Friday, September 15, 2006


Ground Force of the Day

US ground forces are increasingly made up of a motley mix of under-age teens, old-timers, foreign fighters, gang-bangers, neo-Nazis, ex-cons, inferior officers and a host of near-mercenary troops, lured in or kept in uniform through big payouts and promises. —Nick Turse writing in "Coaxing the Unwilling"

Turse took a look at ways the military is meeting its recruitment goals. Here are the methods he turned up—

  1. Using "hard sell" tactics on high school teenagers
  2. Raising the maximum enlistment age from 35, then to 40, then to 42
  3. Recalling soldiers and Marines who had left the service but who still hold Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) status
  4. Rubber-stamping officer promotions
  5. Creating a "foreign legion" of non-citizens by offering expedited citizenship and other benefits
  6. Increasing bonuses and promised benefits for re-enlistees to the point that they may be considered mercenaries
  7. Paying private companies to bring in recruits
  8. Lowering standards for test scores, education, mental health, and other indicators of aptitude
  9. Granting more "moral waivers" for recruits with criminal backgrounds.
  10. Admitting more gang members, as indicated by gang tattoos
  11. Enlisting neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, who are happy to receive the training.

Let me add to the list a method I wrote about in April: the Individual Augmentee (IA) program in which sailors are placed under Army command.

Previous post
How the Army is coping with its recruitment shortage (4/3/06)

Follow-up post
BC3: Yet another strategem for replacing the missing Army (4/17/07)



Religious Truth of the Day

Beliefs about God's personality are powerful predictors.... Those who considered God engaged and punishing were likely to have lower incomes and less education, to come from the South and to be white evangelicals or black Protestants. Those who believed God to be distant and nonjudgmental were more likely to support increased business regulation, environmental protection and the even distribution of wealth. —Finding of the Baylor Religion Survey "American Piety in the 21st Century" as described by Michelle Boorstein


Thursday, September 14, 2006


No evidence of Satanic killings in Sweden—yet

According to The Local, Swedish feminist and academic Eva Lundgren said she had "received testimony about hundreds of ritual baby murders in Sweden carried out by male Satanist groups." Her claim of satanic infanticides was included in a documentary called "Gender War." Lundgren also avered that "half of all women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by men."

I don't know what made them skeptical, but Uppsala University ordered an inquiry into Lundgren's "scientific honesty." Happily she has been cleared of the charge.

But regarding her infanticide claim the academic investigators concluded that "the critical and reflective research role was absent." And as for violence against women, Jörgen Hermansson, himself of the male persuasion, wrote—

Lundgren and others claim that they have destroyed the myth that violence against women can be linked to certain groups of men. However, ... a re-analysis of the same data shows that the conclusion ought to have been the direct opposite.

Now that Lundgren has been exonerated of scientific dishonesty Uppsala University will take no action, leaving the matter to the "scientific community."

Professor Lundgren need not have worried. In the unlikely event of dismissal, I'm sure she could have found a berth at Bob Jones University, on TV with Geraldo, at the Vatican or somewhere among the loonies of the Bush administration.

Related post
Exorcism: "A growth industry for the pastoral care business" (2/18/05)


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Statistic of the Day

This country houses a quarter of the world's prisoners in its corrections system. —Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census Bureau, as quoted by Dan McGinn

The American Promise

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

And I will put their sorry asses in jail.


Related post
Prescient, don't you think? (1/20/05)



Public Relations Initiative of the Day

Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield —Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne as reported by the AP

The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations....

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

Well, Secretary Wynne might be vilified by the world press, but I doubt he has anything to worry about here at home.

As for the public, the military could drive them with cattle prods and produce no more outcry than an occasional bleat.

Of course the Air Force Secretary's remarks also indicate how far we have strayed from the intent of the Posse Comitatus Act, which "forbids the use of the Army and Air Force to enforce civilian laws."

It is not only that the military shouldn't enforce civilian laws, it is also that the military services are not trained to do so. As Congressman John Murtha said in a speech last April,

Our military is not a world police force. They are trained to destroy an enemy, which they do very well. But they are not trained to be policemen....

It is a part of the dark humor of our times that while Secretary Wynne urges that nonlethal weaponry be tested on the American public, the military's lack of training as a police force has been used as justification or extenuation of the atrocities committed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Related post
Are they practicing for Iraq or for Toledo? (12/30/04)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Torture and kangaroo courts near approval by Congress

R. Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post gives us a rundown of the "concessions" that Senate Republicans are making with the White House concerning the Bush administration's requests for military tribunals that do not require evidence and for the de facto legalization of torture. The editors at the Post found this news so insignificant that it was relegated to page 17.1, 2

The disagreements that remain involve whether suspects can be convicted with evidence they are never allowed to see... [and] ... over the terms of a related amendment to the U.S. War Crimes Act that would limit the exposure of CIA officials and other civilian personnel to prosecution for abusive treatment of detainees....

The principal players are Republican Senators John McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham, who were making human rights noises for a while. But according to reporter Smith, Bush took the wind out of their sails with a speech "when he announced his intention to put 14 key terrorism suspects on trial." As you know, there's nothing more powerful than a speech by George Bush.

You have to read down a few paragraphs to get to the comedy—

The Senate bill for the first time includes language supporting the administration's position that detainee abuse can be prosecuted only if it, in effect, "shocks the conscience."

Try to think of something that shocks the conscience of the Bush administration. Just try.

A theocratic administration and Senate that love the absolute and disdain the relative are now promoting the ultimate in moral relativism—

Legal experts say that instead of setting an absolute standard for conduct, the bill's language would leave room for judges to weigh the urgency of the information extracted from detainees during rough interrogations.

What an interesting and unique standard of conduct: the urgency of the information to be extracted.

Even if we accept this as a standard that does not "shock the conscience," I see nothing here to suggest that the interrogators must have reason to believe that their victims actually possess the information. No, it is only the urgency of the information itself. With a rule like that, George Bush and his minions should feel just as at home in Uzbekistan as they do in the United States.

And what if the American government somehow manages the daunting task of shocking the conscience of a federal judge?

The revised Senate bill also would bar detainees held by the United States from bringing legal action against the government to challenge the legality of their detention or treatment. It would bar the collection of damages by detainees for violations of the Geneva Conventions, which set the minimum standards for wartime treatment.

Of course, I'm giving you the best-case scenario of Congressional action. Republican member of the House Duncan Hunter has a bill ready that will give the administration everything it wants without the quibbles, and the administration is submitting its own bill to the Senate. Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist has already promised that the White House version will get the first vote.

Concerning the American government—the Bush administration, the Congress and the Courts—I think I've lost the capacity to be surprised. But I can still be shocked by those outside the government, as in the concluding paragraph of the story—

Human Rights First, the Center for Victims of Torture and five other activist groups released a joint letter yesterday condemning the administration's version of the bill as "shockingly radical" and asserting that it would violate "fundamental notions of due process."

I tried to verify that this was not a distortion of the import of the letter, but the letter was apparently not published on the Web as I write this.

It may be that the "concessions" put forth by the McCain-Warner-Lindsay trinity were not known to the rights groups at the time they issued the letter. That is my hope. If they were aware of the concessions and found only the administration's legislation "shockingly radical" while not condemning the "moderate" version, it would only demonstrate the ease with which the terrible becomes the commonplace.

Related posts
Parsing the Pentagon's Geneva Conventions turnaround (7/11/06)
I told you so... (7/23/06)
Warning: Neocon fury and a reporter to watch (7/20/06)



1WaPo National Editor Michael Abramowitz, the Neocon/Israeli shill, put his own writing on the front page in a piece headlined "Bush Says Iraq Victory Is Vital." It begins—

President Bush mixed solemn remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks yesterday with a renewed call to complete the mission in Iraq, paying tribute to the fallen even while warning Americans that failure in the Middle East would leave the United States more vulnerable than ever to Islamic extremists.

You'll find no mention of torture or kangaroo courts here. Instead Abramowitz and co-reporter Michael Fletcher give the details of the President's "painstakingly choreographed day." I hung on every word, just as every American should when considering the activities of our Great Leader.

It is a great shame that "tyrants" such as Fidel Castro have to rely on a state-controlled press to get their messages out. In the U.S., capitalist organizations such as the Washington Post provide this service without a penny of expense to the government, unless of course the government decides to slip the individual journalists a few dollars. [back]

2In its Web edition the Post offers "a running discussion of important issues among dozens of the world's best-known editors and writers." Called PostGlobal, it is moderated by David Ignatius and Fareed Zakarias.

The question for September 9 was

In the wake of Abu Ghraib, how will these proposed military commissions affect national security? Will this plan expose our troops, now deployed around the world, to similar treatment?

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly Die Zeit, offers a memoir titled "Guantanamo and My Wehrmacht Uncles." This is immediately followed by "Torture, Unlike Terror, Can Be Justified" from Israeli writer Saul Singer, who is Editorial Page Editor of the Jerusalem Post.

Mr. Singer would pretend that torture is not one of the faces of terrorism. The principal use of torture is not to "extract information" but to notify the target population of what they may expect if they do not kowtow to the authorities, whether the "authorities" be an insurgent group or an army or secret agency of a duly constituted government. The Israelis are well versed in the technique. [back]

Monday, September 11, 2006


Finding opportunity at a gay bar

Last week a little story ran in the French gay magazine Têtu. The news itself wasn't very interesting: the arrest of a gay-basher.

Here was a 25-year-old married man who had gone to a gay bar in Paris, picked up a man of 50 something, led him back to his car where an accomplice was waiting. They beat the poor man almost into oblivion and stole his bank card and cell phone. So far a very run-of-the-mill story.

Then Paul Parant writes,

According to Le Parisien, which quotes someone close to the investigation, "He didn't give a damn about the sexual orientation of his victim. The victim was simply easier to entrap than a hetero. This isn't the result of homophobia but rather of opportunism." [a Simply Appalling translation]

Am I the only one who finds this odd—the claim that these acts were not the result of homophobia but simply taking advantage of an "opportunity"?

Are the women of Paris so formidable that you're better off taking on a man in his 50s? Instead of going to a gay bar, wouldn't it be more convenient just to wait near your car for a well-heeled victim? Couldn't you find someone on crutches or maybe in a wheelchair? And why the severe beating? If you wanted more time for a getaway, why not just gag him and tie him to a tree? Or drop him off at a remote spot?

Was this homophobia? What do you think?


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