Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Random News & Views Roundup

- Bush wants to talk to Iran. Iran doesn't want to talk to Bush. What did Bush expect? If you're going to talk about Iran's nuclear enrichment plan, you don't ask them to suspend it before you'll talk about it.

- Border security tightens on the New England/Canadian border and many people on both sides aren't happy about it.

- Two women, including one who was pregnant, were gunned down in Iraq.

More than 4,000 Iraqis - many of them civilians - have been killed in war-related violence this year, including at least 936 in May alone, according to an Associated Press count. That makes May the second deadliest month for Iraqis over the past year. Only March recorded more fatalities.

The figures show that civilians, not Iraqi security forces, are increasingly the casualties of violence. Eighty-two percent of the war-related Iraqi deaths recorded in May were civilians, compared with 61 percent in May 2005, when 746 Iraqis were killed.

Meanwhile, Bush said he was 'troubled' by the deaths in Haditha. Troubled? That's the best he can come up with? Troubled? Heartless bastard.

- The DoD is now offering online stress screening for members of the military. The testing covers depression, alcoholism, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. Hopefully, if someone discovers they have a problem, the DoD will also offer the proper resources ASAP to deal with it as well.

- Afghanistan's parliament has called for the prosecution of US soldiers involved in the deadly Kabul car accident on Monday which sparked riots.

Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. military spokesman, said the driver of the truck was not suspected of any wrongdoing and had not been arrested. He said the truck's brakes are believed to have overheated and failed.

However, he said the military was investigating whether the troops involved in the crash fired their guns into a group of violent demonstrators or over their heads. He said some of the rioters who were throwing stones at the U.S. troops also had weapons and were shooting at them.

"Our soldiers used their weapons to defend themselves," he said. Asked if this meant that they fired into or over the crowd, Collins said, "Our investigation is still looking into this."

After all of the incidents that have turned out to be much different from what the US military has declared them to be at first blush, just how long will it take to find out the real truth about this one?

On Anonymous Blogging

Kate, over at small dead animals asks:

(As an aside - what is it about those who skulk about on the toxic fringes of the leftosphere that they are so loathe to reveal their identities?)

First of all, I'm not exactly sure where those 'toxic fringes of the leftosphere' are, but if and when I find them, I'll let you know. Now, about that being 'loathe to reveal' comment: I believe in privacy. I believe in choice. I believe in safety.

If I claimed to be an expert on any issue, perhaps those who read what I write would have a good reason for wanting to know my identity so they could check on my credentials. I don't, however, make any such claim. I post opinions which can be debated by anyone (as long as they don't accuse me of supporting terrorists like a certain Werner Patels). What does it matter then who's behind my posts?

Perhaps Kate and those who agree with her about bloggers revealing their names have had nice, cushy lives and have never had to deal with threats to their security or person. I have. I helped put a guy away who was threatening to kill five people, including children, in a hostage situation (among other serious situations I've had to deal with). Why would I want to draw people to my political blog by posting my real name so they could continue to attack me? Why would I give up my privacy and freedom to talk about whatever I want to on a blog? For what? To please some Conservative blogger?

I don't think so.

One of the great things about the internets is that anyone can post whatever they want, no matter who they are. Those who demand full disclosure of others on blogs have a choice: if they're unable to gove anonymous bloggers like me any leeway due to our personal circumstances, they can simply stay away. But, attacking someone based simply on the fact that they post anonymously is faulty logic and cannot be used to discount actual opinions unless those opinions hinge on the revelation of the person behind the post. In my case, they don't.

Taheri Met With Bush on Tuesday

You write an extremely inflammatory article in Canada's National Post accusing Iran of requiring non-Muslim minorities to wear identifying badges - news of which causes ripples of outrage and comparisons to Hitler throughout the world. What do you get for that huge mistake?

A visit with President Bush.

Q Can you give us a readout on the President's meeting this morning with the Iraq experts?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Oh, my goodness, I forgot to bring the list. But actually -- do you have the list, Fred? Yes, it was an interesting meeting. What you ended up having was -- I've got all the names but one written down here. We had Wayne Downing, Barry McCaffrey, Michael Vickers, Amir Taheri, Fouad Ajami and Raad Alkadiri.

Oh my head... Open Thread

Just taking a bit of time off today, unless some big news breaks, because my head feels like it's stuffed with lumps of scorching coal, my eyes are watering, my throat is on fire, my nose is raw, I hardly slept and my teeth hurt.

Back a bit later.

One Small Victory for GWoT Detainees

The US government wouldn't spy on calls made between a detainee and his lawyer, would it?

That's at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and they actually won the right to have Justice Department employees tell the truth - in the open - in public. No 'state secrets' defense for you, Alberto Gonzales.

It filed the motion after the public disclosure in December of a secret government program that allowed investigators to eavesdrop on international communications between Americans and people suspected of terrorist ties.

The class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York in 2002 on behalf of hundreds of Arab and Muslim men who were detained and deported as part of the government's investigation into the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The center had asked the judge to order the government to disclose whether telephone, e-mail or other communication between detainees and their lawyers had been monitored or intercepted since the detainees left the country.

The Justice Department said its lawyers and support staff hadn't received any attorney-client communications and that such conversations wouldn't be used in its defense.


Wait, it gets better:

The center said it would seek testimony from former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, both named in the lawsuit.

Let's see you make an end run around that one, Gonzales.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

ElBaradei Speaks Up on Iran - Is Anybody Listening?

It must be extremely frustrating to be Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA. In the run up to the Iraq war, he tried to warn the world that his organization needed more time to complete its work to determine the real threat in Iraq. But, in rode Bush on his white horse to save the day. Bombing the hell out of Baghdad was the way to go. Flowers. Candy. Freedom. Who needs that information stuff?

We all know how that's turned out.

Now, ElBaradei is once again charged with telling Bush to hold his horses. Does anyone think he might be listening? No. I didn't think so.

ElBaradei said very clearly on Tuesday that Iran poses no 'immediate nuclear threat'. Is the country on the nuclear weapons track? Maybe. But, anyone who believes people like Israel's Olmert who has said that Iran is 'months' or 'a year' away from having those capabilities had better be prepared to prove it - conclusively.

There's no doubt that Iran's president is a blowhard who instigates a fight almost every time he opens his mouth. So did Muammar Ghadafi, who is now one of Bush's new best friends. So, what's the rush with Ahmadinejad? He hasn't even done anything to US citizens or anyone in his neighbourhood. Bush just prefers to be the loudest bullying mouthpiece in the world. All rivals must be dealt with.

But not so fast, warns ElBaradei. "You look around in the Middle East right now and it's a total mess," he said. "You can not add oil to that fire."

Bush can. And he just might.

Then what?

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Update (via the New York Times):

WASHINGTON, May 30 — The Bush administration, seeking to enlist Russian support for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran, has agreed to language ruling out the immediate threat of military force, American and European officials said Tuesday.

The American agreement has improved the chances that the Russians will go along with the resolution, European diplomats said.

The resolution is to call on Iran to suspend various nuclear activities that are viewed in the West as part of a clandestine weapons program, but that Iran maintains are peaceful in nature.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Bush couldn't pre-emptively attack Iran on a whim anyway. It just means that he wouldn't have UN approval.

How Much Privacy Do You Really Have?

Privacy. Just how much do you have now and how much should you expect to be allowed in a society that creates more ways each day to intrude on all aspects of your life? It's the job of Canada's privacy commissioner to address those concerns and to inform the public about violations. But Canada's commissioner does not have sufficient powers or funds necessary to investigate those concerns.

Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart's report demands more power for the privacy commissioner's office, such as the authority to enter private sector companies to monitor if they're complying with privacy law.

"Concern among Canadians about their loss of privacy and the misuse of their personal information has never been greater," Stoddart wrote in the report, which was tabled Tuesday.

Her report focused on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, a law that sets out how the private sector can collect, use or disclose personal information. The law applies to sectors that include retail, airlines, banks, telecommunications and publishing companies.

Of particular concern is the use of RFID tags. And just what do those intrusive little devices do? According to this Calgary Herald editorial:

Canadian companies have begun implanting radio chips in various products that can monitor customers' purchasing habits. They can even check on what happens to grocery items, clothing and other goods when people take them home. The chips can also send back info that tells store owners such things as what goes into a customer's cart and what goes back on the shelf, and even which store aisles the customer prefers.
Either the chips should be banned outright or products containing them should be labelled so that consumers who don't wish to be spied upon have the choice to avoid them.

Doesn't that just make you want you to head to your local store and fiddle with their stats by grabbing items off the shelves and replacing them numerous times? I think I'll spend some time doing that on my next trip for groceries.

According to Wiki, the technology behind RFID chips has actually been around since the 1920s:

In 1945 Léon Theremin invented an espionage tool for the Soviet government which retransmitted incident radio waves with audio information. Even though this device was a passive covert listening device, not an identification tag, it has been attributed as the first known device and a predecessor to RFID technology. The technology used in RFID has been around since the early 1920s according to one source (although the same source states that RFID systems have been around just since the late 1960s).

"Espionage" - that's exactly what it is.

Most concerns revolve around the fact that RFID tags affixed to products remain functional even after the products have been purchased and taken home, and thus can be used for surveillance and other nefarious purposes unrelated to their supply chain inventory functions. Although RFID tags are only officially intended for short-distance use, they can be interrogated from greater distances by anyone with a high-gain antenna, potentially allowing the contents of a house to be scanned at a distance, something distinctly Orwellian in nature. Even short range scanning is a concern if all the items detected are logged in a database every time a person passes a reader, or if it is done for nefarious reasons (e.g., a mugger using a hand-held scanner to obtain an instant assessment of the wealth of potential victims). With permanent RFID serial numbers, an item leaks unexpected information about a person even after disposal; for example, items that are resold or given away can enable mapping of a person's social network.

Although RFID chips can be used for useful purposes, these facts ought to be of concern to anyone thinking about their personal privacy since the issue obviously transcends the grocery store example provided above.

I wonder how many RFID chips I have in my house and I sure would like to know who's monitoring their every move. Our privacy commissioner deserves every opportunity to investigate on our behalf. She's the only one who can truly let us know how our lives are being intruded upon every single day. Don't count on a big business friendly Conservative government to act though. That might piss off some of their biggest donors.

You can read the full text of the privacy commissioner's report here.

Petition Filed to Oppose S Dakota's Abortion Ban

In March 2006, South Dakota's government passed a law severely restricting abortion that raised alarms all over the United States:

The South Dakota measure is considered one of the most restrictive in the United States. It bans nearly all abortions, even when pregnancies result from incest or rape. The law says that if a woman's life is in jeopardy, doctors must try to save the fetus as well as the woman. Doctors who perform an abortion could receive a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

There was fierce opposition to the fact that the law would force women to carry all pregnancies to term with fears of a return to back alley abortions being expressed by people all over the country - regardless of party affiliation.

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families said it had obtained nearly 38,000 signatures on a petition aimed at repealing an abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Mike Rounds on March 6.

The petition would be filed with the Secretary of State's office on Tuesday afternoon, and if at least 16,728 signatures are certified as valid, the scheduled July 1 implementation of the ban would be nullified and voters would be allowed to decide the issue at the ballot box in November.

The people of South Dakota ... do not support this extreme ban," said Jan Nicolay, a former Republican state representative and co-chair of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families.

The women of South Dakota deserve choice - in all circumstances.

This petition filing will launch what will likely be a nasty campaign as those in favour of the ban will push extremely hard to ensure that the law is upheld in November. The usually quiet state of South Dakota will now become a battleground for the most divisive issue in society today. Let's make sure that women win in the end.

Random News & Views Roundup

- A Marine who was present at the Haditha massacre speaks out.

- Two CBS journalists were killed in Iraq on Monday while Bush warmongered at Arlington National Cemetery.

- Meanwhile, if a car accident involving US troops can create this reaction in Afghanistan, what's in store for Canadian soldiers? Here's one example. Speaking of Mogadishu type scenarios, that city has been overrun with violence lately as well.

- Paul Craig Roberts asks and answers the question: Is the Bush Regime a Sponsor of State Terrorism?

- Ted Nugent wants to run for governor in Michigan in 2010. Here's why he shouldn't.

How do you get peace, love and understanding? First of all you have to find all the bad people. Then," Nugent adds, "you kill them."

Knowing Nugent, he'd probably round them up on his ranch and shoot them all with one of his 350 guns.

- Britain's National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education has voted to boycott Israel.

Presented on the final day of the Natfhe conference, the motion criticised "Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices" and invited members to "consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies".

- Israel's Interior Minister threatened four Hamas MPs with expulsion from East Jerusalem if they do not resign in 30 days.

- The LA Times has a story about neocons in the Democratic party. Surprise! Lieberman's name is mentioned.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Thoughts on America's Memorial Day

When I crossposted my entry about hidden war crimes coming to light from the Korean War over at Booman Tribune, one person stated, "I wonder if it will take 50 years for similar Iraq war documents to come to light."

I made a response to that comment and will now repost it here because it encompasses what I feel about war in general and the remembrance of it on days like this:

Afaic, the military should not be investigating its own affairs. Too often they either falsify conclusions or, when perpetrators are found guilty, they mete out very light sentences - if any sentence is brought down at all.

In today's environment of secrecy I have no doubt that we will still be learning the actual facts about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars decades down the line. How some people can go through life with such atrocities on their minds is beyond me. Or perhaps that's the problem, they truly believe they have done nothing wrong - completely denying reason with no sense of humanity or compassion.

It is at that point that soldiers cease to be vehicles for so-called freedom.

On this day, while most people are honouring soldiers who supposedly died for that freedom, the innocent civilians who died must be remembered as well. They, however, do not have wreaths placed on their graves by the powerful. They are only "collateral damage".

And, let me add one thing about the Haditha massacre: while right-wing bloggers are dragging Murtha through the mud, they seem to conveniently forget that hundreds of men and too many children have been held in Gitmo for years who have never been charged with anything. They are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Where's the outrage on the right about that? They seem to save that not for Marines who are suspected of war crimes but for anyone who dares reveal evidence of such claims. They're innocent until proven guilty, they cry out. But, they can't bring themselves to give the Gitmo detainees the same justice.

75 Gitmos detainees are currently on a hunger strike. No doubt, the military will once again force feed them, which is contrary to the Geneva Conventions. But, we all know those conventions just don't apply to so-called enemy combatants. Hunger strikers are an embarrassment to the Bush administration.

So, on Memorial Day in the US, there is much to remember and it must not only be about the so-called bravery of soldiers - actions of which we may never know the real truth. It must be about all aspects and victims of war or such a day means absolutely nothing.

War isn't hell. It's an inhumane aberration.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
- Mahatma Gandhi

The Korean War: Hidden War Crimes

In 1999, the Associated Press ran what would later become a Pulitzer prize winning article about an incident that had occured during the Korean War, almost 50 years prior, at a place named No Gun Ri.

At the time, allegations were made via a declassified memo that soldiers had been ordered to shoot approaching refugees from South Korea. The AP's story was met with criticism by other news outlets but the Pentagon took up an investigation.

The Pentagon concluded that the No Gun Ri shootings, which lasted three days, were "an unfortunate tragedy" — "not a deliberate killing." It suggested panicky soldiers, acting without orders, opened fire because they feared that an approaching line of families, baggage and farm animals concealed enemy troops.

The reality of the situation, however, is quite different from the conclusions of the Pentagon's findings.

The soldiers were following orders from the US ambassador to Seoul.

More than a half-century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light — a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines.

The letter — dated the day of the Army's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950 — is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all U.S. forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government.

"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote Ambassador John J. Muccio, in his message to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

The letter reported on decisions made at a high-level meeting in South Korea on July 25, 1950, the night before the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment shot the refugees at No Gun Ri.

But Muccio's letter indicates the actions of the 7th Cavalry were consistent with policy, adopted because of concern that North Koreans would infiltrate via refugee columns. And in subsequent months, U.S. commanders repeatedly ordered refugees shot, documents show.

The Muccio letter, declassified in 1982, is discussed in a new book by American historian Sahr Conway-Lanz, who discovered the document at the U.S. National Archives, where the AP also has obtained a copy.

The Army report's own list of sources for the 1999-2001 investigation shows its researchers reviewed the microfilm containing the Muccio letter. But the 300-page report did not mention it.

Asked about this, Pentagon spokeswoman Betsy Weiner would say only that the Army inspector general's report was "an accurate and objective portrayal of the available facts based on 13 months of work."

There are varied estimates on the number of civilians shot.

When Bill Clinton was president he offered an apology for the incident and established a memorial scholarship fund.

Survivors said U.S. soldiers first forced them from nearby villages on July 25, 1950, and then stopped them in front of U.S. lines the next day, when they were attacked without warning by aircraft as hundreds sat atop a railroad embankment. Troops of the 7th Cavalry followed with ground fire as survivors took shelter under a railroad bridge.

The late Army Col. Robert M. Carroll, a lieutenant at No Gun Ri, said he remembered the order radioed across the warfront on the morning of July 26 to stop refugees from crossing battle lines. "What do you do when you're told nobody comes through?" he said in a 1998 interview. "We had to shoot them to hold them back."

Just following orders...

Since that episode was confirmed in 1999, South Koreans have lodged complaints with the Seoul government about more than 60 other alleged large-scale killings of refugees by the U.S. military in the 1950-53 war.

The Army report of 2001 acknowledged investigators learned of other, unspecified civilian killings, but said these would not be investigated.

Meanwhile, AP research uncovered at least 19 declassified U.S. military documents showing commanders ordered or authorized such killings in 1950-51.

In a statement issued Monday in Seoul, a No Gun Ri survivors group called that episode "a clear war crime," demanded an apology and compensation from the U.S. government, and said the U.S. Congress and the United Nations should conduct investigations. The survivors also said they would file a lawsuit against the Pentagon for alleged manipulation of the earlier probe.

Justice takes a very long time indeed if it is, in fact, ever realized in matters of war.

The Pentagon's report on No Gun Ri can be found here.

God, The Pope and Auschwitz

I wasn't going to write about this story because it's been three decades since I left the Catholic church and, although I'm a Buddhist, I am not one who believes in 'God'. I have no need to. But, when I read about the pope's visit to Auschwitz, I was troubled by his very public questioning of God.

"In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can be only a dread silence, a silence which itself is a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?"

It is my understanding that in order to know God, one must admit the the deity is, in fact, unknowable; that God is beyond human understanding but his various prophets have supposedly spoken of this God's vision for the world and how people ought to treat each other. They're actually very simple rules and, if you are a Christian who does not follow them, eternal life will be hell.

So, what I don't understand is how a pope can wonder how 'God' stayed silent as atrocities occurred. If God is seen through the actions of those who believe in him/her/it, then those who opposed those horrors spoke for him/her/it. You can't really have expected that God would have sent a few lightning bolts or a flood just to voice his displeasure. That may be the way things worked in the Old Testament. In the New Testament - not so much.

As for how God could 'tolerate' such a thing as the Holocaust, does anyone really know what God tolerates or even if she/he /it exhibits such a human trait? It seems to me that this all boils down to free will: men have it and they use it. Is that God's fault? And, is free will really a gift from God or is it a curse? If it was a gift and mankind had no choice but to accept it, then how much free will do we really have?

But, I digress.

It simply bothers me that the pope would wonder where God was in 1942.

As an atheist Buddhist, I don't have to wrestle with such questions. I don't spend time wondering why an omnipotent power would do or not do anything. I simply accept that we are all, ultimately, responsible for our actions and that the choices we make moment by moment impact not only our lives, but those around us. That's why it's not that difficult to decide that people need to be treated with compassion and humanity (except Republicans and Conservatives, occasionally).

It really isn't that complicated. And when a group of people such as the Nazis, under the influence of their very powerful leader in a controlling type of culture, turn their wills over to that of a tyrant who would not only destroy his enemies but the lives of those he leads - it ought not be surprising that mass hysteria is the result. It's a phenomenon that occurs daily on many different fronts and really has nothing to do with a God or with 'evil' - the handy excuse for psychological/physical/psychosocial abnormalities which science has proven to be the cause of so-called evil disturbances, not demons , spells or witches to be burned at the stake.

When you remove the mystery, only stark reality is left. And, when it comes to what happened at Auschwitz, the reality is that many humans refused to 'tolerate' it and did not stay 'silent'. So, if God created man in his image, he/she/it did not tolerate the atrocities or stay silent about them either.

Then again, I'm not the pope so what the hell do I know?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

How to Start a Nuclear War

Here's just what the world doesn't need:

WASHINGTON, May 28 — The Pentagon is pressing Congress to approve the development of a new weapon that would enable the United States to carry out nonnuclear missile strikes against distant targets within an hour.

The proposal has set off a complex debate about whether this program for strengthening the military's conventional capacity could increase the risks of accidental nuclear confrontation.

The Pentagon plan calls for deploying a nonnuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident II missile that could be used to attack terrorist camps, enemy missile sites, suspected caches of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons and other potentially urgent threats, military officials say.

If fielded, it would be the only nonnuclear weapon designed for rapid strikes against targets thousands of miles away and would add to the president's options when considering a pre-emptive attack.

Gen. James E. Cartwright, the chief of the United States Strategic Command, said the system would enhance the Pentagon's ability to "pre-empt conventionally" and precisely while limiting the "collateral damage."

What was that, General Cartwright? Are you talking about killing who knows how many innocent civilians? "Collateral damage", my ass. And just how would you ensure that so-called limited risk? Your troops on the ground don't seem to have a very good handle on that and they're just feet away from the people they're killing. Then again, since the Pentagon refuses to actually release statistics on all of the people you've killed 'by accident', I guess we'll never know what those limits really are, will we?

One possible situation, Mr. Bartlett said, would be "people putting together some terrorist weapon, and while they are putting it together we can take it out, and if we miss that opportunity it may show up on the streets of New York City or Washington, D.C."

Look, Mr Bartlett: if your boss and his administration were actually doing what they said they would - protecting and securing your homeland by actually inspecting cargo in ships and securing your airports, maybe you wouldn't have to come up with these ridiculous new weapons plans. Then again, you don't want those military contractors who lather Republicans with endless money to suffer, now do you?

Doesn't the Pentagon have enough weapons to kill people with already?

Still another might involve the need to destroy an enemy missile equipped with a chemical, biological or nuclear warhead before an adversary can launch it at the United States or its allies.

Ah yes...ballistic missile defense. Yeah. Get back to me when you can actually prove that works. Canadians don't want your failures dropping out of the sky on top of us, thank you very much.

Acquiring the sort of precise intelligence that would give the president enough confidence to order the launch of a ballistic missile within an hour might also be a daunting proposition.

Who needs that pesky intelligence stuff when Bush believes he's on a mission from God? We all know God doesn't work for the CIA.

"We are going to put a target area in the ocean so people can actually see what it looks like when it hits the earth and don't confuse this with a mushroom cloud," he said.

When big things blow up, General Cartwright, people aren't going to stick around to see if the cloud looks like a mushroom or any other type of fungus, but I'm sure CNN and FOX will love that Kodak moment that can run endlessly for weeks to pump up the so-called commander-in-chief's macho image. And Rumsfeld, well if that man is capable of such a thing, he may just have multiple orgasms. I shudder to even think about it.

General Cartwright said the United States was examining whether the missile could be launched from parts of the ocean that would not put the missile on a trajectory toward Russian territory.

Gee. That might be a good idea - probably the only good one to come out of this convoluted scheme. Piss off the Russians and you're toast. The Cold War will have morphed into the Overheated War and the rest, as they say, will be history - along with thousands of people who will get caught in the crossfire.

Haven't they got better things to do in the Pentagon? Like figuring out how to end the Afghanistan and Iraq wars or are those just so yesterday? If Rummy needs a hobby, let him take up golf.

Sunday Food For Thought

(This is a short story that I wrote in 1988. It is protected by copyright.)

A Frame of Mind


It seemed it would rain forever. The streets were stone cold grey rivers of despair unfit for even the bravest pedestrian. Cars were jammed one behind another and looked like stationary shelters moving to the dance only at the command of the street lights. Their occupants were warm and dry and unaffected.

Peter stepped out onto the landing of his brownstone. Discovering the reality of the streets before him, he felt a twinge of loss for his dry, comfortable home. Wrapped in his isolation, he began the long walk to work.

Practically wading down the sidewalk, his feet in their huge galoshes resembled two lonely salmon attempting to swim upstream in their final hours. Glistening droplets of water landed on his lashes from the brim of his hat and his vision was temporarily lost.

After a quick pass of his hands over his eyes to derail the water, he caught a glimpse of his latest multi-level metro housing project. Only a few months ago, it was still a baby waiting to be born-to take its place in the world. Amidst the skyscrapers it was still a child, but it would grow quickly."The way of the future!" they had declared. "A brilliant conception! Affordable housing for the up and coming and they do deserve it!"

He recalled the pride he had felt upon receiving his promotion to Chief City Planner. What an honour it was to plan for the future of thousands, maybe even millions! The memory took away his chills-almost.

Peter was totally caught up in his thoughts when a sudden gust of wind grasped his hat and flung it a few feet ahead. In a split second of shock, he stood still, gazing at the people around him. They all seemed so miserable and displaced. The rain was such an inconvenience. He trotted ahead and bent down to rescue his sopping hat from the water.

As he rose, he caught a look at the pedestrians again. They were smiling now as if the pellets of rain had suddenly turned to beams of sun. But, nothing had changed... Why were they happy now when only a moment ago...? He walked back to the place he had been when his hat had lost its owner. Here, again, the people all looked grey-as grey as the rest of the world. And then, he saw it.

It was very faint and he had to squint to see it through the downpour, but it was there. An outline, almost crystalline, as if it was made of the raindrops-almost invisible. Its shape was that of a frame; like an eight foot high doorway without the door. And he had passed through it; and he had passed through form where the world seemed evil to where the world seemed good. And it was real. He passed through again and again, and it was real. He didn't want to leave it behind, but something inside told him that now that he had found it, it was his and would always be there for him.

He did not take his new found revelation to work with him, cautiously leaving it in the confines of his mind, although he thought he might implode.

This was important. This was the answer. This explained everything, for everybody. But, this would have to wait until it could be shared with the person he trusted most.

The pressures of the day dissolved and his mind wandered back to those wonderful college days with Eveline. They had spent countless late nights contemplating the meaning of so many things and he had known that someday, somehow, he would leave his mark on the world and it would be important. She would rejoice.


"This is incredible!!" Peter said.

"This is impossible!!" replied Eveline.

"Why?" he queried.

"Poor, poor Peter." she cried as she quietly picked up the phone to call for help.


There was a dull orange haze in front of him and he blinked his eyes open and shut a few times to focus. Orange bricks, hundreds of them, stacked on top of each other to form the most massive, impenetrable structure. A veritable fort in the woods, existing not to keep people out, but rather to keep them in. It swallowed up people and raped them of their identity in the name of "health". The keepers were watchers who observed humanity from behind a glass window as if the inhabitants were contagious.

The doors of the vehicle opened and he was forced through moving glass doors into the sterilized admitting chambers. The cheap disinfectant stung his nostrils and seemed to emphatically state,"No germs live here now and they never, ever will."

When he finally realized where he was, Peter tried to run. But his body had been bound in a white, antiquated straightjacket. He was helpless.

"Take me to my frame!" he screamed. "I'm on the wrong side here. I need to go back! This is a mistake. This side of the frame will kill me if I don't get back!" The sounds of his screams reverberated off the walls like words in an echo chamber. Then, all was silent.

Two attendants got a firm hold on him and deposited Peter in one of the holding rooms. One produced a needle and forced it into Peter's arm, while the other held him down. Both had blank, emotionless stares. They had seen too much. Nothing was shocking anymore.


"I heard you. YOU!" he barked.

Peter turned towards the voice and saw a gruff looking man whose face was taut and weathered. His skin clung to his bones for dear life and his sparse white hair seemed to emanate, rather than grow, from his small head.

"It's Gus." he said quietly, "I heard you when they brought you. And I know."

"When was that?" Peter asked groggily.

"I think - two nights ago. You're up and about. Be good and they'll let you stay out here. And I can teach you. First, the frame."

Peter looked cautiously into the stranger's eyes.

"I found my first one long, long ago," Gus continued, "and my life changed you know." I know how it really is and you know now too. It gave me truth and knowledge and fear and things changed and it's so much responsibility and I have a lovely, lovely wife you know...her name is Joan. But, she can't come with me. She has her own, you know and mine is invisible to her."

Peter feared the words would pour out forever, but Gus had to take a breath. He was red with exhilaration.

"Fear?" Peter asked.

"Well," Gus began again, " one believes you. You know it's there and you have to decide when to pass through because the balance must be there, you know. You have to pick it and make it work right. After all, you can't spend forever on the fluffy side and pretend the other side just ain't there." He paused. "It can't work that way, you know. You pick it. And you can't go around telling everybody." He wagged his finger sternly. "Just take your medicine, or pretend and go on." A deep sense of loneliness set in. And the heavy weight of responsibility dropped onto Peter's shoulders from an unfriendly sky.

"Did I tell you I've got a nice wife?" Gus asked with a far away glaze in his eyes. "She's a saint." And he wandered away.


Dr.Adolfus stood at the door of the patient's lounge with Dr. Young. Dr. Young spoke. "It's incredible! That new patient, that well-scrubbed exec, has been sitting there talking to Gus for a half hour. Yet, Gus only babbles. He says nothing coherent! Do you think they actually understand each other?"

"Only they can answer that, I suppose." said Adolfus as he strode away towards his office. He entered to the sound of his ringing phone and picked up the receiver. "Yes, this is he." he stated.

"Well, Dr.Adolfus. Let me be the first to congratulate you. It seems your research into deinstitutionalization has been very successful! The government has decided to begin the project early next year," said the enthusiastic voice in the void.

"Alright...and thank you", Dr. Adolfus replied calmly and hung up.

He picked up his coat and hat, exited the building, and got into his car. "Miserable, miserable rain", he thought. Approaching the corner, he became very excited at the thought of passing into the other side again. Where only goodness would prevail.

Peter lay on his bed and tried to absorb what had happened. As Gus took his final breath in the world, Peter made a mental list of questions to ask his strange, new mentor. But, they would have to wait until tomorrow.

He dozed off thinking of the possible answer to why Gus was here at all now, after all of these years.

Tomorrow would be Thursday. Shock treatment day. Soon Peter would forget everything. At least for a while.

That was 1962.

CUPE Votes to Boycott Israel

The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario has voted to boycott Israel. That's quite a significant move, considering it's seen as being politically incorrect to apply any pressure to the country over its treatment of the Palestinian people.

Delegates to the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario convention in Ottawa voted overwhelmingly Saturday to support the campaign until it sees Israel recognizing the Palestinians' right to self-determination. The Ontario group represents more than 200,000 workers.

The global campaign started last July and has been supported by many North American churches, 20 Quebec organizations, and others, Canadian Press said.

CUPE also condemned what they called Israel's "apartheid wall," saying it is illegal under international law.

"Boycott, divestment and sanction worked to end apartheid in South Africa," said Katherine Nastovski, chairwoman of the CUPE Ontario international solidarity committee.

"We believe the same strategy will work to enforce the rights of Palestinian people, including the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties."

In Britain, a teacher's union will vote Monday on a proposed boycott as well:

LONDON (AP) - Members of Britain's largest college teachers' union have reignited a fierce debate over academics and politics by asking colleagues to consider boycotting Israel over what it says is the Jewish state's "apartheid" policies toward the Palestinians.

The 67,000-member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education is to debate a proposal for a boycott Monday at its annual conference in the English resort city of Blackpool.

The motion "notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies" including the construction of the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank.

It also asks members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals, and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those who do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies.

This issue has been quite controversial for many years:

In 2002, hundreds of European academics backed a boycott of Israeli universities to protest the treatment of the Palestinians. The move led to the firing of two Israelis from British publications and prompted allegations of discrimination and intellectual censorship.

Nevertheless, the extremely slow pace of any movement towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians will continue to be challenged on many levels by concerned people around the world. It's quite clear that the long list of UN Security Council Resolutions over this conflict has not served Palestinians well over the years.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon today:

LUCI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Israeli jets attacked Syrian-backed Palestinian and Lebanese guerrillas in Lebanon on Sunday, sparking gunbattles on the volatile border hours after rockets fired into northern Israel wounded an Israeli soldier.

One Palestinian militant and a Hizbollah fighter were killed and two Lebanese civilians and another Israeli soldier were wounded in one of the worst bouts of violence since Israel ended a 22-year occupation of south Lebanon six years ago.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Harper's Magazine Publishes Danish Mohammed Cartoons

I haven't had the chance to see the new issue of Harper's magazine yet but Indigo Books has decided to pull it from their shelves.

Indigo Books and Music made the decision to remove the magazine from its 260 stores because it contains reprints of 12 cartoons that sparked outrage in the Muslim world earlier this year, according to a report in The Globe and Mail.

In addition to the 12 cartoons, the article also contains five cartoons that were inspired by an Iranian newspaper that called for an international Holocaust cartoon contest.

An internal memo obtained by the Globe advised Indigo staff to tell people "the decision was made based on the fact that the content about to be published has been known to ignite demonstrations around the world."

Why the magazine decided to publish these cartoons at this time is unknown.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail has more:

Indigo Books and Music took the action this week when its executives noticed that the 10-page Harper's article, titled Drawing Blood, reproduced all 12 cartoons first published last September by Jyllands-Posten (The Morning Newspaper).

The article also contains five cartoons, including one by Mr. Spiegelman and two by Israelis, "inspired" by an Iranian newspaper's call in February for an international Holocaust cartoon contest "to test the limits of Western tolerance of free speech."
Harper's publisher John MacArthur said he was "genuinely shocked" by Indigo's action, in part because two large U.S. chains, Borders and Waldenbooks, are selling the issue.

(Three months ago, both chains yanked a small U.S. publication, Free Inquiry, when it reproduced four of the Danish cartoons. That Free Inquiry issue with the cartoons is currently on sale at Indigo.)

"I'd expect an American company to do this, not a Canadian," Mr. MacArthur said yesterday. "Even though you have tougher libel laws than us and your own versions of political correctness, to my mind [Canada] has always been a freer place for political discourse."

The U.S. news media have become "terribly prone to self-censorship," especially after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he said. "There's a more wide open debate [in Canada] than in America."

Mr. MacArthur said Harper's decided to publish the Spiegelman article because "we really wanted to expand the conversation" about the role of cartoons and the contours of free expression and not just to say, 'So there.' "

In the article, Mr. Spiegelman -- perhaps best known as the creator of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Holocaust cartoon Maus -- rates each of the 12 Mohammed cartoons on a scale of 1 to 4 "fatwa bombs," and also includes several scabrous cartoons from the 19th and 20th centuries.

I thought we'd already had the 'free speech' discussion. Perhaps Mr MacArthur wasn't aware of the controversy in Canada when Conservative Ezra Levant published the Danish cartoons in his Western Standard Magazine in February.

Gitmo's Children

This is what Bush has wrought:

The notorious US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay has been hit by fresh allegations of human rights abuses, with claims that dozens of children were sent there - some as young as 14 years old.

Lawyers in London estimate that more than 60 detainees held at the terrorists' prison camp were boys under 18 when they were captured.

They include at least 10 detainees still held at the US base in Cuba who were 14 or 15 when they were seized - including child soldiers who were held in solitary confinement, repeatedly interrogated and allegedly tortured.

Canadians, of course have been well aware of the imprisonment of Omar Khadr since he was detained in 2002 at the age of 15. A lesser known case is that of Mohamed el Gharani:

One child prisoner, Mohamed el Gharani, is accused of involvement in a 1998 al-Qa'ida plot in London led by the alleged al-Qa'ida leader in Europe, Abu Qatada. But he was 12 years old at the time and living with his parents in Saudi Arabia.

After being arrested in Karachi in October 2001, aged 14, he has spent several years in solitary confinement as an alleged al-Qa'ida-trained fighter.

12 years old.

Clive Stafford Smith, a legal director of Reprieve and lawyer for a number of detainees, said it broke every widely accepted legal convention on human rights to put children in the same prison as adults - including US law.

"There is nothing wrong with trying minors for crimes, if they have committed crimes. The problem is when you either hold minors without trial in shocking conditions, or try them before a military commission that, in the words of a prosecutor who refused to take part, is rigged," he said. "Even if these kids were involved in fighting - and Omar is the only one who the military pretends was - then there is a UN convention against the use of child soldiers. There is a general recognition in the civilised world that children should be treated differently from adults."

But Bush reminds his public at every turn that America is the civilized world. One has to wonder if he even knows the meaning of the word.

How to Win a Lawsuit Every Single Time

Justice. It was a nice concept in the United States while it lasted.

Judicial independence. A relic of the past.

(CBS/AP) The Bush administration asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigation would jeopardize state secrets.

In legal papers filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers said it would be impossible to defend the legality of the spying program without disclosing classified information that could be of value to suspected terrorists.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte invoked the state secrets privilege on behalf of the administration, writing that disclosure of such information would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security.

"National security". That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Well, it certainly didn't to Maher Arar or Khaled el-Masri who both found their lawsuits against the US government dismissed on the same grounds earlier this year. And who can forget the case of Sibel Edmonds? Dismissed. 'State secrets', the government claimed once again.

Beyond the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the so-called war on terror (which will never be won), the new war appears to be Bush's war on his dissenters. Then again, he's actually been waging that one since long before he became president. Just ask John McCain. No...wait. John appears to believe in selective memory, which he mistakes as 'forgiveness', while he's busy being Bush's sock-puppet every chance he gets.

When John Ashcroft covered up Lady Justice's bare breast he should have gagged her at the same time, because that's exactly what's been done to what she symbolizes in America.

Random News & Views Roundup

- Alberto Gonzales was actually going to quit Bush if he didn't get his way in the FBI's search of Rep William Jefferson's office:

Mr. Gonzales was joined in raising the possibility of resignation by the deputy attorney general, Paul J. McNulty, the officials said. Mr. Gonzales and Mr. McNulty told associates that they had an obligation to protect evidence in a criminal case and would be unwilling to carry out any White House order to return the material to Congress.

The potential showdown was averted Thursday when President Bush ordered the evidence to be sealed for 45 days to give Congress and the Justice Department a chance to work out a deal.

And, FBI Director Mueller was ready to resign as well. Whiny wankers. Dear Leader Bush doesn't care about the law. He just didn't want to lose his precious appointees. That would have been embarrassing and Bush can't have that, now can he?

- AT&T leaked sensitive information when it filed its brief on the lawsuit it's facing in the NSA spying program.

AT&T's attorneys this week filed a 25-page legal brief striped with thick black lines that were intended to obscure portions of three pages and render them unreadable (click here for PDF).

But the obscured text nevertheless can be copied and pasted inside some PDF readers, including Preview under Apple Computer's OS X and the xpdf utility used with X11.

The deleted portions of the legal brief seek to offer benign reasons why AT&T would allegedly have a secret room at its downtown San Francisco switching center that would be designed to monitor Internet and telephone traffic.

So much for that 'technological giant' moniker.

- Iraqis shot for wearing shorts after militants had distributed pamphlets forbidding shorts. With the ever-changing rules, how is one supposed to know what they might get killed for?

- General Michael Hayden, the man who doesn't even understand the 'probable cause' portion of the fourth amendment, was confirmed by the senate on Friday as the new CIA director. Another Bush Yes Man in a position of extreme power. Expect the worst.

- Time Magazine has been court-ordered to hand over drafts of an article written by Matt Cooper in the Libby case. Earlier this week, the court decided that Judith's Miller's infamous notebooks were not relevant to Libby's defense.

The Cooper documents include unpublished drafts of his July 25, 2005, article recounting Cooper's grand jury testimony and giving his version of the conversation with Libby upon which some of the indictment is based.

Time had argued there was no need to hand over the drafts, because they were essentially the same as the published article. But after reading them, Walton said, he "discerns a slight alteration between the several drafts of the articles, which the defense could arguably use to impeach Cooper" as a witness.

Because of pretrial confidentiality rules, Walton wrote, "the Court has purposefully excluded what the alteration was."

- Bush blooper of the day - speaking at West Point, the great communicator said:

"This is only the beginning," Bush said. "The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people in every nation."

Every time he goofs up in public, Laura dies a little bit inside.

Friday, May 26, 2006

On the Denial of Atrocities

I've often wondered why scores of people in the United States are not taking to the streets to call for an end to American-sponsored torture, 'extraordinary rendition' flights and secret CIA prisons.

Perhaps this explains why that isn't happening:

When the story on Abu Ghraib broke, the coverage and hyperbole regarding the supposed "atrocities" at the notorious prison blew the abuses far out of proportion. As many remarked at the time, no one died from wearing panties on their heads, and the pathetic perpetrators of the abuses found themselves tried, convicted, and sentenced to justifiable prison terms. Abu Ghraib was an embarrassment arising from a lack of unit discipline.

Haditha, on the other hand, turns out to be a real atrocity, the kind of shameful event that will justifiably haunt the US for years.
Captain's Quarters (right-wing) blog

On Thursday nite, President Bush, in a response to a reporter's question, said this:

Q Mr. President, you spoke about missteps and mistakes in Iraq. Could I ask both of you which missteps and mistakes of your own you most regret?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Sounds like kind of a familiar refrain here -- saying "bring it on," kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner -- you know, "wanted dead or alive," that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that. And I think the biggest mistake that's happened so far, at least from our country's involvement in Iraq is Abu Ghraib. We've been paying for that for a long period of time. And it's -- unlike Iraq, however, under Saddam, the people who committed those acts were brought to justice. They've been given a fair trial and tried and convicted.

The torture at Abu Ghraib was a 'mistake'? Why? Because America is still 'paying for that'? And the best he can do is to say that those involved were 'brought to justice'? People who commited war crimes who received sentences ranging from discharges from the military to Graner's 10 years? For torturing people? That's 'justice'?

But, as the Captain will tell you, 'no one died from wearing panties on their heads' therefore they weren't 'real' atrocities.

What exactly is an atrocity?

How about this list from the Taguba Report?

6.(S) I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a.(S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b.(S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and
female detainees;

c.(S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various
sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d.(S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e.(S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's

f.(S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g.(S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and
then jumping on them;

h.(S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box,
with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

i.(S) Writing "I am a Rapest" (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

j.(S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked
detainee's neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

k.(S) A male MP guard having sex with a female

l.(S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

m.(S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

8. (U) In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a.(U) Breaking chemical lights and pouring the
phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b.(U) Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c.(U) Pouring cold water on naked detainees;
d.(U) Beating detainees with a broom handle and a

e.(U) Threatening male detainees with rape;

f.(U) Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;

g.(U) Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

h.(U) Using military working dogs to frighten and
intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

Amnesty International had this to say:

There is a tendency, not least amongst the US military, to euphemize aspects of war and violence. Killed and maimed civilians become "collateral damage"; torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment become "stress and duress" techniques; and "disappeared" prisoners become "ghost detainees". Euphemizing human rights violations threatens to promote tolerance of them. In similar vein, there has been a noticeable reluctance among senior members of the US administration to call what happened in Abu Ghraib torture, preferring the term "abuse". Members of an administration that has discussed how to push the boundaries of acceptable interrogation techniques and of how agents could avoid criminal liability for torture might display a particular reticence to call torture by its name.

And, for those struggling with the severity of the atrocities commited at Abu Ghriab, there is this:

Harmon is shown smiling over the corpse of prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi after a terrible torture and brutality that should be fully exposed to our people for what it really tells about this administration.

According to this article the torture is now called "Palestinian Hanging," (hanging one by the wrists tied behind them). In WWII it was called BAUM, and was used in the concentration camps as a normal punishment, especially of Jews and Russians. The intent was to slowly torture and kill.

My men and I forced our way into Dachau 3-B in Muhldorf, where we cut down 20 to 30 prisoners hanging this way. It was not a pretty sight. Even to the hardened combat men, it was never to be forgotten. After WWII, I had assumed that this kind of brutality was forgotten as "not acceptable," especially by Americans. Unfortunately, some of this young generation have crossed below the line of human decency, led by CIA officers and politicians such as the Rumsfeld leadership who teach, encourage and permit such terrible behavior.

In WWII we Americans carried the American flag with pride wherever we went. People cheered us as we arrived for what we represented and we earned that respect. As we pushed the enemy out of the towns and cites all over Europe, thousands of tiny American flags came out of hiding among the occupied peoples as they cheered us. Unfortunately, in this generation, too many of our young have not been taught that pride, honor and respect for themselves and the nation. Our leadership today believes in waving many American flags behind their speeches and on their lapels. It was this way in Germany in the '30s only they waved the Nazi flag (same psychology). Our people use the flag and yellow ribbons to show support for our troops in Iraq, but where has the true honor and pride in the American flag gone?

But how dare anyone compare American torture to that of the Nazis. Right?

Just what does it mean to be a patriotic American these days? Is that expressed by denying the seriousness of the actions perpetuated in their names by the soldiers who have supposedly gone to Iraq to 'protect their freedom' and who have, instead, chosen to display the most hideous side of human nature? Are those soldiers and the Bush administration to be defended for the torture they condone? Is that what true patriotism is?

Or, was Oscar Wilde right?

“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, had this to say about what happened at Abu Ghraib:

"The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

It seems that the some members of the American public still don't understand.

a·troc·i·ty ( P ) Pronunciation Key (-trs-t)
n. pl. a·troc·i·ties
1.Appalling or atrocious condition, quality, or behavior; monstrousness.
2. An appalling or atrocious act, situation, or object, especially an act of unusual or illegal cruelty inflicted by an armed force on civilians or prisoners.

Is that clear now?

Friday Fun

- The Ponoka News police blotter. Read it!


This weeks [sic] most unusual complaint referred to a Scrabble game, gone horribly wrong. A woman reported that she was having a friendly game of on-line Scrabble with someone, she believed to be a kindly, grandmotherly type. During their “chat” she was provided instructions as to how to set up and activate her web-cam (it came with her new PC) so that they could see each other as they played and chatted. The web cam was fired up and “oh dear!”, Granny looked like an ugly man. In fact, given that she had an Adam’s apple, she probably was an ugly man. This she found to be a little weird. What really mortified her was the second man, standing behind Granny, madly tugging on a part of his lower anatomy, commonly believed to cause blindness. The proper term for which is potentially a “Triple, Triple word score” if positioned just so.

Someone give that officer a book deal.

- Which came first? The chicken or the egg? 'How two philosophers and a farmer cracked an age-old conundrum'.

- This says it all, doesn't it?

- Activists are rewarded with an ear in Hungary. Could have been worse, I suppose...

- A Happy Taxpayers Association? Wacky Finns!

- Namibians are happy too, although for different reasons:

LANGSTRAND, Namibia (Reuters) -- Half of Namibians voting in an informal radio survey believe the day Angelina Jolie gives birth should be declared a national holiday, an honor usually reserved for kings, queens and national heroes.

Every country needs a 'labor day'.

Security Scare at the Rayburn Building

Capitol Hill police responded to a call Friday morning that shots were heard in the building. At this time, it is still under lockdown while the entire building is searched.

One of Rep Jack Kingston's staffers was taken to the hospital after she had a panic attack. No other injuries were reported.

CNN has more and Rep Jack Kingston is live blogging the events! The wonders of the internets...

Here's one of Kingston's entries:

UPDATE (12:05 PM): We hearing from Fox News that Capitol Police have found a man with a gun. The spokeswoman for the Capitol Police denied this.

FOX - always there with the 'truth'.

Update: The next Capitol Hill Police News conference will be held at 2:45pm ET according to CNN.

Update: CNN is reporting that the source of the noise, possibly mistaken for gunshots, may have been a 'pneumatic air hammer' being used by an elevator mechanic.

Update: It's a bit disturbing that Capitol Hill Police would e-mail a code word to those in the Rayburn building, which could ultimately be hacked. Hmm...

Update: CNN has announced that the 2:45pm ET press conference has been canceled. The police are still searching the building.

Update: The 'all clear' was sounded at 3:15pm ET. Bush might want to file that 'using a pneumatic hammer' thing as a handy diversion tactic when he wants to distract America from the news that Rove has been indicted.

The New My Lai?

This story haunts me.

May 26, 2006 -- Senior Pentagon officials are bracing for an investigation into the killing of 24 Iraqis last November in the town of Haditha. The officials tell ABC News the investigation will likely result in criminal charges that could range from dereliction of duty to murder.


ABC News has been told by several senior military officials that investigators have so far established the following :

— Early in the morning of November 19, a roadside bomb hit a small convoy of 12 Marines killing Marine Lance Corporal Lance Terrazas. All of the marines belonged to Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment..

— Shortly after the bomb went off, the Marines saw a car approaching and fired, killing five Iraqi men. Military officials say all of them turned out to be unarmed.

— Some of the Marines entered a cluster of nearby homes from where, they later claimed, they had taken enemy fire.

— In the first house, however, they allegedly found only unarmed civilians. Exactly what happened inside is unclear, but by the time they left, six of the civilians were killed, including a three year old boy.

— In a second house, the Marines allegedly found and killed 8 more unarmed civilians.

— A man was allegedly shot by a Marine as he fled one of the houses.

— In still another house, the Marines said they encountered four Iraqi men , including one armed with an AK-47, and another reaching for a weapon in a closet. The Marines allegedly shot and killed all four men. It's unclear to investigators if the AK-47's were found before or after the shooting.

By the time the dust settled, at least 24 Iraqi civilians, most unarmed, lay dead.

And the coverup:

The military issued a press release that day saying a roadside bomb killed one Marine and 15 civilians and that an additional 8 insurgents were killed in a firefight. It was not until February — when Time Magazine showed a US military spokesperson a videotape of the bloody aftermath taken by a Iraqi journalism student — that the military investigated the incident.

If Bush had not opted out of the International Criminal Court in order to 'protect' his soldiers, these marines would be tried as war criminals. Leaving these cases in the hands of the military justice system practically guarantees that the victims of these crimes will not see adequate justice. The torture victims of Abu Ghraib certainly didn't.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Rumsfeld is a Serial Liar

Not only did Rummy lie about his slams against the media in his Thursday evening interview with CNN's Larry King, he also completely distorted what he said about Iraq's supposed WMD - once again trying to lie his way out of his past statements.

We all remember his encounter with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern at an Atlanta event a few weeks ago when McGovern asked Rummy why he lied about WMDs. Rumsfeld, who apparently has no conscience, no scruples, no morals or ethics had this to say to Larry King:

KING: Before we move into some other areas with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, I do want to cover this. On May 4, former CIA analyst publicly accused you of lying in connection with the Iraqi WMDs and the administration's rationale for war. The challenger was Ray McGovern, retired 27-year veteran of the CIA.

He said, Rumsfeld said knew where -- he said you knew -- you said you knew where the WMD sites were. You countered that he said they were suspected sites.

RUMSFELD: He is an activist. He goes around and does this everywhere. He was here recently at the White House. He testified for, I believe, for impeaching President Bush and that type of thing. So that's what he does.

He's wrong. The intelligence community had suspect sites where they believed the locations were most likely. We and -- our troops had gone in from Kuwait north towards -- into Iraq, north towards Baghdad. They had been in there a day or two or three, I believe, when I was asked why haven't you found the weapons of mass destruction?

And I said because they've just gotten in the southern part of the country and we know, I said something to that effect, that the suspect sites or sites were -- meaning suspect sites were up in the area of Baghdad and north. That's where the intelligence community said them. And we weren't there yet. We hadn't covered that piece of real estate.

So he says this about everybody.

KING: You didn't lose sleep over that?

RUMSFELD: No. My gosh.

Actual Rumsfeld quote:

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Here is what McGovern had to say about his clash with Rumsfeld.

The moral of this story: Never trust one word that comes out of Rumsfeld's mouth.

Rumsfeld Denies He Slammed Media for Iraq Coverage

Donald Rumsfeld, appearing on Thursday's Larry King Live, was asked by King whether he felt the media coverage of the Iraq war contributed to its unpopularity. Rumsfeld responded, 'Oh, that's not a charge I would throw out there'. (paraphrased)


Rumsfeld Says Media Show Only 'Negative' Side of Iraq War

Rumsfeld blames media for Iraqi violence

Rumsfeld blames free media on info war

Rumsfeld: U.S. lags in the media war

Rumsfeld blames Aljazeera over Iraq

And those were found in a 2 minute Google search.

Update: Here's the transcript.

KING: Do you share the view offered by many that the media is to blame for the turn of events with regard to public opinion in Iraq, that the media, collective media, show only the bad?

RUMSFELD: Oh, you know, I'm not one to sit around throwing that charge around. I've got a lot of confidence in the American people. Over time they find their way to the right decision.

KING: Why are they so down on it now?

RUMSFELD: Well, because obviously, they hear a lot of bad news and it's not surprising. And it is -- war is an ugly thing. I mean, I don't think you'll ever find a popular war.

Rumsfeld on Larry King's Show Tonite

Just a heads up: Donald Rumsfeld will be on CNN's Larry King Live this evening at 9pm ET.

More on the show later if Rummy actually does more than ask himself questions that he always answers in his favour. Maybe he should just interview himself...

Werner Patels: You Are Banned

Mr Patels,

You don't get to viciously troll on my blog and then accuse me of bordering on treason while supposedly defending radical Islamists and terrorists just because I wrote about the fact that the National Post's story about Iran's government forcing non-Muslim minorities to wear colour-coded badges was false and expect to be welcome to comment on my blog anymore.

The fact that your dear leader, Stephen Harper, stuck his foot in his mouth over this issue isn't my problem. You're the one who voted for him.

We 'scary' lefties tell the truth. Deal with it.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Marine Corps general flew to Iraq on Thursday to tell his troops they should kill "only when justified," as the U.S. military investigated whether Marines killed civilians in two incidents.

Lou Dobbs' Head Just Exploded

The US senate has just passed its version of the immigration bill. Dobbs is blaming it on the Democrats, of course, despite the fact that Bush favours the senate bill and that Republicans own the senate.

Just prior to the explosion of Lou's head, he announced that the senate passed a provision that would see the US government consulting with Mexico about the border fence.

At that point, Dobbs' grey matter could be seen splashed all over teevee screens everywhere. It was not a pretty sight.

CNN has the details of the senate bill and Dobbs announced that the senator behind the provision for consultations with Mexico was Arlen Specter (R-PA). He will no longer be on Dobbs' Christmas card list.

Preparing For a Strike on Iran?

It's been a busy week for Bush in Washington. He hosted a visit from Israel's Prime Minister Olmert and will hold a joint press conference later today (~5pm ET) with Britain's Prime Minister (and sock-puppet) Tony Blair.

What's really going on?

Olmert spoke to congress not only about the Israel/Palestinian situation, but quite forcefully against Iran and Bush asserted that the US would protect Israel from an Iranian attack. Will Bush just fabricate an attack as he had planned prior to the Iraq war?

Blair and Bush are expected to talk about Iraq but, unless they have something new to add to the converstaion in the form of an announcement about troop withdrawals, one is left to wonder what Blair's visit is really all about.

Is this just the run up to a US attack on Iran? Is Bush meeting with these leaders to prepare for one? With the growing spread of anti-Iranian propaganda and conflicting reports of Iran's nuclear capabilities, no one seems to actually know the truth of the situation on the ground. In all of this confusion, will the US once again bypass the UN Security Council and unilaterally decide on preemptive strikes no matter what the intel presents?

And what is Canada's part in all of this?

The U.S. state department said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns met with his Canadian counterpart as part of the London meetings, but a foreign affairs spokesperson in Ottawa would not name the Canadian representative.

Is there any logical reason for not naming our country's representative in these talks? What is our government trying to hide?

Many people believe that Bush would not make the same mistake twice - invading a country without adequate resources or preparation.

I'm not one of them.

Bush Orders Freeze of Rep Jefferson's Documents

Bush has ordered a freeze on the documents seized in an FBI raid on Democractic Rep William Jefferson's office on Saturday in order to determine whether the FBI's actions were legal and constitutional. The documents will now be under seal until that time.

The FBI received a tremendous amount of criticism for the unprecedented raid from critics who asserted it was a violation of the separation of powers.

Ralph to Ottawa: Keep Your Hands Off Our Oil Money

Ralph Klein just wouldn't be Ralph Klein if he didn't have something to complain about. This time, he says he's received a copy of a leaked report that would see Ottawa including provincial resource revenues included in the equalization formula. The problem is that, according to experts, no such proposal is under consideration.

Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation, said he's "baffled" by the premier's comments because Alberta's provincial revenues wouldn't be affected by proposed changes to the program.

Indeed, Klein's musings are a bit confusing, considering equalization is a federal program paid for by federal taxation -- not through cash grabs on the provinces.

All Canadians pay for the program through the levies they pay to Ottawa on such things as income tax and the GST.

Increasing the equalization revenue pie would see all Canadians paying more, not just Albertans.

Paul Boothe, an economist at the University of Alberta who recently helped oversee the equalization program for Ottawa, said Klein's worries of a cash grab are unfounded.

"Certainly nobody is talking about a claim on Alberta's revenues or any other provincial revenues," Boothe said.

Regardless, political observers said Klein is delivering a symbolic message to the rest of Canada going into equalization negotiations.
But academics and policy experts immediately denounced some of Klein's musings. Just last week, federal Finance Minster Jim Flaherty pledged in Calgary that Ottawa will keep its hands off Alberta's energy dollars if and when it revamps equalization.

Maybe Ralph has just been spending too much time in the sun.

The Hastert Hullabaloo

On Wednesday, ABC News reported that House Speaker Dennis Hastert was being investigated by the FBI in connection with the Abramoff scandal. Reuters then ran a story with DoJ denials but ABC restated that they were confident in their assertions. Now, Hastert's lawyers are accusing ABC of libel:

This statement is false, and your republication of it after actual knowledge of its falsity constitutes libel and defamation. ABC News’ continued publication of this false information, after having actual knowledge of its falsity, evidences a specific and malicious intent to injure and damage Speaker Hastert’s reputation by continued repetition of a known falsehood.

We will take any and all actions necessary to rectify the harm ABC has caused and to hold those at ABC responsible for their conduct.

And, it gets even curiouser:

WASHINGTON May 25, 2006 (AP)— House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused the Justice Department Thursday of trying to intimidate him in retaliation for criticizing the FBI's weekend raid on a congressman's office, escalating a searing battle between the executive and legislative branches of government.

"This is one of the leaks that come out to try to, you know, intimidate people," Hastert said on WGN radio Thursday morning. "We're just not going to be intimidated on it."

The Illinois Republican, in his interview with a Chicago radio station, was responding to an ABC News report that quoted an unnamed law enforcement source as saying that he was "in the mix" of the Justice Department's investigation into influence peddling by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

So who's really legally responsible for this mess?

Breaking: Lay & Skilling Guilty, Guilty Guilty

It's been a long time coming but, finally, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron have been found guilty on numerous charges.

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. jury convicted Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of orchestrating the fraud that destroyed Enron Corp., giving prosecutors a victory a case that came to symbolize corporate crime sparked by the stock market bust in 2000.
Lay, 64, and Skilling, 52, face at least 25 years each in prison after being convicted of using off-the-books partnerships to manipulate Enron's finances. Skilling faces additional jail time over his conviction for using inside information to sell Enron stock. Lay was also convicted on bank fraud charges after a trial that U.S. District Judge Sim Lake held without a jury while the panel in the main case deliberated.
The eight-woman, four-man jury convicted Skilling on 19 of the 28 charges against him while finding Lay guilty of all of the six counts against him. The government presented a total of 25 witnesses against the men, including a parade of former Enron executives.

Sentencing will be announced on September 11, 2006.

Helen Thomas Grades Tony Snow

In a rather genteel article, much less confrontational than she usually is in the White House Press briefing room, Helen Thomas hands Tony Snow his first report card:

Tony Snow, former Fox Television commentator and talk-show host, is slicker, smoother and more articulate than his two recent predecessors, but the content is the same old spin.

Snow describes himself as the "new kid on the block" trying to get up to speed on the array of touchy issues that he gets asked about. But he is also a quick student and a showman, intense and glib.

She praises Snow a bit for the fact that he's willing to admit mistakes (which is almost a cardinal sin in the Bush administration) but doesn't leave Snow totally unscathed:

I asked Snow how he was going to make this administration more credible.

His reply: "I'm not going to answer questions about credibility, other than to say that I'm eager to be here and I'm happy to be working with you."

I persisted: "Are you always going to tell the truth?"

"Yes," he replied.

Where have I heard that before?

Snow consulted with many reporters about what he needs to do to succeed in the White House. He already knows the answer: Just follow the party line.

No doubt Helen will do everything she can to make him stray from that line as long as she retains her seat in the briefing room.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Random News & Views Roundup

- Ray McGovern on Eavesdropping, Gagging, and the Constitution. A must read.

- Gauging the statistical probabilities that the NSA's spying program might actually find any terrorists. (Heavy on the math). Conclusion: it's impossible.

- The number of people killed during the Haditha Massacre is higher than initially reported:

A key member of Congress said he 'wouldn't be surprised' if a dozen Marines faced courts-martial for allegedly killing Iraqi civilians Nov. 19. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., told Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis, first reported to be 15, was actually 24. He based that number on a briefing from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee on Wednesday.

Hagee visited Capitol Hill in anticipation of the release of two investigation reports, which are expected to show that among the 24 dead civilians, five of the alleged victims, all unarmed, were shot in a car with no warning, Murtha said. The killings took place in Hadithah, 125 miles northwest of Baghdad.

At least seven of the victims were women and three were children.

- Erin Aubry Kaplan asks 'Is black-brown unity even possible?'

The unity is seductive on the surface, but how deep does it go? Blacks and Latinos have different experiences and ideas - not only about what America is but about what it means. And these differences have been suppressed, not examined or celebrated, by the cult of multiculturalism that dominates race relations and fuels the renewed call for black-brown unity.

- More on the issue via the Christian Science Monitor, Rising black-Latino clash on jobs.

While Los Angeles is ground zero for black-Hispanic friction these days, echoes of Vaughn's words are rising throughout urban black America as Congress labors over immigration reform. In cities where almost half of the young black men are unemployed, a debate is raging over whether Latinos - undocumented and not - are elbowing aside blacks for jobs in stores, restaurants, hotels, manufacturing plants, and elsewhere.
"In this era of mass immigration, no group has benefited less or been harmed more than the African-American population," says Vernon Briggs, a Cornell University professor who researches immigration policy and the American labor force.

Yet a precise relationship between the presence of immigrants and the loss of black jobs has not been clearly proven in research. Rather, the influx of legal and illegal immigrants has been so massive that it has affected the internal migration of native-born Americans to the point where "economists have given up trying to prove a one-to-one-displacement," says Dr. Briggs.

Alas, a country that is increasingly divided over the immigration issues its congress is attempting to resolve. But these schisms may well take decades to heal.

Stephen Harper Flashback (circa 1997)

Stephen Harper's speech 'to a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing U.S. think tank':

First, facts about Canada. Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.
In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.
Of our two legislative houses, the Senate, our upper house, is appointed, also by the Prime Minister, where he puts buddies, fundraisers and the like. So the Senate also is not very important in our political system.
What the House of Commons is really like is the United States electoral college.
The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.
Some people point out that there is a small element of clergy in the NDP. Yes, this is true. But these are clergy who, while very committed to the church, believe that it made a historic error in adopting Christian theology.
If you look at the surviving PC support, it's very much concentrated in Atlantic Canada, in the provinces to the east of Quebec. These are very much equivalent to the United States border states. They're weak economically. They have very grim prospects if Quebec separates. These people want a solution at almost any cost. And some of the solutions they propose would be exactly that.
Its [the NDP's] main concern, of course, is simply the left-wing agenda to basically disintegrate our society in all kinds of spectrums.