Nov 092006
 

Of course I can’t pass by the 2006 mid-term elections without comment. It was clearly a stunning victory for Democrats, and I can only hope the new Democratic majority will roll back some of the powers granted to the executive branch. Unfortunately, that normally comes very slowly.

A lot of pundits are saying the outcome is more a vote against Republicans than for Democrats. I will concede that observation to a point. However, I think there was also a very strong vote against the war and against the Bush Administration. Given that he has two years left, the voters can’t vote him out of office, so they did the next best thing, and voted against all the Republicans.

But it was also very much a “throw the bums out” election, and the bums all had an “R” next to their names. Democrats made huge gains in governorships and in control of state legislatures. I do think it became clear that the ultra-conservative theocratic evangelical voting bloc did not come through for the Republicans this time, despite having the marriage amendments on the ballots in several states. In South Dakota, voters reversed a new law completely outlawing abortions, and in Arizona, a marriage amendment was defeated. In the states where it passed, it generally passed by very narrow margins, but Republicans were still turned out of office in many of those states.

The evangelical voters are all whining about how they will need to “take back the party.” I think that bodes well for Democrats. It will be the most extreme wing of that party pulling it as far to the right as possible. I think a big part of this election includes a fatigue with the amtaliban trying to legislate the morality of everyone else. Hence the narrowing of margins in these moral issues ballot initiatives.

Here in Florida, I think the conservatives actually shot themselves in the foot. Florida approved a Constitutional Amendment requiring a 60% affirmative vote to amend the state Constitution. This will make it extremely difficult to get an anti-marriage amendment passed here.

Arch homo-bigoted County Commissioner Rhonda Storms won a seat in the state legislature. I expect her to make the usual fool of herself in Tallahasee, but at least her influence and vote will be severly diluted relative to her ability to influence life here in Hillsborough County. Interestingly, she was running a strong Republican district where Repubs usually win with a margin of two to three to one. Storms beat an unknown Democrat with only 58%.

And of course we can’t get through a complete election cycle here in Florida without some Republican chicanery. Watch the FL13 race closely…there was an 18,000 UNDERVOTE in Sarasota. The local and state election officials are blaming it not on their defective electronic voting machines, but on voters choosing not to vote in a “nasty” race!! Democrat Christine Jennings was ahead in every poll right up to election weekend. Election-Law blog thinks the court might order another election…but there’s even a juicier possibility: Congress deciding.

I’m sure a Democratic Congress would be interested in investigating the nonsense that occured in Katherine Harris’ old district (and hometown) with the assistance of Jeb’s pals at the Secretary of State’s office…I think this will develop into a major story as the month wears on.

Whatever the reasons, Democrats are the majority, and now have an opportunity to make something of it. If we do, we’ll stay in the majority, if we try to play it safe, the Republicans will rise again.

I remember the Republicans always threatening the “nuclear option” in the Senate. This was their threat to eliminate the filibuster. They railed against how it resulted in a minority thwarting the will of the majority. I think they given up the right to use the filibuster in the next Congress.

Is it OK For Us to Torture Just Because Al-Quaida Does?

 Crime, Politics, Society, War  Comments Off on Is it OK For Us to Torture Just Because Al-Quaida Does?
Jun 212006
 

I just happened to have MSNBC on at the end of Keith Olbermann’s show when I caught the lead-in for Joe “What dead intern?” Scarborough’s show. He had a guest host. He was leading in a report about the torture and killing of the two American soldiers (one of whom was a 22-year-old from nearby Madras, Oregon) in Iraq. Enjoy the strawman goodness:

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: Two U.S. soldiers brutally tortured and murdered in Iraq. How should America respond? And I want to know why are all those critics of so-called American torture not speaking out about the torture of our guys today?

…But first: A militant Islamic Web site claims the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq personally carried out the killings of two soldiers found dead in Baghdad last night. Those bodies showed signs of torture. They were killed in a, quote, barbaric way, and American troops had to literally fight their way to the bodies, which were booby-trapped with explosives.

It?s a horrific story, and as I watch it unfold, I have to ask myself where are the people who worked themselves into a lather about the naked pyramid pictures at Abu Ghraib or those who wanted trials at The Hague because we played Christina Aguilera music a bit too loud for the detainees down at Gitmo. Tonight in America, some are no doubt sitting in barcaloungers kvetching over which American soldiers will next be put on trial for alleged war atrocities, and meanwhile, these dirtbags they’re thinking about whose head they want to chop off next.

OK, my liberal (and not so liberal) brothers and sisters, raise your hands if you think Americans piling up naked prisoners, shoving glowsticks in their rectums, forcing them to stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, waterboarding, peeing on their Korans, smearing shit all over them, and beating them until they die are bad things. Let’s see… 1, 2, 3, 4,… yup, looks like all of you. OK, put your hands down.

Now, raise your hands if you think Iraqis torturing and decapitating American soldiers is a bad thing. Let’s see… 1, 2, 3, 4,… yup, looks like all of you again.

Idiot blowhard. NOBODY thinks it was OK for our boys to be tortured. NOBODY thinks our torture was as bad as their torture. But some of us hold America (you know, the good guys) to a higher standard. Mr. Blowhard seems to be saying, “hey, our low grade torture of them is perfectly justified because of their high-grade torture of us!”

What Mr. Blowhard and the wingnuts refuse to acknowledge is that BushCo (Gonzalez, particularly) set the bar for torture when they decided the Geneva Conventions were “quaint anachronisms”. They decided that captured Iraqis weren’t “prisoners of war” deserving of trials, lawyers, justice, or decent treatment. The chickens are coming home to roost. We are reaping what we have sown.

That’s not to say that these murderous terrorist bastards wouldn’t have used torture anyway, even if we did follow the rules of war or made Gitmo a four-star luxury resort. But we can never know that now. For us to complain now about their disgusting tactics makes us the master stonethrowers of glass house land. We can — and should — scream to the high hills about the atrocity perpetrated on our troops… but only if we follow it up with action to treat our prisoners humanely, afford them lawyers and open trials, shut down Gitmo, and impeach/imprison the war criminals who made this vile state affairs possible.

Now I know some winger is reading this and thinking, “see, no matter how bad the enemy is, all you liberals can do is blame Bush!” Well, why shouldn’t we; he is “The Decider”, after all. I blame insurgents for torturing our soldiers; I blame Bush for putting those soldiers in harm’s way for no good reason.

2,500 Killed in Iraq…It's just a number at 1600

 Politics, Presidency, War  Comments Off on 2,500 Killed in Iraq…It's just a number at 1600
Jun 152006
 

In today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Tony Snow got asked about the 2,500 mark for American’s KIA in Irag. Maybe his response will surprise you…sadly, it does not surprise me.

QUESTION: Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?

SNOW: It’s a number. And every time there’s one of these 500 benchmarks, people want something.

So there you have it, Herr Decider’s opinion of the American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Important Events in the World Yesterday … Nero Fiddles

 Congress, Constitution, Gay Issues, Politics, Presidency, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on Important Events in the World Yesterday … Nero Fiddles
Jun 062006
 

Here are a few of the major events that happened in our world yesterday.

Mass kidnappings in Iraq:

Gunmen in police uniforms staged a brazen daylight raid on bus stations in central Baghdad on Monday, kidnapping at least 50 people, including travelers, merchants and vendors selling tea and sandwiches.

The operation was a direct challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to restore security in the capital, which has been hard hit by suicide attacks, roadside bombs and sectarian death squads.

The usual mayhem in Iraq:

At least 17 killings were reported across the country Monday, including a Shiite school guard and two Sunni brothers who were shot to death as they were driving to college in the capital. Iraqi police found the blindfolded and bound body of a man who had been shot in the head and chest and another body that had been shot in the head in separate locations in Baghdad.

The Dow dropped almost 200 points on inflation fears:

On Wall Street, Bernanke’s fresh inflation warning sent the Dow Jones industrials sliding 199.15 points to close at 11,048.72. It had dropped even more, 214 points, two weeks ago on May 17.

Islamic militants prevail against our allies in Somalia:

After months of fierce fighting, Islamic militias declared Monday that they had taken control of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, defeating the warlords widely believed to be backed by the United States and raising questions about whether the country would head down an extremist path.

Katrina residents still can’t come home:

Hundreds of displaced residents of public housing have for several days been returning here for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

Displaced residents in the tents are trying to force the city to reopen their storm-damaged apartments. They are armed with little more than cleaning supplies and frustration, in an effort to force the city to reopen their storm-damaged apartments.

The city, saying the projects are not ready, has refused.

As Chris posted yesterday morning, oil prices rose again: $73.23.

And oh, let’s don’t forget the President and Congress spent yesterday talking about inserting themselves into the private lives of citizens, by working to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution. That’s what our leaders were focused on yesterday.

…while Rome burns.

U.S. Soldiers Kill Iraqi Woman in Labor

 Politics, War  Comments Off on U.S. Soldiers Kill Iraqi Woman in Labor
May 312006
 

Nabiha Nisaif Jassim’s brother was racing her to the maternity hospital in Samarra, Iraq, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. U.S. troops fired on the car because it didn’t stop at a roadblock and killed her and her about to be delivered child. Her fetus died too. Her female cousin also was killed. Jassim was 35.

U.S. version:

The U.S. military said coalition troops fired at a car after it entered a clearly marked prohibited area near an observation post but failed to stop despite repeated visual and auditory warnings.

Jassim’s brother’s account:

“I was driving my car at full speed because I did not see any sign or warning from the Americans. It was not until they shot the two bullets that killed my sister and cousin that I stopped,” he said. “God take revenge on the Americans and those who brought them here. They have no regard for our lives.” He said doctors tried but failed to save the baby after his sister was brought to the hospital.

This kind of “collateral damage” is no more acceptable than this continued war.

U.S. Admits Using Chemical Weapons

 Corruption, Politics, War  Comments Off on U.S. Admits Using Chemical Weapons
Nov 172005
 

Uh?? Didn’t we invade Iraq because Hussein did this very sort of thing?

Reversing numerous prior denials, Pentagon officials said yesterday that white phosphorous was in fact "used as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah last November." After first categorically denying any use of phosphorous, the Pentagon said months ago that the chemical was "fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night," but "not at enemy fighters." But in the March 2005 edition of the Army’s official Field Artillery Magazine, three Army artillerymen describe using phosphorous in Fallujah "for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high explosives].  We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents, using WP [white phosphorous] to flush them out and HE to take them out." The use of phosphorous was uncovered in part by a new Italian documentary which depicts "a series of photographs from Fallujah of corpses with the flesh burnt off but clothes still intact," which is reportedly "consistent with the effects of white phosphorus on humans." Washington Post defense analyst William Arkin said yesterday, "What I’m sure of is that the use of white phosphorous is not just some insensitive act. It is not just bad P.R.  It is the ill thought out and panicked use of a weapon in an illegitimate way. It is a representation of a losing strategy."

Once Again A Call To Methodist Bishops to Denouce Torture

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Sep 282005
 

I have, several times in the past, called on the U.S. Bishops of the United Methodist Church, to write George Bush and denounce the practice of government sponsored torture. To the best of my knowledge, only five have done so. In light of the recent revelations, I am, again, calling on these Christian leaders to denounce toture. I will be much aggressive this time in that I plan to make a phone call to each.

I have previously posted the contact information for the fifty U.S. Bishops in PDF and Excel format. I ask you to join me in calling on them to write the White House, and take a stand against torture.

Dear Bishop:

Most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture “consistent with military necessity.”

Are we, as Methodist charged by our founding principles to be socially responsible, going to continue to close our eyes – even as this behavior continues to be exposed?

We have come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry loudly insisted that the rack and the screw were barbaric practices that must be left behind in the Old World, “or we are lost and undone.” Can the leaders of Methodism consult their own consciences with respect to what Justice may require of them in denouncing torture as passionately as the patriots who founded our nation?

On September 24, The New York Times ran a detailed report regarding the kinds of “routine” torture that US servicemen and women have been ordered to carry out (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/24/politics/24abuse.html). This week’s Time also has an article on the use of torture by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Those two articles are based on a new report from Human Rights Watch, a report that relies heavily on the testimony of a West Point graduate, an Army Captain who has had the courage to speak out. A Pentagon spokesman has dismissed the report as “another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortion and errors of fact.” Judge for yourselves; the report can be found at (http://hrw.org/reports/2005/us0905/). Grim but required reading.

See if you can guess the author of the following:

“In this land that has inherited through our forebears the noblest understandings of the rule of law, our government has deliberately chosen the way of barbarism…

There is a price to be paid for the right to be called a civilized nation. That price can be paid in only one currency – the currency of human rights…When this currency is devalued a nation chooses the company of the world’s dictatorships and banana republics. I indict this government for the crime of taking us into that shady fellowship.

The rule of law says that cruel and inhuman punishment is beneath the dignity of a civilized state. But to prisoners we say, ‘We will hold you where no one can hear your screams.’ When I used the word ‘barbarism,’ this is what I meant. The entire policy stands condemned by the methods used to pursue it.

We send a message to the jailers, interrogators, and those who make such practices possible and permissible: ‘Power is a fleeting thing. One day your souls will be required of you.”

— Bishop Peter Storey, Central Methodist Mission, Johannesburg, June 1981

The various rationalizations for torture do not bear close scrutiny. Intelligence specialists concede that the information acquired by torture cannot be considered reliable. Our own troops are brutalized when they follow orders to brutalize. And they are exposed to much greater risk when captured. Our country becomes a pariah among nations. Above all, torture is simply wrong. It falls into the same category of evil as slavery and rape. Torture is inhuman and immoral, whether or not our bishops and rabbis can summon the courage to name it so.

You forfeit your moral authority when you keep your heads down and eyes averted to this behavior. The question is this: Are we up to the challenge of confronting the evil of torture, or shall we prove Patrick Henry right? Is our country about to be “lost and undone?”

I once again call on each of you to decry the government sponsored torture that is clearly taking place. We, as Christians and Methodists can do no less. It is, as a leader of the Church, your obligation to speak up loudly and denounce these activities. As Bishop Story noted, one day too, our souls will be required of us.

Yours in Peace,
John Masters

Army Captain Alleges Systematic Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

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Sep 272005
 

Time magazine yesterday revealed new allegations of "systematic abuse" of Iraqi detainees made by a "decorated former Captain in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division." For months, Capt. Ian Fishback said, U.S. soldiers were directed "to conduct daily beatings of prisoners prior to questioning." In one instance, "a soldier allegedly broke a detainee’s leg with a metal bat." Other prisoners had "their faces and eyes exposed to burning chemicals." Fishback says he told Army superiors of the abuse several times, but was met with "repeated brush-offs." Finally, he reported his charges to Human Rights Watch (read HRW’s full report). Now that the abuse is public, the Army says it has launched a criminal investigation.

Bush's Appeal for Private Contributions to Iraq

 Politics, War  Comments Off on Bush's Appeal for Private Contributions to Iraq
Sep 262005
 

You will be happy to know that the President’s appeal for private contributions to help Iraq has been met with a grand total of about $600.

You won’t find anything about it in the American press, but Britian’s The Observer International says:

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The public’s reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration’s attempt to offer citizens ‘a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq’ has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

This is the first time our government has ever made an appeal to taxpayers to privately contribute foreign aid money, and it looks like quite the flop. I guess all those war supporters aren’t too keen to pony up, evidently having used up their tax breaks to slather Support the Troops magnets on their bumpers. I mean, those are each a couple of bucks. Not only are the freepers unwilling to put their neck’s on the line, neither are they going to put their money where their mouth is.

Haliburton Taking Good Care of Our Troops

 Corruption, Politics, War  Comments Off on Haliburton Taking Good Care of Our Troops
Sep 212005
 

Not only did Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary serve U.S. troops in Iraq spoiled food (sometimes a year past the expiration date), but also contaminated water from Iraq’s Euphrates River, containing "numerous pathogenic organisms" at nearly two times the normal contamination levels of untreated water. "[R]aw sewage is routinely dumped less than two miles from the water intake location." KBR water quality specialists reported their concerns, but were told by their superiors that their claims were "erroneous" and "corrective measures" had been taken, with no evidence anything had been done. Two whistleblowers resigned because of "unsafe water and pressure to cover it up" (one became sick from the drinking water) and another expects to  be terminated soon.

So now they’re being unleashed on the citizens of the Gulf Coast as well. Ya know, quite frankly, in words of our Vice President, to all of you that voted President Cheney and W into office, "Go fuck yourselves."

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