24 April 2007

PBS special

On Wednesday, PBS is scheduled to run a Bill Moyers special on how the media fell down -slash- failed to stand up -slash- failed to step up to the plate (pick your metaphor) in the run-up to Shrub's War. For those who are still plugged into the matrix, it might be a good show to watch.

J. Cole: Iraq Has Two Virginia Techs Every Day

[Excerpt] I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the "situation is improving" in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?

A swift idea indeed

Hmmm . . . now here's an idea. Dilbert Blog has a proposal for making fuel out of poor people.

20 April 2007

McCain comment

Are we now offering presidential positions to the gravitas-impaired?

While campaigning in South Carolina Wednesday, McCain responded to a question about how to deal with Iran by breaking into the melody of the Beach Boys song "Barbara Ann." But he changed the lyrics to "Bomb Iran."

Whether justified or not, an action that would result in the deaths of 10s of thousands of innocent civilians hardly brings to my mind a Beach Boys melody.

17 April 2007

The need for community

Becky at Preemptive Karma insightfully reflects on the Virginia shooting:

[Excerpt] Think about it on a larger scale and you'll see what I mean. Spend a moment feeling your own pain and fear as an American whose security has been shaken a little bit by what happened yesterday. Now imagine the pain that is being experienced every day in Iraq. Yesterday, for example, 66 people died horrible, shocking deaths in Baghdad and Karbala. Did you know that? Twice as many people as died at Virginia Tech. And that sort of death is occurring in Iraq daily - in a country that never experienced suicide bombs before this war began. We fear for our children and worry how the senseless school shootings affect them. But do we spend even five seconds thinking about the children in Iraq? Are they less human?

Hiding from the public eye

Mother Jones has an excellent article on the White House's extensive use of alternative email accounts to avoid the "possibility of lawsuits" (of course, we shouldn't assume that anyone's doing anything wrong!)

14 April 2007

Oops! Someone accidently hit the delete button...

The White House now acknowledges it cannot find four years' worth of e-mails from chief political strategist Karl Rove. Bush and company are working their hardest to make Nixon look good in comparison. With the endless stream of scandals emanating from the White House, I can't believe that this president hasn't yet been impeached and thrown out of office.

13 April 2007

The 3-month Extension

It's amazing to think that we've been in Shrub's War, fighting a country that never attacked us, longer than we were in WWII. And our politicians seem to be trying their best to keep us in Iraq into the next decade. This letter, from L. Miller in Diyala, Iraq, seems to be fairly typically of sentiment among those in the military about the recent 3-month duty extension:

Currently, I am an Army officer serving my second tour of duty in Iraq. I fought in Falluja in 2004. I protected Iraqi voters during the first elections in 2005. I'm currently slugging it out with insurgents and terrorists in the violent Diyala province. My soldiers and I have seen and been witness to things that no one should ever have to see and have lived through events that keep me up nights. Like most combat arms officers here, I live with the fact that many of my soldiers have not survived the battles we have fought, yet we survivors continue to soldier on. To learn of my unit's extension by watching the news is an insult. Many commanders and leaders throughout the Army, including myself, only learned of this extension after their own subordinates saw a press conference on TV and questioned them about it. Informing soldiers this way is a disrespectful act and angers me, many of my soldiers, and many of their family members.

While my own soldiers informing me of the inevitable extension of tours of duty disappoints and angers me, the fact that an already arduous yearlong tour is being extended absolutely infuriates me. Do leaders have absolutely no respect for soldiers and their families or is the Army this broken? I'm sure reality lies somewhere in between. As for myself, I am tired. I'm tired of this war. I'm tired of seeing my soldiers die. I'm tired of never being home. I'm tired of having no answer when my soldiers ask me if we're really defending our nation. I'm tired of not seeing my newborn son or my wife. I'm tired of not being home for Christmas. Because I am so tired of these things, I will tender my resignation when I return home ... whenever that is. I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one.

12 April 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

We will miss Kurt Vonnegut--a great example of a truly free thinker and individualist who lived life to the fullest.

From A Man Without a Country (2005)

Our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what’s really going on.~
People are so afraid. Take the man, with no address, who wrote me:

If you knew that a man posed a danger to you—maybe he had a gun in his pocket, and you felt that he would not hesitate one moment to use it on you—what would you do? We know Iraq poses a threat to us, to the rest of the world. Why do we sit here and pretend we are protected? That is exactly what happened with al-Queda and 9/11. With Iraq, though, the threat is on a much larger scale. Should we sit back, be little children that sit in fear and just wait?

I wrote back:

Please, for the sake of us all, get a shotgun, preferably a 12-guage double-barrel, and right there in your own neighborhood blow off the heads of people, cops excepted, who may be armed.

“Socialism” is no more an evil word than “Christianity.” Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.

Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a two-fer. He named his party the National Socialists, the Nazis. Hitler’s swastika wasn’t a pagan symbol, as so many people believe. It was a working person’s Christian cross, made of axes, of tools.

About Stalin’s shuttered churches, and those in China today: Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx’s statement that “religion is the opium of the people.” Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx himself had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress. It was a casual truism, not a dictum.
When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn’t even freed our slaves yet. Who do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then, Karl Marx or the United States of America?

Stalin was happy to take Marx’s truism as a decree, and Chinese tyrants as well, since it seemingly empowered them to put preachers out of business who might speak ill of them or their goals.

The statement has also entitled many in this country to say that socialists are anti-religion, are anti-God, and therefore absolutely loathsome.

I never met [socialists] Carl Sandburg or Eugene Victor Debs, and I wish I had. I would have been tongue-tied in the presence of such national treasures.

I did get to know one socialist of their generation—Powers Hapgood of Indianapolis. He was a typical Hoosier idealist. Socialism is idealistic. Hapgood, like Debs, was a middle-class person who thought there could be more economic justice in this country. He wanted a better country, that’s all.

After graduating from Harvard, he went to work as a coal miner, urging his working-class brothers to organize in order to get better pay and safer working conditions. He also led protesters at the execution of the anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Massachusetts in 1927.

Hapgood’s family owned a successful cannery in Indianapolis, and when Powers Hapgood inherited it, he turned it over to the employees, who ruined it.

We met in Indianapolis after the end of the Second World War. He had become an official in the CIO. There had been some sort of dust-up on a picket line, and he was testifying about it in court, and the judge stops everything and asks him, “Mr.Hapgood, here you are, you’re a graduate of Harvard. Why would anyone with your advantages choose to live as you have?” Hapgood answered the judge: “Why, because of the Sermon on the Mount, sir.”
Hooray for our team.~

Do you know what a humanist is?

My parents and grandparents were humanists, what used to be called Free Thinkers. So as humanist I am honoring my ancestors, which the Bible says is a good thing to do. We humanists try to behave as decently, as fairly, and as honorably as we can without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. My brother and sister didn’t think there was one, my parents and grandparents didn’t think there was one. It was enough that they were alive. We humanists serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, “Isaac is up in heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, “Kurt is up in heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.
How do humanists feel about Jesus? I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, “If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.

7 April 2007

The intelligence that wasn't

A declassified document provides further evidence (as if any were needed!) that the administration was engaged in outright deception of the public in the run-up to Shrub's War. The following article from the CSM is a must-read:

[Excerpt] The Feith office alternative intelligence assessments concluded that Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating and had a "mature, symbiotic" relationship, a view that was not supported by the available intelligence, and was contrary to the consensus view of the Intelligence Community. These alternative assessments were used by the Administration to support its public arguments in its case for war. As the DOD IG report confirms, the Intelligence Community never found an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda; the report specifically states that," the CIA and DIA disavowed any 'mature, symbiotic' relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."

5 April 2007

The undeciders

Can someone remind me what we're paying these people for? The Supreme Court has decided that they uh can't decide on a major case involving unlimited detention of people who haven't been charged with a crime. Whassup? Are they afraid of getting a late-night visit from Karl Rove?

3 April 2007

Un Pazzo

WaPo today has a long article on the history of "The Italian Letter" and Shrub's famous 16 words. The article largely confirms what we already know: Everybody who had even glanced at the letter and bothered to run even a rudimentary Google search of the names and information in it knew that it was a forgery (and a very poor forgery at that). Shrub's use of this letter to misinform the American public is criminal (I mean that literally). But we all know this already as well. So I'll continue on to my next point.

One pernicious meme I keep seeing during my brief forays onto the rightwing internets is that although the war was ill-advised and although the American people were hoodwinked and yada-yada-yada , we should still support the president's ongoing efforts since a pull-out at this point would spell disaster. In Aristotelian circles, I think they call this the when-caught-screwing-your-neighbor's-goat-at-least-enjoy-the-climax form of rhetorical argument. The logic's disconcerting. When a madman's in the driver-seat, the solution isn't to request that he step on the gas so that we can get home faster. We need to stop the car as soon as possible and hide the keys. About the only presidential task I want to entrust to Shrub at this point is the expansion of the American lexicon. We need to send him on a vacation to his Rancho Corrupto in Texas until we can put together the paperwork to properly arrest him. We definitely don't want him leading the most powerful military in the world on one misadventure after another.

Give the prez more time you say? Certo che so chi è il presidente. Non sono mica scemo.

2 April 2007

Spreading peace, love, & flowers

Here's an interesting stat: In the five years since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, land under cultivation for poppy has grown from 8,000 to 165,000 hectares.