Saturday, November 27, 2004

Book Reading: When Jesus Came to Harvard

Harvey Cox is a Hollis Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School. He'll be do doing a book reading this Saturday evening, 6 pm, at Politics and Prose.

Cox's latest book, When Jesus Came to Harvard, he explains how Jesus' stories from back in the day apply to today's world, and he relates stories of his undergraduate students.

You can catch a clip of Cox and a few other biblical-types on this PBS NewsHour show called 'Tests of Faith', which addresses gay marriage and its implications for the church. And the Boston NPR affiliate has a show called OnPoint on which Cox does a radio panel about George Bush's use of religious rhetoric.

Cox also writes articles for BeliefNet.

UPDATE: Professor Cox was really good. He talked about a bunch of interesting stuff. I'll mention a couple that I remember, in no particular order.

The 'concept' of Jesus has outgrown the church - influencing many people, in many religions, which is a good thing. The rules and regulations and traditions of the church are not always best for folks' spirituality, so this Jesus-lives-even-outside-the-church phenomenon is a good thing, Cox said. Jesus was a big rule-breaker himself - not following the religious traditions of his own time. The founder of Hasidic Jusaism was a bit of a troublemaker in his day, too.

Ghandi always said his life was most influenced by The Sermon on the Mount, yet he never became a Christian. Harvard now has a Roman Catholic member of the School of Divinity, as well as a Muslim, and a Buddhist. The Professor was, as I expected, very critical of the right-wingnut preachers like Falwell. He said 'being gay' or 'gay sex' was mentioned zero times in the Bible - which didn't jive with what I've been hearing quoted on wingnut tv (??), but poverty and war are mentioned umpteen times. He implored us not to let the right wing steal this 'values' argument. He said the wingnuts never mention Jesus when they talk about 'values'.

He also said something to the effect that he thinks the ACLU and right-wingnuts need each other - implying that they liked the way things were because it justified each of their existences. Well, I'll take a stab at the ACLU p.o.v. on that one - I'm guessing the ACLU would love not to have to teach Americans that torture is bad and morally wrong. That's just a guess, so on that, the Prof was way off - imho.

For one of the Prof's classes, he had his students read lots of material from all sorts of big religious-type thinkers in multiple religions. The idea, I think, was to move the students in a direction of self-learning - especially as it related to making moral decisions. To do this they examined people's life stories - Ghandi, Jesus, and others. Jesus' life could be examined by reading the Bible because the Bible is, among other things, a bunch of stories/parables about Jesus' life. The Prof asked his students, of all the people they'd read about through classwork, whose stories - which person - had the most influence on them? The answer was Dorothy Day. I'd heard the name, but that's about it - so I went home and looked her up.

A couple of Cox's former colleagues were there to ask him some tough questions, including his former boss/dean. And the usually-overly-serious Politics & Prose crowd didn't overdo things like usual with the tirade/speeches-posing-as-questions to the author during the Q&A. So, that was real nice.

And, as per usual, I'm waiting for the softcover to come out.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Come Down to DC

Saw this band Army of Me the other night at the Black Cat. Good. Almost very good. Their lead singer has a Jim Morrison-like stage presence, and the rest of the band was solid, too. I go to a live show to be entertained - go to it. Good stuff.

The band just returned to DC after being on the road for six months. The lead guitarist's parents drove down from Connecticut - cool.

That I went to the Black Cat testifies to the power of putting at least some of your music online. I read through a bunch of descriptions of bands playing in other parts of the DC Metro that night, but I was able to find the website of Army of Me quickly and was able to get a taste of their music. I dropped $8 admission and am now a fan - maybe even a big fan. I've already introduced them to at least one other person. Woe unto him who dost not heed the power of the Internet!

Army of Me played one song called Come Down to DC - they said it was their first love song. You gotta figure a lot of bands' success in the mainstream, if they don't fit into certain categories like rap/metal/etc., will hinge on their ability to produce at least one good love song. Well, this one is good. Very good, even. It hits that whole 'bus-to-Chinatown' thing which is an all-too-common part of life for lots of young, long-distance lovers' lives. That the song just happens to mention DC makes it that much better. Army of Me is based out of DC.

Fake Ugly, and These Hands are also good songs.

The band before them was The High Strung, and they were pretty good, too. Definitely talented, and I like that they played some stuff that was really...different. Creativity - good. One of their singers/guitarists looked exactly like Bob Saget (sorry, dude). Kind of distracting, but I got over it.

Speaking of the infamous Mr. Saget, this site is pretty damn funny. This one, too.

I missed the opening band, Bicycle Thieves - sorry y'all.

Not much of a music buff, but it's nice to take a gamble on some bands and get a good result. All for $8. And the cost of a beer, or two, or...

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Found another great quote, but since we've already got one for the day, it doesn't get the QOTD title. This Daily Kos post by Meteor Blades had a nice little ditty of a quote in it that made me laugh. The story, from the Village Voice, is about the Marine who shot and killed that wounded and unarmed insurgent. The quote I've pointed out below is good, but the rest of the story is good too, so read the whole thing if you've got time:

He and several other Marines recently returned from Iraq (many from their second tours) whom I've talked to about the Falluja shooting say they are not sure they would have dead-checked the wounded man in the mosque had they been in the same position. Most say they probably would have, even though the mosque had already been cleared once. "What does the American public think happens when they tell us to assault a city?" one of them said. "Marines don't shoot rainbows out of our asses. We fucking kill people."

This story has a few cool points. First, it gives about the best defense of the Marine that I've seen to date - far better than any wingnut 'total war', 'we're-still-not-as-bad-as-Saddam'-type excuse. I think it still qualifies as a war crime, but how to punish? Easy - jail Bush. Second, this story gives us non-military folks a lesson in military-type stuff - tells us what 'dead checking' is all about. Third, it gives us a real look at conditions on the ground for our soldiers. Fourth, it gives us an honest, uncensored point of view from one of our soldiers. More like this, please.

I stole my own comment...

QOTD: "It adds a personal touch"

We've written about the incompetence and wastefulness and fraudulence of the TSA before (here, here), but we caught a quote in a story of their latest debacles that we just couldn't resist. This snippet is of two women - the first getting 'the once-over', and the other who seems entertained - probably because she hasn't yet been violated:

Elaine Fitzgerald, spokeswoman for the annual Air & Sea Show at Fort Lauderdale beach, said the wire in her bra set off metal detector alarms last Christmas, well before pat downs became routine.

"They put me in a corner with my back to the public," she said. "They had a woman actually squeeze my bra cups. She apologized profusely. She seemed embarrassed. And I didn't like it one bit. But I was at their mercy, and I was late for a flight."

Unni Marie Berg, of Boca Raton, said because the pat down enhances security, "I don't mind at all. I think it adds a personal touch."

And there you have it folks, your quote of the day. Want some service with 'a personal touch' - head to the airport!

Like James Bovard said when asked at a post-9/11 security panel what are one's rights when flying - he said, "You have the right not to fly."


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

National Security Archive

We've mentioned the National Security Archive in a couple of places before (here, here), but I recently caught a presentation by their executive director, Thomas Blanton, and it was awesome. I actually expected it to be a fairly dull affair, but it far from dull.

Tuesday, November 16 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm: Mr. Blanton did a 45-minute slide presentation called 'Freedom of Information and Democracy' at the GWU Elliot School of International Affairs, and then hung around for 45 minutes taking questions and shooting the breeze. Seemed like a real good guy.

The flyer for the event (that I picked up at the event) read, in part, like this:

Thomas S. Blanton manages one [of] the most impressive collections of declassified documents at the George Washington University's Gelman Library, the National Security Archive. Under his administration since 1992, the Archive has won the U.S. journalism's George Polk Award in April 2000 for "piercing self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in search for the truth, and informing us all."

Blanton has authored many books about the freedom of information and democracy including White House E-Mail: The Top Secret Computer Messages the Reagan-Bush White House Tried to Destroy (The New Press) and Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Brooking(s) Institution). His articles have appeared in many national dailies and scholarly journals.

A graduate of Harvard University, Blanton was an editor of the independent university daily newspaper The Harvard Crimson, where he wond the Harvard's 1979 Newcomen Prize. He also received the 1996 American Library Association James Madison Award Citation for "defending the public's right to know." He is a founding editorial board member of, the virtual network of international freedom of information advocates.

Checking the Brookings Institution link tells us that Blanton was only one of several contributors to the 'Atomic Audit' book. Thus, his name is not listed as an author on the book jacket - only an editor's name is listed.

I think I found out about the event at the last minute at Washington Citypaper event listings. I have no idea what the press release was doing posted up on the Graduate Studies site (by analyzing the URL's), but there does not seem to be any links to the press release from either that site or the National Security Archive site. Ummm....maybe that explains why only ten or so people showed-up to a kick-ass presentation that included free snacks and beer (yes, beer). I emailed some folks to see if they'll better advertise in the future.

The human-readable URL for the National Security Archive is The URL linked-to by all of the GWU sites and Google is It's a pain constantly Googling a site that should have a human-readable URL.

Blanton made some very interesting points about government secrecy, and spying, and classification, and what Clinton and Bush, respectively, have done with regards to all secrecy in their terms. He makes four points - I forget which order they came in - I'll just list them below:

Secrecy is Expensive
Keeping government secrets costs money, a lot of money. I don't like throwing away tax money, so I think it should be fairly obvious that I only want to make secret what is absolutely necessary so I can have more money to spend on beer. In 2003, it cost us $6.5 Billion to do all of our secrecy stuff. Ummm....that's a lot of PBR.

Secrecy can be Dangerous
It's a knee-jerk reaction to think that keeping everything a secret is good for U.S. national security, but sometimes we need to put a little thought into these things. Take one example. Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged money man behind the 9/11 attacks, told investigators after his arrest in 2002, that the 9/11 attack would have been called-off, at least temporarily, if he'd have known about the arrest of Moussaoui in 2001. Ashcroft, however, as with this ever-secretive Administration, kept Moussaoui's arrest a secret. This Post article reads:

A report on the case released this week noted that "publicity about the threat" posed by Moussaoui "might have disrupted the plot." Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean (R) said the conclusion is based in part on extensive psychological profiles of the Sept. 11 hijackers, who were "very careful and very jumpy."

I'm curious what that 'report on the case' is. What report, exactly, are they referring to? I'm curious because the wording in the final 9/11 Report(PDF, 7.22 MB) lets Bush/Tenet off the hook easier (Ch. 8, p. 293):

However, publicity about Moussaoui's arrest and a possible hijacking threat might have derailed the plot.107 With time, the search for Mihdhar and Hazmi and the investigation of Moussaoui might also have led to a breakthrough that would have disputed the plot.

Footnote 107 of Chapter 8 of the 9/11 Report (p. 541) reads:
107. According to Ramzi Binalshibh, had KSM known that Moussaoui had been arrested, he would have cancelled the 9/11 attacks. Intelligence report, interrogation of Ramzi Binalshibh, Feb. 14, 2003.

Secrecy Allows Corruption to Flourish
Stopping government corruption is what prompted the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act - shortly after the Watergate debacle. If the government knows that nobody will be able to look at their dealings, they'll be operating above the law, without the consent of the American people, by definition. To stop corruption we need to be able to see what our hired hands are doing. Secrecy allows all sorts of corruption to go unchecked.

Secrecy is not Openness, and Openness is an American Value
The U.S. is supposed to be a different kind of government. Ideally, it's supposed to be the ideal government - totally open, totally free of corruption, totally bent to the will of the people. This simply cannot happen without openness in government. Blanton stated that the term 'secrecy' (and related terms) is only mentioned once in the Constitution:
Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

This is a far cry from what we've come to today - layers of secrecy galore! This last point on openness sums up the four major points that I believe Blanton was trying to make in his presentation - though, I'm not a great note-taker.

On the shadow secrecy within the Bush administration, which is commonly agreed upon by folks all across the political spectrum, Blanton told us about how Tom Ridge's Department of Homeland Hilarity got a bill passed which created an entirely new set of classifications that go completely outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA is, more than anything, an anti-corruption tool - i.e. that is it's primary justification. The Busheviks, no doubt, think that fearless leader and everyone in his administration is Godlike in their ability to not commit sins, but for those of us living in the reality-based community, it's important not to underestimate the power of FOIA to keep us America and not, say, Mexico, or one of the umpteen corrupt-ass African countries. does a good write-up on the new provisions, dubbed SBU - Sensitive But Unclassified. I don't remember for sure, but I think Blanton indicated he thought this nonsensical SBU provision would eventually be overturned by the Supreme Court.

One thing Blanton mentioned that I haven't found in all the SBU-related documentation I've found on the net is that disclosing SBU information can be criminally prosecuted. I'm unclear on this point, but I found this doc (PDF) from Powell's Department of No Integrity which says:

Unauthorized disclosure of SBU information may result in criminal
and/or civil penalties. Supervisors may take disciplinary action, as
appropriate. State offices responsible for the protection of records are
outlined in 5 FAM. See 3 FAM for regulations and process on disciplinary
actions. (12 FAM 550 provisions regarding incidents/violations do not
pertain to SBU.)

So, basically, the way Blanton explained it was to think of the chilling effect this law would have on every federal/state/local employee who falls under these regulations. Let's say any of these government officials learns about a massive toxic chemical spill in your back yard. They will no longer go to the press and let them know that your entire neighborhood is in danger because they'll be afraid to go to jail. Instead, they'll just move out of town for a while and tell you, their neighbor, something cryptic like this:

Hey man, it's probably a good idea to get out of town for a while, and I mean now! and don't come back until you hear it's safe. You'll know what I mean in a month or so, I hope.

If this sounds far-fetched - it shouldn't. One of the fiercest fighters in this battle against government secrecy is all sorts of conservation groups. They know how the government covers up information regarding toxic spills, waste sites, etc. Shoot, we don't have to go past Christine Whitman and Bush for their work in telling New Yorkers (and all others who visited from around the country and world, with friends and family in tow) that the air and water in downtown Manhattan was safe in the immediate aftermater of 9/11 when they had plenty of evidence suggesting otherwise. Now the evidence is starting to seap out, via lawsuits filed via the FOIA, that indicates it may not have been safe to breathe the air and drink the water. We'll see how many people end up with cancer and other difficulties. Thanks Christy. Thanks George.

One thing Blanton did not mention, that I thought I should, is Operation Northwoods. The National Security Archive just got a bunch of documents from that little ditty in which the U.S. military, at least, wanted to kill some Americans using terrorist tactics in order to drum up support for a war with Cuba. Nice guys. I'm going to dedicate a later post to this topic because of it's importance. But without the National Security Archive, we might never have known about this little covert terrorist operation.

Can't recall if Blanton talked about, or took any questions on, Bush's gutting of the FOIA by executive order.

Finally, Blanton made reference to Condi Rice's 2002 closed-door Senate testimony in which she testified that the name of the August 6, 2001 PDB - the document warning the President about the impending 9/11 attacks - was 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.'. This is very misleading, in that Condi seems to have purposefully left out the word 'in' when referring to the title. The U.S. has been attacked countless times overseas, but only very rarely inside the U.S., and even less rarely by al Qaeda in the U.S. Somehow Blanton must have had access to Condi's testimony from her 2002 testimony - I wasn't able to find it. If the Senate heard that Bin Laden was prepared to attack in the U.S., they would have asked Condi, "Well, why the f*ck didn't you do anything, then?!" Instead, she lied by omission, and was able to get off relatively unscathed.

Draft Resistance

I've been curious what I'll do if I'm drafted. At thirty-one years of age, I'm past the typical draft age, but the crazies are in power, so you never know. We do know that the crazies have already tried to raise the draft age to 35 from 25, as well as set up a draft for women and 'technical experts'.

What would I recommend to my kid if s/he got drafted and didn't want to fight in this illegal, imperialistic war? Move to Canada? Claim conscientious objector status? Just not show up? has some ideas that might be worth a look.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Two more right-wing, influence-pedaling think tanks. Unreal. Heard about them from some crazy on a C-SPAN clip. He was actually denouncing these guys. So what does it mean to get denounced by a crazy?

The JINSA website is here. And the Center for Security Policy is here.

The JINSA wiki page is here. The CSP wiki page is here (yours truly just created it, thank you very much).

Let's see what these guys are all about right quick. Well, JINSA wants Condisleezy to fire a bunch of people. Presumably that would be President Bush, since he is, after all, the decision-maker, and such an important decision would not be made without his knowledge. Or would it? Hmmmm. Interesting.

As for CSP, well they think Kerry is about emboldening our enemies. Sounds kinda totalitarian-ish. Interesting. Attack your opposition as traitors and all that. Yeah, sounds about right.

I'm just amazed at the number of think tanks the right wing has at its disposal. It really just blows me away...where the heck do they get all their money?!

Monday, November 22, 2004

War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

This book is awesome. It has several messages, all of which seem important to me, though the message on 'nationalism as a disease' seems the most important to me. This may be because nationalism feeds off of racism - one of my hotbutton issues, or maybe because it's just a heck of a lot easier to explain than what the author, Chris Hedges, means by the 'myth' of war.

Here are the author's messages:

1) The 'myth' of war needs to be stomped out.

2) Nationalism needs to be stomped out.

3) The media need to be held to account, and failing that, we must all recognize the role the media always has and continues to have in promoting war.

First, check out this post I wrote a few months ago covering the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which aired on C-SPAN. The panel titled 'The Seduction of War' is where I first heard about Chris Hedges' book. You should definitely watch it.

I'll try to briefly address each of the aforementioned points:

1) The 'myth' of war
The notion of war and all the excitement that comes with it is based upon a series of very powerful lies about the very nature of war, and the many conflict-specific lies that get brought along for the ride to drum up public support for war. All of these self-told lies are the 'myth' of war that Hedges refers to.

Hedges argues, for instance, that wars are not inevitable conflicts between cultures or religions or civilizations. Instead, they are manufactured by a relative few who know how to prey upon the fear and paranoia of the population. The conflict in the Balkans, where 250,000 human beings were killed, was not the result of Croats and Muslims and Serbs who just couldn't stand each other and so had to kill each other. It took Milosevic and his compliant media 'four years of hate propaganda' before one Serb got violent, sparking the conflict. If Milosevic was not allowed to manufacture the conflict by the decent citizens of his country, there would have been no war. But instead, his people slowly bought into the myth - that all the hate he said existed did actually exist, and that war was inevitable, and war to purge the evil on the other side was righteous and good.

Compare Milosevic's hate speech to that of the cadre of right-wing extremist talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage. Outgoing Democratic Party leader Tom Daschle has been subject to death threats from crazies who get all pumped up by listening to the likes of these talk show hosts. Were these hosts not denounced by at least half of the country, they would be able to build a movement similar to Milosevic's. Think about what it might be like to be gay in this country right now. Savage was fired after telling a caller to 'get AIDS and die', but he is still prominent on many radio stations. Coulter and Limbaugh are not far behind in the severity of their hateful rhetoric.

The myth of war allows us, as citizens, to ignore the obvious motives of our leaders for those which reflect most positively on us as a country. The first Gulf War was fought not to protect Kuwait from Saddam's regime, who we supported through the 1980's, but to maintain our control of the Kuwaiti oil fields. That our leaders are paragons of virtue is a myth, and taht goes for both Republicans and Democrats. To want to believe that our leaders are good people seems natural, but to actually believe it, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is blind ignorance, at best.

2) Nationalism defines nationalism as follows:

nationalism -
1: love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it [syn: patriotism]
2: the doctrine that your national culture and interests are superior to any other [ant: multiculturalism, internationalism]

The first one sounds cool; the second one does not. Nationalism naturally feeds off of racism. Thinking of ourselves as superior beings, as Americans, to the rest of the humans on earth is not just nonsensical - it's dangerous. It helps us to believe that we actually have the right to kill non-Americans because they're inferior to us. They're so inferior, in fact, they're not really human. They're monsters. They become what is known in anti-war slang as 'The Other' - the nameless, faceless, non-human, and absolutely evil enemy. This makes killing easier for our troops, and allows the public to use twisted logic to absolve themselves of the guilt they would otherwise experience for approving of the killing of human beings, including innocent human beings, including children.

3) The Media as accomplices
Hedges doesn't expand on this much other than to say, in no uncertain terms, that the media wants, helps build the case for, sanitizes, and ultimately glorifies war.

Now, just a few passages from the book to give you a taste (italicized intro's mine):

On the media propagating the 'myth':
The chief institutions that disseminate the myth are the press and the state. The press has been culpable since the telegraph made possible the modern war correspondent. And starting with the Crimean War, when the first dispatches were fed by newly minted war correspondents in real time, nearly every reporter has seen his or her mission as sustaining civilian and army morale. The advent of photography and film did little to alter the incentive to boost morale, for the lie in war is almost always the lie of omission. The blunders and senselsess slaughter by our generals, the excution of prisoners and innocents, and the horror of wounds are rarely disclosed, at least during a mythic war, to the public. Only when the myth is punctured, as it eventually was in Vietnam, does the press begin to report in a sensory rather than a mythic manner. But even then it is reacting to a public that has changed its perception of war. The press usually does not lead.

On the disease that is Nationalism:
Patriotism, often a thinly veiled form of collective self-worship, celebrates our goodness, our ideals, our mercy and bemoans the perfidiousness of those who hate us. Never mind the murder and repression done in our name by bloody surrogates from the Shah of Iran to the Congolese dictator Joseph Desire Mobutu, who received form Washington well over a billion dollars in civilian and military aid during the three decades of his rule. And European states -- especially France -- gave Mobutu even more as he bled dry one of the richest countries in Afica. We define ourselves. All other definitions do not count.

On the drug that is war:
...There is a part of me -- maybe it is a part of many of us -- that decided at certain moments that I would rather die like this than go back to the routine of life. The chance to exist for an intense and overpowering moment, even if it meant certain oblivion, seemed worth it in the midst of war -- and very stupid once the war ended.

Now that is some powerful sh*t. An intense and overpowering moment.

Here, Hedges is saying 'look, I've been there, and we are not always rational human beings, and we do not always act in the interests of our own self-preservation'. This is important to recognize because it means fanatical leaders, like George Bush, can act in unexpected ways - irrational ways - and they may take us all down at the same time. This is not difficult to imagine when you hear someone like former Secretary of War Robert McNamara declare, in Fog of War, that 'we got lucky' (to get out of the Cuban Missile Crisis without global thermonuclear war).

It is also not difficult to imagine once you consider that Bush and his neocon allies actually believe that World War IV may have started with our invasion of Iraq, and this will be a battle of civilizations - of Christianity vs. Islam - and that this war will bring about Rapture, and Rapture, for true believers like George W. Bush, is a very good thing, rendering sterile any notion of actually 'winning' such a war. The winners are predermined in Bush's head - they are the true believers, and they'll be swept up into heaven and saved at the appropriate time, regardless of who 'wins' World War IV down on earth.

In this next account, Hedges speaks of an incident in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip:

Barefoot boys, clutching ragged soccer balls and kites made out of scraps of paper, squatted a few feet away under scrub trees. Men, in flowing white or gray galabias -- homespun robes -- smoked cigarettes outside their doorways. They fingered prayer beads and spoke in hushed tones as they boiled tea or coffee on sooty coals in small iron braziers in the shade of the eaves. Two emaciated donkeys, their ribs outlines on their flanks, were tethered to wooden carts with rubber wheels.

It was still. The camp waited, as if holding its breath. And then, out of the dry furnace air a disembodied voice crackled over a louspeaker from the Israeli side of the camp's perimiter fence.

"Come on, dogs," the voice boomed in Arabic. "Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!"

I stoop up and walked outside the hut. The invective spewed out in a bitter torrent. "Son of a bitch!" "Son of a whore!" "Your mother's cunt!"

The boys darted in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separates the camp from the Jewish settlement abutting it. They lobbed rocks towards a jeep, mounted with a loudspeaker and protected by bulletproof armor plates and metal grating, that sat parked on the top of a hill known as Gani Tal. The soldier inside the jeep ridiculed and derided them. Three ambulances -- which had pulled up in anticipation of what was to come -- lined the road below the dunes.

There was the boom of a percussion grenade. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scattered, running clumsily through the heavy sand. They descended out of sight behind the dune in front of me. There were no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shot with silencers. The bullets from the M-16 rifles, unseen by me, tumbled end-over-end through their slight bodies. I would see the destruction, the way their stomachs were ripped out, the gaping holes in their limbs and torsos, later in the hospital.

I had seen children shot in other conflicts I have covered -- death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guetamala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo -- but I had never watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.

And with that nice little ditty, we have the lone dissenting vote in the House of Representatives, Barabara J. Lee, on the vote of Friday, September 14, 2001 - to authorize force in getting back at the terrorists. She had this to say: we act, let us not become the evil we deplore.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Intelligence Bill Failed, Bush 'disappointeed'

Saw this headline on the e-Post tonight: 'Conservatives Reject Intelligence Compromise'. I know that the President is not all-powerful, but c'mon - you gotta be kidding me here. Am I supposed to believe that the all-important intelligence overhaul bill did not get passed in an all-Republican congress? I must have 'asshole' stamped on my forehead or something.

I fired off a quicky to the writers of the article, Charles Babington and Walter Pincus:

Subject: a blow to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert ?

You guys are kidding me, right? Seriously.

C'mon fellas - it's time to sift through the b.s. for the proles out there. We're losing our democracy while you guys are up there all comfy, just earning your paychecks. I know you're only allowed to say so much, but c'mon - this mess is garbage. We can't run a democracy when y'all are just acting like mouthpieces for the government.

You gave Bush his 8 years, and probably Republican rule for the next 40 years. Don't you think it's time to do some real work?

p.s. I also left a loooooooooong voice message at one of Istook's 4 offices, regarding this debacle. Creeping. Totalitarian. State. Get your fucking ACLU card now, and learn about your civil liberties, bitch.

You were probably born in America - so consider yourself lucky. Now it's time to earn the moniker 'American'. Next time you get held up overseas, you say 'I'm American, bitch!', but you probably haven't earned it yet, so earn that shit.

Like Capt. John Miller says in his final minutes of Saving Private Ryan, 'Earn this!'. He was telling Private Ryan to live a full life because people had made real sacrifices for his scrawny ass. So now it's your turn. Hundreds of thousands have died in the name of the freedom that you now take for granted.

Fuck those stupid 'support the troops' ribbons - they're a propaganda device used by the Rethugs to distract you from the task at hand - defending our democracy. The Rethugs talk a lot about supporting the troops, but they don't give a fuck about them. War and imperialism, by their very nature, threaten our liberties and our democracy. It's time to take a stand. Get edumacated. The time to rise up may be here sooner than you ever thought possible. Don't be afraid. We are the majority. They can't hold us down. Get ready. It's on!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Trying to strike the 1st blow

The title of this post is also the title of an article written about tonight's Pacers vs. Pistons game/brawl/debacle. And it was written before the game. Mark Montieth of the Indianapolis Star, you win a prize!

Have to make sure I know when this guy writes about the stock market...

It Takes a Village

Reading a little Eschaton tonight, late night comments thread, and I end up sending an email to Zaz Hollander, an author of an article out of Alaska. Here's the text of the email:

Found out about your article on Eschaton's blog, via this comment, then followed it to the General's blog, where I posted this foul-mouthed comment.

A couple of clean questions, repeated from my not-so-clean comment:

1) Will Joe Brost be punished, too?

2) What does 'laid on hands' mean? Is that like Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid?

3) And is anyone else worried that this guy ''took troubled students into his family's home''?

I hope so, because those 'troubled students' may be a lot more troubled later in life when they really have to deal with getting 'laid on hands' by the oh-so-Christian principal. This just sounds way too much like the priest sex scandal. Someone should interview the boys with a social worker present and make sure the questions are not leading. That whole whippings in the basement thing is way too much like the movie Sleepers.

This guy is a sexual predator, and he needs to be stopped. I'm convinced. I hope someone is looking out for those kids, because if they don't get right in the heads, then they'll end up perpetrating the same sexual crimes they endured on their own children or others.


Am I over-reacting? I don't know, but I hope someone does follow-up with those kids. This principal guy seems dangerous, and I come from the camp of folks who believe that sexual offenders are not the same as other types of lawbreakers.

Sex crimes are not committed against property, and they're not victimless crimes like pot-smoking. From everything I've heard and read, they are absolutely devastating to the victim. And sex crimes are crimes that keep on giving - if the victims don't get right in the head, they are likely to find a way, later in their lives, to make victims of other innocents. That is why we freedom-loving liberals at the art of the possible believe in the sex offender registries. There are grey areas everywhere, and this is one of them. I believe in siding with the victims and potential victims of sex crimes. If that limits the freedom of a convicted sex criminal, then so be it. I don't believe that those convicted of prostitution and other adult/consensual sex-related crimes should be listed in sex offender registries. That just defeats the purpose of the registries by flooding the system with unneeded information - information that will not protect the public.

The point of this post, however, is to see that the 'troubled students' that spent time at the principal's house were not sexually abused. The best people to do this are folks who are already with social services groups - people who already know the ropes, and may already know the children. If we all work a little bit harder to look out for each other, we could make the world a lot better place.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Grass Not Mowed? Call the FBI

This article is damn scary. Check out some excerpts, but read the whole thing:

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov 15, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Five government anti-terrorism agents arrived at the door of Nancy Swift's modest home in this northern Virginia suburb last August, where Swift lives and rents out some rooms. They threatened her with a subpoena. They dispatched agents to her office to ask about her. They took away her garbage in the trunks of their cars, and they questioned one of her housemates.

It all happened, apparently, because a neighbor called authorities about one of Swift's tenants in the house, a young Middle Eastern man who had other Middle Eastern friends visit one holiday weekend. The neighbor also turns Swift in to the county government when her grass gets too long.
Swift and another former housemate from that time, Judy Horan, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Robert Poole threatened Swift with a subpoena, which he never produced.

"He said, 'I am so glad you are being agreeable ... because you know, I have a grand jury subpoena for you,'" Horan recounted. He said, "'I have it right here. But I don't think I'm going to have to use it because you are both being very agreeable.'"

Swift said Poole told her that if she did not cooperate, she "would have to spend the day with the grand jury."

"Without asking for permission, they took all of the garbage from outside," Horan said. "It just felt very strange to me because I had been going through personal papers and things. I don't shred anything. I had never felt anything like that as an American citizen."

"It felt awful," Horan said. "I felt very intimidated and that I had no right to privacy at all. And I felt guilty because of the way they treated us. I felt like I was being interrogated. It was just the attitude."
Swift said she has no idea if her house has been searched or her phones have been tapped. The USA Patriot Act makes it easier for agents to do both without notifying citizens. Swift said that Poole, the ATF agent, did ask her to use a regular telephone line as opposed to a cell phone when she called his office.
She also asked her neighbor if he had made the report to the authorities. The retired colonel, who has reported her to county authorities when her grass is too long, told Swift he reported her tenant to authorities because other young Middle Eastern men had visited him in the basement apartment one holiday weekend, according to Swift.
Soon, Swift arrived home for lunch. She had just missed the three agents who had arrived at her work, according to Swift's boss. That was when Poole said he had a subpoena and the two housemates had better cooperate.

"They said I could not take any notes," Horan said. "They said they wanted to interview us separately. They said, 'You are not a lawyer, are you?' And I said, 'No, I am a school teacher.'"
Swift's former boss said Swift is no terrorist. But the supervisor worries that the high-profile office visit from federal investigators has caused people to talk behind Swift's back. "I do have concerns that this might affect her and affect others through associating with her -- that it will affect her future, whether or not she is aware of it. Her actions may always be judged in that light," the supervisor said.

The supervisor grew up in the Balkans, under Communism, and the events felt eerily familiar. "This whole experience frightfully reminded me of that," she said. "It reminded me how easily, in a certain climate, people use their imagination and then start digging through people's lives."

Swift said the experience left her jarred. And afraid. She said she has nightmares about it. ""I don't feel like the Constitution protects people any more," Swift said. "And I don't have anything to hide."

Now, seriously - try to imagine what happened to this lady. Have you ever been questioned by the FBI? Have you ever been threatened with a subpoena? Have you ever had 5 FBI agents come bangnig on your door, looking all sorts of pissed off, asking you a lot of tough questions, threatening you with 'a day in front of the grand jury' if you don't comply?

Well, you've heard of a 'grand jury' before, but you're not sure what the heck it means. From watching the OJ case and others on Court TV, you're pretty sure that the grand jury is something you want nothing to do with it. So, you're scared shitless, and you say 'whatever boss, whatever you want, just don't take me downtown'. That's scare tactics, and it's bullshit, but it's the reality of our Republican-contolled government right now. We all need to know our rights, and we need to get ready to enforce them. The police state is coming, and it will march on if we don't proactively fight it.

If you think you know what it's like to be questioned by the FBI, I'd ask you to think again. I've never been questioned by the federales, but I have been questioned forcefully by a regular police officer. It's not that fun, and it can be very intimidating - especially if you have any idea how much power cops have. And that's when you are completely innocent of any wrongdoing! You wonder why false confessions happen? It's called police intimidation - check it out sometime.

And they sent agents to her work - to her office. Can you imagine that shit? I mean, we're in post-9/11 territory, and all of a sudden there are several FBI agents showing up at your work - to ask questions - about you. Bet that will make you a bunch of new friends, and will go over real well when your employer thinks about promoting you, or when they need to lay some people off. And her former boss (why is that former?) says this is what it was like under Communist rule, where he grew up, in the Balkans! This guy is like 'been there, done that. same shit, different country'. Or, maybe not so different?

America the Police State. Know your rights. The ACLU has a position paper called 'Freedom is Why We're Here' (PDF). Start there, then get yourself a card.

I'm actually going to try to find Nancy Swift and find out if she's a card-carrying member of the ACLU! How you like them apples?!

UPDATE: Actually tried to Google Swift, but found nothing, so dropping it. I hope someone else contacted her.

Iran and Operation Ajax

Atrios brings up the Iran topic. Great. I knew Bush wanted to end the world, I mean, bring about Rapture, but I thought he was gonna give us one year without the war-mongering. I mean, George, one fucking year is all I'm asking here, buddy. Jeez.

I decided to plop in a little snarky comment:

What would our history be with Iran if the USA hadn't overthrown Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister in 1953?

Kinda makes one wonder how different the world would be if the U.S. just stayed the fuck out of everyone else's country and just kept to herself for a little while...

The link you see in the quoted text above is to a New York Times special feature on the US-authored coup. Wikipedia provides a great page (of course) on 'Operation Ajax', the name given to the covert coup operation.

Florida e-voting fraud?

A Daily Kos poster is saying that Florida's e-voting tally does not add up. The poster, markusd, has done some research on top of that provided by the UC Berkeley folks. The Berkeley folks think Bush got up to 260,000 free votes in Florida - not necessarily enough to swing the election, but still, more than I'm comfortable with.

I sent this letter to

Was hoping you could look into the coming Florida e-voting debacle...

UC Berkeley study:

From the Wired article:

Electronic voting machines in Florida may have awarded George W. Bush up to 260,000 more votes than he should have received, according to statistical analysis conducted by University of California, Berkeley graduate students and a professor, who released a study on Thursday.

The researchers likened their report to a beeping smoke alarm and called on Florida officials to examine the data and the voting systems in counties that used touch-screen voting machines to provide an explanation for the anomalies. The researchers examined the same numbers and variables in Ohio, but found no discrepancies there.

WIRED article:,2645,65757,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

COMPUTERWORLD article:,10801,97614,00.html

You never know. We challenge here, we challenge there, and maybe we'll get a fair election in 2008? Anything is possible...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Party of Dishonesty and Corruption

TPM points us to some words of criticism from Rep John Dingell (D-MI) on the Shay's Rebellion debacle:

These folks talk about values and decency, but then think it’s okay to change the rules once it appears one of their own may have broken them. This amounts to a work release program for the ethically challenged. We should all remember that a decade ago, Mr. DeLay helped to create this rule. Republicans said at the time they were the party of reform and good government. Now they’ve become the party of moribund hubris.

He started off well, but then goes on finish his quote with calling the GOP 'the party of moribund hubris'. That sounds clever, but nobody knows what it means, and even if GOP supporters knew, they wouldn't care - they like being arrogant. We need something that turns off GOP voters. The first part of Dingell's statement did that in spades.

Now, if the rest of the Dems joined the little echo chamber screaming things like 'total lack of decency', we might be able to whip something up here.

Monday, November 15, 2004

If you voted for Bush...

This is what you voted for:

In the weeks before the crushing military assault on his hometown, Bilal Hussein sent his parents and brother away from Fallujah to stay with relatives.

The 33-year-old Associated Press photographer stayed behind to capture insider images during the siege of the former insurgent stronghold.


Hussein moved from house to house — dodging gunfire — and reached the river.

"I decided to swim ... but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."

He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."

"I kept walking along the river for two hours and I could still see some U.S. snipers ready to shoot anyone who might swim. I quit the idea of crossing the river and walked for about five hours through orchards."

This is the first in a long, four+ year series of posts about what you voted for if you voted for 'C+ Augustus' Bush.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Venting anger, sorrow...

Wonkette tells us of some blue state guy wanting a piece of a red state guy. Frickin hilarious.

She also tells us of a website dedicated to apologies.

Tanks in the streets of LA?

That seems to be what happened at an anti-war protest in downtown LA the other day.

We've written before about Bush's use of the military in suppressing dissent here at home - and how it is illegal according to the Posse Comitatus Act. Par for the course for this administration.

Who knows? Maybe we'll get a real national uprising yet, especially if more evidence of voting fraud continues to surface...

Bush defends Saddam, screws our POW's

You think such a title would be just another over-the-top headline by an out and out lefty, but then, you'd be wrong:

During the Persian Gulf War, Iraq brutally tortured U.S. prisoners of war. Saddam Hussein's secret police broke bones; shattered skulls and eardrums; and whipped, burned, shocked, beat, starved and urinated on our POWs. Yet these brave Americans, as did generations of POWs before them, refused to give in to their captors. One extraordinary Marine was knocked unconscious so many times he lost count; he returned home with a fractured skull for refusing his captors' orders to criticize President George H.W. Bush. Because Iraq would not notify families of POWs, spouses did not know whether they were wives or widows. The result was serious and lasting injury to the POWs and their families.

Before the current Iraq war, 17 of these Gulf War POWs and 37 of their family members brought a historic suit to hold Iraq accountable and to deter such torture in the future. They did so courageously, despite being required to give Saddam Hussein their home addresses, something the POWs had refused to do under torture. And they won a judgment in federal district court that is the most important deterrent to date against torture of American POWs.

But rather than offering the former prisoners the support of a grateful nation, a decision was quietly made in the Bush administration to prevent the POWs from holding Iraq accountable. When (before the Iraq war) 20 distinguished American national security officials, including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requested that the president set aside funds from frozen Iraqi assets to enforce the POWs' judgment, they did not even receive an answer.

This decision to stiff the POWs, made by administration lawyers in the climate of misguided legal advice now exposed in the detainee abuse scandal, resulted in the administration's seizing the blocked Iraqi assets the POWs had been counting on to enforce their judgment. In seizing the entire $1.7 billion, leaving nothing for the POWs, the administration argued that the money was urgently needed for the "reconstruction of Iraq."

I don't doubt that a Bush defender, somewhere, will attempt to rationally justify Bush's stealing of U.S. court-awarded damages to our POW's, but I'm not quite sure what twisted logic they'll attempt to employ. This is an old story, one the press hasn't taken a big interest in. But it's an important story, nonetheless.

Why is Bush taking these folks' money? Who knows, and who cares. Sometimes, what's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong. This time, Bush is wrong. This is immoral. This is outrageous. This is a national disgrace.

One would think that at some point, Bush lovers would re-identify their sense of shame and say 'enough is enough - I've had it with over-the-top, twisted-ass logic. George W. Bush - quit defending Saddam and give our POW's their due!'

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ohio: There's something happening here...

What it is, ain't exactly clear. But there's been a lot of rumbling going on, and it's not going away - it keeps building...slowly, but day it could pop...developing...

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Hidden Story Behind Sept. 11?

Check out this article in the Times talking about a millionaire's big ad buy. This guy, like millions of others in America and abroad, thinks that 9/11 was a much broader conspiracy than has been reported. Americans have fallen hook, line, and sinker so far - but it may not hold forever.

The article doesn't mention his website - ReOpen I also ran across a new site - that seems somewhat useful. All 9/11 coverup-related sites are listed in the margin under '9/11 Coverup Sites'.

At this point I don't believe the theories of no planes hitting the Pentagon and some other stuff, but there is plenty to doubt on the official story.

First, the plane in PA was shot down by a U.S. military jet, on the order of VP Dick Cheney - not brought down by the hijackers or anyone else on board. This shoot-down story has been widely corroborated by eye witnesses on the ground in PA at the time.

Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has already said on the record that a 'third-party nation' was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Do Republicans care if Saudi Arabia funded the 9/11 attacks? Or do they just want to continue to believe that Saddam did it?

Council on Foreign Relations: Right-wing outpost?

Perusing the New York Times online the other day I ran across an article by Roger Cohen titled Israel, the U.S. and the Age of Terror. Sounds interesting, I thought, let me give it a whirl.

All was going well until I ran across this passage:

Conservative supporters of Mr. Bush scoff at the suggestion, embraced in every European and Arab capital, that the American tilt toward Israel and the failure to move toward a settlement are the most important single factors in feeding the anti-American radicalism that produces terrorism.

"It's fantasy land to think some change in Middle East policy would have an effect on the terrorists," said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "For years, you had Bill Clinton focusing like a laser on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and did that discourage bin Laden from plotting to destroy us? These people want Israel eradicated, so there's no way you can accommodate them."

When I hear something like this I think "wingnuttery". It's such an outrageous remark - false on its face - over-the-top in its delivery - one would think it dropped from the lips of a Coulter-type personality at the AEI or some other such wingnut factory.

So, what exactly is the Council on Foreign Relations? I'm not exactly sure, but I've been seeing them quoted in a bunch of articles recently. They're strategy is working. It seems to be one of several hundred - literally - right-wing organizations funded by big corporations and right-wing wackos. Their goal is to put forth a facade of broad, bipartisan appeal in the form of a large body of 'experts', consultants, scholars, etc. and then when it is quote time, grab one of the frothing-at-the-mouth right-wingers and have them spew nonsense. It's a phenomenon described much more aptly in Eric Alterman's book 'What Liberal Media?'.

I'd never heard of this Max Boot character before so I decided to read-up on his wingnut credentials. It didn't take me long. A quick Google turns up his home page at CFR, which includes a bunch of right-wing articles he's authored. How do I know they're right-wing? Well, it took me all of two minutes to pick a right-wing-titled article 'Bush's Solid, McKinley-Style Victory' and peruse it for disinformation. In it, Boot says the following about the bin Laden tape released just before the election:

According to one translation, this meant any U.S. state that voted the wrong way would pay a price. Such threats, backed up by bombs, swayed the outcome of the Spanish election. But Australian voters did not knuckle under, and neither did the voters of the United States.

The notion that the Spanish elections were swayed by the Madrid bombing has long been discredited. They were swayed because the Spanish government lied about who perpetrated the bombing, then tried to cover-up their lies. The bombing itself had no effect whatsoever. Of course, our own right-wing media helped to cover up that truth nicely.

So, be on the lookout for more right-wingnut quotes from CFR - the supposedly non-partisan think tank that is actually just a front for more right-wing frothing.

Don't Rig the Iraqi Election

Marina S. Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment gets some space in an op-ed of the WaPo. It's really only worth reading if you don't yet know about why holding real elections, in general, and especially in Iraq, is so crucial for Iraq, the U.S., and the world. I just thought it was odd that one of the top five national newspapers printed a purely lefty argument - straight up - with a very simple, straightforward message/warning: don't rig the elections.

Further, this article is a plea saying to the Bush admin and naive/ignorant/Republican/dumbass Americans:

Listen, we (on the Left) know you (Bushco) have absolutely no intention of running a free, open, fair election in Iraq, so we're not even going to pretend that is on the table at this point. Instead, we're going to try to sway public opinion by letting Americans know that their government, whatever its claims of righteousness, is not always righteous - and let this point of information serve as a warning of the very real consequences for all Americans of what is likely to happen when this next Iraq 'election' rolls by. We're going to point out the hypocrisy of the Bush administration's actions, and demand that they back up their rhetoric, and that getting Iraqi elections correct is more than just not deceiving the American people again - it will have real life consequences for the world, for the citizens of Iraq, for soldiers on the ground, and for the family and friends of those soldiers who continue to donate their sons / daughters / fathers / mothers / wives / husbands / sisters / brothers to the cause of democracy in Iraq.

It's obvious that the author of this piece knows the history of U.S.-sponsored 'elections' in foreign lands. They've looked past the rhetoric to the actions - and the actions suggest a non-election.

Just the other day I dropped a quick email to Juan Cole after reading a post concerning the upcoming 'elections'. One of Iraq's political leaders had this to say after a town didn't receive enough voting ballots (sound familiar?):
We do not want to hold up the process, and we are not asserting that this matter is deliberate. But we shall wait and see what the relevant authorities, the high commission for the elections, and the United Nations, which have promised to hold free and fair elections without flaws, so that their legitimacy is unassailable.

It seemed like such a measured statement - but why would this guy say it so carefully - why not just come out and say we're getting screwed? Was he just being a good politician, or is it possible that he actually believed free and fair elections would/could ever be held ever in Iraq even as the U.S. continues to control the country? I'm really naive about this whole politics thing.

I asked this rhetorical question to Professor Cole, saying that I was having a tough time believing that any of the political leaders in Iraq could actually believe that they were going to have any semblence of a free/open/fair election. The reasons why this either couldn't happen, practically, and why the U.S. government would not ever let it happen are just too numerous to mention. Are those Iraqi political leaders just extemely gullible, or do they really have no choice but to go along with the process of deceit and continue to agitate just to make sure they get their cut of the new government? I'm not sure - it seems there evidence of both of these reasons, but who really knows?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

resfest (2004): Digital Film Festival

Not sure if I've ever been to this thing before, but it sure looks cool. In town yesterday and today only. More later...

UPDATE: Saw 'Shorts #3' program. Some very, very cool and creative stuff. Voted for 'Bicycle Gangs of New York'.