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Comments Credits
Comments by YACCS
Monday, May 17, 2004

The importance of gay marriage

The importance of gay marriage
















Let's see, I'm straight I don;t care who sleeps with whom and I don't wave the Bible around. So read my my carefully considered opinion above and draw your own conclusions,

posted by Steve @ 3:09:00 AM

3:09:00 AM

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Sunday, May 16, 2004

South Africa will host World Cup

Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK

SA World Cup delight


South Africa exploded in joyous celebrations on Saturday upon the news that it will become the first African country to host the World Cup finals in 2010.

It will be the biggest international event ever organised in South Africa and a multi-billion dollar injection into its economy.

President Thabo Mbeki, who returned home after presenting the South African bid to the Fifa Executive Committee in Zurich, dropped his normal reserve and danced in jubilation with crowds gathered in the capital Pretoria.

You can't keep a good country down


Champagne corks popped at football stadiums, public squares and community centres throughout the country as black and white united in celebration.

"You can't keep a good country down," said an ecstatic Chez Milani, general secretary of the Federation of Unions of South Africa.

"What better news could our industry have asked for to cement the successes we have achieved and are indeed celebrating during this historic year as we celebrate 10 Years of Freedom?" said South African Tourism chief executive officer, Cheryl Carolus.

Waving the multi-coloured South African flags, clapping and singing, South Africans were immediately swept up in euphoria at events organised in downtown Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban.


This is very good news. Ten years ago, no one could have imagined the World Cup in South Africa. Any more than the South African Charlize Theron could have been nominated, much less won an Oscar. As bad as the news can be from there, this signals real change.
Once, South African athletes were once pariahs, barred from international competitrion. The idea of a World Cup there was as likely as the Pope endorsing executions. Now, it's a welcomed member of the world community.

The World Cup is the world's most important sporting event, nothing comes close, not even the Olympics. Americans often don't get soccer, they say it's too slow, too little scoring. I disagree. I love soccer. It's called the beautiful game for a reason. Just watch Brazil play and you'll get it.

By some odd quirk, I grew up watching soccer on PBS. They would show the English Premiership then the German Bundesliga. So I grew up watching Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Leeds and Newcastle. I've always loved soccer, even watching Maradona in '86 on UHF. Despite the miserable reception, his skill shone through.

In 2002, I got up at 5 to see the US national team in the Wotld Cup. In Spanish, After all, Andres Cantor doesn't do the big games in English.

Soccer has an entire culture which makes the Yankees-Red Sox look like pikers. Hell, they make Texas high school football look calm. People riot when their national team loses. Soccer is the world's game. The passion of most of the world. Which is why who gets the world cup matters. It's world politics which more people care about than the EU or UN. The English still wonder why they haven't gotten to host a world cup, despite the fact that their fans act like pigs. English soccer "fans" are about as wanted as a dose of the clap.

Soccer is so large, that a side's fans, like ManU or Real Madrid may never see them play live. Iraqi kids routinely wear Juventus and Chelsea jerseys.Osama Bin Laden is an Arsenal fan. The four major leagues, The Premiership, Italy's Serie A, the Bundesliga, and the Spanish La Liga, have their games shown world wide, In the US, it's on Fox Sports Net. FIFA, the body which runs soccer, makes world wide news with any decision they make. Choosing a FIFA president is major news on the BBC. Only in the US could I walk down the street in my new ManU jersey and have people wonder what team it was. In other places, people might sneer, but they know the team.

Soccer is both sport and celebration, of fan loyalty, national pride, regional hatreds, But to like soccer, there is only one thing you need to see: Brazil's national team play. They may or may not be the best at any given moment, but no team handles the ball better. They are just amazing to see in action. There are other teams, Cameroon, Senegal, Italy, France, which are just as exciting to see, in different ways.

And with the internet you can follow nearly any team, buy their gear, listen to live games. Now, I can follow ManU, see their games on PPV live, or on Fox the next day.

Soccer isn't my favorite sport, but it is the most fun to watch. even if the scoring is low.

posted by Steve @ 3:05:00 PM

3:05:00 PM

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The breakfast burrito

The breakfast burrito

One of my favorite breakfasts is the breafast burrito.

It's called this because you basically take a flour tortilla, scramble some eggs, add meat, vegetables, seasoning, cheese and fill it. It's not hard to do, but there are some tricks which help things along.

The most critical thing is getting the eggs right. They must be soft and creamy without being runny. You don't want to have the eggs dripping out while you eat it. Shredded cheese usually does the trick, but butter, sour cream, mayonnaise, can all be used to get that creamy effect.

This is one of those meals which you can empty your fridge out and make a relatively healthy meal, take any meat, veggies and cook them up, then mix in some eggs. It also makes for a nice brunch and is kid friendly as well.

Basically, you want to chop up whatever you add in into small dices, The idea is to blend the flavors and cook it down until the meat and potatoes are crisp, and the other vegetables are soft and carmelized. You want a little toothy feel to the mix, so you need a little crunch, which is where the meat comes in. The reason is that you want to blend flavors, especially with the eggs. This, unlike an egg sandwich, is not the conflict between soft and hard, but a melding of soft on soft, so big chunks of peppers ruins the effect and creates a distraction. The goal should be to feel that this is melting in your mouth while you eat it.

Now, seasoning is simple, but tricky. Season the additives and just toss a little pepper and salt on the eggs. What to use? Well,it all depends on what you like. Fresh herbs would be nice, but my favorite is chili powder. Now, you can go full Mexican, with fresh chilis, like jalopenos, green salsa, avocados, and chorizo, or make it anglo with bacon and American cheese, or anywhere in between. The tricky part is to get a seasoning mix which doesn't overwhelm the eggs. Which is why spices like rosemary and cumin might be too much. The same with hot sauce. Too much kills the gentle egg flavor, but a little bite never hurts. It's a balancing act between the egg, the additions and spices.

This is the kind of meal which can let you serve people quickly and who eat different things, You can make one vegeterian, one with no vegetables, one with eggs and cheese. It is also a clever way to feed a lot of people quickly. Make the eggs, toss them in burritos and everyone eats. If you want, you can make it buffet style, and cook everything seperately and let people add what they want. This isn't optimal, but it can make a breakfast or brunch go from boring tp clever, especially for kids.

I like the blending of flavors, but when you need a new brunch idea, this is perfect. It's quick, clever and adds in a bunch of flavors in a clever way many people may not have had at breakfast. It also allows you to introduce vegetables into breakfast for people who might otherwise avoid them. They think onions and peppers go with Mexican food. And it's Atkins friendly, so those people can eat and shut up about their diet.

One other trick is to fill the burrito and put it on a grill until it crisps up. This seals in the filling and gives the burrito a nice toasty crunch.

posted by Steve @ 1:35:00 PM

1:35:00 PM

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The Down Low

The Down Low

Kevin Neff, managing editor of the NY Blade made this comment on how dangerous the closet is.

These black men are much en vogue these days, commanding ink from the New York Times, and even air time with Oprah Winfrey, who isn’t known for devoting much attention to gay rights issues on her popular, self-obsessed show. She recently featured author J.L. King, who said, “You’re not going to find me in a gay club because I have nothing to do with that culture. That’s them.”

King, who is black, wrote a book titled, “On the Down Low.” Instead of going to gay bars, he prefers to meet closeted men in grocery stores and churches, much to the shock of Oprah’s enraptured audience of naïve, pampered, upper middle class women.

I met my partner of nearly seven years at the Hippo nightclub in Baltimore. We didn’t cruise the produce aisle or sneak off to a public toilet. We met, chatted and exchanged phone numbers, then scheduled a date.

King, and others like him living such blatantly dishonest lives, should try “that culture.” They might be surprised.

Black men on the “DL” aren’t carving out some cool new subculture to which anyone should aspire. They are lying to themselves, and more tragically, to the African-American women they’re infecting with HIV at alarming rates.

And African Americans as a whole, particularly black ministers, needs to accept some responsibility for pushing these men into a dangerous existence in the closet.


When I saw this, I nearly fell over. Not because the guy was gay, but because he embraced dishonesty so easily. Life is not free, there is a cost for every activity. Being a straight man, sometimes I have to shave, wear clean clothes and not say fuck every other word. But since I like women, well, I do those things. I don't really care who people sleep with, but I dislike the morality of the down low. I don't get how people can lie about their lives.

There is a massive stigma towards gays in black America and a healthy racism in the gay community, so being black and gay cannot be easy. The down low is the result of that. But if you're going to live an ethical life, you cannot lie to everyone in it. This disdain of gay culture is decptive. The down low IS a gay culture, one adapted for black men entranced by their need for machismo and secrets.

What struck me about King was not only his contempt for women, and the DL is mysoginy in action, but his love of this secret world. Instead of having the courage to date and live an ethical life, the men on the down low choose to hide. He liked picking up men in church, as if openly gay men can't do thar. If it was merely self-delusion, it wouldn't bother me, But it kills women and children.

Everytime a minister launches a homophobic rant, he's creating a climate of death. People have an absolute right to know who their partners sleep with. When you create a climate of homophobia, and the black church can find Leviticus with no problem, people die. Women, children, and gay men.

Instead of creating a welcoming environment, the church is the down low's silent partner. It's as if they say "do what you want on Saturday night, but shut up about it on Sunday." The most important thing is honesty. The down low represents a great ethical failure in black America. Instead of encouraging sexual honesty, we would rather support hypocracy, lies and ultimately death.

posted by Steve @ 10:12:00 AM

10:12:00 AM

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Straight to the top

Straight to the top

THE GRAY ZONE
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib.
Issue of 2004-05-24
Posted 2004-05-15


The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.” The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld’s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, “Some people think you can bullshit anyone.”

The Abu Ghraib story began, in a sense, just weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks, with the American bombing of Afghanistan. Almost from the start, the Administration’s search for Al Qaeda members in the war zone, and its worldwide search for terrorists, came up against major command-and-control problems. For example, combat forces that had Al Qaeda targets in sight had to obtain legal clearance before firing on them. On October 7th, the night the bombing began, an unmanned Predator aircraft tracked an automobile convoy that, American intelligence believed, contained Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader. A lawyer on duty at the United States Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, refused to authorize a strike. By the time an attack was approved, the target was out of reach. Rumsfeld was apoplectic over what he saw as a self-defeating hesitation to attack that was due to political correctness. One officer described him to me that fall as “kicking a lot of glass and breaking doors.” In November, the Washington Post reported that, as many as ten times since early October, Air Force pilots believed they’d had senior Al Qaeda and Taliban members in their sights but had been unable to act in time because of legalistic hurdles. There were similar problems throughout the world, as American Special Forces units seeking to move quickly against suspected terrorist cells were compelled to get prior approval from local American ambassadors and brief their superiors in the chain of command.

Rumsfeld reacted in his usual direct fashion: he authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate “high value” targets in the Bush Administration’s war on terror. A special-access program, or sap—subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security—was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon. The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps. America’s most successful intelligence operations during the Cold War had been saps, including the Navy’s submarine penetration of underwater cables used by the Soviet high command and construction of the Air Force’s stealth bomber. All the so-called “black” programs had one element in common: the Secretary of Defense, or his deputy, had to conclude that the normal military classification restraints did not provide enough security.

“Rumsfeld’s goal was to get a capability in place to take on a high-value target—a standup group to hit quickly,” a former high-level intelligence official told me. “He got all the agencies together—the C.I.A. and the N.S.A.—to get pre-approval in place. Just say the code word and go.” The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said.


I'll write more on this later, but the love of secrets can lead you straight to hell. If this is true, Rumsfeld and his deputies will all have to resign. Who did Rummy think he was? Jack Ryan?Secret hit teams? This is the real world, not a Tom Clancy novel. Things like that can blow up on you very easily.

posted by Steve @ 8:38:00 PM

8:38:00 PM

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Far from ready to fight

Far from ready to fight

May 15, 2004
THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ
Far From Ready for More War
With battered gear and nerves, a third of the Army is 'unfit to fight' but preparing to return.

By Esther Schrader, Times Staff Writer
FT. CAMPBELL, Ky. — From their first days as "Screaming Eagles," the 18,000 soldiers of the Army's 101st Airborne Division are taught to be ready for anything. As the force's proud creed goes: "First in, last out."

But at its sprawling home base — after a long year in Iraq that wreaked havoc with the blades of its helicopters, the sights of its guns and the nerves of its soldiers — the 101st is as far from ready as it has ever been.   
      
 Outside a gun locker the other day, a soldier used a bristled brush to scrape out Iraqi sand lodged in the seams of his rucksack. In the motor pool, mechanics pulled the transmission from a bomb-battered Humvee. At a social worker's office, a soldier ticked off the names of buddies he had watched die and mourned the breakup of his romance back home.

The 101st has no choice but to fix itself. And fast. With Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld saying this week that the U.S. military presence in Iraq will stand at 135,000 troops for the foreseeable future, the Pentagon must prepare these soldiers to return to the fight.
What the 101st is going through is a microcosm of what lies ahead for the entire Army. Iraq is its biggest test since Vietnam, and the rigors of fighting a counterinsurgency have demolished much of the Army's equipment and allowed its soldiers' skills to atrophy. For the first time, three Army divisions — more than a third of its combat troops — are classified as unfit to fight.
This is a new experience for the Army. In World War II, conscript troops fought for the duration and came home to stay. In Vietnam, soldiers drafted for two-year stretches met up with units already in combat. In Iraq, a volunteer Army that for decades has been largely a peacetime force is being asked to fight hard for a year or more, come home, and gear up to go back again, with no end in sight.

"We have never had the need for a huge Army to stay engaged like we are now," said Col. Michael Linnington, who commands the 3,400 soldiers of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade. "Today if you're an active-duty unit, either you're going be in Iraq, or you're going be preparing to go back to Iraq. That's the way it's going to be."

Along with the 101st, the 82nd Airborne, which returned to Ft. Bragg, N.C., in March, and the 4th Infantry Division, whose soldiers still are returning to Ft. Hood, Texas, and Ft. Carson, Colo., came back from Iraq at readiness levels that the Army says left them unfit. Another division that had been due to return home this spring, the 1st Armored, was ordered in April to stay in Iraq at least three more months. When the 1st Armored does come home, it will likely be in the same shape


Yeah, this won't destroy the Army.

posted by Steve @ 8:11:00 PM

8:11:00 PM

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Friday, May 14, 2004

The right : walking away from Bush's folly

The right : walking away from Bush's folly

Atrios notes the defection of Crossfire host Tucker Carlson from the war supporters, then ran a link to this piece in the NY Post. Now, Ralph Peters is a wacko, who wrote an amazingly racist column last year about fighting Arabs. Now that we know they aren't cowards, Peters reconsiders, and now wants the war criminal in charge to leave for sound reasons.

WHY THE TROOPS DON'T TRUST RUMMY

By RALPH PETERS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
May 14, 2004 -- ACCORDING to his handlers, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went to Baghdad to "boost troop morale." The best way the SecDef could improve morale would be to resign.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, Rumsfeld and his apparatchiks boldly defended Washington while our troops fought overseas. Now that the battle's shifted to Capitol Hill in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the SecDef's in Iraq.

It's like all those press briefings in which he answers the questions when things are going well, but defers to those in uniform when things are going badly.

Should Rumsfeld resign over the prisoner abuse by rogue MPs? No. He should resign for the good of our military and our country. Those twisted photos are only one symptom of how badly the Rumsfeld era has derailed our military.

Rumsfeld has maintained a positive image with much of America because he controls information fanatically and tolerates no deviation from the party line. Differing opinions are punished in today's Pentagon - and every field general who has spoken plainly of the deficiencies of either the non-plan for the occupation of Iraq, the lack of sufficient troops (in Iraq or overall) or any aspect of Rumsfeld's "transformation" plan has seen his career ended.

It isn't treason to tell the truth in wartime. But it verges on treason to lie. And Rumsfeld lies.

Our military needs vigorous, continual internal debate. Contrary to popular myth, our officer corps has a long tradition of dissenting opinions. And the grave new world in which we find ourselves is not susceptible to party-line solutions.



It's especially noteworthy that the officers who respectfully differed from the views of the Rumsfeld cabal turned out to be right. Consider former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was right about the need for more troops and even right about the kind of vehicles we'd need in Iraq. For his service to our country, he was treated dismissively and mocked publicly.

........................

I'm privileged to spend a good bit of time with our military officers, from generals to new lieutenants. And I have never seen such distrust of a public official in the senior ranks. Not even of Bill Clinton. Rumsfeld & Co. have trashed our ground forces every way they could. Only the quality of those in uniform saved us from a debacle in Iraq.
..........

Clinging to power isn't a mark of strength, but of weakness, arrogance and brute obstinacy. Rumsfeld has wounded our military and sent our troops to die for harebrained schemes. In place of sound plans, he substituted political prejudices. Election year or not, he has to go.

........

Peters is absolutely right, Rumsfeld fires anyone with the balls to stand up to him and his plans. This is not the kind of leadership we deserve. Our soldiers are free men and women who volunteered to serve their country. They deserve better from their leaders. Rumsfeld is a liar and an arrogant fool. Our kin need leaders who can send them water in the desert.

posted by Steve @ 11:07:00 AM

11:07:00 AM

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Rotten leadership, rotting Army

Rotten leadership, rotting Army

I think we forget that many of the soldiers in Iraq signed up to fight Al Qaeda, not Iraqi guerrillas. Seeing Dick Myers and Rummy giving a speech at Abu Ghraib, where innocent people still languish, talking about how great our soldiers are, reminded me of exactly how betrayed they were by those men.

Some are great, some are special, some are scum who belong in jail. But they all deserve better leadership. Our soldiers had to make their own armored Humvees. Which is not unusual in war, nor is using the enemy's weapons. But importing water? While Rummy was playing cute with the press and sucking up to Martha Radddatz and Barbara Starr, parents were sending their kids water via FedEx.

The Army is rotting. There are real heroes, not just Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan, but hundreds of men and women who are winning Silver and Bronze Stars for combat actions. Yet, they don't even have decent oil to clean their weapons with. They are short vests and rifles and leaders who give a damn. I would hate to think that our Army has more Janis Karpinskis than Antonio Tagubas, but we probably do. Richard Myers is a disgrace. His adivce to the President has been abysmal.

You don't get low rent morons playing naked hopscotch with prisoners except in the most dire and low morale situations. What hasn't been said, and is not meant to be a defense is this: people who believe in their mission and their leaders will not descend into torturers. People who hate their mission, being in Iraq and lacking a sense of purpose will try to find one. So when someone offers a mission, they embrace it. Even if it is evil and wrong. If those guards had a sense of purpose, had been told the truth about how long they'd be in Iraq, the odds of them torturing and taking atrocity photos would be lower.

But the fact that Abu Ghraib happened is a sign the Army is collapsing. It's being ground up in Iraq and losing its moral sense, which has never been as finely tuned as some claim.

It's one thing to support the troops, and one look at Walter Reed's Ward 57 should melt the heart of even the most die hard cynic, it's another to send them water. They should have water. They should have enough water.

We need to remember there are heroes all over the place, the honor guard at Dover, the nurses and doctors who help patch up the wounded from the field hospitals to Walter Reed and Bethesda, the officers who try and keep their men supplied. Most of all, the young men and women who have been greviously injured and decide to live. Being sick is hard, being very sick, that much harder. But facing rehab and a new life takes a lot of character. It's the kind of strength which we rarely see in daily life. It takes far more heroism to learn to walk again than face enemy fire.

And for all that effort and devotion, what are they rewarded with? Indifferent. weak leaders who do not give a damn if they live or die. They were more upset when four mercenaries were killed than when five soldiers were blown up on the same day, or when US soliders are kidnapped. Who sent them into combat without enough water, to fight in the desert. Forget rifles, flak vests or armor.

The leadership we have now, from JCS Chairman Myers to Army Chief of Staff Schoonmaker on down, is failing our kin. They aren't just soldiers, but our family members, our cousins, sons, siblings. They sent them to fight and die without the things they need. If there is a greater dereliction of duty, a greater disgrace, i cannot think of one.

posted by Steve @ 3:21:00 PM

3:21:00 PM

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The morals of torture

The morals of torture

On last night's Nightline, they were discussing torture and it's moral effects. They refered to 24, the Fox series, and how torture is routinely used on it.

The implication was that there was no moral cost to the use of torture on the show. I would draw a very different conclusion. The show demonstrates the moral cost of torture. If you watch the show, would you say anyone on it is, well, happy? Their job seems to extract a pretty high moral cost on the agents. The willingness to torture doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing was evil. I think the use of torture on 24, instead of being an easy solution, is in fact, the hard, desperate solution. And in every circumstance over the last two seaons where torture was depicted, they were discussing a nuclear bomb and biological warfare, not ordinary intelligence gathering. Even then, you don't feel good about seeing it. While some people may cheer it on, I feel sad when I see it in fiction. I'm revolted when I see it in real life.

I was surprised that Alan Dershowitz, who as a panelist on the show, didn't understand the moral cost of torture. Even if you get the answers, you lose something. Torture doesn't work. It doesn't get you the right answers. John McCain, who was tortured, walked out during James Inhofe's disgusting rant. He knows what torture is like first hand, and justifying it was just plain wrong.

The reality is that anyone we could torture and had important information would probably hold out or use a cover story which checked out. So as a practical matter, it doesn't work. But more importantly, we have evidence that torture doesn't work. Tne Germans used very sophisticated techniques in tricking American and British airmen which got far more relevant information than the Gestapo's torture. People have the will to resist beatings, kindness is much harder to resist.

But morally, torture undermines everything we supposedly stand for. Sure, beating the crap out of some AQ lowlife is satisfying, but it doesn't work. Given a choice, I'd like to see Osama and his boys roasted over open fires for a day or so. But when you do that, when you give into that impulse, you become as bad as they are, and that is a luxury we cannot afford. It is a luxury to torture and kill at whim. Americans have to stand for something more than raw power.

Americans have been very lucky in creating a country which welcomes anyone and can admit great error. Segregation was the law of this country for 400 years and it ended in 10. Are we perfect? Is segregation gone? No. You can see any number of reports on racial steering in real estate. But it is no longer the law of the land. That was a moral and legal change of tremendous proportions which is still to our credit today.

When you embrace torture, even as a temporary solution, you negate our laws, traditions and customs. The same as when you deny the wrong being done. This country was founded on the right to not be tortured and abused by police. We wrote it into our first laws, unless cruel and unusual punishment means something other than torture. Anyone who tries to justify this defiles our deepest beliefs and ideals.

posted by Steve @ 1:09:00 PM

1:09:00 PM

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How to get out of Iraq

How to get out of Iraq

How can America get out of Iraq?

As the situation in Iraq goes from bad to worse, Sherle R Schwenninger, Phyllis Bennis and Mansour Farhang outline possible exit strategies for the US

Thursday May 13, 2004

Talk about it
Part 1 of this series

Sherle R Schwenninger: Be bold

The most commonly proposed Democratic alternative to the administration's policy in Iraq - turning over political authority to the UN and getting more countries to provide more troops and money - is well intentioned but lacks seriousness, for two reasons.

First, it is not realistic to expect the UN to assume such responsibility without more resources, without assurances from the US about security and without some control over the conduct of US military strategy.

Likewise, it is not realistic to expect countries such as Egypt, France, Germany, Russia, India and Pakistan, which opposed the war, to now commit substantial troops to Iraq in the middle of a major insurgency, especially without a larger shift in US policy.

For both domestic and international reasons, these countries do not want to be seen as instruments of what they consider to be a misguided US policy toward the Middle East in general.

Second, the Democratic alternative does not go far enough to change the political dynamic from one of occupation (albeit a more legitimate one) to one of Iraqi sovereignty.

After all, the UN itself has been a target of the insurgents, and there now seems to be a general mistrust and impatience with any foreign control over Iraq's future. Any proposal to stabilise Iraq must restore a sense of ownership to the Iraqi people as well as real power.

For these reasons, we need to think in bolder terms about what we can offer to the international community and to the Iraqi people in order to gain their active support for a plan that would transfer authority to the UN and to an Iraqi interim government.

There would need to be three elements to this grand bargain. The first would be the promise of substantial resources to the UN, not only for this Iraqi state-building effort but also for comparable efforts in the future, including resources that would increase the capacity of the UN to provide more of its own security in the future for such missions.

Unless the US can demonstrate to the other major stakeholders in the UN that its attitude toward the organisation has changed, it is unlikely to elicit more than a token response.

The second element of the grand bargain must be the internationalisation of other elements of its Middle East policy that affect the political dynamic inside Iraq. It makes no sense whatsoever for other countries to commit money and security forces to Iraq as long as the US continues to condone Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and pursues a hostile policy toward Iran and Syria.


posted by Steve @ 10:59:00 AM

10:59:00 AM

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Coming undone

Coming undone

The Congressmen and women looked shaken as they talked on TV today about the torture gallery they sat through. Many are sexually explicit pictures of soldiers doing each other.

They can only hold back the pictures for so long. As bad as they are, withholding them only prolongs the agony.

John Kerry is already casting about for a new SecDef. John McCain is the obivous choice, but he won't want the job under Bush. While I may not agree with his politics, his ethics are leagues higher than Rumsfeld. What people need to understand about McCain's name popping up with Kerry is this: he trusts McCain. They are pretty close friends, as is the way in Washington. John Warner and Carl Levin are the other names which popped up.

What this means, is that Rummy is getting the Fredo treatment. He's being kissed up to in public, but the knives are out for him. You don't debate who's going to get fired until that's a realistic possibility.

The problem for Bush is that keeping the achingly incompetent Rumsfeld and his crew reminds people exactly what is wrong in Iraq. Rumsfeld has smirked and sneered his way across the media and the press folks were all too happy to play along, even as reports of US abuses filled non-US media.

You'd have to search the web to read about US gunning down children, robbing Iraqis during raids, drinking to insensate levels, shooting up hospitals. The American media ignored and downplayed abuses by US troops for nearly a year. They also downplayed the severe equipment shortages, parents shipping water to their kids, families sending gun oil to units, people using AK's because they were short rifles.

These weren't on Al Jazeera, but in British, Australian, New Zealand and South African papers. It is ridiculous to look at Abu Ghraib in isolation and to say a few privates and NCO's lost their heads. It has its roots in a deep racist contempt for Iraqis.

There seems to be a search for an Israeli connection in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, when it's more than likely, our imported torturers were Arabs. We own Egypt as well as Israel and the potential blowback is far less severe. Same with Albanians, Pakistanis and Gulf State residents. All could practice the art of torture on their coreligionists with scant concern.

There is simply no way to describe exactly how incompetent Rumsfeld has been.Every major decision he made was wrong. From launching the war on to Abu Ghraib. The US media is afraid to raise the questions or even report honestly on the troops and their activties. Instead, we get a sanitized picture of the war until we're staring them in the face. We ignore the cursing and gun waving and robbery, but notice the sodomy and humiliation. When it is way too late to save our efforts in Iraq.

posted by Steve @ 7:07:00 PM

7:07:00 PM

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Bring me the head of Nic Berg

Bring me the head of Nic Berg

They chopped Nic Berg's head off on video.

You have to wonder what kind of twisted fuck would do that. Their excuse, Abu Ghraib, is a pale one. They did the same thing to Danny Pearl and there was no reason. Once you enter a world of violence, escape is difficult.

Sen. Inhofe's comments will serve as a death sentence to Americans in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. His use of Saddam will only serve to infuriate Arabs and drive them to harsher measures. It is a contest we cannot win.

I wanted to smash my TV when the White House said "we will bring them to justice". What? This is WAR. These folks are not going to surrender and go to trial. They're living by a code of kill or be killed. You can't build a case against them. Are these people delusional? Every time an American is killed in Iraq, they talk about catching the guy like he's a West Philly crack dealer involved in a driveby. Well, that's not in the cards.

The US government seems to still miss the idea that most Iraqis are perfectly willing to watch Americans die and not lift a finger. Berg was snatched off the streets and held for a month. No one said a word. No one called the cops. When will Bush take the hint. Iraqis are not going to support our little government. The exiles are liars, fools or both. Most Iraqis do not give a damn how many Americans die, and they certainly aren't going to risk anything for us.

This doesn't mean we get to go on a killing spree, but it's time we realize cutting our losses might be the wisest move. We're not going to fix anything, not even the stuff we broke. Imagine the reaction when the US troops come to take the men away.

We're in a land of denial. Every time we try to excuse our troops by claiming they're not all sadistic torturers, we miss the daily humiliation and racist behavior of our troops. When Iraqis deal with Americans, it's not all sunshine and light. People die, are beaten, robbed. Abu Ghraib was just the end of the line for humiliating Iraqis. We need to stop pretending that Abu Ghraib was the exception. Iraqis would heartily disagree.

posted by Steve @ 11:50:00 PM

11:50:00 PM

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Happy Salad Meal

Happy Salad Meal

Jen sent this along, and since this concept amuses me, well....

McDonald's adult Happy Meal arrives

The Go Active! package for grown-ups includes salad, water and even exercise tips.
May 11, 2004: 2:13 PM EDT


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - McDonald's gave its grown-up customers their very own Happy Meal box Tuesday that comes with water, salad and a booklet of exercise tips.

But given that the big kids don't get a fun little toy in it -- just a "stepometer" -- it remains to be seen if this latest gimmick from the fast-food king will get adults to actually start "lovin' it."

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's (MCD: Research, Estimates), which launched the Go Active! Happy Meal at its U.S. restaurants nationwide, said the Go Active! Meals will be sold only for a short period of time, until June 7. However, a McDonald's spokeswoman said the meal option could become a permanent part of the menu in the future.

The hamburger chain has been a target of obesity lawsuits and has increasingly been criticized for promoting "unhealthy" eating habits among both children and adults. McDonald's over the past year took steps to improve its image by launching premium salads, eliminating its Super Size menu options and touting other diet-conscious options at its outlets. .

The company said that the Go Active! Happy Meals are another way for it to offer customers a balanced option.

The adult meal, priced at $5.99 a box, includes a choice of McDonald's four premium salads, a "stepometer" that clips on a belt and counts the number of steps you take in a day, and a "Step With It!" booklet with tips for walking and working out.


Wow, salad and water. And a stepometer as well. Gee, that's gonna make me stop eating Big Macs.

Actually, a Big Mac bloats me, but this is well, a sign McDonalds fears discovery. The first go round, people laughed at the fat people suing McDonalds. The second go round won't be funny, because they won't be going after the marketing, but the food chemistry. The question McDonald's hasn't had to deal with is what exactly is in their food. People assume it's just the same stuff we buy on our own. It isn't even close. It's filled with chemicals and adulterants designed to create a consistant flavor and taste across regions. How can a McDonald's burger taste the same in London, England and London, Ontario? That's not an accident, but better eating through chemistry.

All of the fast food places face the same dilemma and what's even worse is what we feed kids. When Alice Waters, the inventor of modern American cusine, spoke last night at the James Beard Award, cooking's Oscars, she said her goal was to "reform the way American kids ate. To turn lunch into a curriculum."

If you ever wonder why so many families are fat, think about the crap they sell kids and the way parents eat after their kids. It isn't just Junior eating chicken fingers and going to Chuck E. Cheese. Kids cannot drive to Chuck E. Cheese and parents aren't going to starve.

Most adults would choose different fast food, like Taco Bell, over McDonalds, if it wasn't driven by toys and kids. Taco Bell has smaller portions, more intense flavors, more sophisticated food. But many kids are afraid of tacos. Not that they won't eat them when familiar, but no two year old will say "Taco Bell". They learn M=McDonalds by the time they can walk. When my nephew was 18 months old, he called every M McDonalds. This isn't to say that Taco Bell is good for you, it isn't, but two tacos have about 400 calories and a Big Mac 590. Also, the lack of french fries, even with all the cheese, cuts down on fat. A burrito is far better for you, even with the chemically altered food, than the tryptic of fries, burger and soda.

The revolution in eating is coming. Fast food has to change to offer more alternatives and fresher food. Subway, Quiznos, even Blimpies, by not serving fried food, are better alternatives than the burger places. Even Popeyes and KFC have fewer calories than burgers. The low carb fad, and it's ridiculous with its rules and poor communication of portion control (a burger with cheese and bacon is not healthy for you on a consistant basis, even if you lose weight.), ends, people will have to face the fact that processed, fatty foods will harm you over time. Avoid pasta is stupid, eating less of it, like Europeans, is smart. Only in the US and Argentina would a 24 oz steak for one person would be considered a good meal. Most places wouldn't serve you half that. Tuscan steak is a porterhouse which can serve four people. Most American steakhouses serve the same cut for one.

McDonald's is selling salads as the prelude to big changes in how they design, chemically alter and prepare their food.

posted by Steve @ 3:07:00 PM

3:07:00 PM

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The Senator from Knucklehead

The Senator from Knucklehead

James Inhofe (R-OK) is one of the Senate's troglodytes. A dumber than grass reactionary. But today, he completely embarassed himself and most of his collegues.

SEN. INHOFE: Mr. Chairman, I also am -- and have to say, when we talk about the treatment of these prisoners, that I would guess that these prisoners wake up every morning thanking Allah that Saddam Hussein is not in charge of these prisoners. When he was in charge they would take electric drills and drill holes through hands, they would cut their tongues out, they would cut their ears off. We've seen accounts of lowering their bodies into vats of acid. All these things were taking place. This was the type of treatment that they had.

And I would want everyone to get this and read it. This is a documentary of the Iraq special report. It talks about the unspeakable acts of mass murder, unspeakable acts of torture, unspeakable acts of mutilation, the murdering of kids -- lining up 312 little kids under 12 years old and executing them, and then of course what they do to Americans, too.

There's one story in here that was in the I think it was The New York Times, yes, on June 2nd. I suggest everyone take that -- get that and read it. It's about one of the prisoners who did escape as they were marched out there, blindfolded and put before mass graves, and they mowed them down and they buried them. This man was buried alive and he clawed his way out and was able to tell his story.

And I ask, Mr. Chairman, at this point in the record that this account of the brutality of Saddam Hussein be entered into the record, made a part of the record.

SEN. WARNER: Without objection, so ordered.

SEN. INHOFE: I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying. And I just don't think we can take seven -- seven bad people. There are some 700 guards in Abu Ghraib. There are some 25 other prisons, about 15,000 guards all together, and seven of them did things they shouldn't have done and they're being punished for that.

But what about some 300,000 troops have been rotating through all this time and they have -- all the stories of valor are there.

Now, one comment about Rumsfeld. A lot of them don't like him. And I'm sorry that Senator McCain isn't here, because I just now said to him, "Do you remember back three years ago when Secretary Rumsfeld was up for confirmation, and I said these guys aren't going to like him because he doesn't kowtow to them, he is not easily intimidated." I've never seen Secretary Rumsfeld intimidated. And quite frankly, I can't think of any American today as qualified as Donald Rumsfeld is to prosecute this war.

Now -- oh, one other thing. All the idea about these pictures. I would suggest to you any pictures -- and I think maybe we should get direction from this committee, Mr. Chairman, that if pictures are authorized to be disseminated among the public, that for every picture of abuse or alleged abuse of prisoners, we have pictures of mass graves, pictures of children being executed, pictures of the four Americans in Baghdad that were burned and their bodies were mutilated and dismembered in public. Let's get the whole picture.


During this truly embarassing rant, which got most everything wrong, Sen. McCain walked out. CNN implied that his absence was purposeful.

Why do the knuckleheads always equate our actions with Saddam's as if that is an excuse. Just because Abu Ghraib was an infamous torture center during Saddam's time doesn't give us leave to open our own rape and humiiation center there.

We are supposed to be liberating the Iraqis. Instead we set up penal colonies and started abusing Iraqis, whom the Red Cross claims 90 percent were innocent. Inhofe's "Saddam did worse" rant ignores every standard of decency. Also, it's been pretty clear that the seven MP's, who have no real defense, were not acting alone. Just because they were ordered to torture people doesn't mean those orders were legal. The Nuremberg defense is not valid, not is scapegoating them going to suffice.

I hope their lawyers come up with a better defense than "we were ordered to torture" and "we never read the Geneva Conventions." Were all their officers all so ignorant?

What Inhofe and his reactionary troll buddies need to get is this: just because Saddam was total animal, it doesn't give us any excuse for mistreating Iraqis. His mass graves, his electric drills, his murders doesn't excuse us for violating our own laws, morals and ethics. The fact that Inhofe could even make that argument makes him look like an idiot.

posted by Steve @ 1:40:00 PM

1:40:00 PM

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Playing Sadr

Playing Sadr

Juan Cole notes that Sadr has expanded his war after he refused to surrender to Coalition forces. Gee, that's a mystery. How his fellow clerics could expect Sadr to walk voluntarily into custody after our activities in our Abu Ghraib penal colony is beyond me.

There is no way a sane person would walk into Coalition custofdy now.

The Shia leadership is too clever by half. They want to use the US Army to settle their civil dispute. They can kill or arrest Sadr and the unwashed, who Sadr and his father represents, will accept Sistani's leadership. They have waited for a year to see the US hand them power. Every move has played on US stupidity.

Now, we're going to do the Shia clerics dirty work by hunting down Sadr and his movement. At the end of the day, we are choosing which theocrats will invite them to leave. This was the same game the French Communists played before 1943. They did little to fight the Germans, then they became insanely aggressive when it was clear the resistance would run France after WW II., provoking German reprisals. They also hid weapons for their "revolution". DeGaulle was clever. He didn't denounce the Communists, he outfoxed them by disbanding the Resistance in September, 1944 and sent all the young men in the Army.

It is clear that the US wildly underestimated the Sadrist movement. They wanted the undermanned Spanish to take Sadr "dead or alive". Of course, when the body bags flowed back to Madrid, Bush would talk about "our brave Spanish allies". Of course, this errant stupidity helped force Zapatero's hand and have him bring the troops home. Suicide missions in Iraq was not on their agenda. Despite the crap about the Spanish being "disappointed" about being brought home, it was clear the commanders were quite happy to be going home before they were ordered to do something stupid.

The Spanish had around 1200 men and in any showdown with the Sadrists, they were going to be outnumbered, outgunned and in deep trouble. They were not going to launch an offensive with a reenforced battalion into a city of 500,000 people and then catch the blowback. They refused the US command that they bring back Sadr "dead or alive" a phrase Cole attributes to Bush, but could be said by any of the idiots in charge. The whole idea that Spanish troops could break the uneasy truce they had with the Sadrists and Sistani's people and start kicking ass and taking names is an American fantasy. One the Spanish opted out of.

Now the plan is to use the Iranian-backed SCIRI to fight Sadr, unleashing an inter-Shia civil war. SCIRI is hated because they are seen as Iranian tools. Their members tortured Iraqi Shia POW's in Iranian camps. This is an especially stupid move as Sadr becomes increasingly linked to Iraqi nationalism. The last thing the US needs is to be seen as linked to a party many Shia regard as traitors.

posted by Steve @ 7:27:00 AM

7:27:00 AM

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Monday, May 10, 2004

The knuckleheads

The knuckleheads

When asked about Spc. Jeremy Sivitis, a man from his home town said, among other things "why are we bound by such high standards?"

Well, because we pride ourselves on being decent human beings, for one thing. More importantly, because we represent the rule of law and order over the whims of the powerful. If Iraqis came to his town, said they represented freedom and then raped his daughter, he would be quite unhappy.

Rush started whining about how people were picking on him for calling the torture at our penal colony "fraternity hazing".

The knucklehead impulse runs deep among my fellow Americans. You can hear Howard Stern and Colin Quinn occasionally opine on the final solution to the Middle East problem being a nuclear volley. The fact that we would be seen as war criminals never seems to enter their world view.

Bush is only pandering to this knucklehead impulse with his go it alone stand. It crosses party lines and comes from the relative isolation Americans have from the rest of the world. The people in Sivitis's home town are not likely to have spent much time abroad. They see America as the best place on earth and able to do anything they want. Sand niggers giving us trouble? Nuke them.

Now, usually, people with rational views of the world are able to prevent policy from degenerating into such suicidally savage behavior. The rational usually wins out in the end. But, unfortunately, the neocons who run DOD bought into this American exceptionalism.

"Rights? They don't have any rights. Let's detain them for years."

This idea, that the US could arrest anyone, hold them incommunicado and let them go on our whims has bitten us squarely in the ass. The rules of war exist for a reason. But for Feith and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, those rules got in the way. It was time to play Dirty Harry. They would do what it took to get the proof they needed. Sloppy, cheap and fast.

The problem is that in the real world, sloppy, fast and cheap gets you killed or screwed over. The torture regime at our Iraqi penal colonies has done more to bolster the resistance than a hundred Fallujahs. Once the knowledge of what Americans would do to the innocent was known, it didn't take much to get people to join the resistance. Public sexual humiliation is reason enough to kill for most anyone. For Arabs, its particularly shameful.

There is another truth that the knuckleheads don't get. We can't be as savage as our enemies, even if we try. For every atrocity we commit, they can top us, It's not a game to play. Instead, like a martial artist, we need to play to their weakness. The one weakness of Arab states is the lack of justice not influenced by the powerful. If we had set up a fair justice system, not Gitmo East with sexual torture added, Iraqis and other Arabs would see why we cherish our justice system, as flawed as it is. But now, they see us as Saddam's replacements, with even less order and logic.

You cannot torture your way to victory. Once you use torture, the odds are against you.

posted by Steve @ 5:02:00 PM

5:02:00 PM

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"This is not the America I know"

"This is not the America I know"

George Bush has been running around the country saying "this is not the American I Know" when talking about our Iraqi penal colonies. I try not to laugh when this comes from a man who once oversaw the running of Huntsville Prison. Who saw James Byrd dragged through the streets like a dead cow while white supremacists laughed. Please, torture in Abu Ghraib is as American as apple pie. We used to lynch people, take pictures and serve lemonade.

U.S. to Reopen Investigation of Emmett Till's Murder in 1955
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: May 10, 2004

Filed at 11:32 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department said Monday it is reopening the investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a black teenager whose death while visiting Mississippi was an early catalyst for the civil rights movement.

Till was abducted from his uncle's home in Money, Miss., on Aug. 28, 1955. The mutilated body of the 14-year-old from Chicago was found by fishermen three days later in the Tallahatchie River.

Pictures of the slaying shocked the world. Two white men charged with murder -- Roy Bryant and his half brother, J.W. Milam -- were acquitted by an all-white jury. Both men have since died.

Justice Department officials did not say what prompted them to reopen the case. Details of the renewed investigation, which also involves officials in Mississippi, were to be announced Monday by R. Alexander Acosta, assistant attorney general for civil rights.

In 1956, Look magazine published an account of the slaying in which Milam admitted to the killing, which occurred a few days after Till purportedly whistled at a white girl in a store.

``'Chicago boy,' I said, 'I'm tired of them sending your kind down here to stir up trouble,''' Milam was quoted as saying. ``I'm going to make an example of you, just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.''

Milam said he beat Till and shot him in the head with a .45-caliber pistol, then tied a heavy metal fan to the body and dumped it in the river.


This didn't happen in Iraq. It happened in America. Now, I don't understand what Bush is talking about. In America, lynchings were an all-American part of life. They were entertainment. Our prisons weren't much better. Bush's America may be filled with pretty things, but anyone who's read American history knows he's full of shit. Americans have a long, brutal track record of extrajudicial justice.

There is nothing which happened at Abu Ghraib was out of the American character. Not the torture or the people who tried to stop it. Bush is either woefully misinformed or just straight up lying when he says the torture was some kind of abberation in character. It wasn't and isn't and there is massive evidence to prove that.

We're talking about a country where people rioted when Catholic Irish orphans were to be given to Catholic Mexican families. In 1909, these Orphans were shipped west and when white folks found out that Mexicans were going to get white kids, the torches and guns came out. This is the same country which burnt down predominantly black towns in Florida and Oklahoma. The roots of extrajudicial violence run as deep as a spring in this country.

Sure, we've changed since 1955. We're far less racist and cruel and we do actually investigate hate crimes now, not just cover them up. But to say "his America" couldn't do this is not going to fool anyone. The world knows our history better than we do.

posted by Steve @ 12:34:00 PM

12:34:00 PM

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Shopping on Ebay

After your generous contributions, I decided to test Paypal's functionality and buy a few things. Bidding is still a pain in the ass, but the bargains you can find on Ebay are actually pretty good, if you're careful.

You can use your Paypal balance either as a virtual credit card or with your balance to pay bills on Ebay and other Paypal shops. I managed to find a copy of the highly recommended Pro Evolution Soccer 3 online. I had tried to buy it on Amazon, but their UK shop will not sell software outside the EU, and their US shop doesn't sell it. Ebay was the only reasonable resource. It wound up to be less than $40, which is reasonable.

There are things I would never touch on Ebay, like components and systems. It's just a lot better to deal with a reliable vendor like Newegg.com, which has return policies and a great reputation. It could be cheaper on Ebay, but people sell any shit there and it may or may not work.

I did decide to buy a Treo 90, a 64MB SD MMC card and a replacement cell phone.

The cell was $30 off retail and I want to give my old phone to my mother. She won't use it much, but I want to be able to reach her when she's out.

The SD card is about $50 in the street, and was $26 new, at Ebay. I needed more megs for my digital camera, which I gave to Jen in the hospital and haven't been able to get back yet. It also fits in the Treo.

Now, why do I want a two year old Treo made by a company which no longer exists as a seperate entity?

Because PDA's are not something to invest in. The cheaper, the better. Unlike PC's, the major functionality difference is color. The newest models are slightly speedier, but only slightly. My olf Handspring Visor works fine, but the reality is that a slight upgrade for $70 and the fact that it is seriously outmoded, makes it worth it..

The price of PDA's, instead of going down, have climbed up. Sure, you can do fancy things like use wireless and have a cellphone, but for those of us who use it as an electronic notebook, why would we spend hundreds of dollars to play MP3's. A lot of people predict a fusion device in the next few years, but while connecting a phone and a PDA would be nice, the two devices have discrete uses. A cell is ubiquitous, a PDA is not.

The problem for PDA makers is that there is no obivous upgrade path for a PDA. So you get colors, that's about it. Why do you need a wireless PDA? Or a PDA phone. My friend Dave has a PDA phone. He rarely uses the PDA part.

I, otoh, rarely use my cell. Maybe four calls a week, max. I would use a PDA a lot more. I figure that even though my Visor works, the monochrome screen was driving me nuts. Color would be easier to use and easy to do things like download maps. Also, the keyboard would be easier to use than graffiti, although I never had a real problem with it.

The computer parts were an easy call. Pro Evolution Soccer was an even easier call. After all, man does not live by work alone. But the reason to upgrade the PDA, which was a fraction of what I paid for my Visor is that I actually use it. I haven't used the Visor in months, but that's because I haven't been going too far.

The PDA is a weird device. It's both useful and really expensive new. Spending $400 for something to take notes on makes no sense. It's the same reason I don't own an iPod. It's a lot cheaper to burn CD's. But for under a hundred bucks, a new PDA makes sense, especially when I'll actually use it,

I don't get why Palm and the Windows PDA makers have opted for features when the basic use of the PDA isn't going to change. The price point should be going down, not up. Expanded features don't make them more attractive. They're little electronic notebooks which have some useful features. Hell, if an iPod was under $200, they'd be worth something. But at their current price point, I don't get it.

One way to save money in technology is to get last year's model. With PDA's, that makes even more sense. Buying some things new is just a waste of cash.

posted by Steve @ 9:06:00 PM

9:06:00 PM

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I was just following orders

I was just following orders

The idea that MP's were "just following orders" may comfort the families of the accused, but it will not shield them from long terms of imprisonment any more that it kept Jodl and Keitel alive. Illegal, immoral orders must be refused. This is a core concept of military discipline and of common sense.

If anyone is confused, you cannot sic dogs on prisoners, beat them, watch them raped at your behest and murder them. Even in the guise of "softening them up", it is nowhere close to permitted.

Sy Hersh deals with this in two passages from his current story in the New Yorker, which has a truly sickening picture of a prisoner tormented by dogs.

When I asked retired Major General Charles Hines, who was commandant of the Army’s military-police school during a twenty-eight-year career in military law enforcement, about these reports, he reacted with dismay. “Turning a dog loose in a room of people? Loosing dogs on prisoners of war? I’ve never heard of it, and it would never have been tolerated,” Hines said. He added that trained police dogs have long been a presence in Army prisons, where they are used for sniffing out narcotics and other contraband among the prisoners, and, occasionally, for riot control. But, he said, “I would never have authorized it for interrogating or coercing prisoners. If I had, I’d have been put in jail or kicked out of the Army.”
...........

Not everybody went along. A company captain in a military-police unit in Baghdad told me last week that he was approached by a junior intelligence officer who requested that his M.P.s keep a group of detainees awake around the clock until they began talking. “I said, ‘No, we will not do that,’” the captain said. “The M.I. commander comes to me and says, ‘What is the problem? We’re stressed, and all we are asking you to do is to keep them awake.’ I ask, ‘How? You’ve received training on that, but my soldiers don’t know how to do it. And when you ask an eighteen-year-old kid to keep someone awake, and he doesn’t know how to do it, he’s going to get creative.’” The M.I. officer took the request to the captain’s commander, but, the captain said, “he backed me up.

“It’s all about people. The M.P.s at Abu Ghraib were failed by their commanders—both low-ranking and high,” the captain said. “The system is broken—no doubt about it. But the Army is made up of people, and we’ve got to depend on them to do the right thing.”


In every situation, people will refuse to do what is wrong. The problem is that so many people didn't do the right thing. There is a chain of command of officers who either turned their back on this, permitted it or just didn't care.

But we have to prevent the Calley defense from rasing it's head again. Calley, who murdered 400 people at My Lai, was essentially defended by the argument that the enemy did the same thing. Nixon reduced his sentence the man as a way to play to his base.

But the road to savage behavior has roots. It never happens alone or in isolation.

Charlie Company came to Viet Nam in December, 1967.  It located in Quang Ngai Province in January, 1968, as one of the three companies in Task Force Barker, an ad hoc unit headed by Lt. Col. Frank Barker, Jr.  Its mission was to pressure the VC in an area of the province known  as "Pinkville."  Charlie Company's commanding officer was Ernest Medina, a thirty-three-year-old Mexican-American from New Mexico who was popular with his soldiers. One of his platoon leaders was twenty-four-year-old William Calley.  Charlie Company soldiers expressed amazement that Calley was thought by anyone to be officer material. One described Calley as"a kid trying to play war." [LINK TO CHAIN OF COMMAND DIAGRAM] Calley's utter lack of respect for the indigenous population was apparent to all in the company. According to one soldier, "if they wanted to do something wrong, it was alright with Calley." The soldiers of Charlie Company, like most combat soldiers in Viet Nam, scored low on military exams.  Few combat soldiers had education beyond high school.

Seymour Hersh wrote that by March of 1968 "many in the company had given in to an easy pattern of violence."  Soldiers systematically beat unarmed civilians. Some civilians were murdered.  Whole villages were burned.  Wells were poisoned. Rapes were common.

On March 14, a small squad from "C" Company ran into a booby trap, killing a popular sergeant, blinding one GI and wounding several others.  The following evening, when a funeral service was held for the killed sergeant, soldiers had revenge on their mind.  After the service, Captain Medina rose to give the soldiers a pep talk and discuss the next morning's mission.  Medina told them that the VC's crack 48th Battalion was in the vicinity of a hamlet known as My Lai 4, which would be the target of a large-scale assault by the company.  The soldiers' mission would be to engage the 48th Battalion and to destroy the village of My Lai.  By 7 a.m., Medina said, the women and children would be out of the hamlet and all they could expect to encounter would be the enemy.  The soldiers were to explode brick homes, set fire to thatch homes, shoot livestock, poison wells, and destroy the enemy.  The seventy-five or so American soldiers would be supported in their assault by gunship pilots.

.......
By 8 a.m., Calley's platoon had crossed the plaza on the town's southern edge and entered the village.  They encountered families cooking rice in front of their homes.  The men began their usual search-and-destroy task of pulling people from homes, interrogating them, and searching for VC.  Soon the killing began.  The first victim was a man stabbed in the back with a bayonet.  Then a middle-aged man was picked up, thrown down a well, and a grenade lobbed in after him.  A group of fifteen to twenty mostly older women were gathered around a temple, kneeling and praying.  They were all executed with shots to the back of their heads.  Eighty or so villagers were taken from their homes and herded to the plaza area.  As many cried "No VC! No VC!", Calley told soldier Paul Meadlo, "You know what I want you to do with them".  When Calley returned ten minutes later and found the Vietnamese still gathered in the plaza he reportedly said to Meadlo, "Haven't you got rid of them yet?  I want them dead.  Waste them."  Meadlo and Calley began firing into the group from a distance of ten to fifteen feet.  The few that survived did so because they were covered by the bodies of those less fortunate.

.......

As the third platoon moved into My Lai, it was followed by army photographer Ronald Haeberle, there to document what was supposed to be a significant encounter with a crack enemy battalion.  Haeberle took many pictures.  He said he saw about thirty different GIs kill about 100 civilians.  Once Haeberle focused his camera on a young child about five feet away, but before he could get his picture the kid was blown away.  He angered some GIs as he tried to photograph them as they fondled the breasts of a fifteen-year-old Vietnamese girl.

An army helicopter piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson arrived in the My Lai vicinity about 9 a.m.  Thompson noticed dead and dying civilians all over the village.  Thompson repeatedly saw  young boys and girls being shot at point-blank range.  Thompson, furious at what he saw, reported the wanton killings to brigade headquarters

Meanwhile, the rampage below continued.  Calley was at the drainage ditch on the eastern edge of the village, where about seventy to eighty old men, women, and children not killed on the spot had been brought.  Calley ordered the dozen or so platoon members there to push the people into the ditch, and three or four GIs did.  Calley ordered his men to shoot into the ditch.  Some refused, others obeyed.  One who followed Calley's order was Paul Meadlo, who estimated that he killed about twenty-five civilians.  (Later Meadlo was seen, head in hands, crying.) Calley joined in the massacre.  At one point, a two-year-old child who somehow survived the gunfire began running towards the hamlet.  Calley grabbed the child, threw him back in the ditch, then shot him.

Hugh Thompson, by now almost frantic, saw bodies in the ditch, including a few people who were still alive.  He landed his helicopter and told Calley to hold his men there while he evacuated the civilians.  Thompson told his helicopter crew chief to "open up on the Americans" if they fired at the civilians.  He put himself between Calley's men and the Vietnamese.  When a rescue helicopter landed, Thompson had the nine civilians, including five children, flown to the nearest army hospital.  Later, Thompson was to land again and rescue a baby still clinging to her dead mother.


There are always going to be people who refuse to murder and torment the innocent. They existed in Nazi Germany, and they exist today. The problem is that there are always those willing to kill the innocent, torment and humiliate them. They will always use the excuse of orders to hide their own culpability. But everyone faces a moral choice and a cost for following that moral choice.

The six MP's ignored every instinct they should have had, every shred of human decency, and instead wanted the approval of the Military Intelligence officers and contractors running Abu Ghraib. While there are plenty of people above them who deserve jail, their officers, for a start, let's not forget, if one of these men or women had just refused to torture, to obey orders they had to know were not only illegal, but fundamentally wrong.

I mean if you reach 18 in an American High School, and you do have to to join the US Army, you know siccing dogs on people and beating the shit out of them, much less having them jerk off for your amusement is wrong. You don't need a booklet to understand that. You don't need lectures on the laws of war to understand that. You just need to be raised in a place without stone walls and dirt floors and wolves as parents.

I have genuine compassion for the parents of the six MP's. They didn't realize they raised monsters. They think they're still the same kids they sent off to the Army. They aren't of course. The broad grins and laughter at the utter humiliation of Iraqis are not some hidden part of the human psyche. The need for approval and racial disdain for Iraqis were on the surface.

Sgt. Chip Fredrick wrote home proudly that he was helping OGA (Other Government Agencies) which translates to the DIA and CIA. Why? Because he felt like a big man helping people better educated and more experienced than him. They told him to work the prisoners over and he did. Only when he realized that people were going to get in trouble for this, did he start to worry. This is a man who was a prison guard in civilian life. He knew what he was doing would have gotten him prosecuted in his job at home. Yet, Iraqis got humiliated for sport.

What people need to remember is that everyone is accountable for their actions. We all hope Fredrick's bosses get the jail sentences they deserve for their gross failures. But let us not forget that the camp guards are also guilty. They failed morally and they need to be punished. Not alone, but they should not escape justice because there are others who are guilty as well. We must resist the impulse to excuse or equate their actions. Because torture is always wrong, always a besmirching of our values, no matter what comes from it.

posted by Steve @ 11:25:00 AM

11:25:00 AM

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Welcome to Watergate II

Welcome to Watergate II

I have fairly sharp memories about the disdain and fear people had for Nixon. We all knew that he was ratshit crazy and mean as a badger. There was no question that he would have been a dictator. Even the Army thought that.

The Abu Ghraib scandal is going to grow. This kind of thing doesn't go away, doesn't get forgotten. I remember in 1972-73, no one wanted to hear that Nixon and his aides were crooks. But the Plumbers weren't raping young boys and killing innocent people.

It's become pretty clear, pretty quickly, that the MP's were the Cubans who broke into the Watergate, not the people who ordered it. I find the spin the lawyers are giving utter bullshit and their clients deserve decades in jail for what they did. You don't need the fucking Geneva Convention to prohibit anal rape of teenage boys. You don't take smiling pictures with humiliated and naked men.

What is becoming clearer is that this was policy. A policy which was directed from the Pentagon and may well wind up in the Vice President's office. After all, the Secretary of State said there were problems with our Iraqi penal colonies and he was ignored. Now Rumsfeld may think the sun shines on his ass, but that kind of disregard had to have support from higher up.

Anytime someone complained, they were blown off by the DOD's civilian chiefs. Besides being arrogant and stupid, there has to be political support to keep blowing off complaints about something so basic.

This is what DOD refused to do in the months before January's release of the pictures:

* Ignored several NGO reports about abuse in the Iraqi penal colony system. Including several secret Red Cross reports.

* Refused to allow Indiana Congressman and Army Reserve Colonel Steve Buyer to take over the unit at Abu Ghraib.

* Ignore the report by MG Ryder, the Army Provost Marshal, about conditions at Abu Ghraib.

* Ignore other reports about abusive conditions in our Iraqi penal colony.

How could the civilian leadership at DOD ignore all these reports streaming in without political support from the White House. Maybe Bush was ignorant of this, but does anyone believe the now silent Dick Cheney wasn't. Rumsfeld and his people have a direct line to Cheney. How was he kept in the dark? Bush is a loose manager, but Cheney is a control freak.

While there may never be record of a conversation between Rumsfeld and Cheney to ignore this, Cheney is obsessed with not only the war, but with proving a Saddam-Al Qaeda link. Much of the expediency permitted by Rumsfeld was endorsed and encouraged by Cheney.

This was not isolated abberations but a planned way to get information from people, regardless of the law or common sense. This wasn't dreamed up by privates or contractors, but had to be permitted from the highest reaches of the civilian leadership.

If this can be proven, we have returned to Watergate.

posted by Steve @ 12:16:00 AM

12:16:00 AM

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

Firing Rummy

Firing Rummy

Getting rid of Rumsfeld is not the snap decision it would seem. Of course, it goes without saying his smug ass deserves to be fired. But if he did, who would take his place.

This is no small question, for Bush or the nation.

Clearly, Wolfowitz and the neocons would never make it pass the Armed Services committee. He's a chickenhawk and so are his deputies. Bad qualifications for someone running DOD. The generals hate Rummy, but they detest Wolfie.

Unless John McCain wanted the job, and he would be right to say no, and wait for Kerry to make the offer, there are no clear candidates, except disgraced Former Speaker Newt Gingrich. As odious as that may seem, there are no clear successors for Bush to pick from.

Now, you have to ask yourself, would you want Newt Gingrich running DOD?

The problem is that if Bush has to pull the trigger, there is no Bill Cohen sitting in the wings, ready to go. And Rummy's deputies are as tainted as he is.

This is no small consideration in a war and one where we may have to withdraw under fire. Rumsfeld incompetence is clear and stark, but the alternatives are not likely to make anyone happy.

And for Bush, having to fire his defense secretary would be an admission of failure. There would be no way to disguise it. At the same time, Sen. Lindsey Graham, an Air Force reserve lawyer, and McCain were brutal to Rumsfeld and Myers yesterday. They were not ready to call for him to be dumped, knowing it may well not only sink Bush's reelection, but their majorities in Congress, but their demeanor was not happy.

As things get worse, we all know Bush's instinct will be to brazen it out and hang tough. But if we're watching Iraqis rape young boys on CNN, heads will roll. There is a limit to what even Bush can withstand.

Let's understand Abu Ghraib in context. This is the greatest command failure since the loss of the 102nd Division in the Battle of the Bulge. Gen. Karpinski was criminally incompetent. Even Congress expects some more people to be courtmartialed. Unlike My Lai, which made us look bad, but had a limited international effect, Abu Ghraib undermines us in the Arab world to a frightening degree.

Basically, throwing Rummy to the wolves may slow the hemmorage, but it may not stop it. The ultimate person to pay for this may well be Bush. Abu Ghraib is so beastial that the conscience cannot let it go unpunished.

posted by Steve @ 11:08:00 AM

11:08:00 AM

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The occasional meal

The occasional meal

A new movie Super Size Me chronicles the adventures of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eating nothing but McDonalds for a month.

Super Size Me" shows Spurlock eating (and, in one scene, regurgitating) masses of fast food, day after day. His plan requires that he eat only from the McDonald's menu (water is included), he has to eat everything on the menu at least once, and he can't exercise. (A New Yorker, he doesn't even do the normal day's worth of walking most Manhattanites do, opting to take cabs everywhere.) Along the way, Spurlock is supervised by various doctors and health professionals, one of whom warns him that he may be pickling his liver with this diet high in fat, sodium, refined sugars and Lord knows what else.

In an interview with Salon, Spurlock descibes the aftermath of his 30 days of McDonalds.


The subject of the movie is, really, your body -- you gained a lot of weight, your liver was damaged, possibly permanently. How are you feeling? Has it changed how you eat?

I'm much better now. It took me 14 months to lose the weight completely. I pay so much attention to what I eat now because after I gained that weight, I can put it on again just like that. I talked to a doctor -- a friend of mine -- and he said, "Now that you've put on that weight, those fat cells are still in your body, wanting to do what fat cells do, which is store energy. Now whenever you overeat, if your body doesn't use those calories, your body is going to store it."

How did you feel about your girlfriend talking about your sex life

Most of the time she was being interviewed, I wasn't around, because I wanted her to feel comfortable to say whatever she wanted. When I came back later and went through the footage, I saw that Alex was talking about our sex life, and the editors were both like, "Morgan, we can't put that in the movie," and I was like, "Of course we do. That has to go in there."

........

Do you still eat fast food?

I had a burger yesterday. I don't eat much fast food, because there are so many better places to get burgers.

What's your favorite thing on the McDonald's menu?

Big Macs. Big Macs are so good. I will smell a Big Mac, and immediately my mouth will water and I will crave it. I'm like one of Pavlov's dogs. But I can't eat them now. I can't stomach their food -- it doesn't even taste like food to me. If I eat their french fries they taste like smoked plastic to me. They taste like the most artificial, manufactured, long, yellow thing. And their Cokes -- if I drink a fountain Coke from there, up and down my nasal passages for hours afterward I'll smell this chemical aroma.

I've become so hypersensitive to their food that my body just instantly picks up on everything artificial in it, which is a lot of it. It's probably been about a year now since I've eaten there. Though to this day I'll smell it and I'll want it.

What was the scariest thing about the whole "Super Size Me" experience for you?

You know, of all the crazy things that happened to me and as bad as I felt, the most frightening thing of all is the school lunch program. We feed our kids terribly in schools. It's atrocious. When it comes to the lunchroom, they might as well be eating in a 7-Eleven in a lot of these schools.


While McDonald's has been knocking the film, their last CEO dropped dead of a heart attack and the new one has colorectal cancer.

McDonald's is the most guilty of the great American sin, massive portions. A soda and a large fries has well over a thousand calories. A full McD's meal has about 1500 calories, or what a dieting person eats in a day.

When kids tried to sue McDonald's, they were widely ridiculed. The Congress even tried to protect restarants from lawsuits. Yet, it is clear the way McDonald's and other fast food places fix their food and promote it, it encourages people to gain weight. Spurlock got sick after 30 days. Is it any wonder that kids blow up on a steady diet of the stuff?

People can eat burgers every day, some do, but what is it in the mechanization of American food which makes it bad for you? Why do parents get fat eating like their kids? Why is kid's food so bad? It's the fat and sugars. A burger made in a place like Burger Heaven (a local NY chain diner) has ground beef which is about 80 percent lean, no chemicals, no flash freezing, and cooked specifically to the diner's taste. The odds are good that it will have vegetables other than iceberg lettuce, also lightly fried, and bought from wholesalers local to the region. So you'll get Jersey tomatoes, locally supplied goods.

McDonald's uses beef from all over the world. It gets its fries from one Idaho supplier who grows a special potato for them and sells it to no one else.

Now, before McDonald's, food was very uneven from region to region. When you traveled, you risked your health, had to guess at the quality of the food, there was a randomness to food which made it guesswork. McDonald's makes it easy to get a standard meal at a standard price at a standard quality. That's no small thing. Remember. the interstate highway system and fast food rose together. McDonald's expansion was due to a society which relied on the car to travel long distances.

The problem is that McDonald's can't be eaten daily or even weekly.

The fat inherent in McDonalds makes it a bad health experience. One could eat two slices of pizza a day, every day and deal with far fewer chemicals and fat. Store bought pizza is only a few ingredients with no preservatives and mostly fresh items. The same with fried chicken.

While none of that may be great for you, it's not the chemical ladened McDonald's.

Remember, McDonald's food isn't just a burger and fries, but chemically treated and mechanically designed food which gets the same result every time it's cooked. If you made fresh fries, one of the world's great treats, and a burger from freshly ground beef, you wouldn't be having an optimum meal, but it would be something which wouldn't cause liver damage.

McDonald's is the least spontaneous, most controlled fast food around. It uses the least about of fresh vegetables and the most amount of salt, fat and sugar. One of the ironies of the American diet is a love of salt and sugar together. French fries and catchup anyone? McDonald's sneaks lots of sugar in their food where you wouldn't expect it.

Then there's the American habit of soda. Hundreds of extra calories per drink. A large soda has 500 calories in its regular version. There is a clear reason adults drink diet soda. If they didn't, they would be even fatter.

Spurlock is right, most of McDonald's food is artificial, flavor enhanced and heightened. A french fry isn't just a fry, but a carefully designed potato enhanced to taste a certain way.

The day of legal exemption and lack of examination is coming to a close. If the relatively healthy Spurlock can see his health damaged from a month of McDonalds, imagine what happens to the unhealthy.

It's not just a matter of self-discipline.

posted by Steve @ 8:10:00 AM

8:10:00 AM

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The price of arrogance

The Price of Arrogance

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Viet Mihn victory at Dien Bien Phu. Until nearly the end, the French thought they would win. The fact that Gen. Giap had outclassed them, negated their airpower and cult of the para had eluded them.

The Iraqis have performed no such feat. They may not be able to. But then, they may not need to.

America faces a brutal choice. We can either be like the Germans, and grudingly acknowledge our crimes, or be like the Japanese and excuse them.

Apologies and excuses are not enough. Nor facile comparisons to Saddam Hussein and his dungeons.

Joe Lieberman embarassed himself today, by mangling a relatively decent point. The people we fight give no quarter. But is not their standards we have to live up to. It doesn't matter if Al Qaeda apologizes, they are outside the law. It does matter what we do and how we act. We have to be better than our enemies, not because of who we are, but what we should stand for.

Bush and his men were too eager to show how ruthless we could be. Even though that's a contest we could never win. We can bomb, but send suicide bombers? Instead, we have to be more moral, offer more alternatives. Not torture the innocent and jail them without cause.

Bush bought into an ideology which doesn't work in democracies, that we need to be freed from law to promote security. What happens in the end is usually embarassing failure and a loss of morals. The French tortured their way through Algeria, but they lost in the end.

Does anyone really think we can win in Iraq now. No matter what? Our moral authority has evaporated as the price of expediency. The Iraqis can no longer have us in their country. We are not worthy of their trust.

Our words no longer matter, it is our deeds which speak for us.
And our deeds can no longer be defended by humans.

posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 AM

12:00:00 AM

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Friday, May 07, 2004

Mistakes were made

Mistakes were made

Donald Rumsfeld and his lacky, Gen. Myers, were saying "mistakes were made"

Here is one of the mistakes:

'US soldiers abused young girl at Iraqi prison'
7.17PM, Fri May 7 2004


The US military has said it will investigate claims by a former inmate of Abu Ghraib prison that a girl as young as 12 was stripped and beaten by military personnel.

Suhaib al-Baz, a journalist for the al-Jazeera television network, claims to have been tortured at the prison, based west of Baghdad, while held there for 54 days.

Mr al-Baz was arrested when reporting clashes between insurgents and coalition forces in November.

He said: "They brought a 12-year-old girl into our cellblock late at night. Her brother was a prisoner in the other cells.

"She was naked and screaming and calling out to him as they beat her. Her brother was helpless and could only hear her cries. This affected all of us because she was just a child.

The allegations cannot be verified independently but Mr al-Baz maintains psychological and physical violence were commonplace in the jail.

He also claims that a father and his 15-year-old son were tortured in front of his cell.

He said: "They made the son carry two jerry cans full of water. An American soldier had a stick and when he stopped, he would beat him.

"He collapsed so they stripped him and poured cold water over him. They brought a man who was wearing a hood. They pulled it off. The son was shocked to see it was his father and collapsed.

"When he recovered, he now saw his father dressed in women's underwear and the Americans laughing at him.


Joe Conason has a logical answer to why this kind of torture was permitted.

Indeed, Horton says that the JAG officers specifically warned him that Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith,one of the most powerful political appointees in the Pentagon, had significantly weakened the military's rules and regulations governing prisoners of war. The officers told Horton that Feith and the Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes II, were creating "an atmosphere of legal ambiguity" that would allow mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Haynes, who was recently nominated to a federal appeals court seat by President Bush, is responsible for legal issues concerning prisoners and detainees. But the general counsel takes his marching orders from Feith, an attorney whose scorn for international human rights law was summed up by his assessment of Protocol One, the 1977 Geneva accord protecting civilians, as "law in the service of terrorism."

How did the "permissive environment" that encouraged rampant criminality and cruelty arise at Abu Ghraib? According to the JAG senior officers who spoke with Horton, Pentagon civilian officials removed safeguards that were designed to prevent such abuses. At a detention facility like Abu Ghraib, those safeguards would include the routine observation of interrogations from behind a two-way mirror by a JAG officer, who would be empowered to stop any misconduct.

The JAG officers told Horton that those protective policies were discontinued in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said that interrogations were routinely conducted without JAG oversight -- and, worse, that private contractors were being allowed unprecedented participation in the interrogation process. Moreover, the contractors who participated in the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners were operating in a legal twilight zone, says Horton.

"The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs the conduct of officers and soldiers, does not apply to civilian contractors," he adds. "They were free to do whatever they wanted to do, with impunity, including homicide."


Feith, like the rest of the chickenhawks, thought law was in the way of justice. He didn't care that the rules were created for a reason. But let's be fair, Feith and his political masters wanted results. They didn't say rape 12 year old Iraqi girls. But their abrogation of the law lead directly to that.

Rumsfeld should have been fired last summer. His incompetence is rank and obvious. His job has been saved because he played cute with the press. But, for once, Congress has been doing its job and asking questions which need to be asked. Rummy screwed up, he messed with Congressional imperatives.

This is a systemic failure and most of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon is implicated, either by ommission or comission.

The Bush Administration has lived out movie fantasies, thinking the rule of law inhibits justice like Dirty Harry. Well, in real life, you can't make up the rules as you go along.

Now, the NCO's and EM's are claiming "we were only following orders". Well, there are no legal orders which permit you to rape and torture prisoners. Obeying them was no defense in 1945 or 2004. At least one MP had the common sense to go to an officer and defend human decency. I feel for the families, who try to defend their kin, by claiming they were only following orders, but that will only see them jailed for a very long time. Obeying illegal orders is going to get you jailed.

Jail is the only possible outcome for such acts. The only one. The question is if any of Rumsfeld's henchmen will join them in prison.

posted by Steve @ 7:47:00 PM

7:47:00 PM

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Love, from Barbara Bush

Love, from Barbara Bush

Dear Steve,

With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, I've been thinking about how proud I am of our children.

Which ones? The dry drunk, the whoremonger who abandoned his wife, the one who's kids have all been arrested?

And it's with a mother's pride that I'm writing you today to ask you to support our eldest, George W., and his re-election campaign with a donation of $1000, $500, $250, $100 or $50.

What? He hasn't raised enough money from GOP fat cats and the Christian right? Why doesn't he hit up his lackies at Clear Channel and Sinclair for more?

www.GeorgeWBush.com/Million/

George W. has been President during challenging times and he has met the tasks at hand with a steely determination and clarity of purpose.  From fighting the War on Terrorism to defending the homeland, the President has shown steady and strong leadership.

OK. Strong and steady leadership in torture, rape and illegal imprisonment. His ass should go to the Hague as a war criminal. Or for not finding our friend Osama. Seems he's still free as they come, plotting to kill Americans and Europeans.

He has worked with Congress to lower taxes three times so American workers and entrepreneurs can get the economy growing again; pass the No Child Left Behind Act to help every child learn to read; and provide seniors with a prescription drug benefit.

You mean kick all the kids who fail the test in their behinds? Lowered taxes during wartime. That's novel. It's leading to economic disaster, but it is novel. Presciption drug benefits? Oh well, Big Pharma made out well..

The President has accomplished a lot in the past three and half years but there is much more he would like to accomplish.  He will continue to help strength our homeland defense and lay a strong groundwork to win the War on Terrorism.  He has put forward plans to save Social Security, secure pension plans and enhance retirement security for all Americans.  And he has a comprehensive energy plan to make America less dependent on foreign oil.

He doesn't care about Homeland Defense, or First Responders wouldn't be begging for cash and our seaports left open. He plans to gut social security and turn it from old age insurance to a pension plan. When they say "invest" your own money, that's a trillion dollar subsidy for Wall Street. And given Barbara and her kids reliance on Saudi money, well, take that at face value.

Earlier this week, our son's re-election team announced their "March to a Million" campaign.  Never before has a presidential campaign received contributions from over one million supporters.  With your help, we'll make history.

Why not give to Osama and eliminate the middleman. A dollar for Bush helps Osama beat the US. How? Well, do you really need to ask after this week? Do you think anally raping teenage boys and closed door apologies make us more popular? Defeat Bush and bring competence to defending America

www.GeorgeWBush.com/Million/

This election is going to be a tough one.  That is why I'm asking for your support.  For months the President has been facing negative advertising from John Kerry and all sorts of pro-Kerry groups. I've been particularly disappointed in the personal attacks.

You mean like Swift Boat veterans Against Kerry and Karen Hughes saying Kerry lied about throwing his medals away. You mean those personal attacks? Ones which besmirshed Kerry's honorable and heroic service? You mean those personal attacks? After all, GW could have enlisted. Instead he whored around Alabama for a year or so.

Your donation, no matter what the size, will help advertise the President's positive agenda for America and deliver his compassionate conservative message directly to the voters.

Yeah, all the rape and beating victims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo can tell you how compassionate America is. All their families can testify to American compassion. I watched Deutche Welle's European Journal, their english language roundup of their human interest storie which airs on PBS over the weekend. A Bosnian woman married to an Algerian man wanted help in finding him at Gitmo. I don't know whether her husband was an AQ member or not, but she collapsed twice on camera and it looked real to me. That's compassionate conservatism in action.

Positive? How about fear-based agenda. That's what Bush offers. More fear and ineptitude.


www.GeorgeWBush.com/Million/

America needs a strong leader like George W. Bush.  He is the right man to lead America during these challenging times.

Sure he is. Just like he was a good businessman and great fighter pilot.

Thank you very much for your support today. I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful Mother's Day.

Sincerely,
Barbara Bush

Oh, just ignore the horns and 666 on the back of my neck, It's a family birthmark, not the mark of the beast. Why would you ever think that?



posted by Steve @ 12:42:00 PM

12:42:00 PM

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