Saturday, October 6, 2007

Once upon a time

US military interrogators actually refrained from torture (I know, how un-PC: it's "enhanced interrogation" nowadays). Of course, that was during WWII:
When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.

Back then, they and their commanders wrestled with the morality of bugging prisoners' cells with listening devices. They felt bad about censoring letters. They took prisoners out for steak dinners to soften them up. They played games with them.

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Blunt criticism of modern enemy interrogations was a common refrain at the ceremonies held beside the Potomac River near Alexandria. Across the river, President Bush defended his administration's methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects during an Oval Office appearance.

Several of the veterans, all men in their 80s and 90s, denounced the controversial techniques. And when the time came for them to accept honors from the Army's Freedom Team Salute, one veteran refused, citing his opposition to the war in Iraq and procedures that have been used at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"I feel like the military is using us to say, 'We did spooky stuff then, so it's okay to do it now,' " said Arno Mayer, 81, a professor of European history at Princeton University.

When Peter Weiss, 82, went up to receive his award, he commandeered the microphone and gave his piece.

"I am deeply honored to be here, but I want to make it clear that my presence here is not in support of the current war," said Weiss, chairman of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy and a human rights and trademark lawyer in New York City.

Stupid Facebook Tricks

The article accompanying the picture:
OCTOBER 2--A group of white Louisiana college students dressed in blackface and reenacted the "Jena 6" assault while a friend snapped photos and videotaped the staged attack, images that were later posted to a participant's Facebook page. The photos, which you'll find on the following pages, were taken late last month on the bank of the Red River, where students from the University of Louisiana at Monroe giddily acted out the racial attack. The photos (and the short video clip at right) were posted to the Facebook page of Kristy Smith, a freshman nursing student. The album of images was entitled "The Jena 6 on the River." In the video, three students with mud smeared across their bodies stomp on a fourth student, while two of the participants are heard to say, "Jena 6." One man can also be heard saying, "Niggers put the noose on." After the video and photos on Smith's page were discovered by fellow students, she removed the material and made her Facebook page private. Smith, who did not respond to a TSG e-mail sent to her school address, apologized for the images in several recent Facebook postings. "We were just playin n the mud and it got out of hand. I promise i'm not racist. i have just as many black friends as i do white. And i love them to death," she wrote. She added in a later message that her friends "were drinking" and things "got a lil out of hand." When faced with heated online criticism from fellow students, Smith yanked the photos and video from Facebook, but not before one student downloaded the photos and another videotaped the video directly from her computer screen (and then posted the clip on YouTube). The Monroe campus is about 65 miles north of Jena, where thousands of marchers gathered on September 21 to protest what they claimed was unfair legal treatment given to six young black men arrested in the beating of a white high school classmate. (5 pages)

BLACKFACEBOOK: College students in Texas, Connecticut, and South Carolina have previously posted similar racially charged images on Facebook.

TSG also has the videoclip in question, as well as some other pictures that this student had posted on her Facebook page. I'm sure that the student is very embarrassed (I mean, come one: what do you expect when you post inflamatory audio/visual materials on a public Facebook profile? Of course other students are going to noticed!!!), and obviously doing some damage control - although once someone utters "I'm not racist", my inclination is to roll my eyes in disbelief.

Of course, before you actually go using blackface on your blog (or Myspace or Facebook profile), you might wish to consult some sage advice.

Naturally, the tendency to obfuscate matters of racist or sexist behavior by playing the "good intentions" card (i.e., "Person X didn't intend to be racist, it just unfortunately looked that way") is pretty well par for the course in among Euro-Americans; whereas people of color tend to look at the tangible behaviors themselves (an approach I generally advocate taking).

In the meantime, the necessary conversation about the extent that American society is harboring latent (and periodically overt) racism both at individual and structural levels is long overdue.

Hat tip to luisa, a commenter at the Unapologetic Mexican.

Freedom and Dignity in the US: So Ephemeral

Said before and will say it again: the notion that the U$ is the "land of the free" is a joke. I'd go further and note that it's a myth that does far more harm than good, in that it allows for complacency as physical and social death occurs in gargantuan proportions abroad, and the consequences of a police state are increasingly felt at home.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Quotable: Herbert Muschamp

On visiting the Dachau concentration camp:

"The small size of the gas chamber comes as a surprise," he wrote. "There is nothing to see besides four walls, a floor, a ceiling and the door that leads outside."

"It is when you cross the threshold of that door that you grasp the reason for visiting Dachau. You walk out into daylight, but part of you does not leave. The doorway divides you. The part that is free to walk through the door feels disembodied, a weightless ghost. You feel lightheaded, as though you have broken the law, as indeed you have. Your passage through that door has violated the design. The room was not meant to be exited alive."

On the proposed "Freedom Tower" memorial where the WTC towers once stood:
"Even in peacetime that design would appear demagogic," Mr. Muschamp wrote. "As this nation prepares to send troops into battle, the design's message seems even more loaded. Unintentionally, the plan embodies the Orwellian condition America's detractors accuse us of embracing: perpetual war for perpetual peace."
nerdified link

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The one blog post that truly matters today


Free Burma!

Good coverage of the situation in Myanmar/Burma is available at Political Fleshfeast (see for example here, here, and here), Never In Our Names, and Ten Percent.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Midweek Music Video


Mea Culpa, from Brian Eno & David Byrne's classic album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Stating the obvious

Iraqis say Basra quieter after British troop pullout:
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Residents of Iraq's southern city of Basra have begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear, their city much quieter since British troops withdrew from the grand Saddam Hussein-era Basra Palace.

Political assassinations and sectarian violence continue, some city officials say, but on a much smaller scale than at any time since British troops moved into the city after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Mortar rounds, rockets and small arms fire crashed almost daily into the palace, making life hazardous for British and Iraqis alike in Iraq's second-largest city. To many Basrans the withdrawal of the British a month ago removed a proven target.

"The situation these days is better. We were living in hell ... the area is calm since their withdrawal," said housewife Khairiya Salman, who lives near the palace.

Civil servant Wisam Abdul Sada agreed. "We do not hear the sounds of explosions which were shaking our houses and terrifying our women and children," he told Reuters.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More right-wing depravity

captured in all its glory by Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald shares some of the wingnut missives in response to a post regarding the exaggeration of an alleged "Muslim threat" by someone called Jamie Kirchick (I'm guessing neocon; GOP or Dem affiliation unknown). Of course that it seems to have taken these wingnuts a whole couple weeks to fire up a sufficient number of neurons to "respond" (and I am being generous) is telling in and of itself. But I digress. The psychology behind the right-wing weirdness is something to behold, and Greenwald does a decent job of shedding some much needed light:
One can only marvel at how developed and richly detailed is the fantasy that he has created and carries around with him -- being on one's knees before a Muslim terrorist, begging and pleading and shaking, dialogue about "having served you." It is really right out of some cheap, trite sadomasochistic pornography script, and yet these fears and truly creepy fantasies are the foundation for their political beliefs, driving most of our political discourse and policy.

And this bile that spewed forth really illustrates so much about why we continue to fight one of history's most absurd wars ever, whereby we occupy Iraq indefinitely even though the original justifications for invading have long ago vanished and even those who want to stay have no idea what we are trying to accomplish. It is the same dynamic that fueled so much of the intense and obsessive hatred for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and which drives the insatiable quest for new Enemies to attack, including what looks increasingly like the new War with Iran.

Bombing and killing Muslims is the only path for avoiding the humiliating scenarios which our nation's war cheerleaders carry around obsessively in their heads, and which are currently filling my inbox. They're not going to be the ones on their knees, begging. They're not going to be the "faggots." Instead, they are going to send others off to fight and bomb and occupy and kill and thereby show who is strong and tough and feel protected.

In his excellent and well-documented book "The Wimp Factor," Psychology Professor Stephen Ducat reviews clinical studies which demonstrate that many men "are more likely to experience a vicarious boost in their own sense of power and potency when American military forces attack, and especially when they defeat, an enemy." Neoconservative war tracts almost invariably are suffuse with explicit warnings about submission and humiliation.

[snip]

That need among those who feel a lacking of power and strength -- to send others off to fight wars so that they can feel powerful -- is insatiable and far more potent than any rational arguments about "national interest" and "just wars." That is a major reason why -- despite the endless debates and overwhelming public sentiment -- we stay in Iraq (because to leave would be to "lose," to suffer a "humiliating defeat" at the hands of a laughing Al Qaeda), and it is why war with Iran is so appetizing for so many -- we need to show the world who is boss. It is warped psychology masquerading as political belief. And that is why nothing triggers hysteria of the sort in the above-excerpted post more than challenging the notion that it may not actually be necessary to wage Permanent and Endless War on Muslims. Arguing that is virtually tantamount to advocating that our nation's vicarious war cheerleaders be deprived of food, water and oxygen.

Greenwald also points out an old Norman "Bates" Podhoretz essay wherein Normie lays out his own psycho anti-black racism for all to see, as well as unwittingly exposing Podhoretz's own psychological demons that no amount of vicarious mass-murder of brown-skinned humans will ever truly exorcise.

A note in the margins: between the various dominatrix wannabes in the State Department, the President with the bald men fetish, and the twisted sexualized violence fantasies expressed by the various wingnuts, I can't help but wonder if the White House is little more than a set for a remake of Caligula.

The Tale of the Presidential Candidates

From the Antiwar.com Blog:

Today the Senate passed Bush’s war funding request by an overwhelming vote of 92-3.

Quite a coincidence about the five who didn’t vote: they are all running for President.

That’s right: the five absentions were Biden (D-DE), Clinton (D-NY), Dodd (D-CT), McCain (R-AZ), Obama (D-IL). They must have been out campaigning, but how convenient to pass on such a key vote.

And now for something completely different - The Tale of Sir Robin:

Monday, October 1, 2007

Yet another racial incident involving "security"

Mervin says a security guard slammed her against a table at a lunchroom at the high school and twisted her arms behind her back so violently, he broke her wrist. Her wrist is in a cast.

"He put my arm behind my back and he started raising it until it hurt, so I told him, 'Stop, it hurts.' He had slammed me on the table and told me to hold still. He called me a 'nappy-head,' and that's when I just started crying," said Mervin.
nerdified link

Sunday, September 30, 2007

History Lesson and Harbinger

I'll give you the punchline. Do take the time to read the rest:
Iraq's occupation is currently powered by 2.000 trucks each day freighting food, water, furniture, and fuel from Kuwait. This long "logistical tail" (including more than 5,500 fuel tankers) offer abundant targets for the resistance and their IEDs. The fuel requirements for the MRAPs alone fatten the logistical tail, create a "target-rich environment" and perhaps doom this recent crusade: Armored invaders a long way from home and likely to carry out a lot less than they carried in.

Eric Alterman on the upcoming Dolchstoßlegende

Here's a clip:
Having exposed their country to the ignominy of certain defeat in Iraq, the Bush Administration and its neoconservative allies

are seeking to salvage their crumbling reputations by blaming their critics for the catastrophe their policies have wrought. We are witnessing the foundation for a post-Iraq "stab in the back" campaign.

The tactic--Dolchstoßlegende, which means, literally, "dagger stab legend"--is associated with attacks by German anti-Semites on Jews in the aftermath of World War I and is a familiar response for frustrated American right-wingers when reality fails to live up to their ideological fantasies.

[snip]

The coming campaign's foundations are already in place. They rest on three building blocks: an attack on the loyalty of those willing to recognize reality; the construction of an alternative reality in which victory is deemed to be imminent; and, finally, a shifting of blame for a supposedly premature withdrawal to those who refuse to play along.

Matthew Yglesias, in the Center for American Progress's "Think Again" column, noticed preparations for such a campaign as early as May 2004. Roll Call's Morton Kondracke pretended that "the media and politicians" were "in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq," while Tony Blankley of the Washington Times added, "the president's political and media opposition want the president's defeat more than America's victory." Two years later, when most Americans had turned against the war, Spencer Ackerman, writing in The New Republic, noticed that not a single contributor to a National Review symposium advocated withdrawal. Typical were comments like those of former Bush Pentagon analyst Michael Rubin, who announced, "The US is losing in Iraq because American politicians and the general public have not decided they want or need to win."

George W. Bush has both feet firmly planted in the "stab" camp, and offered it aid and comfort when he tried to link the "unmistakable legacy of Vietnam"--"boat people," "re-education camps" and "killing fields"--to calls for withdrawal from Iraq. Podhoretz's recent entry into the sweepstakes is, appropriately, a retread of his 1982 attack on his ex-friends and former self. In his clinically delusional book World War IV, Podhoretz paints Bush as a "great president" and professes to see in Iraq "enormous strides that had been made in democratizing and unifying the country under a workable federal system." No less implausibly, he compares war opponents, like former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, to a "domestic insurgency" with a "life-and-death stake" in America's defeat. Podhoretz flatters himself and his fellow armchair generals with his claim that his screeds in Commentary and the Wall Street Journal editorial pages represent a "war of ideas...no less bloody than the one being fought by our troops in the Middle East."

Podhoretz's paranoid ravings notwithstanding, it is likely that he has been less effective in laying the groundwork for the post-Iraq stab campaign than second-generation neocon generalissimo William Kristol, who despite mountains of contrary evidence professes to detect an "astoundingly" successful surge and a military situation that is "better than anyone expected." Kristol's Weekly Standard recently ran a cover drawing of an American soldier viewed from behind within the sights of an unseen weapon, beneath the headline Does Washington Have His Back? Another Standard headline reads: They Don't Really Support the Troops.

Such visual, visceral propaganda attacks would have fit in perfectly with those employed against Jews by right-wing anti-Semites in the days before Hitler. One might have imagined that American neocons would have pulled back before crossing that line.

The campaign is coming; forewarned is forearmed.

Caption This

This individual's quote: "In any case, I hate all Iranians."

Out of morbid curiosity, I wonder where Bu$hCo finds these folks.

Quick update: The person pictured above turns out to be a protégé of Richard Armitage (turns out that my hunch that this person was a neocon was right on the money). Props to Cernig of The Newshoggers for the tip.