Saturday, May 08, 2004

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Wilderness

Do we really want to live in a world composed entirely of farms and cities, with the occasional zoo to remind us of what we've destroyed?

Three years ago, Mark C. Rutzick was the timber industry's top lawyer trying to overturn fish and wildlife protections that loggers viewed as overly restrictive. Back then, he outlined to his clients a new strategy for dealing with diminishing salmon runs. By counting hatchery fish along with wild salmon, the government would help the timber industry by getting salmon off the endangered species list, Mr. Rutzick wrote.

Now, as a high-ranking political appointee in the Bush administration who is a legal adviser to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Mr. Rutzick is helping to shape government policy on endangered Pacific salmon. And in an abrupt change, the Bush administration has decided for the first time to consider counting fish raised in hatcheries when determining if some species are going extinct.


The Aberration Fallacy

The story told by the administration about the torture and rape of Iraqis by Americans is unsurprising. There are a few bad eggs, but they are the exception, and can be easily and discretely dealt with, leaving the invasion intact and indeed all the stronger.

The Bush cadre is not unique in this resistance to systemic thought. In fact, the discouragement of thought beyond the particular is a constant tendency within American capitalist culture. Enron was a tragedy and a crime, of course, but that doesn't mean corporations aren't basically good things. Love Canal was a disaster, but we'll clean it up and all will be well. Sure, some people are unemployed, but they are just unusually unlucky or exceptionally lazy and shiftless; it is not as though capitalism requires a certain number of jobless people, after all. And so on.

But the notion that the soldiers who did these things in Iraq (and there are many more than six, even in this one instance) just happened to be monsters, whereas everyone else there is just fine and thoroughly respectful of human rights at all times, is absurd.

Events happen in context, and the context here is an illegal invasion grossly transgressive of international law. In this lawless imperialist context, do we really believe that these atrocities are aberrant?


Friday, May 07, 2004

Our Prison in Iraq

It's ours, and everything that happens in it reflects upon us. I would make the argument that the United States bears considerable responsibility for just about every car bomb and murder in Iraq these days, because our invasion tore the place apart and opened the door to any Muslim fundamentalist faction that would like to foster anti-American feelings.

However true that may be, it is undeniable that that prison was under direct and stringent US control. And in that prison there have been humiliations, there have been atrocities, there have been rapes of men, and women, and children.

And today I watched Rumsfeld as he evaded question after question. I saw the petty, peevish way that he looked at his watch at the end of the Senate hearing, as though this isn't an issue that demands whatever time it takes to deal with it.

In the end, what this incident does is show the truth of this war. Bush and Rumsfeld can say that these rapes and tortures do not "represent America." And in a sense, it is true. Most of us cannot imagine ourselves doing these things to anyone. But that doesn't matter. First of all, Americans have tortured and raped the people supposedly being liberated from a brutal dictator. Second of all, of course we cannot imagine ourselves doing it. But we haven't been hurled into a nightmarish situation where there is not a hint of a plan as to what we are supposed to be doing, where we have to live day by day, hour by hour, in fear and suspicion.

War is brutalizing. The people who started this war didn't realize that or didn't want to think about it.

What happened may not represent America, but it does represent exactly and precisely what such things as the invasion of Iraq make Americans into. This war is destroying American and Iraqi bodies, minds, and souls.

It has to end.


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Michael Moore Pisses Me Off Again

His points are valid, so why must he continue to undermine them by pulling bullshit stunts? His claim to fame is as a maker of documentary films. Why can't he see that this means he needs to be credible?

Michael Moore made a big stink earlier this week when he accused Disney of pulling the plug on his latest film, “Fahrenheit 911”. He decried Disney’s decision not to distribute the film as politically motivate censorship. However, Moore was crying wolf. He admitted in a CNN interview that he knew a year ago that Disney would not distribute the film, according to a report from
Moore told CNN, "Almost a year ago, after we'd started making the film, the chairman of Disney, Michael Eisner, told my agent he was upset Miramax had made the film and he will not distribute it."

The lightning rod film producer claims that he had a contract with Disney for distribution, but according to, a source close to Miramax (the subsidiary involved in the film) said that the deal was for financing, not for distribution.

Moore’s admission prompts the question, why all the outrage now? Easy answer? Publicity baby! The film is set to premier at the Cannes Film Festival later this month. The politically charged film can easily generate controversy and press on it’s own.

The last sentence, misuse of "it's" aside, sums it up. He doesn't need to do this sort of thing.


Bad Timing

In the midst of all the outrage over American brutalization of prisoners comes a new pronouncement from Osama, still at large at least in part due to the transfer of resources from Afghanistan to Iraq. How many times is Bush going to play into al Qaeda's hands?

A statement attributed to Osama bin Laden today offered rewards in gold for the killing of top US and UN officials in Iraq.

The transcript of an audio recording dated Thursday appeared on a web site known for militant Islamic messages.

The web site gave links to hear the statement, but none were working. The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified.

"You know that America promised big rewards for those who kill mujahideen (holy warriors)," the transcript read.

"We in al-Qaeda organisation will guarantee, God willing, 10,000 grams of gold to whoever kills the occupier Bremer, or the American chief commander or his deputy in Iraq."

He was referring to Paul Bremer, the chief US administrator in Iraq, and top military officials.
"As for those who die while killing an occupying soldier, the great prize will be for us and for him when God grants him martyrdom, and the smaller prize (the gold) will be for his family."

The transcript also denounced US plans to hand sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, calling them a trick to end the resistance that has killed hundreds of US soldiers.

He urged Iraqis to fight a holy war against their US-appointed Governing Council.

The statement used language similar to previous bin Laden statements, laden with Koranic verse.


The Photos Are Bad Enough

But we must not let horrific pictures (which still are dismissed by Limbaugh and his ilk as "hazing") blind us to the whole story of what has been going on.

The report compiled by General Taguba includes the following incidents:

A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee.

Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

So, don't let the images of "simulated sexual acts" make you forget that actual rape was happening in that hellhole.

Also, Sy Hersh the other day made these comments on O'Reilly:

I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners.

Emphasis added.


Aiding and Abetting Our Enemies

This editorial appeared today in The Arkansas Leader.

Abusers should go on trial for treason


Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld yesterday called them un-American.

He was talking about the U.S. soldiers and private contractors who are suspected of torturing, abusing and otherwise humiliating their prisoners outside Baghdad.

For all the damage they've done to their country, he might as well have called them traitors.

They're no better than al-Qaida. We can defeat the terrorists, but the Americans who tortured their prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison have set our cause back at least 20 years in the Arab world. This is the prison where Saddam Hussein tortured and executed his victims. We have not sunk to his level of barbarity, and yet in the eyes of the Arab world, we're no better than Saddam.
The Arab media have made shrewd use of those pictures of the abused prisoners to remind the Moslem world Ñ as if it needed reminding Ñ that the Americans are barbarians and shouldn't lecture others about human rights abuses.

The accused must be tried soon as possible, in open court, for all the world to see that Americans are serious about punishing the wrongdoers who have not only set back our cause but have endangered the lives of other Americans.

I agree with this logic, and think it needs to be extended. I mean, after all, the photos of (not to mention the thousands of in-person experiences with) Iraqi corpses blown apart as a result of the invasion have been used to great effect by those who would like to unify all Muslims against the United States.

So, I say, those responsible for this invasion, which has not only set back our cause but also endangered the lives of Americans, should be tried as soon as possible.


Bad News for the Family Values Folks

As it turns out, heterosexual love is, well, kinda queer. If you fall in love with someone of the opposite sex, you are blurring the gender lines that God Himself has established!

Falling in love -- that crazy, blissful feeling -- causes gender-bender changes in men and women's testosterone levels.

A study by an Italian researcher shows that when couples fall in love their testosterone levels alter. It falls in men and rises in women so they become more like each other.

"Men who were in love had lower levels of the male sex hormone testosterone -- linked to aggression and sex drive -- than other men," New Scientist magazine said Wednesday.

"Love-struck women, in contrast, had higher levels of testosterone than their counterparts."


Bush Apologizes

This has to be a first, and I can only imagine how much it pained him to say it. But, of course, he could not simply say he's sorry and leave it at that.

A day after he stopped short of apologizing, Bush told Jordan's King Abdullah II: "I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families.

"I told him I was as equally sorry that people seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America," Bush said, standing in the Rose Garden alongside


I think I want to revise the headline to Bush "Apologizes." For a couple of reasons. First, saying that one is sorry that something bad happened is not a clear statement of admission of personal wrongdoing. It's more along the lines of, "That sure is a shame, what happened to you." Second, although this is being reported as a public apology to the victims of these atrocities, it isn't. In fact, what Bush is doing is reporting publicly a private apology that he supposedly made to the King of Jordan. And, why the King of Jordan, by the way?


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

About Bloody Time

Seriously. Start calling them onto the carpet, one after the other.

Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld will face a hornet's nest of angry lawmakers Friday during his testimony on prisoner abuse by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where 14 detainees may have been killed without justification.

Rumsfeld is himself about to learn that Bush only prizes loyalty when it is delivered upward. He sees no reason to return loyalty to those who follow him.

But Rumsfeld's boss already has privately expressed disappointment. White House aides say President Bush told Rumsfeld he was unhappy about the way he found out about the growing controversy, according to news reports late Wednesday.


The White House reaffirmed President Bush (news - web sites)'s support of embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday even as a Democratic senator became the first in Congress to demand Rumsfeld's resignation over the U.S. military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, demanded Rumsfeld's ouster "for the good of our country, the safety of our troops, and our image around the globe."

"If he does not resign forthwith, the president should fire him," said Harkin, whose statement came as White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush "absolutely" wants his defense secretary to remain in office.


On the Pledge of Allegiance

In the letters to the editor of the print (gasp!) The Nation from 17 May 2004 comes a bit of history:

Before 1943, when the constitutionality of West Virginia's compulsory Pledge recitation law was successfully opposed, hundreds of Jehovah's Witness children were expelled from schools across the country for refusing to salute the flag. Many of these children were beaten. Police in Richwood, West Virginia, forced Witnesses who refused to recite the Pledge to drink castor oil. In the wave of hostility that swept the nation following these well-publicized refusals, vigilantes castrated Witnesses in Nebraska, tarred and feathered them in Wyoming and jailed them "for their own protection" in Illinois. A mob of 2500 sacked and burned the Witness Kingdom Hall in Kennebunk, Maine.

This is what they are defending. This is the ultimate outcome of blind allegiance.


Bush Is Annoyed

This article really says it all. Grotesque human rights violations are being perpetrated by American soldiers, perhaps on a widespread or even systematic basis, and Bush's emotional response is annoyance. Note also that Bush's condemnation is characterized as being under duress, and that the Incurious One learned of the abuses in general terms in January but didn't bother to investigate what was going on.

Sums up his presidency as a whole pretty well, I'd say. He doesn't care about anything until he is inconvenienced; then, he grows annoyed. His range of emotion is as attenuated as his range of thought.

President Bush, compelled to publicly condemn the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in interviews on Wednesday, has privately expressed annoyance to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over his handling of the issue, aides said.

Bush knew of the allegations in general terms around the time the U.S. military issued a statement about them in mid-January, but aides said he only learned how severe the abuse had been a week ago when CBS broadcast photographs showing Iraqi prisoners in humiliating poses.

The aides said the president had complained to Rumsfeld for not having fully alerted him to the details.


A Victory for the Worker

Amazingly, I am not being ironic with that title. The Senate did a good thing yesterday; let's hope they--especially the five moderate Republicans who bolted--stick to their guns on this one.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted yesterday to block new Labor Department rules that critics said would deny overtime pay to millions of white-collar workers, handing an embarrassing rebuff to the Bush administration on a politically sensitive jobs issue.

The Senate voted 52 to 47 to scrap the new rules despite recent changes to address earlier criticism, an intense lobbying campaign by Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao and a last-ditch GOP effort to avert defeat by proposing a long list of jobs for which overtime pay could not be eliminated.

Although the GOP's concessions were approved unanimously, they did not satisfy five moderate Republicans who broke ranks to vote with nearly all Democrats in favor of keeping the administration from cutting anyone's overtime pay.


What the Hell?

This is rapidly devolving from sick to sick and twisted.

U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday.

The envoy, legislator Ann Clwyd, said she had investigated the claims of the woman in her 70s and believed they were true.
The abuse occurred last year in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and at another coalition detention center, Clwyd said.

"She was held for about six weeks without charge," the envoy told Wednesday's Evening Standard newspaper. "During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey. A harness was put on her, and an American rode on her back."

Clwyd said the woman has recovered physically but remains traumatized.


On a Lighter Note

There's this story. But, so as not to break form with regard to my consistently contrarian nature, I feel obliged to point out that Snickers are better.

A woman with an apparently insatiable sweet tooth stunned staff at a British shop when she bought more than 10,000 chocolate bars and had them loaded into her chauffeur-driven limousine.

The woman asked staff at a north London Woolworths branch for every single Mars bar in stock -- 10,656 of them packed in 220 boxes -- and paid for them in cash with 50 pound notes, a Woolworths spokesman said on Wednesday.

The total bill was 2,131 pounds ($3,828).

"It was very, very strange but nobody thought to ask her why she wanted so many," the spokesman said.


Misleading Reporting AND Bad Writing

A winning combination. First, the headline:

President Bush and Commander of Coalition Prisons Apologizes for Abuse of Iraqi Inmates

Plus, the URL ends with:


Finally, the tenth (that's right, the tenth) paragraph:

Bush stopped short of an apology, calling the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by some members of the U.S. military "abhorrent" and promising that those found guilty of abuse "will be brought to justice."

Sometimes, I just feel tired.


Charity Begins at Home

We don't need to occupy Saddam's torture rooms in order to act like brutal thugs. We can do that right here in the USA.

The former warden of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where the Justice Department and a new lawsuit say Muslim detainees were physically abused after Sept. 11, 2001, said yesterday that there had been no organized effort to mistreat the detainees or to "soften up" those being questioned by federal investigators.
Only a handful of frames from hundreds of tapes have been made public, and none comes close to the shocking images of Iraqi prisoners abused at the hands of American soldiers. But the videotapes captured numerous examples of excessive force being used in Brooklyn, including ramming unresisting detainees into walls, twisting their manacled arms and hands, and mocking them during unnecessary strip searches, the Justice Department said in a report issued in December.
The lawsuit charges that the men were repeatedly slammed into walls and dragged across the floor while shackled and manacled, kicked and punched until they bled, cursed as "terrorists'' and "Muslim bastards,'' and subjected to multiple unnecessary body-cavity searches, including one during which correction officers inserted a flashlight into Mr. Elmaghraby's rectum, making him bleed.

I find it odd that assertions that such activities were not "organized" count as some sort of reasonable defense.


Very Bad News

This hadn't even occurred to me, but it makes perfect sense, of course. Where better to recruit people to work against the American government?

Groups promoting extremist brands of Islam have gained a foothold in American prisons, and counterterrorism officials believe Al Qaeda are likely to try to use the prisons "to radicalize and recruit inmates," according to a Justice Department investigation.

In a report from the Justice Department inspector general's office, investigators said safeguards were so loose in the 105 federal prisons that inmate chapels "remain vulnerable to infiltration by religious extremists." A copy of the report, to be released on Wednesday, was obtained by The New York Times.

Not good, especially given the sorts of expertise one is able to find inside...


A Small Victory

But a victory nonetheless, and rather surprising given Romney's opposition to the gay marriage soon to be legal in his state.

I for one am looking forward to all the photos that will come forth from gay weddings that people have had time to plan for weeks. They should be fabulous, and should go far to reinforcing the truths shown so vividly by the pictures from San Francisco's City Hall a few weeks ago.

In the face of protests from cities and towns around the state, the administration of Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be softening its approach to excluding same-sex couples of other states from marrying in Massachusetts.

On May 17, the state is scheduled to become the first to legalize gay marriage. Mr. Romney, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, said last month that out-of-state gay and lesbian couples could not marry here because of a 1913 statute that says the state cannot marry people if their marriage would be void in their home state.

The governor interpreted that law, which was born in part from an effort to prohibit interracial marriages, to mean that gay couples from any other state, even one that does not explictly ban gay marriage, cannot marry in Massachusetts.

At the time, Mr. Romney said he would require town clerks to ask couples for proof of residency and proof of where they intended to live. But on Tuesday, at a state-run training session for town clerks, Mr. Romney's legal counsel, Daniel B. Winslow, told the clerks that they did not necessarily have to ask for such proof.


The Money Pit

Isn't it usually Republicans who protest that you cannot solve problems simply by throwing money at them? Oh, right, that's only when it comes to providing education or health care.

The Bush administration will ask Congress for an additional $25 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republican congressional aides said Wednesday, a change from the White House's earlier plans to not request such money until after the November elections.


Adding Fuel to the Fire

We didn't just torture Iraqis, we tortured a Canadian man in the wrong place at the wrong time. And now he is suing the United States Army:

A Canadian man who claims he was falsely imprisoned and tortured last year by the American military shortly after the invasion of Iraq is suing the US army for 350,000 US dollars, it is reported here Tuesday.

Hossam Shaltout, 57, an aerospace engineer and a former resident of Toronto, filed his suit on April 30 with the US Army Claims Office.
He alleges he was arrested by US troops on April 9, 2003 and taken to Camp Bucca, a detention site in southern Iraq. He says USauthorities there accused him of being a speech writer and "right-hand-man" of deposed president Saddam Hussein.

Shaltout says he was detained three days in an armored personnel carrier and beaten. He said he also saw Iraqis being tortured.

He says he was freed and eventually taken to Egypt. He says he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot work properly.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Unfortunate Connotations

I have no opinion, really, about the level of guilt or responsibility borne by General Karpinski, other than a general feeling that as an officer she ultimately has to take some of heat for the torture enacted by the guards in Iraq.

That said, this article about the general's neighbors' opinion of her bears an unnerving resemblance to what you always hear about serial killers after they've been caught:

Karpinski and her husband were described as a "nice couple" by one neighbor, Lee Mackercher, who added that Janis Karpinski has expressed an interest in her Yorkie dogs.

"I've met them as I walk my dogs," she said.


Thank God Bush Doesn't Govern by "Focus Group"

Like these people. What do they know, anyway?

Over 60 former US diplomats and civil servants signed a letter issued to US President George W. Bush Tuesday, contending that his "unqualified support" for Israeli policies is undermining the United States' credibility and foreign relations in the region, as well as placing the country's citizens abroad at risk.


Well, at Least Saddam's Torture Rooms Will Remain Fully Staffed

This news, coming in the immediate wake of those photos and in the midst of admissions of murder by Americans, will do wonders. How can the Iraqis refuse to break out the flowers and joy now?

If I sound bitter, it's because I am.

The United States, faced with growing military casualties in Iraq, announced on Tuesday that it was scrapping a plan to reduce its forces and would keep about 138,000 troops in that country through at least the end of 2005.

The Pentagon said 10,000 active-duty Army and Marine troops and 37,000 Reserve and National Guard troops are being told they will go to Iraq this year as it puts on indefinite hold an earlier plan to cut the U.S. force there to 115,000 in coming months.

"You're going to have a period of increased (insurgent) attacks. We just have to expect that," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said as U.S. forces face an upsurge of violence in the run-up to a scheduled June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis.

That's right, Rumsfeld. Let's just keep pounding the mercury.


Absolutely Out of Control

Both the guards and this story. And if you think that you and I are outraged by the thought of our soldiers murdering prisoners in their charge, how do you imagine Arabs and Muslims are going to feel about this?

These events will be the direct cause of many, many American deaths.

Two Iraqi prisoners were murdered by Americans and 23 other deaths are being investigated in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States revealed on Tuesday as the Bush administration tried to contain growing outrage over the abuse of Iraqi detainees.
Army officials said the military had investigated the deaths of 25 prisoners held by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and determined that an Army soldier and a CIA contractor murdered two prisoners. Most of the deaths occurred in Iraq.

Such actions lend legitimacy to any story that any Muslim fundamentalist can dream up about Americans now. The hole is deepening.


Gore, Media Mogul?

I have to say, I was caught off guard by this. First, Gore sends millions of dollars over to Kerry's campaign. Now, having been beaten down over and over by the media machine in 2000, Gore decides to enter the arena as player rather than played:

An investor group headed by former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday it is launching a cable news network for young adults, buying an existing network with an eye to retooling it with "irreverent and bold" programming.

The group is buying the Newsworld International channel from Vivendi Universal Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The deal with Gore's company, INdTV Holdings, was announced Tuesday during the National Cable and Television Association convention in New Orleans.

Newsworld International is a 24-hour channel broadcasting international news produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that now has about 14 million North American households, according to the Vivendi Web site.

Gore said the network will be "an independent voice in this industry" with a primary target audience of people between 18 and 34 "who want to learn about the world in a voice they recognize and a view they recognize as their own."

It'll be interesting to see how the network shapes up.


When Is a Bus Tour Not a Bus Tour?

When it's Bush's "bus tour." From The Liquid List:

President Bush's bus tour is a scam on several levels. First, he isn't actually using the bus: "The bus tour, about 60 miles through western Ohio, actually includes two airplane flights — one from Detroit to Toledo and another from Toledo to Dayton."

Funny how many photos I have seen of Bush getting on and off big red, white, and blue buses, and how few--by which I mean zero--I have seen of the airplane...

Oh, and don't tell the Iraqi prisoners with the wires hooked up to them about this:

Second, Bush skipped mentioning the torture -- and that's what it is, by the way -- of Iraqis in U.S. custody. That's because he did mention that the "world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power," and that "torture rooms are closed." Oh, we closed them, did we?


Monday, May 03, 2004

Bush as Saddam

That's the comparison now showing up worldwide in the media (outside the American bubble, of course).

Comparing George Bush to Saddam Hussein is an increasingly common theme in the international online media's outraged reaction to photographs showing U.S. military police humiliating Iraqi prisoners.
The oft-published picture of the hooded Iraqi prisoner standing on a box, electrodes attached to fingers and genitals, is "an image that would do Saddam proud," said the Sunday Herald in Glasgow, Scotland.
The English language Web site of Al Jazeera quotes Saudi commentator Dawud Shiryan as saying, "Abu Ghraib prison was used for torture in Saddam's time. People will ask now: 'What's the difference between Saddam and Bush?' Nothing!" Shiryan said the photographs "will increase the hatred of America, not just in Iraq but abroad."

In a front page story, the Yemen Times reports that many Yemenis "argue that even though Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, the crimes carried out by US soldiers are viewed very much the same."

The Bahrain Tribune, a daily newspaper in the oil-rich Persian Gulf emirate, says: "Bush seized all Saddam's properties and inherited everything Saddam had, including his torturing tools and methods."

"The cells, which were criticized by Bush and his mouthpieces, are now used by Bush for jailing Iraqis who oppose the plundering and looting of the wealth of their country. The torturing rooms, which were exposed to the whole world to highlight Saddam's barbaric behavior are now used by Bush and his soldiers to exercise their sick, sadistic and inhuman behavior."


Feel a Draft?

I thought I was safe regardless, but not necessarily (I'm 32):

The chief of the U.S. Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services.

The proposal, which the agency's acting director Lewis Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34, up from 25.

The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concern that U.S. military forces are stretched thin because of worldwide commitments.

Via Atrios.


Fighting for the Death Penalty in Massachusetts

A commission appointed by Gov. Mitt Romney has come up with what it considers the first virtually foolproof formula for carrying out the death penalty, and Mr. Romney is expected to use the plan to try to bring back capital punishment to the state, where it was abolished two decades ago.

One of the major recommendations is raising the bar for a death penalty sentence from the normal legal standard of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" to a finding of "no doubt about the defendant's guilt." The commission has also proposed that a defendant in a capital case be given the option of facing two separate juries: one for trial and, if convicted, a second for sentencing.

At first glance, I do like the idea of two separate juries for trial and sentencing. But the rest of this plan is nonsense. The notion that changing the standard to "no doubt about the defendant's guilt" can suddenly render human beings and human institutions perfectible is simply wrong. Providing the illusion of infallibility to mask the realities of the implementation of the death penalty is profoundly unjust.

The article says it all in its semantic shift from "virtually foolproof formula" to "no doubt about the defendant's guilt." What was that about "virtually" again, pray tell?

I hope Massachusetts doesn't undo decades of common sense by falling for this.


Clarke Apologized to the Victims of 9/11 for Not Doing Enough

Today, Bush's man Bremer expresses his regrets:

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said Sunday he regrets a statement he made more than six months before the Sept. 11 attacks that the Bush administration was "paying no attention" to terrorism.

How on earth could he regret that, knowing what we all know now? Madness.


Somebody Explain This Strategy to Me

The Iraqis we intend to install to keep order in Fallujah have just lost their original general, but more importantly...

Marine officers concede that some of the Falluja Brigade may well be drawn from the very guerrillas they have been fighting.

The arrival of Saleh's force of several hundred uniformed ex-soldiers on the streets Saturday and the withdrawal of Marines from some siege positions to areas further from the city limits was greeted by delighted townsfolk, including masked gunmen, as victory for the Sunni guerrillas over American arms.


Those Pictures

Baghdad Burning says it all:

The pictures are horrific. I felt a multitude of things as I saw them... the most prominent feeling was rage, of course. I had this incredible desire to break something- like that would make things somehow better or ease the anger and humiliation. We’ve been hearing terrible stories about Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad for a while now, but those pictures somehow spoke like no words could.

Read the whole thing. Then read everything she posts from now on.


American Anti-Terrorist Activities

Repugnant. And this is the sort of pointless brutality that we now have apparently taken on the road in Iraq.

Before the World Trade Center attack, Javaid Iqbal was a Pakistani immigrant proud to be known as "the cable guy" to customers on Long Island, where he had lived for a decade and married an American. Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian, had a weekend flea market stand at Aqueduct Raceway and a restaurant near Times Square where friendly police officers would joke, "Where's my shish kebab?"

But within weeks of Sept. 11, 2001, both had been picked up by federal agents in an anti-terror sweep. For 23 hours a day, they were locked in solitary confinement in the harsh maximum-security unit of a federal detention center in Brooklyn - the one cited by the Justice Department's inspector general last year for widespread physical abuse of its detainees.

The inspector general mentioned no specific names and cases, but now, in a federal lawsuit to be filed today and in telephone interviews from Pakistan and Egypt, the former cable technician and the former restaurateur have provided the most detailed personal accounts yet of the unit's brutality and the first to accuse specific corrections officers and wardens of abuse. The accusations are similar to those now being made against military officers guarding prisoners in Iraq.

The lawsuit charges that the men were repeatedly slammed into walls and dragged across the floor while shackled and manacled, kicked and punched until they bled, cursed as "terrorists" and "Muslim bastards," and subjected to multiple unnecessary body-cavity searches, including one during which correction officers inserted a flashlight into Mr. Elmaghraby's rectum, making him bleed.

At that point, the papers charge, he was confined without blankets, mattress or toilet paper to a tiny cell kept lighted 24 hours a day, and was denied adequate medical care or communication with his public defender. He said his attempts to pray or sleep were disrupted by guards banging on his door.


Fodder for the Conspiracy Theorists

Let's all watch as democracy erodes before our very eyes...

The government's use of secret warrants to monitor and eavesdrop on suspects in terrorism and intelligence investigations continued to climb sharply in 2003, with more than 1,700 warrants sought, the Justice Department reported Sunday.

Federal authorities made a total of 1,727 applications last year before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret panel that oversees the country's most delicate terrorism and espionage investigations, according to the new data.

The total represents an increase of about 500 warrant applications over 2002 and a doubling of the applications since 2001, the Justice Department said in its report, which was submitted to the federal courts and to Vice President Dick Cheney as required by law.


Sunday, May 02, 2004

Bloody April Gives Way to Bloody May

As the supposed turnover date approaches, the violence shows no sign of abating.

11 soldiers were killed in separate attacks, the military said, raising the U.S. death toll to 151 since a wave of violence began April 1. At least 753 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.


For the Wrong Reasons, a Good Result

Sharon's plans have been stymied by his own party.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent a message to his supporters that sounded a bit like the one George Bush sent out to the world after Sept. 11: either you are with us or you are against us. On Sunday, not nearly enough of his own Likud party members voted with him - or more specifically, with his "disengagement plan" to evacuate the approximately 8,000 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and four small settlements in the West Bank. As polls predicted, the prime minister lost a referendum among 193,000 of his right-wing party members Sunday, spinning the country into a new domestic political crisis.


Iraqis Dancing in the Streets of Fallujah

So, the Bushies were half right; they just got confused about when the celebrations would occur. It's when we leave, not when we arrive.

Malik Khalif, who fled the city during the fighting, looked at the remains of his destroyed house. "I don't mind losing and sacrificing my life or my properties for the sake of the honorable resistance of Fallujah," he said.

Scores of Iraqis gathered in the streets Saturday morning, some flashing "V" for victory signs and raising the Iraqi flag. Motorists drove through the streets, shouting, "Islam, it's your day!" and "We redeem Islam with our blood!"

Some were masked and raised automatic weapons, members of the insurgency that put up stiff resistance against the Marines. Some guerrillas drove through the city, honking horns and waving their guns out the windows.