Saturday, December 11, 2004
Disco-cowgirl Hat of Power, slim black dress and a boa. Rhinestone studded hair. Tall, chunky shoes with buckles.
I read The Beauty Myth. I know men and their industries are the ones who created that myth, and I know why. But just like we use the word dyke proudly, have stolen it back from homophobic oppressors and infused it with love, I take back my inborn, human right to glitz.
Black. Vynil. Bustier.
Let's get it clear, women: I am not abused by my gild and glam—I'm uplifted. I'm not defined by my image—I'm adorned. Makeup does not leech intelligence from my brain. And I do not wear this dress for
You just can't make this stuff up! Kerik withdraws
Bush's nominee to head Homeland Security has withdrawn. According to AFP, his withdrawal had nothing to do with this—
His withdrawal as Homeland Security chief-designate came amid reports of potential conflicts of interest between his private sector business activities since then and his new post.
It didn't even have anything to do with hints of theft and fraud in the sale of cigarettes to prisoners.
No. It's another Nannygate—
In a statement, Kerik said that while completing documents for confirmation hearings, he had discovered "information that now leads me to question the immigration status of a person who had been in my employ as a housekeeper and nanny."
"It has also been brought to my attention that for a period of time during such employment, required tax payments and related filings had not been made," Kerik said.
If an illegal nanny (housemaid, gardener) is now the disqualifier, Bush is going to have to seek among the childless or the lower classes for his appointments. In Kerik's case, I have the feeling he was delighted to find an excuse to get out of the spotlight. The limelight wasn't flattering.
Friday, December 10, 2004
Quote of the Day II
—Republican Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois
It's the press's fault
It turns out that the now-famous question to Rumsfeld from Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson concerning the lack of armor for military vehicles in Iraq was a plant. The AP is reporting that the Chattanooga Times Free Press has issued a note to its readers—
"In hindsight, information on how the question was framed should have been included in Thursday's story in the Times Free Press. It was not," the paper's publisher and executive editor, Tom Griscom, said in a note to readers published Friday.
Military affairs reporter Edward Lee Pitts, who is embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team, said he worked with guardsmen after being told reporters would not be allowed to ask Rumsfeld any questions.
This has, of course, thrown the media into paroxysms of self-examination, only to be followed by indignant remarks from the Pentagon—
Kelly McBride, a member of the ethics faculty at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said she did not fault the reporter for getting help with asking the question, but described the failure to include that information with his story as "dishonest with his readers."
"I suspect some people would see it as manipulative," McBride said. "I suspect Rumsfeld felt manipulated."
Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said Rumsfeld gives reporters ample time to ask questions and that his appearance in Kuwait was for the soldiers.
"Town Hall meetings are intended for soldiers to have dialogue with the secretary of defense," Di Rita said. "It would be unfortunate to discover that anyone might have interfered with that opportunity, whatever the intention."
So Rumsfeld feels manipulated?
You may recall that on Monday, two days before the "Question," I was writing of the Pentagon's decision not to court-martial the troops who refused to undertake a mission for lack of armor—
Smart move by the military. A court-martial would have brought more media attention to the lack of equipment and the justness of the troops' complaints....
Soldiers refuse a direct order, it's publicized, and no court-martial? Now just how manipulative is that?
No court martial for recalcitrant troops
Quote of the Day
—Bill O'Reilly, vaunting his journalistic derring-do
CBS' "60 Minutes" reported Wednesday that more than 5500 servicemen have deserted since the war in Iraq began, according to the Pentagon.
A few, such as Jeremy Hinzman whose case I've been following, have fled to Canada, but most are still in the United States. Hinzman's attorney Jeffry House, however, says "he's getting more calls from nervous soldiers all the time."
House's legal strategy will focus on his contention that President Bush is not complying with international law. But how will he defend volunteers who signed a contract?
"The United States is supposed to comply with treaty obligations like the U.N. charter, but they don’t," says House. "When the president isn’t complying with the Geneva Accords or with the U.N. charter, are we saying, 'Only the soldier who signed up when he was 17 -- that guy has to strictly comply with contract? The president, he doesn’t have to?' I don’t think so. I don’t think that is fair."
Help select the DNC chairman!
Who will lead the Democratic Party? The answer may come as soon as this weekend, when the state Democratic Party leaders gather to discuss who should chair the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for the next four years. The election for chair is rarely competitive. But this year, with the race wide open, we have the chance to elect a leader who will reconnect the Democratic Party with its constituents -- us.
For years, the Party has been lead by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers. In the last year, grassroots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the Party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive. Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back.
We've made it easy to contact your state Party leaders and ask them support a chair who will represent all of us OUTSIDE of the Washington beltway and engage us in a fight for a bold Democratic vision. If we get enough signatures today, we'll deliver your comments to their meeting this weekend, so please click below NOW to make your voice heard:
.... We're better off with a vibrant, populist Democratic Party that's strong enough to challenge the extreme-right Republican leadership.
Why haven't we had one? Under outgoing DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, the Party cozied up to many of the same corporate donors that fund the Republicans -- drug companies, HMO's, media conglomerates, big banks, polluting industries. The result was watered down, play-it-safe politics that kept the money flowing but alienated traditional Democrats as well as reform-minded independents in search of vision and integrity. And so the Party lost ground.
But in 2004, something incredible happened: hundreds of thousands of small contributors gave millions and millions of dollars and changed the way politics works forever. Now we have an opportunity to birth a new Democratic Party -- a Party of the people that's funded by the people and that fights for the people. Tell your state Party leaders that you want a DNC chair who will use this new grassroots energy to catapult us to victory....
The Democratic National Committee is the national backbone of the Democratic Party, and it matters who ends up as the new chair. With Democrats out of power in Washington, the new chair will play an unprecedented role as the voice of the Party. And no one will be in a better position to orchestrate a Democratic revival.
The state Party leaders -- who play a pivotal role within the DNC -- understand the importance of the DNC Chair. They have helped to make the election process more transparent, by inviting candidates for Chair to a public forum at their meeting. And for the first time, they are considering endorsing a candidate en masse. If they vote as a bloc, they could determine the next Chair. They represent all of us who knocked on doors, who gave money, who made phone calls -- and it's time for us to weigh in.
The movement for change that we built during the last election is still gathering strength. We need leadership that will break the chains of corporate funding so we can fight -- really fight -- for a better America.
I certainly support these sentiments and the effort behind it. And since Noam Chomsky isn't under consideration, let me just scream my preference—
Political junkie alert: Democrats debate their future this morning
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Quote of the Day
—Mark Almond, history lecturer at Oxford and former swagman to East European dissidents
Oh, those moderates!
(1) Scalia would likely make a weak chief Justice. Scalia may be "one smart guy", but he is not a consensus builder. Far more than anyone else on the Court, his opinions (particularly his dissents) are caustic and nasty. He likely would not be effective in managing a cohesive conservative court.
Or he might be effective in getting the Court to produce more uniformly caustic and nasty opinions.
(2) Scalia, in his 60s, would have a shorter tenure as Chief Justice than a younger Chief who could have influence for a longer period, such as Justice Thomas or an outsider appointed to be chief.
Isn't there anybody older?
(3) Support for Scalia would allow Democrats to counter the charge that they would not vote for an anti-abortion candidate or a conservative, and they could make such a vote without changing the balance on this issue on the Court. Having approved a Chief Justice Scalia, Democrats would then have additional strength in the court of public opinion to oppose an ideological nominee to fill Scalia's old seat.
Why should the Democrats be concerned about a charge "that they would not vote for an anti-abortion candidate or a conservative"? They should be shouting it from the roof tops. Hasen is one of those guys who seem to think that going along with Republican bullies somehow makes them play nicer.
(4) To the extent Democrats could highlight Scalia's "ethics problems," so much the better for them.
The best place to highlight Scalia's "ethics problems" would be in the course of an impeachment trial.
Missing person: Marion Boyd — last seen in Canada
Ontario's attorney general Michael Bryant and the Minister Responsible for Women's Issues Sandra Pupatello appointed Marion Boyd to conduct a review of the matter and issue a report. Boyd herself was a former Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues. The report was expected in September.
Boyd apparently held hearings in August. Well, we're now well into December and there's been neither a jot nor a tittle from Boyd.
If you should see her, ask her how the report's coming.
The power of nightmares
They say that they will rescue us from dreadful dangers that we cannot see and do not understand. And the greatest danger of all is international terrorism. A powerful and sinister network, with sleeper cells in countries across the world. A threat that needs to be fought by a war on terror. But much of this threat is a fantasy, which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It’s a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media.
This is a series of films about how and why that fantasy was created, and who it benefits. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives, and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. And both had a very similar explanation for what caused that failure. These two groups have changed the world, but not in the way that either intended. Together, they created today’s nightmare vision of a secret, organized evil that threatens the world. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.
This is the opening to the BBC series "The power of nightmares." We will never be allowed to see it in the U.S., but Vaara at Silt3 has transcribed the series. It's worth reading.
The Times notes that even though "Consortium members have only just begun to peck at the genome data,"
the fowl has the same number of genes as a human and, perhaps, a comparable sense of smell.
This may explain the constant social interaction among chickens. "Henny, do you smell that awful smell? What do you think it could be?"
A very odd headline
I was almost as surprised as when they told me Bush had won the election, so I thought I'd better read it—
While 75 percent of voters described themselves as "very confident" or "somewhat confident" their vote was correctly counted, the degree of satisfaction varied between winners and losers, according to assistant poll director Clay Richards.
He said 95 percent of the Republicans quizzed said they were very or somewhat confident in the result, compared with only 58 percent of Democrats.
"The fact that three out of four voters were very or somewhat confident their vote was counted (last month) shows a lot has changed in four years," Richards said.
The fact that better than 4 out of 10 Democrats weren't confident that their vote was correctly counted seems to me to be the news here. What hasn't changed in four years is the press's willingness to cover up a flawed election.
Nothing to see here, folks. Just keep moving.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Hinzman refugee hearing in Canada - Day 2
Jeremy Hinzman, who is seeking refugee status in Canada, told a hearing that the U.S. military regarded all Arabs in the Middle East — Iraqis in particular — as potential terrorists to be eliminated.
"We were referring to these people as savages," Hinzman testified.
"It fosters an attitude of hatred that gets your blood boiling."
"This was a criminal war," he said.
"Any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity."
While a federal government lawyer told the hearing that U.S. deserters often get about a year in jail, Hinzman said he believes he would be treated more harshly because of his views on the Iraq war.
"Serving even one day in prison for refusing to comply with an illegal order is too long," Hinzman told the hearing.
Hinzman's lawyer said "that Canada has granted asylum to deserters from other countries in the past and compared the situation to those of dissidents in the former Soviet Union."
Interestingly, CP's reporter interviewed a Washington Post reporter in attendance at the hearing.
A Washington Post reporter covering the hearings said Hinzman's request for asylum is extremely sensitive to Americans because of the Vietnam War, which many in the U.S. also considered illegal and unjustifiable.
"There's a great deal of worry that Iraq is beginning to look a little like Vietnam," said Doug Struck.
"Americans are very worried when their servicemen start saying, 'No, we're not going to go.' It sends alarms off."
Americans are worried? Try "The administration is worried."
Anyway, the CP reporter was apparently on deadline, which caused him/her to miss the testimony of Jimmy J. Massey. Fortunately, the WaPo reporter stayed to catch it.
From a story on page A20 of the Washington Post,
Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran, said he left Iraq in May 2003 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. He said he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration and a man with his hands up trying to surrender, as well as women and children at roadblocks. Massey said he had complained to his superiors about the "killing of innocent civilians," but that nothing was done.
The story dutifully gives "balance" to Massey's testimony—
In Washington, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon said Massey's charges had been investigated and were unproved.
".... They've been looked into, and nothing has been substantiated."
This is a non-denial denial. Note that the Marine Corps is not asserting that the events didn't happen. Why, hell, they haven't been able to "substantiate" allegations of torture in Guantánamo.
The Post, by sending one of its top foreign-service reporters to Canada, shows that it recognizes the importance of this hearing. And it is noted later, mid-paragraph, in the story—
.... The asylum bids by Hinzman and two other servicemen are a dilemma for the Canadian government, which is seeking to repair relations with the Bush administration. Canada refused to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the war remains highly unpopular in Canada.
The media are consistently suggesting that Hinzman's application will be refused and that the case will then be appealed. In that case, Hinzman will be able to remain in Canada for the appeal, and Canada will be able to stave off a decision that will be highly problematic no matter which way the case is decided.
The Canadian government is definitely in the hot seat on this one. Will the U.S. be able to force another government to deny the reality of U.S. war crimes?
Bev Harris critiques vote-rigging story
On Monday a story by Wayne Madsen appeared on the web alleging that Rep. Tom Feeney of Florida had arranged for "a customized Windows-based program to suppress Democratic votes on touch screen voting machine." I didn't link or comment on it at the time because, frankly, the story was by Wayne Madsen. I've read a number of other stories by Madsen, and while they are always entertaining, Mr. Madsen's dot-connector is broken.
Bev Harris of BlackboxVoting.org did a critique of the story yesterday. [There's no specific link. Read down.]
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Take your vitamins
Like people, vegetables that are grown for looks tend to be missing essential ingredients.
According to Science Daily,
A recent study of 43 garden crops ... suggests that their nutrient value has declined in recent decades while farmers have been planting crops designed to improve other traits.
The study was led by Dr. Donald Davis of the university's Biochemical Institute in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Davis said—
“Considered as a group, we found that six out of 13 nutrients showed apparently reliable declines between 1950 and 1999.”
These nutrients included protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. The declines, which ranged from 6 percent for protein to 38 percent for riboflavin, raise significant questions about how modern agriculture practices are affecting food crops.
But they didn't check for a number of essential vitamins and minerals—
“Perhaps more worrisome would be declines in nutrients we could not study because they were not reported in 1950 — magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-6, vitamin E and dietary fiber, not to mention phytochemicals....”
The Left scores again in Bolivia
What is becoming of Latin America? With U.S. resources so tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, the South American continent is getting quite out of hand. The problem seems to be the flourishing of democracy.
According to the AP,
Indian and peasant organizations promising better access to health care and education won every major Bolivian city in local elections Sunday, trouncing long-dominant parties in a reshuffling of the political map in South America's poorest country, unofficial results showed.
Note, however, that word "unofficial." After all, the AP is relying on exit polls. And we know from our own election how inaccurate they can be, right?
The new groups, including United Citizens, campaigned for cleaner streets, better access to education and health care and improved public transportation. They also oppose globalization and the trade policies of the United States.
The campaigns attracted voters frustrated with traditional parties, especially after last year's dispute over a government plan to export natural gas ended in bloody street demonstrations that killed 56 people and toppled President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. [emphasis added]
"Goni" Sanchez de Lozada, known as "El Gringo" because his Spanish was so bad after his upbringing in the U.S., hightailed it back to the U.S. after the uprising. He is no doubt pursuing a career in "business."
The latest political weapon: Redistricting
In King County Washington, which contains Seattle, Initiative 18 (I-18) was passed by the voters in this past election. It required that the number of County Council districts be reduced from 13 to 9 and that redrawing the districts be accomplished by
The initiative was tantamount to a generic recall, or an election in which "None of the above" wins. (How often have we longed for such an option!). The problem is that I-18 was not specific as to who should lose.
Reminiscent of the Texas Congressional redistricting, the County Council is in quite a tizzy as to how the new lines are to be drawn, since four Councilmen must give up their seats. Two of the Council members are "moving on" anyway, so that leaves two to be eliminated.
I will not delve into the machinations and skulduggery that are undoubtedly rampant in the redistricting process, since I don't live in Washington and I really don't care. And for all I know King County may have more commissioners than it knows what to do with—but it was the impetus for the redistricting that caught my eye.
According to an earlier story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
The Corrections Guild started I-18 and gathered nearly 71,000 voters' signatures, more than enough to qualify it for the ballot, in apparent retaliation after the council last year reduced the number of jail guard positions in the 2003 budget. The council did so to deal with a $50 million projected deficit in the county general fund and also reduced the council's own budget.
In other words, the jail guards were sufficiently organized and powerful to take revenge, however non-specific. Of course they were aided and abetted by those guardians of good government and high incarceration rates—who else?—the right-wing Republicans.
Seattle is blessed by the presence of Tim Eyman, whom the Post-Intelligencer refers to as "the initiative king." Eyman had said he was sponsoring the redistricting initiative for free, but after it was approved for the ballot, the Corrections Guild slipped him an honorarium of $20,000 anyway. You will be relieved to know that Eyman said he will use the money to pay down his mortgage, "not Hawaii trips or something like that."
While the Left babbles on about the death of the union movement, there is one section of the workforce that is more unionized and more powerful than ever—prison guards and police. This fall in King County, Washington, they were able to reorganize the government.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Hinzman refugee hearing in Canada - Day 1
Hinzman presented his own testimony today.
Hinzman said he began having doubts about what he was being taught to do soon after enlisting in the military.
During training, he and his fellow soldiers would chant, "Train to kill! Kill we will!"
He said at first he thought it was "all in good fun," but it gradually gnawed at his conscience.
"We were taught to dehumanize our enemies," he said.
"You have to find ways to dehumanize them to make it as easy as shooting a beer can."
But it was after the birth of his son that he finally decided he could no longer live with his conscience.
"He cemented in my mind that I did not want to kill babies."
Seems like a plan to me.
Hinzman is arguing that American soldiers are guilty of war crimes and that forcing him to fight in Iraq would have likely made him a war criminal.
For his claim to succeed, Hinzman must convince Goodman that he has a well-founded fear of mistreatment by the U.S. government or military if he is returned to face prosecution for leaving his regiment.
Only a madman could conclude otherwise.
His lawyer, Jeffry House, planned to call former U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey as a witness to support the claim.
Massey is expected to say how he and other soldiers shot more than 30 unarmed Iraqis, including women and a 6-year-old child, at a U.S. military checkpoint, House said.
Ohio vote now official
Ohio's Secretary of State and head of the Bush campaign committee in Ohio, Kenneth Blackwell, certified today that Bush beat Kerry by 119,000 votes. The certification was important because the recount couldn't begin until the vote was "certified." Now with a little luck, we may be able to find out what the real count was.
I love the quote from Keith Cunningham, "vice president of the state election boards association." According to ABC News—
Keith Cunningham ... bristled at suggestions that the election was plagued by fraud or widespread error.
"To actually assert that elections officials in Ohio have intentionally done something is beyond insulting," he said Monday. "I know election officials all over the state it's just fantasy run wild." [See "How the Republicans handle a disputed election"]
Looking to do a "study" of the election,
The Democratic Party also said Monday it will examine reports of voting problems in Ohio.
Outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the party will spend "whatever it takes" to study complaints from Ohio voters.
McAuliffe said the study will be conducted by nonpartisan experts to be announced later, with a report issued in the spring that recommends reforms to prevent such problems in the future.
That's all well and good. But we actually need Bush out of office now.
The White House is suggesting that we should all just move along. Nothing to see here, folks. Just the wreck of democracy.
Early warning on Guantánamo torture from the FBI
The AP is reporting that it has obtained a letter that reveals that "FBI officials complained about the pattern of abusive techniques to top Defense Department attorneys in January 2003, and it appeared that nothing was done."
The letter "suggested" that—
... the Pentagon didn't act on FBI complaints about the incidents, including a female interrogator grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs, another where a prisoner was gagged with duct tape and a third where a dog was used to intimidate a detainee who later was thrown into isolation and showed signs of "extreme psychological trauma."
The letter was written by Thomas Harrington, "an FBI counterterrorism expert." And to whom was it sent? That would be "Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army's chief law enforcement officer who's investigating abuses at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo."
The AP says that these are the first detailed allegations of "abuse" at Guantánamo for the year 2002. But the ACLU has not received any mention of these incidents among the documents it has requested from the government.
The ACLU did, however, receive a letter addressed to the same FBI agent.
One of the documents the ACLU received was a letter from an FBI agent to Harrington and dated May 10. It underscored the friction between the FBI and the military, mentioning conversations that were "somewhat heated" over interrogation methods.
"In my weekly meetings with the Department of Justice we often discussed techniques and how they were not effective or producing intelligence that was reliable," according to the exchange, which was heavily redacted to remove references to dates and names.
"I finally voiced my opinion ...," the FBI agent says. "It still did not prevent them from continuing the ... methods."
You will not be surprised that—
Three of the four incidents mentioned in the letter obtained by the AP occurred under the watch of Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who ran the Guantanamo camp from October 2002 to March 2004, and left to run Abu Ghraib prison. Last month, Miller was reassigned to the Pentagon, with responsibility for housing and other support operations.
He'll be head of the Joint Chiefs at this rate.
In a little more detail,
In September or October of 2002, FBI agents saw a dog used "in an aggressive manner to intimidate a detainee," the letter said.
About a month later, agents saw the same detainee "after he had been subjected to intense isolation for over three months ... totally isolated in a cell that was always flooded with light. By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma ... talking to nonexistent people, reported hearing voices (and) crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet," the letter said.
In October 2002, another FBI agent saw a detainee "gagged with duct tape that covered much of his head" because he would not stop chanting from the Quran.
Just thought you should know.
Thailand bombs its Muslim region with 100 million origami
The Thai government gets an A+ for originality. In a move to pacify the Muslim areas of the country, the Thai air force dropped 100 million hand-made "peace birds" in the southern area of Thailand where Muslims predominate. According to Reuters,
The bird campaign, launched by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra weeks ahead of a general election, caught the imagination of the predominantly Buddhist country, even in Bangkok where sympathy for the Malay-speaking south is limited.
Everyone from cabinet ministers to cab drivers huddled in groups to fold birds -- they were meant to be doves, a symbol of peace, but most turned out to look more like cranes -- after Thaksin called on all 63 million Thais to make one.
Reuters describes it as "probably the biggest origami airdrop in history." I don't know if it will help, but at least it won't make the situation worse—which is what this was guaranteed to do—
.... 85 Muslims died after a demonstration.
Most suffocated or were crushed to death in army trucks in which they had been stacked "like bricks".
Army may be opening your garage door
The Pentagon says the effects may be felt within 10 miles of a base, but industry officials set the range at 50 miles.
They say that for $60 you can get it fixed. It's a great time to be in the garage-door industry.
No court martial for recalcitrant troops
The soldiers failed to report on Oct. 13 for a mission to transport supplies from Tallil air base near Nasiriyah to Taji north of Baghdad. They had claimed that they balked at the mission because the vehicles were unarmored and in poor condition. They also said complaints to their commander about their concerns went unheeded.
Smart move by the military. A court-martial would have brought more media attention to the lack of equipment and the justness of the troops' complaints. And besides, they're too desperate for troops to lose 23 men to legal proceedings.