Observations on the world today.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Why So Surprised? 

Take No Prisoners:

The video snippet above has been circulating on the Internet for almost a year now. Yet, people are shocked by the disregard our soldiers hold Iraqis in.

Sorry. I'm not shocked.

I never joined the military. One reason was that I came of age the year Reagan was elected. I had no desire to be party to any war he might want to start. Not even in a support position.

Another reason I never joined the military is that I actually value my liberty. I enjoy being free to say, "I quit," any time my employer expects me to do something which I find distasteful. I used to sell photography in churches for Olan Mills. One day, I simply became frustrated with explaining to my superiors that the reason my sales were low was that I refused to mislead people into buying the product. Don't get me wrong, it was a quality product. But it was over-priced and the sales techniques that I had been taught rubbed me as slightly less than ethical. I stopped selling Kirby sweepers for the same reason. I never wanted to be Alec Baldwin from Glen Gary Glen Ross. (Although to be honest, I was more of a Jack Lemon.)

The point is, if I find the orders or the policy that I am being asked to carry out distasteful, I feel that I should be free to refuse. That simply is not always an option in the military.

Although, that isn't and shouldn't be seen as an excuse for the perps in Abu Ghraib. In such a case as that, it becomes the Nuremberg defense. And the Nuremberg defense don't wash.

But getting back to the idea that so many Americans are surprised to learn that this happened, and that some of our fine troops were responsible. How can you be surprised? Our government has been looking the other way all along. We used incendiary bombs (Napalm) on bridges back in April of last year. We dropped 500 pound bombs on their houses in Fallujah just last month. Between those episodes, we conducted house to house raids during which we dragged people who we were supposedly liberating in to be interrogated. We allowed for wide-spread looting and crime in the streets for months. And before any of this was aloud to manifest, Bush made sure that we were not signatory to the international war-crimes tribunals law. *Nudge nudge wink wink*

Have you never seen a post-Apocalyptic movie? Have you never read Lord of the Flies? Have you never seen Survivor?

Civilization hangs by a very precarious thread. Put enough strain on the thread, and it is bound to snap.

So if I am in any way surprised by Abu Ghraib, it is surprise that anybody else is surprised.



Friday, May 07, 2004

Oh - My - Gawd 

The Daily Telegraph | Good ol' girl who enjoyed cruelty
"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

"Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."

In Fort Ashby, in the isolated Appalachian mountains 260km west of Washington, the poor, barely-educated and almost all-white population talk openly about an active Ku Klux Klan presence.

There is little understanding of the issues in Iraq and less of why photographs showing soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, mostly from around Fort Ashby, abusing prisoners has caused a furore.
Can we also court-martial the civilian population of Fort Ahsby?



The Many Faces of Bremer 

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: May 02, 2004 - May 08, 2004 Archives

Josh Mica quotes this WaPo article:
Some U.S. officials said Rumsfeld was resistant to repeated warnings from Iraq governor L. Paul Bremer -- delivered as early as last fall -- that the United States was detaining too many Iraqis for too long and in poor conditions. Bremer told Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials that if the problem persisted, the political fallout in Iraq would be serious, the officials said.
After seeing this, I went back and re-read Bremer's recent apology for things he said in February of 2001.
"I am strongly supportive and grateful for the President's leadership and strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American national security throughout his first term in office."
Nope, I don't think so. I just ain't buyin' it.

Bremer knew that he was working for a bunch of ass-covering incompetents long before the Abu Ghraib pictures became public. That's obvious from the fact that he was trying to convince Rumsfeld that the fallout from Iraq would be serious if they didn't fix the abuse problems. So he also knew that the president's strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American National security as recently as January of this year was FUBAR. And if he knew that the policy was a mess in January, then there can be no real truth in his professions of faith in the president's leadership "throughout his first ONLY term in office."



Thursday, May 06, 2004

Avoiding HDS 

Quinnipiac University | May 5, 2004 -- Bush and his team get lowest approval ever, nationwide poll by Quinnipiac University finds; but Kerry gains little ground in matchup:
But President Bush still leads Democratic challenger John Kerry 43 -- 40 percent, with 6 percent for independent candidate Ralph Nader...
Okay, here's a thought. Is it just possible that Nader's candidacy is keeping Kerry from succumbing to Howard-Dean-Syndrome?

I supported Dean, and even voted for him in Ohio's primary after it was all but a done-deal that he couldn't win. One thing I noticed was that a lot of the media pile-up that drove him from the race was on account of his front-runner status. They left Lieberman and Kucinich alone and Kerry didn't begin taking flack until after he became the presumptive front-man. Perhaps Nader's raison d'etre (even if he doesn't realize it) is to keep the election from becoming a runaway too soon.

Think about it. Six points of this poll which would almost certainly be Kerry's are going to Nader. If Kerry had those points, he would be leading in this poll 46 - 43. In other recent polls, the difference would be even greater. In fact, Bush would not lead in any polls that i can remember seeing recently absent Nader. It would be all Kerry all the time. Imagine what the press would do with a bone like that.



A $25 Billion Flip-flop 

Yahoo! News - Bush Asks Congress for $25B for Iraq War:
The Bush administration asked Congress Wednesday for a $25 billion down payment for next year's U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a retreat from the White House's earlier plans not to seek the money until after the November elections.
Can you believe the way Kerry Bush flip-flops? First he's against asking for more money this year. Then he's for it. When will it end?



Happy National Day of Prayer 

National Day of Prayer

Yes, given that today is the officially sanctioned day to openly discard Jesus' mandate of Matthew 6:7-8 to pray in private, I thought I would use this opportunity to link to a few of my favorite religious sites.
Landover Baptist Church
Jesus' Homepage
Jesus Dressup
The Skeptic's Annotated Bible
Maniacal Laughter's List of Reasons Why God Exists
A Great Non-Sequitur Cartoon
Now, you may well ask why I seem to be picking on the Christians. After all, don't other religions pray as well? Yes, they do, and they too are misguided. However, living (as I do) in America under the Bush regime; it is Christianity that I am most often repressed by. If I lived in a country ending in the suffix "Stan" or in a nation with an unofficially recognized yet openly enforced religious caste system, I would be railing equally against Islam or Hinduism. For that matter, I also have no love for the Earth religions or Buddhism or Shintu, Seikism, Scientology or any other of mankind's myriad mass delusions.

Prayer, in my opinion is culpability-escapism and intellectual surrender. I abhor it.

But -- for those who disagree -- have at it. Put your nose to the rug, beads, incense or whatever. I don't care. Just don't expect me to join you.



Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Let's Hear It For a Service Based Economy 

Yahoo! News - Services Growth Hits Record in April
A key reading of the giant U.S. services sector showed a surprising rise in April, hitting a new record and offering more evidence of economic revitalization, an industry survey showed on Wednesday.

The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index rose to 68.4 in April from 65.8 in March, above Wall Street estimates of a dip to 64.0.

A number above 50 indicates growth.

"This was yet another very impressive report from ISM," said Doug Porter, senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto. "It was strong from top to bottom with nothing to quibble about on the growth front."
Here is the picture from the story:

Let's hear it for a service based economy!






From A to X (Abu Ghraib to X-Ray) 

The recent unpleasantness in the Iraqi prisons gave me a stray thought which I nursed until it became a full on strategy. Now we need to get this to the Kerry camp somehow. He needs to stump on this. Here it is:

Resentment in the middle east is at an all-time high as a result of Abu Ghraib. We can hardly blame them. The apparent hypocrisy between our president’s rhetoric and the actions of our military and the contractors in their charge cannot be missed. But it is not as if this came completely out of left field. The international Red Cross and other human rights groups including the ACLU have been calling on this administration to treat Muslim prisoners fairly for close to two years.

For now, all eyes are on Iraq. But as recently as last month, our courts were considering the question of habeus corpus concerning our detainees on Guantanimo Bay in Cuba. This administration has the opportunity to make not-a-symbolic-gesture, but a true show of good faith by granting our prisoners from Afghanistan a full and transparent trial before an international tribunal.

The argument that the administration used before the supreme court was that congress had put this question of how these men would eventually be tried at the president’s discretion. Now, whether or not that argument is even valid is not the point I am addressing. The point is simply this. Grant them a trial. Be Solomon-like. Lead by example. Show the Arab world in a real and tangible way that America does not marginalize them. It’s been the right thing to do all along. But now it is also the politically wise thing to do as well.



My Optimism Has a Certain Logic 

Taegan Goddard posts this: Political Wire: Democrats Face Uphill Battle For House
With nearly all polls showing a close presidential race this year, it's increasingly unlikely Democrats will regain control of the House of Representatives.

A Political Wire reader writes with the key reason: In 2000, Al Gore carried 198 House districts while Bush won in 237. That means that -- even before last year's redistricting battle in Texas -- Democrats would need to win every seat Gore won last time, plus an additional 20 GOP seats. For Republicans to retain control, they only need to win 92% of the Republican districts and none of the Democratic ones.
Now, I don't disagree with the numbers here at all, but I do think that this overlooks a significant component. As Bush continues to foul up the country, more and more republicans will simply choose to stay home on election day. And as more and more moderates make the decision to vote for Kerry, they too may vote democrat just for the statement it would send. But even if they don't, without the die-hard republicans, the democrats cannot help but pick up those seats.



Tuesday, May 04, 2004

On the Day I Was Born, the Nurses All Gathered 'Round 

And they gazed in wide wonder at the joy they had found.

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Kerry Life Story Will Be Focus of Big Ad Buy
John Kerry's campaign announced Monday that it was making what it called the largest single purchase of advertising time in a presidential race, unveiling commercials that tell Mr. Kerry's life story from birth to the Vietnam War to two decades in the United States Senate.

Mr. Kerry's advisers described the advertisements, which are to run heavily in 19 states through the end of the month at a cost of $27.5 million, as the beginning of a long process of introducing the candidate to general election voters. It is a move many Democrats have warned was too long in coming.
Freakin' A right. It's about time. The first two ads can be viewed here.



The Veep Brigade 

There has been a lot of speculation lately that Kerry has whittled down his VP list. But my favorite is hardly ever mentioned. Here again is my fantasy cabinet:
President John Kerry
VP Max Cleland
National Security Advisor Wes Clark
Deputy to the National Security Advisor Rand Beers
Sec. of State Lt. General Claudia Kennedy
Chief of Staff Gary Hart
Sec. of Homeland Security Al Gore
Sec. of Defense Leon Fuerth
Deputy Secretary of Defense Joe Wilson
Co-Deputy Secretary of Defense Karen Kwiatkowski
Attorney General John Edwards
Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin
Surgeon General Howard Dean
EPA Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Fed Chair Paul Krugman


I'll Bet it Gets Foxnews 

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Bush Boards Luxury Bus to Campaign in Midwest:
On the first extensive trip of his re-election campaign, President Bush went rumbling by luxury bus across southern Michigan on Monday with the intensity of a man running as if the election were six days away rather than six months.

Jumping off at three stops from his new red, white and blue campaign bus, which was plastered on its gleaming side with the slogan 'Yes, America Can,' Mr. Bush fielded questions from a handpicked crowd at an 'Ask President Bush' talk in Niles, and made fun of Senator John Kerry's family sport utility vehicles before a crowd of 5,000 in a hockey stadium here.
Okay, so Bush is on a luxery bus touring the econmically strapped midwest swing-states making fun of Kerry's wife's SUV to a cherry-picked bunch of ditto-heads.

Yeah, that'll be effective



Monday, May 03, 2004

Stupid Pollsters 

White House 2004

Why would you conduct this poll? What value does it have? And how in the hell can anybody think this sociopath of a president is compassionate?



The Dark Ages Return 

The New York Times > Science > U.S. Is Losing Its Dominance in the Sciences
The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals.

Foreign advances in basic science now often rival or even exceed America's, apparently with little public awareness of the trend or its implications for jobs, industry, national security or the vigor of the nation's intellectual and cultural life.
Gosh, whatever could have brought this about? We have an administration that replaces scientific reports with business-friendly propaganda, that promotes abstinence-only birth control education and creationism over evolution, that creates such unattainable technical goals as manned missions to Mars by 2013 and universal broadband by 2007, and that calls all of the overwhelming evidence for global warming "junk science" and pulls out of international treaties designed to curtail it. Why, they've done everything in their power to revive the dark ages short of jailing Copernicus and burning the Library at Alexandria.

Thank goodness for Europe.



A Fish Called Bremer 

Yahoo! News - Bremer Takes Back Statements About Bush
"I regret any suggestion to the contrary. In fact, I have since learned that President Bush had shared some of these frustrations, and had initiated a more direct and comprehensive approach to confronting terrorism consistent with the threats outlined in the National Commission report.

"I am strongly supportive and grateful for the President's leadership and strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American national security throughout his first term in office."
This statement by Paul Bremer was in response to a statement also made by Bremer while delivering the keynote speech at the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation's three-day conference February 26, 2001 on the theme "Terrorism: Informing the Public." Bremmer said, "The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?' That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it. Maybe the folks in the press ought to be pushing a little bit."

But does Bremer's taking-back the statement change anything? He was right then. His retracting it now doesn't change history.

I'm reminded of a scene from "A Fish Called Wanda"
[Otto dangles Archie out a window.]
Archie: All right, all right, I apologize.
Otto: You're really sorry.
Archie: I'm really really sorry, I apologize unreservedly.
Otto: You take it back.
Archie: I do, I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.
Otto: OK.



Sunday, May 02, 2004

Synchronized Sycophants 

SCTV Program: The Sammy Maudlin Show

Look at this picture from the Sammy Maudlin sketch which was a regulalry reappearing bit on SCTV.

The John Candy role was of a pathetic Kevin Eubanks-type who lauged at Sammy's (Joe Flaherty) unfunny jokes and got no respect in return. Now look again that the picture below of Jay Leno.

Sorry, I just really really really dislike Jay Leno.

And so does the writer of this article.


What's My Beef? 

As if I needed another reason to dislike Jay Leno.



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