Monday, May 31, 2004

The Zen of Pondkeeping
An object lesson for life on the Happy Planet

I've spent the day getting my backyard pond back running and up to snuff. I've been a pondkeeper for 15+ years. The pond always transports me into the transcendental. The waterfall makes its music outside my bedroom window. But I've had it down, non-functional for over a year. It's back up now. The aquatic plants I've saved in tubs are in the pond. The poor fish living for a year in the fish ghetto are now in the 450 gallons.

I've always thought about pondkeeping as an analogy for being a god, that creator the fundies carp about. We pondkeepers create the biosphere ... we populate the environment with plants and mammals. We monitor the ecosystem, and alter it with chemicals when it gets out of balance. I nursed those two fish into the BIG pond, and have been watching them ever since.

Namaste. Thou art god. I think I should write "The Zen of Pondkeeping". There is the Zen of Tennis, the Zen of Golf. and of course the bible, The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I still have a hairline leak in the bigger of my two ponds. I have to deal with that. In the meantime I've added stuff to take out the chlorine, condition the water, add salt (very necessary). I've been a good steward to the biosphere I created.

Imagine that you are the creator of our biosphere. What would YOU do?

Addendum Tues., 7:15 AM: I went outside at dawn to see if I could see the fish ... if they survived the transfer. At least they are not floating. A good sign. I think they were hiding among the plants. When you have a pond, it's always on your mind. It's like being a parent, and I would think it's like being the creator of the Universe. Always on my mind. I'll talk more about some of the horrors of pondkeeping later. Yes, Virginia, there are horrors when you're a pond goddess. ;-)

Quick Admin Note

I broke down and shelled out for haloscan pro commenting (a whole $12). It's up and running, and should take care of those pesky post length problems (among other issues with the freebie, I hope).
I MUST Have This Book

And I will. I got a Border's gift card from my son for Mother's Day, and it's burning a hole in my pocket. My son knows me well. Books, baby.

This is the book, "Sex, Time & Power" by Leonard Shlain. I've read his two other books: "Art and Physics", and "The Alphabet vs. the Goddess". If you've never even skimmed one of Shlain's books, you missed a magical read.

His most recent has me ready to go to the bookstore TODAY.

From the blurb: "Women taught men about time and the men used this knowledge to become the planet’s most fearsome predator. Unfortunately, they also discovered that they were mortal. Men, then invented religions to soften the certainty of death. Subsequently, they belatedly grasped the function of sex. The possibility of achieving a kind of immortality through heirs drove men to construct patriarchal cultures whose purpose was to control women’s reproductive choices."

Cultural anthropology and the field's analysts have had me a captive reader for years. If you're in a reading mood on this day of mementos mori, you can't go wrong reading about how we modern day homo sapiens sapiens got to our "exalted" place on the Happy Planet. You could also read some Gregory Bateson or Humberto Maturana. I was going to post a link to the Bateson site, but it appears not to be on-line. Weird. More later.

I See Dumb People

When I take the time to reflect on how we've gotten where we've gotten as a nation (and I'm not just talking about Iraq, here), it all comes back to basic human stupidity and Karl Marx's "opiated masses". You're reading this blog because you somehow wandered in from someplace else on the web - either reading Kate, Doc, or my ranting on another blog, or perhaps from a Google search while you were trying to make sense of this insane time in which we live.

So, kudos, consider yourself part of the "intelligencia". Because most of your bretheren in American live in the Idiot Trap™.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Classic Josh.
The president's actions, if not his words, concede that Iraq has become the geopolitical equivalent of a botched surgery -- botched through some mix of the misdiagnosis of the original malady and the incompetence of the surgeon. Achieving the original goal of the surgery is now close to an afterthought. The effort is confined to closing up as quickly as possible and preventing the patient from dying on the table. And now the 'doctor', pressed for time and desperate for insight, stands over the patient with a scalpel in one hand and the other hurriedly leafing through a first year anatomy text book.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


"Look, I'm not griping, because life in a bubble is pretty comfortable." - George W. Bush
God help us all.

A Tale Told by an Idiot
(about? near? because of? Still sounds right!)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow                   
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Wm. Shakespeare - Macbeth)

At Yahoo News (from Reuters): Bush Keeps Saddam Gun at White House

From the article: "The magazine [Time] quoted a visitor who had been shown the gun, which is kept in a small study off the Oval Office where Bush displays memorabilia. It is the same room where former President Bill Clinton had some of his encounters with former intern Monica Lewinsky."

My first thought upon reading was "Boys and their toys...Ha. Bill had Monica in the study, and Dubya's got Saddam's pistol in there." My next thought was to wonder about the trophy cases of chickenhawks. Finally, I thought, How pathetic.

Poets and playwrights have never failed me in my hours of need. This excerpt from Robert Frost's "Lesson for Today" rings like thunder when thinking of tin gods and demigogs of this year and yesteryears immemorial.

(Frost is addressing the scholars of the Middle Ages)
One age is like another for the soul.
I'm telling you.  You haven't said a thing,
Unless I put it in your mouth to say.
I'm having the whole argument my way -
But in your favor - please to tell your king -
In having granted you all ages shine
With equal darkness, yours as dark as mine.
I'm liberal.  You, you aristocrat,
Won't know exactly what I mean by that.
I mean so altruistically moral
I never take my own side in a quarrel.
I'd lay my hand on his hand on his staff,
Lean back and have my confidential laugh,
And tell him I had read his epitaph.
Memorial Day:
A Chronicle of Life and Death on the Happy Planet

(...and you don't look so good yourself!)

"I hold your doctrine of 'memento mori'.
And were an epitaph to be my story
I'd have a short one ready for my own.
I would have written of me on my stone:
I had a lover's quarrel with the world"
Robert Frost - The Lesson for Today

I'm really a loud and cranky curmudgeon about "holidays" that celebrate militarism on our Happy Planet. I think it reinforces poisonous memes in children, who later go on to kill or be killed when governments wage war on other governments via the people who live in the land. At my age I'm not likely to have any other take on the subject. And I will never apologize for my worldview. My fury at the continuing malarky about the necessity of war grows exponentially.

For this "Memorial Day" I'm recommending some potent reading. The Robert Frost poem linked above is the first. Next you can read Mark Twain's 1901 address to the Anti-Imperialist League of New York: To the Person Sitting in Darkness; and finally try out a piece akin to the Twain address, but written this week (May 2004)about the myth of the "Good War": D(isinformation) Day: 60 Years is Enough

In the end I'd prefer "Memorial Day" to be a day when human beings living the USofA remember the waste of life, resources and time that goes into so-called "good wars", and to personally vow that no government will ever dupe them again into thinking there can EVER be such a thing as a "good war". This is my memento mori for today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
King of Shreds and Patches

Whew. Excerpt:
Today, the worst type of a so-called Third World dictator is an angel compared to George Bush. No wonder that 50 (fifty) former American diplomats have written to warn him about the effect of his policies. According to them, such policies are losing friends for America.

Today, George Bush encourages Israel to disregard international law, respect for human rights and to carry out acts of genocide. At least other American Presidents tried to bring about peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Today, George Bush says that the prisoners at the Guantanamo base are not regular prisoners of war but "illegal combatants." They are also said not to be on United States soil so the laws of the United States do not apply to them. Consequently, Bush has the right to hold them forever at the Base and under constant torture.

Far from winning his so-called war on terror, George Bush rather continues to stoke up the fires that forge terrorists around the world.

George W. Bush, this "king of shreds and patches" (apologies to Shakespeare's Hamlet), has become the biggest terrorist of all time.
('s not from the New York Times or Washington Post...still...)

Saturday, May 29, 2004

How to Make the Chalabi Story Go Away?

Yes, gentle reader, you know the answer. Totally bypass the guy who was supposedly in charge of the interim Iraqi government selection. Appoint Chalabi 2.0 to the post.

Selected musings on Iyad Allawi:

The "WMD's can be operational in 45 minutes" claim? That was Allawi.

Tomorrow's headlines: The handover that became a shambles: ten U-turns on the road to 'peace'

Iraqi Money Flows -- By Brody Mullins, Roll Call (or, Money Talks and Bullshit Walks.) (You have to scroll down the page a bit to find it.)

Friday, May 28, 2004

Spin City

Are you shiite-ing me? I see why they waited until a Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend to drop this bomb.
May 28 - Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans hailed today’s personal income report: “One year ago today, President Bush signed landmark tax relief that laid the groundwork for America's economic recovery. Today's strong personal income numbers -- the largest monthly increase in six months -- is more proof it's working. Over the last year, take home pay has grown at a faster rate than the averages of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. As businesses become more confident, jobs are being created. And as jobs are being created, American workers have more money to care for their families, buy a new home or plan for the future. Alternative proposals to raise taxes would stymie this progress and hurt our workers. President Bush and I are committed to seeing every American worker succeed.”
Think Secy. Evans would crow about my 2% raise this year? When you factor in the increase in my health insurance deductions, my family's spendable income is down by nearly $75 per month.

Lyin' asshats.

How many people do you know who are taking home substantially more this year than last year? Guess we're running with the wrong crowd.

Update, 6/1/04, 12:15PM: And now I guess we know which crowd Don Evans runs with, and why his buddies have seen "strong personal income numbers". If my last name was Yates, I guess my numbers would be up, too...

WASHINGTON - A single New Mexico family and a dozen big oil companies, including one once headed by Commerce Secretary Don Evans, now control one-quarter of all federal lands leased for oil and gas development in the continental United States despite a law intended to prevent such concentration, federal records show.

So Simple

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can't say it: Elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That's about it..."
Barbara Kingsolver (italics are mine)

That said (so eloquently and honestly by Ms. Kingsolver), I give you Blessed Are the Peacemakers, by David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of PRAVDA and Former Communications Professor.

Just a taste:
"Some say the mark of true evil is not in the sadistic acts one does, but in having the power to encourage or inspire others to engage in such acts."
My Twisted Simple Logic

Forget the friggin' polls (even those showing John Kerry widening his lead on monkey boy). Please -- shoot me down if I'm wrong. Don't just sit there thinking, "Wow, this guy's a moron." Tell me why I'm a fucking moron for my logic below (that's what the little "comment" link at the bottom of postings is for). I've been saying it for months: President-elect Kerry has nothing to worry about. But there's still a lot of nervous nellie progressives out there.

  • President Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by roughly a half-million votes
  • Almost all who voted in 2000 for Gore will vote for Kerry.
  • A statistically significant percentage of those who voted for pResident Bush in 2000 will vote for Kerry.
  • Bush won many red states in 2000 by a razor thin margin.
  • Gore won most blue states in 2000 by comfortable margins.

Please be among the first to welcome President John F. Kerry, 44th President (actually, 43rd, but who's splitting hairs) of the United States.

It's axiomatic.

Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar.
You're gonna go far, fly high,
You're never gonna die,
You're gonna make it if you try;
They're gonna love you.
Well I've always had a deep respect,
And I mean that most sincerely.

A Memorial Day Gift to the Serviceperson in Your Life

What a concept! And it's FREE.

As the country heads toward Memorial Day, we feel it's the appropriate time for Salon to extend the following offer to all active-duty military personnel. If you are currently serving in the U.S. military and have a .mil e-mail address, send us your name and address and we will give you a free one-year Salon Premium subscription. If you are one of the active-duty GIs already receiving Salon Premium, we will extend your subscription for a year free of charge...

No-strings-attached details at Salon's Website.

(Thanks to Phred on Atrios' comment section for the head's up!)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Shades of Fallujah?

Politics of convenience are fun, particularly when it comes to Bushraq. Yesterday's terrorist/outlaw/murderer/liberal/all-around-badguy (and we don't negotiate with with the likes of them) is today's diplomat:

No one seemed to know if or when Sadr would disband his militia, or surrender to face charges which accuse him, among other things, of involvement in the April 2003 murder of moderate Shiite cleric Abdel Majid al-Khoei. Both were unshakeable demands of U.S. authorities in early April. But subsequent weeks of debilitating violence—and the looming June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis—may have reshaped priorities for the Coalition. Now, it seems, Sadr himself will negotiate the future status of his militia and his arrest warrants with Shiite political and religious figures.

Bring 'em on.

War Machinery

As the Abu Ghraib scandal has evolved over the past few weeks, there's been a lot of talk in both Left and Right Blogistan about the topic of "following orders", "war crimes" and the Nuremberg precedent. One of the seminal documents on the whole issue of responsibilities for war crimes was written back in 2001 for the journal, "Military Review", by Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Michael Davidson. A quick google of Davidson’s name will turn up many references to his work, prosecutions, and Senate hearing testimony that he’s given over the years. He's clearly a conservative, and his opinions err on the side of protecting military personnel.

The subject of Davidson's paper, "Staff Officer Responsibility for War Crimes", is focused on the topic of what constitutes a legal order in the military. Secondarily, the paper broaches the topic of executive responsibility in the chain of command. Davidson opines that Staff principals would be criminally responsible for law-of-war violation their staff sections committed if they ordered an illegal act, had actual knowledge of the illegal activity, or should have known of it and failed to "take the necessary and reasonable steps to insure compliance with the law of war or to punish violators thereof.”

To the layperson, the most interesting aspect of Davidson's interpretation might be the discussion he provides regarding how nations other than the U.S. presume lawful and unlawful orders, and execution of both by subordinates. In short, an illegal order is defined (internationally) as "in evident contradiction to all human morality and every international usage of warfare".

Perhaps most frustrating to the international community is determining where the American buck stops in the Abu Ghraib scandal. I don't think there's any question in anyone's mind that the events at Abu Ghraib prison were "in evident contradiction to all human morality". So where does the moral buck stop? With the Staff Sergeant who was apparently one of the prime instigators? With the intelligence operatives who ordered "softening up"? With General Janice "Not My Fault" Karpinski, who apparently never heard of the concept of MBWO (management by walking around) or (perhaps worse) turned a totally blind eye to the abuses? Perhaps even further up the ladder to General Rick Sanchez, who (despite his Chief of Staff's signature to the contrary on the ICRC report in 2003) yanked out the Sgt. Shultz defense and claimed he knew nothing -- until late January, 2004? Or even higher, further, broader than that?

The precedent of determining where the buck stops dates back to the Nuremberg trial. In the Nuremberg trial, the allies (U.S., U.K., France and Russia) decided to prosecute a total of 22 defendants who committed the most egregious acts during the Nazi regime. Hermann Goering was the highest ranking Nazi official still alive at the time. At the beginning of the trial, he was steadfast in his defense, which shored up the other 21 guys behind him. Hell, maybe they were still scared of Goering, who held onto his beliefs to his grave. Goering's primary defense?

"I was just following orders."

As his defense fell apart, though, other Nazi songbirds began to chortle. Albert Speer took Clarke-esque responsibility for the crimes. I guess he wasn’t sleeping well at night. Ultimately, all but three of the 22 defendants were convicted. Even into the early 1960's, at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the defense was trotting out the "following orders" excuse.

So, it's clear that there's historic legal precedent for establishing parallels and examples of military law as might be applicable to Iraq and Afghanistan abuses. As this process continues to unfold, the most important aspect is to understand why this type of thing happens in war. Actually, in my mind it's a no-brainer, but let's go to the expert - Gustav Gilbert, the psychiatrist who spent a lot of time picking the brains of the Nazi prisoners during the Nuremberg trial. His late-in-life book, “Nuremberg Diary” described his quest to find out what motivated such evil, and he came to an inescapable conclusion: all of the German defendants lacked empathy. He also concludes that Germans, having been raised with a culture of obedience and a history of propaganda, had a proclivity towards this behavior.

(Sidebar – I realize that, in a very real sense, “empathy” cannot play a role in dealing with armed enemy combatants. You can get dead quick by being empathetic to your enemy in a live fire situation. However, a subdued, naked, man/woman in a jail setting is a donkey of a totally different color.)

What Gilbert didn't overtly state is that he was describing the culture of military service, totally irrespective of nationality. From the first moment a soldier/sailor/airman enters the service, s/he is psychologically taken apart, and reconstructed to fit military personnel specifications. It’s cold, but it’s been effective for thousands of years. Gilbert's "blind obedience" and "propaganda" observations are squarely on the mark. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that, a) shared empathy was not present in Abu Ghraib, and b) no one seemed to question "irregularities".

The real crimes of this whole episode lie in the “irregularities”, tacit executive sanctioning, and institutional acceptance of the abuses by senior leadership. Still an open issue: how far up the pecking order will accountability be assigned?

There’s one last quote from Davidson’s paper regarding Nuremberg that is so germane to any discussion of Afghanistan and Iraq abuses:

The US war crimes tribunal rejected the defense of superior orders and convicted various members of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen for murdering almost a million civilians in Russia, and said, ”The obedience of a soldier is not the obedience of an automaton. A soldier is a reasoning agent. He does not respond, and is not expected to respond, like a piece of machinery.”

I served in the military for 8 years. I’m laughing even as I type the above words. My bosses in the military expected that I’d respond like a piece of machinery. It’s what I was taught. Cognition and reasoning never enter into the equation.

'We have daughters, husbands. For god's sake don't tell anyone.'
Look! Over there! Rape Rooms

James Ridgeway at the Village Voice is keeping the "other half" of the human torture fad in view. In the rest of the US media we get to see leering young women (AKA female bad apples we are told) mugging for the camera. We don't hear much other than a whisper of the rape-torture of the women prisoners in Iraq. (Okay, a little, we read a little but not much.) I have a quiet hope that the systematic humiliation and torture of men AND women in Iraq will be part of what brings the Cabal ...ensconced in DC... down. Hope springs eternal.

(At left, some of those bad apples)
An aside: Mike at What Really Happened asks the musical question (I paraphrase) : Where are all those '80s feminists' who made so much noise about rape now? And I say: Hey, Mike. Those 80s feminists were a pale shadow of what we were in the late 60s and 70s. The big bad backlash hit when Ronnie Raygun took office, and it was then that it became vogue to say: "I'm not a feminist, but..." Women hid their previous activism in droves. I have a partially begun manuscript on the great sell out, that began then, not just in feminist circles...

Now. Onward. Here is the Ridgeway link: Rape at Abu Ghraib

From the top: "Practically ignored in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal are the Iraqi female prisoners who have told their attorneys they were raped by U.S. soldiers. The Taguba report confirms that some women were indeed raped by American G.I.'s. There is one photo of an American soldier having sex with an Iraqi woman. And there is the by now infamous story of how American soldiers harnessed a 70-year-old woman and rode her around, calling her a donkey."

"No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up."
Lily Tomlin

Addendum: fooled around with photo and formatting and fixed some typos

Addendum: I'm remembering now reading that the Taguba report had 2000 pages omitted from what was submitted to the US Congress (Regress). Might the rape of Iraqi women be among those pages?

Hood a Statue Today (for Jeebus!)

Sublime protest of US government-sanctioned torture of Iraqi prisoners! Rodin sculptures used in protest of treatment of Iraqi prisoners

From the Stanford Daily, By Nancy Wang
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The Burghers of Calais at the Quad were found donned with hoods Thursday morning. Last Thursday and Friday, hoods similar to those photographed on the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were discovered on several Rodin sculptures at the Cantor Arts Center. Administrators at the Arts Center said they do not know who is responsible and will not further investigate the matter because none of the sculptures was damaged.

I also saw political cartoon with the Statue of Liberty hooded.(I'll see if I can find it and add it later) Apparently the Cabal was not amused. But really, it's in keeping with the government's hooding of the truth in general, and even the Lord High Inquisitor Torquemada AshKKKroft draped the statues in the DOJ building. That was tacit permission, wasn't it? Iconoclasm without destruction?

Add: Found it! I love those Eureka moments... From USA Today: Lady Liberty hooded in political ad

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Is it Time for Dubya's Vacation Yet?

Both this story and this story are datelined for tomorrow. Lucky you - you read it here first! Dubya's posse has pissed off Lakhdar Brahimi again (they did it before, and Brahimi was --><-- this close to pulling out of the whole process). And now Hussain Shahristani (whose name BushCo leaked as Prime Minister-select) proves he's as smart as his resume would indicate, and pulls out.

These guys can't seem to get anything right. It's one fucking comedy of errors after another. What the hell must other leaders of the free world think? Especially after President Gore's speech?

From the Independent (UK): The Bush administration was accused yesterday of undermining the work of the UN envoy attempting to put together an interim Iraqi government, by suggesting that a respected nuclear scientist was tipped to be prime minister.

The spokesman for Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy in Baghdad, reacted with fury after US officials were quoted as saying that Hussain Shahristani had emerged as the leading candidate. Mr Shahristani, a Shia, spent almost a decade in prison under Saddam Hussein after refusing to build a nuclear weapon, but he escaped into exile in 1991.

"There is no final list yet, we are still working on it," said the spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, who denied that Mr Shahristani was the leading contender for the post. "Now his life could be in danger," he added, now that Mr Shahristani's name had been leaked...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - With only a few days left, the U.N.'s hunt for Iraqis to fill 30 posts in a new government heated up Wednesday. But a scientist who was said to be the front-runner for the prime minister's job took himself out of contention.

Hussain al-Shahristani, a Canadian-educated nuclear expert who says Saddam Hussein jailed him for refusing to help develop bombs, was mentioned in recent days as having the inside track for prime minister, the most important job in the transition government to take office June 30...

Al Gore's Speech

It must be good to be Al Gore. People will show up to listen to him, he doesn't need to run for office anymore, and he can just have a whole bunch of fun smacking on Bush! Here's the beginning of Mr. Gore's speech:
George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.

He promised to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words "We Are All Americans Now" and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.

To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of "preemption." And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat. All that is required, in the view of Bush's team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat - and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President.

More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word "dominance" to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens - sooner or later - to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.
I had huge problems avoiding copying the whole thing here. Gore is sharp, witty, and absolutely on the mark. This is a speech that more Americans ought to read. I've never been a huge Gore fan, but his patriotism and acumen stand side by side here, in stark contrast to a Bush, who has led us to disaster.

I was Gonna Avoid This Topic Entirely

But after five minutes of chuckling, I can't.
Certain Higher Terror Threat To U.S., Says Washington; Threat Level Raised From Yellow To "Yellower"

Today the Department of Homeland Security warned of a much higher risk of a terrorist attack over the coming months, which prompted them to raise the threat level from Yellow ("Elevated") to Yellow ("Still Elevated"). "The threat level remains fundamentally the same," said Tom Ridge, "Except that it is definitely, certainly much threatier."

And it gets even better from there...

(Don't depose me! Props to Lawgeekgurl for the pointer.)


Do I have your undivided attention now?

How about now?

Damn, you guys are a tough room. But I'll be here all sure to tip the waitstaff...

Another Soldier Disciplined re: Abu Ghraib

This is right in line with SecDef Rumsfeld's overall response to the Abu Ghraib situation. I'm going to keep hammering on this issue, simply because the Bush Administration (and Right Blogistan) would prefer that the whole story fade into the sunset. As a nation, as people, we can't lose our capacity to be shocked - because if we do, the "shock" bar gets raised to a higher level the next time. Pretty soon we're sawing off heads because "those guys did it, too."
Abuse Whistleblower 'Disciplined'

THE US Army has reportedly taken disciplinary action against a soldier in military intelligence who alleged the army was trying to cover up the extent of the Iraqi prison scandal.

Earlier this week, Sergeant Samuel Provance told America's ABC television that dozens of soldiers had been involved in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Only seven have been charged so far.

Today, ABC quoted Sgt Provance as saying that he had been stripped of his security clearance and told he may face prosecution over his comments.

Sgt Provance said he had been transferred to a different platoon and his record was officially "flagged", meaning he cannot be promoted or given awards or honours...

Everyone jumping off the Chalabi bandwagon

Here's an excerpt from a New York Times examination of its Iraq reporting. LINK
...But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations - in particular, this one.
Those Bushies like to complain about the liberal press, but here's an instance where they cut corners in order to bolster Bushie positions on the war, WMD, etc. Gee, were we in some kind of mass hysteria or what? The difference, Bush is elected and he's responsible to all of us, or so the theory goes. The Times is merelresponsiblele to the market. Yes, this is capitalism, and it is clear that capitalism regulates itself in this instance far better than the folks in the White House regulate themselves. The Times, after all, came out with the mea culpa. The Bushite junta seems incapable of self-reflection, much less admitting fault.


This one speaks for itself. Or at least I think it does. Could be why I'm not sleeping well lately.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Same As It Ever Was, Same As It Ever Was

Tibet 1903: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Need I sing? I will, but I'm hoping people will know what I'm going to sing before I do it. Ah, heck, I'll sing.

When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Of course to me the answer to the question is "they" will never learn because people are kept from understanding how "the system" works... how politics in the so-called Modern World is the same old shit done over and over, with the perpetrators expecting new results from the same old shit every time. They're not too bright, ya see. Little brains, as Albert Brooks might call them (from the film "Defending Your Life"). Or as Daniel Quinn might say ("Ishmael", "The Story of B", "Beyond Civilization" and other titles) ... just more of the same thing that doesn't work. But people don't notice because what's promoted is MORE! And more is good, right? So we'll sign on the dotted line. Cast our "vote".

From the top of the link:
"One one of the most inglorious episodes of the British Empire Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, sent troops under Francis Younghusband to invade Tibet  in order to create a buffer zone against the Russians.  The pretext was that Tibet was being armed with Russia-manufactured weapons. The mission ended with the massacre of Chumik Shenko when the rifle-bearing British mowed down hundreds of Tibetan Buddhists, debarred by their religion from killing their enemies. Even Younghusband , an archetypal British army officer wedded to the ideals of Empire, was shocked and demoralised by what happened. They found just two rifles in Tibet."

The alarm clock is ringing again, and there's no "snooze button".
Exit, Stage Left

There's one thing about Iraq that's becoming clearer - Dubya's exit strategy in Iraq is beginning to unfold. The strategy goes something like this: we turn over sovereignty to [fill in the blank], they tell us to leave.

We leave.

Potential future news conference sound bite: "Hey, they want us out of there. What are you gonna do?" The trial balloons have been floating for weeks.

Well, kiddos, it ain't gonna happen. Because business is business. If the U.S. military leaves, all of the U.S. private interests in Iraq wouldn't be worth a bucket of bat guano. All the "private security contractors" in the world are not going to protect Americans (and more importantly, American dollars) from Iraqis and other operators trying to position themselves in both dinars and power.

I really don't want to be a negative energy force toward any end-game plan, but the crew in charge keeps opening themselves wide to criticism. One idea I've never agreed with is the "cut and run" approach - and it seems that the Bush administration is now quietly embracing a variation of this strategy. The entire orchestrated exit is a move which will be requested (or at least sanctioned) by the New Iraq government itself. It won't be called "cut and run", but if it walks like a duck...

What blows me away is that if an amateur like me can see the fallacy of the direction that this whole sovereignty thing is taking, why can't the educated policy makers? If an internet nutball like me can see that the approach (as presently laid out by BushCo) is fraught with unacceptable risk from both a political stability and human standpoint, why can't the folks who are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to study and analyze this crap see it?

Bookmark this post. Come back and read it in 24 months.

I can't help but feel like this whole Iraq thing has become a huge house of cards. We're about to put the finishing touches on the house, but what we can't see is that the final cards are going to cause the whole thing to come crashing down, and we'll be back to something less than what we started with. If that's even possible. And our exit from Baghdad could make our exit from Saigon look like an orderly transition.

And lastly, why why why do I have to get any decent reporting on this issue from Australia, BBC, and AFP?

Iraqi minister predicts swift coalition withdrawal

Iraq to have veto on military action, says Blair

Monday, May 24, 2004


This Chalabi thing is blowing up all over the place.

US intelligence fears Iran duped hawks into Iraq war

All I can say is, it fits. This is not tinfoil hat shit, this is the real deal. If you have the time and inclination, all the background you could want on this quickly exploding melodrama is at War And Piece. Shorter: Kevin Drum.

Prediction: low people in high places are going to end up in jail for a long time over this.

Like I said earlier, Ahmed Chalabi has played the Bush Administration en toto like a tour bus full of Nebraska rubes on Bourbon Street. Ok, so I'm being harsh on Nebraska rubes (for the second time today).

My Reaction to Dubya's Speech

But Does Halliburton Get the Contract?

Fucking wonderful. Your tax dinars at work.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will demolish Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison in consultation with the incoming government as a way of symbolizing the country's new start, the White House said on Monday.

The prison near Baghdad, scene of torture under Saddam Hussein and of a prisoner abuse scandal under the U.S. military, would be replaced by a new maximum security prison funded by the U.S. government, the White House said in a statement. The statement was issued ahead of a prime time speech on the future of Iraq by President Bush.

"Under Saddam Hussein, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of
disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values," the statement said. [Emphasis mine.]

"America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated.

"Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning," it added.

Somewhere in a cave on the Afghan border, maniacal laughter is heard...

Update, 10:20PM EDT - Interesting that Dubya takes credit for this idea. The House attached an amendment to the $422 Billion Defense Appropriation Bill last week to do just this same damn thing! It passed with bi-partisan sponsorship, 308-114. Thanks to Poppy @ Patridiots Watch for the heads up!

Busy this week, but always something to share. . .

Maybe I'll even read in here for a bit!

Funny and satirical image that made sweetpea's computer shiver with delight, so now it is just a link.
Club Kabul - What Would Plato Shoot?

I think most political bloggers (including myself) fancy themselves as armchair philosophers. Most philosophy seems grounded in some form of outrage, so I suppose, then, that bloggers as philosophers should come as no surprise. What political bloggers need to keep in mind is that many of the "old school" philosophers took the hemlock route out of this metaphysical existance.

Yeah, waxing philosophical all day can drive you to drink. Or maybe it's the other way around - drinking all day can drive you to wax philosophically. Either way, I got to thinking. The sport of golf can be a mind clearing exercise (note that I emphasized "can"). Which got me to googling. Golf and philosophy. I found the following (trust me, stick around to the end of this post for the punch line):

Have you ever wondered why no one wants to join you, a philosopher, for a round of golf? The fact of the matter is that, on the golf course, philosophers are a truly tedious lot--always have been!!

No one ever wanted to play with Kant since he was such a stickler about following the rules. He claimed that it was Imperative to do so. Kropotkin, on the other hand, never adhered to any rule. Stories abound about how he teed off from the seventh green, taking aim toward the fourteenth hole. Most golfers considered Kropotkin positively dangerous.

Hearing Thales lament about his lastest round was tiresome. One would think that every hole was nothing but water. Admittedly, Hegel had a more positive frame of mind, but that was no better. He kept claiming that everybodys game was constantly improving, approaching an Absolute Ideal. Marx got so tired of hearing this that he turned Hegel on his head.

Sartre was positively annoying . He would pontificate about how a person is only a bad golfer because that is what he chooses to be. That never sat well with anyone who had just finished a bad round. Berkeley was a bit more subtle, but just as damning. He would claim that the game was entirely mental. That sent Malebranch into despair. He felt that it would take an act of God for your mind to be able to control your body. dHolbach, on the other hand, would attribute his bad rounds on the pre-existing conditions in the universe; he swore that there was nothing one could do to change the outcome.

Philosophers have also managed to take the fun out of any tournament. Hume was skeptical about any reported score. He wanted proof, but would never accept any of the presented evidence as sufficient. Diogenes was just as Cynical, claiming that he had scoured the world looking for an honest golfer. Meanwhile Paley would go around showing everybody this watch he found.

One had to wait endlessly in the clubhouse for Zeno to get started; it seemed like he could never reach the first hole. Abelard was the only one who didn't seem to mind; he was content to sit in the bar and moon over Heloise.

Strangely, though, the philosopher everyone hated the most was Plato. It is not that he ever did anything wrong. In fact, he had perfect Form. People just couldnt stand the fact that he never shot anything but Par.

Which brings us to the punch line.

No Grass, no Greens, But Golf Is Back in Kabul

Philosophically speaking, wouldn't playing golf at Club Kabul be kind of like teeing off in a parking lot? The greens must be damn fast, too. And are Phil Mickleson and Tiger Woods ready for the Greater Afghan Open?

ASZ Express

Quick reading from around Left Blogistan this morning - we do the heavy lifting so you don't have to!

Democratic Party circular firing squads - The DLC and NDN go at it. Kos opines that the DNC should stick a fork in the DLC. LSMFT.

Dubya's slide toward 41-style oblivion continues. - When he dropped below 45% a few weeks back, it was obvious he was losing even the hard core wingnuts.

Diminished expectations - In a developement closely related ("kissing cousin" close) to his polls tanking, Dubya is seeking to reassure voters that hundreds of Americans have not died in vain, and tell the world that he actually has a plan for Iraq. Seems about 18 months too late to me.

All Chalabi, all the time - Tom Clancy could not have written this spy novel. Got a few hours? Drink up and get out the reading glasses. Ahmed Chalabi has played the Bush Administration en toto like a tour bus full of Nebraska rubes on Bourbon Street. Ok, so I'm being harsh on Nebraska rubes.

And finally, The General needs to get a pothole fixed.

More later...

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Things We Lost...

Excellent piece in the Village Voice with a breathtaking image at the top.

Things We Lost in the Fire by Alisa Solomon

From the top: "Could Tom Ridge have said anything scarier or more telling as he accepted the post of homeland security czar? Trying to strike the bell of liberty, he sounds its death knell, depicting government not as the agent of the people's will, but as an imperious power with the authority to give us our democratic freedoms. Which means, of course, that it can also take them away."

As apropos as it was in 1969, 1999, in 1899: Question Authority.
Getting to Root Cause of Prisoner Abuse

I'm comforted to read that SecDef is finally taking Iraqi prisoner abuse issues seriously.
MOBILE phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported today.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.
This falls right in line with the first Abu Ghraib-related court martial being that of the most egregious offender (Jeremy Sivits, the photographer).

(Tip-o-the-hat to an alert patron @ Whiskey Bar.)

Sunday, Sunday

Ha! Just when I want to chuck it all, and jump off the bleeding edge (where thar be dragons) there's this:

Naked Students Set a New World Record (be sure to click on the "related story", scroll down)

Good morning, world. Or as the singer Kate Bush sang:

Hello Earth, hello Earth.
With just one hand held up high
I can blot you out, out of sight.
Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo little Earth.

Just another magic, naked, happy Sunday. (and my beautiful daughter Boo's 27th birthday! Happy Birthday, Dearheart, this one's for you!)


Saturday, May 22, 2004

And Disney Gave It Away...

'Fahrenheit 9/11' Wins Top Prize at Cannes (NY Times requires free registration... worth it in my opinion)

Excerpt: "CANNES, France, May 22 - At the awards ceremony that wrapped up the 57th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night, the jury gave "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's stinging critique of the Bush administration's foreign policies, the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize and one of the most coveted honors in international cinema."

I'm going to have to take my schadenfreude medication now. (chortling heard fading in the distance)
More Food for Thought

It is a beautiful May afternoon here on the Left Coast, Southern California -- one of those days we get only in May and June... socked in with marine layer clouds all morning, partly clearing in the afternoon, with an exquisite SSW breeze of 5-10 MPH ... 75 degrees F. My house is surrounded by 50 year-old shade trees. Richard mentioned below about the lazy Saturday afternoon. These days are sublime, and too few and far between. I wait all year for these two months. After a long walk, I began re-reading Joan Didion's anthology "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" (1960s era pieces), and a little Vonnegut ("Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons")... and hard-boiling eggs for my daughter's 27th birthday party tomorrow... I just now looked at Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization" for the hundredth time. (If you've not read any Quinn, start with "Ismael", then "The Story of B", and then "Beyond...")

I'm going to leave you with some Quinn quotes for your supper. I'd love to discuss them in light of the current Yeatsian Times we find our world in... I will front-load the discussion by saying that I am in full agreement with Quinn...

•If the world is saved, it will not be by old minds with new programs but by new minds with no programs at all. Why not new minds with new programs? Because where you find people working on programs, you don't find new minds, you find old ones. Programs and old minds go together like buggy whips and buggies.

•Old minds think: How do we stop these bad things from happening? New minds think: How do we make things the way we want them to be?

•We spend more and more on our failures every year. Most people accept this willingly enough, because they know they're getting more every year: bigger budgets, more laws, more police, more prisons--more of everything didn't work last year or the year before that or the year before that.

•There is no one right way for people to live. Once you recognize it, it's perfectly clear that this is the story that was enacted here during the first three or four million years of human life. Of course, there's a clear sense in which ours is just a special case of a much wider story, written in the living community itself from the beginning, some five billion years ago: There is no one right way for ANYTHING to live.

Eat hearty, and if you're hungry later you can find Daniel Quinn's (books) Beyond Civilization at or any large local bookstores.
The Bubble

Tom Engelhardt opines that 'muricans live in a "Truman Show"-esque bubble, plus he gives up Chapter 1 of Nick von Hoffman's new book, "Hoax, Why Americans Are Suckered by White House Lies".

Excellent reading for a lazy Saturday.
I LOVE Good Righteous Indignation

Download a banner.

(Thanks to the good folks at Alicublog for the pointer to this inspired rant at

I made these banners because I'm tired of being expected to feel ashamed because I don't want to help right-wing assholes turn this country into a shitkicker theme park. I'm tired of having my patriotism questioned by people who think Thomas Jefferson was a sitcom character. I'm smarter, better educated and more informed than these people -- why the fuck should I be forced to treat their opinions as if they were equally as valid as my own? You wouldn't ask a six year old how to tune a Lamborghini's why should you care about the political opinions of people who can't point out their own goddamn country on a map? I've lived in the Middle East and spent time with Kurdish insurgents; I don't give a shit what some semi-literate Midwestern retard who's never been more than two hundred miles from home and whose idea of intellectual exercise is watching "Jeopardy" thinks about the intricacies of Islamic theology as it relates to the metaphysical notion of jihad. Fuck him.

Am I an elitist? If by "elitism" you mean "expecting people to actually know what the fuck they're talking about before they start talking about it," then yes, I'm an elitist. Fine. These banners are for other "elitists" who are proud of actually being smart and, y'know, knowing something about the world they didn't get from Fox News or the cover of the goddamn Reader's Digest.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Pissing Against the Tide

It seems like a lot of folks in Left Blogistan are suffering bad-news-burnout these days, including some of the heavyweights (billmon and Kevin Drum, to name two).

I'll admit that the bad news weighs on me sometimes, too, but I'm not ready to cliff dive just yet. I'll further concede, though, it's easy to see how getting immersed in apocalyptic discussions 24X7 can lead to tinfoil hat territory very quickly.

So allow me to switch your internal news channel for a few minutes. Let me tell you how my Friday went.

I work at a large, inner city non-profit agency. Every single day I see the good and the bad in a world gone mad.

As I was walking in the door this morning, our receptionist was telling me about a cousin who was shot and killed last night (must have been a distant cousin, because she wasn't demonstrably upset or anything...). I commiserated with her for a few minutes.

A bit later, I saw a homeless guy digging through our dumpster. When I called out to him, he popped out and we started talking - he was looking for something to eat, and I explained to him that the stuff that was in our dumpster was there for a reason. I politely told the guy that I didn't want him getting sick from eating something out of the dumpster, and I asked him if I could introduce him to someone inside our agency that could hook him up with good food. He did (believe me, some of the hungry and/or homeless don't want that kind of help). We gave him a bus token and referral slip to a nearby agency that has a feeding program, and sent him on his way. Hopefully, he had a decent meal today.


One of the things that my agency has been struggling with is waste disposal costs. The nature of our business is such that we generate a lot of organic waste material. For the past year, I've been working on putting together a recycling program, and it's just really come together and launched in the past few weeks. So, just before noon, I had the opportunity to attend a 3 hour conference (with free lunch!) at an industrial strength composting facility that is now taking our organic waste (10 tons at a whack). Yeah, I know, it wasn't as exciting as the World Economic Forum conference in Jordan. But bottom line, our agency saves big money and we do our little bit for environmental stewardship, regardless of the setbacks that the Bush Administration has tried to deal Mother Earth in the name of corporate profits.


When I returned from the conference, I ran some quick weekly numbers. We'd distributed nearly 20 tons of food to the needy this past week. Plus, I'd finally shamed our forklift repair company into actually fixing (rather than bandaiding) one of our ancient lifts that's been acting up for three weeks. Sometimes, little victories mean a lot.


At the end of the workday, I drove home, and (cue "Leave it to Beaver" theme music) walked in the door to the usual family conversations, trials, and tribulations.

So, that was my day. Was it any different than yours? There were bad spots. There were good spots. There were even a few affirmations that my life isn't just focused on crap that I really can't change. Just like you, I deal with mondo negative bad shit every day. And also just like you, I have the opportunity to positively contribute to solutions that contribute positively to the world around me.

I quit the corporate whoring when the internet bubble burst, not by choice necessarily, but I've never looked back. What I do in my vocation makes a difference in peoples lives, not the CEO's quarterly bonus or director's stock options. Maybe that's why I have a bit of a different angle on the world around me. I know that one person can make a difference, at least on my little scrap of the planet.

Make no mistake (and you can certainly see it here on ASZ in my writing) - I get outraged and indignant and spitting mad. Sometimes, I really don't understand the insane world around me. And maybe I'm fortunate that I can get out of the microcosm of bad news and actually apply a fix to some of the bad things around me. What I'm saying is that the darker forces in us have won when we focus exclusively on the dark side. My experience tells me that the only way to piss against the tide is to actually hang it out there. Otherwise, all you do is wet your pants.

On an unusually warm Friday evening in May, what's really fortunate is that there's a cold beer in the fridge and a game on the tube. I can already envision someone reading this tripe and saying, "that's what's wrong with the world". No, it's not. That's what's right with the world -- that in amongst the noise of every day life, we can relax with a beer and watch a game. Whatever atrocities that are out there will still be there for me to worry about when the game is over.

So please excuse me while I go round out my day. I'm going to let this posting simmer until after the game, then I'll edit it a bit and post it on up. And maybe I'll do some more indignant Monkey Boy ranting tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

Edited Saturday morning for inexcusable butchering of the English language...
Wedding Guests Tell their Story

It is difficult lately, with one outrage piled upon another, to control the rage at what Bush's adventurism has done to my country's reputation in the world. One can only take too much of being physically sickened. The folks at the Guardian published interviews with survivors of the wedding party US troops attacked a couple days ago. Not for the weak of heart.

Again we see a description of a beheaded child.
"The bombing started at 3am," she said yesterday from her bed in the emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.

She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."
She played dead to survive, and the soldiers were right there. I didn't see the soldiers being so close. Could they not see they were shooting women and children?

Weeping is not enough. Or is it that we cannot weep enough? Certainly our soldiers themselves appear not to know what they have done. Or care? I will be charitable and suggest that the conditions for them in Iraq may be grinding the humanity from them.

Major General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was scathing of those who suggested a wedding party had been hit. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilisation? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive."

When reporters asked him about footage on Arabic television of a child's body being lowered into a grave, he replied: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men."
No more comment. I don't have the stomach.
Priceless -- the Bushies Outsourcing Campaign Operations

Bussflash is where I found this, but the original report is in the Hindustan Times. It is so stunning as to make me speechless, which is evidenly what it has made the American Press. Here's an excerpt:
The political split in the US over outsourcing notwithstanding, till very recently the fund-raising and vote-seeking campaign for the Republican Party was done partly out of India. And this was handled by two call centres located in our own friendly neighbourhood in Noida and Gurgaon.

For 14 months between May 16, 2002 and July 22, 2003, HCL BPO Services — the 100 per cent-owned subsidiary of Shiv Nadar-promoted HCL Technologies — had some 125 agents working in seven teams soliciting financial contributions for the Republican Party. US presidential elections are slated for November 2004.

This story is like a straight line from heaven. What in the world would the late night talk shows do with it?

This is just too easy with these numbnuts! Perhaps we can all enjoy this from
NC GOP - No Gays in Our Manly Club

Yep, gotta love the GOP "big tent". They love a good token.

Unless the token is ~~gasp~~ a homo. No, no, don't need none of that there stuff 'round these here parts.
CNN) -- Gay Republicans in North Carolina said state party officials told them their group isn't welcome at a convention this weekend because "homosexuality is not normal" and their agenda is "counterproductive to the Republican agenda."

Bill Peaslee, a spokesman for the state GOP, said its leaders rescinded their offer to grant the Log Cabin Republicans a table at the convention because "in our opinion, they're not really a Republican organization. Their political agenda is different than our political agenda."

"While they call themselves loyal Republicans, they spend more time and more resources pointing out what's wrong with the party than what's right," Peaslee added. "They're attacking Republicans. We're in the business of electing Republicans. They're not loyal."
I'll let you fill in the blanks, if you're so inclined.
It WAS a Wedding Party

The US military knee-jerk reaction to the killing of dozens of women and children was to call them terrorists who they had been following for days. This from the Independent reporter on the scene yesterday:
A tiny bundle of blankets is unwrapped; inside is the body of a baby, its limbs smeared with dried blood. Then the mourners peel back the blanket further to reveal a second dead baby.

Another blanket is opened; inside are the bodies of a mother and child. The child, six or seven years old, is lying against his or her mother, as if seeking comfort. But the child has no head.

These are the images that American forces in Iraq had no answer to yesterday. They come from video footage of the burials of 41 men, women and children. The Iraqis say they died when American planes launched air strikes on a wedding party near the Syrian border on Wednesday.

US forces insist that the attack was on a safe house used by foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria. They do not dispute that they killed about 40 people, but claim American forces were returning fire and the dead were all foreign fighters. For the video footage that shows dead women and children they have no explanation.

Please let my military and yours come to the conclusion early that they must make an abject apology here. I don't want dissembling. I don't want to see the manufature of terrorism because of our actions.

The next wave of terrorists are here:

A member of the Rikad Nayef family, foreground, name not given, explains to other family members how 27 members of his family were killed during a funeral ceremony in Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 20, 2004. The Nayef family lost 27 of their family members, when a U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party in the remote desert near the border with Syria, killing more than 40 people, mostly women and children
We need to behave honorably and admit to these mistakes, or the world is going to see us as bombing innocents on purpose. I just don't want the world to think we are all like Mr. Rumsfeld.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Who's the Author?

"You know, back in 2000, a Republican friend of mine warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched.You know what? I did vote for Al Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true."

First correct response wins a 10 pound sack of genuine George W. Bush doodly squat. Enter early and often. Need not be present to win. Void where prohibited by papal decree. Answer later.

(Kudos to Allison @ ACT for the tip!)
Republicans fighting a bit over prisoner abuse hearings

I got this from Maureen Dowd's column today in the New York Times. Given that the committee hearings are basically being run by McCain, a war hero who knows torture and mistreatment from first-hand experience, and John Warner, who knows how to do Rummy's job having done it back in the ice age, the quotes from these senators indicate (as Ms. Dowd says) what must be a very deep rift.

Concerning House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter's words:

"It is time to refocus on winning the war and not pull our battlefield leadership out of the theater," said the House committee's chairman, Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California.
Translation: Warner and McCain are traitors for bothering such important American heroes such as Rumsfeld, Abizaid, Miller, etc.

Concerning Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island's comments:

"There's a lot of churning going on," said one committee member, Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island. "But meantime, the days are slipping by, the months are slipping by, the tide is turning."
Translation: Warner and McCain are losing the war in Iraq by distracting the troops with this minor concern about treating humans with dignity.

And then some Texans weigh in. Tom Delay and John Cornyn:

In expressing misgivings about the Senate inquiry, Congressman Hunter was backed by the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas. "We should not allow it to distract us from the war at hand," Mr. DeLay said.

Then unrest was signaled in the Senate as well, by a junior Republican member of the committee, John Cornyn of Texas, among others. Mr. Cornyn echoed Mr. Hunter's complaint. "It begins to look like we are engaged in some collective hand-wringing," the senator said, "which can be a distraction from fighting and winning the war."
Translation: Warner and McCain are old ladies worried about a dog messing in their petunia beds, completely missing the burglar coming in the back door.

All the quotes above are from a different article than Ms. Dowd's: LINK. Maureen gets the best quote, though, in that direct attack on John McCain the other day:

The most absurd cut was delivered by Speaker Dennis Hastert, who responded to Mr. McCain's contention that Congress should not enact tax cuts during wartime because it prevented a sense of shared sacrifice by barking: "John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There is sacrifice in this country."
Mr. Hastert, John McCain knows far more than you about the interior of an army hospital ward. He knows far more than you about valor and about soldiering. Go find your fellow Republicans mentioned here and do them a favor. Get them a copy of Mr. McCain's book, "Why Courage Matters." You gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, need to be schooled.

So, is this a lead-up to a large-scale attack on McCain because they are scared he might join the Kerry team, or are these guys just mad at him because he broke up their campaign finance boondoggles?

Either answer is disgusting.
Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave

I learned the rhyme when I was a young child. Did you? Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

It seems obvious to me that the movers and shakers in power in the US government (which includes the DOD and all heads of military branches) never heard it, never learned it, or have conveniently forgotten it.

A case in point: U.S. Military Vows to Keep Afghan Jails Secret

Excerpt: "KABUL (Reuters) - Accused of failing to tackle prison abuses in Afghanistan while rushing to contain the scandal in Iraq, the U.S. military in Kabul said it would review its secretive jails but vowed to keep them shut to the outside world.

The families of two Afghans who died from wounds sustained in a U.S. detention center at Bagram, just north of Kabul, 18 months ago, are still waiting for the outcome of a U.S. investigation."
(by Mike Collett-White)

The other thing that occurs to me is to ask one of the great rarely asked questions: Since many of us in the US know that the power people lie as easily as breathing out and breathing in, WHY, WHY, WHY ... do they keep voting for the liars who tell them pretty stories on the stump? I'll never understand this, even if I live to be 100 years-old. I also don't understand why people in the US are not at least protesting in droves outside the Capitol Building, the White House, and the Pentagon. (except of course for the natty little swat teams and paramilitary police riot squads ... that I understand)

I must find my knitting needles, and speak like Madame LaFarge in "History of the World, Part 1", and address you affectionately:

Bonjour, Scum! ;-)
The Real Reason Bush Will Lose

We've already acknowledged that we're in the middle of a very shaky economic stabilization (I won't call it a "recovery") after three years of being in the tank. While folks on the West Coast have been dealing with high gas prices since early spring, the full force of the spike in prices is just now being felt on the East Coast. I put gas in one of my cars last night. I put gas in the other one this morning at the same station. The price had jumped up a nickel.

This simply can't continue. I don't have a big enough brain to know whether opening up the strategic petroleum reserve to drive down prices is a good idea. My gut feel is that this isn't the direction we need to be heading. But being in a job position that requires me to absorb fuel price increases in my department budget -- everything from UPS deliveries, trash removal, and fueling our own trucks -- I know that this can not go on much longer without significantly (and I mean significantly) impacting whatever economic stabilization was underway a few months ago.

It's this easy. The cost of heating my house this past winter was bad enough. Now, it's costing me nearly twice as much as it was a year ago in fuel costs to commute to/from work. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that my family and I have tightened the money belt. By contrast, understand that in the past 1.5 years, my place of employment has provided no pay increases to employees. Our "out of paycheck" health insurance costs went up over $70 / month this year.

It's pretty clear by now -- Iraq could go up in flames, and there would still be a 50/50 split among Americans regarding the war. What will drive Mom and Pop Trailerpark away from Bush (and the GOP) are pocketbook issues. It's always been that way, and always will. "43" need look no further than "41" as a recent example of this phenomena.

(P.S. - if my rant strikes a chord with you, you'll be particularly amused by this.)

Update, 4:25PM EDT: You knew this was coming.
Jimmy Breslin Rips 'Em a New One

Goddess love Jimmy! Here he takes a few "little brains" to task, the Breslin Way.

From the top:

"Always, when you put the subject in a room for ceremony or seminar, the World Trade Center becomes a religious experience. At yesterday's meeting of the Senate 9/11 commission, the theater of the New School University on West 12th Street became a church. Starting at a little before 9 in the morning, the commissioners in front of the room were solemn and deeply respectful as a report on the attack was read to them, along with films of the explosions. The commissioners then bowed their heads as three of our city's wonders of the world took the stage.

First was Baghdad Bernie Kerik. He is called Baghdad because he went over and put the whole Iraqi police force into great shape. That the Iraqi police force is no more is not Kerik's fault. He is here."

Just Frat House Pranks

Nothing to see here. Move along.

From the Denver Post: Brutal interrogation in Iraq: Five detainees' deaths probed

The numbers I've read in the last couple of days is detainee deaths numbering at least 25.

Do any of you remember the spin artwork little machine we used to have, and that they used to have at school fairs back in the 60s? I think the Pentagon needs a BIG one of those little machines.

Short blurb, all of it here: 'VERY TROUBLING'

"Pentagon records provide the clearest view yet of the U.S. tactics used at Anu Ghraib and elsewhere to coax secrets from Iraqis.

Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure."

Very troubling? Understandment as art, yathink?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Alas! Poor Chalabi,
We knew him, Horacio!

The Telegraph in the UK has it. (I got it from

Who weeps for Adonis? He was a wheeler-dealer god, was he not? As only those global nogoodniks can be... Invincible & Omnipresent.

Here 'tis: Bush abandons his 'favourite son' Chalabi, as only the Brit journalists can say it.

Excerpt: "The Bush administration has signalled an end to its relationship with Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and the Pentagon's former favourite for leadership of the country.

After months of feuding within President George W Bush's administration over Mr Chalabi's role, the Pentagon is stopping monthly payments of $335,000 (£200,000) to the INC for intelligence-gathering in Iraq."

Good night "sweet" prince ... and flights of angels, scratch that ... flights of demons sing thee to thy rest!
Change Agents

Kathleen Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness reports on two very interesting visitors she had recently at the Pekin Federal Prison Camp, in Pekin, Illinois, where she is incarcerated for her protest at the U.S. Army's military combat training school in Fort Benning, Georgia. (formerly known as The School of the Americas before it got an "in name only" facelift)

She begins with a scintillating quote from Arundhati Roy:
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

(Delivered at the Porto Alegre Brazil World Social Forum)
Excerpt from Kathleen's unusual day: "Kathleen Kelly, report to Admin." I was routinely cleaning toilets in my dorm... "Someone wants to talk with you."

The full story here at Buzzflash.

Breathing in. Breathing out. It's just breathe, breathe, breathe every day.

Unemployed? Get a Job You Lazy Bastard.

Been downsized or offshored? Are you looking for work in Dubya's "robust economic recovery"? Here's someone that might be hiring. Business is booming. You could probably even telecommute.

Praise jeebus!
40 Iraqis killed in air attack at a wedding

Of course, war is hell, and folks at weddings in Iraq surely should know not to shoot their guns in the air in celebration lest they attract the nearest flock of Blackhawks. Heck, even if you are in the Western desert those Americans will come running.

It seems that every day there is something done that stains our character worse. Frankly, I'm not sure how much lower we can go. I was 11 when the word of My Lai came out, but I'd read the newspaper everyday for a year already, and the story fascinated and horrified me. If I had to name a day, then that day in March when the announcements came out may have been the day I became a Democrat. I spoke for Bobby Kennedy at an assembly that June, only days before he was shot. I remember being ashamed of being an American because of My Lai, and then proud of my love for Bobby. Finally, I was horrified at his senseless death.

Why do I mention this trip back in time in response to 40 people dead at a wedding? I'm deeply shocked by it, and part of me marvels at the capacity for shock. Part of me knows that the Bush Administration will pass this off as one of the unavoidable horrors of war. And we all know that NOBODY will take responsibility.

That's what makes George Bush a failure. He takes no responsibility. George Will wrote these words a week ago, and about Donald Rumsfeld instead, but they seem apt:
When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.

The response by the nation's government must express horror, shame and contrition proportional to the evil done to others, and the harm done to the nation, by agents of the government.
Will on May 11

I want to see someone big get fired when our honor as a country is stained. Wolfowitz for the Uranium bit? Fire Cheney for the WMD debacle? How about Rumsfeld for the prison scandal? And whoever made this overall decision for war in Iraq with no effective exit strategy should be fired for 40 deaths at a wedding. 40 innocents dead. Yeah, maybe you can make that VERY SAME mistake in Afghanistan, where we also attacked a wedding a couple years ago, but someone has to fall when you make it AGAIN! Let's fire Bush for that one.

Don't even try spitting. It won't help.

How do You Know When Bush is Lying?

A: Ariel Sharon's lips move.

Pop quiz - who's watching the polls, and who's not?
LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday condemned Israel's recent military offensive in a Gaza refugee camp — during which at least 24 Palestinians were killed over two days — calling it "unacceptable and wrong."

(AP) - President Bush on Wednesday declined to condemn the deadly attack on Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli military forces, saying he had not yet spoken to Israeli leaders.

I guess Bush has to consult with Sharon to get their stories straight. By the way, Israeli media said at least 22 bodies, most of them school children, had been counted after the most recent strike against Palestinians.

Keep Swinging the Hammer

I've read variations of the phrase, "You can't make this stuff up", on at least three separate blogs this morning. I think I've used it here on ASZ a few times in the past week.

And that's a real problem for the continuity of monkey boy's cabal, I think.
Meanwhile, Back on the Campaign Trail...

Ralph Nader and John Kerry are scheduled for a sit-down today. I'm not sure why Kerry's taking a meeting with Ralph, because I think it's improbable that the egoist Nader will ever withdraw from this year's presidential race. And unlike many Democrats, I don't think it's necessary. Here's why (I know, none of it's new, but it bears repeating):

I think Nader's supporters learned a lesson in 2000, even if Nader himself did not.

It's clear that Nader irrevocably impacted the last presidential election, and when he decided to run this year, I was initially mad. Surely, I thought to myself, Nader understands what happened. And surely, he can't believe that things wouldn't be demonstrably different (if not better) if Al Gore's people were sitting in the West Wing.

So, I hold Ralph Nader indirectly (check that, directly) responsible for the mess we're in right now. My fervent expectation is that Ralph's supporters understand. Yep, he's polling in the 5 to 6 percent range right now. Fine. It makes for good press, and gives the Fox yakkers something to yak about. And if Republicans are tossing money his way (as is being reported), great - because Nader's issues are Kerry's issues, for the most part. If GOP money helps get the message out, so much the better.

This year, I truly expect most of Nader's support to ultimately throw in with the Democratic Party nominee when they walk into the voting booth.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

He Was A Fetus Once

Without comment.

Oh, fuck it. I'm gonna comment. I have a close relative who has mental health issues. But we don't talk about the mentally ill in America. As a "great society", we don't even adequately fund their treatment. We warehouse them, and euthanise them when it's convenient. I'm sorry, this really pisses me off on several levels.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - A mentally ill killer was executed Tuesday evening after Gov. Rick Perry rejected a parole board's highly unusual recommendation to commute his death sentence or delay the execution.

Kelsey Patterson, 50, also lost an appeal to the Supreme Court in the hour before he was put to death.

A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, Patterson was condemned for a double slaying almost 12 years ago. His lethal injection renewed the legal quandary of whether it is proper to execute someone who is mentally ill when the Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded.

Strapped to the death chamber gurney, Patterson mumbled, "No kin, no kin, no kin. I'm not guilty of a charge of capital murder. Give me my rights. I'm acquitted of capital murder."

As the warden leaned over him and asked if he had a final statement, Patterson responded, "Statement to what? Statement to what? I'm not guilty of the charge of capital murder."

He continued to ramble, saying "give me my life back" as the lethal drugs took effect. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.

At least three mentally ill prisoners have been executed in Texas since the Supreme Court ruled two years ago that severely mentally retarded inmates should not be executed.

Compassionate conservatism, indeed. We've got nothin' on the Saudi's. Are you uncomfortable? You should be.

The Bush Mandate - 2005 and Beyond

You really need to read this. Spread it as far and wide as your email lists allow.
It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level"—this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.

The Taliban has nothing on these guys. Very scary. Thanks to Atrios for the pointer.

Now, go read. Now. Now. I mean it. Really.