23 December 2007

Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950

This is chilling. It makes one wonder why the current administration has been so adamant in its drive to secretly arrest and imprison people by executive fiat--even whisking people away who are on U.S. soil. The latest news that the CIA has openly lied to Congress--the branch that's supposed to keep tabs on the Executive--doesn't inspire much confidence in our current system either. Who's compiling the current list of 12,000 unloyal citizens to be rushed to the prison camps to be tortured?




By TIM WEINER Published: December 23, 2007

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau.

The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for years. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States,” he wrote.

“In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus,” it said.

Habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from illegal detention, has been a fundamental principle of law for seven centuries. The Bush administration’s decision to hold suspects for years at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has made habeas corpus a contentious issue for Congress and the Supreme Court today.

The Constitution says habeas corpus shall not be suspended “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.” The plan proposed by Hoover, the head of the F.B.I. from 1924 to 1972, stretched that clause to include “threatened invasion” or “attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory.”

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush issued an order that effectively allowed the United States to hold suspects indefinitely without a hearing, a lawyer, or formal charges. In September 2006, Congress passed a law suspending habeas corpus for anyone deemed an “unlawful enemy combatant.”

But the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the right of American citizens to seek a writ of habeas corpus. This month the court heard arguments on whether about 300 foreigners held at Guantánamo Bay had the same rights. It is expected to rule by next summer.

Hoover’s plan was declassified Friday as part of a collection of cold-war documents concerning intelligence issues from 1950 to 1955. The collection makes up a new volume of “The Foreign Relations of the United States,” a series that by law has been published continuously by the State Department since the Civil War.

Hoover’s plan called for “the permanent detention” of the roughly 12,000 suspects at military bases as well as in federal prisons. The F.B.I., he said, had found that the arrests it proposed in New York and California would cause the prisons there to overflow.

So the bureau had arranged for “detention in military facilities of the individuals apprehended” in those states, he wrote.

The prisoners eventually would have had a right to a hearing under the Hoover plan. The hearing board would have been a panel made up of one judge and two citizens. But the hearings “will not be bound by the rules of evidence,” his letter noted.

The only modern precedent for Hoover’s plan was the Palmer Raids of 1920, named after the attorney general at the time. The raids, executed in large part by Hoover’s intelligence division, swept up thousands of people suspected of being communists and radicals.

Previously declassified documents show that the F.B.I.’s “security index” of suspect Americans predated the cold war. In March 1946, Hoover sought the authority to detain Americans “who might be dangerous” if the United States went to war. In August 1948, Attorney General Tom Clark gave the F.B.I. the power to make a master list of such people.

Hoover’s July 1950 letter was addressed to Sidney W. Souers, who had served as the first director of central intelligence and was then a special national-security assistant to Truman. The plan also was sent to the executive secretary of the National Security Council, whose members were the president, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state and the military chiefs.

In September 1950, Congress passed and the president signed a law authorizing the detention of “dangerous radicals” if the president declared a national emergency. Truman did declare such an emergency in December 1950, after China entered the Korean War. But no known evidence suggests he or any other president approved any part of Hoover’s proposal.

Neal N. Boenzi/The New York TimesJ. Edgar Hoover was F.B.I. director from 1924 to 1972. RelatedText: Hoover’s Letter to Truman’s Special Consultant (December 22, 2007) Documents: The Intelligence Community, 1950–1955 (state.gov) (pdf)

18 December 2007

Monkey math


Does this suggest that monkeys evolved from humans, perhaps from some of the smarter Duke students who wandered off into the surrounding forest?

Monkeys performed about as well as college students at mental addition, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a finding that suggests nonverbal math skills are not unique to humans.

13 December 2007

For my birthday

Now I know what I want for my birthday! A glow in the dark cat along with a fearless mouse (see my post below).

South Korean scientists tinkering with fluorescence protein genes say they have bred white Turkish Angora cats to glow red under ultraviolet light.

Say it ain't so-o-o

2007's still got a shot at being the year of bizarre news stories. The American Bar Association Journal has named Alberto Gonzales Lawyer of the Year. To those of us raised on lawyer jokes, there's something highly appropriate about this.

California vs. the feds and the lobbyists

I've always thought it odd that the federal government thought it could dictate emission laws to California. Since it's Californians that are dying in their smog filled cities, it seems to me like they should be the ones to decide on their own state laws. Another federal judge evidently agrees with me:

In a major defeat for automakers, a federal judge in Fresno ruled Wednesday that California could set its own standards on greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles. But the state still needs permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement the rules. "Both EPA and California . . . are equally empowered through the Clean Air Act to promulgate regulations that limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, from motor vehicles," U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii said.

In a sign of the times, it's rightwing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who's finding himself on the "left" of the current administration. Arnold called the ruling "another important victory in the fight against global warming," adding, "California and other states will prevail in our goal to take aggressive action on climate change."

California plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30% from 2009 to 2016, under a plan passed in 2004. More power to them.

12 December 2007

吾輩は猫である

The country who brought us the classic novel I am a Cat has now engineered mice with no healthy fear of felines.

Rather than flee or freeze when confronted with their feline enemy, the mice sniffed and even played with them, blissfully unaware of the potential dangers.

What bill would Jesus vote for?

News these days is so bizarre that I can never tell if I'm not the butt of a giant prank:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) saying that Christmas and Christians are important. This is a spoof right? Our representatives really aren't spending their time crafting this drivel?


110th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. RES. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

December 6, 2007

Mr. KING of Iowa (for himself, Mr. AKIN, Mrs. BACHMANN, Mr. BAKER, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. BISHOP of Utah, Mr. BOOZMAN, Mr. BRADY of Texas, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. BROWN of South Carolina, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. CARTER, Mr. CONAWAY, Mr. DAVID DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. FEENEY, Mr. FORTENBERRY, Ms. FOXX, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. HAYES, Mr. HERGER, Mr. ISSA, Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. JORDAN of Ohio, Mr. KINGSTON, Mr. KLINE of Minnesota, Mr. KUHL of New York, Mr. LAHOOD, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. LAMPSON, Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California, Mr. MCCAUL of Texas, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mrs. MCMORRIS RODGERS, Mr. MILLER of Florida, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. NEUGEBAUER, Mr. POE, Mr. SALI, Mr. SHADEGG, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. TERRY, Mr. TIAHRT, Mr. WALBERG, Mr. WELDON of Florida, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, and Mrs. DRAKE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RESOLUTION
Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

8 December 2007

Generals oppose torture

We keep hearing how torture is now necessary because of the type of war we're now in, that the American public just doesn't understand the realities of the battlefield. It's interesting then to note how McCain, the only candidate with experience as a POW, along with a coalition of more than a dozen admirals and generals, strongly oppose the use of torture. The chicken-hawk coalition (Cheney, Bush, Giuliani, and others who are for it) all pulled every string available to avoid combat in Vietnam. The "realities of war" that they understand is that you can tell one's underlings and proxies to commit the most vile acts as long as none of them venture into the walled-off enclosures of the wealthy elite.

By Joseph P. Hoar, and David M. Maddox, Stars and Stripes

We have watched with growing concern over the last several months the manner in which the issue of torture has been raised in the presidential campaign — in debates and on the campaign trail. We recognize that campaigns are often more about scoring points against opponents than responsibly staking out affirmative positions. In too many instances, the debate about interrogation methods and prisoner treatment has lacked an understanding about the impact that torture (or as some have termed it, “enhanced interrogation techniques”) has on the safety of American military personnel and the values they fight to defend.

We hope to change that. We are co-chairmen of a gathering of more than a dozen retired generals and admirals with extensive backgrounds in combat operations, intelligence, law and medicine who met last weekend in Iowa to address these issues directly in private meetings with seven of the candidates. We invited every presidential candidate from both parties to meet privately with us for a candid discussion of these issues. Our group is nonpartisan and will not endorse any candidate. Our goal is to ensure that every presidential candidate has the opportunity to hear firsthand from those of us who have made national security our life’s work the importance of getting it right on prisoner treatment.

We started these discussions in New Hampshire in April with several of the candidates. Now, with the first votes of the 2008 election only weeks away, our objective to reach every candidate on this issue takes on even more urgency. Our group is not a formal one, but we have come together because we believe that national policies governing treatment of detainees in counterterrorism operations have placed American military personnel at increased risk, undermined U.S. intelligence gathering efforts, and stained the reputation of the United States around the world. Most generals and admirals do not get involved in the political fray, even those of us who are retired. But we feel a responsibility at this juncture to do what we can to preserve the values we fought to defend and to uphold the standards of humane treatment on which those serving our country today — and those who will serve it in the future — depend.

Five former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have spoken out publicly urging that the U.S. not deviate from the humane treatment provisions of the Geneva Conventions. While some argue that this “new war” has outgrown the “quaint” rules of the Geneva Conventions, as military professionals, we learned that every war is a “new war” in some respects. It is certainly true that the nature of the threat has changed. But nothing in our logic or experience tells us that, by necessity, everything has changed. The basic obligations of an occupying power, a matter of settled international law, have not changed. The standards we apply to ourselves when dealing with captives — like those we expect our enemies to observe in dealing with captives they hold — have not changed. And, unless we are willing to concede defeat, who we are as a nation — our character and the values we espouse — has not changed.

Gen. David Petraeus, responding to a survey that revealed a troubling level of acceptance of abuse against noncombatants by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, underscored this in an open letter to the troops in May. “Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy,” Petraeus wrote. And while “some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy, they would be wrong.”

We agree. Whoever the next occupant of the Oval Office is, he or she will be the person to whom the men and women of our armed forces will look, not only for their orders but for the guidance and standards that inform those orders. Our troops need clear and consistent standards, and the military provides those to them. But if the commander in chief muddies that message by saying that he or she would be willing to authorize torture in exceptional circumstances, we cannot expect our troops on the battlefield, who face death every day, to eschew it.

Our country cannot hope to lead the world if it forsakes the most fundamental rules and standards it insists other countries uphold. And no candidate can effectively lead this country without a deep understanding of and respect for the values on which it was founded. We owe a duty to those serving our country in uniform to do what we can to secure that leadership.

Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar (retired) was commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994. Gen. David M. Maddox (retired) was commander in chief of U.S. Army Europe from 1992 to 1994.


It's a sign of the times, when the Stars and Stripes starts worrying about the slow creep of Fascism.

7 December 2007

A well-oiled political machine

The Senate is going to completely gut the package of energy measures recently passed by the House. Shrub, for his part, has promised a veto. None of us should be surprised--when you hire oil barons to run the country, this is what you get, a shortsighted plan to run the country into the ground while transferring as much wealth as possible to the wealthiest sliver of the population.

Destroying the evidence

We can learn a few lessons from the recent revelations that the CIA destroyed tapes showing torture:

1. Giant, powerful intelligence agencies tend to ignore government oversight and end up being an anti-democratic force. The CIA was explicitly asked in Congress if it had any such tapes and said (before the tapes were destroyed) that it didn't.

2. The CIA, like our current government, isn't above making the most boldfaced lies. The idea that the tapes had to be destroyed "for security purposes" is LUDICROUS. It's possible to put the tapes in a vault in Langley and not allow anyone but the head of the CIA (and members of the Congressional oversight committee who request them) to see them. The "security" is a reflection by the CIA that what they're doing is illegal and so needs to be hidden.

3. It isn't wise to give any government organization too much power--particularly when it repeatedly avoids oversight and engages in cover-ups.

4. Last but not least, the claim that waterboarding isn't torture leads us to some interesting dilemmas. Should the U.S. compensate the families of the Japanese intelligence operators who were hung after WWII for using waterboarding on U.S. prisoners of war? (If it's just a "frat boy" sort of thing, the Americans who were waterboarded should be more understanding, don't you think?)

5 December 2007

The 7 Deadly Sins, er, I mean, 7 Facts

I always thought I was far too intellectually superior to respond to one of these memes but that was before I was picked. So here's the juicy facts Glen (all the dirt you need when I run for president):

Seven Facts About Me

1) I don't know anything about cars, an intellectual lacuna that causes major embarrassments when shootin' the bull in standard male bonding situations. I have survived thus far by nodding a lot and muttering "totally awesome" when people talk about their souped up 486 chrome-plated whassamujigs that have totally awesome torque.

2) I'm never happier than when I'm standing on the peak of a mountain in the middle of the wilderness. If you hear of another McCandless-like character who didn't make it out of the Alaskan forests and Swerve Left has suddenly screeched to a grinding halt, you can make the right inferences.

3) I was the top wrestler in my high school and beat the guy who beat the guy who won the Washington State championship.

4) In college, I lived in a room that was just a little bit longer than I am tall. I had to sleep at an angle every night.

5) I have a gut aversion to capitalism that isn't even ideological. When I become king, we'll all wear long, gray Mao suits around as we all make exactly the same wage for unequal work. The system won't be terribly efficient but we'll perhaps get rid of some of the distractions from our endless chasing after plastic lawn ornaments. We will end up with some awesome park lands though. After I'm sent to hell for my years of dictatorship, I'll end up wandering eternally through endless strips of Walmarts with carts full of coupons and complicated credit card forms that I need to fill out to get that extra 20% off.

6) About the only place I like to visit in the city is old book stores. I rarely buy anything but spend hours browsing.

7) I'm becoming more and more convinced that Economic Growth, Family Values, Patriotism, and Capitalization Rules are all greatly overrated. Trout spearing and serial monogamy were the high points in human civilization.



For the next 7, I've tagged Katharine, Badtux, Vancouver Calling, Snowbabies, Cyberkitten, Mr. Anchovy, and Alicia Morgan.

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

28 November 2007

Is the multiple wave theory dead?

A recent genetic study claims that native Americans are all descendants of a single group from Siberia. While this in itself would seem plausible, I don't see how it can be sqaured with the linguistic evidence of multiple migrations. Native American languages are famous for being so different from one another--differences that are hard to account for within a 10,000 year time frame.

25 November 2007

The war on free speech

This Thanksgiving season we need to all express our gratitude to the paternal forces in our government who are working to prevent us from hearing any foreign ideas that might upset our equilibrium.

Infrastructure and the web

According to Information Week, internet growth (especially in the US) will slow to a crawl in the next few years if more infrastructure isn't built. This could be a disaster as the 1000s of visitors (so many, that my hit counter can't keep up with them) who come seeking news and words of wisdom here at Swerve Left are left with nothing but their blank screen to stare at.

24 November 2007

It's official!

Kevin Rudd is the new AustralianPM. John Howard, a staunch shrubophile, has finally felt the end of the ozzy boot.

23 November 2007

Buy Nothing Day

It's officially Buy Nothing Day--the one day in the year when we can take a break from our consumption of plastic gizmos and deelywobs from Walmart and temporarily get a life. What did you not buy for Buy Nothing Day?

21 November 2007

Hawks can't hawk goods

Is this really any surprise? It appears that U.S. military personnel are fleeing the Republican Party in droves.

Impeachment and other thoughts

I came across this website today: The Charges and Public Record Evidence for the Impeachment of Bush and Cheney and then watched Kucinich on YouTube. Among the population, there really does seem to be a lot of momentum for impeachment. The comparison between Clinton's pecadilloes and the current morass is telling. I also watched a Bill Maher video and must say, I'm becoming quite the fan. I don't have a portal to the matrix, unwilling to pay the outlandish monthly fees just to spend half my time watching ads so YouTube's my only link at this point to the public's pulse. I surprised that Maher can say what he says about religion without getting lynched.

19 November 2007

The latest in snake oil

Another drug company is set to make a bundle of dough. It appears that a commonly used gluacoma drug makes eyelashes grow longer. Personally, I think this constant clamoring for eternal youth is deeply psychotic. Most human beings on the planet were able to live without all the eyelash and dick-enlargers, boob booster, botox wrinkle treatments, and other nonsense for thousands of years. Isn't all this nonsense just the modern equivalent of bound feet?

11 November 2007

The power of pond scum

This may be a long-shot, but it's an exciting possibility:

A microscopic green algae -- known to scientists as Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and to regular folk as pond scum -- was discovered more than 60 years ago to split water into hydrogen and oxygen under controlled conditions. A recent breakthrough in controlling the algae's hydrogen yield has prompted a Berkeley, California, company to try to be first to commercialize production . . .

Melis found that algae must eventually be supplied sulfur to survive, but he was able to repeatedly switch hydrogen production on and off by changing the algae's environment.
Melis launched a company, Melis Energy, in 2001 to try to commercialize a technique that harnesses algae's ability to turn sunlight into hydrogen. In the fall of 2001, the company built a bioreactor containing 500 liters of water and algae that can produce up to 1 liter of hydrogen per hour. A siphoning system extracts the hydrogen, which is stored in its gaseous state.
The company is continuing to refine the process and improve its reliability, while also searching for investors so that it can increase production volume . . .

He said that his team of researchers at Berkeley has thus far only been able to achieve 10 percent of the algae's theoretical production capacity, but in the near future he will publish an advancement for peer review. Once the process reaches a 50 percent yield, Melis said it would be cost-competitive with fossil-fuel energy . . .

7 November 2007

BAC is back!

BAC (Bloggers Against Cat-blogging) is back! Our anti-catblogging lobbying group had hoped that our window taping campaign and the simultaneous War on Catnip would be enough to drive those furry felines away from the internets, but our efforts have clearly been foiled by a flexible and ferocious foe. Recently, this cat was captured on a hidden camera with its paw on the mouse, in an attempt to delete its owner's hard drive

We have therefore reinstated the highest alert--code redcat. The following blogs have been quarantined indefinitely until the Department of Feline Security has had an opportunity to pepper spray the cyberspace behind their modems and scrub the hard-drives free of any stray frrrballs.

Quarantined blogs: Badtux, Cut to the Chase, and the heavily infested Carnival of Cats.

5 November 2007

American democracy just ain't working folks

What do you do when the government ignores the citizenry?

Talking to a close friend the other day, I was griping about Americans' failure to get on board and help turn the country away from its disastrous course when my friend made the astute remark that the country had turned around: the problem is that the political establishment isn't reacting. He has a good point. Looking at the poll numbers (and listening to what most people are saying), there's tremendous discontent which is being ignored. It's as if the Republicans and Democrats have staged a coup with the help of their corporate sponsors.

According to a recent poll, 60%t of all Americans strongly want the country to change direction and only 24 percent of those surveyed think the nation is on the right track. Discontent crosses the red and blue lines to include Democrats, Republicans, and independents. More than 6 out of 10 called the war in Iraq not worth fighting (yet all major candidates want to stay!), and nearly two-thirds gave the national economy negative marks (a response that agrees with data showing that whatever gains exist are probably going to the wealthy). The abysmally low voter turn-out in the U.S. is just another sign of the divide between public opinion and corporate-led policy.

Personally at this point, I'd back just about any plan that got someone into the White House who hadn't been bought and paid for by monied interests. It's time that the discontented form a coalition to elect someone outside of the entire process. With so many people still glued to the corporate-run news media, it's hard to see how a new process could take shape. Does anyone have any ideas?

Nuclear power

Looking at the candidate's position on nuclear power, most except for Mike Gravel and John Edwards are for it. I especially like Gravel's response and I fully agree: No matter what the cost, wind power seems to be the "silver bullet" that everyone keeps saying doesn't exist. It's clean and is feasible using current technologies. In Hillary's case, she seems to be for nuclear power on the odd days of the week and against it on the even days. Her talk of some magic technology that is right around the corner (because, after all, we're Americans) seems to be the easy out for presidential front runners--a strategem stolen from the Shrub playbook. Why deal with energy issues when some technological fix--cold fusion?--is going to invented (and implemented on a mass scale) any day now? Anyway, here are some of the clips: you be the judge. In particular, notice Hillary's waffling on the issue.

3 November 2007

Ellsberg article

Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department analyst who leaked the secret Pentagon Papers history of the Vietnam War, offered insights into what he sees as a looming war with Iran and the loss of liberty in the United States. The following is an excerpt:

I took an oath many times, an oath of office as a Marine lieutenant, as an official in the Defense Department, as an official in the State Department as a Foreign Service officer. A number of times I took an oath of office which is the same oath office taken by every member of Congress and every official in the United States and every officer in the United States armed services. And that oath is not to a Commander in Chief, which is not mentioned. It is not to a fuehrer. It is not even to superior officers. The oath is precisely to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Now that is an oath I violated every day for years in the Defense Department without realizing it when I kept my mouth shut when I knew the public was being lied into a war as they were lied into Iraq, as they are being lied into war in Iran.

I knew that I had the documents that proved it, and I did not put it out then. I was not obeying my oath which I eventually came to do.

I’ve often said that Lt. Ehren Watada – who still faces trial for refusing to obey orders to deploy to Iraq which he correctly perceives to be an unconstitutional and aggressive war – is the single officer in the United States armed services who is taking seriously in upholding his oath.

The president is clearly violating that oath, of course. Everybody under him who understands what is going on and there are myriad, are violating their oaths. And that’s the standard that I think we should be asking of people.

1 November 2007


31 October 2007

The Politics of Withdrawal

There are always people who find reasons to oppose any war while others have never seen a war they didn't like. These two groups are unlikely to change their mind so the fence-sitters become the key demographic that decide, in any conflict, when enough is enough and it's time to end the latest crusade. Only two things are going to make these people want to leave Iraq: concern over body bags or money.

Money: The costs of this war will be huge--we're talking a trillion or two by the time the last bills come in (many of these decades in the future). Last winter, the estimates said that the total cost would soon pass that of Vietnam (in adjusted dollar values). Only counting what we've spent so far, the money could have bought:
  • Over 4 million housing units. (Imagine getting a free lottery tickets for yourself and each of your family members with a 1 in 100 chance of winning a free house.)
  • Over 8 million school teachers for a year.
  • 61.5 million children's costs to attend Head Start (Does the U.S. even have this many kids? Spread out over time, this would probably fund the program for at least a decade, don't you think?)
  • Insurance for almost 30 million kids for the next ten years (In other words, we could give free health care to all kids up to a fairly advanced age for the next decade.)
  • 22.5 million scholarships. (I'd estimate that everyone entering college next year, undergraduates in 4-year schools and graduate students, could be given a scholarship.)
If we take into consideration the true longterm costs (treating injured soldiers, etc.), we'd need to multiple all the above figures 2-4 times.

In a clever move, the Bush administration has funded the war completely through borrowing so the problem has been passed down to our children and grandchildren to deal with. Since most Americans can't imagine time existing beyond the football game on Monday night, money probably won't be a factor unless people start making the connection between the war and their pocketbooks, which could happen if the country enters recession.

Body Bags: John Mueller, an expert on wartime public opinion, has noted (see his previous Foreign Affairs article) that the Iraq War has had abysmal support from the beginning so a much smaller number of fence sitters need to see the light for this debacle to finally be over. Mueller points out, however, that these things tend to drag on painfully for years long after the public has grown disillusioned. Disapproval of Shrub's War had reached Tet Offensive levels in early 2005; yet Congress (a new Democratic Congress!) still somehow supports this mess. Of course, there's a great deal of oil underfoot so big money is going to keep funding the politicians who support the war until the very end. The reduction in U.S. casualties will make it hard for the advocates of withdrawal to get much traction on the issue (the fence-sitters don't seem to be concerned in the least about Iraqi casualties). Barring some spectacular offensive (that the fractured Iraqi groups don't seem to be up to), I don't see withdrawal on the horizon. The U.S. political machinery is solidly in support of the war--in spite of U.S. opinion, a fact that speaks volumes about the sad state of American democracy.

29 October 2007

Trinity University's 15-lateral Win

This is the first and last time you'll see a post on football here where I normally swerve away from spectator sports and Hollywood trivia but this is just too good to resist: a 15-lateral touchdown on the last play of the game. (Were some of these guys former rugby players by any chance?)

28 October 2007

Land and oceans soaking up less CO2

This, if it turns out to be true, is terrible news:

International scientists found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17%. The other 18% came from a decline in the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere. About half of emissions from human activity are absorbed by natural "sinks" but the efficiency of these sinks has fallen, the study suggests. . . .

. . . The weakening of the Earth's ability to cope with greenhouse gases is thought to be a result of changing wind patterns over seas and droughts on land. "The decline in global sink efficiency suggests that stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 is even more difficult to achieve than previously thought," said report co-author Dr Corinne Le Quere of the British Antarctic Survey.

25 October 2007

Ralph Nader on why Dems won't impeach Bush

Numerous communities have passed resolutions to impeach Bush but when they presented the information to a Democratic congressman, he said that if the Dems were to try impeaching Bush, Bush would attack Iran and declare martial law to cancel the 2008 elections. Is this why we haven't had impeachment proceedings? It's a chilling thought but I agree with those who say that it can happen here.

Finding ways to pass the dull autumn days in Congress

When I saw this, I at first thought it was a spoof. Our representatives evidently can't find anything to do with their time (with only trivial events to deal with like Californian cities burning and oil-rich countries imploding) and must fill their days passing resolutions in support of a hate-radio host.


Mr. KINGSTON submitted the following resolution
RESOLUTION

Commending Rush Hudson Limbaugh III for his ongoing public support of American troops serving both here and abroad. Recognizing Mr. Limbaugh for his relentless efforts to build and maintain troop morale through worldwide radio broadcasts and personal visits to conflict regions.

Whereas the need to show support for American troops serving and fighting both here and abroad during a time of global conflict has never been greater, with the need to communicate an uplifting message of encouragement to American soldiers eternally important, in addition to the morale-boosting value of personal visits to region by highly-regarded individuals;

Whereas daily radio broadcasts reaching tens of millions of civilians and soldiers both in America and abroad by way of the Armed Forces Radio Network are conducted five days a week by Rush Hudson Limbaugh III;

Whereas Mr. Limbaugh has consistently used his broadcast time to praise American troops and support them during their ongoing efforts to secure peace in a troubled world;

. . . and yada yada yada

24 October 2007

Ignorance is bliss

WaPo (A10) has a story today about how the Bush administration "edited" testimony that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) was to give to the Senate, reducing a 14-page document to four (six pages were ultimately presented to the Senate committee). Evidently, Bush and his fellow scientists didn't want any global warming news to slip out and upset the public. Doesn't it give you this warm and fuzzy feeling to see our compassionately conservative great leader looking out for us, making sure that we don't get exposed to any frightening facts that might keep us up at night?

23 October 2007

Surviving a Simian Attack

Make it stop! Make it stop! has some very useful advice on how to stop monkey attacks (I guess the deputy mayor of New Delhi was recently done in by our primate enemies):

    Safety Tips - How to Survive a Monkey Attack

  • If you are holding a snack, throw it in their direction, and they'll stop bothering you.
  • If you don't have any food, hold out your open palms to show you're not carrying a tasty treat or back away from the monkeys without showing fear.
  • Don't make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing—in the nonhuman primate world, these are almost always signs of aggression.


Make it stop! then translates this advice to the American environment:

Perhaps using this wisdom . . . we can find ways to survive our own government. So, the next time you find yourself surrounded by a group of neo-cons, remember these safety tips:
  • If you are holding a copy of the Bill of Rights, destroy it and they'll stop bothering you.
  • If you don't have a record of your rights, hold out your open palms to show you're willing to be spied on, tortured or "redacted" and back away from the neo-cons without showing fear. They already have your addresses & phone numbers.
  • Don't make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing—in the nonhuman neo-con world, these are certainly signs of aggression, but don't worry, they'll probably attack you no matter what. I'd suggest sending the monkeys after them, but not even monkeys can stomach neo-con.

21 October 2007

On the Commons

Today, I happened to come across On the Commons, a very insightful and well-written blog that juxtaposes current environmental issues with related economic concerns. I'd especially recommend the recent article "The harsh economics of green-collar jobs." Also worth reading is a 2005 article titled "The illusory self-made man." An excerpt:

It always irritates me to see the Michael Eisners and Ken Lays and George W. Bushes portray themselves as "self-made men" — Ayn Rand superheroes of the capitalist order. Individual initiative matters in creating wealth, of course, but some of the most critical ingredients are social investments -- schools, colleges, government R&D, small business assistance, the courts, the stock market, regulatory agencies, and much more. These are precisely the factors that the "I did it all myself" storyline denies. Moguls claim all responsibility for their success while denigrating government taxation as a form of theft and social spending as waste. How gratifying, then, to come across a report that tackles the bogus, self-congratulatory myth of the self-made man. "I Didn't Do It Alone: Society's Contribution to Individual Wealth and Success," takes on the "great man theory of wealth creation" by letting more than a dozen entrepreneurs, CEOs and investors confess that their personal talent was only partly responsible, and that it takes a village to make a millionaire.

20 October 2007

Around the internets

The Quiet Road has an interesting post on carbon emissions trading on the global level. Precision blogging talks about wind belts (a new way to tap wind power). 22 over 7 offers us two new high-resolution pictures of the Earth which were recently put out by NASA. On the lighter side of things, the Wisdom Weasel informs us that "Georgia has hired a member of 1970s pop group Boney M, famous for songs like Daddy Cool and Rasputin, in its fight for control of breakaway South Ossetia" (Where do people find these nuggets!)

19 October 2007

Neanderthals

Scientists have discovered that Neanderthals had a copy of the FOXP2 gene similar to that of homo sapiens. This is big news since it pushes back a key genetic link to language abilities to a period in which Neanderthals and humans had a common ancestor. Other research now shows that Neanderthals spread as far as southern Siberia.

18 October 2007

Into the Wild: The movie

I saw Into the Wild last week. For those not familiar with the story, it's an account of Christopher McCandless, a young idealistic kid who gave everything he had to charity and then headed across the U.S., but eventually died in the Alaskan wilderness. Having read the book, I was impressed by how much the movie followed the actual story without too many embellishments. On the down side, the directors spent a little too much time dwelling on McCandless's conflict with his father. Aside from that minor blemish, the film is excellent with great acting and a lot of very realistic footage. It's good to see a story of a person who doesn't value money above all else. I also liked how the movie showed some very unconventional platonic friendships between McCandless and an older woman, a young girl, and an elderly man.

Assassination attempt

A couple dozen 108 people were killed in an attempted assassination of Bhutto upon her return to Pakistan. It'll be interesting to see if Pakistan can keep from descending into chaos.

17 October 2007

Leupp article

Gary Leupp has a good response to a Marine's letter (about "islamofascism") in a recent article in Counter Punch.

16 October 2007

Our man in the Netherlands

Roland Arnall who heads Ameriquest (and was a major contributor to the Bush campaign) was appointed by Bush as Ambassador in the Netherlands even after it was discovered that his company has been heavily involved in the shenanigans leading up to the current housing mortgage crisis. As they say, money talks.

15 October 2007

An interesting question

While there's some wiggle-room for debate, it seems that the Blackwater mercenaries are, according to the laws of war, "unlawful combatants." Is it then legal for any state entity that meets them on a battlefield to whisk them away to secret detainment facilities and then torture them? Are they protected under international treaties?

13 October 2007

A return to Zepellin travel anyone?


The BBC and Gazpachot have interesting articles on the possibility of a return to the use of Zepellins. Although they'd slow travel down to a much more leisurely pace, the idea is interesting since they'd make air travel a bit more like boat travel with ample space and the possibility of enjoying the scenery. They're evidently safe, economical, and eco-friendly as well.

12 October 2007

The blogosphere weighs in on Gore

Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the Noble Peace Prize. This is good news, albeit news that will provoke the ire of the flat-earth the-market-solves-everything crowd. While much of the right dismisses Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth as complete fantasy (I doubt that few have actually watched it), it's probably the most well-argued, evidence-based documentary ever made. So what are some of our flat-earth brethren saying about award:

Ted West the Naked Conservative suggests (through the example of the Iraq War) that liberals will bring on global warming by talking about it. Some have mistakenly attributed this logical form to Aristotle but it actually comes from Tommy, a small boy who closed his eyes when caught with his hand in the cookie jar, knowing that his mother and the rest of the world would simply disappear the second he stopped thinking of them.

And They Call Me an Engineer and Considerettes are flabbergasted that Gore gets a peace prize for his work which (he claims) doesn't seem to have anything to do with peace. Hmmm. If we have India, which will soon be the most populous nation, running short of water due to glacial melt, other countries like Canada possible benefitting from greatly expanded habitable territories, Africa, the poorest area in the world, turning into a large desert, and a world cut up into different nations which each have politicians concerned solely with what benefits their own country (and those are the good politicians, most are more concerned about how to benefit the corporation that gave them money or the tribe that supports them), how is this not related to peace?

And from the round-earth side?

Progressive Involvement makes a sort of "Pascal's Wager" that if we bet on science (versus talk-show hosts and corporate spokesmen?) at least we'll start turning to cleaner energy sources and realligning or economy for long-term sustainability.

The Middle Earth Press Room and many other blogs have lamented the fact that Gore is not (at least, not yet) running. I would definitely vote for Gore over the current list of candidates (although I do like Kucinich and Edwards).

11 October 2007

Chinese food imports

I was listening to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation as it held a hearing on food safety and imported foods. The report, prepared by committee staffers who visited Chinese plants and Beijing's inspection and quarantine (CIQ) office in August, recommends that FDA limit Chinese food imports to companies bearing the Chinese government's CIQ certificate. I can't believe that the FDA still doesn't acknowledge the certificates. As one person asked, even if we wanted to demand more stringent requirements, it seems like we'd want to take advantage of the regulatory mechanisms at the Chinese end. There have been incidents of products not being exported as food but then being imported as food since no one on the U.S. side asks for the Chinese papers. In this case, it's hard to see what the FDA's motivation is. Is it patronizing U.S. companies that want to go to China so that they can export sub-standard (=dangerous!) food back to the U.S.?

10 October 2007

2013 + ?

Obama can't say whether U.S. combat troops will be out of Iraq by the end of his first term since "it can’t be done to bring troops out in three to six months." Evidently, Obama doesn't plan on remaining in office very long. At a recent talk, a person in the crowd held up a big sign with 2013 on it. Even with the Dems in office, U.S. forces will be in Iraq long after that. So if you have kids who don't really understand what the war is about (hint . . . hint . . . black gooey stuff), no worries mate! Your kids will probably get their own chance to experience the war first hand as the U.S. continues its war in revenge for . . . (what did Iraq do to us again?) . . . for something. WE gotta go get THEM, as they say. I know, I know--it's my patriotic duty to remember the causes of the war. Don't get mad at me for my absentmindedness--this war started quite a few years ago after all. I vaguely recall some mean guy who had somehow taken over Iraq in a CIA-backed coup who had unilaterally attacked a neighboring country (was it Iran?) while backed by the U.S. It was something about that. And um something at the U.N. about his creating football stadium-sized missile launchers that the inspection team couldn't get to before they were dismantled because the mean Iraqis wouldn't let their helicopters fly on Fridays (so the story goes). By 2013, I'm sure we can get rid of the current lot of phoney soldiers and get some real soldiers in there who will properly police the markets of Baghdad and chase the remaining handful of Iraqis into exile.

9 October 2007

Bin Laden: the urban version

A Pakistani intelligence chief claims that Osama bin Laden might be in a city instead of in a cave. I find this entirely plausible. In fact, I think he's currently driving a taxi in New York, trying to earn money for his terrorist efforts against the U.S. in the hills of Pakistan.

8 October 2007

The start of the end of the start of the end

Talks have started regarding the possibility of announcing the start of talks leading to an announcing of the end of hostilities between North and South Korea. It's been over 5 decades since the war ended. This should all be over in about another 5 decades.

Lessons from the rise of Rudy

Giuliani's rise to power, if successful, will have some powerful lessons:

1. The Christian right is quickly running out of steam.
2. Much of the Christian right can be bought off just by promising to be a belligerent leader. When given the choice between saving unborn babies or killing born babies, most of the Christian right will choose the latter. Ezekiel, after all, was always a more interesting read than the Sermon on the Mount.
3. The Democrats, might talk like a Republican, walk like a Republican, and vote like a Republican, but they ain't Republicans, damn it.
4. Most conservatives, being true blooded Americans, suffer from severe attention deficit disorder and can't remember what their candidate was doing three months ago, let alone a couple years back. So Rudy doesn't have much to worry about in terms of consistency. Go to a few church services, be seen at a few barbecues bemoaning the pernicious influences of Mexican housekeepers and the need to install laser guns at the border, and the whole American sheeple will fall start bleeting at your feet.

7 October 2007

Celebrating Hitler Day

It's simply unfathomable to me that there are still people in the U.S. who celebrate Columbus Day. Current historical accounts tell us that Columbus and his small band of mass murderers initiated a genocide that resulted in the deaths of millions--an amazing feat considering the fact that Columbus and his band lacked the modern weapons and bureaucracy of the Nazis or the Khmer Rouge. These were people who were running swords through children and women they came across for entertainment. According to journals from the time, sexual abuse of children was commonplace and accepted. The average American's inability to separate fact from wishful fantasy when examining such a key figure history is a sad testament to our abilities to critically and accurately judge our own history. This is essentially the equivalent of Germans celebrating the great feats of Hitler during a "National Hitler Day."

6 October 2007

Craig survives bout with Restless Leg Syndrome

Senator Craig of wide-stanced family-values fame, after hearing pleas from Leno and other comedians, has decided to remain in office.

5 October 2007

Whining savages & our impending sinification

Yesterday, I ended up hearing a Michael Savage rant about how the Chinese hackers were going to disable all the U.S. computers (even those on aircraft carriers and nuclear subs, evidently) and launch a first-strike. Wow! I now know which end of the dial I need to turn to for entertainment. I'm wondering at this point if the whole theme wasn't stolen from the plot of one of those old teen thrillers (was it "War Games") where the teenage hacker ends up starting a nuclear war. To assauge doubters like myself, Michael had some self-proclaimed expert assure us that Michael's scenario was "completely possible."

On a lighter note (hmmm, does it get any lighter than that?), I ventured over to Wikipedia to look at the entry for Michael Savage. It turns out his real name is Weiner (much more appropriate, don't you think) and that he's a Jew from the Bronx who did homeopathy, alternative medicine, and sang the praises of marijuana, and once worked for Timothy Leary (of kool-aid experiment fame). He was also apparently great buddies with Ginsberg (the openly gay, beat poet), who Michael was constantly pestering (it appears that Michael wanted nude pictures to take home). Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture? When Mr. Whiner, er Savage, wanted to leave his little corner of liberal academia for a cushy radio spot, did he suddenly have a conversion after finding out that conservative hate radio paid more?

I guess that this is the kind of individual that capitalism needs: People who see a growing need and rush to fill it. On the other hand, I hope we don't see another Larry Craig sort of meltdown with Michael "sodomizing" (Savage's favorite word) some fellow family values conservative in a Berkeley bathroom. Michael's hatred of homosexuals, after all, borders on the obsessive--there are some major Freudian forces at work there. Hopefully, Michael can keep up the "savage" facade. Our true-believing Republican brethren can only withstand so much, after all.

4 October 2007

Oooh! Condemn me! Condemn me!

I'm completely against the latest resolution against Rush Limbaugh's statement. Rush and Ann Coulter are essentially media whores who make a living by constantly generating controversy by pushing people's buttons. As far as I can tell, none of them have the slightest bit of expertise in anything beyond media manipulation. If we're going to engage with their ideas, we may as well start issuing resolutions condemning the wayward opinions of my barber. On the other hand, condemnation implies a certain modicum of respect--something neither of these crackpots deserve. When I go past the delusional drug user in the park spouting emotion-filled nonsense, I don't urge the local city board to issue a fatwa. Rush, a drug-using hatefilled blowhard deserves pity perhaps, and derision, not condemnation.

The Sky's Still Falling

Mugsy's Rapsheet has a great post on our Chicken Little friends in the Republican Party.

3 October 2007

The geography of innocence, flesh on the bone

War has always been a very lucrative business but as the recent Blackwater debacle shows, the sale of "flesh on the bone" has reached new heights under Bush. Reflecting on recent hearings, I'm not sure which was more depressing, the sight of general Betrayus (oops! I hope Swerve Left doesn't get a Senate censure!) reading the president's report full of doctored statistics or the sight of Congressmen grilling Blackwater execs because they weren't following some non-existent rule book.

In the end, it's ridiculous to call up the mercenaries and gun-runners and ask them why their actions are aimed more at corporate profits than moral objectives. They're mercenaries! These are the same guys who just weeks ago were running around Columbia fighting for a rightwing government militia in cahoots with drug cartels. You probably won't find Ethics 101 anywhere on their resumes. We should bite the bullet and add little TMs after the Iraq War and the other McWars that are on the horizon. Perhaps we can pay these people by the pounds of burnt flesh they bring in each day.

Isn't it odd that U.S. soldiers are being convicted of murder while these private contractors, who are raking in much more money, can get drunk and kill someone and after coughing up a mere 15 grand in compensation, not even get arrested. I guess we're all equal under the law but some are more equal than others.

I don't know what our corporate-funded politicians have to say about this. Edwards has said that he'd "reduce" the number of defense contractors. One can hardly blame our leaders for remaining tightlipped. Who wants to mess with these goodfellas? As the Spin Zone points out, Erik Prince, when not off running the later McWar, also tries his hand at activities such as vote-fixing.

1 October 2007

Phony Soldiers

Army of Dude has an excellent response to Rush Limbaugh who recently called all soldiers who opposed the war "phony soldiers."

The right of genocidal maniacs to bear arms

I have ambiguous feelings about the gun issue and am open to the argument that people should have the right to have guns. But I find the NRA positions to be little more than propaganda for the gun manufacturing lobby, with no connection to the concerns of the average American. As a case in point, a group of nations has recently called for a global treaty to limit the international gun trade. This makes sense: there are very good (and obvious) reasons why we should be trying to curb the flow of weapons to certain corners of the world. Yet the NRA is adamantly against the idea that anything might get in the way of weapons sales. How cynical can these people get?

30 September 2007

Blade Runner

So a new DVD of Blade Runner is coming out with alternative cuts? This I must see. I love sci-fi. I wish they'd completely stop making all of the good-guys-kill-bad-guys revenge films and the dopey Hollywood romances and start making more films like Gattaca, Blade Runner, or Minority Report. At this point in our history, we need all the utopian/dystopian visions we can muster.

Canadian dollar

The Canadian dollar recently rose about the U.S. dollar--for the first time since 1976! In the world economy, we've all been given a pay cut.

28 September 2007

The latest out of Burma

Ko Htike has some recent pictures from the Burmese protests.

There are rumours of police siding with the demonstrators and of a coup led by Maung Aye. We can only hope they're true.

27 September 2007

Forget about the butter...

The U.S. military continues to expand. Despite the fact that the U.S. spends around half of what the rest of the world spends combined.

The refugees

Sanmantha Power has an interesting article in TIME:

The numbers are so staggering that they are hard to process mentally and impossible to process logistically: each month some 60,000 Iraqis are voting with their feet against the surge of U.S. forces by fleeing their homes. Since the invasion, more than 2.5 million Iraqis have left for neighboring countries, while 2.2 million have been forcibly displaced within Iraq - too poor to escape the country or blocked from transitioning through more peaceful provinces, which in recent months have erected checkpoints to keep them out. To put it in stark historical terms: the war has created the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the displacement of the Palestinians in 1948.

This should give pause to any American of any stripe who hopes to call the current war a success at any point in the near future. The fact is that a huge percentage of the Iraq population has left the country, figuring that life as a destitute refugee holds more hope than life in Iraq.

Here is what it looks like on the ground: in two short years, a million Iraqi refugees have poured into Syria, a country of 19 million. In U.S.-population terms, this would be the equivalent of 15 million Iraqis arriving on our shores. Overwhelmed by the deluge, Syria has said it will begin requiring visas for Iraqis next month, the practical equivalent of shutting its doors, while Jordan, which has admitted 750,000 Iraqis, closed most of its border crossings earlier this year.

And now the bordering countries are going to turn off the pressure valve!

Despite all this, the U.S. debate about withdrawal from Iraq seems remarkably indifferent to those whose lives have been upended. The Bush Administration talks of staying the course without expending nearly enough political or financial capital to mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe that it pretends does not exist. Many advocates of withdrawal point to the humanitarian disaster as a ground for leaving without addressing how worse suffering might be averted.

Thus far, the American discussion of the refugee crisis has focused on the paltry number of Iraqis the U.S. has let in. Although the U.S. was the lead architect of the invasion, only 535 Iraqis were granted entry last year. Sweden, which opposed the war, took in 8,950. Ironically, in 2000, three years before the war, the U.S. admitted 3,145 Iraqis, whereas fewer than 1,700 Iraqis have been resettled on American soil in the four years since.

The situation has grown so desperate that even our mild-mannered ambassador, Ryan Crocker, sent a harsh cable to the State Department on Sept. 7, titled "Iraqi refugee processing: Can we speed it up?" He complained of the endless "bottlenecks" delaying entry even for those Iraqis who had risked their lives working for U.S. forces. Crocker pleaded with immigration and Homeland Security officials to fast-track the screening process so the State Department's recommended 7,000 asylum slots could be filled.

But while expeditious review and expanded quotas are urgently needed, they will not affect the welfare of the several million Iraqis who have lost their homes and their livelihoods. If the Administration is to ease the toll on Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria and persuade them to welcome Iraqis in need, it must extend massive assistance to those governments to help fund shelter, food, sanitation, health care and transportation for arriving Iraqis. Among the 200,000 Iraqi children who have fled to Jordan, only 20,000 started school in the past year, and 6,000 of them dropped out. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should have taught us, the grievances of refugees may start as humanitarian concerns, but they quickly become security problems.

That's all we need. More uneducated middle-Eastern youth with memories of fleeing their homeland due to America's actions during the "Great Game.'

President George W. Bush is in denial about the refugee crisis. He claimed this month that "ordinary life is beginning to return" and warned that with a U.S. departure, "Iraq could face a humanitarian nightmare."

Well, at least it shouldn't face a housing shortage.

But he has refused to deal with the nightmare already under way. It is as if he fears doing so would mean conceding the costs of the U.S. invasion and would undermine his arguments for staying. As he argues that we have a moral responsibility to Iraqis, it would be inconvenient for him to draw attention to how we have shirked that responsibility.

In addition, if the President were actually to insist that the U.S. and its allies resettle Iraqi refugees in earnest, he would be making it that much harder for an educated, moderate Iraqi middle class to reconstitute itself. How would Iraq "unleash the talent of its people and be an anchor of stability in the region," as Bush promised, if its doctors were practicing medicine in Detroit and its English speakers were in Langley, Va., translating Arab press reports for the CIA?

The brain drain is a legitimate concern, but the welfare of Iraqis fleeing for their lives cannot be held hostage to Bush's romantic dreams for a "free Iraq." The U.S. lost the war in Iraq. At the heart of the debacle in Iraq has been the repeated failure to deliver a more secure life for Iraqis. It is long past time that we stop simply debating the "fate of Iraq" and start addressing the fate of Iraqis.

Burma

The dictatorship in Burma has turned again to violence:

YANGON, Myanmar - Security forces fired automatic weapons into thousands of pro-democracy protesters for a second day Thursday, and the military government said 9 people were killed and 11 wounded. Tens of thousands defied the ruling military junta's crackdown with a 10th straight day of demonstrations in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon. Security forces also raided several monasteries overnight, beating monks and arresting more than 100, according to a monk at one monastery.

26 September 2007

Calculating the uncalculating choices

Vancouver Calling talks about using an online "candidate calculator" to see which candidate she should vote for based on her views. She makes the interesting comment that the list of top candidates selected by the site doesn't correspond to the list of top candidates that we see in news polls. Why is this? Is the candidate calculator algorhythm so messed up that it's spitting out screwy results? I doubt it. My guess is that the discrepancy can be contributed to two factors:

(1) Most people over-rely on the major media outlets to give them info on candidates and these outlets only cover the front runners who start out with extensive corporate funding, and
(2) many of us our worried about supporting a candidate that lacks the corporate/media imprimatur since we don't want to "just throw away our vote".

Dennis Kucinich tends to lead most of the Democratic pack, a fact that says volumes about people's actual views when divorced from the practicality of "picking someone who can actually win." The popularity of Kucinich turns much of conventional wisdom on its head--especially this bizarre idea that there's some tiny determined faction of far-left weirdos determined to drag the Democratic Party to the left. Kucinich is about as left as they come yet his views are immensely popular. Mike Gavel, who is ardently opposed to Shrub's War and is calling for an immediate withdrawal, is number one among all candidates.

24 September 2007

The Heaven of the Non-believers

Why are Christian apologists so confident in their diatribes against non-believers? It seems to me that once a person tosses the law of cause and effect out the window, pretty much anything is possible. One key element of the Christian narrative is that God is testing us here on Earth and will only deliver to heaven those who happen to have blind faith in a highly aburd scenario. Couldn't it also be possible that God is testing us and has decided that only those who are rational and steadfastly adhere to the dictates of their reason (regardless of whatever nonsense is being spouted within their enviroment) will go to Heaven? Maybe he plans to send all the gullible believers to hell and the doubting individualists to heaven so that he can spend eternity in dialogue with the most objective and critical minds among his creation.

Or maybe the Christian God doesn't exist. Or maybe the Greek Gods actually exist. Or maybe a religion that no one on our planet has acknowledged yet is actually the Truth. Or maybe some higher power zapped us into existence a second ago with all our memories intact and will zap us out of existence a second from now. Like I said, once we've abandoned reason along with causality, any scenario from amongst the infinite possibilities becomes possible.

Myanmar protests


Let us all hope that the Burmese military regime can be brought down through non-violent protests. The recent protests, led by Buddhist monks and nuns, are said to be the largest in the last two decades with over 100,000 protesters gathered in Yangon, the capital. It's always thrilling to watch the overthrow of corrupt regimes and even more thrilling when it happens without guns being fired.

23 September 2007

War is wonderful (for the draft-deferred)

The Republicans would do a lot better if they didn't try to play the "character card" since even the slightest bit of research digs up piles of smelly rubble and inconsistencies. Never-saw-a-war-he-didn't-love Giuliani is no different. It turns out that he was also milking every connection and angle he could find to avoid going off to fight in Vietnam. All so that he could survive and one day advocate a nebulous U.S. commitment to nebulous U.S. goals in Iraq. Something about all this sounds very familiar.

21 September 2007

The dark waters of national sovereignty

One has to chuckle at the delightful naiveté of some of these Iraqi "leaders" who have been living under the illusion that they're "running their own show."

American convoys under the protection of Blackwater USA resumed on Friday, four days after the U.S. Embassy suspended all land travel by its diplomats and other civilian officials in response to the alleged killing of civilians by the security firm. A top aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had earlier conceded it may prove difficult for the Iraqi government to follow through on threats to expel Blackwater and other Western security contractors.

It may prove difficult indeed. Since these mercenaries don't fall under Iraqi law and aren't part of the UCMJ, some of us are rightfully curious as to their legal status. Perhaps our Commander and Chief can help unmuddy the waters for us:

20 September 2007

In light of recent events...

BeggarsCanBeChoosers asks an interesting question: Hillary has returned the cash she received from Hsu. So when will Bush return the money he got from Enron? The company, after all, has won a permanent place in the history books as a paragon of corruption. And there's every indication that the company was buyings something with that contribution.

A couple trillion, and whadya get?

A new Congressional study estimates that Shrub's War will end up costing trillions of dollars, on top of the approximately $567 billion the war has already cost. That accounting assumes a significant troop drawdown and is arguably conservative. Meanwhile, a recent official UN report show things continuing to go downhill. For all that's being spent, should we be getting free gasoline at state-subsidized gas stations?

The Andrew Meyer incident

The video clips are out showing the student who was tasered at a Kerry speech. Our complacency about this incident, or worse yet, about the case of the Texas couple arrested for wearing an anti-Bush t-shirt, says volumes about how far we've come (and where we're headed) as a nation. The police work for us to provide for our safety. People who ask questions might be annoying, but they sure in the hell don't need to be led off in handcuffs. If Kerry, who was giving the speech, was willing to answer the question, it's hard to see how the person was threatening the public.

Other bloggers on the issue:

Spidel Blog looks at the difference in media response to the Andrew Meyer story and the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. story. Much of the rightward blogosphere reaction, on the other hand, has focused on "important" aspect of Meyer's character (why this is important in a free-speech issue I know not)--his tendency to be um political and um independent (even comedic!), his unmachoness and wussy unSpartanlike academician tendencies, and his failure to immediately salute the policemen who walked up to him. Other writers decided that the whole focus should be on taser technology. (Once again, that great American belief that a new technology will be invented to keep us from ever having to face a difficult decision).

18 September 2007

Hillary's health plan and RLS

I ordinarily have nothing but harsh words for Hillary but I must praise her recent health care proposal for at least constituting a substantive policy statement at a time when most of her competitors are feeding us bowls of drivel with all the flavor of bleached rice gruel. As with most of her policies, it's essentially a Republican-sounding solution. That said, it will win her no friends since the Republicans (who should probably vote for her if they like Bush) can't stand her for being an uppity and competent woman. Most Dems and those further left, on the other hand, can't stand her since she's essential a Bush clone (albeit with a brain implant or two). While a valiant effort, Hillary's plan unfortunately does little to deal with many of the most disadvantaged. Take, as just one example, the growing population of elderly rural gentlemen who have recently been stricken by Restless Leg Syndrome. It's one thing to deal with the tremendous stygma of the disease but quite another to try to get Medicare or even private insurers to pay for it. Hillary's plan doesn't even mention this! For this reason, I've decided to temporarily give up my precious bandwith here at Swerve Left to air a short public service announcement highlighting the issue:





16 September 2007

A northwest passage

A northern passage has now opened in the Arctic, raising the possibility that at some point in the lives of at least some of you younger bloggers, you'll take a summer cruise across the North Pole. The warmer Earth is a reality. I have no idea what it means in the long-term. Of course, those who are going to be whisked up to heaven in 10 or 20 years might not need to worry about any of this long-term "nonsense" but the rest of us hell-bound denizens of Mother Earth have a right to be concerned.

14 September 2007

It's "Shrub's War" Newt!

Gingrich has criticized the latest Bush speech to the nation saying that Shrub's War should be marketed by Petraeus and the Ambassador to Iraq Whassis-name. This is an interesting comment from the party who was supposed to give us righteous and decisive testerone-empowered leadership. Gingrich, as a history buff, should have read somewhere at some point that it's the president who is supposed to rally us on to war. None of us are impressed when the White House writes up their latest list of talking points and then asks a general to read it for them. On the other hand, Newt's recommendation to the Republican Party for a clean break from Bush is certainly politically savvy. And I do agree that it would be good to have Bush's smirking visage off of our TV screens. Fortunately, I don't have cable.

13 September 2007

Re the Marketer in Chief

This is what happens when you hire an accountant as president. We're being told of troop reductions after a surge. Wait a minute here. Doesn't a "surge" imply only a temporary increase in troops? If only these troops leave, aren't we in the tail end of the "surge" rather than in a period of "troop reduction." Our country is now being run like a glitzy department story where we all get 20% off of cheap items that have been marked up by 50%. And only if we agree to put the whole purchase on credit.

12 September 2007

Withdrawal?

Talk about a misleading headline. Some article in the paper this morning talked about Bush's intentions to start reducing U.S. troops in Iraq . . . a year from now . . . if everything goes well . . . if a scientist in Berkeley discovers cheap cold fusion . . . and if mana falls from the sky. Otherwise, the plan is to stay in Iraq forever. Actually, that's pretty always the plan with U.S. occupations. The U.S. government was building giant hotels on U.S. bases at the very time that it was talking about moving troops out of South Korea. The U.S. sheeple really need some classes on reading between the lines.

9 September 2007

Riverbend returns!

Riverbend (the famous Iraqi blogger) has finally posted on her blog after a long hiatus. She has successfully fled to Syria.
Hat tip to Diana for seeing this.

5 September 2007

Regime change starts at home

The Federal government recently had to pay $80,000 in compensation (our tax dollars) to a Texas couple who were arrested prior to an address by President Bush on July 4, 2004. The crime? They were peaceably assembling in a public place while expressing their opinion by wearing T-shirts with anti-Bush slogans. The front of the Ranks’ T-shirts bore the international symbol for the word no superimposed over the word Bush. The back of Nicole’s T-shirt said “Love America, hate Bush.” On the back of Jeffery’s T-shirt was the message “Regime change starts at home.” The couple was handcuffed and led off to the gulag, er, I mean, the jail.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not ambiguous on this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The idea that a couple would be arrested and charged for wearing the wrong T-shirt in public is so outlandish that it's really hard to get one's mind around it. Maybe the newspapers got this wrong and it really happened in North Korea or perhaps Stalinist Russia. Certainly not here in the-land-of-the-free hunkydory America.

And now we're being treated to countless photo ops of soldiers hugging Bush during his last trip to Iraq. Where are the pictures of the soldiers who glared at him with their arms crossed. Were these people sent to the back of the crowd for failing to voice a "patriotic opinion"? Were they turned down for a promotion? Are we to believe that this president who can't even brook the subtlest forms of dissent here at home is going to passionately push for democratic values abroad?

30 August 2007

Senator Craig

I normally triy to avoid the sordid tales of political sex scandal and the like but the latest incident with Senator Craig is hard to pass up. Let me start off by saying that I find all the awe and shock over the "crime" ridiculous. The "crime" was a misdemeanor and in this case, the details aren't so sordid. The hypocrisy, on the other hand, is another matter and is especially damning. After the hand-wringing and grimaces about the idea of sex in public bathrooms (I must admit, the thought gives me the heebee jeebees, and not the good heebee jeebees either), the incident should serve as a reminder that the last decades of "moral leadership" propaganda have been just that, propaganda. Dictatorial forces throughout history have always relied on "moral authority" to fill in voids in political legitimacy. The Republican Party was essentially reinvented (a la Nixon and later Reagan) on the idea. Senator Craig should of course step down. But not until lampooned to death by a month of talk-show hosts who should then turn their forces on the whole idea of "moral leadership." We need leaders who do the right thing in public office. Who gives a damn what they do in the back office (or in the airport toilet stall in this case).

27 August 2007

Alberto's been busy...

Some significant dates in the career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the nation's 80th U.S. attorney general who announced his resignation today. Talk about a legacy of corruption!

1979: Receives bachelor's degree from Rice University, after enlisting in the Air Force in 1973 and serving at Fort Yukon, Alaska.

1982: Earns law degree from Harvard University; joins the Houston-based law firm Vinson & Elkins, whose client list included Enron and Halliburton.

1995-1997: Served as general counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.

Dec. 1997-Jan. 1999: Named Texas Secretary of State. In the post he serves as an adviser to the governor and as Bush's liaison on Mexico and border issues.

1999: Appointed by Bush to the Texas Supreme Court.

January 2001: Named President Bush's White House legal counsel.

Jan. 25, 2002: In a memo to Bush, Gonzales contended that the president had the right to waive anti-torture laws and international treaties that provide protections to prisoners of war. Critics, including some Senate Democrats, have said the memo helped lead to abuses of the type seen at Abu Ghraib.

June 18, 2004: Gonzales is questioned by a federal grand jury in the criminal investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Feb. 3, 2005: Confirmed and sworn in as 80th attorney general of the United States, replacing John Ashcroft, who resigned. The Senate approved the nomination, 60-36, on a largely party-line vote. His confirmation hearings grew contentious over his 2002 memo waiving anti-torture laws.

April 27, 2005: While seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act, Gonzales told the Senate Intelligence Committee, "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" from the law enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks.

July 24: Gonzales says he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department in 2003 opened an investigation into who revealed a covert CIA officer's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the White House.

Dec. 15: The New York Times reports on its Web site that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without getting search warrants.

Feb. 6, 2006: The Times reports that U.S. long-distance carriers cooperated with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of international calls.

Feb. 6: Gonzales tells Congress the president is fully empowered to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants as part of the war on terror.

April 6: The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says Gonzales is "stonewalling" Congress on the warrantless eavesdropping program.

May 21: Gonzales says he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

June 7: Gonzales defends the FBI's search of a Democratic congressman's office, saying it was an "unusual step" but necessary in a bribery investigation.

Nov. 18: Gonzales says critics of the administration's warrantless surveillance program define freedom in a way that poses a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

Jan. 17, 2007: Gonzales changes course and puts the government's terrorist spying program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Feb. 8, 2007: Former U.S. Attorney John McKay of Seattle says his resignation was ordered by the Bush administration without explanation, seven months after he received a favorable job evaluation.

March 6: Another fired federal prosecutor tells a Senate committee he felt "leaned on" by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who hung up on him when told indictments in a corruption case against Democrats would not be issued before the fall elections.

March 9: Gonzales orders an internal Justice Department investigation into the FBI's use of the USA Patriot Act after an audit found that agents had improperly and, in some cases, illegally obtained personal information about people in the United States.

March 11: Citing the FBI's illegal snooping into people's private lives and the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer says it's time for Gonzales to step aside.

March 13: Gonzales accepts responsibility for mistakes in the way the Justice Department handled the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. Gonzales says he was not closely involved in the dismissals and rejects calls for his resignation.

March 29: A former top aide to Gonzales says the attorney general was briefed regularly over two years on the firings of federal prosecutors, disputing Gonzales' claims.

April 19: At a contentious hearing, Gonzales struggles to convince skeptical senators he did nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors. He loses ground as a second Republican senator joins the calls for his resignation and others question his credibility.

April 23: Bush offers fresh support for Gonzales, saying "This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence."

May 10: Gonzales is questioned by the House Judiciary Committee, but seemed to weather the interrogation better than during his earlier appearance before the Senate. House Republicans echo Gonzales' call for Congress to move on from the issue of the fired prosecutors.

May 17: Two Senate Democrats say they will seek a no-confidence vote on Gonzales over accusations that he carried out President Bush's political agenda at the expense of the Justice Department's independence.

May 21: Bush calls an upcoming Senate vote of no confidence in Gonzales "pure political theater" and stands by his embattled friend.

May 23: The former Justice Department liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, saying she believes Gonzales did see a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. She also says that during a private conversation Gonzales "laid out for me his general recollection of ... some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys." She says she felt the conversation was not appropriate and didn't contribute to the dialogue.

June 11: Republican senators block a symbolic vote of no confidence against Gonzales. The 53-38 vote fell seven short of the 60 votes required under U.S. Senate rules to move the nonbinding resolution to a formal debate. Gonzales says, "I am focused on the next 18 months and sprinting to the finish line."

July 10: Democrats raise new questions about whether Gonzales knew about FBI abuses of civil liberties when he told a Senate committee that no such problems occurred. Lying to Congress is a crime, but it wasn't clear if Gonzales knew about the FBI's action before he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act.

July 19: Gonzales is questioned in a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee about Bush's wiretapping program and the administration's response to congressional subpoenas. Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes says members were especially interested in the reasons behind Gonzales' controversial 2004 visit to the Ashcroft's hospital bedside, reportedly to pressure the ailing attorney general to endorse Bush's surveillance program.

July 23: Gonzales tells Congress in a statement that he's troubled that politics may have played a part in hiring career federal prosecutors.

July 24: In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Gonzales denies that he and former White House chief of staff Andy Card tried to pressure hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to re-certify Bush's domestic eavesdropping program. Gonzales' credibility was at issue throughout the proceedings, with senators of both parties growing exasperated and at some points accusing the attorney general of intentionally misleading the committee.

July 25: The Associated Press reports on documents it obtained showing that eight U.S. congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony the day before by Gonzales.

July 26: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller says the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.

July 30: The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee advises Congress to hold off on a perjury investigation of Gonzales over his apparent misstatements about warrantless spying.

July 31: In a carefully worded letter to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that never mentions Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell notes that the administration first acknowledged its controversial surveillance activities and used the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" in early 2006. Also, Democratic House members introduce a measure directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether to impeach Gonzales.

Aug. 2: Senators in both parties concede that they don't have enough evidence to make a perjury charge stick against Gonzales.

Aug. 3: In a two-page letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Gonzales declines to provide more information about discrepancies in his sworn testimony about the purge of federal prosecutors and its aftermath.

Aug. 11: Gonzales arrives in Baghdad for his third trip to Iraq to meet with department officials who have been there to help fashion the country's legal system.

Aug. 16: The House Judiciary Committee releases partially censored notes from Mueller, dated March 12, 2004, describing a distraught and feeble Ashcroft in his hospital room just moments after being visited by then-White House counsel Gonzales and Card, the president's chief of staff at the time.

Aug. 24: Gonzales telephones Bush at his ranch and says he is considering resigning. Bush says this is a conversation they should have in person.

Aug. 26: Gonzales arrives at Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, and they discuss the resignation over lunch. Gonzales signs letter of resignation.

Aug. 27: Gonzales announces his resignation and Bush publicly accepts.

This should not be the end of it. There's very good reasons to believe that Gonzales is guilty of perjury (among other things). He should be charged with a criminal suit.