Saturday, June 3, 2006

Sad? Yes. Shocking? Not really.


Read for yourselves:
Could Haditha be just the tip of the mass grave?

The corpses we have glimpsed, the grainy footage of the cadavers and the dead children; could these be just a few of many? Does the handiwork of the United States' army of the slums go further?

I remember clearly the first suspicions I had that murder most foul might be taking place in our name in Iraq. I was in the Baghdad mortuary, counting corpses, when one of the city's senior medical officials, an old friend, told me of his fears. "Everyone brings bodies here," he said. "But when the Americans bring bodies in, we are instructed that under no circumstances are we ever to do post-mortems. We were given to understand that this had already been done. Sometimes we'd get a piece of paper like this one with a body." And here the man handed me a U.S. military document showing with the hand-drawn outline of a man's body and the words "trauma wounds."

What kind of trauma is now being experienced in Iraq? Just who is doing the mass killing? Who is dumping so many bodies on garbage heaps? After Haditha, we are going to reshape our suspicions.

It's no good saying "a few bad apples." All occupation armies are corrupted. But do they all commit war crimes? The Algerians are still uncovering the mass graves left by the French paras who liquidated whole villages. We know of the rapist-killers of the Russian army in Chechnya.

We have all heard of Bloody Sunday. The Israelis sat and watched while their proxy Lebanese militia butchered and eviscerated its way through 1,700 Palestinians. And of course the words My Lai are now uttered again. Yes, the Nazis were much worse. And the Japanese. And the Croatian Ustashi. But this is us. This is our army. These young soldiers are our representatives in Iraq. And they have innocent blood on their hands.

I suspect part of the problem is that we never really cared about Iraqis, which is why we refused to count their dead. Once the Iraqis turned upon the army of occupation with their roadside bombs and suicide cars, they became Arab "gooks," the evil sub-humans whom the Americans once identified in Vietnam. Get a president to tell us that we are fighting evil and one day we will wake to find that a child has horns, a baby has cloven feet.

Remind yourself these people are Muslims and they can all become little Mohamed Attas. Killing a roomful of civilians is only a step further from all those promiscuous air strikes that we are told kill 'terrorists" but which all too often turn out to be a wedding party or -- as in Afghanistan -- a mixture of "terrorists" and children or, as we are soon to hear, no doubt, "terrorist children."

In a way, we reporters are also to blame. Unable to venture outside Baghdad -- or around Baghdad itself -- Iraq's vastness has fallen under a thick, all-consuming shadow. We might occasionally notice sparks in the night -- a Haditha or two in the desert -- but we remain meekly cataloguing the numbers of "terrorists" supposedly scored in remote corners of Mesopotamia. For fear of the insurgent's knife, we can no longer investigate. And the Americans like it that way.

I think it becomes a habit, this sort of thing. Already the horrors of Abu Ghraib are shrugged away. It was abuse, not torture. And then up pops a junior officer in the United States charged for killing an Iraqi army general by stuffing him upside down in a sleeping bag and sitting on his chest. And again, it gets few headlines. Who cares if another Iraqi bites the dust? Aren't they trying to kill our boys who are out there fighting terror.

For who can be held to account when we regard ourselves as the brightest, the most honorable of creatures, doing endless battle with the killers of Sept. 11 or July 7 because we love our country and our people -- but not other people -- so much. And so we dress ourselves up as Galahads, yes as Crusaders, and we tell those whose countries we invade that we are going to bring them democracy. I can't help wondering today how many of the innocents slaughtered in Haditha took the opportunity to vote in the Iraqi elections -- before their "liberators" murdered them.
Nerdified Link.

Say hello to

Crossing The Line: Life In Occupied Palestine

The blog's description: "This blog is about giving voice to the voiceless in occupied Palestine by myself and other contributing journalists who have seen first-hand the horror of Israeli apartheid."

Racist scapegoating and civilian casualties: Two American traditions we could do without

Here's an alternative history twofer courtesy of Mickey Z. First, the racist scapegoating:
Imagine a time when Mexicans bore the brunt of patriotic (sic) fervor: physically threatened, targeted by legislation, an easy scapegoat for working class frustration. Surely I’m talking about 2006 AmeriKKKa, right? You know…the fascist police state ruled by Nazi Dubya and his cadre of brown shirts who cynically exploit good vs. evil rhetoric in the name of furthering their global agenda.

Well…not so fast. Sorry to disappoint the lesser-evil crowd but this time, I was referring to events that climaxed 63 years ago this week…during the reign of liberal (sic) hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt who cynically exploited good vs. evil rhetoric in the name of furthering his global agenda.

[...]

“In June 1943, the ‘zoot suit’ riots exploded in Los Angeles,” says historian Michael C.C. Adams. “For almost a week, off-duty white enlisted personnel roamed the streets, assaulting Hispanics.”

Mexicans and blacks “were dragged into the streets by soldiers and civilians,” wrote Agel and Glanze, where they were “stripped and beaten.” The response of the Los Angeles city council was positively Bush-like. Rather than address the issues of cheap labor and racism, they made it a misdemeanor to wear a zoot suit.
Next, civilian casaulties:
The Haditha Massacre™ was more than horrific; it was predictable. More than predictable, it was inevitable. Equally horrific, predictable, and inevitable is the devious reporting by the supposedly liberal media. The "alleged" war crimes at Haditha might be the work of a "handful" of Marines who "snapped" and, for those reading between the lines, those Marines are guilty of something far worse than mass murder: They've soiled the pristine, courageous image of the American military in Iraq. As Stan Goff sez: "The bad apple defense is back."

Someone turn down the lights and start the My Lai slide show, please...

The date was March 16, 1968. "Under the command of Lieutenant William L. Calley, Charlie Company of the Americal Division's Eleventh Infantry had 'nebulous orders' from its company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, to 'clean the village out'," explains historian Kenneth C. Davis.

All they found at My Lai were women, children, and old men...no weapons, no signs of enemy soldiers. Calley ordered villagers to be killed and their huts destroyed. Women and girls were raped before they were machine-gunned. By the end of the massacre, hundreds of villagers were dead.

"This was not the only crime against civilians in Vietnam," Davis adds. "It was not uncommon to see GIs use their Zippo lighters to torch an entire village." Indeed, My Lai was not an aberration. On the very same day that Lt. Calley entered into infamy, another U.S. Army company entered My Khe (a sister subhamlet of My Lai) and killed a reported 90 peasants.

[...]

"The My Lai massacre had its predecessor in the Philippines in 1906," says Howard Zinn. "The American army attacked a group of 600 Moros in southern Philippines-men, women, and children living in very primitive conditions, who had no modern weapons. The American army attacked them with modern weapons, wiped out every last one of these 600 men, women, and children." The commanding officer responsible for this war crime received a telegram of congratulations from Theodore Roosevelt.

* * *

"Jane and Joe Sixpack are shocked," writes Ted Rall of the Haditha Massacre™. "Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation and, for once, will probably get one. Political analysts worry that the Haditha massacre could hurt U.S. propaganda efforts even more than the infamous photos of torture at its Abu Ghraib concentration camp."

The Haditha Massacre™ is a PR problem. The Haditha Massacre™ is an opportunity for the Democrats to posture. The Haditha Massacre™ is yet another chance for "Jane and Joe Sixpack" to be reminded that when Iraqi rebels kill a civilian, it's further proof of their inhuman status but when an American soldier commits premeditated murder, it's an anomaly. It takes a whole lotta propaganda to condition a populace to buy into this formula...but as Goff reminds us: "They were not rogues. They were us."
Of course there is more to both articles. Check it out, and realize that it is well past time to think outside the Democrat vs. Republican box.

More signs we live in a dictatorship

-This administration fabricated evidence to engage in a pre-determined illegal war of aggression, and repeatedly lied about both the evidence and its use of it. It attempted to stage a completely phony provocation in order to provide a justification to invade another country

-This administration has placed in key positions of power supporters of a foreign policy that advocates creating global domination of U.S. interests through military might, and has carried out war to effect that end

- This administration has used the most powerful and invasive tools at its disposal - from electronic surveillance to physical searches - to gather information on American citizens on American soil, all without warrants

- This administration has detained unidentified people - including American citizens - for nearly five years, some in undisclosed locations and all without objective third-party inspections, without charge and without access to legal counsel. This administration - including its highest law-enforcement officer - has condoned and used torture of all kinds on these detainees and others it has wrongly imprisoned throughout the world

- This administration has refused to recognize the authority of the Congress and the Constitution, and has openly stated its intention to continue its defiance of the written, well-established law of the land

- This administration has blocked every attempt to investigate its activities, from domestic spying to the activities of American corporations

- This administration has been the beneficiary of two elections decided under - at best - dubious circumstances

- This administration has openly declared its desire to invoke a military response to a potential outbreak of disease in this country

- This administration has pursued policies that benefit certain industries, while maintaining absolute secrecy and no accountability about the provenance of those policies

- This administration has actively supported the demonization of minority groups

- This administration has quashed dissent, from campaign events to political commentary, by using intimidation and demonization

- This administration has illegally spread propaganda in this country in order to further its political agenda

- This administration has threatened reporters and their sources with punishment if they should reveal information about illegal clandestine activities, by citing the need to protect the homeland
Nerdified Link. The trashing of the Constitution started under Clinton has accelerated under Bu$hCo. How to fight this trend? Draw on good old-fashioned American populism and libertarianism in order to frame arguments and to incite action.

A footnote to discussion on "The Dolchstoßlegende"

We see it pop up whenever something goes especially bad with the Iraq war, as I've noted previously. The version of the Dolchstoßlegende that I grew up with of course was the so-called Vietnam Syndrome. Well, now we have talk of "The Iraq Syndrome" emanating from the keyboards of right-wing hardliners. My advice previously still stands: be wary of pundits (or anyone else for that matter) who invoke a Nazi-era rhetorical device aimed at silencing dissenting opinion.

Border Hysteria Unleashing the Hate Groups

No big surprise:
Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and militiamen are revivified by the furor over illegal immigration

Pugnacious anthems and racist diatribes have never been in short supply at Nordic Fest, an annual white-power Woodstock held over the Memorial Day break near the former mining town of Dawson Springs, Ky. And this past weekend was no exception. On the agenda were a Triumph of the Will--themed running event and a cross "lighting" sponsored by the Imperial Klans of America. But something new did arise at Nordic Fest this year: bellicose talk and plans of action against illegal immigrants. Among the scheduled guest speakers was Hal Turner, a New Jersey Internet radio talk-show host who recently instructed his audience to "clean your guns, have plenty of ammunition ... and then do what has to be done" to undocumented workers.

With immigration perhaps America's most volatile issue, a troubling backlash has erupted among its most fervent foes. There are, of course, the Minutemen, the self-appointed border vigilantes who operate in several states. And now groups of militiamen, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are using resentment over the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. as a potent rallying cry. "The immigration furor has been critical to the growth we've seen" in hate groups, says Mark Potok, head of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center counts some 800 racist groups operating in the U.S. today, a 5% spurt in the past year and a 33% jump from 2000. "They think they've found an issue with racial overtones and a real resonance with the American public," says Potok, "and they are exploiting it as effectively as they can."

[...]

In addition to white supremacists, the immigration debate seems to have reinvigorated members of the antigovernment militias of the 1990s. Those groups largely disbanded after the Oklahoma City bombing orchestrated by militia groupie Timothy McVeigh and, later, the failure of a Y2K bug to trigger the mass chaos some militia members expected. "We've seen people from Missouri and Kentucky militias involved in border-vigilante activity, especially with the gung-ho Arizona group Ranch Rescue that used face paint, military uniforms and weapons," says Mark Pitcavage, fact-finding director of the ADL. "It's a natural shift. Militias fell on hard times, and this anti-immigration movement is new and fresh."

David Neiwert, who's been doing yeoman's work on the issue has more to say here - much, much more.

Also worth reading: Broken borders or broken system by Duke1676 of Migra Matters; and the drought of compassion by Man Eegee.

A quick Okie legislative roundup

Now that the state legislature is in a special session because our elected officials couldn't seem to find time to deal with what should have been the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, we have this little gem via Mike at Okiedoke:

Lots of higher income Oklahomans are licking their chops over potential tax cuts being considered in the state legislature’s special session.

Essentially, Oklahoma Democrats want more funding for education and smaller tax cuts targeted to middle-class families. Republicans want larger tax cuts that tend to benefit wealthier taxpayers, and relatively less funding for education.
But many other Oklahomans are not.
The Center on Hunger and Poverty ranks Oklahoma number 1 in the nation for people experiencing hunger.
No big surprise. Look at it this way, the state's Republicans, like Republicans throughout the US, would prefer to keep the bulk of us poor and ignorant, under the belief that hungry people without critical thinking skills will be easier for them to manipulate.

Of course this is also a state in which the pay for educators at both the K-12 level and in higher ed. tends to be ridiculously low compared to similar professionals in other states - something's a bit amiss (and that's an understatement) when your state's educators' families qualify for things like WIC, reduced prices for their kids' meals at school, etc.

So it goes.

With a new election cycle coming up, we also get news that one of our own Okie bloggers is running for a seat in the state's House of Representatives: J. M. Branum as a Green. I like the issues he's running on:
  • Abolition of the death penalty
  • Raising the state minimum wage
  • Eliminating the sales tax
  • Support of alternative transportation
  • Ballot access reform
Those issues are fleshed out here. No doubt the 99th District would get a good representative who would provide a welcome alternative to the usual status quo.

Couldn't happen to a nicer gal

Ann Coulter 'Lawyers Up' to Face Felony Voter Fraud Charges
Paper Reports GOP Extremist/Pundit Retains Bush Law Firm to Fight Allegations in Palm Beach

Palm Peach Post columnist, Jose Lambiet gets another scoop in the ongoing saga of Ann Coulter's apparent vote fraud felony down in Palm Beach.

Lambiet reports today that Coulter is now lawyering up to fight the charges that she knowingly registered to vote in Florida at the wrong residence (using her real estate agent's address). That, despite signing an "oath" on the registration form swearing to the truth of the information provided.

After committing what then appears to be Step One of a felony charge that could bring her a $5,000 fine and 5 years in prison (as she agreed she understood on the form when she signed it), she then went on to vote in an election last February and was told she was registered elsewhere and needed to change her address. Instead of doing so, she hurriedly left the precinct without changing her information, and apparently went on to illegally vote at the precinct where she was fraudulently registered.
Nerdified Link.

As Brad notes, she is a Republican and this is Florida that we're talking about, so it's not entirely clear that the usual rules apply. Her position as a GOP Court Jester and all-around inciter of skinheads and similar slime in this day and age probably keeps her safely "beyond the reach" of laws that would affect us mere mortals.

Yes, US reporting from Iraq is truly pathetic

New York, June 1, 2006 — As events in Iraq continue to slip from bad to worse, the good news brigade is scrambling for new stories— - ‘anything, give me anything’ - to shore up what’s left of public support for a bloody war without end.

As some feared and many predicted, the war hovers over our politics and the president who “brought it on.” He is, as the journalist Sid Blumenthal puts it, stuck in a “paradigm” of his own making. The operative word is the title and refrain of an early Springsteen song: “TRAPPED.”

Another tipping point seems to have tipped.

Fear and exhaustion are evident in our TV newsrooms, along with a continuing failure to recognize what is going on. The lack of insight is stunning; the quality of most of the news, pathetic.

Even CBS’s brave Kimberly Dozier—may she fully recover—was not only embedded in practice with the U.S. military when she was wounded and her crew killed, but she seemed embedded mentally, seeking out a ‘feel good’ story to cheer the home front that the Bush Administration wants so badly to stay the course of his “long war.”

[...]

Journalists like Dahr Jamail have been calling attention to many massacres that have gone mostly unreported—even when U.S. journalists were there, like at Fallujah, which was played up for its drama and gun battles, but never fully contextualized or focused on the vast civilian casualties.

When atrocities occur, they are invariably described as “mistakes,” rarely crimes. What this means is that many media organizations are acting as accessories. War crimes often lead to media crimes and vice versa.

[...]

Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "It's clear that what happened in Haditha is a war crime. It would be idle to think this is the first war crime that has been committed in the last three years. It must be assumed that more of this is going on." (Raymond Whitaker, 'The massacre and the Marines,' Independent on Sunday, May 28, 2006)

So there you have the kind of discussion ignored in most of the U.S. Press. While Press organizations stand by their colleagues—as we should—they rarely call them and their news organizations to account for what they do—and do not do.

The Bush Administration fears that the reaction to the gore of the Haditha massacre will mark a turning point, not just a tipping point, in support for the war. Let’s hope that they are right.
Nerdified Link.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Quotable: Presidential Selection Edition

...the single most significant matter to be addressed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s article in Rolling Stone, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" is summed up by this excerpt of the report referring to an interview with MsNBC News Anchor, Keith Olbermann:

The lone news anchor who seriously questioned the integrity of the 2004 election was Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. I asked him why he stood against the tide. "I was a sports reporter, so I was used to dealing with numbers," he said. "And the numbers made no sense. Kerry had an insurmountable lead in the exit polls on Election Night -- and then everything flipped." Olbermann believes that his journalistic colleagues fell down on the job. "I was stunned by the lack of interest by investigative reporters," he said. "The Republicans shut down Warren County, allegedly for national security purposes -- and no one covered it. Shouldn't someone have sent a camera and a few reporters out there?"

Olbermann attributes the lack of coverage to self-censorship by journalists. "You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble," he said. "You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our electoral system."

Nerdified Link. Any pretensions of promoting "democracy" abroad which are already absurd to begin with become all the more absurd when we realize we cannot trust the soundness of our own elections. It is critical that there are independent monitors present for the next round of elections in order to make sure that the sorts of shenanigans that went on in 2000 & 2004 do not happen again. Otherwise, we're stuck having to contemplate once more what Patrick Henry meant by "Give me liberty or give me death" or the more blunt formulation by Malcom X ("the ballot or the bullet").

This is an anti-torture blog

Would have never guessed, eh? You might have noticed a new set of additions to my blogroll courtesy of Bloggers Against Torture, which is spreading the word about Torture Awareness Month (which is, coincidentally, this month!). I've blogged pretty extensively on torture, and also have at least one paper on the topic published in a peer reviewed journal so far. One thing I try to do is to apply basic theory on human aggression and violence to the understanding of the psychological underpinnings of torture. It is my hope that as we gain a fuller understanding of the antecedents of torture, we can more effectively prevent its occurrence. As an advocate and activist, I also add my voice among others who are against the use of torture on both moral and practical grounds.

Although I expect to have some new material ready for this blog as the month progresses (including a review of a book I read recently), for now I thought I'd point you to some of what I've written here previously.

First, the latest series of writings: Some Tentative Thoughts on Torture and Genocide, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

An earlier post that serves as a precursor to the above series.

Death Penalty = Torture.

You can also read about The Human Face of the Torture Victim.

Some thoughts on Why the Abu Ghraib Pictures are Important.

I also like to give props to those rare US politicians who actually try to do the right thing regarding our government's scandalous human rights abuses - for example John Conyers.

That's just a very small sampling, but should give you an idea. I've also written from time to time on this topic over at American Samizdat, Booman Tribune, and the (hopefully only temporarily defunct) Progressive Bloggers Alliance Headquarters.

Stay tuned. There is more to come.

Yet another Iraq massacre

If Haditha, as well as word of other civilian murders along similar lines weren't enough, BBC has uncovered a videotape of US troops committing a similar war crime in Ishaqi:
The BBC has uncovered new video evidence that US forces may have been responsible for the deliberate killing of 11 innocent Iraqi civilians.

The video appears to challenge the US military's account of events that took place in the town of Ishaqi in March.

The US said at the time four people died during a military operation, but Iraqi police claimed that US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people.

A spokesman for US forces in Iraq told the BBC an inquiry was under way.

The new evidence comes in the wake of the alleged massacre in Haditha, where US marines are suspected of killing up to 24 Iraqi civilians in November 2005 and covering up the deaths.

[...]

But a report filed by Iraqi police accused US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people in the house, including five children and four women, before blowing up the building.

The video tape obtained by the BBC shows a number of dead adults and children at the site with what our world affairs editor John Simpson says were clearly gunshot wounds.
It appears legit according to the report. I'm sure this will have the "true believers" invoking Dolchstoßlegende once more.

Droppin' some Lao Tzu on yo ass

Nerdified Link.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Stupid quote of the week (so far)

...the left will try use Haditha as it used My Lai thirty years ago: as a political tool to take apart America's support for the war and to shatter the legitimacy of our cause and the morale of our troops.
Nerdified Link.

First, it's hard to shatter the "legitimacy" of a "cause" that had none to begin with. Wars that are started based on politicians' chicanery tend to lack that element of legitimacy. We can do away with that assumption from the get-go. One might certainly note that a war of the sort that the US is fighting in Iraq, as was the case with Vietnam, is one in which there is a great deal of civilian casualties. It may be all but inevitable that there will be innocent victims when such wars are fought. It is however, equally notable that the casualties in this war were quite preventable, as the war itself needn't to have been fought - true believers in the "cause" won't hear of such a thing, but then again, as we've seen time and time again there would be no way to discuss the matter with them period. Bu$hCo wanted the war, and if Bu$hCo wanted it, that's good enough for them.

Not only is the assumption upon which that quote is based bogus, but the technique behind the quote is equally suspect. I've written about The Dolchstoßlegende technique before, as it's one that the GOP and its Vichy Dem collaborators have been quite fond of using. Perhaps a quick refresher is in order:
The Dolchstoßlegende or Dolchstosslegende, (German "dagger-thrust legend", often translated in English as "stab-in-the-back legend") refers to a social mythos and persecution-propaganda and belief among bitter post-World War I German nationalists, that lay blame for the loss of the war upon non-Germans and non-nationalists.

Many Germans who supported, fought in, or had otherwise known people lost in the enormously costly war, believed the causes for the German/Austrian involvement in the war were justified. They had hoped it would bring a restoration of past glory and a unified German nation-state. Instead, the war caused the deaths of 1,770,000 German soldiers and 760,000 German civilians, devastated the economy, and brought losses in both territory and national sovereignty.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders sought others to blame. The common scapegoats were Weimar Republic politicians, socialists, communists, and "international Jewry" — a term referring to Jews with a perceived excess of wealth and influence. These "November criminals", nationalists alleged, had "stabbed them in the back" on the "home front," by either criticizing the cause of German nationalism, or by simply not being zealous-enough supporters of it. In essence the accusation was that the accused committed treason against the benevolent and righteous common cause.

[...]

Nevertheless, this social mythos of domestic betrayal resonated among its audience, and its claims would codify the basis for public support for the emerging Nazi Party, under a severely racialist-based form of nationalism. The anti-Semitism latent in Germany society was intensified by the Bavarian Soviet Republic, a Communist government which ruled the city of Munich for two weeks before being crushed by the Freikorps militia. Most of the Bavarian Soviet Republic's leaders were Jewish, a fact exploited by anti-Semitic propagandists to tar all Jews with the brush of Communist treason.

[...]

Due to the highly potent imagery of a "stab in the back", and the common perception amongst political conservatives that politically hostile homefronts defeat otherwise winnable wars, the stab in the back legend is a common legend in a number of modern societies. In particular, the stab in the back legend is often used by conservatives to explain the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam war. In the context of the US involvement in the Vietnam War the stab in the back legend is part of the Vietnam Syndrome complex.
As I mentioned last November, when Murtha was being pilloried by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) and various other right-wing extremists for daring to suggest so much as a set date to bring US troops home:
Not only did the Nazis utilize the "stab in the back" legend to its advantage during its rise to power and of course in maintaining its grip on power, but our own right-wingers have been relying on the same basic approach since the Vietnam war ended. I'm sure if I had a nickel for every GOP politician who has used that strategy since the early 1970s, I could retire in style. The "stab in the back" legend has been most recently utilized by our own hardline nationalists in order to silence dissent regarding the Iraq debacle. These folks are bound and determined to spread the myth that shining a light on Bu$hCo's lies to get our military sucked into what is now Mess o'Potamia as well as shining a light on the debacle that the war has truly become is somehow a "stab in the back" to those unfortunate souls who got shipped over there. The true stab in the back to these men and women was committed by the very White House and Congress critters who had that jones comin' down for a war in the first place.
The Dolchstoßlegende is alive and well in 2006. My suggestion is to be wary of those who feel the need to rely on it as a means of trying to silence Iraq war critics. Its a technique worthy of fascists, not of citizens in an enlightened democratic republic.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: We're a Nation of Settlers!

Misrepresenting the process of European colonization of North America, making everyone an immigrant, serves to preserve the "official story" of a mostly benign and benevolent USA, and to mask the fact that the pre-US independence settlers, were, well, settlers, colonial setters, just as they were in Africa and India, or the Spanish in Central and South America. The United States was founded as a settler state, and an imperialistic one from its inception ("manifest destiny," of course). The settlers were English, Welsh, Scots, Scots-Irish, and German, not including the huge number of Africans who were not settlers. Another group of Europeans who arrived in the colonies also were not settlers or immigrants: the poor, indentured, convicted, criminalized, kidnapped from the working class (vagabonds and unemployed artificers), as Peter Linebaugh puts it, many of who opted to join indigenous communities.
Nerdified Link. Hat tip to Left Hook.

This should make my wife very happy:

Not this picture, of course. But rather, the news that the Dixie Chicks' latest album debuted at #1 on the pop charts:

As Taking The Long Way debuts at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 best-selling albums chart this week, with first week’s sales of 525,829, the Dixie Chicks have become the first female group in chart history to have three albums debut at #1, breaking the record the Chicks established in 2002 when the group’s last studio album, Home, debuted at #1 and made them the first female group ever to have two albums debut at #1.

With the #1 debut of Taking The Long Way, the Dixie Chicks have also become the first female group in chart history to have three studio albums occupy the #1 slot on the Top 200.

Taking The Long Way has achieved one of the year’s Top 5 first week’s sales tallies and has the best first week’s sales for any female act on the Top 200 in 2006.

My wife's been a fan of theirs for a number of years. I'm personally not much of a country fan, but will note that their recordings are among the few that aren't a complete turn-off for me (which is as close to a compliment as you'll find from me regarding any country artist other than perhaps Willie Nelson or the late Johnny Cash). I have a certain amount of respect for folks who go against the grain, which I'd say well characterizes these gals.

If you're wondering what the big deal is, one thing to do of course is to listen to a few samples. Maybe not my flavor - I'll stick to Coltrane - but if you dig what you hear, I'm sure there are some good deals to be found on the cd (including the link above).

Hat tip: Firedog Lake.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

From the "winning the hearts and minds" department

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. forces killed two Iraqi women — one of them about to give birth — when the troops shot at a car that failed to stop at an observation post in a city north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials and relatives said Wednesday.
Read more here and here. On a related note, Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist who's made trips to parts of Iraq that embedded journalists would not dare to enter says that the Haditha massacre was hardly a unique occurrence in Iraq. One might say that there are countless Mai Lais (or Hadithas) in Iraq, including recent civilian murders in Samara (May 5th of this year) and al-Latifya (May 13th). Of course, the official propaganda line whenever one of these massacres occurs is that X number of "insurgents" were killed. Problem is, the "insurgents" often are school-aged children, moms, elderly people, etc., who just happened to be on the losing end of a soldier's rifle.

Brad Henry Lost My Vote This Year

Not a big surprise, as I was already leaning against him anyway, given his recent caving in to state house Republicans on the issue of tax cuts for the rich.
Last week, Oklahoma's Democratic Governor Brad Henry, without comment, signed into law a group of five anti-choice measures. These laws include a parental consent (not notification) rule that for the first time will require minors in Oklahoma to obtain the approval of at least one parent prior to obtaining an abortion. The law also requires doctors to lecture women seeking an abortion about fetal pain, and treats the fetus as a legal human being when crimes are committed against a pregnant woman.
Nerdified Link. Further, here's just how bad the state's senate was:
Democrats control the State Senate 25-23. Yet these measures passed that Senate by a vote of 38-8. And our Democratic Governor signed them into law.

Bottom line: with "friends" like our own state Democrats, we definitely don't need any enemies. In the meantime, I'll be keeping an open eye and open mind to Greens and independent candidates who should decide to throw their hats in the ring for governor as well as other elected offices in the state. I'll also make sure to keep my Okie readers posted on who these candidates are and what they're about.

Someone actually manages to call the Haditha massacre what it is:

terrorism. Not terribly pc to dare to refer to the US as committing acts of terror, but quite apt nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What would you do with $284 billion?

Our government went to war, with no end in sight. Pressing the Flesh lists some other endeavors that the same amount of money could have funded:
File under lost opportunities. Funding any one of above listed would have surely been far more life-affirming and hence preferable to funding a vast and growing collection of war crimes for which we are paying not only with our treasure but with our souls.

The United Soviet States of America

Caught this over at Juan Cole's blog:
The FCC will investigate the placing by the Bush administration of "video news releases" full of "good news" about Iraq on US television channels, passing them off as real news. Having defeated the Soviet Union, the US government seems increasingly intent on emulating its domestic security policies.
One may quibble about whether or not the US actually "defeated" the Soviet Union - an acquaintance of mine who spent considerable time living in and studying Soviet and Post-Soviet era Eastern Europe would point to other factors inherent in grafting an industrial economy onto a feudalist social system, but that's another issue for another time - but there is little denying just how much our current government loves to emulate the Soviets. I've probably written elsewhere on the similarities I recall between footage of Fox News and early 1980s Soviet Union state news broadcasts. Fox has been the most flagrant of US news channels in passing off state propaganda as news (under the rubric of being "fair and balanced"), but the others too have been wittingly or unwittingly tools for state propaganda to varying degrees.

So it goes.

The rest of Cole's post summarizes the not-so-good news experienced by those outside of the Beltway and media bubbles.

Bu$hCo's Sunk Cost Fallacy

From the Skeptic's Dictionary, a description of the fallacy:
When one makes a hopeless investment, one sometimes reasons: I can’t stop now, otherwise what I’ve invested so far will be lost. This is true, of course, but irrelevant to whether one should continue to invest in the project. Everything one has invested is lost regardless. If there is no hope for success in the future from the investment, then the fact that one has already lost a bundle should lead one to the conclusion that the rational thing to do is to withdraw from the project.

To continue to invest in a hopeless project is irrational. Such behavior may be a pathetic attempt to delay having to face the consequences of one's poor judgment. The irrationality is a way to save face, to appear to be knowledgeable, when in fact one is acting like an idiot. For example, it is now known that Lyndon Johnson kept committing thousands and thousands of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam after he had determined that the cause was hopeless and that the U.S. could never defeat the Viet Cong.

This fallacy is also sometimes referred to as the Concorde fallacy, after the method of funding the supersonic transport jet jointly created by the governments of France and Britain. Despite the fact that the Concorde is beautiful and as safe as any other jet transport, it was very costly to produce and suffered some major marketing problems. There weren't many orders for the plane. Even though it was apparent there was no way this machine would make anybody any money, France and England kept investing deeper and deeper, much to the dismay of taxpayers in both countries.
In regard to Iraq, psychologist Barry Schwartz sez:
... the sunk-cost fallacy appears in the most consequential of contexts, where injury and death, and not just money or effort, are at stake. Which brings us back to Iraq. How do we honor the sacrifices of those who have died or suffered serious injury in an American conflict? The best way to show how much we respect and value their lives is by refraining from sacrificing other lives in their name unless future prospects fully justify putting more people in harm's way. The lives of those who died are a sunk cost—one that is much higher than any of our treasure. But their lives can not be reclaimed. Their injuries can not be undone. If our assessment of a military situation is that we are unlikely to be successful, or that the likely price of success in lost lives is too high, then we must change course. What we owe those who have already suffered is enough reverence for life that we won't send others to suffer after them in order to justify their own suffering.
Which leads Earthside to conclude:
...this spoiled brat of a man dares talk about how we "honor" the killed by sending more to be killed. He has completely run out of justifications for his war, so now he is left with an emotional plea that only means more blood and more blood.
That should put this WaPo article in its proper context.

Jean-Paul Sartre Sez:

In Algeria, our army has been deployed throughout the whole territory: we have the numbers, the finance and the weapons; the insurgents have nothing, except the trust and support of a large part of the population. We have defined, in spite of ourselves, the principle characteristics of this people's war: bomb attacks in the cities, ambushes in the country: the FLN has not chosen these actions; they do what they can, that is all; their forces in relation to ours oblige them to attack us by surprise: invisible, elusive, unexpected, they must strike and then disappear or else be exterminated. Hence our discomfort: we are struggling against a secret enemy; a hand throws a bomb in a street, a rifle shot injures one of our soldiers out on the road; we come running; there is no one there; later, in the vicinity, we will find Muslims who saw nothing. Everything links together: the people's war, a war of the poor against the rich, is characterized by the close ties between the rebel units and the population; as a result, for the regular arm and the civilian authorities, this swarm of wretched people becomes the innumerable, daily enemy. The occupying troops are anxious about a silence which they have themselves engendered; one senses an elusive will to be silent, a circling, omnipresent secret; the rich feel hunted in the midst of the poor who say nothing; hampered by their own strength, the 'forces of law and order' can do nothing to oppose the guerrilla fighters, apart from their searches and their reprisal expeditions, nothing to oppose terrorism other than terror.
From the essay "A Victory" originally published in 1958, translated and reprinted in a collection of Sartre's essays, Colonialism and Neocolonialism. That volume was reissued this year by Routledge Classics.

The Neoconmen Are in the Democratic Party, Too

Not exactly a huge surprise, as the Dems were once a sort of home base for the neocons:
DON'T LOOK now, but neoconservatism is making a comeback — and not among the Republicans who have made it famous but in the Democratic Party.

A host of pundits and young national security experts associated with the party are calling for a return to the Cold War precepts of President Truman to wage a war against terror that New Republic Editor Peter Beinart, in the title of his provocative new book, calls "The Good Fight."

The fledgling neocons of the left are based at places such as the Progressive Policy Institute, whose president, Will Marshall, has just released a volume of doctrine called "With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Defeating Jihadism and Defending Liberty." Beinart's book is subtitled "Why Liberals — and Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again." Their political champions include Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and such likely presidential candidates as former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.

[...]

Indeed, the credo of the new Democratic hawks is eerily reminiscent of the neocons of the 1970s, who ran a full-page ad in the New York Times called "Come Home, Democrats" after George McGovern's crushing defeat, in a play on his campaign slogan "Come Home, America." In it, early neocons such as Jeane Kirkpatrick and Norman Podhoretz called for a return to the principles of — you guessed it — Truman and President Kennedy.

They lamented the fact that their party had been taken over by the forces backing McGovern's run for the presidency in 1972 and wanted to purge the party of the McGovernites. They didn't want self-abasement about U.S. sins abroad but a vigorous fighting faith that promoted the American creed of liberty and human rights abroad and at home.

Now, a generation later, as the crusading Republican neoconservatism espoused by Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and others lies in the smoking rubble of Baghdad, a new generation of Democrats wants to dust off and rehabilitate those traditional Democratic principles, which they believe were hijacked by the Bush administration.

[...]

Just as the old neocons wanted to expel the McGovernites, so the new ones want to rid the party of the Moveon.org types and move it to the right. As Beinart puts it, "whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought."

In "With All Our Might," scholars Larry Diamond and Michael McFaul — both Democrats — outline a comprehensive democracy-promotion program. For example, they imaginatively call for transplanting the 1975 Helsinki accords, which insisted upon human rights monitoring in the former Warsaw Pact nations, to the Middle East. "Freedom," they exhort, "is the fundamental antidote to all forms of tyranny, terror and oppression."

Other Democrats, who call themselves the "Sept. 11 generation," have formed what is known as the Truman National Security Project, whose avowed aim is to revive the "strong security, strong values of the Democratic Party — for Democrats of all ages."

Does this simply sound like Bush-lite? To the right and the left, it probably will, but the main opposition facing the would-be Truman successors will come from the latter. The battle will come from the generation of Democrats who came of age during the 1960s and who were instrumental in finishing off "Cold War liberalism" because of its failures in the jungles of Vietnam.

Vietnam, remember, was a liberal, not a conservative, war, undertaken by warrior intellectuals who were liberal at home but saw falling dominoes everywhere around the world. (The same lack of nuance plagues the Bush administration, which has been trying to depict a global kind of Islamic totalitarianism, when the foe, as in the Cold War, is really more diffuse and less of a monolith than American leaders are prepared to believe.)

The Moveon.org types are hardly prepared to go down without a fight. At the moment, with no end to the imbroglio in Iraq in sight, they — the populist left — are poised for their greatest influence in the party since the McGovern era.
On a related note, PNAC Co-Founder Endorses Dems in '08:
Robert Kagan is the co-founder with William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century and he thinks it will be better for America if the Democrats win the 2008 contest for the Presidency. If that surprises you, you haven't been paying attention. As far as the PNAC crew goes, power isn't about being a Republican or a Democrat, it's about owning both parties. And, fortunately for us, Kagan is spectacularly upfront about this. To understand his mindset it's important to understand that he doesn't divide the world up into left and right, but into interventionist and isolationist. Kagan has representatives in the Democratic Party. They can loosely be described as the members of the Democratic Leadership Council and the writers at The New Republic. These opinion leaders consider America to be the 'indispensable nation' and they consider it vital to world peace and security that America maintain its role in the world. For example, it's critical that we maintain military bases from Okinawa, to Tashkent, to Kandahar, to Baku, to Turkey, Baghdad, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai, to Eritrea. From the outside, it looks like they benefit from their association or investments in the companies that do business in those countries, or the companies that arm our military to defend themselves in foreign lands and equip our home defenses to protect against the resentment our occupations cause. But, from the inside, it's more complicated. It's about the evils of communism, or fascism, or Islamo-fascism, or whatever is required as a rhetorical tool next week. The way Kagan sees it is actually quite interesting to read. He thinks it is natural for a party too long out of power to become accustomed to opposing our foreign policy and therefore drift into a dangerous isolationism. Of course, it isn't entirely clear for whom this drift presents a danger. It's certainly not a threat to the American taxpayer, just for one example. But, it is definitely a threat to those that make their living hawking military and homeland security equipment.
My basic rule of thumb remains the same: don't assume that a "D" beside a candidate's name means they oppose the sort of crap that Bu$hCo (and for that matter Clinton before him) have foisted upon us. Instead, it's important to realize that there are quite a number of 'em who would be a continuation of the status quo (wars and deficits for as far as the eye can see). Thanks, but no thanks.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Monday Open Thread

As Nanette correctly notes, the cactus is your friend.

Of the five cuttings I planted a couple weeks back, three are showing some new growth, one is still status quo, and one died. Not bad so far.

Cultural Politics: A Few Lyrics

The following were from a mimiographed handout (that should definitely date me a bit) from a US Government course I took as a sophomore in college. I long ago lost touch with the professor who distributed this. Wherever he is, assuming he hasn't retired just yet, I hope he's still handing this one out. Some food for thought:

-------seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
And for each and every underdog soldier in the night
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Bob Dylan, 1965

You can leave here for four days in space
But when you return it's the same old place
The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace
Bury your dead but don't leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor but don't forget to say grace
P.J. Sloan (Harry McGuire), 1966

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
Neil Young, 1970

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of "man"
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
John Lennon, 1970

I'm going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
For the heart and soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender
Jackson Browne, 1976

We fight for tomorrow
As we live for today
Struggling "man's" got nothing to lose
Jimmy Cliff, 1978

A lotta people won't get no supper tonight
A lotta people won't get no justice tonight
The Clash, 1979

I believe in a notion, a notion deep inside
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive
I'm gonna find one face that ain't looking through me
I'm gonna spit in the face of these ----
----BADLANDS----you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand as the price you gotta pay
We'll keep pushing til it's understood
And there badlands start treating us good
Bruce Springsteen, 1978

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding
Elvis Costello, 1979

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Quotable: Thomas Reeves on Jazz

The passion for jazz knows no racial, ethnic, or class barriers, although it is undeniably true that more men than women appreciate the music.
Nerdified Link.

Reeves is a historian whom I was exposed to during my undergrad days, whose claim to fame is his rather unflattering biography of John F. Kennedy, A Question of Character.

I will say the cat has some good tastes in music...Professor Reeves is kickin' it old school with the classics of the bebop and cool jazz era. I think his lamenting on jazz as existing primarily as a historical artifact rather than a living art is a bit premature, although its days as a "commercially viable" (I believe that's the proper corporate buzz phrase) musical art are certainly long since past here in the US. The cool thing is that one can find plenty of creative artists who are recording and gigging, who are composing new and innovative tunes. You just have to look around a bit. Julius Tolentino is one relatively young artist who jumps right out to mind, as would the likes of Matthew Shipp and Susie Ibarra. There are cats who've been fusing hip-hop and turtablism with jazz, such as DJ Spooky and El-P. Dig jam bands? Medeski, Martin & Wood have been releasing consistently excellent recordings for over a decade and a half, and have continued to innovate and to connect to contemporary pop culture since signing on with the legendary Blue Note label. Oklahoma's own Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey deserves mention as well. There are the elders who continue to keep the music alive - Ornette Coleman continues on as a composer and performer who is just as uncompromising as a septuagenarian, The Revolutionary Ensemble is back in action, Herbie Hancock has delved into the contemporary stylings in trip-hop and ambient on occasion, former Detroit area drummer Steve Reid is dropping new recordings from his home base in Switzerland, Arthur Doyle has been on a tear over the last few years connecting contemporary free jazz with the ghosts of Ayler and Trane, and 80-something Randy Weston has continued to merge the musics of West Africa with the sensibilities of modern jazz. These cats don't record for major labels, or if they do they don't get the press and the promotion that pop, rock, hip-hop, or country acts would get. None of them will ever be the next American Idol. But that ain't what the music's about to begin with. It's about human communication, that primal emotional connection that defies words, the pulse and rhythm of life itself.

The good shizznit is out there, but you gotta look for it, seek it out like someone seeking out a prophet on a remote mountaintop. In a culture that rewards immediate gratification, that may be too much hard work for many. But for those who seek it out, the rewards are beyond words. The cool thing - you don't have to be a musician or have an Ivy League education to understand the music; you just have to be too stubborn to give up seeking. Like all good conversations, it's a music best experienced "in the moment" whether in a live gig setting or in the comfort of one's living room.

Quotable - on Palestine

The Hamas election, and Israeli and Western reaction to it, have in fact exposed the basic problem with all peace negotiations as framed by Israel and the U.S. for the last several decades: Palestinians have been allowed to participate -- have been given any role at all in reconciliation efforts -- only when they have agreed to go along with Israel's demands. But this principal demand on the Palestinians is a fundamental obstacle to any real resolution of the conflict. The insistence that the Palestinians "recognize Israel's right to exist" does not mean, to Israel and the U.S., simply that the Palestinians must pledge not to throw Jews into the sea. Refraining from this drastic step is fairly easy even for the most militant of Islamists. It means instead recognizing Israel's moral legitimacy. For a Palestinian this means recognizing -- indeed, embracing as a moral imperative -- Israel's right to have expelled the Palestinians and taken their homes and their land.

This demand ignores the reality that Israel was established as a specifically Jewish entity in a land populated overwhelmingly by non-Jews and that maintenance of its Jewish majority required the expulsion of much of that non-Jewish population. To paraphrase George Bush, no people can be expected to make peace with, or to recognize the moral legitimacy of, those who have attempted and are still attempting to destroy them. The demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel's moral legitimacy presupposes a priority of Israeli over Palestinian interests in peace negotiations that totally undermines any negotiating process intended to deliver justice to both sides. This Palestinian recognition cannot be the central prerequisite of any peace process -- to be compulsorily accepted before the process even begins -- when Israel refuses to recognize a similar moral right for the Palestinians.

Nerdified Link.

The Land of the Free - A Slight Return

The Atlanta suburb of Marietta has set up cameras to catch drivers running red lights. The digital snapshots go into a database, where they stay until drivers pay fines or appear in court. Despite their narrow function, the cameras have been found pointed at drivers’ faces instead of their license plates. Assistant city manager Warren Hutmacher told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Our position is, we have an absolute right to catch you, and you have no right of privacy…
Nerdified Link. Tip o' the hat to ejmw.

Good thing I like desert flora

WASHINGTON -- Deserts in the American Southwest and around the globe are creeping toward heavily populated areas as the jet streams shift, researchers reported Thursday.
The result: Areas already stressed by drought may get even drier.
Satellite measurements made from 1979 to 2005 show that the atmosphere in the subtropical regions both north and south of the equator is heating up. As the atmosphere warms, it bulges out at the altitudes where the northern and southern jet streams slip past like swift and massive rivers of air. That bulging has pushed both jet streams about 70 miles closer to the Earth's poles.
Since the jet streams mark the edge of the tropics, in essence framing the hot zone that hugs the equator, their outward movement has allowed the tropics to grow wider by about 140 miles. That means the relatively drier subtropics move as well, pushing closer to places like Salt Lake City, where Thomas Reichler, co-author of the new study, teaches meteorology.
"One of the immediate consequences one can think of is those deserts and dry areas are moving poleward," said Reichler, of the University of Utah. Details appear in Friday in the journal Science.
The movement has allowed the subtropics to edge toward populated areas, including the American Southwest, southern Australia and the Mediterranean basin. In those places, the lack of precipitation already is a worry.
Nerdified link.
On a somewhat related note, a good source of information on drought conditions can be found at the US Drought Monitor. Just looking through the various forecast maps, looks like it'll be hotter and dustier than usual for the foreseeable future. For much of the year temps have been consistently running about 10 - 20 degrees fahrenheit above average (with the occasional cool snap just to keep things interesting) out in the OK panhandle, and with the exceptional day or two here and there conditions have been bone dry.

If nothing else, I know that the cacti (Plains Prickly Pear & Tree Cholla) that I just planted should fare well - in fact I've seen new growth, and a couple of the plants are about to bloom. Will be adding some yucca plants to the yard about mid-week, and those should do well. Good thing I like desert plants, especially if we can expect our already dry region to become more so.