Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saturday Thought Piece: Reproductive Rights Edition

Jane Crow - Spreading Oppression's Black Wings

A country is only as truly free as its women are free. A people are only truly civilized if their mothers, their sisters, their daughters and grandmothers and nieces and great grandmothers and girlbabies not-yet-born are free and equal and enabled to create their own lives, their own futures. It’s plain, in these days of creepy theocracy and corporate corruption, of a Republican regime that feeds on misogyny and fear, that this country is backsliding, reversing so many of the gains made over the years. Jane Crow is back, as budget cuts and superstition replace openness and decency. Moiv highlights a letter at Our Word, written by a Texan named Tanya confronted by the anti-woman policies enacted by the oppressive Republican legislature in Texas:

Why Tanya cried

The email quoted below already has been forwarded to Texas State Senators Tommy Williams (a banker) and Bob Deuell (a physician)—the two men primarily responsible for compromising poor women’s access to family planning and primary health screening in this state by funneling $5,000,000 previously designated for those vitally important services into a campaign to promote and expand the dubious practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

The state’s Health and Human Services Commission tells us that this is a good thing, because “the active promotion of childbirth” is the official policy of the State of Texas. That the women affected by this policy might not want to bear children in the service of the state is not an official concern.

That letter:

so,
this morning i dragged myself out of bed before dawn to be at planned parenthood at 730 and wait in the freezing morning shade until 9 for my
annual exam. at 930, myself and the 25 other women(of color.of course)grumbled in solidarity and confusion, wondering why we were still waiting and shivering. finally an employee opened the doors and coralled us inside just to inform us that there would be no walk-in exams today.or tomorrow.or ever. are you kidding me? i thought. nope.no joke. turns out the good ol
boys at the texas state legislature cut pp’s funding by 40% last friday. i stood in the office stunned while 3 mothers began to cry. another women, at least 65 years old, turned to me and asked, “que dijo?” what did she say? as i tried to explain what i still didnt understand, i began to feel my anger swell. overnight one of the safest, most reliable, most critical social services vanished. all patients over 24 years old have to seek new clinics, all birth control now costs $25/month, all annuals $125, all pregnancy tests $30. i stood waiting for the chance of one more pack of birth control pills, asking questions answered with shrugs and apologies, watching faces full of exasperation. when my name was called i tried again to get more information, but the fact was clear and simple; accessible family planning and women’s reproductive rights are not a priority. i left with a pack of pills after giving all my $35, sat in my car and cried.

here’s the kicker. texas lawmakers are promoting crisis pregnancy centers instead. that’s right, slash funding for sexual health and preventive services and create crisis centers. this whole freakin country is a crisis center. i want to see those lawmakers walk into clinics all over this state and have the guts to tell a room full of women, “sorry, go home and buy condoms” or “sorry, god willed those children and you’re on your own to figure out the rest”. i want them to watch women lose the thread of hope they were gripping.

so now what? write letters and make phone calls? i dont think so. the truth is i dont know what to do. i do know nothing will be done if people dont know. so in my emotional, reactionary state, that’s what i am trying to do.

i’m fighting hard to keep my faith.

thanks for reading,
-tanya

THIS IS HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES.
Other blogs to check out: Our Word, Media Girl, and What She Said. As long as I can draw a breath, I will continue to assert that a threat to the civil liberties of one person or group is a threat to the civil liberties of all.

Keeping Up With the GOP Scandal News

Not only is Tony Rudy close to copping a plea, but check out the veritable flood of Abramoff scandal stories:

The Abramoff scandal is growing so fast and in so many directions that it is getting hard to track all the new developments.

Here are some of the recent highlights and oddities:

  • Adam Kidan pleaded guilty in the Sun Cruz case and agreed to testify against Team Abramoff and his GOP pals. Kidan has worked with Jack since their College GOP days and the Saipan Tribune reported on their visits to Saipan and plans for an international fleet of gambling ships (and floating Money Laundromats).

  • George W. Bush is interviewed by Brit Hume and tells two Abramoff lies in one short answer.

  • The Austin America Statesman reports that charitable contributions Abramoff claimed he made were never sent to the charities. The article connects the missing donations to a Tom DeLay charity scam for the GOP Convention. Perhaps Scanlon or Rudy will walk prosecutors through this transaction and all of Tom and Jack's "charity" work.

  • Asia Week is out with a story on Susan Ralston and her connection to the CIA Leak investigation. It oddly omits her connections to Abramoff.

  • Gannett News Service reports on the recent Nightline report about Congressman Ney and his ties to Abramoff. The focus is on Texas political consultant Marc Schwartz allegation that Ney took bribes in 2002.

  • Business Week reports on Abramoff's successful efforts to buy conservative columnists since at least 1997. Josh Marshall weighs in with more details, as does the The Plank and The NYTs.

  • Ralph Reed now regrets taking Jack's money and is talking about it as the scandal is hurting his run for Lt. Governor in Georgia. No word yet on is he's decided to give the Millions of dollars he got in the swindle back to the Tribes.

  • Meanwhile the pressure is growing on Jack's GOP pals to give back money he poured into their coffers. Rep. Pombo will match the $7,000 Jack gave him directly and give it to charity in the hopes that nobody will notice all of the other Abramoff-related money. And Conrad Burns has flip-flopped. Two days ago he wasn't giving any of t he $150,000 back. Now he'll match the amount as a charitable donation, in the hope that nobody will notice what he did for the money. It might not be working The Missoulian today, called for Burns to step down and not run for re-election.

  • Overseas, the scandal is also making news. The Telegraph reports that the scandal is a political storm that will hit at the heart of the Right. And a story out of India on the Top financial scandals that rocked the world makes a connection between Jack, Iran-Contra, the Duke Scandal and Cocaine sales in the 1980s. Normally that might be tin foil hat time, but as this scandal grows it is beginning to seem that almost anything might be possible.
GOP corruption. The gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Thought Piece

Courtesy of Mickey Z, who wonders what a steel cage match between Tookie Williams (founder of the Crips) and Allen Dulles (founder of the CIA) would be like.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Filibuster of Patriot Act a Distinct Probability

According to the AssPress, Sen. Feingold now has the numbers on his side:
In Congress, where numbers are everything, the math on the Patriot Act suddenly seems to be moving in favor of Sen. Russell Feingold.

He was a minority of one four years ago, when he cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens. Ninety-nine senators disagreed.

Now add more than two dozen senators to Feingold's side, including the leaders of his party and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, and the balance of power shifts.

The new Senate arithmetic that emerged this week is enough to place the renewal of major portions of the law in doubt. It was enough to inspire Senate Republican leaders to consider a backup plan in case Feingold's filibuster threat succeeded. Enough to prompt President Bush to dispatch Attorney General Roberto Gonzales to Capitol Hill twice in two days to lobby on the accord's behalf.

[...]

Moments later, the senior Democrat on the issue, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters that more than 40 votes exist to sustain a filibuster in a test vote Friday. White House allies said they would rather see the law's 16 temporary provisions expire entirely than give opponents another three months or more to keep whittling away at them.

Feingold, D-Wis., finds himself with some unlikely allies, including the Christian Defense Coalition. Notably, the National Rifle Association has not endorsed the Patriot Act renewal that was personally negotiated by Vice President Dick Cheney. The NRA's non-position allows its supporters in the Senate to oppose renewing the law in its entirety.

"Folks, when we're dealing with civil liberties, you don't compromise them," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, an NRA board member.

[...]

The opposition that began with Feingold's one vote has bloomed into a bloc of Democrats and Republicans concerned about a range of powers the original act gave the FBI, and how they are used. This group prefers the curbs on government power passed by the Senate but rejected in a compromise with the House. Now, faced with an up-or-down vote on the accord, they say no.

This I hope is a turning point for those of us who care about civil liberties. If nothing else, organizations like the ACLU and NRA are important civil liberties watchdogs. That the NRA, which usually goes along with the GOP is remaining silent on the Patriot Act renewal is telling: these cats understand (I hope) that a threat to civil liberties in one area are threats to all.

Mythological Locations

FYI, A Violently Executed Blog has been running a series of mythological locations from A to Z. One of my favorites so far: L is for Libertatia.
The pirate republic of Libertatia did not die. The physical space it occupied was destroyed, but its spirit, its soul, lives on.

As the black fleet controlled by the Illuminati closed in, Captain Tew and Father Caraccioli dispersed the citizens, urging them to go underground, to spread their love of freedom and hatred of authority.

The American Revolution was Libertatian, as was the French. The Cubist revolt was inspired by a Libertatian, and Pablo Picasso was one of their brightest lights. Rock'n'roll? Libertatian. The Summer of Love, punk rock and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Yep.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to wake you up. You, and everyone else in the world, need to know that we have it within us to throw off the chains holding us down.

Smash the cubicle walls! Throw your TV out the window! Punch your manager in the face!

It's not too late to rebuild Libertatia, to give the world once again a shining beacon of freedom and self-reliance.

I'll be right there with you, just as soon as Survivor is over.
Check out the others - nothing like a bit of thought-provoking humor to start the day.

And even though it is Thursday

Mickey Z's Wednesday with Ward (and much more) is well worth checking out.

One from the mailbag:

Bush, Biden, and Weasel Words:
Yet, had the Prezi-didn't watched Charlie Rose's show on PBS last night he would have been pleased to hear Senator Joe Biden offer him yet another out. Biden placed all the blame for any mistakes in Iraq squarely on the heads of Rumsfeld and Cheney - telling Charlie Rose that neither of them had ever proven correct in their advice or predictions (no rose-petals, no WMD, no last corners, the army we have etc. etc.) and should be fired. He then went on, unbelievably, to say that he personally liked George Bush and still hoped that he could shake of his bad advisors and be the great President he had the potential to be. I am hoping that Media Matters will obtain the footage of this remarkable weaseling, to be preserved for posterity.

Biden obviously doesn't give a crap about Bush's tax cuts for the rich while cutting services for the poor. He doesn't care about the meltdown of America's healthcare system over which Bush has presided. He obviously doesn't care at all about the National Guardsmen arriving home from Iraq who get caught by the changes to the bankruptcy system he sponsored. Nor does he care about the many different ways in which Bush has personally enabled the extremist mullahs of the religious right and the rape of everything from the environment to worker's pensions by the corporate right.

And one just from checking out blogtopia regarding a possible challenge another Vichy Dem as the 2006 election season looms - Joementum Lieberman:
Radio host Colin McEnroe spent more than two hours with former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker (I) in his studio yesterday and believes he knows more about "where his head is at" about a possible challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) than fellow pundits.

Key observations:
  • "If he runs against Lieberman at all, he will not do so as a Democrat seeking a primary, even though it makes intuitive political sense to do so... it's almost impossible to overstate the degree to which, psychologically, Weicker has identified himself as a third party, independent guy."
  • "Weicker is also prepared to remove his name from speculation if someone, from any party, will step forward and mount a substantial challenge to Lieberman based on the latter's war politics."
  • "Weicker knows the odds are long... He admits that losing to Lieberman is a greater probability than winning."
  • "Weicker brushed off the talk about Lieberman replacing Rumsfeld." Bush only wants "his guys" in the room with him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bu$hCo to US Poor: "Eat or Heat"

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has denied requests from five states to increase food stamps for low-income families facing higher heating bills this winter.

Maine, New York, Kansas, Virginia and South Carolina sought to raise monthly food stamp allotments by projecting what families will pay to heat their homes. The increases would have ranged from $8 to about $30 a month for families who pay their own utility bills.

State officials and advocates for the poor said the decision will make it hard for needy families to afford both heat and food. The Energy Department has forecast 25% average increases in heating bills this winter. Research shows that when utility bills rise, some poor families reduce food purchases.

Robert Greenstein, director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said federal food stamp law says benefits should reflect current costs. "It's effectively cheating low-income families," he said. If the five states' requests had been approved, many others would have followed, he said.

Nerdified link
Hat tip to boran2. Just keep in mind that there are plenty of folks in desparate straits this winter season. I can imagine that there will be more malnourished children as an outcome. More expectant moms who have to cut corners in terms of feeding themselves and their fetuses (you know, the only entity that supposedly matters to the so-called "culture of life" crowd). To take a line from James Blood Ulmer, "are you glad to be in America?"

We Are a Freedom Loving People

US Ranks Sixth among Countries Jailing Journalists, Report Says

Is the Pentagon Spying on Americans?

Something you might have missed

A person by the handle DianeL has been posting a series of diaries on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that are worth a look. The series seems to be updated at irregular intervals, but does provide a useful chronicle of an ongoing tragic situation:
The Missing and the Dead? Part I
The Missing and the Dead Part II
The Missing and the Dead Part III
The Missing and the Dead Part IV
The Missing and the Dead Part V
The Missing and the Dead Part VI (a continuing archive)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Entire western world complicit in kidnapping and torture

Paul Craig Roberts is a conservative from the old school. Here's just a bit of his most recent commentary:

Some Americans, horrified at what the Bush administration has done to their country, took hope in Europe's uproar over Bush's rendition/torture policy. Alas, European governments were shedding crocodile tears for show purposes only.

On December 11 the Telegraph (UK) reported on a European Union document in its possession that summarizes an EU-US meeting in Athens Greece on January 22, 2003 in which the EU agreed to "co-operation in removals." The Telegraph reports that "EU officials confirmed that a full account was circulated to all member governments."

So we have the entire Western world complicit in kidnapping and torture. The entire non-Western world surely notices the unbridgeable gap between the Bush administration's immoral practices and Bush's moral posturing about "freedom and democracy." The prestige of the Western world is gone forever.

The prestige of the Western world rested on a myth (I'm using the term partly in the pejorative sense) that its governments and leaders, and of course its populace, were civilized. Of course, civilized folks don't torture, enslave, or commit genocide either - and regrettably the Western world (basically Western Europe and the US) has a long history of expertise in such practices. The dirty little secret is that a good proportion of the rest of humanity had long ago figured that out.

Why does the Pope hate Christmas?

Looks like Bill O'Reilly has a new enemy to battle in that now legendary epic struggle known as the "War Against Christmas." And that enemy is none other than the Pope:
"'In today's consumer society, this time [of the year] is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate,' the pope said in his traditional Sunday blessing.

"'Assembling the Nativity scene in the home can turn out to be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith to pass it on to one's children,' Benedict added.

"'The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."
A religious leader extolling poverty and simplicity during the holiest of shopping seasons? How long before the FauxNews addled dittoheads declare the Pope to be the Antichrist? Even more damning is his call to abolish the death penalty, torture, and nukes. So, when's Bu$hCo going to invade the Vatican?

Hat tip to Left I on the News.

Fifth Anniversary: National Failure Day

America woke up to the post-constitutional reality of Bush v Gore. Albert Gore conceded the election, and the world, caught like a deer in the headlights, looked on at the oncoming noise show, filled with lights, marching bands and loud crashes.

It is a day that people will not celeberate, the real control over America did not begin until much later, with the transformation of the 9/11 attacks into our Reichstag fire - I called it that on the 12th of September 2001, I don't know how many other people did, or have since then.

[...]

The distance we have travelled in those five years is both enormous and very small. The United States has politically decided that it wants to be corrupt banana republic, with a corrupt government funnelling out corrupt pork and projects, and borrowing the money from its children and grandchildren. America has had a mcMansion boom, and an explosion of inflation wagons. America has allowed the internet economy to slow to a crawl, and engages in spit swapping mergers and acquisitions instead of investment.

We have experienced the 1920's all over again, it looks good from the center, but in reality the economy has moved in fits and halts, with a long recession, or a double dip recession - the world won't know the real numbers their either - becoming a debt fueled boom. The difference between Harding-Coolidge and Bush is that Harding and Coolidge were smart enough to not get involved in a knock down drag out war.

Real wages are falling, and "middle class inflation" - for health care, education and housing - is pressing families from all sides. It is only destined to get worse, as the only way to solve our budget crisis now is either to eliminate medicaid except for its use as a "nursing home benefit", or to go to a national health care system. Since Americans are still convinced that the way to lose weight is to shoot yourself in the foot, we are likely to see a series of "easings" of medical benefits from the public, and a rising tied of sickness and poverty.

Politically we have seen the end of bipartisanship and the beginning of "buy-partisanship". We have a one party state, one that corrupts everything to be an electoral arm of the party. Nothing is too small to become an organ of propaganda. Which means that everything has become suspect. Years ago I would believe that departments would cook the books covertly - even if they might make overt decisions that supported policy. With Iraq intelligence, and the gentle simmering of economic numbers, including job and inflation numbers - I can no longer deny other accusations categorically.

If these seem like wonkish complaints, cold blooded compared to accusations of torture, or battle cries of liberty and justice, it is because it is this fabric of how the government runs is the substance of liberty and justice. Moreover, as a part of the road to the downfall of the old order, this was the day when cooked numbers were given legal standing, and that legal standing was acknowledged. In Medieval wars, the loser, if he survived, often had to kneel and swear fealty to the victor. This is the fifth anniversary of Al Gore kneeling to George W. Bush. It is why I cannot in good conscience support Gore for anything, no leader of any kind would bend his knee to King George.

Nerdified Link

Seems we have too many national days of mourning. This day is yet another. It is a time when I hope a few thoughtful individuals will take stock at what the US has become, and ask the tough questions of how to proceed, now that what is left of the old Constitutional Republic is effectively brain dead. I don't advocate a return to some glorious past that probably existed largely in mythology, but rather to move forward in a more humane and populist direction, one in which public servants are not treated as rulers and cronies beholden to corporate PACs but as truly public servants who are accountable to those whose taxes sign their paychecks.

One thousand days of war

$204.4 billion: The cost to the U.S of the war so far.

2,339: Allied troops killed

15,955: US troops wounded in action

98: U.K troops killed

30,000 : Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths

0: Number of WMDs found

66: Journalists killed in Iraq.

63: Journalists killed during Vietnam war

8: per cent of Iraqi children suffering acute malnutrition

53,470: Iraqi insurgents killed

67: per cent Iraqis who feel less secure because of occupation

$343: Average monthly salary for an Iraqi soldier. Average monthly salary for an American soldier in Iraq: $4,160.75

5: foreign civilians kidnapped per month

47: per cent Iraqis who never have enough electricity

20: casualties per month from unexploded mines

25-40: per cent Estimated unemployment rate, Nov 2005

251: Foreigners kidnapped

70: per cent of Iraqi's whose sewage system rarely works

183,000: British and American troops are still in action in Iraq.

13,000: from other nations

90: Daily attacks by insurgents in Nov '05. In Jun '03: 8

60-80: per cent Iraqis who are "strongly opposed" to presence of coalition troops

Nerdified link
The Independent has plenty of other articles and columns to commemorate this day:

Patrick Cockburn - Iraq: 1,000 days of war

Ann Penketh - A war and its fearsome consequences: How the world has changed post-Iraq

Kim Singupta - 'It's an awful way to exist, without hope... We've gained nothing but endless deaths'

Favorite blog headline: Serial Killer Confesses to 30,000 Murders; Receives Applause

Monday, December 12, 2005

On a related note

Check out No Redemption in a "Christian" Nation. Subtitled, "No quarter, no mercy, no second chances." Then compare and contrast George W. Bush and the teachings of Jesus.

Quotable: Nobel Lecture Edition

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

My emphasis added. The preceding was from Harold Pinter's very scathing Nobel Lecture. It is to say the least an intense read. Some more to whet the appetite:
The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

One rarely finds mention in the mass media. Certainly one rarely reads about such atrocities in history textbooks either in high school or college. If the topic is broached at all, it is in the context of a graduate-level seminar, I suppose. But the truth is out there, and as the saying goes, the truth shall set you free.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.
Just trust us. Everything will be just fine. Phrases like "the American people" give the air of consensus, although in truth such consensus may not exist. Don't even get me started on terms like "freedom" and "democracy" which in the context of defending US policies have a different meaning than most of us would give those terms. As Wittgenstein might have said, it's a good idea to know the rules of the language games that our government employs in order to truly understand what they are saying.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.
We're largely desensitized to violence. We see it all the time. We play video games where we too can be murderers and tortures - at least in a virtual reality. We've been fed plenty of propaganda about the so-called savages who populate the Middle East and Central Asia, and about the supposed danger that practitioners of Islam pose. They've been dehumanized with such terms as "camel jockeys," "sand niggers," and "hadjis," much in the same way that a previous generation used terms like "gooks" as part of an effort to dehumanize another set of human beings on another part of the globe. Same act, different scene.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
It's part of my value system to believe that nothing good comes out of lying. Contrary to the neoconmen who have been hell-bent to run the show in DC, there is no such thing as "the noble lie." Some lies are more egregious than others, and I would offer that the pack of lies that has led to over 2100 US deaths, somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqi deaths, and countless thousands of others permanently maimed and all psychologically damaged is particularly egregious. We all will be paying a hefty price for what has gone down these last two and a half years and counting.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.
That tells you all you need to know about the elites who perpetrated this war.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.
We mustn't get "dirty" or worry our "beautiful minds" with such matters, eh?

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.
That is the sad truth. The dead are not only transported under a veil of darkness, but they are transported as freight. That's how Uncle Sam honors its dead. That is something that should disgust us all.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

That pretty well sums it up (my emphasis added). The seeds of discontent have merely begun to sprout.

Hat tip to historicalfootnotes.

Geysers in Oklahoma

KINGFISHER, Okla. (AP) _ An outbreak of geysers spewing mud and gas into the air in rural Kingfisher County is puzzling state and local officials.

Kingfisher Fire Chief John Crawford says initial reports of the geysers came in Friday morning, and that firefighters and Oklahoma Corporation Commission officials were on the scene yesterday.

The geysers have appeared throughout the countryside of rural Kingfisher, with stretches of up to 12 miles between spots, and some as short as a quarter of a mile.

Crawford says the threat of the gas igniting is unlikely, but he says there is a concern the gas could begin coming up through water-well lines.

He says sheriff's deputies were dispatched to inform residents of the possibility of gas coming through wells and water systems.
Here's a video from News 9 in OKC. I'm curious about what would be causing them, and how far the geysers will spread. From the video it appears as the town of Kingfisher is likely to have some geysers spring up within town limits.

Quotable: NOLA Edition

First from an NYT editorial:

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.
Duranta writes a moving account of her time at the recent Hurricane Relief march in NOLA, and includes among other things a chilling warning:

I saw my new Creole friend Veda, a fiercely intelligent and outspoken woman who clued me into grant monies that are available through the SBA, for renters and homeowners to replace their belongings that were lost in the storm. The SBA, the financial arm of FEMA, is being very quiet about these funds, and their availability will expire January 7th.

What will also expire January 7th is FEMA funds for evacuees staying in hotels across the country, so I expect that some kind of aberrant phenomena will occur on that day, as it seems to be a magic number for FEMA to deny help to people.


As well as an amusing observation by some cat named Malik:
"Only in New Orleans do you dance at protests."
And this:
Have Hurricane Katrina's '15 minutes' ended? Me thinks NOT! With literally thousands of people still living in TENTS in the cold weather many Katrina survivors are looking at a bleak Christmas this year. So I have been trying to think of a way to do my part to help and so that is why I created WWW.KATRINASANTA.COM

The idea is to connect Katrina victims with those who would like to help out. We have already identified over 80 children in need in Hancock County, Ms. and are in the process of searching for more. Of course once we can get addresses/gift requests for those people we will need some KATRINA SANTA's to help out.

I have people helping to find the names/addresses/gift requests for those in need so now I need help spreading the word via the MEDIA i.e. that is why I am contacting YOU.

Please, I can assure you that words do not do justice to what is happening down here in the aftermath of Katrina and so I would emplore you to help fulfill the requests of these Americans in need so they can at least have one day of hope i.e. a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Keep spreading the word.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Penis scalpels, leather strappados, enemas - CIA and MI6 torture

A sickening story to say the least:

MI6 and CIA 'sent student to Morocco to be tortured

An Ethiopian claims that his confession to al-Qaeda bomb plot was signed after being tortured in a Moroccan jail and claims torturers used scalpel on his chest and penis as he was hung, 'strappado' from his wrists from the ceiling. The British government and CIA are now facing complicity in the affair due to the Extraordinary Rendition program.

Agencies said he was part of a plot to buy uranium in Asia, bring it to the US and build a 'dirty bomb' in league with Jose Padilla, a US citizen. Funny enough, now that the torture allegations used against Mohammed came out, the claims against Padilla were subsequently dropped. He now faces a civil charge of supporting al-Qaeda financially.

He was stripped naked, photographed, given an enema and put on a plane with shackles, earphones and a blindfold.

[....]

Word is leaking now that the EU has known and allowed the CIA to tour Europe with their enema bags, black costumes and leather for several years - snatching those deemed 'terrorists' and hauling them off to torture dens in a string of countries around the world -or even just getting 'rid' of them as Bush alluded to in his 2003 SOTU speech.

This was vividly demonstrated in one of the revolting scenes in recent American history: Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, delivered to Congress and televised nationwide during the final frenzy of war-drum beating before the assault on Iraq. Trumpeting his successes in the Terror War, Bush claimed that "more than 3,000 suspected terrorists" had been arrested worldwide – "and many others have met a different fate." His face then took on the characteristic leer, the strange, sickly half-smile it acquires whenever he speaks of killing people: "Let's put it this way. They are no longer a problem."

Nerdified Link
I'm in the process of applying some social psychological theory to our understanding of extreme violence, such as torture. Certainly, there are a number of us in the field who are trying to get our heads around this truly sickening phenomenon: Phil Zimbardo, Mika Harito-Fatouros, Martha Huggins, and Craig Anderson would come to mind most immediately among my contemporaries. Mainly, I find myself drawing heavily from Anderson's General Aggression Model, which I'll refer to and flesh out in more detail in the coming weeks. When we ask ourselves how people can come to torture others, for example, we must necessarily track down the various potential causes. The General Aggression Model lays out numerous antecedents, including distal and proximate causes. For now, I'll just mention some distal causes, and we'll work our way forward from there. Distal causes are ones that make up the social and cultural background in which violence may fester. A society with a long history of acceptance of torture would be one of those distal causes - certainly there's good reason to believe that such acceptance has been to varying degrees part of the European and American Zeitgeist for centuries. Propaganda is another distal factor: look at the way that people of Arab and Persian descent are portrayed in the mass media, in the news, etc. Think too about how the religion of Islam is portrayed. Too often, these individuals and their faith are portrayed as brutal, savage, violent, and as a threat to "civilization." If you follow enough of the right-wing media organs it's questionable as to whether our friends in the Middle East are even to be considered human. Dehumanization of other peoples and their cultures is a necessary antecedent for torture to occur. Our own mass media culture is one replete with violence: extreme acts of aggression and torture are played out on a regular basis in videogames, movies, and so forth with sufficient frequency as to desensitize individuals to such violence. That same mass media also has a tendency to create a sort of Zeitgeist of paranoia, a tendency to perceive the actions and lifestyles of others as threatening.

As I said, I'll have more later.

Festivus Has an Okie Connection

Talk about learning something new every day. Apparently Festivus is the name of a red wine produced by Oklahoma's Grape Ranch Vineyards (found via Wikipedia). More about my favorite holiday:

The Festivus celebration includes four major components:

  • The Festivus Pole: The Costanzas' tradition begins with a bare aluminum pole, which Frank praises for its "very high strength-to-weight ratio." During Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole is displayed. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is "very low-maintenance," and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting."
  • Festivus Dinner: The Festivus dinner menu is flexible, but it should be filling non-holiday comfort food (no turkey, duck, goose, or ham). The televised dinner featured what may have been meatloaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. (Presumably, an entree in a red sauce is more festive.)
  • The Airing of Grievances: At the Festivus dinner, each participant tells friends and family all of the instances where they disappointed him or her that year.
  • The Feats of Strength: The head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead. Other, imaginative, Feats of Strength have been developed, including washer tossing.
And make sure to include some Oklahoma wine in your Festivus celebration (ideally the aforementioned red wine). It'll go good with the meatloaf!

Sunday Funny



Click the pic for larger image. Hat tip to Disgusted in St Louis.