Friday, June 30, 2006

On SERE training and torture

A blogger who went through that training has this to say:

"I haven't written a lot of diaries, mostly because people here have much more insight, expertise, and perception than I. Nevertheless, I think I'll write this one up because it something I have personal experience with and the subject came up on another thread. I'm a SERE grad, and although the program, especially the Resistance Training Laboratory (RTL, or mock POW camp) is classified, I think that I can comment on what's been going on in the news about the program and correct a lot of misperceptions on the objective of torture..."

"...See, the point of this diary is not that torture is used to get information (forget 24 folks) but rather it is used to turn a person, exploit them and indoctrinate them. There is no such thing as brain-washing, you can't wash someone's brain of their thoughts, but you can indoctrinate, just watch "Outfoxed" again. The torturers of today know that, they don't expect the "ticking bomb" scenario, they want to drive a wedge between the victim and the other detainees; to exploit, indoctrinate, and turn them.

See, I learned that physical pain is NOTHING (but I confess to not have a branding iron applied to my genitals but that attitude sure adds spice to the sex life). No, the PSYCHOLOGICAL pain is much worse. Not knowing if you are ever going home to friends and family is much worse than the physical pain because at a point, the brain shuts off the pain receivers, but the psychological rollercoaster remains. These people at GITMO are not trying to commit suicide because of the physical pain, it's the psychological pain that's driving them; and consider that suicide is a mortal sin in Islam as it is in Judeo/Christianity and you have the extent of this psychological pain.

It's a damn shame, to put it mildly, that these techniques were developed by our Communist "enemies" and now we're the ones using them. I recognized the techniques immediately when Abu Graib first broke. I wanted to blog about it but I signed a sensitive information disclosure agreement and I wouldn't get the same kid gloves treatment as Uncle Karl..."

I really hate this "I told you so moment" but we've seen the enemy, and it is us. We've become exactly what we stood against.

Today marks the last day of Torture Awareness Month. Torture will continue to be perpetrated in our names tomorrow, the next day, and so on. Needless to say, we'll still be blogging about and against torture for as long as is necessary.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

By the numbers: Organizational and structural violence

This one via Eli:
  • The American Journal of Public Health reports more than 1,700 African Americans die each week because they don't have the same access to health care as other Americans.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports (pdf) 110 workers die each week in workplace fatalities, many of which could be prevented by better enforcement of basic workplace laws by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (which is being gutted by budget cuts).
  • The Pentagon reports roughly 15 American soldiers die each week in Iraq.
  • The Institute of Medicine reports 346 Americans die each week because they lack health insurance.
  • The Environmental Working Group reports that 192 Americans die each week because of exposure to asbestos.
For those who've never heard the terms "organizational violence" and "structural violence", perhaps some definitions are in order. We define organizational violence as physical harm (including death) resulting from decisions made by those acting in an official capacity. The decision to go to war in Iraq, with the ensuing casualties is but one example. Bureaucratic decisions made by government and corporate officials to ignore legitimate worker safety concerns also shall be considered organizational violence, as the above statistics would indicate. Structural violence refers to physical harm (including death) suffered by a particular group of people who do not have access to the same services and benefits as the rest of society. Deaths caused by lack of access to health insurance and healthcare would be viewed as structural violence - the same would be said about deaths caused to black Americans who are systematically denied access to necessary healthcare.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Torture in Chicago's Prisons

One of the more important stories to be covered in blogtopia (y!sctp!), has to do with torture - this time not in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, or Bagram, but in Chicago. Stu Piddy has the goods, and I'll give y'all a teaser:
Jon Burge was dismissed from the Chicago Police force in 1989 but he has never been charged with a crime. No charges agaisnt him and over 20 other police officers despite a mountain of evidence that indicates Burge and others should be prosecuted for the Abu Ghraib like torture of dozens of African American citizens. The total of those tortured is 192 and growing. What's happended in Iraq should not be so shocking. Torture in America's rape rooms has been common fare.

Burge learned how to torture in Vietnam. He taught many other police officers the tricks of his trade. There are over 20 other police officers accused of torture. Those soldiers and contractors in Iraq who have learned to torture, rape, shoot first and ask questions later will be coming back from Iraq someday. They will bring what they have learned to American law enforcement as Burge did.

Mayor Daley was Involved

Does Chicago (America) have a mayor who is hiding his involvement in the cover-up of the systematic torture by Chicago Police of almost 200 African American citizens? Why if there are 200 hundred reported cases of torture with evidence has there not been one prosecution?

The states attorney decides what cases to prosecute. Mayor Richard Daley was the States Attorney during the reported torture and he was informed of the torture and evidence of torture. Mayor Richard M. Daley did nothing.

Abu Ghraib is said to be shocking. American troops murdering, torturing, raping and sexually humiliating scores of Iraqi prisoners. How long has this been going on?

Well it’s been going on right here in Chicago for at least 20 years. It is rarely reported in the Chicago News media but has been consistently been reported by the free Chicago Reader which is a hand out paper for locals on upcoming events. John Conroy a staff writer for the reader has pursued this torture scandal for a number of years and it is our only real access to what happened.

John Conroy reports

THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR'S report on the Chicago police torture scandal is expected to be issued shortly, perhaps in a matter of days. Special prosecutor Edward Egan has uncovered 192 victims (there may well be more) claiming to have been abused by Jon Burge and detectives serving under him from the 1970s into the 1990s, scores of them not identified in any published list. The scale of criminality is immense: hundreds of assaults (most victims were subjected to more than one attack), hundreds of acts of misconduct qualifying as felonies. Some detectives, called to testify in various proceedings, may have committed perjury on five or more occasions in a single case.
Needless to say, y'all should read the whole thing. If you're a member over at MLW (where this story was blogged, recommend the diary - it deserves more attention than it's received).

The torture that goes on in American prisons is nothing new, as freelance journalist William Blum notes toward the end of his book Rogue State. The same issue comes up in The Black Commentator fairly regularly, as men and women of color are most targeted by our nation's prison-industrial complex.

Keep in mind that a society that remains silent as its ethnic minorities are targeted for all manner of human rights violations has the very real potential to target each and every one of us.

Of course it should also go without saying that given the circumstances, it is no surprise that many of our black men and women feel disenfranchised in their own nation as there often is no difference in the persecution they experience at the hands of Republicans (Junior Caligula's reign of terror ring a bell?) or Democrats (which of course Chicago's Mayor Daley is). Asking people to chose between somewhat differing flavors of oppression has to be looked at by the targets of such get-out-the-vote efforts as just plain nuts.

As someone I know via the internets might say, wake up!

And now for this moment of meta-blogging navel gazing

I try not to do too much of that here, but sometimes things happen that just seriously piss me off. Latest stupidity:

  1. A diarist writes a message of concern about another member of a blog community who's been missing for a couple weeks, and then gets crapped on.
  2. At the same blog, a diarist and occasional front-pager gets crapped on for having a style that is "too abrasive".
My first thought is along the lines of wanting to shake a few of these folks and tell 'em to get their heads out of their butts long enough to see something other than their petty conflicts. I realize quickly that it would do little good. We middle-class Americans (which is what most bloggers are) are so accustomed to the universe revolving around us that the mere idea that there are more important things than interpersonal intrigue is too alien to contemplate.

I'm reminded of a lyric from Jello Biafra (from the song "The Power of Lard")
The country right now just wants to be
Soothed, and told it doesn't have to pay or
Sacrifice or learn
I get the feeling a lot of folks - especially Americans - go to community political blogs so that they can "feel good about themselves" as caring progressive liberal people, and when someone comes along who shakes them up a little they freak. Here's a clue: there is the distinct possibility that a white middle class guy or gal might be racially ignorant or ignorant about socioeconomic class issues. Someone comes along and holds up a mirror to that not-so-pretty reality, and there has to be something wrong with the person holding the mirror (oh, no, I couldn't possibly be something wrong with "me"). Here's another clue: one can actually learn a few things by listening - not reacting with the first possible insult that comes to mind, but actually listening. We all have our blind spots. God knows I have mine. Half the fun in life is figuring out what those blind spots are and learning how to correct them. One's self-esteem might take a hit from time to time, but the end result is therapeutic and constructive when we take into consideration the bigger social, economic, and political picture. Fancy that. That's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Jon Stewart on the "Miami Seven"

Mad props to Iggy:
Alberto Gonzales: "These individuals wish to wage a quote: 'full ground war against the United States.'

Stewart: "Seven guys? I’m not a general. I am not anyway affiliated with the military academy, but I believe if you were going to wage a full ground war against the United States, you need to field at least as many people as, say, a softball team."

Alberto Gonzales: "One of the individuals was familiar with the Sears Tower- had worked in Chicago and had been there - so was familiar with the tower, but in terms of the plans it was more aspirational rather than operational."

Stewart: "No weapons, no actual contact with al-Qaeda, but one of them had been to Chicago…"

Monday, June 26, 2006

Say hello to

kittenstomper.

Today is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

The 2006 observance of the Day in Support of Victims of Torture coincides with the 25th anniversary of the UN voluntary fund for victims of torture.

Today is a good day to educate yourself about torture and extraordinary rendition.

Go see a movie (Road to Guantánamo), if it's playing near you. I'll have to wait for the DVD.

Visit Witness Against Torture.

Read a book.

Sign a petition.

Walk in a torture victim's shoes. Done? Walk in another torture victim's shoes. The root of evil is lack of empathy, hence the importance of reminding our readers that those who survive being tortured are indeed actual human beings who suffer real long-term consequences.

Monday Open Thread: Pharoah Sanders in the House



The clip is from a July 1978 performance at Montreux. Sanders is in fine form, performing music that will be familiar to fans of his work from the early 1970s.

More "Miami Seven" Skepticism

Chris at Americablog.

Earthside.

Robert Parry, who points out the hypocrisy inherent in targeting a few cats who could hardly be considered terrorist threats while letting bonafide terrorists (such as Bosch & Posada) go about their business. Parry includes an interesting history of Bosch & Posada.

Planet Grenada, who notes the similarities between the "Miami Seven" and the plot to a Hollywood film.

Bottom line: don't believe the government's hype.

Voter disenfranchisement - or, the return of Jim Crow

Via Richard at American Leftist, some gems from Greg Palast:
Don't kid yourself: the Republican party's decision yesterday to "delay" the renewal of the Voting Rights Act has not a darn thing to do with objections of the Republican's white sheets caucus. Complaints by a couple of good ol' boys to legislation have never stopped the GOP leadership from rolling over dissenters.

This is a strategic stall that is meant to decriminalise the Republican party's new game of challenging voters of colour by the hundreds of thousands.

In the 2004 presidential race, the GOP ran a massive, multi-state, multimillion-dollar operation to challenge the legitimacy of black, Hispanic and Native American voters. The methods used breached the Voting Rights Act, and while the Bush administration's civil rights division grinned and looked the other way, civil rights lawyers began circling, preparing to sue to stop the violations of the act before the 2008 race. . . .

In the 2004 election, more than 3 million voters were challenged at the polls. No one had seen anything like it since the era of Jim Crow and burning crosses. In 2004, voters were told their registrations had been purged or that their addresses were "suspect".

Denied the right to the regular voting booths, these challenged voters were given "provisional" ballots. More than 1m of these provisional ballots (1,090,729 of them) were tossed in the electoral dumpster uncounted.

A funny thing about those ballots: about 88% were cast by minority voters.
Diebold and its dodgy machines are the least of our worries, as the good old standbys work quite well for a GOP bound and determined to transform the US into a one-party nation (again quoting Palast):

Step 1: "Spoiling" ballots -- 1,389,231 of them. In the vote-count game, these are called "undervotes" and "overvotes." You can recognize these lost ballots by their hanging chads, punch cards without punches (an Ohio specialty), paper ballots eaten by scanners, and touch screens that didn't know you touched them.

Step 2: Rejecting "provisional ballots"-- 1,090,729 in this pile. Voters finding themselves at the "wrong" precinct, or wrongly "scrubbed" from voter rolls get these back-of-the-bus ballots first inaugurated in 2002. In '04, provisional ballots were passed out like candy to voters in the poorest precincts. They handed them out -- then threw them away -- one million dumped in all. In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell changed state rules, allowing him to toss out the ballots of legal voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct although these citizens were told their vote would count after confirming their registration.

Step 3: Not counting absentee ballots -- 526,420 of them. At least, that's what we figure from official stats. But it's anyone's guess how many mailed-in votes were dumped. (However, in one case, in Palm Beach, Florida, Jeb Bush's candidate for Elections Supervisor, Theresa LaPore, counted more absentee votes than absentee ballots mailed in. Not the brightest bulb in the vote-fix biz, that Theresa.)

Step 4: Scrub'm, Purge'm, Block'm. These are the voters who never got to vote at all. This group includes those who found their registrations were never entered on the voter rolls. In Ohio, about one-fourth of those registered by Jesse Jackson's 2004 voter drive, found their registrations delayed beyond the election date or lost.

Add to this un-voter group, those who were wrongly "scrubbed" from registries as "felons." For example, there was Bernice Kines, purged in Florida in 2004 because she was convicted of a felony on July 31, 2009. I repeat: 2009. There was something especially odd about the Ohio felon purge: ex-cons are ALLOWED to vote in that state, Mr. Blackwell.

How many lost their chance to vote by scrubbing, purging and blocking? That's anyone's guess, but one million would not be an unfair estimate -- and that's not included in the 3.6 million tally of ballots uncounted.

But that's not all!
And there's some new tricks for these old dogs. For the 2006 and 2008, the GOP is pushing new Voter ID requirements. Your signature won't be good enough anymore.

What's wrong with the new ID laws? This: in the 2004 election, 300,000 voters were turned away from the polls for "wrong" ID. For example, in the "Little Texas" counties in New Mexico, if your voter registration included a middle initial but your driver's license had none, you were kicked out of the polling station. Funny, but they only seemed to ask Hispanic voters. We should see the number of voters rejected for ID to quintuple by 2008 based on the new "voting reform" laws recently passed in several states.

My emphasis added. Why target ethnic minorities for this treatment? Why, silly, because they tend to not vote the "right" way (i.e. Republican). The mere thought of all these unwashed masses going to the polls is simply not a thought that our ruling elites would even wish to entertain. The hope of the ruling party no doubt is that a little parliamentary sleight of hand will be sufficient to keep democracy from spreading to our own country. God forbid if that were to happen.

The bad news on the Iraq occupation in one handy compendium

Courtesy of William Blum's latest edition of the Anti-Empire Report:
  • Loss of a functioning educational system. A 2005 UN study revealed that 84% of the higher education establishments have been "destroyed, damaged and robbed".
  • The intellectual stock has been further depleted as many thousands of academics and other professionals have fled abroad or have been mysteriously kidnapped or assassinated in Iraq; hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, other Iraqis, most of them from the vital, educated middle class, have left for Jordan, Syria or Egypt, many after receiving death threats. "Now I am isolated," said a middle-class Sunni Arab, who decided to leave. "I have no government. I have no protection from the government. Anyone can come to my house, take me, kill me and throw me in the trash."[2]
  • Loss of a functioning health care system. And loss of the public's health. Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the country. Iraq's network of hospitals and health centers, once admired throughout the Middle East, has been severely damaged by the war and looting.
  • The UN's World Food Program reported that 400,000 Iraqi children were suffering from "dangerous deficiencies of protein". Deaths from malnutrition and preventable diseases, particularly amongst children, already a problem because of the 12 years of US-imposed sanctions, have increased as poverty and disorder have made access to a proper diet and medicines ever more difficult.
  • Thousands of Iraqis have lost an arm or a leg, frequently from unexploded US cluster bombs, which became land mines; cluster bombs are a class of weapons denounced by human rights groups as a cruelly random scourge on civilians, especially children.
  • Depleted uranium particles, from exploded US ordnance, float in the Iraqi air, to be breathed into human bodies and to radiate forever, and infect the water, the soil, the blood, the genes, producing malformed babies. During the few weeks of war in spring 2003, A10 "tankbuster" planes, which use munitions containing depleted uranium, fired 300,000 rounds.
  • And the use of napalm as well. And white phosphorous.
  • The American military has assaulted hospitals to prevent them from giving out casualty figures from US bombing attacks that contradicted official US figures, which the hospitals had been in the habit of doing.
  • Numerous homes have been broken into by US forces, the men taken away, the women humiliated, the children traumatized; on many occasions, the family has said that the American soldiers helped themselves to some of the family's money. Iraq has had to submit to a degrading national strip search.
  • Destruction and looting of the country's ancient heritage, perhaps the world's greatest archive of the human past, left unprotected by the US military, busy protecting oil facilities.
  • A nearly lawless society: Iraq's legal system, outside of the political sphere, was once one of the most impressive and secular in the Middle East; it is now a shambles; religious law more and more prevails.
  • Women's rights previously enjoyed are now in great and growing danger under harsh Islamic law, to one extent or another in various areas. There is today a Shiite religious ruling class in Iraq, which tolerates physical attacks on women for showing a bare arm or for picnicking with a male friend. Men can be harassed for wearing shorts in public, as can children playing outside in shorts.
  • Sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent previously, has become a serious issue.
  • Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims have lost much of the security they had enjoyed in Saddam's secular society; many have emigrated.
  • A gulag of prisons run by the US and the new Iraqi government feature a wide variety of torture and abuse -- physical, psychological, emotional; painful, degrading, humiliating; leading to mental breakdown, death, suicide; a human-rights disaster area.
  • Over 50,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by US forces since the invasion, but only a very tiny portion of them have been convicted of any crime.
  • US authorities have recruited members of Saddam Hussein's feared security service to expand intelligence gathering and root out the resistance.
  • Unemployment is estimated to be around fifty percent. Massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of Baathist government workers and soldiers by the American occupation authority set the process in motion early on. Later, many, desperate for work, took positions tainted by a connection to the occupation, placing themselves in grave danger of being kidnapped or murdered.
  • The cost of living has skyrocketed. Income levels have plummeted.
  • The Kurds of Northern Iraq evict Arabs from their homes. Arabs evict Kurds in other parts of the country.
  • Many people were evicted from their homes because they were Baathist. US troops took part in some of the evictions. They have also demolished homes in fits of rage over the killing of one of their buddies.
  • When US troops don't find who they're looking for, they take who's there; wives have been held until the husband turns himself in, a practice which Hollywood films stamped in the American mind as being a particular evil of the Nazis; it's also collective punishment of civilians and is forbidden under the Geneva Convention.
  • Continual American bombing assaults on neighborhoods has left an uncountable number of destroyed homes, workplaces, mosques, bridges, roads, and everything else that goes into the making of modern civilized life.
  • Hafitha, Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi ... names that will live in infamy for the wanton destruction, murder, and assaults upon human beings and human rights carried out in those places by US forces.
  • The supply of safe drinking water, effective sewage disposal, and reliable electricity have all generally been below pre-invasion levels, producing constant hardship for the public, in temperatures reaching 115 degrees. To add to the misery, people wait all day in the heat to purchase gasoline, due in part to oil production, the country's chief source of revenue, being less than half its previous level.
  • The water and sewage system and other elements of the infrastructure had been purposely (sic) destroyed by US bombing in the first Gulf War of 1991. By 2003, the Iraqis had made great strides in repairing the most essential parts of it. Then came Washington's renewed bombing.
  • Civil war, death squads, kidnaping, car bombs, rape, each and every day ... Iraq has become the most dangerous place on earth. American soldiers and private security companies regularly kill people and leave the bodies lying in the street; US-trained Iraqi military and police forces kill even more, as does the insurgency. An entire new generation is growing up on violence and sectarian ethics; this will poison the Iraqi psyche for many years to come.
  • US intelligence and military police officers often free dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents.
  • Iraqis protesting about various issues have been shot by US forces on several occasions.
  • At other times, the US has killed, wounded and jailed reporters from Al Jazeera television, closed the station's office, and banned it from certain areas because occupation officials didn't like the news the station was reporting. Newspapers have been closed for what they have printed. The Pentagon has planted paid-for news articles in the Iraqi press to serve propaganda purposes.
The news isn't all bad, of course, as Blum duly notes:
  • But freedom has indeed reigned -- for the great multinationals to extract everything they can from Iraq's resources and labor without the hindrance of public interest laws, environmental regulations or worker protections. The orders of the day have been privatization, deregulation, and laissez faire for Halliburton and other Western corporations. Iraqi businesses have been almost entirely shut out though they are not without abilities, as reflected in the infrastructure rebuilding effort following the US bombing of 1991.

Some CEOs are laughing all the way to the bank. That makes all the hardship worthwhile.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Footnote to "Smelling a rat"

Some other bloggers on the "Miami Seven", who also smell a rat:

Kurt Nimmo:

It is now an established pattern: the government seeks out mental cases and disturbed individuals and turns them into “al-Qaeda” terrorists, or wannabe al-Qaedaites.

Narseal Batiste, “the accused ringleader of a wacky terrorist cell” in Miami, as the New York Daily News puts it, “needs psychiatric help,” according to his father, Narcisse Batiste. “He was distraught after his beloved mother, Audrey, died in 2000, relatives told The News, and the next year he left Chicago and dropped out of sight.”

[...]

In fact, the government more or less admits it does not have a case against Batiste and his young adult and teenage charges.

“Even as Justice Department officials trumpeted the arrests of seven Florida men accused of planning to wage a ‘full ground war against the United States,’ they acknowledged the group did not have the means to carry out the plan,” reports Knight Ridder. “The Justice Department unveiled the arrests with an orchestrated series of news conferences in two cities, but the severity of the charges compared with the seemingly amateurish nature of the group raised concerns among civil libertarians,” who noted that the group had “no weapons, no explosives” and yet the government considers the arrests and case a “major announcement.”

If not for the “confidential government informant” inserted in their midst, who convinced them to pledge allegiance to the cartoonish “al-Qaeda,” there would be no case.

After “sweeps of various locations in Miami, government agents found no explosives or weapons. Investigators also did not document any direct links to al-Qaeda.” But this complete lack of evidence did not stop the FBI. “This group was more aspirational than operational,” said John Pistole, the FBI’s deputy director. In other words, merely thinking about “al-Qaeda,” even if such a thought is planted by an agent provocateur, is illegal, a crime against the state.

[...]

In fact, convincing Americans that “al-Qaeda” sleeper cells—not necessarily Arabs, but in this instance seemingly innocuous African-American kids—may live next door, or reside in the ghetto across town, is what the Justice Department’s absurd case is all about.

My emphasis added, as Kurt really cuts to the chase on that last graf.

Make Some Noise! weighs in:

A portrait of the terrorist as potentially delusional young man, boosted by wishful thinking on the part of the FBI.

From across the pond comes this assessment of the Florida Seven, they of the sect of various parts of various religions:
The alarming news flashed across America's TV screens on Thursday evening: government agents had thwarted an al-Qa'ida plot, using home-grown American terrorists, to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago in a ghastly repeat of 9/11.

When the dust had settled barely 24 hours later, a rather more modest version of events had emerged. The seven young black men arrested at a warehouse in Miami and Atlanta had never been in touch with al-Qa'ida, and had no explosives. Their "plan" to destroy America's tallest building was little more than wishful thinking, expressed by one of them to an FBI informant purporting to be a member of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organisation.

Even the FBI admitted as much. John Pistole, the bureau's deputy director, described the plan on Friday as "aspirational rather than operational" and admitted that none of the seven (five US citizens and two Haitian immigrants) had ever featured on a terrorist watch list.
It is really too early to tell if we are witnessing a new version of the thought police or baby terrorists on the hoof. It's just too early for that.

But it is not too early to see that the shooting gallery is already set up and being run by Chicken Little- the same Chicken Little who tortured a supposedly high ranking al Queda type by waterboarding and other fun stuff until he sang like a bird and mentioned malls and stadiums and all kind of things that got Chicken Little happy as a jaybird because he could the raise the terror alert and scare the bejeezus out of all the good little who's who still believed in him (for some strange reason...), Sadly for Chicken Little, turns out key operative was a) mentally ill and b)saying anything to get the torture to stop. Both facts seem to have bothered Chicken Little not a whit.

For more on the Brit take on this story, go here.

There are elections coming up, and seats to be defended in the House and Senate. The party in power, facing some genuinely stormy months ahead, has to fall back on its tried and true standards this decade - play the race card and the terrorist card. So far, fear has worked as a means of manipulating the public into looking the other way as their supposed representatives decimate their constitutional rights.

Word to the wise: the sky ain't falling, nor are the Martians invading. We're left with the more mundane reality of living at a time when our leaders keep sending our men and women off to wars that have no merit, while looting the treasury - leaving future generations to deal with the empty coffers. War crimes and corruption are simply not what this year's incumbents would want us to focus our attention upon.

Speaking of herding cats

The face of the Iraqi civilian casualties

If you were to read just one blog post this weekend, The Iraqi Dead by Make Some Noise! would be it. Just as 2500 ain't just a number, the various estimates of civilian casualties (from the very conservative estimates of Iraq Body Count to the more likely accurate estimate published in Lancet) are also not numbers but are someone's grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, uncles, aunts, cousins, spouses, etc. That basic fact is one that gets left out of our abstract armchair discussions about whether or not the Iraq war was "worth it" or whether or not we (the US) should set a "time table" for withdrawing troops, etc.

Tempest, meet teapot

Or, much ado about Kos.

As too much bandwidth has already been expended, I'll simply highlight a blogger (The Green Knight) whose summary is close to what I might have written:
The whole Kos/TNR thing is just ridiculous. Sez TNR's Lee Siegel:
It's a bizarre phenomenon, the blogosphere. It radiates democracy's dream of full participation but practices democracy's nightmare of populist crudity, character-assassination, and emotional stupefaction. It's hard fascism with a Microsoft face.
Some people, including I guess some DailyKos readers, were, you know, a little peeved at undeservedly being called fascists. Funny, that. So here's Siegel's response after getting a well-deserved earful:
All these abusive attempts to autocratically or dictatorially control criticism came about because I said that the blogosphere had the quality of fascism, which my dictionary defines as "any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control."
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Did Lee get some mean e-mails just because he called innocent people fascists? Waaahhhhh!

Let me point out, first, that if Siegel were in my first-year writing class he'd get a D for that sentence. Everybody knows that quoting a dictionary does not constitute proof of anything.

But what's really weird about Siegel's reaction is this: it does not seem to occur to him that, when you call an entire group of people fascists, they might be pissed off. They might, in fact, respond in similar ways, that is to say, angrily.

[...]

But really, this is too much. Now we're finding out that Siegel's oh-so-journalistically-responsible rag is apparently fabricating sources in its attempts to depict Kos as the Borg Queen. And if that weren't enough, thanks to TNR's tireless but hapless breeding of illiberal talking points, Bobo the Clown is now all set to freak out on "kingpin" Kos who, allegedly,
commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way.
Please.

First of all, Kos doesn't have any followers. He has readers and co-bloggers, sure. But followers? Don't be ridiculous. We're talking about progressives, liberals, and Democrats here. You might as well try to herd cats as make people like us get in line.
Personally, I never quite understood the attraction to The New Republic (aka TNR) to begin with. Back during my undergrad days when that rag might have had some relevance, it seemed just a bit too wonky and stale for my liking. I guess I knew some wannabe Democrat party players who swore by it - made them look real sophisticated, see? A sub to that rag, along with chain-smoking Camel Lights, those cool rap-around shades, and some brand-spankin' new penny loafers, and you were bound to be the life of any A-list party! Totally rad, as one would say back then.

Oh well, I'm just chalking this one up to a turf war - in this case a turf war being fought between an aging voice of a particular subset of America's elites (TNR) and a rising voice for an overlapping subset of America's elites (Kos). Nothing lasts forever. The once-Kool Kids at TNR find their wonky staleness is out of fashion, replaced by a newer flavor of wonky staleness.

Life's too short for staleness. Try some more dangerous reading, instead. I command you. ;-)

Smelling a rat

Then we have the latest thought crime -- some men in Miami allegedly talking about committing acts of terrorism, although doing, as far as is alleged so far, quite literally nothing about it. News reports of the incident all refer to how "the group had been infiltrated by a government informant." "Informant" is the media's word. I'm giving even odds that the correct term is agent provacateur, and that the first one to mention the words "Sears Tower" or "ammonium nitrate" was he.
Nerdified Link. I'm with Eli on this one. Something just doesn't smell right. Shades of COINTELPRO, anyone?