovered, say even those who sign up for delayed entry, or DEPs, can change their minds.

The regulation reads: "At no time will any member of this command tell a DEP member he or she must 'go in the Army or he or she will go to jail,' or that `failure to enlist will result in a blackmark on his or her credit record,' or any other statement indicating adverse action will occur if the applicant fails to enlist."

Credit where credit is due, I suppose: if not for Bu$hCo's continuing Iraq fiasco, abuses such as the above would be far less likely to occur. Here's a clue for the military: your real enemy isn't lefties like me - its your President and so-called "Commander in Chief" who's causing your organization harm.

The appropriate use for

your BushFish.org symbol:

Quote of the Day

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." -James Madison Link

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The US news media does its job for once

I'm sure that it is merely an aberration, and that in no time the US news media will get back to its usual "journalistic" investigations regarding what McCauley Culkin was wearing at the Michael Jackson trial or stories of equivalent merit. But for now, let us feast:
"The U.S. considers all of Iraq a combat zone," says the report, which was wrapped up at the end of April, three months after the elections that were supposed to have turned the tide in this conflict. "From July 2004 to late March 2005," says the document, "there were 15,527 attacks against Coalition Forces throughout Iraq." Then comes one of several paragraphs marked S//NF (secret, not for distribution to foreign nationals): "From 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 there were 3306 attacks in the Baghdad area. Of these, 2400 were directed against Coalition Forces." Link, quoting from Newsweek

Well, we certainly have enough sense, I would hope, not to believe the usual Bu$hCo happy talk about the situation in Iraq, which of course continues to spiral out of the control of the neo-colonialists.

And dig this: apparently both CNN and The Los Angeles Times have run the story of the "smoking gun" memo that has been big news throughout much of the rest of the world for the last few weeks:
LONDON -- Reports in the British media this month based on documents indicating that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair had conditionally agreed by July 2002 to invade Iraq appear to have blown over quickly in Britain. But in the United States, where the reports at first received scant attention, there has been a growing groundswell of indignation among critics of the Bush White House, who say the documents help prove the leaders made a secret decision to oust Saddam Hussein nearly a year before launching their attack, shaped intelligence to that aim, and never seriously intended to avert the war through diplomacy.

[...]

The leaked minutes summed up a July 23 meeting held at Downing Street, where Blair, his top security advisers and his attorney general discussed Britain's role in Washington's plan to oust Saddam. The minutes written by a foreign policy aide, Matthew Rycroft, indicate general thoughts among participants about how to create a political and a legal basis for a war. The case for military action at the time was "thin," Foreign Minister Jack Straw was characterized as saying, and Saddam's government was posing little threat.

Labeled "secret and strictly personal -- UK eyes only," the minutes begin with the head of British intelligence, MI6, identified as "C," telling meeting participants that he had returned from Washington, where there was a "perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy."

Straw agreed that Bush seemed determined on military action, though the timing was not certain.

"But the case was thin," the minutes read. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capacity was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Straw then proposed to "work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam" to permit weapons inspectors back into the country. "This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force," he said, according to the minutes.

Blair himself weighed in, saying, according to the document, "that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the U.N. inspectors."

He went on to say, "If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."

[...]

"The UK would support military action to bring about regime change," the Sunday Times quoted the briefing paper as saying.

Excerpts from the briefing paper that Smith provided the Times said Blair listed conditions including that "efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent," and that options to "eliminate Iraq's WMD through the U.N. weapons inspectors" had been exhausted.

The briefing paper said the British government should get the United States to put its military plans into a "political framework."

"This is particularly important for the U.K. because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action," the paper continued.

In a letter to Bush last week, 89 House Democrats expressed shock at the documents.

They asked if the documents were true and if so, did they not prove that the White House had already agreed on an invasion months before seeking authorization from Congress.

"If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of our own administration," the letter said.

"While the president of the United States was telling the citizens and the Congress that they had no intention to start a war with Iraq, they were working very close with Tony Blair and the British leadership at making this a foregone conclusion," the letter's chief author, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., said Wednesday.

If the documents are true, he said, it is "a huge problem" in terms of an abuse of power. He said so far there has been no response from the White House to the letter.

If I recall correctly, Knight-Ridder had picked up on the story a few days ago and so it has finally received some exposure in some of the newspapers available in so-called "middle America". My hope is that this story continues to gain some traction. The truth is that the American (and British) public was sold a bill of goods. For those of us who smelled a rat from the very beginning, each new leak has vindicated our suspicions and our efforts to oppose this absolutely useless and illegal war. But the price that has been paid in human terms is ghastly. Consequently, I feel a mixture of sadness and anger as the events continue to unfold. In the meantime, I pray for impeachment.

The Heirs of Orville Faubus and the Filibuster Debate

During the 1950s and '60s, to anyone who supported civil rights legislation, "filibuster" was a very ugly word. In Washington, it was the ultimate maneuver for avian racists whose high-flown rhetoric accompanied their devotion to Jim Crow. The gist of many speeches and commentaries was that civil rights bills were part of an ominous plot against "states' rights" and sacred American traditions.

The names of many senators who fought for racial segregation -- Russell, Stennis, Eastland, Ellender -- are now displayed on federal buildings or U.S. Navy vessels. Such was the hallowed clout that Southern Democrats, usually champions of white supremacy, wielded in Washington during the middle third of the 20th century. Their political descendants migrated into the Republican Party, which today leads its congressional majority with a lot of white Southern politicians (DeLay, Frist and others) who, in turn, rely on white voters.

While considering how the right wing of the GOP depends on the South to maintain its current grip on the Senate and the White House, we may want to ponder something that Mississippi Gov. Paul Johnson said four decades ago at a rally of 10,000 people in Jackson.

It was the early summer of 1964, and Johnson was hosting a fellow segregationist governor, Alabama's George Wallace, who trumpeted the potential power of the South's electoral votes. During the joint appearance, Wallace opined that the 1954 Supreme Court decision for school desegregation was "ridiculous and asinine," adding that "any person who made such a ruling should have a psychiatric examination." And Gov. Johnson declared: "It's time the white people of our various states started bloc voting."

Today, although quite a few anti-racist and progressive white voters live in the South, they -- along with the vast preponderance of black voters -- are routinely on the losing side in lopsided statewide races and presidential contests. While it's certainly true that there's an abundance of personal and institutional racism in every state of the union, Southern states are home to the highest proportions of reactionary and bigoted whites. As a region, the South is the national stronghold for political agendas most hostile to the aspirations of African Americans and other people of color for economic justice, social equality and legal parity.

Now, Southern senators are prominent in leading the charge against the filibuster in clashes over nominees to the federal bench -- warmups for senatorial struggles over Supreme Court nominations that are expected sooner rather than later. The outcome is likely to guide the direction of the nation's judiciary for decades to come. And journalism rarely seems capable of conveying the enormity of the implications.

[...]

Forty years after landmark civil rights bills became law, the codes for a non-discriminatory society are often trumped on the ground by countless realities of discrimination that will persist in the absence of legal remedies. Constitutional protections for racial minorities, gay people, and women -- including their reproductive rights -- are at stake. Overall, many civil liberties hang in the balance. Link

Let's just call Frist et al. by their rightful names: the heirs to Faubus and Eastland whose true agenda is to revive Jim Crow and impose their ugly bigotry upon all Americans. If you can't see through their b.s. by now, you haven't been looking.

Quote of the Day

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54 Link

Fancy that. Some fifty-odd years later, we have a stupid Texas oil millionaire running the fucking country - and lo and behold, what is his party trying to do? The very things that Ike would have considered ill-advised. Don't get me wrong: just as is the case today, the GOP of the 1950s was populated almost exclusively by elitist pricks. However, even the likes of Prescott Bush & Eisenhower could manage something of a social conscience (or failing that, at least feign a social conscience). You certainly won't see that from today's GOP, which is geared towards lining the pockets and Swiss bank accounts of a few corporate robber barons while the rest of us are either permanently trapped in or get sucked into lives of squalor. Perhaps the current GOP mindset may be best summarized by the title of a classic Dead Kennedys tune - Kill the Poor. How else to explain GOP policies regarding pensions? Health care? The environment? And for those of you among the working and middle classes who have fallen for the Bu$hCo party line, you have been punked. No amount of faux patriotism, faux Christianity (I prefer my Christianity real, thank you) or gay/black/Arab/Hispanic/immigrant/Muslim-bashing will feed and shelter your and your loved ones. Wake up to that fact now, or wake up to that fact later. The choice is yours.

As for the right-wing ruling elites in this country, be forewarned: the chickens will come home to roost sooner or later. I, for one, will be quite happy when that day comes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Quote of the day

The courage to be serious would mean something quite different. It would mean, not this bloodless, venti-decaf-latte substitute for passion, but real hatred of America's actions and single-minded, furious determination to get every last 'coalition' soldier off Iraqi soil, as soon as possible, by any means necessary. No ifs ands or buts about democracy, just get them out. Anyone who really believed in the Iraqis' right to their own damn country would not be fussing about whether their projected form of government or mode of self-determination matched American leftist ideals. This in none of our business, not least because it is mere insolence to presume that we know what the Iraqis want or how they should get it. Link

Neumann seems to hit on something rather critical: the endless jawboning about "exit strategies" in the Iraq debacle seem to have something in common. Namely, almost regardless of ideology, there's an assumption that leaving Iraq will be done on "our" terms. One of the themes I've tried to express on this blog is that it is not up to me, or you or any other American (or European for that matter) to dictate how the Iraqis should govern themselves, to conduct their lives and commerce. It is extremely arrogant to assume that we can or should do so. Rather, the Iraqi people know their cultures and politics considerably better than we do and are fully capable of determining for themselves what form(s) of government will work best for them. Our input in the internal affairs of Iraq are irrelevant. Our only obligation is to butt out, and that means bringing the troops, mercenaries, and profiteers home. Period.

I honestly don't know what the "best" way for leaving Iraq would be. What I do know is that we must leave, and do so in a way that respects the humanity of the people who live there.

Quick note: I've been reading Frantz Fannon's classic "The Wretched of the Earth" over the last couple days, and find that his analysis of the psychology of the colonialists and anti-colonialist nationalist movements is every bit as relevant today as it was back in the early 1960s. I will be commenting more at length on some of the insights I've been gleaning from Fannon's work at some point in the near future.

And now for something completely different...

Today is Orgasm Day in Espertantina, Brazil:
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- It was Orgasm Day Monday in Espertantina, a small town in northeast Brazil.

Mayor Felipe Santolia said his town has unofficially celebrated orgasm day for years. But this year is the first when it was recognized as an official municipal holiday.

Santolia said the idea is to improve marriages. Santolia notes that when a woman is unsatisfied, it affects all aspects of her life, including her relationship with the city. Santolia added that Monday's official holiday was to celebrate "orgasm in all its senses."

Monday, May 9, 2005

Quote of the day

To be a Republican these days,...[y]ou have to support massive centralized government, nation-building, torture, rape, murder, the plundering of tax dollars by defense and oil companies, a pestilent friendship with Saudi Arabia despite the fact that a good deal of global terrorism comes straight out of that country, and the eternal occupation of a nation that does not want us there and does not believe that we are bringing anything like freedom to their doorstep. Link

It really is that simple:

Look, you want people to join the military. Don't fight illegal wars. Link

I'd say that pretty well hits the nail on the head. Doesn't get any simpler than that, really. The recruiting problems the military has now are ones not so much of their own making than of the Bu$hCo-induced Iraq quagmire. For all of the White House and GOP talk about how much they "support the troops", they've actually been the US military's worst enemy.

The course is set for impeachment

Are we willing to take it?

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Academic Freedom Watch: Neocons lay siege to "ivory towers"

Every once in a while the LA Times has something useful, such as this piece on the efforts of David Horowitz and other scum to transform universities into something remarkably akin to the academic environment found in Germany under the Nazi regime or Russia under the Stalin regime:
In the months ahead, the state Senate Committee on Education will consider a bill that pretends to strike a blow for intellectual honesty, truth and freedom, but in reality poses a profound threat to academic freedom in the United States.

Peddled under the benign name "An Academic Bill of Rights," SB 5 is in fact part of a wide assault on universities, professors and teaching across the country. Similar bills are pending in more than a dozen state legislatures and at the federal level, all calling for government intrusion into pedagogical matters, such as text assignments and course syllabuses, that neither legislators nor bureaucrats are competent to address.

[…]

The real purpose of the bill, then, is not to provide students with "rights" but to institute state monitoring of universities, to impose specific points of view on instructors — in many cases, points of view that have been intellectually discredited — and ultimately to silence dissenting voices by punishing universities that protect them.

"Why should we, as fairly moderate to conservative legislators, continue to support universities that turn out students who rail against the very policies their parents voted us in for?" asks the Republican sponsor of the Ohio version of the bill.

Backers of the Florida bill would like to empower students to sue professors with whom they disagree on the theory of evolution.

The campaign for academic "rights" actually originated with organizations and individuals committed to defending Israel from criticism, and whose interest in curtailing academic freedom dovetails with those of conservatives.

[…]

All the proposed bills before state legislatures are variants of a text written by Horowitz and backed by Students for Academic Freedom, which maintains a website where students can complain about their instructors' supposed bias.

The problem with all this is that the university is meant to be an insular environment. Those within its walls are supposed to be protected from outside political pressures so that learning can take place.

But the lesson of the recent upheavals at Columbia University — where an individual professor became the object of a concerted campaign of intimidation because of his criticisms of Israel — is that pressure groups targeting an individual professor for his public views are willing to inflict collateral damage on an entire university. What the new legislation offers such groups is the opportunity to inflict damage preemptively on our entire educational system.

Despite its narrow defeat in the California Senate Education Committee last week, SB 5's supporters clearly will not disappear quietly. If this and similar bills pass, who gets hired and what gets taught could be decided not according to academic and intellectual criteria but by pressure groups, many of whose members are failed academics driven by crassly political motivations. Society would pay the price.Link

From the "It's deja-vu all over again" Department:

After one of the bloodiest weeks in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, US military officials have claimed that the dramatic upsurge in violence is proof they are close to breaking up the terrorist network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In the last nine days, about 250 Iraqis - mostly from the country's fledgling security services - have died in a series of suicide bombings which continued yesterday when two car bombs killed 22, including two Americans, at one of Baghdad's busiest road junctions.

Despite the escalating violence, American officials this weekend took the unusual step of announcing that the bloodshed was the insurgents' response to the headway they claim they are making in breaking up the terror networks. Link

Failure is evidence of Dear Leader's glorious success.