Saturday, June 17, 2006

Palast: RNC 'Scrubbed' Black Troops from Voting Rolls

You can read some about the unfolding story here. Needless to say, this goes beyond disgusting. Not only are these men and women being sent overseas (including Iraq) to risk their lives and well-being for God knows what "cause", but the party in power apparently is going out of its way to see to it that their votes are not counted. I suppose that is what is meant by "spreading democracy."

Okie Roundup

Some things that caught my attention.

Okiedoke: Over half the Okies surveyed don't approve of Bush - the numbers are especially bleak for Bush where registered independents are concerned.

Okie Funk: The legislature finally got its collective head out of the sack and passed a budget - and one that actually looks pretty good for education.

This is Class Warfare: Let's focus on the idiocy, both from idiot legislators who want us to live by the Ten Commandments but can't even name them, and idiot pop stars whose spouses look forward to rapping with their Namibian homies (who knew that Namibian "natives" made up an African-American culture).

Life and Deatherage: Why movement conservatives cannot govern.

Independent Christian Voice: Links to a disturbing story about what may happen to our national water quality standards.

Blogtemps: How Katrina victims are continuing to be screwed by the government.

Policy Forum: Has the keys to job creation - infrastructure and education.

Classic: Pedophile DHS Official Calls Bush a Liar

Booman hits it right on the head:
Quite a group of people the Bush administration has manned our government with. Horse show judges and pedophiles and shoplifters.
Click this link to find out more.

Pentagon Details Abuse of Iraq Detainees

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. special operations forces fed some Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner, according to a Pentagon report on incidents dating to 2003 and 2004.


[...]

Formica reviewed allegations of abuse by special operations forces who held detainees in temporary facilities, often hastily set up near where they were captured.

Formica found that overall conditions "did not comport with the spirit of the principles set forth in the Geneva Conventions," which require humane treatment of prisoners.

Formica said, for example, that the forces used five interrogation techniques that were allowed at one point but had been rescinded by then: sleep or food deprivation, yelling and loud music, forcing detainees to remain in stressful physical positions and changing environmental conditions - which could include making their locations too hot or too cold.

Formica also found that the nakedness "was unnecessary and inconsistent with the principles of dignity and respect" in the Geneva Conventions. And he said that while one of the prisoners fed just bread and water appeared to be in good condition, 17 days of that diet "is too long."

In his recommendations he said detainees should receive adequate bedding, food, water and holding areas, get systematic medical screenings and a clear record of their detention at every level.
Nerdified Link.

The interrogation techniques in question are ones that the CIA was eager to develop a few decades ago - and in fact found quite a number of psychologists who were eager to do the research. As it turned out, by the early 1960s it was quite apparent that sleep and sensory deprivation techniques in particular could have devastating effects on the psyches of the victims, as demonstrated in a number of lab experiments on both willing and unwilling participants. What we're seeing now is simply the refinement and application of those techniques, which as forms of torture go seemed attractive to a government that wanted to appear "civilized" and above the "barbaric" techniques that torturers had relied on for, well, millenia. Never mind that these newer techniques led to permanent psychological damage on those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum


Thanks to Princes Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog.

Stupid quote of the week

In response to a question about the death toll for US troops in Iraq, Press Secretary Tony Snow sez:
It's a number

The lads at Bu$hCo are undoubtedly not cluttering their beautiful minds with such matters that there are/were real people who've died.

War is poison



The above video is just one of many examples why. Via Josha Frank's blog, Brickburner.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Well, Lookee Here, Ann Coulter's a Plagiarist

Who knew. Thanks to Rude Pundit, The Raw Story, and The Gawker, there's quite a bit of material on not only Coulter's latest "book" but some of her previous "writings" as well.

So far The Raw Story has two articles up: In new book, Coulter 'cribs' stem cell list from right-to-life group, and More examples of Coulter 'borrowing liberally' for new Godless book.

The Rude Pundit's own writings (note - definitely not reading for the faint of heart or easily offended) can be found here, here, here, and here.

The Rude Pundit previously tracked down Coulter's plagiarism in one of her columns of some right-wing website called the Flummery Digest.

The Gawker weighs in on two articles, so far: Shit Coulter Full of Not Even Her Own, and Possible Plagiarist Ann Coulter May Have Been Plagiarizing As Far Back As 1997 (When She Was 36).

If an obscure tenured professor can face dismissal for possibly plagiarizing a couple footnotes or methodological flaws over the course of a career (as is the case with Ward Churchill), then surely Coulter should be taken to task for what appear to be her far more flagrant violations of academic dishonesty. One would hope that book publishers who currently have works of hers in print would either pull copies of the books in question - perhaps to be reprinted once correction are made (as the publishers' reputations are for better or worse tied to what their authors do), or at least put a label on the books' covers: "The insane rantings contained herein may or may not be those of the author. They may very well be the unattributed insane rantings of someone else. We simply have no way of knowing."

There's a lesson in all this kiddos: always cite your references. For better or worse, if you make your living making outrageously offensive and controversial statements, especially if doing so makes you a major media figure, you will come under heavy scrutiny.

And for those who might shoot back "but we're only talking about lifting quotes from newspaper articles, not scholarly sources", I'd remind you to take a look at the academic dishonest policies of practically any college or university. That stuff tends to be taken pretty damned seriously.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More Casualties of the Oil War

Keep clapping, maybe tinkerbell will flicker back to life; meanwhile the rest of us have to deal with reality.
United Airlines will eliminate at least 1,000 salaried and management jobs by the end of the year as part of its efforts to reduce costs, CEO Glenn Tilton said Wednesday.

The employees to be laid off from the nation's second-largest airline represent about 11 percent of its 9,400 salaried workers and nearly 2 percent of the company's work force of approximately 57,000.

[snip]

Soaring oil costs have continued to hurt the bottom line for United and other carriers, and Tilton said the airline is refining its route schedule accordingly, although he did not specify flights to be dropped.

"Said simply, some long-haul routes that worked at $50 a barrel don't fly at $65 a barrel," he said. "We'll continue to redeploy assets to other opportunities, such as the recently announced Washington-Kuwait route, which we'll initiate in the fall."

linkage

Worry not, dear readers, at least you can sleep well knowing that yet another oil company has posted record profits. The "economy is strong" according to the former oil executive currently occupying the White House. I bet the laid off workers from United Airlines are not clapping in applause at his team's performance.

The Blood Moon Will Still Rise

I just read this article and, while predictable, it still made me sick to my stomach.
Hopes for a quick compromise on immigration were dealt a blow Tuesday after House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he wanted to take a "long look" at a Senate bill offering possible citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.

Hastert said hearings on the Senate bill should be held before appointing anyone to a House-Senate committee to negotiate a compromise immigration bill. Later, he said he was unsure what the House's next move would be.
The Republican-led Congress made a gamble by focusing on immigration last December with HR4437. I don't think they realized the backlash that would be unleashed from their draconian and xenophobic pontifications. The streets across the United States were filled in March and April with over a million activists who were everyday people demanding that their voices be heard in a debate that has been monopolized by extremists. The passion continued on May 1st with El Gran Paro (The Great Boycott) that showed the economic power of the people being targeted.

The politics of division have been given the spotlight since George W. Bush and his gang of thugs entered the scene in D.C. in 2000. There were many of us who knew that the immigrant community would eventually become the targets of their policies. While I'm halfway glad the congressional "negotiations" have been stalled for the time being, it doesn't stop the fact that everyday there will be horrific news items like this.
The Border Patrol found more dead when a Customs and Border Protection helicopter with a search-and-rescue agent aboard spotted a campfire near Cowlick on the Tohono O'odham Nation on Saturday night, Hawkins said. Five illegal immigrants had run out of water and started the fire to signal for help. Agents reached the group and found two men dead.

A Border Patrol agent found a sixth body in Gardner Canyon in Sonoita on Sunday, Hawkins said. An apprehended illegal immigrant told an agent he had passed a body on his trek north.
Six dead human beings in one weekend. You would think this would be enough to cause a major outpouring of support and compassion, but instead it's met by the congressional leadership with a blind eye and a "perhaps this wasn't a good issue to bring up after all"-type reaction. It's disgusting.

This past weekend was the deadliest so far in this fiscal year. It brings the total deaths to 95 since October 1st. Again, disgusting.

Why the spike? Two words: Full Moon
According to the Sheriff, more illegals make their way into this country using the light of the full moon to illuminate their way through the southwestern desert. - linkage
That short exerpt comes from an article that announced the beginning of Maricopa County's deputization of civilians last month to seek and capture "illegals". It is a controversial move by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who ironically is a child of Italian immigrants, but he's never been one to care much for human dignity or shy away from wave-making.

I know this a complex issue, but I would not be able to sleep at all each night if I didn't fight against policies that are designed to destroy the lives of human beings who are simply seeking financial stability for themselves and their families. For me, this is a fundamental question of human rights. While I try not to ignore the economic, environmental and racial facets of the discussion, the fact is, I'm trying to minimize the loss of life. Period.

I just wish the prevailing wind was at my back instead of blasting me in the face. Until that changes, there is one thing that remains constant: the moon will continue to cycle each month and every time it lights up the deserts de la tierra frontera, the great trek to el norte will begin in desperation for a better life.


Crossposted from my humble blog

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Out of town

For the rest of tonight and tomorrow. My co-conspirators should have something in store for y'all, though, so make sure to check back.

Catch you on the flipside. Onward through the fog.

Let's drop some Ornette Coleman on ya


From an some Italian TV footage from 1974. Coleman on sax, Sirone (of Revolutionary Ensemble fame) on bass, a then quite young James "Blood" Ulmer on guitar, and the late Billy Higgins on the drums. Enjoy!

Busy, Busy, Busy

Elton Beard captures the essence of Junior Caligula's statement regarding the late Zarqawi's eventual replacement in this most recent blog entry:
Speaking of killers - readers of Vonnegut will no doubt also appreciate Mr. Bush's fine impersonation of Paul Lazzaro from Schlachthof Funf:
LAZZARO: You're on my list, pal.
Paul Lazzaro lovingly maintained a list of people he disfavored and consequently planned to kill. He was, of course, quite insane.
By the way, if you haven't read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

Looking for an iconoclastic take on Yearly Kos?

Look no further than Michael J. Smith, who offers his take on the three day hootenany here, here, and here. Smith notes in his installment for day three that, "You know you're in trouble when the high point of your day is Arianna Huffington."

Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com has his own take, in Your netroots are showing. The left side of the blogosphere: Rising force or sellout? Sometimes Raimondo's libertarian schtick gets a bit old, but he does raise some valid concerns about the potential for the left end of blogtopia to be coopted yet again by the Democrat Party's politicos, with little hope in hell of seeing any meaningful change in their (or really anyone outside of the ruling elite) lot in life. Certainly a far cry from the gushing tributes you'll read from the convention's attendees, many of whom seem like they've just left an Amway convention from the tone of their writing. Given the roster of politicians who showed up, I don't think I'd be all that interested in what they were selling.

This last line by Raimondo is a keeper:

The one Democratic presidential aspirant who might reflect the antiwar and pro-civil liberties views of the archetypal Kossack, Sen. Russ Feingold, did not attend the YearlyKos confab. However one explains his absence, one can only hope that the true voice of the "netroots" – not Harry Reid's – is waiting to be heard.

Hold out for the real thing.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Quotable: Liars and Hypocrites Edition

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


George H. W. Bush (who promptly invaded Panama and then started Gulf War I, thus rushing to send a number of folks' kids into war).

Of course, Junior Caligula, following in dad's footsteps rushed to get hundreds of thousands of "someone else's kids" into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (so far).

Monday Open Thread: Influences



So, what are your influences?

Some must-reads

First stop: Catnip has a great piece on "the culture of revenge". She starts off excerpts of interviews with Michael Berg, the father of one of Zarqawi's victims, by Soledad O'Brien and Larry King. Having seen the latter of the interviews, I can definitely say I was struck as much by Berg's sense of perspective and compassion as I was by the sheer incredulity expressed by King - as if celebrating Zarqawi's demise was the only option available. King simply could not get himself to believe what he was hearing from Berg. Catnip also does a service by reminding us that acting compassionately on the larger issues of the day should be consistent with what we do on a more interpersonal level. Just as it is important to protest revenge killings in Haditha, it is important to stand up when petty acts of revenge occur in our own back yards (or the internet equivalent). And although I'd probably incite her to cross-post that to Booman Tribune, given the circumstances I would understand perfectly if she did not.

Also from Catnip, we get the following from the fascists running our gulags: the Guantánamo Bay suicides are to be viewed as "acts of war." I don't even want to know what kind of mental gymnastics are required to draw such a conclusion.

Elsewhere, we learn that Ramadi is fixing to become the next Fallujah. I blogged quite a bit on Fallujah as America's Guernica over the last couple years. The war crimes in our names continue unabated.

By the way, the Progressive Bloggers Alliance HQ is back in action after being offline for several months, and boy is it busy. Right now it's at a temporary domain, and not all of the features quite work yet. Still it's good that Nick didn't let it die.

Some jazz art


The artist is Anna Demovidova, and the piece is titled "Jazz at a Market in Baltimore" (2002, oil on linen). Hat tip to dada.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Say Hello To

Victoria Express.

They link to my blog, which must be a sign of good taste, of course. Looks like some interesting info, some of which is right up my alley.

Quotable - Massacre Edition

Massacre is an acquired taste. The United States is arguably the only country on the planet whose national personality and self-image is rooted in centuries of unremitting expansion through race war punctuated by massacre. There have always been “free-fire zones” all along the coveted, ever moving peripheries of white American power, from the “Indian country” surrounding the settler beachheads of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown to the “Sunni Triangle” of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Whole peoples – millions – have been erased in the glorious march of American Manifest Destiny.
Nerdified Link. Make sure to read the whole thing.

Bonus quote, same source:

We commend Sheehan’s courage in describing the U.S. government as criminal. In doing so, she is beginning to confront the national mythology – at the core of the national identity – that Americans are always seeking some “greater good” and commit crimes only by mistake or through the “aberrations” that are inevitably unleashed once wars are started.

But even the brave Ms. Sheehan cannot face the truth. The (white) American public still cannot discuss why the U.S. glories in having become the ultimate imperial power of all time, to the acclaim of the overwhelming majority of its citizens whose whole history and culture has prepared them to accept this “burden.” Wars may be aberrant experiences in the lives of most human individuals, but some nations are serial aggressors. American society is unique in having been formed almost wholly by processes of aggression against external and internal Others.

I didn't say this would be feel-good reading.

An interesting project

Action: Reaction

Props to Mickey Z.

The US as a failing state: Some context

In some senses we've been down this road before. First a recap of the Katrina aftermath:
The National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she'd pee herself: The President of the United States had flown his plane down to 1,700 feet to get a better look at the flood damage! Later, I saw the photo of him looking out of the window of Air Force One. The President looked very serious and concerned. That was on Wednesday, August 31, 2005, two days after the levees broke and Lake Ponchartrain swallowed New Orleans.

The President had waited the extra days to stop first at the Pueblo El Mirage Golf Course in Arizona. I'm sure the people of New Orleans would have liked to show their appreciation for the official Presidential photo-strafing, but their surface-to-air missiles were wet. I don't want to give the impression the President did nothing. He swiftly ordered the federal government to dispatch to New Orleans 18 water purification units, 50 tons of food, two mobile hospitals, expert search teams, and 20 lighting units with generators. However, that was President Chávez, whose equipment was refused entry to the disaster zone by the U.S. State Department.

President Bush also flew in generators and lights. They were used for a photo op in the French Quarter, then removed when the President concluded his television pitch. The corpses floating through the Ninth Ward attracted vultures. There was ChoicePoint, our friends from Chapter 1: The Fear. They picked up a contract to identify the bodies using their War on Terror DNA database. In the face of tragedy, America's business community pulled together, lobbying hard to remove the "Davis-Bacon" regulation that guarantees emergency workers receive a minimum prevailing wage.

The Rev. Pat Robertson got a piece of the action. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site encouraged those wanting to help victims to donate to the charities he controls. Within the week, the Navy penned a half-billion-dollar contract for reconstruction work with Halliburton. More would come. Our President, as he does in any emergency situation, announced additional tax cuts. He ordered immediate write-offs for new equipment used in rebuilding. That will likely provide a relief for Halliburton, but the deductions were useless to small New Orleans businesses which had no income to write off. The oil majors, the trillion-dollar babies, won a $700 million tax break. Don't think of hurricanes as horrors, but as opportunities. For the schoolchildren among the refugees, instead of schools, our President promised school "vouchers" on a grand scale. And there was a bonus. Louisiana had been a "purple" state- neither a solid Republican Red nor Democratic Blue. It was up for grabs politically. With a Democratic Senator and a new Democratic Governor, Louisiana was ready to lead the South out of the GOP. Louisiana's big blue Democratic splotch was enclosed within the city below sea level.

On August 29, this major electoral problem for the Republican party was solved. I'm not saying our rulers deliberately let New Orleans drown. But before they would save it, the lifeguards boarding Air Force One had to play a few more holes.
Now for our history lesson:
There is nothing new under the sun. A Republican president going for the photo op as the Mississippi rolls over New Orleans. It was 1927, and President Calvin Coolidge sent Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, "a little fat man with a notebook in his hand," who mugged for the cameras and promised to build the city a wall of protection. They had their photos taken. Then they left to play golf with Ken Lay or, rather, the Ken Lay railroad baron equivalent of his day.

In 1927, the Democratic Party had died and was awaiting burial. As depression approached, the coma-Dems, like Franklin Roosevelt, called for, of all things, balancing the budget.

Then, as the Mississippi waters rose, one politician, the state's electricity regulator, stood up on the back of a flatbed truck rigged with loudspeakers, and said, roughly, "Listen up! They're lying! The President's lying! The rich fat jackals that are drowning you will do it again and again and again. They lead you into imperialist wars for profit, they take away your schools and your hope, and when you complain, they blame Blacks and Jews and immigrants. Then they drown your kids. I say, Kick'm in the ass and take your share of the wealth you created." Huey Long was our Hugo Chávez, and he laid out a plan: a progressive income tax, real money for education, public works to rebuild Louisiana and America, Social Security old age pensions, veterans' benefits, regulation of the big utility holding companies, an end to what he called, "rich men's wars," and an end to the financial royalism of the One Percent.

He even had the audacity to suggest that the poor's votes should count, calling for the end to the poll tax four decades before Martin Luther King succeeded in ending it. Long recorded his motto as a musical anthem: "Everyman a King."

The waters receded, the anger did not, and, in 1928, Huey "Kingfish" Long was elected Governor of Louisiana. At the time, Louisiana schools were free, but not the textbooks. The elite liked it that way, but Long didn't. To pay for the books, the Kingfish levied a special tax on Big Oil. But the oil companies refused to pay for the textbooks. Governor Long then ordered the National Guard to seize the oil fields in the Delta.

It was Huey Long who established the principle that a government of the people must protect the people, school them, build the infrastructure, regulate industry and share the nation's wealth-and that meant facing down "the concentrations of monopoly power" of the corporate aristocracy-"the thieves of Wall Street," as he called them.

In other words, Huey Long founded the modern Democratic Party. FDR and the party establishment, scared witless of Long's ineluctable march to the White House, adopted his program, albeit diluted, called it the New Deal and later the New Frontier and the Great Society. America and the party prospered. What happened to the Kingfish? As with Chávez, the oil industry and local oligarchs had few options for responding to Governor Long's populist appeal and the success of his egalitarian economic program. On September 8, 1935, Huey Long, by then a U.S. Senator, was shot dead. He was 42. And now is the moment, as it was in '27.
You know your nation is a "failing state" when among other things the government simply through negligence and/or incompetence cannot act to help out its people in an emergency. I recall the lone physician who was there at the Convention Center in NOLA during the immediate days after Katrina had decimated the area commenting that 8-29 may very well have marked the day the nation started to fall apart. I would that the nation had been falling apart considerably before that day last year - it was only the footage from the devastated areas that made the rot visible for the first time. The ability of first responders to effectively handle a situation like the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast last hurricane season had been effectively hamstrung by severe budget cuts. That's been par for the course this decade so far. Poverty, which has, during my lifetime, increasingly plagued what is arguably the richest nation on earth was no stranger to the Big Easy - and the poorest of NOLA's residents tended to live in those areas most vulnerable to flooding. The decisions made by our federal government to neglect the state of the levees and to continue to neglect the coastal wetlands (which once upon a time served as a buffer between NOLA and hurricane-driven storm surges) were bound to affect these folks disproportionately. If one looks at the Lower Ninth Ward, as well as other coastal towns in Mississippi as well as coastal towns affected by Rita, one finds homes, businesses, and lives still in shambles. The government that promised to help has done little more aside from funnelling some coin to their pals at Haliburton et al. And this year's hurricane season is only just warming up, y'all.

I'm willing to accept that there were many who were genuinely shocked and dismayed by the initial scenes of devastation, and by the devastation that still has yet to be repaired. Several news anchors and pundits were unprepared for scenes that seemed more fitting for a third world nation. And yet, as friends of mine who had spent time in the area (outside of the tourist traps) had told me, it had been pretty much third-world for quite a while in NOLA. In fact there have been folks (myself included) who have noted for at least a decade that substantial swaths of this nation have fallen into such severe neglect as to merit third-world status. So I was not shocked by what we were getting on the news stations at the tail end of August & the beginning of September. Rather, I was simply pissed off - at a government that has so thoroughly neglected its responsibilities that a large number of lives were lost (and we're talking a largely preventable loss, had the levee system been kept up adequately, had the wetlands been preserved, had equipment and potential first responders been in adequate supply rather than wasted on that atrocity of a war in Iraq); pissed off at the CEO carpetbaggers bound to profit off of the misery; pissed off at a corporate media that I knew would go largely back to sleep once the ever important stories about Jessica Simpson's impending divorce or the Olsen twins' eating habits hit the fan.

I'm not sure if there is a Huey Long out there in the woodwork, or plan on pinning my hopes on such an individual showing up. I'd rather get the word out instead. In the meantime, we can be rest assured that today's GOP doesn't give a rat's ass about most of us (at least those of us who don't count in the corporate and government's eyes as "substantial"), and that like the 1920s the Democratic party is all but useless. What I do know is that we cannot afford another moment of the status quo. This would be a damned good year to throw the bums out from both parties, a damned good year to take our country back - a damned good year, indeed, to begin the long road to fashioning something of a working democracy, and something that would hold far more legitimacy among the large proportion of currently disenfranchised citizens as well as abroad.