Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Costs of War

The U.S. has been involved in Iraq for 17 months. The fifth most deadly month for U.S. soldiers just ended. But as we've noted many times on ASZ, the individual costs are much higher than the nearly 1000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who have died, or the 6,500 who have been wounded.

Without comment, here's another example of the cost of this lousy, unnecessary war:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- An Army reservist who tends to critically wounded soldiers in Iraq is desperately trying to keep a mortgage company from taking her house away while she's gone.

Sgt. Yyvette Nicole Curry was working with the 629th Forward Surgical Team last spring when she began receiving worrisome reports from friends.

When she returned home on 10-day emergency leave in May, she found a life in disarray -- her husband had left her, family members were taking care of her four children, ages 10-16, and a mortgage company was foreclosing on her home...
I have little doubt that this story is being repeated hundreds of times around the country.

Laura Bush can stick tonight's bullshit platitudes in her ear (or any other bodily orifice that's convenient).

Nick, Nack, Paddywhack, Throw the Dog's a Bone

The economic indicator news for BushCo hasn't been good for months. And this
morning, the consumer confidence index was released, showing a steep drop.
August's jobless claim report comes out on Friday. Talk about setting
expectations - even the media is downplaying the jobs creation report.
Anything above last month's dismal 32,000 will elicit chortles of "recovery",
when in fact (as we've stated here before), the economy has to create a minimum
of about 150,000 jobs per month just to keep pace with the number of people
entering the workforce.

It's not happening.

And then, from the convention last night on Lou Dobbs, we were treated to a GOP
congresswoman from who-knows-where (I didn't catch her name and can't find a
recap on Dobbs' website from yesterday evening) saying outsourcing was a
good thing for American business. Lou was incredulous that she would
say such a thing, and he nailed her to the wall - but she persisted...and
that's the mindset of the GOP.

Funny how everyone who's actually involved in the economy down in the trenches
know the real deal - the economy sucks, and the average American has lost a lot
of position in the "discretionary income" category. The pyramid of debt that
most consumers have built on credit has to come tumbling down pretty quick.
BushCo is just hoping that the prop stays in place until the end of the year.
Then, everyone can head to bankruptcy court.

Oh, wait.

The law is about to change on that, too, making it harder for the average
schmuck who is up to their eyeballs in life strangling debt to get relief.
Next up: debtors prisons. Hey, that'll make a few bucks for Halliburton on the
construction contracts, anyway. Maybe even create a few construction jobs.

Anyway, with all of the bad economic news around us, I find it kind of sad that
the 'murican people, Mom and Pop Trailerpark, keep buying into the lie that
the economy is improving, and George Bush is the reason. Hell, he gave ma and pa
a $300 check last year. That can't be all bad! Except...no one told ma and pa
that the rich folks received an average of nearly $100,000...

Or that real income has declined for the first time since the depression.

Or that more people are living in poverty since the depression.

Or that more people are flying without a net of health insurance since...well...forever.

Or that George Bush will be the first pResident to preside over a net loss of jobs in his term since Herbert Hoover.

Yep, keep throwin' them bones to Ma and Pa.

Play "Absurd Planet Headline Jeopardy"!

Alex: Please remember to keep your reply in the form of a question... ;-)

Contestant: I'll have "Insurgents" for five hundred, Alex.
Alex: The answer - Rebel Shi'ite Cleric ready to turn politician...
Contestant: Who is Moktada al-Sadr, Alex?
Alex: Correct.

Rebel Shiite Cleric's Aides Hint He May Enter Politics (NY Times login: davis8344, password: mcclain - courtesy of Bug Me Not)

Excerpt: "BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 30 - The rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr is considering a future in politics rather than warfare, one of his top aides said Monday, as the American-backed Iraqi government and Mr. Sadr's representatives continued talks on the future of his militia."

"When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world's asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.
(Supertramp - "The Logical Song")

Atmosphere, meet Blogosphere

We're about to be hit a third time in a very short window. First there was Charley slamming into a state that is in play this election. Then Gaston caused massive damage in Virginia, also a state in play, though only marginally. Now here comes Frances, and it looks to be taking a bead on Florida again.

Right now that path puts this storm 30-50 miles off my shore, and the western side of the storm is always the most tame, supposedly, but we may get windows blown out, and certainly the roofs of the condo garages are goners. Yeah, this storm is going to hit Florida hard again. The big question is, does this help or hurt Mr. Bush?

I'm saying it hurt. Down south of Tampa and along the storm path through Orlando and out to Daytona, many folks are out of work because of the storm, and even if FEMA is successful, there are still tons of folks who are wanting to blame someone for the damage, the power outages, the delays in help, etc. Unemployment up, cost of living up, and in a state the President absolutely needs to win? The pain down here, I bet, is going to be felt by Bush as well. And the more havoc Frances wreaks, the more Bush will feel that pain as well.

I'll be emptying the garage into the condo tomorrow, and then storing valuables in the interior closets and bathrooms, readying things for windows to be blown out. Then, if the projections don't improve, I'm out of Dodge starting early Friday morning to beat the traffic. Heck, I might even head up to Philadelphia. After Friday, though, don't expect the SpinDentist to be blogging for a while if Frances takes a smack at Cape Canaveral.

Who's The Bad Guy?

An argument today in the San Francisco Chronicle echoes what many saner voices (including 1/2 million in NY the other day) have been trying to communicate for months - Iraqi interests are best served by the U.S. demobilizing in Iraq, perhaps maintaining a small contingent to respond where the Iraqi government can't. It's called "self determination".

Many, including myself, have argued that the continued presence of U.S. troops does nothing but delay the inevitable - in a true, nonrigged election, the Shi'a majority in Iraq will rule the country. Any coalition between the religious factions currently operating in Iraq will eventually be suborned to the will of the majority.

The current Iraqi government, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bush Administration, won't last long. Wolfowitz's strongman, Allawi, is a tiger with no teeth as things currently stand. My guess is that he doesn't make it to the end of the year, but what do I know?

I do know that it's only a matter of time before the whole Sunni / Shi'a thing blows up into a major shitstorm. al Sadr is, once again, buying time. And as the Chronicle opinion piece from Aaron Glantz notes, Shi'ite clerics are the most visible "reconstructors" to the Iraqi people. Of course, the clerics and religious factions have an agenda - solidifying their power base in advance of elections at the beginning of 2005.

And here's something about the U.S. occupation that I was not aware of until reading the article:

Before the U.S. military branded al-Sadr a criminal, his followers had organized elections in many of Iraq's poor Shi'ite slums and in smaller cities such as Najaf, forcing out local governments appointed by the North Carolina contractor, Research Triangle International. While big U.S. firms (Halliburton, Bechtel et al.) have failed to fix Iraq's electricity grid and telephone system, al-Sadr's organization has done its best to build a functioning society.
So, after "mission accomplished", the U.S. government actually outsourced the appointment of local governments to private contractors?? What the hell is that all about? No wonder the vast majority of Iraqis can no longer abide by the extended American presence.

Let's not forget for one moment that whatever government is installed after January, 2005, the Bush administration has declared its intention, over and over, to maintain a significant presence in Iraq, via the establishment of several "super bases" inside the country. This is obviously not going to go over big with anyone in Iraq - and in fact, just solidifies the meme of "perpetual war", courtesy of BushCo.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Delegates dropping out

Well, those of us from Pennsylvania can be proud of at least one man in the delegation, who has decided he cannot in conscience serve at the Republican Convention. He has dropped out.

Congressional Quarterly reported Friday that after attending four previous conventions, Philadelphia's Jesse Walters was chosen as a delegate to this year's GOP convention in New York only to resign the position, saying he could not support Bush and expressing concern with the rightward move of the Republican Party.

Calling the decision to drop his position one of the five hardest he has had to make in his life, Walters said he plans to cast his first-ever vote for a Democrat for president in November.

Chalk up one more vote for Kerry.

Perpetual War

...or, "How I learned to Live with Diminished Expectations"...

Sept. 17, 2001:

But as the vice president said, you know, "Osama bin Laden is just one person." He is representative of networks of people who absolutely have made their cause to defeat the freedoms that we take -- that we understand, and we will not allow them to do so.

I want justice. And there's an old poster out west, that I recall, that said, "Wanted, Dead or Alive." I think that this is a long-term battle -- war. There will be battles, but this is long term. After all, our mission is not just Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda organization. Our mission is to battle terrorism and to join with freedom-loving people.

October 29, 2001:

We are at the beginning of what I view as a very long struggle against evil. We're not fighting a nation; we're not fighting a religion; we're fighting evil. And we have no choice but to prevail. We're fighting people that hates our values, they can't stand what America stands for. And they really don't like the fact that we exist. And I want to assure you all that we will fight this fight on every front. We will use every resource we have. And there is no doubt in my time -- in my mind -- that in our time, we will prevail. There's no doubt.

August 30, 2004:

When asked "Can we win?" the war on terror, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

"Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like"

Response: "This is what democracy looks like!"

I must have chanted that at least 1000 times today.

Does it do me any good to tell you what the media has already shown you and reported? Probably not. Plus, I'm dead tired, so I'll keep this short. I don't know how many people marched today - my daughter and I ended up doing the circuit nearly 1-1/2 times this afternoon, and it's kind of hard to judge when you're in the middle of a large crowd. But consider this:

We originally stepped off at 11AM. As we ended the march and circled back up 14th St. to walk back to MSG / Penn Station to catch a train, we got caught back up in the march on 7th Ave. again. At 4PM. That's how long the march was, and how many people were walking today. News reports were placing the number of people anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000. It was a huge sea of humanity.

The good news is, it was a well behaved sea of humanity. Even though there were some counter-protests (very, very small in number), no one got out of hand. United for Peace and Justice did a wonderful job of marshalling the protest, communicating with the crowd, and providing logistics. I can't say enough about the New York City police department. In a potentially volatile situation, they were restrained and helpful. A few were in riot gear, but for the most part, it was just their regular street clothes. No one was looking to pick a fight.

Perhaps the biggest unknown for me is: was it worth the trouble? I hope so. I don't know how anyone could view this march on TV and not wonder why so many people are pissed off. One gentleman remarked to me, "There's a lot of angst in this crowd. It'll be a catharsis for many of us when we get to the Garden." And he was right.

That's where the march really caught fire and cranked up the decibel level. As we marched passed Madison Square Garden, past the suits and ties behind the barricades, you had to wonder if it made a difference to them. They were laughing, smiling, talking amongst themselves, and generally didn't seem to get it. Now honestly, I don't have any idea how many were delegates or GOP functionaries, but it seemed clear that the march had zero impact on them. Regardless, there was a continuous, collective primal scream between 32nd and 34th Streets up 7th Ave. for at least 5 hours today.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to edit the photos that I took - and I took a whole lot. Maybe I can post them up over the next day or two. The couple that you see to the left are just rough resizes and very lossy quality-wise, but I wanted to get a few done tonight.

More reflections tomorrow.

Update, 8/30/04: UFPJ crowd estimates, verified with NYPD, are in excess of 500,000 marchers.

Where in the World is Richard Cranium?

He's somehwere in that crowd. And my but it looks huge. I figured I might recall the marches I've been to. I won't count the riot when I was an undergrad back in the 70's, as that one was about police upset about how big the crowd had gotten at the Shady Rest just west of the Western Michigan University campus. Yeah, I got my first and only sniff of tear gas at a kegger in Kalamazoo.

I've been to a couple other marches. In the late 80's I went to a pro-choice march in Washington. It was one of those things where the crowd was estimated at a million by the organizers and the police said it was 250,000. The mass of humanity was quite impressive. I remember most that my neice and nephew were with us, and they kept getting dehydrated. I don't think we heard even one speech, as we were off looking for water the whole time.

Hmm, maybe that's Richard there? My other memorable march was in 1991. It was the big gay pride parade in New York, and I was marching with my sister. Yeah, I was trapped amongst thousands and thousands of lesbians, many of who had decided to go topless. Nothing memorable really happened that day except I bonded with my sister's new partner, and that's always good.

I guess I posted this in honor of Richard, but also so that some of the readers here could recall some of their experiences. Go to it, folks!

This Day in US Political Convention History

36 Years Ago Today,
On August 29, 1968: Chicago mayor Richard Daley explains the riots at the Democratic Convention: "The policeman isn't here to create disorder, he is here to preserve disorder."

Let's be careful out there, campers!


“Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy Book?” Psalm 56:8

Glass, wherein a Greek girl’s tears
 Once were gathered as they fell,
After these two thousand years
 Is there still no tale to tell?

(Frank Dempster Sherman - 1896)

Jimmy Breslin continues his waking of the dead: What we've really lost in this indefensible war.

Excerpt: "And so you sat yesterday with all these Department of Defense death notices for the last weeks covering the desk and you glanced at them, with the ages of the dead reaching up from the paper to grab your throat."

My lamentations are of the crying and raging variety, and I'm seeking a tear bottle for my weeping moments.

Image above left is an ancient Roman lachrymatory. Tear Bottle history

Friday, August 27, 2004

If It's Friday, It Must Be Scandal Day

Buried late in the afternoon...

At the risk of pissing off any of our Jewish friends, Washington's kowtowing to Israel has to stop. This isn't a right or left issue. Democrat as well as Republican administrations are equally guilty. More than anything, it's truly a U.S. national security issue. Unless and until the U.S. patronage of Israel stops, the nonsense is going to continue. It's long past time for rational discourse on the issue, without those on "rational" side being branded as anti-semetic.

Either that, or admit Israel into the union.

FBI Probing Israeli Spy in Pentagon

And perhaps this story is surfacing now, because...

Former Texas Former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes spills the beans on the Fortunate Son.

It's been a hot Friday...and Atrios has been on fire all day. (Special props to rorschach at No Capital for keeping the discussion alive while blogger's been hosed this evening.)

Update, 11:45PM EDT: War and Piece has more...

A few Links for Friday Night

I start with Patriotboy, who has a copy of a letter he recently sent concerning stem-cell research. As usual, Patriotboy is informative, if a wee bit too religious for my taste.

My second recommendation is the Ohio Republican Rogues Gallery, brought to you by www.clevescene.com. Who says there aren't smart folks in Ohio?

I would like to also tout good reader and a new guy to Blogistan, InsultComicDog, whose latest addition points us to how one picks up girls at the Republican National Convention. Richard, read at your peril!

From the "What Goes Around, Comes Around" File

Prosecutor who attacked Kerry admits lying to boss

Clackamas County prosecutor Alfred French, who called Sen. John Kerry a liar in a political commercial, acknowledged Thursday that he lied to his boss when confronted about an extramarital affair with a colleague.

Hours later, the Clackamas County district attorney's office said French had been placed on a 30-day paid leave while it conducts an investigation into his conduct.

French's former boss, James O'Leary, said he asked French about the rumored affair with a secretary about 10 years ago, but French denied it. O'Leary said he would have fired French if he'd admitted the relationship because it violated office policy.

French, who said he served in the same military unit with Kerry for two months in 1969, has come under intense scrutiny in the past week as the anti-Kerry ad has become a central issue in the presidential campaign. Suddenly, the well-respected Oregon prosecutor found himself the target of questions about his own credibility and the truthfulness of his statements against Kerry.

French's affidavit supporting the ad accused Kerry of exaggerating his war record, yet French conceded that he was relying on the account of war buddies, not what he witnessed. Since then, he's faced pickets outside his office and complaints of unethical conduct to the state bar.
This is the last time I'm going to blog about the not-so-swift boat bullshitters, unless one of them happens to get hit by an MTA bus outside of Madison Square Garden. Every single one of these dipshits involved with the liars flotilla has now been exposed for what they are.

I feel very sure that Al French is feeling very stupid for being duped into the smear campaign. Regret is a funny thing. When you have skeletons of your own to hide, you don't try to go rattling someone else's bones. And every one of the liars had their own skeletons.

But in the final analysis, it doesn't matter. Whatever damage that's been done has been done, and the meme has been established.

Maybe what this whole episode has done is simply reset the clock, and Bush gets a "do-over" after his incredibly sloppy spring and summer. We're back to even.

The good new is, TeamBush has shown the propensity over the last six months to screw up even a wet dream. They got lucky once, but I see no reason for the overall trend not to continue.

Start Spreading the News...

(Apologies to Sinatra...)

I'll be reporting on my day in New York sometime Sunday evening, providing I'm not in jail or at the bottom of the Hudson River. If I can hook up with any other Captains of Left Blogistan while in the city, I'll try to post "live" by filching computer time from someone, but I'm not dragging my laptop along. I'm traveling light.

If anyone other ASZers intend to be in the city on Sunday, let's coordinate a meeting place in the comments below.

The Art of Deflection

PO'd Patricia preaches it:

...Also kids, if you go to war and save a fellow soldier's life don't think that action will garner you respect, because thirty some years after you perform your heroic deed there may be some who will deny what you did and go so far as to call you a liar. It won't matter that your records prove you were a good soldier and did indeed save a life. See, the public is eager to question something that happened years ago because it's easier than questioning what is happening today.

Is Your Boss Better Off Than 4 Years Ago?

Poverty rate hits 10-year high

Unemployment Filings Exceed Forecasts

Brown-Forman profit soars 66 percent

WKRN News 2 - Aug 27 4:26 AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. Brown-Forman Corporation reports profit for its latest quarter surged 67 percent, helped by strong results from its drinks. The company makes Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort whiskey.
A Bush / Cheney campaign spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, snarkily observed: "Well, I guess we now know why those people are poor and unemployed, huh?"

Senator John Iselin could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Cheney On the Hot Seat

I'm not late to the party with this Dick and Mary Cheney post -- I just wanted to think about it for a day or so, because there's more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. But it sure looks like ol' Dick Cheney has really created a shitstorm in the fundie wing of the Republican Party, eh?

"Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with," Cheney told an audience that included his daughter. "With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone. ... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.

"The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage," he said.
This is not only a public movement to the left of his boss's position, it's as far removed from the rabid base of the GOP (and truthfully, a chunk of the Democratic Party, too) as can be done without totally eliminating his chances of sharing the ticket with George Bush next week. But like I said, I think there's something deeper, nay, more nefarious involved. It's a signal to the rest of the party that maybe there's a bit of a power struggle going on in the administration.

For Cheney to outwardly challenge the administration's official position on gay marriage is nothing short of flabbergasting. George Bush has his supporters in congress; I'm willing to bet that Cheney has just as many (or possibly even more). What Cheney has said is: "I'm the gatekeeper of the gay marriage amendment issue. As long as I'm Vice President, the issue is going nowhere in congress. So, let's move along to something more important."

Don't get me wrong. I'm the last person in the world who'd toss rose petals in Dick Cheney's direction. But at least on this issue, perhaps reason has prevailed - or Lynne and Mary got to him. Wives / mothers / daughters can do that. And that's the only reason his public position is now clear (albeit, that might have been his private position all along).

How's this playing with the fundie wing? You know the answer to that question. Predictably. In Cincinnati, for example:

Kenton County Commissioner Adam Koenig said a federal amendment was needed to prevent judges from declaring state laws banning gay marriage unconstitutional.

"In a perfect world it could be a state issue, if you don't have activist judges making laws from the bench. That's why the president is doing it, and that's the best way of going about it," he said.
There's those damn activist judges again. Yeah, the 'constitutionalists'. Damn them. Damn the forefathers who had the divine inspiration to create a document that would protect the rights and liberties of everyone (even if we've had to be dragged kicking and screaming toward the concept, through emancipation, suffrage, and voters rights).

And in GOP platform caucuses around the country...

NEW YORK — A Republican convention means a Republican platform — and a Republican platform means arguments about abortion, same-sex marriage and other social issues.
Sure enough, supporters of abortion rights and gay rights protested yesterday after a platform committee made up largely of conservative delegates approved language that calls for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and opposes legal recognition of any sort for gay civil unions.

The panel also supported the call for a constitutional ban on abortion. Another group of delegates endorsed President Bush's restrictions on stem-cell research.

"It's certainly not going to help bring moderates into the party," said Jennifer Blei Stockman, national co-chairwoman of Republican Majority for Choice.

Republicans said their party is committed to protecting marriage and the unborn, but they added that all views are welcome.
Listen, I can't even come up with a good snarky response to that last sentence.

At the risk of getting severely redundant with previous posts of Doc and myself, the issue of gay marriage isn't about two people of the same sex hooking up in a committed relationship. It's clearly an issue of exclusion: do we modify a core document in the governance of the United States to exclude people we don't like or people who simply aren't like us? Perhaps that's the long and short of Dick Cheney's view. But again, I'm sure familial pressure has something to do with his empathetic statement.

In any case, Cheney certainly rattled some cages in the fascist wing of the GOP, because I think they thought he was truly one of their own on this issue, and would forsake his daughter for the good of the party. I'm really glad to see the wingers take a good thump on the nose from Cheney. It doesn't make me feel any better about Dick Cheney, the man / CEO / bizzaro-Robin Hood, but it does make me pleased to see that he's human.

So, what's the catch? What darkness is at work here? There's been a lot of speculation over the past month or two that, because Cheney is such a drag on George Bush in the polls, there was a backhouse movement within the GOP to move him off of the ticket at the convention. Cheney's pronouncement the other day could work two ways - ensures keeping him on the ticket to mollify the more progressive elements of the GOP (perhaps the word "progressive" is an oxymoron when used in this context), or ensures he has an escape pod ready to launch from the Bush mothership if he's so inclined (rather than be shoved out of the airlock). The timing of his pronouncement in Pennsylvania, less than a week before the RNC Convention opens, is more than just a curiosity.

Let me finish by putting in a plug for a wonderful little movie that anyone who is conflicted by the gay / lesbian marriage issue needs to see. Latter Days is an art film that played to great reviews in limited release around the country, and it's getting ready to come out (no pun intended) on DVD. I promise you, if you're hetero like me, Latter Days will initially make you uncomfortable, but by the end of the movie, you'll be going, "yeah, that's what this whole issue is all about". When you're finished with it, lend it to the homophobe or Republican friend of your choice.

Hell, order an additional copy for Dick and Lynne Cheney as a "thank you" for bringing a little uncommon humanity to this volatile topic.

Wise Women

Once upon a future time Arundhati Roy will sit around the fire ring of the council of wise women midwifing a new way for humankind, nurturing the many "somethings better" that await us. I know this as I know the sound of my childrens' voices, as I know the hum of blood moving in my head, as I know what the wind feels as it blows through my hair and on my skin. Read her words, not ten days old, spoken in San Francisco on August 16th, and rebroadcast by "Democracy Now" radio: TIDE? OR IVORY SNOW? Public Power in the Age of Empire.

Excerpt: "In the United States, on the other hand, the blurring of the distinction between sarkar [government] and public has penetrated far deeper into society. This could be a sign of a robust democracy, but unfortunately, it's a little more complicated and less pretty than that. Among other things, it has to do with the elaborate web of paranoia generated by the U.S. sarkar and spun out by the corporate media and Hollywood. Ordinary Americans have been manipulated into imagining they are a people under siege whose sole refuge and protector is their government. If it isn't the Communists, it's al-Qaeda. If it isn't Cuba. it's Nicaragua. As a result, this, the most powerful nation in the world - with its unmatchable arsenal of weapons, its history of having waged and sponsored endless wars, and the only nation in history to have actually used nuclear bombs - is peopled by a terrified citizenry, jumping at shadows. A people bonded to the state not by social services, or public health care, or employment guarantees, but by fear."
I read her book The God of Small Things shortly after it was published (1997), just before it received the UK's Booker McConnell prize. To call Roy a writer of note is high praise, but it doesn't begin to encompass the life works of this amazing being, born in 1961. You can find more bio here.

Controversy follows her around like a hungry puppy in her native India. She is an outspoken activist and critic of how all governments work (most of them poorly), and has been regularly skewering the US rulers since the invasion of Afghanistan. Her message of August 16th is not a positive one. So don't read it for happy talk. Happiness is the pervue of the Maiden. The Mother and Crone often are the keepers of the bad news.

"The mandarins of the corporate world, the CEOs, the bankers, the politicians, the judges and generals look down on us from on high and shake their heads sternly. "There's no Alternative," they say. And let slip the dogs of war ... Terrorism is vicious, ugly, and dehumanizing for its perpetrators, as well as its victims. But so is war. You could say that terrorism is the privatization of war. Terrorists are the free marketers of war. They are people who don't believe that the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence ... Human society is journeying to a terrible place ... Of course, there is an alternative to terrorism. It's called justice."
Articulate, smart, creative and wise. Strong. The Cassandra in me (who sits between me and Hulkette) has seen a viable and creative future, and it has many women like Arundhati giving it life.

Boost in "Jobs" During GOP Convention?

Blowjobs? Will the Republican Convention be a boon for jobs in New York, at least in the sex industry? It appears there are a couple schools of thought on the issue.

The New York Daily News reports that sex workers are expecting a boon from these conservative guys hitting the big city.

Charging from $300 to upwards of $1,000 for an hour of companionship and a whole lot more, escorts said they can always count on conventioneers for big business.

"It doesn't matter what party you come from," said Robyn Few, a $500-an-hour California call girl who now runs Sex Workers Outreach Project, an advocacy group. "When you want to buy sex, you will."
Newsday, on the other hand, is predicting a slower time for the sex workers in Manhattan, though not because Republican men don't want some illicit nookie.

Juhu Thukral of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in Manhattan, agreed.

"I'm not saying high-priced call girls, who are more discreet, may not want to risk getting arrested, but the risks are going to be quite elevated," Thukral said. "I've actually heard from people working in hotels that they are afraid of getting arrested, while those who are most marginalized, who are on the streets, expect to be arrested more."

A woman who gave her name only as Julie, of Prostitutes of New York, a Manhattan group that fights for better conditions for sex workers, said, "The few studies that have been done on clients of sex workers show that most tend to be middle-aged, white, relatively conservative men and anecdotally, from what I've heard, frequently Republicans, I'm sure."

But sex and the convention?

"It's a myth," Thukral said. "If anything, I think most sex workers are going to be laying low if not leaving town altogether."
Perhaps it would be better if the GOP big Daddies just go down for a class at Miss Vera's Finishing School For Boys Who Want to be Girls. It is my understanding she will be giving special classes in Chelsea during the RNC.

George Bush is a Coward

And he isn't the only coward in this whole icky mess.

George Bush is a One Termer

Distraught Dad Torches Marine Van

(AP) A distraught father who had just been told his Marine son was killed in combat in Iraq set fire to a Marine Corps van and suffered severe burns Wednesday, police said.

Three Marines went to a house in Hollywood to tell the father and stepmother of Pfc. Alexander Arredondo that their 20-year-old son had died Tuesday in Najaf, family members said.

The father, Carlos Arredondo, 44, then walked into the garage, picked up a can of gasoline, a propane tank and a lighting device, police Capt. Tony Rode said. He smashed the van's window, doused the van with gasoline and set it ablaze, despite attempts by the Marines to stop him, Rode said.

..."We have not seen this type of reaction. Every reaction is negative, it's the loss of a loved one," U.S. Marines spokesman Major Scott Mack said.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Come In, Mr. Nader

Pull up a chair, Ralph. We need to talk.


You see, Ralph, watching this whole kettle of fish that was stirred by the not-so-swift boat liars boil over during the past few days, something occured to me.

Dubya's henchboys are doing the smear thing because he's managed to stay within spitting distance of Kerry in the polls. The goppers are coming up on their convention, so both the Democratic Party and GOP have kicked up the decibel level on the megaphones. No one wants to yield the stage. And because Dub's within spitting distance, he can play to his base with bullshit like the Kerry's record of service, simply because he doesn't have to defend his own spotty record. It may be bullshit, but it keeps TeamKerry on defense.

Now, if Dub was behind an additional 3 to 5 points (interestingly enough, just what you're polling in most states that will let you in), I'm of the opinion that the Bush campaign couldn't pull this crap. The reason? He'd actually have to find an issue that he's strong on, and really highlight that attribute. I know, I know, the pickings are slim, but that's the way he'd have to campaign.

So let's get down to brass tacks. The whole swifty thing is your fault. If you weren't hanging around in the margins, George Bush might actually have to campaign on the issues. Notice I said, "might". But the thing is, as long as you're still sucking up campaign oxygen, you give Bush life. And you give the Rovian attack machine the breathing room it needs to run out some other trumpped up stuff (did you hear the latest? Edwards didn't serve in 'nam. Doesn't matter that he wasn't old enough...).

You, more than anyone, should recgonize the value of actually discussing issues in a presidential campaign. But as long as you remain in the race, you give voice to the slander machines, and real policy issues that define the difference between the two candidates go undebated.

So please, Ralph. I'm asking; I'm begging; I'm pleading; I'm putting this nicely one more time:

It's time to go.

For Kate (and others, too...)

NPR : Lessons on War from the Ancient Greeks

Turn on your speakers for five minutes worth of outstanding commentary. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Preconceived Notions

I sat down this evening, intending to bang out a quick post about the latest Abu Ghraib report whitewash. Though still somewhat Abu Ghraib-ish, this isn't the article that regular ASZ readers think it's going to be - in fact, it's nothing like a typical Abu Ghraib rant that you'd expect from me. Because I ran into Matt Chandler.

Matt Chandler is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. He recently returned from the Baghdad area after an extended stint in the country. Almost by chance, I came across an interview with Matt at the Barclay Press website. And silly me - I started reading this interview with a totally preconceived notion (which was almost validated in the first part of the interview; more about that in a second), but refreshingly, I came out of the other end with a totally different perception of Matt and his important work.

It turns out that the story hasn't been completely written just yet, either. While Matt came back from Iraq this summer, he's returning shortly for another "tour of duty" in Baghdad, even though there's no question that Matt saw some nasty things during his first trip to Iraq:

"I was in the hotel directly across the street from the shrine when three bombs went off in the shrine plaza. We ran up to the roof immediately. I started taking digital pictures and one of my teammates had a video camera. It was a huge mess with blood, bodies, and body parts. There was an immediate response from the local security force and from local people. They quickly began taking out injured people and driving them in their own cars to the hospital. The Iraqi police and the Red Crescent got involved and they were handling the situation pretty well.

"But the scariest part was when a coalition military convoy of 6-10 vehicles drove right up to the shrine and immediately people started shouting at them to go away. It wasn’t long before people started throwing things. At first it was just little things and then shoes—which is a big insult in the Arab culture. At that point the soldiers got back into their vehicles and now the crowd was throwing rocks and bricks. The soldiers began to fire warning shots over the crowd in the direction of the shrine. This enraged the crowd even more. The soldiers could only exit the way they had come in and it took time for them to get turned around. People were pounding the vehicles with all kinds of stuff as they were trying to turn around."

When I told you in the first paragraph that Matt was a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), what was your immediate reaction? [pause...insert Jeopardy! theme music and Jerry Falwell's picture in your mental image here...]

You would probably be wrong.

CPT is a Mennonite-based organization that has been in Iraq since late 2002 providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis. The goal wasn't to convert Iraqis or prostylize "the good word" - CPT's mission is to provide help, promote peaceful resolutions to conflicts, and act as intermediaries between the locals and their occupiers. In that regard, they've more than met their mission, living in and among the people of Iraq. Their teams rode out the initial phases of the war, and began investigating (at the behest of their local hosts) charges of detainee abuse in August of 2003. When the International Committee of Red Cross closed up shop in Iraq due to security concerns in December of 2003, it was CPT that took up the mantle of human rights initiatives in Iraq, and in particular, investigation of detainee abuse in various camps and prisons around the country. It was CPT's report in January, 2004 that formed the basis of the February report and complaint by the ICRC.

With this background, I present you the alternate update to the Abu Ghraib report, CPT's Situation Report on Iraqi Detainees, compiled in July and released in August. Couched in very politically correct words, here's a closing excerpt from the (relatively) short CPT update:

Breeding Resentment

Many released detainees and their families express particular bitterness that the United States, a country that speaks of bringing democracy to Iraq, did not follow democratic principles of justice by allowing them due legal process including a chance to defend themselves. It is not clear whether such resentment fosters armed resistance in Iraq. It is clear that hearts and minds are lost, and that some Iraqis who previously supported U.S. presence and actions in Iraq no longer do and may be more willing to support those who are involved in active resistance.


It is not evident to CPT that a transparent and efficient process for handling detainee issues, including full legal rights and representation for detainees, is fully in place at this time. Parts of the system have improved and CPT is encouraged by the improvements. We continue to urge the U.S.-led MNF-I that remains in charge of much of the Iraqi prison system to work towards full human rights for detainees and their families through a just and humane process in apprehension of suspects and their subsequent detention.
Translation: we've rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic.

There's so much in both Matt's recent interview and the CPT website that are worth further exploration. I almost feel like Mike Moore in this regard - I'm giving you the basics, enough to get you started, but it's absolutely worth the time to read Matt's interview, and then spend some time poking around the CPT website. God knows that progressive blogs (including this one) regularly bash the jeso-facist fundamental Christian right for its supremely negative impact on the U.S. political and cultural climate, so it's well worth noting a peace-oriented Christian organization that truly practices what it preaches.

I heard a report the other day (I believe it was on NPR, but I can't find it right now) that those of the Islamic faith in Iraq (and in truth, all of the Muslim world) very strongly believe that the current situation in Iraq has devolved into a holy war: Christianity against Islam. With the ongoing assault on the shrine in Najaf, the perception grows even stronger in the Shia' community.

It will take a concerted effort from people like Matt Chandler to dispel the notion - it's not the teachings of Jesus against the teachings of Mohammed - it's the George Bush End-of-Timers™ -vs- the Islamic world. There's a major difference.

From an avowed agnostic, thanks, Matt!

I Play a Game

In one of my favorite and cinematically breathtaking films, Out of Africa, Karen Blixen, AKA the author Isak Dinesen speaks to her lover Denys Finch-Hatten near the end of everything -- the love affair, the sojourn in Africa, the farm -- and tells him that when things are very bad she likes to play a little game with herself. She tries to make it all worse. Crank up the pain as we might say today. And then she asks him if he will dance with her, and they dance. And of course (spoiler coming) he dies in a plane crash. There is no gravity. The earth sucks, as my baby sister says.

So perhaps you'll dance with me now as I play the same game in my mind. We are baraged daily with the bad news that we are supposed to be numb to, but so many of us aren't... dance with me and read William Rivers Pitt's latest piece from Truthout.org: Your Children Are Burning

From the top: "The presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John Kerry are at each other's throats like dogs in a fighting pit over a war that ended 29 years ago. The mainstream news media, along with the alternative news media, have enjoyed watching the show, dutifully reporting every detail and nuance of the fiery exchanges between the camps. Somewhere in these last 24 days of August, however, while arguing over a three-decades-old war, we managed to forget that another war is happening. Here are some details that have been missed ..."
I find it difficult to get into the whole heated thing when the major candidates cannot talk about Iraq, but they and their champions can focus on Vietnam instead. Thirty-five years, gentle people. But I suppose it's a change from previous presidential campaigns when the imperative was to bring the candidates' kids before the camera to prove that the candidates were real men with real dicks that worked.

As excruciating as it is, I'm going to continue to read ALL the bad stuff, and rage against the dying of my light. I'm tough. I can take it. And I have a Hulkette specially designed for backup when Kate needs to spend a weekend in bed with her head under the covers.

Perspective. Use it or lose it. I'm seeking perspective. Wisdom. Knowledge. Direction in a seemingly directionless world. And the mother ship has not come back for me yet. So there you have it. Another Monday on the Happy Planet. I'll leave you with a quote from Out of Africa about direction....

"I had a compass from Denys. To steer by, he said. But later it came to me that we navigated differently; maybe he knew as I did not, that the earth was made round, so that we would not see the way too far ahead of us."

Monday, August 23, 2004

To My Father the Republican

He died three years ago today, and in this difficult season, I can't imagine the man who raised me could vote for George Bush.

You see, my values, though taught to me by a Republican, are liberal values.

There used to be such a thing as Republicans who believed in positive steps toward racial equality. I was 7 when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. I remember we'd go by bus int he summer to the town's swimming pool, and even in small town Oklahoma, where we were from the "rich" side of town, we encountered black children along the way. As any kids might, we picked up some of the redneck prejudices that ran rampant in Oklahoma back then, but my father was having none of that. We learned early that a stinging backside would be the result of us using the "N" word or any other sign of disrespect towards blacks.

There used to be such a thing as Republicans, and Democrats, I suppose, who could judge the other side fairly. When I was 11 my Dad helped my write a speech in support of Bobby Kennedy. I gave that speech just a week and a half before he was shot, and it was full of thoughtful praise. Could I coach my own child in a speech about Dubya? Could I coach him to be a supporter without a result that was not parodic? Either I don't have that skill or something has changed.

There used to be Republicans who fervently believed in free speech. When I was 13 My Dad let me ride shotgun on a short ride to get some family friends out of harm's way. We lived in Ohio then, two towns away from Kent. I remember snipers in the trees around Roosevelt High School, just blocks from our friend's house. We picked them up and avoided the roadblocks because my Dad knew the back roads well. Yet, even though my Dad voted for Governor Rhodes, and Nixon as well, he had a grudging respect for the protesters. How else to explain him bringing home the cast album for "Hair?"

There used to be a time when Republicans were tolerant of religion. How else to explain him encouraging us later on with the lyrics to "Jesus Christ Superstar," which represents a kinder sense of religion. "He Ain't Heavy" was a song that would describe Dad's religion, not the vicious and sanctimonious brands of religiosity we see today. I may convert to Judaism in the next couple years. Christianity to me has become far too narrow. I have not a doubt that Dad would be proud of me, for I will do so as an attempt to connect to others, to find a faith I can raise kids in.

Three years ago at the end of a vacation with my then 13 year old nephew, we flew back to the States from England to his funeral. Sean was raised by my Dad partly, after my brother had died five years previous. The trip was a bonding time for Sean and I, as was our return for the funeral. I asked Sean the other day what he remembered about Dad. Sure, he responded about Dad singing those old Bob Wills songs with my Uncle Doyle, that amateurish tenor that was only sweet to loved ones. But Sean told me Dad taught him the lyrics to Joe Hill, by Joan Baez.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.

"The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe" says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man"
Says Joe "I didn't die"
Says Joe "I didn't die"

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe "What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize"

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend there rights,
it's there you find Joe Hill,
it's there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.

I was stunned. You see, my Dad's job for the first 30 years was as a negotiator against the union. He worked for Big Rubber. The enemy was The United Rubber Workers in Akron Ohio, led by Peter Bommarito. So I was shocked. But through the same lens where I learned racial tolerance and a respect for free speech I began to see. Much of my family, you see, owed their lives to the union fighting for safe working conditions, and Dad honored at least that part of the union movement. After all, he was raised in Pitcher Oklahoma and he'd worked in the mines when he was 14. By the end of his life all of Pitcher was a Superfund site. Yeah, he was a Republican who could respect both unions and the environment.

I'll vote Republican again someday, when Republicans can earn my Dad's respect.

AFP Kudos

If you really want to get the inside scoop on what's currently happening in Iraq, you really can't do much better than Agence France Presse (AFP). AFP has cultivated access in Iraq that few news agencies outside of the Arab world enjoy. This is one of those history lessons: treat a country's people fairly and with respect over the long haul, and special relationships can and do prosper. Through much of the last 20 years, AFP has consistently proven about as balenced as it gets in the middle east.

The problem usually becomes finding a good outlet to read AFP stories. Yahoo! carries a sparse AFP feed, but here's a full feed that should get you started if you're interested in reading what you're missing from the U.S. media. Bonne lecture!

DenverPost.com - OBITUARIES

DenverPost.com - OBITUARIES:

Pfc. Darrel J. Riblett, who won the Purple Heart after being wounded by shrapnel in a November attack near Kazimiyah, Iraq, died Aug. 14 of a self- inflicted gunshot wound. He was 20...

...In January, Riblett was awarded the Purple Heart in a ceremony at Fort Riley, where he was on active duty until Aug. 7. An Army general asked Riblett if he could offer anything else. Riblett, remembering the scant military presence at his grandfather's funeral, asked for a rifle- volley service at his grandfather's grave.
I can't even write about this stuff anymore. I blew my emotional load on Dave Guindon. Sorry.

14 WTC search dogs dead

A total of 30 search dogs were used to search the fallen World Trade Center buildings in the aftermath of September 11th. Since that time, 14 have died, 8 from cancer. The EPA claimed that there was no adverse enviromental impact from the collapse of the towers.

Now the University of Pennsylvania is opining that the death by cancer of nearly 33% of the dogs involved in search and rescue is "merely coincidental".

Liz at Blondesense has written about the environmental impact on New Yorkers from the collapse of the towers.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a veternarian) to see that something is terribly wrong.

Fourteen search and rescue dogs have died since their exposure to toxic rubble from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack - including eight from cancer, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. But researchers believe there is no connection between the deaths and the chemicals they were exposed to.

Despite the study's findings, some of the owners whose dogs have died still blame the toxic brew the dogs immersed themselves in during the hunt for survivors and remains.

Starring George Bush as ... Radioactive Man!

This is almost devolving into a tragi-comedy.

A few months back, the UK held a series of elections for various posts, including that of representation to the European Union. Tony Blair is the titular head of the Labour Party. Labour had its ass handed to it in the elections -- it was a defeat of the magnitude that Tony Blair had to go before parliament and apologize to his party.

And now, the Bush administration is wondering why Tony Blair doesn't want to be seen within three thousand miles of George W. Bush. Gee...difficult to figure out, Karl?

Note to BushCo: BUY A CLUE.

Outside the immediate borders of the United States, George W. Bush is a pariah of the first order. There is not a foreign politician going who wants to be caught reaping praise from the Chimpster. Anyway, here's the story. Bush wants to present his lead poodle with the Congressional Medal of Honor for Britannia support of his failed endeavor in Iraq. Prime Minister Poodle is understandably reluctant to accept:

"There has been a lot of telephone traffic between the White House and Downing Street over the medal in recent week," the Sunday Mirror quoted a senior government source as saying.

"George Bush wants the prime minister to come to Washington and pick up the medal, which is the highest honour America can bestow on a foreigner.

"But he has refused for more than a year now and for good reason. He cannot possibly accept an award for the Iraq war when British and American troops continue to risk their lives there."

Blair is concerned also that a trip to the United States now would effectively be giving a boost to Bush ahead of November's presidential elections.
I'll tell ya, the Brits have a way with dry humor. Tony Blair is single digits away from less than 20% support in Great Britain. If he so much as calls Bush on the phone, and it gets reported in the Daily Mirror, Blair will be run out of 10 Downing Street at the end of a pitchfork.

And that's the rest of the story.

(Funny, again I had to go to the foreign press to find this story...)

Tony Auth

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Happy Planet Report

... Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator and writer (106-43 BCE)

I really wanted to post a piece Saturday and Sunday. I tried ... worked on something off-line about teaching ourselves and our children how to think, how to mitigate Mother Culture's incessant hum, and see and feel and think -- a lot about critical thinking, unschooling. I wanted to write about human potential. I wanted to contribute something positive. I had links. I did. I typed and kept having to shake my head, unable to dispel the dissonance and the absurdist within. Eventually I just hit SAVE and shut off the computer. So instead you get Kate & Hulkette's report from the Happy Planet.

Items in no particular order of importance are:

Ted Rall: NYC to GOP: Drop Dead

John Walker: The Musical

DU Syndrome Vets Denied Care

Tom Englehardt - War Words: Who's Writing This Stuff?

From the Christian Science Monitor: A journey into the epicenter of the Sadr standoff

Update: While drifting off to sleep on Sunday I got a memo from purgatory to add a little Macbeth...

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
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."

Just Another AEI Statistic

This past Tuesday, August 17th, four members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard returned from deployment in Iraq. Sergeants Chris Moisan, Nancy Young, Dave Guindon, and Mike Steer left for duty on February 18th, 2004, according to an article in the NHANG newsletter, The Refueler.

In the photo to the left from Wednesday's edition of the Manchester Union Leader, the four airmen appear pretty darn happy to be home. While six months in Iraq is not an extended tour (at least in terms of the length of time that many units are remaining in country) it's still a long time to be away from friends and family. So, it's not surprising that in an airport interview, Dave Guindon told a reporter:

“It feels fantastic. It’s hard to explain it, it feels so good,” Guindon said about being home, shortly after he arrived at Manchester Airport. “I’m just going to take today slow, wake up tomorrow, and see what it’s like to be back in a normal place.”

...Sharon Guindon, Dave Guindon’s wife, said she was elated. While no definite plans for his return had been made yet, she said, the two plan to catch up on all the things that have happened during the past six months.

“I tell you, it’s such a big relief that he’s coming home,” Mrs. Guindon said, adding later, “You don’t realize what they go through until you have someone over there.”

On Wednesday, not 24 hours after saying those words, Dave Guindon put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

TSgt Dave Guindon was 48 years old, and left behind his wife and two children.

At the risk of seeming like I'm profiling, it's almost axiomatic to conclude that Dave Guindon was very much a supporter of the war in Iraq, and by extension, the Bush administration. It's not rocket science. He worked for Raytheon (a major defense contractor), and in the past served a hitch in the regular Army, then the Army Reserve, prior to joining the NH Air National Guard. By all accounts, he was a gung-ho guy who believed in the selling points of this lousy war.

So, what the hell happened that would drive a middle-aged man to a) play GI Joe at a time when most in Guindon's demographic are more tuned into annual colon polyp screenings and worrying about paying the kid's college tuition, and b) take his own life less than 24 hours after a reunion with his family? We might never know the answer to either of these questions, but perhaps the article in The Refueler gives us a clue:

...We started off with a couple of days lugging baggage at Fort Benning Ga. We then traveled to Kuwait and spent a couple of days at Camp Wolverine, before heading north to Camp Virginia. We spent almost 45 days there being trained on convoy procedures and went out to a live fire range at a place called Camp Udari. We were in field conditions for 6 days, the only thing close
to home were the 8 Porto potties that were there. No showers or hot food. Only all the MREs that you could eat. Some retired special forces put us through the paces, and tried to teach us as much as we could remember for those six days...

If you find yourself on a tough deployment, you haven’t seen anything like what we are faced with. Well, some of you may have. We have been all over Iraq. Driven by Fullujah and by the prison.
The NHANG team was stationed at Camp Anaconda in the Sunni triangle of Iraq. They ran over 100 missions in their short time in Iraq. A quick google search on Camp Anaconda turns up many hits - many of them relating stories of mortar attacks, insurgent activities, convoys being attacked (the NHANG team appears to have been largely involved in convoy escort), and the generally crappy conditions in the camp.

It's impossible and completely unnecessary to speculate what Dave Guindon and his mates may have seen while in Iraq. But it's clear that none of the team members had the opportunity to "decompress" after leaving the battlefield. Major General John Blair, the commander of the NH Air National Guard, lamented:

..."There is a process in place by the National Guard for helping returning guardsmen as they readjust to civilian life, but it is usually scheduled after guardsmen are settled in at home.

“We thought it was something we could do after they had some private time with families. I guess we realize — or I realize now — it needs to be sooner rather than later,” said Blair.
Kate Storm previously brought you the stories of Ken Dennis and Kevin Lucey. There's a disturbing trend developing here. So disturbing that the Army is now calling in part time counselors from elementary schools to address the issue of suicide prevention with Army personnel returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres:
For Ropp, who spends two days a week counseling Meadow's Edge Elementary students in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp., this will be her first work with the military. She has taught ASIST to people working in the mental health and education fields, and does not plan to do anything differently at Fort Bragg.

It's no secret to anyone who reads this or any other forum in Left Blogistan that the war in Iraq has been mismanaged from the first day George Bush took office, and the neocons started whipping up the war plans. People like Dave Guindon are so much cannon fodder to the policy wonks and neocon think tanks like American Enterprise Institute within the comfy confines of the I-495 Beltway in Washington.

Guindon was old enough to be a grandfather. He had no business being on the front lines in combat operations. His mature eyes saw things in Iraq that perhaps, as a younger man, he could have walled off in his mind. By all accounts, he was a very stable individual, with a good civilian career and a loving family.

And now, in the halls of Pentagon, in some dusty file cabinet, TSgt. Dave Guindon becomes just another statistic.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Not Just Najaf, Mr. Reeves...

Just why are we in Iraq?

From Richard Reeves today:

...So what are we doing in Najaf? Is killing the followers of a nasty Shiite preacher, killing them at the gates of the most holy shrine of Shiite Muslims all over the world, vital to the national interests of the United States and its allies?

And why is it that we are killing Shiites, the wretched of the Earth in the secular Sunni Muslim country of Saddam Hussein? That is the same Saddam who murdered the father of the preacher five years ago. Was that our clear intent and realistic objective in invading Iraq?

Would the American people and Congress - and our allies - have supported a $200 billion war to get preacher Muqtada al-Sadr?

And was invasion our last resort? Even the war-maker himself, President George W. Bush, never claimed that. In the beginning, he said, it was the last resort because the United Nations had not found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. When there were no such weapons, he said Saddam was a very bad guy. That was true - and it was true 20 years ago when we were supplying him with weapons to use against Iran. But was he a great enough threat to go to war ourselves? Was killing Iraqis after the war our last resort?

'I know what I'm doing when it comes to winning this war,' said Bush last Wednesday on the campaign trail in Albuquerque. That's good to hear. What exactly are you doing in Najaf? Killing bad guys, I guess. If that is the criteria for putting the Marines around the shrine of the Imam Ali, then we will be at war forever, everywhere.
Perpetual war, indeed.

Oh, and here's a link to an insider's view of what's really going on in Najaf - it's not the "tea and crumpets" soiree that Wolf Blitzer would have you believe. Not surprisingly, this excerpt comes from the UK Guardian - the whole article is a recommended read to help you sift through the propaganda coming from the Ministry of Truth:

What happens in Najaf next will determine Iraq's future, for better or worse. That may in part explain the confusion which surrounds events. The claims of victory, of a Sadr cave-in, appear to be wishful thinking, more than reality.

So, too, is the attempt to portray the battle for the Shias' holiest city as one in which the US military is merely assisting government forces.

At the moment, the Americans are doing all the fighting. The Iraqi police play merely a cameo role: a massive convoy rode towards the shrine yesterday, sirens blazing, celebrating a victory that never happened. Two minutes later it turned back.

Blog Rolling - Hullabaloo Again

Every time that I read Hullabaloo, I wonder why I the hell I bother blogging - because Digby does it so very, very well.

Over the past couple of days, he's returned once again to the topic of the Not-So-Swift Boat Liars. There's a story to tell about every single one of the principals associated with this band of moneyed shriekers. The good news is, their unholy enterprise is quickly unraveling. The bad news is, the unraveling is largely taking place in Left Blogistan, rather than the mainstream media. Gee, I wonder why?

Anyway, back to Digby. Direct ties to the Bush campaign, in violation of 527 laws? How about this? Christ on a crutch, the Bush campaign is now trying to track back and erase all evidence of involvement - but they missed the Google cache. As Digby notes:

I wonder if its appropriate for Ken Cordier, a member of the Veterans For Bush-Cheney '04 steering committee to appear in the new "unaffiliated" "independent" 527 Swift Boat Liars For Bush ad?
(Update, 10:45PM: Ok, looks like the google cache on Cordier has been flushed. I'm sure someone out in Left Blogistan grabbed a screen capture (damn, why didn't I think of that...), and will post a link when I find one.)

(Updated update, 11:30PM: I knew someone had to snag a screen capture. Plus, Keith Olberman had it on MSNBC's "Countdown" tonight.)

Ok. We already know that this whole swiftboat vet thing is a big smokescreen to which the Bush campaign has hitched it's wagon. Well, if the lapdog media could ever get off its back and close it's collective legs to the Rovians for a few moments, they might actually discover stories like this classic "find" from Digby:

A Clackamas County prosecutor and decorated Vietnam veteran who appears in an ad attacking Democratic presidential contender John F. Kerry's war record said he did not witness the events in question and is relying on the accounts of his friends who served with the senator.

The 60-second ad, which aired for seven days this month in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, features 13 Vietnam veterans, including Alfred French, 58, a senior deputy district attorney in Clackamas County.

[Yet] In the ad, French says: "I served with John Kerry. . . . He is lying about his record."...[emphasis mine]
It all comes down to George Bush not having a record on which to run. I'm not so much concerned about the Vietnam-era soldiering baggage that either Bush or Kerry may or may not be carrying around with them in their personal portfolios. The Bush record I'm talking about is over the past four years - by all possible parameters of judging a presidential term, a miserable failure.

Update, 2PM: Ok, can we finally put this thing to rest? The only other swiftboat commander on the river finally speaks up.

Friday, August 20, 2004

I Want My RPG

I need a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Shoot, it seems like every two bit gang banger in Iraq has one. But I can't seem to get my hands on the solution to my problem. Maybe I should consult with one of my Second Amendment friends.

Anyway, as I pulled out of my driveway tonight to run an errand, I drove past a local bar within zoning board distance of my house. This place is a den of iniquity - it's the local connection place for anything remotely related to, eh, controlled substances.

Now, I have no essential beef with controlled substances. What I have a beef with is the clientele this particular establishment attracts. Maybe it's just me, but I think that at closing time (2AM), any deals should have been consummated, and there shouldn't be clients spilling out onto the street at full volume. Particularly when I have to get up at 5:30 for work.

In my fantasy, I have access to an RPG. After hours, when the place is deserted, I fire a single round through the front door. The place burns to the ground. The owner gets a nice insurance settlement. No one is hurt. But with my luck --

I get caught launching the RPG. I spend the next 30 years in the company of Bubba. But (at least by 2AM), I can sleep well at night.

We all have our fantasies. I'm sure you have yours. ;-) Since we're fantasizing, who gets your RPG?

History, Condemned, Repeat, yada yada yada

From the "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it" file...

In 1995, former U.S. secretary of defence Robert McNamara published In Retrospect, the first of his three books dissecting the errors, myths and miscalculations that led to the Vietnam War, which he now believes was a serious mistake. Nine years later, most of these lessons seem uncannily relevant to the Iraq war in its current nation-building, guerrilla-warfare phase. I'll never shill for Bob McNamara (he was anthema to everything I believed in as I was growing up), but a few thoughts from his "conversion" bear consideration in light of current circumstances.

McNamara's observations on Vietnam:

1. We misjudged then -- and we have since -- the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries . . . and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.

2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience. . . . We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.

3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.

4. Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.

5. We failed then -- and have since -- to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine. . . . We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.

6. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement . . . before we initiated the action.

7. After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course . . . we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did.

8. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.

9. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action . . . should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.

10. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions. . . . At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.

11. Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues.
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and company have sure bastardized McNamara's definition of "untidy", eh?

The End of the Age of Empire - Finally.

This morning TomDispatch has an amazing correspondence between Jonathan Schell and Tom Englehardt, one that makes me think they've dialogued on the subject more than once. Thanks to ASZ Constant Reader NEPAJim for pointing me in there.

The Empire That Fell as It Rose

From Tom to Jonathan: "...Part of our problem, I suspect, lies in conceiving of an empire-less world ... I think we're hobbled by having no other script. We don't quite know what to do without the idea of empire. We simply can't imagine a functional world that lacks the imperial element, or if you prefer (as we Americans liked to say before we got so briefly but thoroughly into the imperial spirit), a global policeman. A world without its sheriff still seems a fearsome prospect to us. You might say -- with a bow to the original Manchurian Candidate rather than its bankrupt modern cousin -- that we've been imperially brainwashed in certain ways. Whether we hate the global policeman or love him, all we can imagine is a kind of chaos without him, not the possibility of new kinds of order as yet unimagined (and perhaps still unimaginable), as yet, as you've said to me many times, "to be invented."
There is far too much meat to do much quoting. I hope you appreciate it as much as I do.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

We Were Once Together

Welcome to New York, GOP.

George Will Hates America?

Well, if you listen to the Republicans and the talking heads being fed the Bushco party line, anyone espousing gloom and doom, critiquing Administration policy, or, heaven forbid, dissenting, is involved in some form of America hating. Thanks much to Eric Alterman for pointing this out. He found the story on the Washington Post. Could it be that George Will is defecting from the Bushite fold?

But in a New York Times story from Najaf, readers learn, regarding the problem of Moqtada Sadr and his militia, that a Marine spokesman says, "We'll continue operations as the prime minister [Ayad Allawi] sees fit." And readers learn that U.S. commanders "curbed a broader national amnesty proposal announced by Dr. Allawi earlier this week, limiting its terms to exclude any rebels who have taken part in actions killing or wounding American troops."

So does sovereignty reside with the prime minister whose will evidently commands U.S. commanders? Or with those commanders who curb the prime minister's will?

A house so divided cannot stand. If it is the prime minister's will, or that of Iraq's embryonic democratic institutions, to conduct with insurgent factions negotiations that strip the Iraqi state of an essential attribute of statehood -- a monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence -- the U.S. presence will become untenable.

Untenable even before what may be coming before November: an Iraqi version of the North Vietnamese Tet offensive of 1968. To say that the coming offensive will be by "Baathists" is, according to one administration official, akin to saying "Nazis" when you mean "the SS" -- the most fearsome of the Nazis. Such an offensive could make Sadr's insurgency seem a minor irritant. And it could unmake a presidency, as Tet did.
Alas, I must again bid you all adieu for a weekend. I'm heading up Philadelphia way to meet the future in-laws, or a few of them. Friday night consists of going to an Eagles pre-season game in the company of future neice and nephew. And, hopefully, if he gets back to me, I'll spend Sunday afternoon over a couple adult beverages with Richard on Rittenhouse Square. Or how about some mussels and belgian beers at Monks, Richard?

Josef Mengele Bastards

Outrage prevents comment. From tomorrow's "Guardian":

Guardian Unlimited: LONDON (AP) - Doctors working for the U.S. military in Iraq collaborated with interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, profoundly breaching medical ethics and human rights, a bioethicist charges in The Lancet medical journal.

In a scathing analysis of the behavior of military doctors, nurses and medics, University of Minnesota professor Steven Miles calls for a reform of military medicine and an official investigation into the role played by physicians and other medical staff in the torture scandal.

He cites evidence that doctors or medics
falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings and revived a prisoner so he could be further tortured. No reports of abuses were initiated by medical personnel until the official investigation into Abu Ghraib began, he found.

"The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations,'' Miles said in this week's edition of Lancet. "Army officials stated that a physician and a psychiatrist helped design, approve and monitor interrogations at Abu Ghraib."
May any 'doctor' involved in this crime against humanity rot in hell.

Another Sex Scandal From the Family Values Folks

Gee, who would'a thunk it? Except this time, it's the Bush campaign adviser in charge of reaching out to Catholics. Seems he was a bit, eh, frisky during his college professorial years:

(Bush campaign adviser Deal) Hudson cited "allegations from over a decade ago involving a female student at the college where I then taught." He was associate professor of philosophy at Fordham University in New York City from 1989 to 1995.

"The matter was satisfactorily resolved long ago," Hudson wrote without elaboration.

Asked about the matter, Fordham issued a statement saying that the institution looked into the matter after the student complained and that "the professor
later surrendered his tenure and left the university.

"Sexual harassment is not tolerated at Fordham University. ... It is especially disturbing in the context of a teacher-student relationship," the university statement said.
First off, what the fuck kind of name is "Deal Hudson"? I'll let you figure that one out all on your own.

Secondly, let's be quite honest here. There had to be some very serious allegations. No university professor gives up tenure and leaves a university environment without some really serious shit hanging over his head. "Tenure" is the holy grail in the world of academia.

What am I getting at here and why am I even bothering to post this story? To underscore the hypocrisy, of course.

  • Barak Obama's original GOP challenger, Jack Ryan, got caught with his deposition down. The "family values" guy apparently liked to have sex with his wife while swinging from a trapeze, with other people watching. He, of course, blamed everyone but himself. Alan Keyes hasn't had sex in 50 years, so this should be no problem for him as Ryan's GOP replacement on the Illinois ticket.

  • Professor Deal Hudson diddles with a coed, no one is saying what the real deal is, but Hudson resigns a tenured professorship. Goes on to chair the Bush advisory team on Catholic affairs. Blames everyone but himself and his own loose zipper when the cat springs from the bag. Presumably, will continue to spew his abstinence-based hate and rhetoric via his position as the publisher of the conservative Catholic rag, "Crisis". I'm guessing his wife bobbited him after the coed thing.

  • NJ Governor Jim McGreevey outs himself as a gay American, rather than submit to first degree blackmail. More than a little Republican influence is involved (this has yet to hit the press, but it will, and soon). Accepts full responsibility for his actions and resigns his governorship. Is told he should confine his further political actions to "gay circuit parties".

It seems odd to me that anyone operating in the GOP sphere of influence refuses to accept accountability for anything they do. Denial-based politics, I guess. At least in the military, there's a well defined bottom to the axiom, "shit rolls downhill" (see: England, Lynndie). But then again, the GOP has had such a stellar example to follow when it comes to blame acceptance.

The titular leader of the GOP, George W. Bush.

UPDATE, 8/21/04, 11:30AM: Jeanne over at Body and Soul has the full story of Deal Hudson. What a scumbag. Digby also has a nice sendup of this Bush/Cheney icon of religiosity. Apparently not only is Hudson a scumbag, he was a known scumbag.

What Do We Call the Enemy?

Tom Englehardt of Tom Dispatch has a lengthy piece I'm not even half done with at this moment ... but a pointer in his direction seems to me warranted as a several times a week read. Since the current plutarchs/oligarchs appear to want their Iraq debaucle to "go away" as quickly as possible, one of my imperatives is to keep it in the frontal lobes of all of our brains. Begin your read here, and I look forward to discussing any and all with you when I get back from helping my daughter and son-in-law, (the Boo and Tom) paint the living room of their new house ... a little classic rock on the radio, some paint fumes, good company. Seems more palatable today than talking heads and a computer-focused life. A life apart from the absurd destruction of the Powers That Be... it's more than a concept thing.

"Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living." General Omar Bradley"

Lapdog Media Premature Speculation (Again)

Yesterday, mass media consumers were treated to:

"Sadr's fighting", then, a bit later in the day, "No he's not. He's CAPITULATED! Yay! We win! We win! Ha! Take that, you liberal communist bastards!"

Apparently, Sadr's had a change of heart - or possibly not. Did the fog of war strike again? Hard to know, since all journalists except the military stenographers have been kicked out of Najaf. Also heard on the radio this morning that tanks rolled into Sadr City (Baghdad), and damn, didn't find one insurgent.

They hid. Imagine that.

Fierce Fighting in Iraq's Najaf, Sadr Defiant

Listen, all I want is our men and women out of this hell hole. No more excuses, no more bullshit, no more of the U.S. media simply relaying the latest propaganda piece from the military command authority.

Update, 12PM: Via Atrios, wowser of a speech by John Kerry today! Here's one short sentence:

The situation in Iraq is a mess. That is the President’s responsibility and he owes the American people an answer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes

Unlike the pResident, my opinion on America's involvement in Iraq is constantly evolving. As recently as last month, I publicly expressed what could be considered as the "optimistic liberal viewpoint" regarding the U.S. government's continued involvement in Iraq, to wit: While it was clear to me that the total faith and credit of every branch of the U.S. government was wrong from the outset vis Iraq, now that a "FUBAR" label has been stamped on the whole failed enterprise, it was ours to fix.

In a moment of repose earlier today, I firmed up a feeling which has been developing inside of me for weeks. Iraq and its government have become co-dependent on the American occupation of their country. My use of the term "co-dependent" doesn't mean they like us...just that they're playing us for the suckers that we are. And our government is letting us be played. And the band plays on.

So today, my attitude on America's failed venture in Iraq has officially changed. As I posted earlier this afternoon on Eschaton, we've ascertained there's no WMD in Iraq. We've ascertained that our soldiers have died for nothing of lasting import. We've ascertained that the vast majority of Iraqis apparently would rather be under the boot of tyranny anyway. (At least "the boot" stops the random mortar attacks.) It's come time to set a date, then get the fuck out. That's what I hope John Kerry does on his day of inauguration, in response to the quagmire he inherits from George Bush. It's become the only reasonable exit strategy - cut the losses.

Even though I vehemently opposed the "war", up until a month or so ago I was of the opinion that we had to stay until the mess was cleaned up. I now realize the mess will never be cleaned up. At least not by us. The United States will remain involved unless and until POTUS says, "enough, this tar baby's now yours, Governor Allawi", and we mount up to ride out of the 51st state.

By hanging in there, we're only delaying the inevitable bloodbath that, in the organic progression of what passes for order in the Mesopotamian world, is going to happen before a semblance of stability is restored. Americans have become unwilling investors in a failed enterprise. It's time to cash out, not throw more money (and lives) after bad.

Interestingly enough, after my post on Eschaton, someone responded to me with a link to an opinion piece from today's New York Times that validated my viewpoint:

This is no diplomatic parlor game. The threat of an American withdrawal would have to be made credible by physical preparations for a military evacuation, just as real nuclear weapons were needed for deterrence during the cold war. More fundamentally, it would have to be meant in earnest: the United States is only likely to obtain important concessions if it is truly willing to withdraw if they are denied. If Iraq's neighbors are too short-sighted or blinded by hatred to start cooperating in their own best interests, America would indeed have to withdraw.

That is a real constraint. Then again, the situation in Iraq is not improving, the United States will assuredly leave one day in any case, and it is usually wise to abandon failed ventures sooner rather than later.

Yes, withdrawal would be a blow to American credibility, but less so if it were deliberate and abrupt rather than a retreat under fire imposed by surging antiwar sentiments at home. (See Vietnam.)

So long as the United States is tied down in Iraq by over-ambitious policies of the past, it can only persist in wasteful futile aid projects and tragically futile combat. A strategy of disengagement would require risk-taking statecraft of a high order, and much competence at the negotiating table. But it would be based on the most fundamental of realities: for geographic reasons, many other countries have more to lose from an American debacle in Iraq than does the United States itself. The time has come to take advantage of that difference.
The military have been the pawns and the U.S. taxpayers the financiers of this failed enterprise.

I'm not much of a Kenny Rogers fan (at least not since First Edition days...), but he wrote a song...

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold up
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run...