Saturday, February 9, 2008

A brief history of waterboarding

Or more properly, water torture.

h/t kraant at Political Fleshfeast.

Looking for alternatives to the corporate prez candidates?

Gloria La Riva has a blog up and running. The campaign website is here, for those wishing to take a look. Perhaps this won't be relevant to my fellow Okies (as our state election laws are quite undemocratic when it comes to allowing alternative parties and independent candidates to be placed on the ballot).

h/t to Left I.

Before I completely forget, Cynthia McKinney's campaign website's been online for a while now. At this stage in the campaign cycle, it looks like she's got her work cut out for her against Ralph Nader. She's a fighter, so I wouldn't rule her out.

Before I forget

RickB at Ten Percent has been quite good at keeping his readers up to date on the US regime's continued use of gulags and torture, including, of course, the historical first admission by a military official of a "Camp 7" at Gitmo, as well as the apparent convenient "disappearance" of a year's worth of evidence at Gitmo on one of its detainees. From that post, we also get a good snark-filled summary of some of the propaganda that the Gitmo staff is treated to:

The JTF may not get much action down Camp 7 way but they do have a camp magazine to enjoy. The Wire (not the excellent TV show) is Gitmo’s military produced lifestyle supplement (in pdf)! Have a browse through the archives, this January’s edition (ps. typo! Someone tell the military affairs office they’ve put this years mags under 2007) had a touching article in tribute to Martin Luther King and -as with much of the media- completely ‘neglect’ to mention his anti-war & economic justice work, well you can only take irony so far…

Also in this months jam packed issue-

  • JTF port security and their nifty gunboats (they’d make the Iranian’s jealous).
  • BCCT psychologists, hey they’re all really great, really!
  • Joseph Benkert Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs pays a visit!
  • American football & extreme sports reports, Team Shock won the Gitmo challenge!
  • College benefits, hey you could learn about the Nuremberg trials!
  • ‘Hitman’ not as good as ‘The Matrix’ apparently.
  • A Christian message of hope from a Chaplain, bless ‘em!
  • Camp Justice Red Bulls get a swanky new sign!
  • Road Burners video arcade game delivered and hard rockers ‘Night Ranger’ perform (80’s hit with ‘Sister Christian‘ apparently, anyone…?) !
Good times; good times. Don't forget to check his post, Mukasey Delivers, while you're at it. Don't forget to remind yourselves who voted to confirm Mukasey last year along with those who were conveniently absent from that particular vote.

American Psychology's Tortured Present: Notes From the Resistance

There has been a trickle of psychologists who've either offered public protests or submitted outright resignations from the American Psychology in recent months, due to its refusal to denounce the role of psychologists in interrogations such as the sort currently going on in places such as Gitmo. These of course go beyond all the various efforts to either petition the APA to change its policy on interrogation, and by still current members of the APA to withhold their dues. Last August it was Mary Pipher, who returned an award from the APA in protest of the APA council of representatives' rejection of the following resolution:
"Be it resolved that the roles of psychologists in settings in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights, should be limited as health personnel to the provision of psychological treatment."
Then, in October, Beth Shinn resigned her membership in protest. This year, so far, at least two psychologists that I know of - one of who is a fellow blogger (Invictus), the other of whom is a prominent member of the profession (Kenneth S. Pope), have left the APA.

In addition to some of these prominent and rather public resignations, there is currently a battle over legislation in California brewing over the Ridley-Thomas bill that would get California mental health providers out of the interrogation biz:
As I’ve posted before, a coalition in California has worked with CA Senator Ridley-Thomas to introduce a resolution, SJR 19, that would warn CA licensed health providers that they are are risk of future prosecution if they participate in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. More importantly, it requests that the Defense Department and CIA remove all CA licensed health providers from any role in interrogations.
Turns out both the American Psychological Association and the California Psychological Association are working to gut the legislation, leaving little more than empty words with no real effect. It's unclear at this moment how effective the APA and CPA lobbying will be. My hope is that those in California working on ending psychology's role in some of the most egregious violations of human dignity known to our species.

In the meantime, it seems like not only does the APA need to continue to feel heat by whatever means are necessary, including dues withholding and resignations, but the California Psychological Association needs to also receive the same treatment by those psychologists who reside in California.

For those who keep wondering, it is quite easy to continue one's professional existence without belonging to the APA. The Withhold APA Dues website explains the details - among other things reminding psychologists who are mental health practitioners that withholding dues or leaving the APA will have no impact on one's professional insurance, and that one can belong to many of the relevant APA divisions without belonging to the APA. I've been a member in good standing with the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues for ages without holding any membership in the APA. My understanding is the same is also possible for those in the clinical and counseling specialties regarding their relevant divisions, as well as those who, for instance, hold an interest in peace psychology. Increasingly, the APA is becoming irrelevant. As a scientific psychologist, the APA was pretty irrelevant at best all along, and there is reason to believe that the ethical sensibilities of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), to which I've belonged since my grad school days, are at least a few steps above those of the APA.

Obviously, to the extent that I possibly can as a non-APA member, I wish to support those who are doing what they can to make the APA a more ethical organization, and that they succeed in getting its policies regarding the role of psychologists in interrogation in compliance with relevant international legal standards - for the good of our field as a whole as well as for the good of those psychologists who might otherwise be placed into the role of human rights abusers, and for the good of humanity more broadly. That said, I think that it is high time for psychologists to consider the very distinct possibility that the APA is now simply beyond reform, and that a clean break is the only option really left to us.

On a related note

After Downing Street has all sorts of items worthy of looking at, including an excerpt of a WSJ article on the recent revelation that much of the "interrogation" (personally I'd be more blunt and call it what it is - torture), including waterboarding was outsourced to "private contractors" (I prefer the term mercenaries). One feature of regimes that use torture is worth mentioning, given that article: whether it's the work of psychologists such as Mika Haritos-Fatouros (her 2003 book, The Psychological Origins of Institutionalized Torture, is a classic), and Phil Zimbardo, or sociologists such as Martha Huggins (who has co-authored a book about Brazilian torturers with Haritos-Fatouros and Zimbardo, Violence Workers, as well as authored - in the late 1990s - a book called Political Policing) and Marnia Lazreg (the latter of whom has recently authored a book called Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad), the torturing regime undergoes a sort of devolution process in which multiple agencies (or in the case of contemporary US as part of its "War on Terror") or mercenary organizations become increasingly involved in torture, become increasingly unaccountable to whatever democratically elected bodies might exist, resulting in increasing chaos as torturers and death squad members act with apparent impunity.

That torture is an impeachable offense should be a given (regrettably, getting the likes of Nancy Pelosi to acknowledge appears highly unlikely, and I'm pretty skeptical at this juncture that Conyers, for whom at one point I still had some respect, would be willing to move on impeachment hearings). At this point, we have the Bush regime admitting in public to waterboarding - a practice that the otherwise US-dominated United Nations contends should be prosecuted as torture.

I realize the rationale behind the Dems' do-nothing "leaders": why rock the boat in an election year? Here's a few things to ponder for those who seem to have consumed that Kool-Aid. It is nearly a 100% certainty that the current President will be issuing out quite a few pardons in the weeks following the November election - including a number of individuals whose hands are quite dirty when it comes to approving the use of torture in addition to himself and Cheney:
John Ashcroft
Alberto Gonzales
Donald Rumsfeld
George J. Tenet
John E. McLaughlin
Porter Goss
David Addington
Jay S. Bybee
John Yoo
Jack Goldsmith
General Ricardo Sanchez
General Geoffrey Miller
General Janis Karpinski
In other words, these war criminals WILL BE LET OFF THE HOOK IF BUSH/CHENEY ARE NOT IMPEACHED. That what passes for a Democrat party "leadership" is willing to accept that probability in exchange for the hope of gaining a few more seats in the House and Senate, believing that they are being "smart" by not being "divisive" merely makes them look like corrupt hypocrites who cannot be trusted. Not only would impeachment be the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, but from the more Machiavellian standpoint would seem quite smart - after all if past behavior is any indication, the party that pursues impeachment typically ends up reaping the spoils come election day. Perhaps that's the only thing that these so-called leaders would understand: refusal to do their part to uphold what's left of the Constitution, should cost them their jobs. At this point, the ONLY WAY that I would be even remotely interested in considering a Democrat for ANY elected position at the federal level is if their damned party gets its act together and commences posthaste on impeachment proceedings [1]. Otherwise, I'm left to continue concluding that Democrats are either cowardly or evil (or both). One can imagine just how motivated I'd be to show up to a polling place in November if that impression is allowed to persist. I may be only one person, but I will suggest that I'm not alone when it comes to being fed up with the continued failure of elected officials to hold those who've committed war crimes accountable.

Imagine if those fed up would-be voters not only refused to vote, but held some sort of general strike on election day. The latter is unlikely to happen, but man, would that drive the point across much more forcefully than merely staying home that whoever assumes the White House throne does not have a mandate; and that the same applies to which ever party has nominal control of Congress.

[1] As I've stated on numerous occasions here over the last several years, there is no way I'd vote for a Republican under any circumstances given that party's dismal record on human rights and civil liberties.

The Human Face of Torture: Omar Khadr

Here are a few excerpts from a Rolling Stone article detailing this kid's ordeal:

A few months after Omar Khadr arrived at Guantanamo Bay, he was awakened by a guard around midnight. "Get up," the guard said. "You have a reservation." "Reservation" is the commonly used term at Gitmo for interrogation.
In the interrogation room, Omar's interviewer grew displeased with his level of cooperation. He summoned several MPs, who chained Omar tightly to an eye bolt in the center of the floor. Omar's hands and feet were shackled together; the eye bolt held him at the point where his hands and feet met. Fetally positioned, he was left alone for half an hour.
Upon their return, the MPs uncuffed Omar's arms, pulled them behind his back and recuffed them to his legs, straining them badly at their sockets. At the junction of his arms and legs he was again bolted to the floor and left alone. The degree of pain a human body experiences in this particular "stress position" can quickly lead to delirium, and ultimately to unconsciousness. Before that happened, the MPs returned, forced Omar onto his knees, and cuffed his wrists and ankles together behind his back. This made his body into a kind of bow, his torso convex and rigid, right at the limit of its flexibility. The force of his cuffed wrists straining upward against his cuffed ankles drove his kneecaps into the concrete floor. The guards left.
An hour or two later they came back, checked the tautness of his chains and pushed him over on his stomach. Transfixed in his bonds, Omar toppled like a figurine. Again they left. Many hours had passed since Omar had been taken from his cell. He urinated on himself and on the floor. The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they'd successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.

While he was at Guantanamo, Omar was beaten in the head, nearly suffocated, threatened with having his clothes taken indefinitely and, as at Bagram, lunged at by attack dogs while wearing a bag over his head. "Your life is in my hands," an intelligence officer told him during an interrogation in the spring of 2003. During the questioning, Omar gave an answer the interrogator did not like. He spat in Omar's face, tore out some of his hair and threatened to send him to Israel, Egypt, Jordan or Syria -- places where they tortured people without constraints: very slowly, analytically removing body parts. The Egyptians, the interrogator told Omar, would hand him to Askri raqm tisa -- Soldier Number Nine. Soldier Number Nine, the interrogator explained, was a guard who specialized in raping prisoners.
Omar's chair was removed. Because his hands and ankles were shackled, he fell to the floor. His interrogator told him to get up. Standing up was hard, because he could not use his hands. When he did, his interrogator told him to sit down again. When he sat, the interrogator told him to stand again. He refused. The interrogator called two guards into the room, who grabbed Omar by the neck and arms, lifted him into the air and dropped him onto the floor. The interrogator told them to do it again -- and again and again and again. Then he said he was locking Omar's case file in a safe: Omar would spend the rest of his life in a cell at Guantanamo Bay.
Several weeks later, a man who claimed to be Afghan interrogated Omar. He wore an American flag on his uniform pants. He said his name was Izmarai -- "lion" -- and he spoke in Farsi and occasionally in Pashto and English. Izmarai said a new prison was under construction in Afghanistan for uncooperative Guantanamo detainees. "In Afghanistan," Izmarai said, "they like small boys." He pulled out a photograph of Omar and wrote on it, in Pashto, "This detainee must be transferred to Bagram."
Omar was taken from his chair and short-shackled to an eye bolt in the floor, his hands behind his knees. He was left that way for six hours. On March 31st, 2003, Omar's security level was downgraded to "Level Four, with isolation." Everything in his cell was taken, and he spent a month without human contact in a windowless box kept at the approximate temperature of a refrigerator.
When he was not being tortured or held in isolation, Omar spent virtually every waking minute of his captivity at Guantanamo alone in his cell, first in a facility called Camp Delta and then in one called Camp V. His left eye, the one injured at Ab Khail, had gone blind and was immobile. Except for a Koran, there was nothing in Omar's cells to occupy his mind. During his first year and a half at Guantanamo, he was permitted to exercise only twice a week for fifteen minutes, in a cage slightly larger than his own. Conversation between cells was possible, but prisoners had become so unstable and fearful of one another that they tended not to say much; there were no friendships. Omar tried to talk to his guards, about anything, but they were unresponsive. They often covered their nameplates with tape before entering detention facilities.
Hat tip to Time for change's Journal (via After Downing Street). Further:
Torture of detainees held in prisons operated under the auspices of the George W. Bush administration has been very common since Bush commenced his “War on Terror”.

Whatever restraints may exist against the torture of children, the torture of Omar Khadr is not at all unique in that respect: Just recently, Bush legal advisor John Yoo argued publicly that there is no law that can prevent the President from ordering the torture of children; video evidence exists of the torture of Iraqi children in our jails in Iraq; and former President Jimmy Carter discusses this issue in his book, “Our Endangered Values” (page 119-20):
After visiting six of the twenty five or so U.S. prisons, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under the age of eighteen, some as young as eight years old…. The international Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the Pentagon have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse….

Children like this eleven-year old have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else, and were not told why they were detained…
From Time for change's Journal one may get some more details about the rather dodgy case against this kid. Since the age of 15, his life has been nothing but torture; and as it's become increasingly clear, he's far from the only one.

Part of The Human Face of Torture series.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Gaza's brief respite is over

Saw this over at Lenin's Tomb, and figured was worth passing along:
The all-too-brief moment of liberation for Gaza is over. The cage doors have been slammed shut, elopers shot, and air strikes on the captive population resumed. Israel's collective punishment having been sanctified by the Jerusalem-based Supreme Court last week (the reduction of power to Gaza begins today), and its past war crimes officially denied, the IDF can rampage through its open air prison at liberty. As often as it likes. The IDF are also looking at ways to stop anything like the breach of that wall ever happening again - bad example, you see. What if people starting doing that in the West Bank? And Egypt's coppers are back on the beat, shooting at Gazan protesters. The brief exhiliaration of crossing the border now gives way to a darker reality - the so-called "shopping spree" didn't begin to bring even a fraction of the goods that were needed.

Starvation is afoot. The FAO's last 'Food Security and Vulnerability' assessment, which was carried out in 2006, found that only a third of all Palestinians were food secure. The Gaza Strip is particularly vulnerable, since it cannot produce more than 1% of the wheatflour that makes up 80% of the basic diet. The report notes that "24% of food insecure non-refugees are located in West Bank and 58% are located in the Gaza Strip". (Since we tend to forget about the refugee population, who are given no rights in the 'two state' consensus, it is worth pointing out that they are in the worst condition when it comes to basic nutrition). The last time a survey of Palestinian incomes was taken, to my knowledge, was Oxfam's report in early 2007, which found that poverty had increased by 30% over the previous year. As they note, this is not only because international donors suspended aid upon the election of Hamas. It is because Israel collects Palestinian tax revenue and withholds it. The number of Palestinians living on less than $2.10 a day doubled in 2006. And so, with the economy subject to a blockade, with tax revenues withheld, with aid withdrawn, and with power supplies now cut, Israel is back to its policy of "putting the Palestinians on a diet" (as Dov Weisglass once described it).
I've been known to equate the Israeli government with the old Apartheid-era government that once ruled South Africa. In many ways that seems like a fitting enough description insofar as the Israeli government has done via brute force - namely remove indigenous peoples from their lands, segregating them from the rest of society in the process. Israel, the Afrikaaners, and the US have a great deal in common on that score in their treatment of the indigenous folks who just happened to get in the way of whatever speculation, profits, and power their respective elites desired.

Where we need to apparently part ways with the Israel-Apartheid comparison is in how the respective regimes viewed their colonized indigenous peoples. For the South African Apartheid regime, the indigenous served as potential cheap labor. For the Israelis, the Palestinians are merely excess humanity that are to serve no purpose whatsoever. While it was difficult for a person stuck in one of the bantustans in SA to get from point A to point B, s/he could at least count on finding something in the way of work and be able to provide some subsistence level existence to oneself and family. Not even that is afforded to the Palestinians, who are, for all intents and purposes, trapped in an open-air concentration camp. The Apartheid regime was brutal, it ghettoized those deemed untermenschen, and the world is certainly better off without it. Israel has gone further - its government is literally starving the people in Gaza to death. In other words, there is a level of genocide inherent in Israel's treatment of those in Gaza that would arguably be beyond even the Apartheid regime's acceptance level.

The play, 'My Name is Rachel Corrie' opens in Albuquerque mid-February

Found at The Rachel Corrie Foundation's website:
After a critically-acclaimed run in Denver, Countdown to Zero’s production will run for two performances only in Albuquerque, Saturday, February 16, 2:00PM, and Sunday, February 17, at 2:00 PM. This play was chosen by Justice First! and Countdown to Zero as an artistic vehicle for community conversation. After both performances, post-show discussions will be offered in order to address the issues raised in the play and to encourage fair and honest conversation and reflection.
If you're in or plan to be in Albuquerque that weekend, the relevant info for obtaining tickets and so forth can be found here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Announcing: March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm

This March 19th marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. That's five years too many! To mark the occasion, fellow blogger Godless Liberal Homo has set up March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm. To give you some idea of what it's all about, here's the mission statement:
This blogswarm will promote blog postings opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a full withdrawal of foreign occupying forces in Iraq. Five years of an illegal and catastrophic war is five years too many. On the March 19 anniversary of the conquest of Iraq by the Bush Administration, there needs to be a loud volume of voices countering the pro-war propaganda from far too many politicians and corporate media outlets.
If you wish to participate, there are plenty of topics to tackle. If you're going to an anti-war demonstration, you could offer a first-hand report. You could interview an Iraq War veteran or a military family. The war has certainly laid bare any of a number of human rights abuses at the hands of the US, such as torture (does Abu Ghraib ring a bell?) and genocide (whether it's the estimated million deaths caused by the war or the mass displacement of millions of civilians - including the wholesale elimination of whole cultures). You could examine issues that otherwise are overlooked by the corporate media (how about the environmental contamination caused by the use of depleted uranium bombs, or the effects of Friedmanesque neoliberal economic policies that have been imposed on the Iraqis), or look at the positions that various political candidates and parties have taken regarding withdrawing the US military from Iraq - this is, in the US, an election year. If you know of an action alert that would be relevant to your readers, by all means make sure to spread the word. In other words, the possibilities to mark the atrocious Iraq War are many.

What else do you need to do? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Go to March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, and leave a comment with your blog's name and URL. Those who've signed up by February 15 (the fifth anniversary of the mass actions held around the globe against the then-impending war) will be listed as Charter Blogs. Of course, there will be updated listings of any blog that joins the blogswarm even after that deadline.

2. Add one of the kewl badges to your blog (if you wish), or if you're more artistic than I am, create your own badge.

3. Spread the word. Ultimately, blogswarms succeed with a bit of good old fashioned elbow grease. In this case, that means not only mentioning this blogswarm on your own blog, but also in comments on other relevant blogs. Say it; say it out loud; say it often.

Finally, of course, around March 19, make sure to let March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm know about what you've written in the comments.

Obviously, blogging is not a substitute for actual activism, but rather as a supplement. If you're planning to go to one of the many demonstrations that will likely be held in the US or elsewhere, by all means go. Through words and deeds, hopefully we can prevent the need for a sixth, tenth, or hundredth anniversary blogswarm in opposition to the Iraq War.

For more info, go to March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm or RickB at Ten Percent.

Green voters report irregularities in Illinois

I'm not sure how much coverage this is getting, but it seems like something worth attention:

Voters who hoped to participate in the Illinois' first ever statewide Green Party primary are receiving a very rude reception at many polling places, especially in Chicago.

In the early hours of voting, Green Party officials began receiving reports from frustrated voters across the state who, in many cases, had been told by pollworkers that there are no Green Party ballots available at their polling places, or that they had to vote on suspect electronic
voting machines, even while other parties use paper ballots.

Some of the most outrageous incidents, however, occurred across the wards of Chicago, where Green Party ballots have been apparently tampered with so they can't be read and accepted by voting machines, voters are given Democratic ballots despite requesting Green ballots.

What follows are a few examples of reports. Check for more reports as they are received. More information will also be available at the Green Party gathering tonight at Decima Musa Restaurant, 1901 S. Loomis, Chicago (in Pilsen).


A voter reports that all of the Green Party ballots had been folded in half, causing them to not feed through the machine properly. The Republican and Democratic ballots were not folded. Because his first ballot kept getting rejected by the machine, the voter was asked by pollworkers to fill out another Green Party ballot, which also had been previously folded. That ballot was not able to be read and was rejected as well.


Pollworkers didn't have any green ballots available and were asking voters if they wanted a Democratic or Republican ballot (but not Green ballots).

25th WARD, 24th PRECINCT

A voter asked for a Green Party ballot three times, and was given a Democratic paper ballot
each time. Finally, on the fourth time, the voter was told only touch screen available for Greens.

31st WARD

Mary Ann Esler, Green Party Committeewoman in the 31st Ward, went in to vote in the Green Primary this morning. The election judges refused to give her a Green Party ballot. The Democratic Precinct Captain, who was supervising the judges told them that there were no ballots for the Green Primary because the Green candidates were running unopposed.

The confrontation ended when Mary found the ballots hidden under some papers on the judge's table. The judges then went into a big huddle with the Democratic Precinct Captain while Mary marked her ballot.

35th WARD

Jeremy Karpen, live blogging from the 35th Ward polling place, gives the following reports:

9:00am: After reporting an election judge for not orally offering Green Party ballots (when he is offering Dem and Rep) he was visited by the Board of Elections and then he called me [an expletive]. I asked him first to either list all three ballots or simply ask people what ballot they prefer, he said "I can if I want to."

9:09am: Craig (my committeeman and roommate) was just handed a "green" democratic ballot and got all the way to the little voting booth before he realized what had happened. Dear lord.

9:45am: The Election Judge, who now seems to have an attitude, when asked if Green is a real party, said "unfortunately" and stated that it "isn't a real party." The person he was talking to was an electioneer for Bradley's campaign and not a voter but there certainly were other voters in the room.

47th WARD

A voter was told there were no Green Party ballots. During a call to report the incident, the pollworkers told him that he could vote using an electronic voting machine, but they did not have any paper ballots available (although paper ballots were available for the Republican and Democratic parties).


Green committeeman reports that the election judge is only offering Republican and Democratic ballots.


An election judge reports that judges were instructed to keep a tally of Green voters on a tally sheet that numbers up to 50. There is no such tally for the Democrats and Republicans.


A voter writes: "At approximately 11:30 am, at the polling place at 74 Park Drive, Glenview, Green Party ballots were still in shrink wrap, in
the box, in the cabinet. Officials at the desk were indignant about my disappointment, and challenged me to "have credentials" in order to
register my complaint.


A pollwatcher reports that and election judge asks voter "which parties' primary ballot do you want?" The voter seemed confused by the question and the judge clarified by stating "Republican or Democrat". The pollwatcher immediately interjected and corrected the judge and asked her to please state all three parties in the primary from now on.


A voter writes: "A judge repeatedly tried to give me a Democratic ballot, which I refused. The Green ballots were still wrapped up and semi-out of sight. As I approached the tables, I could hear only "Republican or Democrat?" over and over.


A voter writes: "As I was leaving, the head lady was making a call about getting more Green ballots because they had only been sent three and at 7:30a they had already used 2 of them and she was worried about a run on Green voters."
I made one edit to the above - namely, shortening an url (in order that this blog may keep its beautiful appearance).

Torture Nation

Video found courtesy of Home of the Brave.

On a related note, see the website for the independent film, Taxi to the Dark Side.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The perfect storm of peak oil and neoliberalism?

I found an interesting post over at Jim Kunstler's site (part of his occasionally updated "Daily Grunt" blog), in which a letter from a South African farmer is reproduced. Much of the letter details the worsening energy shortages, road conditions (apparently potholes have become quite a problem even in relatively affluent areas), and the social and economic strain resulting as consequences.

Although the letter does dovetail with Kunstler's main thesis regarding the future energy shortfalls expected globally as we get further into the post-peak oil era, there is one other factor to be considered.

The farmer seems quite critical of the ANC. After reading Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine, I can't say that I'm all that surprised. Although affluent white landowners have traditionally been hostile toward the ANC, the post-Apartheid ANC government has in actuality turned out to be a good friend to the Apartheid era's white business elites. One of the ANC's movers and shakers, Thabo Mbeki apparently managed some back room wheeling and dealing with members of DeKlerk's regime (along with the usual IMF crowd) in Apartheid's waning days that effectively left the ANC with little more than a hollow government - one that could pass all the laws it wanted, but in which the economic inequities of Apartheid would be locked in or made worse. In essence, the South Africa that emerged was a neoliberalism poster child during the roaring 1990s, and its economy "expanded" - at least for some; those impoverished during Apartheid largely remained impoverished, and often faced worse poverty. The grand promises the ANC made in the 1950s simply could not be kept, which is beginning to leading to increased disillusionment and unrest. Also, like just about anywhere else in which a Milton Friedman-style economy has been imposed, eventually the infrastructure falls apart, and no one who is supposedly in charge is there to fix it. Otherwise affluent areas in South Africa are dealing with more power outages, roads in disrepair, and so on. I would imagine that whatever middle class might exist there is also on the decrease.

Although I'm not discounting the very real possibility that declining reserves of nonrenewable energy sources are at least partially implicated in South Africa's current situation, I'd simply want to note that neoliberal capitalism is doing to South Africa what it has done everywhere else its policies have been practiced - essentially hollowing out the government, draining the nation's resources, and leaving a crumbling wreck littered with Red Zones and Green Zones in its wake. In the process, a few conglomerates made a killing. How nice.

More important than Stupor Tuesday: War crimes news round-up

Here are a few items that caught my attention.

The civil suit filed against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. began today

Brenda Norrell covers the sentencing hearing for three Fort Huachuca torture protesters who'd been convicted of trespassing and failure to comply with an officer - for whatever it might have been worth, that hearing offered at least something of an airing of the issue of torture and the US role in propagating and perpetrating the cruel practice.

Stephen Soldz has questions about Rumsfeld's role in authorizing war crimes.

Chris Floyd has an article up called Strange Fruit: America's Gulag and the "Good War". We'll call it food for thought for those alleged "progressives" who keep insisting that the Afghanistan War was and is "good" and it's only the Iraq War that's bad.

Valtin has a good one up called On Prestige and Power and War Crimes.

At A Tiny Revolution, there's a good capsule summary of Colin Powell's lies to the UN prior to the Iraq War, in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of his infamous UN appearance - Lie After Lie: What Exactly Colin Powell Knew Five Years Ago Today, And What He Told The World.

Also, via A Tiny Revolution, I learned of a blog that's dedicated to remembering Powell's blood-stained performance on February 5, 2003 which goes by the name, Day of Shame. It was indeed, as I remarked back on February 5, 2004, "one the most infamous acts of Propaganda in World history. We must never forget." Today, I will remind my readers that some of the so-called "intelligence" upon which Powell based his statements that day was obtained via torture. Although those of us who were against the war from the beginning, and who were skeptical about the claims Powell and others were making, have been vindicated, that vindication does little more than provide cold comfort. The lives lost and ruined as a consequence of those lies will never be repaired. We're going to be living with the consequences for a very long time.

Finally, check out the blogger Maine Owl, who has a series of blog posts under the title, Five Years Ago in War. Looks like an interesting project for those interested in keeping a record of what has happened in our names.

There's nothing like a good boondoggle: Homeland Insecurity edition

It's not as good as burning money directly (to paraphrase Dmitry Orlov), but I have to hand it to the US government - building spy towers along the US/Mexico border that simply fail to work is almost a stroke of genius. When historians write about the decline of the imperial US, stories like the one below (courtesy of Brenda Norrell, who's been tracking this boondoggle for a while) are ones that should be included as textbook case studies on how to speed up that decline: make something that doesn't work, spend more money on making it not work, and continue repeating the process in the hopes that no one ever gets wise to the scam.

SBInet hits software snag By Alice Lipowicz
Published on February 5, 2008

Following testing that was supposed to be final, the Homeland Security Department has determined that it needs to develop better software and perform additional tests on the initial 28-mile segment of the SBInet border surveillance system, a department spokeswoman said.
On Dec. 10, the department’s Customs and Border Protection agency conditionally accepted from prime contractor Boeing Co. the “Project 28” initial segment of the Secure Border Initiative Network at the Arizona-Mexico border. Also on that date, agency officials said they would conduct 45 days of operational testing before final acceptance of that section.

But 57 days later, a department official has confirmed a second round of tests is being conducted ... The additional round of testing is the most recent glitch in getting the potentially $30 billion U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border surveillance system up and running. Boeing was awarded the prime contract in September 2006 and began work on the $20 million initial task order for Project 28, installing towers, cameras, sensors and communications equipment ...

On Monday, Secretary Michael Chertoff said he is requesting $775 million for SBInet in fiscal 2009. The department also recently awarded a $64 million task order to Boeing to develop a common operational picture for SBInet. A common operational picture is a single, relevant display of information that can be used by more than one group.
Along with the border wall boondoggle, that spy tower boondoggle is something else. Just in case you ever wondered how your tax dollars were spent (or more properly, how that borrowed money from China and other semi-willing lenders was being spent).

Velvel's got a great Studs Terkel post up

It's a few days old (which makes it the equivalent of the Egyptian Pyramids in blog years), but let's face it, Terkel's wit and wisdom defy mere blogtopia time constraints. One of the vignettes I've read elsewhere. The other was new to me.

In what seems another lifetime, when I was a teen in the early 1980s, my mom loaned me her copy of American Dreams Lost and Found, which was at that time going through its initial print run. It's safe to say that the book left a lasting impression on me - certainly in terms of how I try to focus on my fellow human beings (the regular working stiff tends to be far more impressive to me than the famous orator, for example). The US may not have many genuine lefties; Terkel is the real deal.

Strange days

Or, maybe as the late Hunter S. Thompson would say, "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Limbaugh Defends Clinton and Obama on Iraq:
On Mr. Limbaugh's program today, he said people should not be rushing to back Mr. McCain over issues of national security. The talk host said America's direction in Iraq would not be substantially different even if Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama were elected. "They are not going to surrender the country to Islamic radicalism or the war in Iraq," Mr. Limbaugh said after mentioning the two Democratic senators by name. "They are not going to do that to themselves, despite what their base says."

"The idea that we've only got one person in this whole roster of candidates, either party, who is willing to take on the war on terror is frankly, absurd," Mr. Limbaugh said.
In this decade in which up is down and down is up, nothing is all that surprising any more. Keep in mind this is the same Rush Limbaugh who has in the past referred to Sen. Clinton as "Hitlery." Strange.


Funny, it seems that there's something in the air - Justin Raimondo is also using the snake-oil salesman reference in discussing Obama's foreign policy rhetoric; Marc Levy has an anti-war piece up at Counterpunch that begins with a quote from a classic Gil Scott-Heron tune ("Winter in America").

Music for Stupor Tuesday: Gil Scott-Heron

A performance of "B-Movie" (the album on which this song appears, Reflections, is well worth seeking out). The original lyrics:
Well, the first thing I want to say is…”Mandate my ass!”

Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate – or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan…meant it. Acted like an actor…Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose.

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune…the consumer has got to dance. That’s the way it is. We used to be a producer – very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals will change your world. The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources we’ll control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now. They don’t know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don’t know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy - of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. John Foster Dulles ain’t nothing but the name of an airport now.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse - or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a “B” movie.

Come with us back to those inglorious days when heroes weren’t zeros. Before fair was square. When the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway to the days of the wondrous “B” movie. The producer underwritten by all the millionaires necessary will be Casper “The Defensive” Weinberger – no more animated choice is available. The director will be Attila the Haig, running around frantically declaring himself in control and in charge. The ultimate realization of the inmates taking over at the asylum. The screenplay will be adapted from the book called “Voodoo Economics” by George “Papa Doc” Bush. Music by the “Village People” the very military "Macho Man."

“Macho, macho man!”
“ Two-three-four.”
“ He likes to be – well, you get the point.”
“Huuut! Your left! Your left! Your left…right, left, right, left, right…!”

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door. Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap stick tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the nukes - cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia - remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget. All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley “God-damn” Do-Right?

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate. To the new “Captain Bly” on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past - as a liberal democrat – as the head of the Studio Actor’s Guild. When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy – Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol…born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that’s what we want…the good ol’ days…when we gave’em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white – and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before six-gun Ron shot off his face and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press. And were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was – Crow.

Lon Chaney, our man of a thousand faces - no match for Ron. Doug Henning does the make-up - special effects from Grecian Formula 16 and Crazy Glue. Transportation furnished by the David Rockefeller of Remote Control Company. Their slogan is, “Why wait for 1984? You can panic now...and avoid the rush.”

So much for the good news…

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here’s a look at the closing numbers – racism’s up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot - the House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce – and common sense is at an all-time low on heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever and now no one is looking because, we’re starring in a “B” movie. And we would rather had John Wayne…we would rather had John Wayne.

"You don’t need to be in no hurry.
You ain’t never really got to worry.
And you don’t need to check on how you feel.
Just keep repeating that none of this is real.
And if you’re sensing, that something’s wrong,
Well just remember, that it won’t be too long
Before the director cuts the scene…yea."

“This ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really ain’t nothing but a movie.”

[Refrain repeated about 25 times or more in an apocalyptic crescendo with a military cadence.]

“This ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really your life,
Ain’t really ain’t nothing but a movie.”
As it turns out, we've been treated to B-Movie sequels since Raygun, and the sequel ain't no equal (and I'm not about to endorse the original B-Movie president Raygun).

Learn more about Gil Scott-Heron here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

One more for the ABC files: Clinton's idea of "universal health insurance"

Curmudgette sez:

She wants to pick your pocket.

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to have workers' wages garnisheed if they refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed during a television interview, she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment."

Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms. Under her plan, she said, health care "will be affordable for everyone" because she would limit premium payments "to a low percent of your income."
I'll give Senator Clinton credit for knowing a good scam when she sees one. Her apparent idea to "fix" the dysfunctional US health "care" system is to help her friends in the insurance and pharmaceuticals biz rake in more revenue on the backs of those who can least afford it. Somehow I find her comments that such a draconian policy would only apply to those who allegedly can "afford" health coverage but "refuse" to inspire little confidence, and I can imagine that those workers stuck with a $10 per hour wage will not be amused to find even less to go toward rent, utilities, food, clothes for the kiddos, and bus fare to work.

Merely one exemplar of the privatization racket

If those pesky housing authority directors refuse to sell state property to some crony contractor at a fraction of their market value, punish them until they have practically no other choice:
Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson demanded that the Philadelphia Housing Authority transfer a $2 million public property to a developer at a substantial discount, then retaliated against the housing authority when it refused to do so, a recent court filing alleges.

The authority's director, Carl Greene, contends in a court affidavit that Jackson called Philadelphia's mayor in 2006 to demand the transfer to the developer, Kenny Gamble, a former soul-music songwriter who is a business friend of Jackson's. Jackson's aides followed up with "menacing" threats about the property and other housing programs in at least a dozen letters and phone calls over an 11-month period, Greene said in an interview.

Greene and his colleagues have alleged in the court filing that Philadelphia is now paying a severe price for disobeying a Bush Cabinet official. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently vowed to strip the city's housing authority of its ability to spend some federal funds, a move that the authority said could raise rents for most of its 84,000 low-income tenants and force the layoffs of 250 people.

The housing authority responded by filing a civil suit in December against HUD and Jackson, in which Greene claimed that the actions by Jackson's department are "retaliatory" and that the Bush administration has exaggerated the troubles it cited as grounds for stripping the funds. Greene said the developer failed to deliver on contracts, leading the housing agency to conclude that the transfer would be improper.

"The secretary was determined that we turn over this land to this specific developer," Greene said in an interview. "I refused. . . . He didn't have the ability to remove me. So he resorted to these extraordinary measures to extract what he wanted." The allegations regarding Jackson's role have not previously been reported.
For those drinking the privatization kook-aid for a while, keep one thing in mind: you're still paying taxes - albeit this time to subsidize contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors to do the same job more poorly with even less oversight. The hollowing out of government, as some will point out (Naomi Klein springs to mind almost immediately) is nothing entirely new and certainly not unique to Bu$hCo - go back to the early 1980s and one can see the beginnings during the Raygun years, continuing unabated through the Clinton 1990s (why so-called progressives would even pine for a return to the Clinton years continues to vex me). All Bu$hCo did was take the trend to its next level. Apparently it's a great scheme if you are on the top of the pyramid.

Can we please stop reliving the 1960s?

If Rick Perlstein's correct, don't count on it. Given that I'm not entirely sure that the US has ever quite stopped reliving the Puritan era, we may well be stuck in the 1960s at least until the Boomers are using walkers and those little motorized scooters to get around - not exactly a comforting thought. As a Gen-X-er born to pre-boomer parents, I have watched with some amusement as the Boomers have continued to play out their conflicts in the classrooms, pop culture, and on the political stage. The anti-establishment pose that some of these folks have continued to take to the present is especially amusing, given that by their occupations in academe, punditry, politics, etc., they long ago became "the establishment." Get over it. Hell, until or unless I manage to convince my wife (and the kiddos) that living off the grid would be a great idea, I'm stuck with that "establishment" label as well. Somehow, I think I'll live.

Then there's Obama getting the JFK and MLK treatment while the Clintons are treated like the Beltway-insiders' version of Cheech and Chong. Give me a freakin' break. The Clintons are and were about as counter-culture as The Brady Bunch - safe as milk, unless you just happen to be a civilian in the next country they choose to bomb into the Stone Age. Obama, for all the talk about him being a uniting figure, keeps on with all this "Raygun was tha bomb" talk that surely is alienating someone besides myself. Get past the superficial analogies foisted on these candidates, and one will rather quickly realize that both Obama and H. Clinton are peddling the same ol' DLC snake oil.

I suppose if there were anything that would "unify" the Boomers, it's the quest for the mythical John Wayne character who will come to rescue us from all our woes at the last minute. Here's a hint: it's not going to happen. Forget Camelot; forget Woodstock. Rather than look for that transformational leader, let's try something novel - figure out how to muddle through the next few years-to-decades that we have, accept that those who might emerge as leaders are flawed creatures just as ourselves, and that we're all going to periodically fuck up to put it bluntly, and by dumb luck we'll sometimes make half-way decent decisions as we face our period's own unique challenges (such as how to make the transition to a post-oil-era existence).

Oh, and to the next generation of politicos, please do us all a huge favor and refrain from reliving the 1980s. Aside from some really great anarcho punk, industrial, and hip-hop music, there really wasn't a lot worth remembering.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

From Salem Witch Trials

to photo displays at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Virginia, our Puritan past continues to haunt us. We Americans really need to grow up when it comes to anything to do with sexuality.

Blogroll Amnesty Day Anniversary

About a year ago, the Gated Community Blogs began a delinking policy that commenced under the odious name of "Blogroll Amnesty Day." Within the space of a few days, it was plainly apparent that A-listers such as Daily Kos and Atrios/Eschaton had tossed out links not only to smaller blogs, but some widely-read blogs (skippy the bush kangaroo and My Left Wing were among those affected by the alleged "amnesty"). There are plenty of historical recollections of that dark period in blogtopia (a term coined by the aforementioned skippy). Jon Swift, for instance sez:
The idea that links are the capital of the blogosphere seems so obvious that you would think an economist like Atrios of Eschaton would have realized it long ago. And as he is a progressive who has accumulated quite a bit of link wealth, you might also think he would be in favor of redistributing some of that wealth instead of just letting it trickle down. So when he announced last year that he was declaring February 3 Blogroll Amnesty Day, and other bloggers followed suit, I assumed he meant that he was opening his blogroll up to the masses. I sent him a polite email pointing out that his blog was on my blogroll and I would really appreciate it if he would add my blog to his. I never heard back from him.

When February 3 rolled around, many bloggers discovered to their horror that instead of adding new blogs to his blogroll he was throwing many off, including some bloggers who were his longtime friends. Blogroll Amnesty Day, it turned out, was a very Orwellian concept. Instead of granting amnesty to others he was granting amnesty to himself not to feel bad for hurting others feelings. Though Atrios has stubbornly refused to acknowledge that he made a mistake, some bloggers who initially joined him, backtracked. Markos of the Daily Kos instituted a second blogroll that consisted of random links from diarists. PZ Myers of Pharyngula now has real Blogroll Amnesty Days where he invites anyone who has blogrolled him to join his blogroll. And in the wake of the bloodletting quite a number of smaller blogs, like my friend skippy the bush kangaroo, changed their own blogroll policies and now link more freely to others.
To make a long story short, a bunch of blogtopia's apparent rabble took that as a challenge and reclaimed amnesty by more liberally linking to other blogs than ever before. For my part, as of mid-February I made explicit my own policy regarding blogrolling:
If you have a blog that links to me and I have not reciprocated, let me know and I'll add you to the blogroll.
This weekend seems like a good idea to reiterate that policy. If you've been linking to me, I'd like to make sure to return the favor (just don't be some uncool neo-nazi blogger or some MinuteKlan asshole, that's all I ask). Just drop me a line - either in the comments or via email, and I'll add you to the blogroll posthaste. Heck, Jon Swift has offered a useful reminder that since the A-listers enacted their purge, they've been behind the curve on some huge events and issues. Some folks like skippy were kind enough to add my humble blog to their blogrolls, for which I am grateful.

I suppose if one merely wants an echo chamber, one will do what Atrios and his ilk did. Personally, I prefer to be contrapuntal: variety is the spice of life, and hopefully my blogroll reflects that. One huge benefit for me has been practically impossible to quantify: I've managed to meet (at least within the confines of the internet) some really interesting folks whom I might have missed out on otherwise, and have learned a thing or two in the process.

Quick update: skippy has quite the on-going update regarding B.A.D. for those wishing to check it out. New visitors coming in from Instapundit or elsewhere, feel free to look around and revisit if you're so inclined.

Looks like Rummy's stock dividends will be slightly lower

Recall, we've mentioned Rummy's ties to Gilead Sciences? Check this out:
"Doctors Without Borders is reporting that four patents for tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, a key AIDS/HIV drug, have been revoked on grounds of prior art. This is potentially good news for India & Brazil who need this drug to be cheap; if the US action leads to the patent being rejected in these countries, competition could drastically lower prices. But the ruling bad news for Gilead Sciences. The company has vowed to appeal. We discussed this drug before."
If you follow that last link, you'll understand the importance of this for those exposed to HIV:
"The drugs are tenofovir (Viread) and emtricitabine, or FTC (Emtriva), sold in combination as Truvada by Gilead Sciences Inc., a California company best known for inventing Tamiflu, a drug showing promise against bird flu. Unlike vaccines, which work through the immune system -- the very thing HIV destroys -- AIDS drugs simply keep the virus from reproducing. They already are used to prevent infection in health care workers accidentally exposed to HIV, and in babies whose pregnant mothers receive them."
Remember, Gilead Sciences plans to appeal the ruling, so this isn't a done deal yet.