Friday, April 15, 2005

The Nutball Express

From AmericaBlog. Bill Frist is displaying his inner wackologist:

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees...

Some of the nation's most influential evangelical Protestants are participating in the teleconference in Louisville, including Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Chuck Colson, the born-again Watergate figure and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The event is taking place as Democrats and Republicans alike are escalating their public relations campaigns in anticipation of an imminent confrontation. The Democratic minority has blocked confirmation of 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees by preventing Republicans from gaining the 60 votes needed to close debate, using the filibuster tactic often used by political minorities and most notoriously employed by opponents of civil rights.

Dr. Frist has threatened that the Republican majority might change the rules to require only a majority vote on nominees, and Democrats have vowed to bring Senate business to a standstill if he does.

On Thursday, one wavering Republican, Senator John McCain of Arizona, told a television interviewer, Chris Matthews, that he would vote against the change.

"By the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we, effectively, in the Judiciary Committee blocked a number of his nominees," Mr. McCain said.

McCain, who spent most of the last 12 months shamelessly pandering to the Xtian right (and all but becoming a suckerfish attached to George W. Bush's ass), is right. IIRC, hundreds of Clinton nominees languished in judicial purgatory, courtesy of the blue slip and anonymous hold--rules Frist and his ilk assume the public has forgotten (it also displays their utter contempt for the public--they act as if we can't recall the recent past). Assholes...

Speaking of, Tony Perkins, who unfortunately lives right here in Looisiana (and who, like most anti-evolutionists, displays a distinct LACK thereof) chirped:

"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, wrote in a message on the group's Web site. "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."

Did I say "chirped?" I actually meant to describe something more reptilian...let's about "hissed?":

But Mr. Perkins stood by the characterization of Democrats as hostile to faith. "What they have done is, they have targeted people for reasons of their faith or moral position," he said, referring to Democratic criticisms of nominees over their views of cases about abortion rights or public religious expressions.

"The issue of the judiciary is really something that has been veiled by this 'judicial mystique' so our folks don't really understand it, but they are beginning to connect the dots," Mr. Perkins said in an interview, reciting a string of court decisions about prayer or displays of religion.

No, Tony, they've opposed people who, if appointed to the judiciary, would rule contrary to the Constitution. You see, the Constitution, the basic law of the land, SEPARATES church and state--and that's a GOOD thing--for BOTH church AND state.

God, if god exists, gave you a brain--sadly, it seems to be a little less refined than most, but with practice, it could open up a whole new world. God, if god exists, gave you that brain for purposes of use. Shame you don't bother...and the same goes for you, Cat Killer.
Progress Report

As noted below, today I set up my new system here at work--took the better part of the morning, but all seems well. Next week I'll begin setting up new workstations for agency folks, so today wasn't just a matter of taking advantage of being an IT "professional" to jump to the head of the was also a good test run.

And I think I'll be getting quite used to the new CD burner...
Wingnut See, Wingnut Do

Sean Hannity apparently loves it that Bush's press conferences are, in the pResident's words, "scripted." So, like any good zealot, he wants to do the same--although the script has both question AND answer:

On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo's former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn't brain-dead.

Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday's episode of his weekly radio program, "Le Show," Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.

"Just say, 'I'm here to tell what I saw,'" Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. "No matter what the question, 'I'm here to tell you what I saw. I'm here to tell you what I saw.'"

Hannity adds helpfully: "Say, 'I'm not going to be distracted by silliness.' How's that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I'm talking."

On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. "I don't have any opinions or judgments. I was there," she declares

After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: "We got the points out. It's hard, this isn't easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren't they?"

On his radio show, Shearer injected: "Yeah, especially when they do what you tell 'em to do. Very powerful when they follow instructions from the host!"
Friendly Fire

It's a measure of the level of media control that it's taken over two years for this story to become public:

On a clear night two years ago during the invasion of Iraq, Specialist Jeff Coyne was sitting in his Army supply truck when a thunderous explosion shattered his windshield, throwing him like a rag doll and dislocating two discs in his back.

"How could we have gotten hit?" Specialist Coyne wondered as he staggered to safety, baffled that the Iraqis could have such fire power. The cries of wounded men punctured the desert air. "It came out of nowhere."

What he could not know then, but soon came to suspect, was that the explosion had not been caused by Iraqi mortars. His artillery unit had been hit by an American fighter jet and its signature weapon, a laser-guided 500-pound bomb. Three soldiers died and five were wounded, including Specialist Coyne, in one of the worst cases of "friendly fire" during the 2003 invasion - one that has drawn little public attention.

Friendly-fire undercuts any notion that combat can be a "glorious" experience. Medals aren't generally awarded (though Coyne did receive a Purple Heart, his superiors told him to keep quiet about suspicions as to who hit him). It hammers home the clear message that war is simply an ugly exercise in dehumanizing participants--and nowadays, anyone else unlucky enough to get caught up in the battle. Cover-ups tend to be the rule, not the exception, leaving bereaved family members either totally in the dark, or frustrated by the mistruths told to them. And subsequent investigations tend to demonstrate that, regardless of how technologically sophisticated military hardware becomes, it's still too damned easy to screw up:

According to the investigation report, a lack of critical information had caused the confusion. Hours before, a Navy F/A-18 fighter had been shot down near Karbala. American commanders at air bases in Saudi Arabia and Qatar suspected that an American Patriot missile had struck it, in part because a Patriot had mistakenly shot down a British Tornado jet about a week before. The Patriot's role was later confirmed by the military.

But that night, "information went out from Crows Nest" - a commander's perch - that no one would discuss the possibility of a Patriot accident, an officer later told investigators. As helicopters and jets were assigned to the search and rescue mission, they were allowed to believe that an Iraqi surface-to-air missile was the culprit.

One of those jets was an Air Force F-15E fighter. Earlier that night, the pilot and his weapons officer, both instructors with seven years experience flying missions over Iraq to police the no-flight zone, had seen what looked like a surface-to-air missile hit the Navy fighter. As they searched for the pilot, they saw what appeared to be missiles fired from near the crash site - and were convinced it was an Iraqi battery firing on American aircraft...

Samuel C. Oaks, whose grandson Sgt. Donald S. Oaks Jr., 20, died in the attack, did get the investigation report in late 2003. But for him it is not sufficient. Over the past year, Mr. Oaks has written to the White House, members of Congress and the Air Force demanding that someone be held accountable and that the pilot be required, at least, to apologize. He says he has yet to receive an answer.

"In court, they expect you to show remorse when you've done something wrong," said Mr. Oaks, a disabled welder from outside Erie, Pa. "There's no remorse here."

I doubt accidents like this can ever be reduced to zero--which is yet another reason why combat should ALWAYS be a last resort. And when you combine this with the very real facts--Iraqi WMD's were non-existent, the "coalition" was hardly worthy of such a name, basic equipment like body and vehicle armor was in short supply--AND the very real fact that Iraq was NOT a threat to the United States, or any adjoining country--well, it takes a high degree of, quite frankly, delusion, to come to any conclustion beyond the fact that Bush, et al, are at best incompetent bumblers, and more likely cynical criminals. Criminals for whom death--provided it's not them doing the dying--hardly causes them to bat an eyelash...

Last night I managed--with chemical assistance--to sit through a replay of Bush's appearance at the American Society of Newspaper Editors' convention. The editor of the Austin American Statesman introduced Bush--and showed a surprising degree of backbone, mentioning both Bush's decision to curtail access to government records via FOIA, and the less than unanimous support for Operation Go Cheney Ourselves, i.e., the Iraq invasion. However, the true educational experience was watching the pResident's address followed by a Q&A. Bush sweated out his speech in typical fasion--more like a grade school student trying to fudge his way through an oral presentation of a book report (that he hadn't read) than leader of the free world. His face was quite red, and he appeared to be sweating.

More important, he said NOTHING of substance--nothing about FOIA, nothing about general administration policy--nothing about anything. He mouthed a few half-hearted lies about the crisis in Social Security--but on the whole, his presentation was more like what the public saw during the election debates: bad jokes, verbal gaffes, etc.

Bush has NO answer to the very simple question of "what specifically can you point to to demonstrate Saddam Hussein's threat?" This is in contrast to the threat from bin Laden, which was clearly laid out in the August 6th PDB--he wanted to hijack planes. However, Iraq is now very much a threat, if not a promise: when the United States FINALLY pulls out, our power and credibility will be reduced throughout the region. We also have the real possibility of additional strikes--worldwide (not just against our own country).

And, we've seen people come home from this war of choice in coffins--or shattered. Some by "friendly fire." Likewise, thousands of Iraqis have been killed or maimed--and some have been abused or tortured.

The only "victory" I can see would be Victory Gin--doubleplusgood.
Slow Day

My computer will be replaced today (I'll be the one setting up and configuring the new machine). I probably won't have time to post much, if anything, until later this afternoon. Thanks for being patient--and, yeah, I'm looking forward to a better computer (a Dell GX 280--it'll replace my old GX1P).

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Land of the Free

From As'ad Abu Khalil: David Barsamian recounts his return to the United States following an overseas stay in "anti-American" countries:

"Where have you been," he asks. He's looking at my customs declaration and passport that clearly show I've been to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
He said rather sneeringly, "Don't you know those are anti-American countries?"
"I only met friendly and generous people," I told him.
"Weren't you afraid? Don't you know it's dangerous over there?"
I repeated my first answer.

Check out the whole post.
Pawns in the Game

Swopa at Needlenose links to this Knight-Ritter story showing exactly how the US War Department bureaucracy thanks those who help us--by proffering a giant middle finger:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Alyaa said she was the first woman in her neighborhood to sign up to work with the U.S. government after Saddam Hussein fell.

She used to stand shoulder to shoulder with an American soldier in front of the U.S. military's Camp Scania in the Rashid section of Baghdad. As a translator, Alyaa, 24, talked to Iraqis who lined up at the entrance seeking compensation for dead relatives and destroyed homes.

Now, because of that work, her life is in danger and in limbo.

Alyaa, who asked that her last name be withheld out of fear for her safety, fled to Jordan with her cousin Shaimaa after insurgents killed an uncle and kidnapped Shaimaa and another cousin. Alyaa hoped to find a haven in the United States but discovered the State Department isn't resettling refugees from Iraq. She's lost her faith in the country she once loved.

"We gave them our friendship," Alyaa said during a recent interview at an Amman restaurant, wearing jeans and smoking cigarettes. "We gave them our hard work. And they don't even help us to have a new life." Is it so hard, she asked, "for America to give a visa to Iraqis to have a new life that they took from them?"

Refugee aid workers and U.S. and U.N. officials said the United States had turned away Iraqi refugees because it was trying instead to create a democratic society from which no one had to flee, and was sacrificing plenty of American lives in the process. To succeed, it needs the talents of the very people who want to leave.

"The whole purpose of being here is to create an environment of stability and security so that's not an issue," said Joanne Cummings, refugee coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Cummings said the embassy valued people who'd put themselves at risk and it kept a close watch on them.

More than 700,000 Iraqi refugees live in Jordan and Syria; 15,000 of them arrived in Amman after the American invasion two years ago, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They include religious minorities, doctors and other professionals who fear being kidnapped for ransom, and a growing number of Iraqis who were threatened because of their work with the U.S. government and its contractors.

Now, a couple of things are striking--first, note the 15,000 refugees resulting from the invasion. No, it's not as high as the overall number, who presumably fled during Saddam's reign. But, is that the best we can say? Fewer refugees than under Saddam? Also, the number is significant in the sense that for the most part the media has either been silent about refugees or has pretty much ignored them. Finally, the idea that the American presence can somehow make things better is absurd. It's been two years since Baghdad was taken--and, today, the only "safe" area, using a very generous definition of the term "safe," is the Green Zone--home of the occupation, surrounded by blast walls.

For Iraqis who haven't worked for the Americans, life is no picnic either:

Little Zeinab Yasseen was still asleep as the third Ramadan of her young life dawned. Like every night, she had drifted off listening to the chatter of the 26 relatives who also shared the house in Baghdad's poor Al Shaab neighborhood.
She awoke to her home collapsing on her. A car bomb exploded in front of the police station down the street, but it brought the roof down on Yasseen and her family. Somehow, everyone survived.

But 17 months later, Zeinab still can't move her legs. And the family is still recovering - emotionally, financially, and physically - from that instant of devastation.

Each explosion of this kind deepens Iraqis' doubts about the US and Iraqi government's ability to bring order. But whatever each attack costs the this government in credibility, it is ordinary Iraqis who pay the highest price.

Thursday's bombings in Baghdad brought more of the same.

After a steady decline in attacks during the last three months, insurgents launched a string of assaults this week, including coordinated car bombings, a reminder they continue to have the resources and expertise to strike apparently at will. Two car bombs went off a minute and a few hundred yards apart Thursday around 10 a.m. in the Baghdad neighborhood of Jadriyah.

US soldiers at the scene said 14 Iraqis were killed and 38 were wounded. Among the dead were a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old, brothers who were working painting the street curb. The series of attacks may signal a return to the levels of attacks seen before the Jan. 30 elections, a pattern predicted by many US military analysts who say history shows that the average insurgency takes about 10 years to put down.

Over the last couple of days I've been a little slow in noting Iraqi news--not the least reason being that the SNAFU element of the sorry affair hasn't changed a bit. Every day--for those who WANT to know--the news is of death, destruction, and chaos. The wingnut crowd is either in denial--"look at the good things we're doing..."( in Fallujah?) or "look at the new government..." (which apparently can't even dream about curbing the insurgency)--or they're downright hostile (case in point is Wimpline's John "I-no-longer-call-myself-Hindrocket--but- I'm-still-an-asshole" Hindraker getting all snippy about US troops, more or less saying at least one was killed becasue he was simply lazy (Unfuckingbelievable). And, the "coalition of the willing"--a threadbare, pathetic attempt to cover the naked aggression of US foreign policy with the tiniest of figleafs--is shriveling--just as one would expect. The White House no longer even bothers to list individual countries, although Albania is sending an extra 50 soldiers...while Poland is scheduled to withdraw by the end of the year...

The good news there is, I guess, that Bush can now note that "we've forgotten Albania."

We've also forgotten the millions of Iraqis--they're more than just numbers.
A Good Christian

From AmericaBlog, here's a post by Think Progress about a reaction to their website (dedicated to restoring the Bug Man to his former career). The following was sent to Think Progress by Kevin Cole, who holds a city council seat in Pearland, TX--and is an ordained deacon, to (jack) boot:

Hey ass hole [sic]. Tom Delay happens to be my congresman [sic] and I am happy with the job he does for me and my district. Why don’t you get the F@&* out of our district and leave us alone. Better yet, come speak to me personally and I will show you what I think of you.

Kevin Cole
Pealrand [sic], TX
[Cell Phone # Redacted]

Mr. Cole must've forgotten that the Bible--which he holds so dear--has TWO testaments.

Speaking of Tom DeLay--check out Billmon's latest about his kinda culpa yesterday.
Mildly Confused

Terry Jones is puzzled about the effect of the Bush/Blair Iraqi policy on children:

A report to the UN human rights commission in Geneva has concluded that Iraqi children were actually better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now.

This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations...

These results are even more disheartening for those of us in the Department of Making Things Better for Children in the Middle East By Military Force, since the previous attempts by Britain and America to improve the lot of Iraqi children also proved disappointing. For example, the policy of applying the most draconian sanctions in living memory totally failed to improve conditions. After they were imposed in 1990, the number of children under five who died increased by a factor of six. By 1995 something like half a million Iraqi children were dead as a result of our efforts to help them.

A year later, Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, tried to put a brave face on it. When a TV interviewer remarked that more children had died in Iraq through sanctions than were killed in Hiroshima, Mrs Albright famously replied: "We think the price is worth it."

But clearly George Bush didn't. So he hit on the idea of bombing them instead. And not just bombing, but capturing and torturing their fathers, humiliating their mothers, shooting at them from road blocks - but none of it seems to do any good. Iraqi children simply refuse to be better nourished, healthier and less inclined to die. It is truly baffling.

And this is why we at the department are appealing to you - the general public - for ideas. If you can think of any other military techniques that we have so far failed to apply to the children of Iraq, please let us know as a matter of urgency. We assure you that, under our present leadership, there is no limit to the amount of money we are prepared to invest in a military solution to the problems of Iraqi children.
Just Plain Nuts

Rising Hegemon noticed something in Eric Rudolph's "statement of purpose"--well, besides the fact that Mr. Rudolph is a USDA Certified, Grade A Loon...Rudolph writes

There are those who would say to me that the system in Washington works. They say that the pro-life forces are making progress, that eventually Roe v. Wade will be overturned, that the culture of life will ultimately win over the majority of Americans, and the horror of abortion will be outlawed...

Attaturk states:

Yes, no better advertisement for the "Culture of Life" than the statements of a mass murderer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tom Thumb-Up-His...

The majority leader just can't shut the fuck up, it seems:

WASHINGTON, April 13 - The House majority leader, Tom DeLay, deflected all questions about his ethical conduct and his political future at a news conference today, insisting instead that he would continue his crusade against what he views an activist judiciary by ordering the Judiciary Committee to investigate the decisions of federal judges in the Terri Schiavo case.

At the crowded news conference - his first question-and-answer session with reporters since a fellow Republican, Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, called for him to resign his leadership post and another, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, said Mr. DeLay must provide explanations to the public - the majority leader dismissed questions about ethics and his political future.

"I'm not here to discuss the Democrats' agenda," Mr. DeLay said. Instead, he renewed his complaints about "judicial activism," saying that reining in the courts was well within the purview of Congress.

So, Tom's opting for a farm defense: keep plowing, regardless of how many stones are in the field and how battered and dull the blade becomes. Of course, given that we're dealing with the political equivalent of a weasel on steriods--complete with a set of decent-sized teeth (and the possibility of rabies)--it's possible that the Bug Man might be able to lash out even as it's becoming clear that he's either up-a-tree or in a corner, depending on how you look at it. Speaking of how you look at it:

President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said, "We support his efforts, along with the efforts of other congressional leaders, to move forward on the agenda that the American people want us to enact." Asked if the majority leader and the president were friends, Mr. McClellan replied that the president does consider Mr. DeLay a friend, but suggested he's more a business associate than a social pal. "I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody."

Sounds a little like the time when Kenny Boy Lay learned the harsh reality about instant outsider status...minus any references to gubenatorial support.

And, Newt Gingrich, who certainly knows from experience how quickly one can go from commanding the ship to walking the plank, weighed in, presuming that the minions were fed up with DeLay's tired excuses--and, given that he's Newt Gingrich, opted for a daggar thrust in the direction of Hillary Clinton, too:

...the former speaker of the House said in an interview with CBS News that it was time for Mr. DeLay to stop blaming Democrats and address the American people.

"Well, that's the famous Hillary Clinton defense," Mr. Gingrich said. "This is the vast left-wing, you know, conspiracy as opposed to her description of a vast right-wing conspiracy."

Ouch, that must hurt for Tom--being likened to Hillary, e.g., the personification of all that is evil in the eyes of the GOP.

Speaking of evil: while it certainly is amusing to watch the simultaneous batshit rantings, yogi-like pretzel twists of logic, and the overall political death watch atmosphere going on here, there's a part of me that wants DeLay to hang around until the mid-term elections. I mean, DeLay might be able to pull the wool over their eyes in Sugarland, but I'd be willing to bet that most of the South--and perhaps even most of Texas--thinks he's a kook, if not a vicious little moron. Let him be the issue in 2006.

Because he's going to lose big.

Then, once he's served his purpose, he can slither back to whatever crawlspace he calls home.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Even More Damn Lies

I've noticed that recent news on the Senate side of Capitol Hill has focused mostly on John "Bitch-Slap" Bolton and Steven "Spray-the-toddlers-with-DDT" Jackson (a position he's--mercifully--recanted recently)--but there's a third stooge/ring-in-the-circus--John Negroponte, on tap to be director of national intelligence...

Salon has more:

The man chosen by President Bush to be the new U.S. director of national intelligence Tuesday denied that he had covered up human rights abuses when he was Washington's ambassador to Honduras. John Negroponte came under fierce questioning from the Senate intelligence committee as his nomination for the role was considered.

Ah, yes, the time honored Egyptian river defense--Negroponte is in good company amongst his GOP cronies...Bolton tries to counter testimony from any number of people that all but suggest he'd bite the head off a live chicken to demonstrate what he thinks of underlings, Tom DeLay, perhaps emulating the apostle Peter, denies not one, but at least three scandals; fellow travelers like David Horowitz and Jamie Glazov butcher a lengthy piece by Michael Berube (scroll down), then claim it was an innocent seems that GOP myth makers consider themselves to be above truth.

Anyway, I got sidetracked once again...Negroponte, lately the Pasha of the Green Zone, was, in so many words, a murderous son-of-a-bitch in Central America during the 1980's. Even the New York Times can't whitewash away the blood from his hands, noting dryly:

Hundreds of newly released cables that John D. Negroponte sent to Washington while serving as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980's show that he played a more central and assertive role than previously known in managing the United States' covert war against Nicaragua's leftist government, which he called "our special project."...

The cables add details to the public picture of Mr. Negroponte, President Bush's nominee to be the first director of national intelligence, as a tough cold warrior who enthusiastically carried out President Ronald Reagan's strategy. They show he sent admiring reports to Washington about the Honduran military chief, who was blamed for human rights violations, warned that peace talks with the Nicaraguan regime might be a dangerous "Trojan horse" and pleaded with officials in Washington to impose greater secrecy on the Honduran role in aiding the contras.

The documents appear to lend some support to the contention of Mr. Negroponte's critics that he did little to protest human rights abuses by Honduran military units blamed for abductions, torture and murder. Mr. Negroponte and some of his fellow diplomats have maintained that he worked behind the scenes against such abuses, but the cables make few references to the issue.

Salon is a little more blunt:

Nearly 400 cables and memos sent or received by Negroponte, who was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the U.N. before being nominated for his new intelligence position, indicate that he tried to undermine peace efforts, promoted the war against the Sandinistas -- which he referred to as "our special project" -- and gave tips to the State Department on how to cover up the U.S. role.

There is no indication of any concern for the Honduran regime's human rights abuses, or the disappearances of left-wingers at the time, despite much contemporary evidence of atrocities committed by the Honduran military. The documents were released by the national security archive in Washington.

In a cable to the State Department in October 1983, Negroponte expressed alarm that peace might be agreed through negotiations taking place through the offices of the Contadora Group of Latin American governments, which was seeking an end to the conflicts in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. "The Contadora process does indeed appear to be headed in directions inimical to our interests," he cabled. "This raises specter of an imposed 'peace.'"

He also expressed his concern about the possibility of a peace agreement in a cable in which he said of the initiative that "such an approach could eventually lead to de facto acceptance of old French/Mexican proposal, ie control of borders and effectively shutting down our special project."

A cable received from his U.S. diplomatic counterpart in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, in May 1983, showed that Negroponte was planning to entertain at dinner Adolfo Calero, the head of the rebel FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force). "Your hospitality is legendary and Calero's charm is irresistible, but I have my doubts about a dinner at the residence for a man who is in the business of overthrowing a neighboring government," wrote Anthony Quainton, the U.S. envoy to Nicaragua.

And, last month, Billmon noted The Salvador Option (again, scroll down) as an "outrage moment" (short version: Negroponte's "success" in torture/murder during his stint in Central America--denied at the time, by the way--was resurrected, in all its ugliness, as a possible remedy for the super-sized mess we've managed to create in Iraq). In other words, torture and murder aren't merely "regretable necessities"--they're an avenue to promotion.

At least Mengele KNEW he was a criminal--Negroponte probably EXPECTS people to genuflect in his direction--that is, when he's not lying about his activities at the time.

Oh, and how many wingnuts show even the slightest bit of concern for their pet project of the 1980's, that is to say, ensuring Latin American dependency and endemic poverty? (for the record, like some other bloggers out there, education, agitation, and organization around the effort to minimize US damage to Central America was my own entry into active politics. I still take quite a bit of pride in having helped turn LSU, of all places, into an active campus back then...of course, then, like now, the real issue is the absolute apathy on the part of most folks--amazingly, they'll whine about things like taxes without ever wondering just where the money goes...).
Below My Radar Screen

Apologies, because I completely missed this--fortunately Counterpunch didn't:

Antioch College's Graduate School of Environmental Studies offers a field program called Environmental Justice in the Mississippi Delta, which focuses on environmental racism in Cancer Alley. From March 14 to 25, 13 master's students and two professors were slated to tour the Delta region to interview community leaders, environmentalists, residents and industry executives.

On their second day out in the field, the group went to a small town called Norco, which has borne the brunt of toxic emissions from a giant chemical plant owned by Shell Oil. Several of the students took photographs of the sprawling facility from public property along the road outside the grounds of the plant. The group was soon confronted by a corporate security guard, who briefly detained the student photographers. The guard lectured Steve Chase, the director of Antioch's Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program, that photographing chemical plants and oil refineries was a violation of federal law. He warned Chase that if his group continued taking such photographs they could expect a raid from the FBI.

The next day Willie Fontenot accompanied the group to a neighborhood in East Baton Rogue near the big ExxonMobil chemical plant, one of the nation's most poisonous. The emissions from the ExxonMobil facility are so foul and hazardous that the company was forced to buy out the properties of the entire neighborhood.

"We had just met with Baton Rogue mayor Kip Holden and went out to drive around and look at the industry in the area," said Abigail Abrash Walton, the other Antioch professor leading the trip. "We came to a house directly across from facility and Willie Fontenot let us know that the woman who lived there had decided not to relocate. So we pulled over the van on a side street and the students got out and took photos."

Once again they were confronted by security forces. This time it only took two minutes for the guards to come and this time the company cops were wearing official uniforms from the county sheriff's office and the Baton Rogue police department. It turned out that the pair were off-duty cops moonlighting as security guards for ExxonMobil.

The guards detained the group and ordered Fontenot to collect driver's licenses from the students and the two professors. Fontenot refused, saying that he wasn't the leader of the group and that while the police had a right to question them they had no right to arrest them.

"I've researched this extensively over the years, because I often give tours for academics and journalists" said Fontenot. "It's perfectly legal to stand on public property and photograph facilities."

Needlesstosay, this bit of constitutionally-based impertinence didn't sit well with the company goons.

One of the guards told Fontenot that he had seen three students trespass onto an ExxonMobil parking lot to take photos. This proved to be a lie. The entire stop had been videotaped by one of the students. The tape showed clearly that none of the students had strayed off public property.

Hmmm. Once again, videotape contradicts accounts from law enforcement (see the post below about the GOP convention) fact, I've noticed plenty of instances lately where the operative conservative paradigm is basically "make shit up" and assume it will be believed because, well...I'm not really sure (although police generally have means of coercion, i.e., clubs and guns--when they start smashing cameras, we're going to be in a LOT of trouble)...

Now, getting back to the story--I think this is a prime example of why Louisiana bloggers miss Timshel, who I'm sure would have linked to these two Advocate articles, which provide a more local perspective. Regardless of perspective, though, the situation outlines what is, well, hypocrisy: the few laws on the books regarding chemical plant security are designed to impede terrorists, not students. Now, it's entirely possible that off-duty police might have trouble making the distinction, but something tells me that more of a willing failure than a matter of confusion. And the idea that photographs are now on an official "forbidden" activity list is pretty appalling--we used to loathe stuff like that about Soviet-era Russia.

But now it's just part and parcel to "freedom" in the United States, which is analogous to genuine freedom in the same way that an artifically flavored food product resembles--but isn't--real food.
Everlasting Life-Like Grip?

I saw this at both Tbogg and Rising Hegemon this morning:

A talking Jesus doll is due to go on sale in May, along with versions of Moses, the Virgin Mary and David, as a teddy bear maker tries to find a market with churches and religious families.

The foot-tall Jesus doll will be able to recite five Biblical verses at the push of button on its back, while the Moses doll will recite the Ten Commandments. The Mary doll will recite a long Bible verse...

The dolls will cost $24.99, although Livingston said there will be discounts for churches as well as free shipping for those who buy three or more of the dolls. They will have hand-sewn period clothing, with Jesus wearing sandals and veils for the Virgin Mary. They will also have movable limbs and hands that can grip objects.

No word on whether or not "Iraqi insurgents" plan to kidnap any of these.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Popalooza 2005

My sister got this from a friend of hers...laff. Make note of the sponsor: "I Can't Believe it's not Jesus" low carb communion wafers. For good Catholics on the Sugar Busters diet...
Just a Little Perjury--Now Move Along

Some 90 percent or so of those arrested at last fall's GOP convention have been found not guilty or seen charges dropped--particularly after homemade videos more than just a bit of exaggeration on the part of the police:

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."

Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

The article also notes that Alexander Dunlop, arrested and accused of participating in a bicycle protest, most likely was doing exactly what he said he was: picking up food for his ill girlfriend (it took him 72 hours to make it home). An police videotape showing him turned out to be edited; the unedited copy supported his version of events.

Sadly, police routinely commit perjury on the stand, and rarely, if ever, get called for it. Projects like I-Witness Video can point out more egregious examples of this, but they are by necessity limited as to where they can film.

Of course, this being the New York Times, "balance" is provided by noting that the police at least didn't get out of control and smash skulls:

Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the Police Department's tactics in controlling the demonstrations, parades and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free of explicit violence.

Throughout the convention week and afterward, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the police issued clear warnings about blocking streets or sidewalks, and that officers moved to arrest only those who defied them. In the view of many activists - and of many people who maintain that they were passers-by and were swept into dragnets indiscriminately thrown over large groups - the police strategy appeared to be designed to sweep them off the streets on technical grounds as a show of force.

And, of course, there's always the Officer Koon defense, here provided by a police press officer:

Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said that videotapes often do not show the full sequence of events, and that the public should not rush to criticize officers simply because their recollections of events are not consistent with a single videotape. The Manhattan district attorney's office is reviewing the testimony of Officer Wohl at the request of Lewis B. Oliver Jr., the lawyer who represented Mr. Kyne in his arrest at the library.

Or, as Bill Hicks would say, it's all in how you look at the tape: for instance, if you look at it backwards, the police are releasing people and sending them on their way.

As I've noted before, I visited NYC just before the convention--in fact, the biggest protest occurred even as the plane took off (I was watching it on the little television). Yeah, it would've been nice to add my voice, but a week of police presence that reminded me of a Moroccan trip years ago was plenty enough. They were EVERYWHERE and not everyone was a regular, blue uniformed officer with a sidearm. Plenty were in military fatigues and they carried what looked like an M-16.

Don't know about y'all, but that much firepower troubles me--in general. And hearing about exaggerated accounts of the arrests makes me glad I didn't tempt fate, given that calling into work and asking for two or three days more vacation because you're in jail (actually, I think detainees were housed on a pier, but still)--anyway, that's not exactly the best way to secure a merit raise or promotion...although again I'll note with sadness that perjuring yourself appears to be a means of advancement in the New York City Police Department...
Chickens and Roosting

Sorry for the late start, but things have been a little busy, and I've taken the little bit of free time today to look into some pressing personal matters...anyway, I did hit Oyster's page--check it out--he's got a wonderful story about Dubya, his iPod, corporate greed, and a Biafrian response. His slide show is damn fine as well...

And then I managed to quickly scan James Wolcott's latest, a warning/observation about the coming crunch--while the old masters of the markets evince trepidation, plenty of next generation geniuses show all the alertness of a big orange tabby cat after an extended visit to the food bowl...a big yawn, followed by a stretch, followed by a curl and a return to somnolent state. Hmmm...sort of like the reaction to Iraq, if you think about it.

However, excrement has a way of splattering badly upon contact with rotating bladed surfaces, and Wolcott allows James Howard Kunstler (of Clusterfuck Nation) to sum up:

I notice lately that there are two kinds of hubris operating among the "forward-thinking" classes in America (which is to say, those who are thinking at all). One I call techno-hubris. It represents the idea that there are really no limits to our powers of innovation and it is obviously the product of our experience in the past century, especially of our victory in World War Two and of the 1969 moon landing. The other kind is organizational hubris, the certainty that we can organize our way around the oil bottleneck, global warming, and population overshoot. What both modes of thinking have in common is that neither recognizes the probability that we are moving into a period of discontinuity, turbulence and hardship. Both modes of thinking assume that we can negotiate a smooth transition from where we are now to a new-and-improved human condition...

When you combine the seven deadly sins with high technology, you get some really serious problems. You get turbo-sins. It's dreadful to imagine what goeth after turbo-pride.

Turbo-fall doesn't sound like a pleasant proposition...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Vatican to Abuse Victims: Don't Take it Personally

Bernard Law, symbol for all that is shameful about the Catholic church and the sex abuse scandals plaguing it--thanks to their ridiculous position regarding the ministry--was the chief celebrant for a Mass honoring the late pope today:

Cardinal Bernard Law celebrated Mass in mourning for Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica on Monday, ignoring protests from victims that his handling of the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church should disqualify him from the honour.

Police broke up a small but symbolic protest staged by two victims of sex abuse at the hands of U.S. Catholic clergy, escorting one of them off St. Peter's Square as she was preparing to distribute fliers.
Like a Fine Wine With a Good Meal

Billmon's latest is yet another gem. Here's the conclusion, but please take the time to read it all:

Political scandals choose from a relative handful of scripts, I suppose -- just as Joseph Campbell once theorized that all human myths spring from a relative handful of archtypes. That being the case, it's probably not surprising that the decline and fall of Jim Wright and Tony Coehlo foreshadowed the decline and possible fall of the Bug Man.

There are differences, of course. Wright and Coehlo divided the basic tasks of power -- with Wright pulling the legislative strings and Coehlo acting as the bag man. DeLay combines both functions.

The Bug Man has also managed to do things that Wright and Coehlo at the height of their power never tried to do, at least to my knowledge: Like forcing a partisan affirmative action plan on K Street, complete with goals and timetables, or packing the ethics committee with his closest cronies, then changing the rules to essentially neuter the panel.

But the Democrats, even at their worst, had at least some lingering sense of shame. The modern GOP machine, as far as I can tell, has absolutely none -- which probably explains why the Republican majority has been able in a decade to sink to levels of corruption it took the Democratic majority almost three generations to reach.

The stories may also end differently -- probably will end differently, since I have a hard time seeing the Bug Man slinking off into retirement like Jim Wright. As Barney Frank has already noted, the Republican Caucus has a hell of a lot more invested in Tom DeLay -- emotionally, politically and not least financially -- than the Democrats of the '80s ever had invested in Jim Wright. So you'd have to say the odds are that this scandal is going to get much, much uglier before it's over, and leave the House even more of a smoking partisan crater than its '80s predecessor did.

Which I would never have thought possible at the time.
International Law? We Don't need no Stinking International Law!

Culture of Life? More like Culture of imposing life sentences:

WASHINGTON - In a development the Bush administration had hoped to avoid, the stories of about 60 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base have spilled out in court papers.

A U.S. college-educated detainee asks plaintively in one: "Is it possible to see the evidence in order to refute it?"

In another transcript, the unidentified president of a U.S. military tribunal bursts out: "I don't care about international law. I don't want to hear the words 'international law' again. We are not concerned with international law."

No concern with international law is essentially a terrorist position. The Guantanamo facility is essentially a terrorist operation.

If the detainees were truly guilty of criminal behavior, it should be easy, quick work to produce evidence of such at a public trial, followed by a clear sentence--in other words, I'm not in favor of coddling evil people. But, how many detainees are actually guilty of anything other than being in Afghanistan or Pakistan in 2001?
Making a Living off Dying

Frank Rich has a few things to say about what he calls the "Culture of Death"--as usual, he's pretty spot-on:

Mortality - the more graphic, the merrier - is the biggest thing going in America. Between Terri Schiavo and the pope, we've feasted on decomposing bodies for almost a solid month now. The carefully edited, three-year-old video loops of Ms. Schiavo may have been worthless as medical evidence but as necro-porn their ubiquity rivaled that of TV's top entertainment franchise, the all-forensics-all-the-time "CSI." To help us visualize the dying John Paul, another Fox star, Geraldo Rivera, brought on Dr. Michael Baden, the go-to cadaver expert from the JonBenet Ramsey, Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson mediathons, to contrast His Holiness's cortex with Ms. Schiavo's.

As sponsors line up to buy time on "CSI," so celebrity deaths have become a marvelous opportunity for beatific self-promotion by news and political stars alike. Tim Russert showed a video of his papal encounter on a "Meet the Press" where one of the guests, unchallenged, gave John Paul an A-plus for his handling of the church's sex abuse scandal. Jesse Jackson, staking out a new career as the angel of deathotainment, hit the trifecta: in rapid succession he appeared with the Schindlers at their daughter's hospice in Florida, eulogized Johnnie Cochran on "Larry King Live" and reminisced about his own papal audience with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

What's disturbing about this spectacle is not so much its tastelessness; America will always have a fatal attraction to sideshows. What's unsettling is the nastier agenda that lies far less than six feet under the surface. Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living.

When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul's vision of a "culture of life." This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time. Yes, these politicians oppose abortion, but the number of abortions has in fact been going down steadily in America under both Republican and Democratic presidents since 1990 - some 40 percent in all. The same cannot be said of American infant fatalities, AIDS cases and war casualties - all up in the George W. Bush years. Meanwhile, potentially lifesaving phenomena like condom-conscious sex education and federally run stem-cell research are in shackles.

This agenda is synergistic with the entertainment culture of Mr. Bush's base: No one does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally so - than the doomsday right. The "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has reported in The Forward, there's even a children's auxiliary: a 40-title series, "Left Behind: The Kids," that warns Jewish children of the hell that awaits them if they don't convert before it's too late. Eleven million copies have been sold on top of the original series' 60 million.

These fables are of a piece with the violent take on Christianity popularized by "The Passion of the Christ." Though Mel Gibson brought a less gory version, with the unfortunate title "The Passion Recut," to some 1,000 theaters for Easter in response to supposed popular demand, there was no demand. (Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that at many screens the film sold fewer than 50 tickets the entire opening weekend.) "Passion" fans want the full scourging, and at the height of the protests outside the Schiavo hospice, a TV was hooked up so the assembled could get revved up by watching the grisly original on DVD.

As they did so, Mr. Gibson interjected himself into the case by giving an interview to Sean Hannity asserting that "big guys" could "whip a judge" if they really wanted to stop the "state-sanctioned murder" of Ms. Schiavo. He was evoking his punishment of choice in "The Passion," figuratively, no doubt. It was only a day later that one such big guy, Tom DeLay, gave Mr. Gibson's notion his official imprimatur by vowing retribution against any judges who don't practice the faith-based jurisprudence of which he approves.