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Friday, May 21, 2004

berg video raises questions



I haven't seen the video, and I'm not going to. I can't watch a man be beheaded, without being changed, and I don't know how it would change me, just that the change would be profound. But from what I've been reading, there are several questions about this video, and there seems to be a real possibility that Berg was dead before he was beheaded. If this is true, then he didn't suffer (I hope). Cold comfort, to be sure, but there it is. Along those liens, I offer you this story from the Asia Times; it goes through the various theories, and attempts to bring some order from a totally chaotic information situation.
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and the march of folly continues ...



From the files of "Oh, who are we kidding?" comes this fun story reported by Common Dreams:

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Bush administration wants the U.N. Security Council to renew on Friday a controversial resolution exempting American peacekeepers from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.

Although the resolution is expected to be adopted, diplomats expect opposition among the wider U.N. membership following the U.S. abuse of prisoners in Iraq and general complaints about American unilateralism.

(snip)

The United States argues it cannot put itself under the jurisdiction of a foreign court it did not authorize and says its many troops abroad would be open to politically motivated prosecutions.
(emphasis added)


Do you think the world might respect us more if we stopped pretending we were the good guys?
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the wedding party massacre was worse than I thought



It's hard to be disillusioned when you've already lost what illusions you've had. And yet, I'm disillusioned once again. The wedding party massacre was first explained as an accident, the result of a cultural misunderstanding between wedding celebrants firing into the air and nervous US helicopter pilots who thought they were under attack. Then it turned out that US troops had actually gone out to investigate before sending in the helicopters. Then it turned out that the celebrants were all asleep at 3am, when the US attacked. Then it turned out that the celebrants never actually fired their weapons. The military is lying like all hell about it, trying to make it sound as if they found conclusive evidence of malfeasance at the sight: now we know their 'evidence' is some money, some jewelry (cause nomads never have jewelry, now do they?) and a Satcom phone, which is apparently about as common among nomads as bottles of water (how else can you communicate in the desert? Not too many wireless internet cafes out there).

But nothing, nothing, prepared me for this:

"The bombing started at 3am," [Haleema Shihab, sister-in-law of the groom] said yesterday from her bed in the emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.

She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."
(emphasis adeed)


This assault wasn't even done by helicopter, although they did play a huge support role, firing from the air. But the main force was US ground troops. And according to this woman, who was there, and who lost 2 children along with many more relatives, US troops were shooting women and children, at close range. Then they went into the house, which had already been hit by missle fire, took everything of value, and then planted explosives to detonate the building. I don't know what to make of this: did our soldiers confiscate the money and jewelry, or did they just loot the dead? Was this command failure, or rapine?

I've said this before: 99% of our troops would never do such a thing. Normally. One of the real terrors of war is the fact that even the noblest soul can be corrupted. If you, noble-minded american, or I were put into that situation, of having been shot at for months, never away from the front lines, encouraged to break the rules of warfare, told time and again that the Iraqis were all behind 9/11, and then sent on a raid of 'terrorists and foreign infiltrators', you'd do exactly the same thing. None of us is immune to the corrosive value o0f war and killing. That's why it's so important to have good leaders in the army: to make sure that things never degenerate to that level. And our leaders are the worst this country has ever seen.
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and the scandal deepens



Still think it's just "blowing off steam", Rush?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of new images and sworn statements from Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison depict harrowing sexual humiliation and religious intimidation at the hands of U.S. soldiers well beyond abuses reported previously, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

(snip)

The 13 previously secret sworn statements by detainees obtained by the Post added an overt anti-Islamic dimension to the abuses, with prisoners forced to renounce their religion, eat pork and drink liquor in contravention of Islamic religious tenets.

One detainee said he was told during the holy month of Ramadan he would be released if he cooperated and was ordered to curse Islam. "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I curse my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus I am alive."

The abuses were said to include prisoners being forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers as well as an Army translator having sex with a boy 15 to 18 years old, an incident detainee Kasim Mehaddi Hilas said was documented in photos taken by a female soldier.

(snip)

The statements added allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sodomized with a phosphoric light, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets, the newspaper said.
(emphasis added)


Let's see; an army translator having sex with a detainee who was below the age of consent. I don't think you can get a more solid definition of rape. And that bit about forcing prisoners to abjure their faith under penalty of torture; are we fucking running an Inquisition over there? The fall-out from this can never be recovered from. Our nation's honor has been ripped in half, and those who try to defend this abuse only show that they never had any honor to begin with. They're like those villains at the end of the 'Scooby Doo' cartoon: they say 'and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you pesky Liberal defeatists!' Because they're fine with rape and murder of innocents, it's truth they can't abide.

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

liars



Check out this story on the wedding-party massacre.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Grieving Iraqis said U.S. forces killed dozens of guests at a desert wedding but an American general insisted Thursday that the air strike had killed foreign guerrilla fighters and said "bad things happen in wars." (emphasis added)


So, we hit a bunch of terrorists, who were all grown men, despite the video evidence of dead women and children, and found lots of money and weapons and we certainly didn't kill any civilians, and so we have nothing to apologize for, but, you know, "bad things happen in wars". Why say that last bit, unless you're admitting that something bad happened? They can't keep the story straight, because the truth is too verifiable.

And what of this money and weaponry that the US found at the sight? Well, funny thing about that: it wasn't fake Syrian passprots, $2,000,000 in Iraqi and Syrian Dinari, and heavy weapons. Instead:

Shotguns, rifles and pistols, as well as jewelry and about $1,000 in Iraqi and Syrian currency, a satellite telephone and four-wheel drive vehicles were found, Kimmitt said.


They're gonna have to admit the truth pretty soon, and it's not going to be pretty when they do.
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oh god, i love nancy pelosi!



Via Atrios, this lovely bit of rhetoric from the next speaker of the house:

"Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader,'' Pelosi said. "He's a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon.''

(snip)

"He's gone,'' Pelosi said of Bush. "He's so gone.''

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Sgt. Provance says rummy's been lying



From the Washington Post:

Sgt. Samuel Provance said intelligence interrogators told military police to strip down prisoners and embarrass them as a way to help "break" them. The same interrogators and intelligence analysts would talk about the abuse with Provance and flippantly dismiss it because the Iraqis were considered "the enemy," he said.

(snip)

Since the abuse at Abu Ghraib became public, senior Pentagon officials have characterized the interrogation techniques as the willful actions of a small group of soldiers and a failure of leadership by their commander. Provance's comments challenge that, and attorneys for accused soldiers allege that the techniques were directed by military intelligence officials.


But then, he does sound French.
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opec at a loss



According to Reuters, OPEC is saying it can't do a damn thing to help us out of this oil-crunch. And the Driving Season is just around the corner.
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it's enough to make one proud to be catholic!



Oh, my droogs, check this out!

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A senior American cardinal in the Vatican has accused the U.S. administration of "moral failure" and deception in Iraq and warned the war had severely compromised future relations with the Arab world.

(snip)

Stafford, who is close to Pope John Paul, said he feared the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. military would have long-term consequences on relations with Arabs and Muslims.

"Muslims are outraged and truly deceived because we are imposing the same type of life upon Iraqi society that we said we were going to rescue them from. It's the very opposite of what we said we were going to do," he said.

"Not only have we humiliated the Iraqi people, but we've deceived them. We've deceived the Arab peoples," he said.

"Is this what American democracy is producing? Men and women who, just below the surface, are barbarians ... Is that what we're producing?" he said.


SO there you have it. The better angels in the church are gonna fight the neo-cons. This is a move that could seriously reestablish some moral authority for the church in America, if the Pope himself starts saying things like this. It probably won't happen, and the church's credibility has been pretty much destroyed over here for lefties, but it's good to see something like this anyway.
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the first sign of the apocalypse



Max Boot, horrible neo-conservative that he is, has written a good article on Gay Marriage, and his belief that the conservatives should give up on banning it. He makes the case that it doesn't hurt anyone who's straight, there's no good argument against it in a secular society, and that the 'slippery slope' argument is pretty fallacious. It's a good article, I recommend it. But MAN it's killing me to say that. :)
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68% of Iraqis support sadr



That's according to this Financial Times:

An Iraqi poll to be released next week shows a surge in the popularity of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shia cleric fighting coalition forces, and suggests nearly nine out of 10 Iraqis see US troops as occupiers and not liberators or peacekeepers.

(snip)

Conducted before the Abu Ghraib prisoners' scandal, it also suggests a severe erosion of American credibility even before Iraqis were confronted with images of torture at the hands of US soldiers.

(snip)

Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq's second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most senior Shia cleric. Some 32 per cent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 per cent somewhat supported him.
(emphasis added


Yup, that poll was taken before the abuse photos came out. We've lost.


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new abuse photos



Great, this is gonna play well. Two of these new photos show Spc. Sabrina Harmon and Sgt. Charles Graner, respectively, standing over the body of Manadel al-Jamadi, a detainee killed through 'interrogation'. Must have had a tricky heart, I guess. These two have big fucking smiles on their face as they show off the dead body of a man tortured to death. Honestly, I think they're the worst pictures to have come out: this is clearly not just abuse, but murder. Find the story on Reuters.

Update (12:37pm) - Via Atrios, some truly sickening news.

A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.


The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.


Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.


At what point does this stop being a tragedy and start becoming an atrocity? Why are we hurting innocent people to get other innocent people to talk? How much of Saddam's tactics are we gonna use? I'm sick of this: we're doing exactly what Saddam did, under exactly the same circumstances. The only reason he killed more people was because he had 30 years to do it in. In one year, we've done worse than an average year of Saddam. I wish to God that this were not so, but that's fucking reality.
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who called it? stick with the kid, baby!



Nader is gonna end up supporting Kerry, after Kerry agrees to move farther left on the war and on trade. I KNEW it! That meeting yesterday seems to have produced an understanding: nader is saying nice things about Kerry, and Kerry is saying how he respects Nader. It is, to put it mildly, a love feast:

Mr. Nader, whose campaign most likely cost Mr. Gore victories in two states in 2000 and who many Democrats fear could similarly help sink Mr. Kerry by eroding his support on the left, let Mr. Kerry know in the meeting that he would be attacking President Bush, primarily, rather than trying to hold Mr. Kerry's feet to the fire.

(snip)

"Gore was petrified wood," [Nader] said. "He was stiff as a board, he didn't want to have these kinds of meetings. He didn't want to have meetings like this when he was vice president three years before the election. Kerry is much more open."

(snip)

Mr. Nader had nothing but kind things to say about Mr. Kerry in a chuckle-filled telephone interview after the meeting. He said he and Mr. Kerry had done a little reminiscing. Mr. Nader recalled inviting Mr. Kerry over for a meeting in 1971 after Mr. Kerry gave his searing testimony against the Vietnam War to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And Mr. Kerry recalled urging Mr. Nader to run for president in 1980.

"I've known him a long time," Mr. Nader said. "It's hard not to like a 27-year-old guy who comes back from the war and helps lead the antiwar movement."

Mr. Nader was almost effusive in his praise of Mr. Kerry. "I think he's very presidential," he said. "He has a very confident demeanor. I've noticed it on TV."


Does this sound at all like an egomaniacal spoiler? I think not. Basically, Nader is marketing himself as a person who can hit Bush from the Left, allowing Kerry to hit him from the middle. This allows Nader to really get in the shots that will get the Left fired up about dumping Bush, and allow Kerry to reap the benefits without exposing himself through attack ads. It's Good-Cop/Bad-Cop on a grand scale, and it's going to devastate Bush. And it only works if Nader ends up supporting Kerry, and from the things he's just said about him, I think that's exactly what's going to happen. These two have been on the progressive side since VietNam, and they've often been paired as threats to the status quo. This is just wonderfully saitsfying, like seeing two estranged brothers patch things up to take on a common foe.
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us raids chalabi's house



Maybe the US is finally cracking down on the guy who stole so much money from the Kingdom of Jordan (several billion dollars) that he's under a death-sentence there, or maybe the US is trying to allow him to distance himself from the occupation, in order to make him more attractive to the Iraqis as a strongman. Or maybe the US is trying to distance itself from him: he's about as popular as we are in Iraq, thanks to his being a crooked, theiving exile who has consistantly been held up as the corrupt heart of collaboration. Who knows?
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sharon is an enemy of the US



It's hard to view this any other way.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Defying international fury and a rare U.S. rebuke, Israel expanded its bloodiest Gaza Strip raid in years on Thursday after killing 39 Palestinians in three days of fighting in the Rafah refugee camp.

(snip)

The U.N. Security Council urged an end to violence after Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians at a peaceful protest on Wednesday. The Council convened at the behest of Arabs incensed at what they branded a "war crime."

Reflecting its displeasure, the United States, Israel's chief ally, allowed adoption of the U.N. resolution by abstaining rather than using its veto. President Bush urged restraint from the Jewish state.

Senior U.S. officials kept up pressure with phone calls to Israeli counterparts, urging Israel to wrap up the three-day-old raid as quickly as possible, an Israeli political source said.

Israeli commentators predicted Israel would soon comply. "Time is running out," read a headline in the Jerusalem Post.

But the army, which stormed the Rafah camp after losing 13 soldiers in Gaza ambushes last week, forged ahead on Thursday.


With all the horror going on in Iraq, and the terrible PR situation we've gotten ourselves into, the last thing we need right now is a bloody Gaza offensive from Sharon. Most of the Arab world is already convinced that the US and Israel are tag-teaming the Middle East: with this Gaza offensive coming on the heels of both Israel's firing missles into a peaceful demonstration of women and children, and the US opening fire on a wedding party, our credibility in the region is going to be destroyed. The US is asking Sharon nicely to please calm down while we put out the fire, and Sharon is pouring gasoline on the flames. I tell you, my readers, this man is a threat to our troops lives.
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who needs truth when you have 'newspeak'?



So not only have we killed 45 civilians in a wedding party, including 10 women and 15 children, we're now just lying about it. The US is claiming it actually killed a bunch of, you guessed it, terrorists and captured $2,000,000 in Iraqi Dinari and weapons too. And all the terrorists were men. And it was a plane, not a helicopter that killed them all. Now, your average American, used to finding the truth in the middle, will say 'we cannot judge yet, and our forces are innocent until proven guilty'. Which is a fine sentiment, and it's certainly one that I agree with, generally. But in this case, let's look at the facts.

1) 45 civilians are dead.
2) 10 were women, 15 were children.
3)There are many witnesses who saw this attack, and they all say it was a helicopter.

Given these three facts, it's not just hard to square the coalition's version with the Iraqi one, it's impossible. Either the Army is talking about an entirely different attack, one that presumably killed the same number of people, only they were all terrorists, or they are just lying through their teeth. And considering this administration's track-record on truthfulness, I'm more than a little inclined to see this as the latter. But one thing is absolutely certain: the US account is incorrect, because 10 women and 15 children are dead, and they were not male terrorists when they were killed.

Find the story on Reuters
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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

check this out



A quite damning interview with Staff Sgt. Jim Massey, recently honorably discharged from the Marines. He's very pissed about the things he did in Iraq, and about the administration that lied to him about it. Here's the article.
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Way to go, bush



By golly, he'll turn as-Sadr into the Iraqi George Washington by June 30th, at this rate!

From the Boston Globe, via Hesiod:

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) Not long ago, U.S. officials and senior Shiite clergy viewed radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a fringe figure with a narrow base of support. Times have changed.

In the six weeks since al-Sadr launched an anti-coalition uprising in Baghdad and across central and southern Iraq, the young cleric has been elevated to heroic status, his movement re-energized. His militiamen now control Najaf, Kufa and Karbala.

The uprising has raised fears of eroding support for the U.S.-led coalition among the mainstream of Iraq's Shiite majority, a community emerging from decades of oppression and hoping for political domination when elections are held next year.

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and now for something completely different ...



Here at Leftfoot, we tend to stay on the angrier side of irresponsible Leftism. Rage, disillusionment, inchoate cries of despair, all that good stuff. But we do have a sense of humor, as this little story proves:

Oklahoma School Will Let Muslim Girl Wear Headscarf



An Oklahoma public school district that had suspended a Muslim girl for wearing a religious headcovering agreed Wednesday to allow her to keep her traditional "hijab" and will revise its dress code, the U.S. Justice Department said.

(snip)

[Nashala] Hearn was first told she could not wear her hijab on Sept. 11, 2003, the second anniversary of the deadly attacks on New York and Washington. She was told by school officials that other students were frightened by the scarf.
(emphasis added)


Well, I for one am glad the OK school boards are finally cracking down on 11 year old girls with their hair covered. Many's the time when I would have to run screaming and crying away from an 11 year old girl because of her head-accoutrements.

Seriously, good for OK for reversing it's assinine decision. Perhaps they realized that going through with it would make them a little, qu'est-ce que le mot, French?
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attention palestinians: come out and surrender, so's we can shoot you!



Does anyone really want proof that Israel under Sharon is stark raving mad? Well here you go; 2 stories on BBC.

First:

Israeli troops on a raid in southern Gaza have called for a mass surrender of male residents in part of the Rafah refugee camp.

Reports say army loudspeakers told males aged 16 or over in the Tel Sultan area to gather at a local school or risk demolition of their family homes.

(snip)

Thousands of residents are reported to have emerged from their homes in response to the call, and walked to the school carrying white flags ahead of Israeli tanks.

Firing by the Israeli troops continued as the residents gave themselves up, family members said, quoted by Reuters news agency.


So they're rounding up all military-age males in Rafah, under penalty of having their homes destroyed and their families thrown out on the streets. The entire camp has been threatened. So thousands of people surrender. And here comes the kicker

Israelis fire on crowds in Gaza



Israeli troops have opened fire during a protest by Palestinian demonstrators in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza.

At least 10 people were killed and 60 injured, though some reports put the number of casualties higher.

(snip)

The incident happened as about 3,000 demonstrators marched down the main street of Rafah towards the Tel Sultan area where Israeli raids have been concentrated in the last two days.

Dramatic TV footage of the incident showed a large explosion going off in the middle of a crowd as Israeli helicopters flew overhead firing anti-missile flares.

Dozens of wounded - many of them children - were evacuated by ambulance, private cars and donkey carts to the Rafah hospital, witnesses said.

A BBC correspondent at the hospital said the floors were drenched in blood as doctors treated incoming patients in corridors and on staircases.


The IDF is claiming that it was actually a palestinian bomb that killed all those people. Clever palestinians, blowing themselves up just to make the IDF look bad. It's that very insanity that proves that Palestinians are all beasts, and should be shot.

Or maybe the IDF is just lying through it's God damned teeth again.

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oh god



Why the fuck is this happening?

Via Kos:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party Wednesday in western Iraq, killing more than 40 people, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military said it could not confirm the report and was investigating.

Lt. Col Ziyad al-Jbouri, deputy police chief of Ramadi, said between 42 and 45 people were killed in the attack, which took place about 2:45 a.m. in a remote desert area near the border with Syria and Jordan. He said the dead included 15 children and 10 women.

(snip)

Associated Press Television News obtained videotape showing a truck containing bodies of people who were allegedly killed in the incident. Most of the bodies were wrapped in blankets and other cloths, but the footage showed at least eight uncovered, bloody bodies, several of them children. One of the children was headless.
(emphasis added)


So they fired celebratory gunfire into the air, and our troops mistook it for hostile fire. So they opened fire on a wedding party. I don't buy the military's defense: even if they assumed there was hostile firing going on, why did they fire missles into a wedding party? Surely hostile fire would more likely come from a building, or somewhere other than a group of men, women, and children. I think morale is collapsing, and I think that a large part of our soldiery, after being brutalized by this insurgency and the counter-insurgency, is in danger of deciding that all Iraqis are the enemy. And even if they defense is truthful, how will we explain this to the Iraqis? How do we keep them away from Sadr's militia when we do things like this, that seem to prove every terrible thing Sadr accuses us of?

Update (2:58pm) -
[Dr. Salah] Al-Ani [who works at Ramadi hospital] said people at the wedding were firing weapons in the air, and that American troops came to investigate and then left. However, he said, helicopters attacked the area at about 3 a.m. (emphasis added)


There's no excuse for this. We investigated, and then blew them up.
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Boy, this administration REALLY doesn't like the press



Talk about your adversarial relationships:

U.S. forces beat three Iraqis working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention last January in a military camp near Falluja, the three said Tuesday.

The three first told Reuters of the ordeal after their release but only decided to make it public when the U.S. military said there was no evidence they had been abused, and following the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

An Iraqi journalist working for U.S. network NBC, who was arrested with the Reuters staff, also said he had been beaten and mistreated, NBC said Tuesday.

Two of the three Reuters staff said they had been forced to insert a finger into their anus and then lick it, and were forced to put shoes in their mouths, particularly humiliating in Arab culture.

All three said they were forced to make demeaning gestures as soldiers laughed, taunted them and took photographs. They said they did not want to give details publicly earlier because of the degrading nature of the abuse.

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'If only they'd taken 'Mein kampf' seriously'



Spend enough time with history majors, and you're certain to hear that little nugget of wisdom. If only more Germans had read Mein Kampf, and not mistaken it for mere rhetoric, then maybe WWII and the Holocaust could have been avoided. "Why, oh WHY, were those Germans so blase?", they ask. Well, we're living through the same deal now, friends. And no one's taking it seriously. Take Michael Savage, our country's most influential fascist:

"I think there should be no mercy shown to these sub-humans. I believe that a thousand of them should be killed tomorrow. I think a thousand of them held in the Iraqi prison should be given 24 hour[s] -- a trial and executed. I think they need to be shown that we are not going to roll over to them ... Instead of putting joysticks, I would have liked to have seen dynamite put in their orifices and they should be dropped from airplanes ... They should put dynamite in their behinds and drop them from 35,000 feet, the whole pack of scum out of that jail."

(snip)

"Right now, even people sitting on the fence would like George Bush to drop a nuclear weapon on an Arab country. They don't even care which one it would be. I can guarantee you -- I don't need to go to Mr. Schmuck [pollster John] Zogby and ask him his opinion ... The most -- I tell you right now -- the largest percentage of Americans would like to see a nuclear weapon dropped on a major Arab capital. They don't even care which one..."

"I think these people need to be forcibly converted to Christianity ... It's the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings."

(snip)

"I'm going to give you one further example from my background as an anthropologist just so that you -- I'm trying to put context on this because you can go crazy if you don't have the context on this, because I'm going to lead up to something of what we must do to these primitives. Because these primitives can only be treated in one way, and I don't think smallpox and a blanket is good enough incidentally ... Smallpox in a blanket, which the U.S. Army gave to the Cherokee Indians on their long march to the West, was nothing compared to what I'd like to see done to these people."
(emphasis added)


There you have it. The Heart of Darkness speaks, and is heard by 6 million listeners daily. This isn't some crack-pot, this is one of the bigger DJs in the country. And he wants the subhumans murdered. I believe Mr. Kurtz put it most eloquently:

"Exterminate the Brutes!"
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more from salon



So it looks like Iraq and Cuba aren't the only places a white boy is encouraged to kick the shit out of innocent Arabs. Apparently, Brooklyn is as fine a place as any.

The American guards took Mohamed Maddy's glasses before they slammed him into the wall. A portly middle-aged father of two, Maddy was crying, trying to move his shoulder in front of him so it would take the blow, but they kept smashing him into the concrete, leaving him with dark purple bruises. Then they told him to strip, and when he balked at removing his underwear -- "I am Muslim, I can't do it," he said -- they screamed, "Fucking Muslim! Take them off!"

They made him bend over and said, "Take your hand and open your ass." He sobbed harder as they performed a cavity search. Afterward, they told him to get dressed and put him in handcuffs and leg irons connected by a chain to his waist. They ordered him to run and then stepped on his leg chain so he'd fall down, only to be yanked back up and forced to run again, over and over. Without his glasses, Maddy couldn't see where he was going, but he thinks he was running in circles.

(snip)

Stories like Maddy's have lately been pouring out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but he's never been to those countries. Maddy's ordeal took place at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where 84 of the 762 Muslim immigrants who were detained after Sept. 11 were held.
(emphasis added)

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you know what defuses an already tense situation? ...



Firing a missle into a crowd of demonstrators! Killing 10 of them! All children! And leaving 13 more in "hopeless condition"! And 23 more "critically wounded"! And 27 more merely "wounded"! Yay!

Or at least this seems to be what the IDF was thinking. As reported in Salon (subscription or day-pass required):

Israeli forces fired a missile and a tank shell Wednesday near a large crowd of Palestinians demonstrating against the invasion of a neighboring refugee camp, Israeli security officials said. At least 10 Palestinians were killed, all of them younger than 18, and 36 were in critical condition, Palestinian hospital officials said.

Palestinian witnesses saw a missile land in the middle of the crowd, and TV footage showed a smoke and debris flying as large explosion rocked the packed area.

(snip)

Between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators were marching down the busy main street of Rafah town. When the crowd was about a half-mile from the besieged refugee camp, the helicopter and tank began firing, witnesses said.

Israeli military sources said a helicopter and a tank fired one round each close to the crowd after soldiers felt under threat. Palestinian witnesses said four missiles and four tank shells were fired, and that they also heard machine gun fire from tanks.


Israel can't keep doing this, and then wonder why the Palestinians are so vicious. To any Zionists or pro-Israel fundies in the audience - this is no better than a bomb in a pizzeria. It kills innocents, and is barbarous. But this is being done by a state, not a terrorist organization, and a state we've been arming for decades. We demand that our friends obey the law, because that's how we know they are our friends. Hamas and Jihad are terror orgs, we can expect no better from them. But Israel is a state: it can't do this kind of shit.

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back in action



So my car is dead. I've been forced into environmental friendliness, as I have to get a bike now. Well, I'll be in better shape (rather than the current 'round' shape I have going), and be a little more smug to boot.

Anyway, news time. Check out this report available at Common Dreams. Apparently, Kerry and Nader are going to meet to talk strategy and such. I think this is Kerry's chance to coopt Nader, or at least work enough of his concerns into the campaign that Nader bows out. Nader is not a megalomaniac: the media calls him that because they can't even comprehend a man running for president for anything other than power. I'm not declaring Nader some Mother Theresa; he's running to force some representation for the left onto the Democratic party. Kerry has the chance now to be graceful, and pay us lefties back for the MANY years of loyal activism and voting we've been doing. The squeeky wheel gets the grease, so squeek we must.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

oil prices at all time high



NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. oil prices hit an all-time record high on Thursday amid concerns over thin gasoline supplies ahead of peak demand driving season and tight global crude stocks.
Benchmark U.S. light crude futures for June delivery climbed to $41.17 a barrel in after hours trade -- the highest level since October 1990 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It settled the regular session up 31 cents to $41.08, while London Brent gained 54 cents at $38.49 a barrel.

Dealers said crude rally's was fueled in part by a rise in U.S. gasoline futures to a record $1.4015 a gallon hit in the regular session as dealers eyed a year-on-year supply shortfall in the run-up to vacation season.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of May marks the traditional start to U.S. summer driving season, when motorists take to the roads in greater numbers and account for roughly 12 percent of the world's oil consumption.
(emphasis added)


12%. Good God, we are quite the little piggies, ain't we?
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rage, rage against the dying of the light



Science Thursday, today. (not a regular dealie around here, but Malraux would want it that way).

From the NYTimes:

In the second half of the 20th century, the world became, quite literally, a darker place.

Defying expectation and easy explanation, hundreds of instruments around the world recorded a drop in sunshine reaching the surface of Earth, as much as 10 percent from the late 1950's to the early 90's, or 2 percent to 3 percent a decade. In some regions like Asia, the United States and Europe, the drop was even steeper. In Hong Kong, sunlight decreased 37 percent.


Apparently, pollution doesn't just trap heat inside the atmosphere, it also reflects light away from it on the other side. This is still subject to debate, but if this is a serious issue, then it's pretty serious indeed.
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Baghdadis condemn beheading



So all the LGF trolls can shut the fuck up now. As reported in the Boston Globe:

Most Baghdad residents yesterday condemned the beheading of a US civilian in Iraq, but many said his death was just the latest atrocity in a cycle of violence that is driving them to despair.

(snip)

Even in the Baghdad Sunni Muslim stronghold of Adhamiya, where opposition to the occupation is fierce, the decapitation of Berg appalled many residents.

"We denounce this act. No one can accept the killing of another human being in this horrible way," said Yassir Saleh, a 30-year-old barber. He, too, pointed to a tide of violence that has swept the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

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holy shit. Bush let az-Zarqawi go



Via Altercation, we find this story from NBC:

[...] NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.


(snip)

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

(snip)

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
(emphasis added)


It's fucking out, now. They let this mad-man go free, cause to have taken him out would have compromised their little war. This is morally treasonable. This is indefensible. And this had better get some gaddam airplay, or the people will never know about it.

Update (12:59) - One more thing about this situation - the military is feeding this information to the press. This is one more tantalizing picture of a military that desperately wants this administration out. Normally, I'm really wary of militaries taking public issue with elected civilian governments, but this administration was never elected to begin with. To all the Leftists, 'paleo'-conservatives, moderates, and anti-fascists, remember: the military is on our side!
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bush' popularity rating does its impression of a submarine



Check out my Man, Daily Kos, for some fun news and commentary on the fact that Bush is TANKING!
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and the leftist revival continues!



Break out that fucking Champagne, my boys! It's time to get drunk! India has turned decisively against the quasi-fascist Hindu Nationalist Party (the BJP) and elected the Congress Party, headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi! Yes, THAT Gandhi! And in the new colaition government she's forming, she'll be bringing in Leftist parties, after their "strong showing"! Hoody-fucking-HOO! Story here:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee resigned on Thursday after a shock election defeat that paved the way for Italian-born Sonia Gandhi's Congress party to take power in the world's largest democracy.

The result was a resounding rejection by the rural poor of Vajpayee's "India shining" campaign motto, although Gandhi's Congress was not expected to turn its back on a policy of gradually liberalizing Asia's third largest economy.

(snip)

Gandhi was meeting Congress leaders to discuss forming a government, which party officials said could happen within days but which will also have to rely for support on leftist parties after their strong gains. She is tipped to be prime minister.

According to latest tallies, Congress and its allies were likely to win 219 seats in the 545-seat parliament and the BJP-led coalition 188. Left parties which have promised to support Congress were ahead in 62 constituencies.

(snip)

Congress, which kicked off reforms and opened the economy to the world more than a decade ago, said it was committed to continuing the [privitization] program, but with "a human face."

It also reaffirmed its commitment to taking forward Vajpayee's peace initiative with Pakistan, a pledge echoed by Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.


God Damn! We are seeing the death of the old order, and its replacement by a new global consensus that pure free-market systems are too inhuman, too corrupt, and too unaccountable to be trusted. Stalinist-Communism is dead, and may Neo-Liberal economics follow it to Hell.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

and gaza goes up in flames



So much for Sharon's winning strategy to combat terror. It turns out that if you just assasinate people, and kill enough civilians, and brutalize the fuck out of an occupied people, they will set their minds to, well, taking revenge. Islamic Jihad has now destroyed two Israeli APCs in as many days. The first one they took out with a mine, blowing 6 soldiers to pieces. The terrorists then took those pieces, and are using them as bargaining chips to effect an Israeli withdrawal. Sharon, of course, will make no deals, so he sent in more troops to get those body parts. And IJ took out another APC, killing another 5 troops. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your cycle of violence.
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oh, and opec can't meet the coming demand for oil



Reuters, again:

Oil prices burst to new 13-year highs above $40 a barrel on Wednesday on concern that OPEC may not pump enough oil to meet rapidly accelerating world oil demand.

A fresh fall in U.S. gasoline stocks reinforced concern that U.S. refiners will not be able to make enough of new gasoline grades for peak summer holiday driving demand.

(snip)

Importing nations are increasingly worried about the economic fallout of higher energy costs. The price spike has come during the second quarter, when world oil demand is at its lowest seasonal ebb, raising concerns about prices later in the year as demand rises again.

Tight U.S. fuel inventories have driven oil's long rally. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday gasoline stocks dropped 1.5 million barrels last week to 202.5 million, nearly 4 percent below the five-year average.
(emphasis added)


Yeah, this could have an effect on the recovery.
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i didn't report on this yesterday



Much to my chagrin. But it was simply too much to take in. Too gruesome and terrible. But it's big, and it's going to affect our lives and the war in Iraq, so here goes.

Yesterday, an Islamist web-site carried footage of the decapitation of Nick Berg, a private citizen and young business entrepreneur. The terrorists (they claim to be linked to al-Qaida, and under the command of az-Zarqawi) announced that this was done in retaliation for Abu Ghraib. The story can be found here.

The people who did this are monsters. They deserve death, and I can only hope that they are caught, tried, convicted, and executed. I do not believe that they did this in retaliation for anything: this was done to affect the current uncertainty in Iraq, and to force us into open retaliation against the civilian population. They are monsters with the goal of turning us into monsters, and turning the Iraqis totally against us. That's how terrorism works.

We have to be smarter than that if we want to win. Terrorism can be defeated, and can only be defeated, by the rule of law. That means a real trial, where evidence is brought to light, presented, the crime fixed firmly in its awfulness, and then justice meeted out. Showing restraint in the presence of barbarity, as Ghandi showed in India against the British, as Romero showed in El Salvador against the army, and as we must show now in Iraq, creates a powerful message that 'we' are good, and our goodness is shown in the things we do. An Eye for an Eye, collective punishment, only benefits terrorism. It only helps those who want to see us dead.

And finally, those who now claim that this unspeakable horror jusitfies the torture of arabs in Abu Ghraib make the SAME claim that the terrorists have made: that the crimes of the few justify the punishment of anyone who shares the criminal's skin tone. These barbarians in our midst give aid and comfort to al-Qaida, by convincing the vast majority of Iraqis that we are monsters, and that we are racists who do not give a damn about the lives of brown people, and that one US life is worth a thousand Iraqis. There is no surer way to lose this war than to follow their advice.
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biggest trade deficit ever. We're number one!



From Reuters:

Stronger U.S. economic growth and the highest oil import prices in 21 years combined forces in March to widen the U.S. trade deficit to a record $46.0 billion, according to a government report on Wednesday.

The monthly trade gap widened a much-larger-than expected 9.1 percent from February as the booming U.S. economy sucked in record imports. At the same time, stronger growth overseas and the weak U.S. dollar propelled exports to a new high.

(snip)

The surprisingly large deficit also put downward pressure on the dollar in early trading, helping firm gold prices as trader sold the currency to buy the precious metal.
(emphasis added)


Now, I'm no expert on international finance (yet), but I'm pretty certain that people do not sell a currency to buy gold when they feel good about that currency's performance. It would be fine to have a weaker dollar, if so many of our consumer goods weren't imports. It would also be fine if China and Japan didn't have massive amounts of money tied up in the dollar, in the form of US debt. Every time the dollar sinks, it makes it harder for them to stay in, and if they pull out our currency collapses. It would also be fine if there weren't the distinct possiblity of oil-producing countries swithcing from denominating oil in dollars, and started using euros. If this happened, oil prices would rise every time the dollar sank, and a sinking dollar makes this increasingly attractive. I sure hope all that fellatio Bush has been giving to the Saudi royal family all these years is gonna pay off.
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oh please let the adults be in charge



Sandwiched in a NYTimes article on the army invading a mosque in Karbala (more on that aspect later) was found this heartening paragraph:

The mosque attack came as news emerged that Adnan al-Zorfi, the American-appointed governor in Najaf, had offered to delay attempts to capture Mr. Sadr if he agreed to disband his militia, which seized control of the two holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala last month.

The offer, Mr. Zorfi said, was made after extensive consultations with American authorities, suggesting that American leaders are reconsidering their stated goal of "killing or capturing" Mr. Sadr.

In leaflets handed out by his office in Najaf on Tuesday, Mr. Sadr appeared to respond favorably, saying he would end his rebellion if the "occupation forces" agreed to enter talks overseen by the Shiite religious leadership.

"I am ready to end everything if the occupation forces officially ask for negotiations, on the condition that these negotiations are just and transparent and under the stewardship of the Shiite religious authorities," the leaflets said. The leaflets bore Mr. Sadr's signature.

In a rare news conference at Najaf's Imam Ali shrine today, Mr. Sadr said, according to Reuters, "The dissolution of the Mehdi Army depends on the religious authorities. If they issue an edict to disband the Mehdi Army then we will disband it."
(emphasis added)


My friends, we might actually win this thing. Not the occupation, not the war, but the standoff with Sadr. Our gameplan is simply to disengage with Sadr, and bring his party back into Iraqi politics. In effect, by backing off that assinine declaraion that we want to kill or capture him, we're admitting we made a mistake, but combining it with military operations to make it clear that we're not operating out of weakness. Of course, that's exactly what we're doing, but out of political, not military, weakness. Sadr is in a tight spot too, tho. He can't spread the rebellion into the mass uprising he needs without the go ahead from the ayatollahs, and the ayatollahs don't want a serious rebellion that might threaten their position. Chaos never helps those in power. So, in lieu of spreading the rebellion, Sadr is willing to rejoin politics with vastly increased influence, and willing to even make clear his obediance to the ayatollahs. So basically, there's no reason left to fight with the Mahdi army, and no reason left to fight with the Sunni insurgents in Fallujah. If we pull back from these engagements, hand over security to Iraqis, and stop trying to run the place, our soldiers will be safe and we can start disengaging from the country and actually save some face from this abomination.

Now, here's the down-side. Bush will never do that; he has WAY too much political capital tied up in violently bringing Sadr down, and in installing his picked flunkies to lead Iraq. Once the end-goal in Iraq becomes anything less than a pro-US 'democracy', configured to keep the Iraqis from actually voting in any anti-US people, the reason for this war evaporates. You can see this inability to compromise in Bush' recent pangyric to Rumsfeld: he can't even admit that ANYTHING has gone wrong, cause that will kill him with the 40% of the country that still believes in him. So Bush will try to push the offensive the first time he needs a distraction from domestic politics. The question is, with the Army Times declaring its disapproval of Bush, and calling for Rummy's resignation, will the Army itself allow this sort of madness to happen, or will they refuse to carry out those orders?

And from Sadr's side of things, he could very well be playing both sides: declaring that he will disarm if the ayatollahs issue a fatwa as a way of forcing the ayatollahs to declare for the US. That could very well bring a lot of disillusioned Shi'ites into Sadr's camp: they may not want a roque cleric who represents the poor and pissed off running around and making life difficult for them, but they REALLY don't want a religious leadership that supports the US over fellow Iraqis. So he could be making a gambit to defuse the current fight, which is not going his way, draw the ayatollahs into a closer alliance with the US, wait for the next atrocity from the US, and then be positioned to declare himself the only untainted cleric and relaunch the rebellion with wider support. But barring that atrocity, he'd still be a powerful voice in the new Iraq. Time and events are pretty much on his side, because he knows how this game works, unlike our current president.

The real question now is, will the ayatollahs force Sadr's hand by issuing that fatwa, or will they merely call for a halt to the violence in general, and help defuse the siutuation without declaring themselves our patsies. There's no right or wrong outcome here, as long as we get some fucking peace out of it.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

boy, I wish i had invested in some oil companies



I'd be as rich as Cheney!

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices rebounded toward 13-year peaks on Tuesday on doubts that top world exporter Saudi Arabia's call for a rise in OPEC quotas would add much actual supply to a tight international market.

U.S. light crude rose 47 cents to $39.40 a barrel, back within 60 cents of the 13-year peak touched on Friday at $40. London Brent crude was up 64 cents to $36.61 a barrel.


Once again, increasing demand for oil + stagnant supply = long term price inceases. And once again, the big new demand comes from China, and the big loss in supply comes from Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Strong demand in China, low U.S. fuel supplies and an escalation of violence in the oil-rich Middle East have fueled oil's price rise.

Oil analysts have raised their 2004 crude price projections by more than 10 percent in the last two months, as they try to keep pace with oil's relentless upward surge, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.


Our economy would be better off if we hadn't invaded Iraq, if only because oil prices would be lower. Just one more thing the administration was totally wrong about. And one more story the press will not bother its pretty little head about.
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this is interesting



I'm not certain what to make of this, but apparently hundreds of Shi'ites were out protesting as-Sadr in Najaf. This could be genuine, and if it is, it's good news for the US: if people blame the violence on Sadr, then he becomes the reason US troops are shooting people. But this does not mean that they're on our side: apparently, they're not asking him to disarm, but to leave Najaf. That means they don't object to insurgency, only to risking the destruction of the Holy City. So our strategy is working to isolate Sadr (in terms of where he can operate), but it's not winning hearts and minds. Since I don't know that we even have a game plan at this point, it's hard to tell what this good news means strategically. If we're gonna leave after June 30th, then this means we'll have an easier time dealing with Sadr until then. But he's not our only, or even our most dangerous opponent in Iraq now; he's a political threat, to be sure, but since our political strategy is totally defeated, I don't know what else he can threaten. His militia is no longer a military threat, unless we invade the cities he's got control of. Our bigger worry is the small bombings and assasinations and the cutting of our supply lines that will bleed us dry if left unchecked. And honestly, I don't know how we're gonna check them.
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this is real reporting



From Reuters:

As others condemned the reported abuse of Iraqi prisoners, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe on Tuesday expressed outrage at the worldwide outrage over the treatment by American soldiers of those he called "terrorists" and "murderers."
"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," the Oklahoma Republican said at a U.S. Senate hearing probing the scandal.

"These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," Inhofe said. "If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

Coalition military intelligence officers estimated that about 70 percent to 90 percent of the thousands of prisoners detained in Iraq had been "arrested by mistake," according to a report by Red Cross given to the Bush administration last year and leaked this week.
(emphasis added)


Inhofe is real scum. His is the face of American Fascism.
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Geneva convenshuns? we don' need no stinking geneva convenshuns!



Once again, via Atrios, a news article from July 2003:

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 28, 2003; Page A01


BAGHDAD -- Over the past six weeks a small but intense war has been conducted in the mud-hut villages and lush palm groves along the Tigris River valley, fought with far different methods than those used in the campaign that toppled president Saddam Hussein.

(snip)

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.
(emphasis added)


Well, geez! All we needed to do to get some Lt. General to surrender were kidnap and threaten his family! With humanitarian conduct like this, it's no wonder the Iraqis have been throwing flowers! Or, bombs, that's it, bombs.

Not only is this totally a violation of the Geneva Convention, it was being reported in JULY of 2003! How duid the media not report the fact that our tactics were illegal according to International Law, and the US CONSTITUTION? Supreme Law of the Land, mindeed.
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private, belay that 'hoody hoo'



This via Atrios. It is a column in the NY Post, of all places, and it says, well, read for yourself:

DON'T get too excited about all those new jobs that were supposed to have been created in April.
I'm not going to waste a lot of my precious space on this, but the bottom line is that most of the 288,000 jobs that the Labor Department says were created last month may not really exist.

They could be figments of statisticians' optimism.

(snip)

Back in the March employment report, the government added 153,000 positions to its revised total of 337,000 new jobs because it thought (but couldn't prove) loads of new companies were being created in this economy.

That estimate comes from the Labor Department's "birth/death model." You can look up these numbers on the Department's Web site.

As staggering as the assumption about new companies was in March, the Labor Department got even more brazen in April.


Man, when the Bushies take you for a ride, they take you for a ride
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Monday, May 10, 2004

you know, I guess the arabs don't hate us enough yet



Or so Bush seems to think.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush plans this week to impose economic sanctions on Syria for supporting terrorism and failing to stop guerrillas from entering Iraq, people involved in the deliberations said on Monday.


I wonder how many people in the middle east are going to find our moral opprobrium very convincing these days ...
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Sadr declares war



Check out this story on Reuters. Sadr has announced that the insurgency has entered a new phase. Aside from the irony that Sadr is using the same types of language as the Bush administration to paper-over their failures, this is a serious situation. Basically, Sadr has decided to force us into open war. Our strategy, recently, has been to move slowly, kill a few dozen Shi'ites at a time, and isolate Sadr without doing anything like blowing up a mosque. That strategy has been working, in the sense that a-Sistani and company have been more than willing to let the two of us fight it out without taking a side. Sadr is a danger to the moderates because he represents the poor and those in favor of revolution. So they're not holding any candles for Sadr. But on the other hand, they can't support us bacause we're torturing and humiliating Iraqis, and shooting people in the streets. So they'll let the two monsters fight it out, and then be in a great position to take on the winner. The only problem is, we have to win for this situation to play out: if Sadr is successful at throwing us out of the country, he'll be a national hero, and totally untouchable.

Sadr knows this. He also knows that his militia has no hope of defeating us miliarily. But that's not what he's after. If he can force us into declaring open war on him, the way we declared open war on the city of Fallujah, he'll reap the PR benefits of US troops shooting civilians and bombing mosques. If we fall into this trap, we lose. Knowing this, our best strategy is to de-escalate: continue isolating him and his militia, back off any major confrontation, and work on handing power to the 'reliable' moderates. This strategy is not moral, it's not democratic, but it's the only real option we have.
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jobs are up! so of course, stocks must go down



From Reuters:

U.S. stocks slid on Monday, hitting their lowest levels of the year, as persistent fears the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as June rattled investors and pushed markets lower around the globe.

(snip)

The major indexes, extending their losses from Friday, fell to their lowest levels since mid-December. The Dow is now below the key 10,000-level.

Stocks fell on Friday after a Labor Department report showed U.S. employment surged for a second straight month during April, with the number of new jobs added sharply higher than Wall Street expectations.

The strong data signaled the Fed may step in soon to raise rates to rein in inflation and the cool the economy.
(emphasis added)



So we gain 288,000 jobs, and we lose 174 points on the DOW. Funny thing is, those two indicators really are that opposed. More jobs means the Fed will raise interest rates, means a certain amount of money in the market would be better spent as lent Capital, and the general business climate goes south as businesses can't borrow and expand as easily. What's really scary, though, is that the Fed is worried about the economy overheating when we haven't even recouped our losses from the recession. Just in case anyone's keeping score, that's never happened before. It means that we are, right now, out of the recession. The jobs we lost ain't coming back; instead, we have to hope the economy creates totally new jobs to replace them. And with interest rates going up, hiring might take a hit. Once again, it's great that the job market is starting to bounce back, but we simply don't know enough about those jobs to say what's going on, long term.

Update - (12:20 pm) Apparently, markets around the globe are being hit.
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Friday, May 07, 2004

letter writers of the world, unite!



Check out these letters from the NYTimes in response to Disney's refusal to distribute Michael Moore's new movie. They make you proud to be an American.
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new krugman



Mr.Krugman explains why we're facing a $40 barrel of oil despite having invaded the 2nd oil-richest nation in the world, and why we're not about to see the price fall anytime soon.
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hoody-hoo! Good fucking news!



So the hiring situation is improving. Thank God. 288,000 new jobs. That's something to celebrate. On the other hand, we don't know how many of these jobs are governmental, how many are low-wage, etc. Until we see the breakdown, we should hold off on that champagne (inflation being what it is). Anyway, here's the scoop from Reuters.
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Rummy's really cooked



Oh shit. Bush and co. are in real trouble. Apparently some protesters interrupted the testimony Skeletor, I mean, Rumsfeld, was giving to the committe, and, well, read for yourself:

Protesters heckled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday, shouting, "Fire Rumsfeld for war crimes" at a congressional hearing to probe the Pentagon's handling of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
The seven protesters, members of the grass-roots group CodePink Women for Peace, disrupted Rumsfeld's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by standing, chanting and raising their hands and pointing at the defense secretary.

(snip)

The group was allowed to interrupt the hearing for a few minutes before being guided to the exit.
(emphasis added)


I've never heard of that happening before.
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sunni-sadr unity, but shi'ites divided



Apparently, the Sunni insurgents are really tying themselves to Sadr, doing their best to present the uprising as pan-Iraqi, and not merely sectional violence. But on the other hand, the moderate Shi'ite clergy is still willing to work with the US, if we respect their very clear boundaries on what we can and cannot do in the pursuit of Sadr. We do still have some room to maneuver, it turns out, but that room could very well be destroyed as the prison scandal deepens. For evidence of the Sunni-Sadr coalition, check out this story from Reuters:

Thousands of supporters of rebel Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr prayed in Sunni mosques in Iraq Friday, in what local leaders called a show of religious unity in the face of Iraq's occupiers.

The gesture was the latest display of solidarity among Iraq's Muslims since U.S. forces besieged the Sunni town of Falluja west of Baghdad and faced off with Sadr's militia in the Shi'ite holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala to the south.

Sadr's popularity among Shi'ites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, seems to have soared since his uprising began a month ago, particularly among the young and the poor.


So Sadr is hardly isloated, which is very bad news for the US indeed. The only Iraqi group that actively wants to get Sadr is the IGC, and they have no credibility left. The clergy are the real question: the Ayatollahs have, from what I've heard, called on Sadr to disarm, but no one's called it a fatwa yet. More a pointed suggestion. They are not going to side with us (yet, anyway, although if Sadr starts to threaten their power it may yet happen), but they're not throwing their support behind Sadr either. I think the big question now is, how will the prison scandal play in Iraq, how will the US treat the inevitable demonstrations (ie, will we start shooting protesters again, like in Fallujah last fall), and will Abu Ghraib become a real target of the insurgency? Adding fuel to this fire, there's the question of Israeli involvement in Abu Ghraib: if proof comes to light, that's the end of our Iraq adventure. Let's be clear; while we have not yet lost, we cannot win.
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hackworth and company are worried



Col. David R. Hackworth is probably going to be remembered as one of the more interesting American personalities of the late 20th and early 21st century. I don't agree with him on a lot of things, but there's no getting around the fact that the man is informed, smart, and willing to speak the truth as he sees it, in his own words to boot. An on Iraq, we are muy sympatico. Check out these letters exerpted on Daily Kos from Hackworth's website Soldiers for the Truth. Here's a scary example:

Guest Column: Iraq's Nightmare Scenario

- By Carlton Meyer, DefenseWatch Guest Contributor
A careful reader of the limited news coming out of Iraq will discover the U.S. military situation is perilous and a few more bad moves could send the U.S. Army and Marines retreating back to Kuwait in the same manner they fled southward 54 years ago in Korea. That was when a million Chinese foot soldiers suddenly appeared and attacked as overextended U.S. forces approached the Chinese border. American firepower, airpower, and technology was unable to compensate for the confusion and lack of supplies for American ground troops.
(emphasis added)


Yeah, man. There's a real danger of ACTUAL defeat, not just a black eye for the US. And if you're upsetabout us leaving and being considered weak, remember that it's better to appear weak than to be weak. And a strategic defeat like this would destroy our credibility far worse than even a hasty withdrawal. Victory is no longer an option.
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this is the way the right works



Not with a lie, but a chasm.

I've figured out why Rush Limbaugh et al are saying that the torture photos are a 'brilliant maneuver', and no worse than pornography: they've taken the Big Lie and run with it. They know that their audience only listens to them: they are self-selecting victims of propaganda. A right-winger who hears the truth about this atrocity (that people were raped and murdered, and worse will be revealed to have happened in the women's and children's sections of Abu Ghraib) will immediately chalk it up as Liberal bias. So they re-do the story, never mention the most serious charges, and when the media talks about 'torture', the right-wing will think they're just talking about humiliation. They've redefined the issue for their sect, created an alternate universe for themselves, divorced from reality, and every time reality conflicts with their ideology, it's more proof of 'liberal bias'. It's like a slip knot: the more pressure on the knot, the tighter it gets.

Anyway, for examples of how this works, check out Media Matters, a web site run by a guy that used to be a Repug operative, until he switched sides a few years back and started revealing how the machine works. This guy is the Wizard to our Dorothy.
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Thursday, May 06, 2004

global capital strikes again



If there are any free-traders out there today, take a look at this story from the NYTimes. Apparently, cheap labour combined with incentives to international corporations leads to increased poverty. I, for one, am shocked.

India's economy is spawning a growing middle class, a host of world-class companies, a booming stock market and a new image for this nation of more than one billion people.

But those very reforms and conditions are also reducing the prospects of some of its citizens. India may be "shining," in the description of a controversial and expensive government publicity campaign, but it is also struggling to generate jobs.

That employment problem could prove to be the Achilles' heel of the ruling National Democratic Alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seeking re-election on the strength of an economy that grew at a breathless 10.4 percent in the first quarter of this year. Three weeks of voting in this vast country conclude on May 10.

The public sector, once a stalwart of security, has lost some 4.5 million jobs in the past six years. In this state, Andhra Pradesh, government recruitment has been frozen, and the government has cottoned to private sector practicalities. Street sweeping, once a government job that paid triple what it does now and came with medical care, a pension, annual leave and job security, has been outsourced to private contractors, who offer none of that.

The streets of Hyderabad have never been cleaner, the city's budget never leaner, and for workers, the insecurity and indigence never greater.


So out go the unionized jobs, in come the incredibly low-paying and insecure jobs. Boy, that'll help build a consumer economy. But why don't these silly Indians get an education, you ask?

While nearly 60,000 jobs in information technology have been created here, many have gone to young Indians from across the country, despite this state's 350,000 English-speaking graduates.

Shankar Rao, who runs a placement agency, Our Consultancy, said software workers and especially engineers in the state were having trouble finding work. It is "very, very difficult" to place engineers, Mr. Rao said. "I think no country has as many engineering colleges as this state."

Since taking office, Mr. Naidu has increased the number of engineering colleges from 32 to around 230, and the number of graduates from 8,000 each year to 75,000. By the end of 2002, the state had around 2.6 million educated unemployed residents.


As anyone could figure out who knows even a little bit of economics, increased education + reduced job opportunities thanks to increased productivity = greater unemployment and severely reduced pay for the educated. Free Traders never seem to recognize that economics deals with absolute numbers of jobs and workers - the simple fact that the Market produces an equilibrium is enough for them, never mind the actual state of life under that equilibrium, or the 'transition costs' that are measured in increased poverty and wasted lives.
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impeach greenspan



So Mr. Alan "I-don't-approve-of-deficits-unless-it's-Bush-selling-one" Greenspan is now saying that long term deficits are bad. He says this right here, in the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's soaring federal budget deficits represent a major obstacle to the country's long-term economic stability, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned on Thursday.

(snip)

``Our fiscal prospects are, in my judgment, a significant obstacle to long-term stability because the budget deficit is not readily subject to correction by market forces that stabilize other imbalances,'' he said in remarks to a banking conference.

Greenspan noted that the federal deficit, estimated to climb above $500 billion this year, will amount to 4.25 percent of the total economy after being in surplus just a few years ago.


So what causes this sudden change of heasrt? Is he suddenly repenting of his approval of Bush's trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich? I think the answer to both these questions can be found in the very next paragraph:

He said one of the biggest concerns was that the deficits now were occurring right before the first wave of baby boomers will begin retiring.

``We have legislated commitments to our senior citizens that, given the inevitable retirement of our huge baby-boom generation, will create significant fiscal challenges in the years ahead,'' Greenspan said in his remarks, which were delivered by satellite to the conference in Chicago.


He's setting the stage for gutting Social Security. Now the Repugs can claim they're being hard-headed and doing the tough, but noble thing, when they finally tear down the last remnants of the New Deal. Times are tough, you see, and the numbers have simply forced their hands. The fact that Corporations are making unheard of profits right now, even as wages are shrinking in the face of inflation, is not important. What is important is that, having given obscene amounts of money to the rich, there's no money left to pay for Social Security.

It's time: impeach Greenspan.
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rummy might get the ol' heave ho



But let's not celebrate just yet. From the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON, May 5 — President Bush on Wednesday chastised his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, for Mr. Rumsfeld's handling of a scandal over the American abuse of Iraqis held at a notorious prison in Baghdad, White House officials said.

The disclosures by the White House officials, under authorization from Mr. Bush, were an extraordinary display of finger-pointing in an administration led by a man who puts a high premium on order and loyalty. The officials said the president had expressed his displeasure to Mr. Rumsfeld in an Oval Office meeting because of Mr. Rumsfeld's failure to tell Mr. Bush about photographs of the abuse, which have enraged the Arab world.
(emphasis added)


This is all Kabuki: Bush is 'dressing down' Rummy only because he has to be seen doing something to defuse this scandal. My gut feeling is, Rummy's not going anywhere for now, if Bush can help it. But events are forcing him to dress Rummy down, and events might force him to chuck him from the wagon too. Bush certainly seems to be anticipating that: saying that Rummy hid information from him is certainly resignation-worthy.

Despite the behind-the-scenes criticism of Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush insisted that the defense secretary still had his full support. "Of course I've got confidence in the secretary of defense," Mr. Bush said in an interview with Al Hurra, an Arab television network.

Republicans noted a strong public relations aspect to the disclosures about the Oval Office scolding, which made Mr. Rumsfeld the scapegoat in the scandal.


So Bush is going to try to leave this at that, but it's really unlikely that a mere tongue-lashing is going to satisfy the Arab world, or even Europe. It's certainly not going to satisfy me. The best thing here is that the media can now start talking about Rummy's resignation, and that's a story that could fuel months of speculation, and allow reporters to start putting all of Rummy's cock-ups into a single narrative of idiocy. This is the start of a script, and this time it's on our side.

UPDATE (12:20pm) - And now the Dems in the House are actually calling for his head. This story has legs, and I think Rummy's gonna go.
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Striling newberry explains the insurgency for you



Everyone with the time to spare should read this post from Stirling Newberry's The Agonist. He explains the operation of a counter-occupation campaign, from the standpoint of the "Swamp Fox", the irregular general from the US Revolution. It's brilliant reading, and you can learn a lot about how military campaigns work.
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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

murder



Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly has a piece of footage that has been playing on German, French, and Canadian television that shows us troops firing on three people. The people do not seem to be threats (but then, its hard to tell these things without more context) but the troops open fire with a machine gun, killing two instantly, and then fire on a third. The third man is not dead, he crawls from underneath a truck. The commander says to the gunner "Roger, he's wounded, hit him", and after a little more chatter, the gunner opens fire on a wounded and crawling man. I'm pretty sure that's against military law. I'm pretty sure it's murder. Anyway, follow the link and see for yourself. It's really terrible.
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Bush must be straight; look at how he's fucking Haiti!



From the NYTimes:

Difficult as it may be to believe, people here say, life in the poorest nation in the hemisphere has gotten worse in the past two months.

Mounds of garbage choke the streets. Electricity in the capital has been scarce for weeks. The police force has fallen deeper into disarray, and crime has spiked, including a rash of kidnappings aimed at wealthy businesspeople. The price of rice, the Haitian staple, has doubled in some parts of the country.

(snip)

Skeptical Haitians view the unelected government and its foreign backers with a suspicion as brittle as the clay biscuits they now eat.


They're so poor they're eating dirt to survive. Things were better under Aristide, much better. Now, they're starving to death.

To many people here, Mr. Aristide remains the only legitimate leader they have. "We believe in democracy, and we have a democratically elected leader," said Alix Jean, a Lavalas partisan, at a recent rally at the church in La Saline, the slum where Mr. Aristide once preached his fiery sermons of liberation. "His name is Jean-Bertrand Aristide."


How many democratically-elected leaders does this president have to overthrow before the media realizes he doesn't believe in democracy? And how long before the people rise up?

Haitians who have suffered through decades of misrule say their patience with the interim government is wearing thin. Derilus Joseph Érine, a 42-year-old mason who lives in Cap Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, warned darkly that dissatisfaction could turn violent quickly.

"The political leaders are trying to get their piece of the cake," Mr. Érine said. "If we don't get a piece of the cake, too, we are going to do whatever we can to make the cake fall so at least we can pick up the crumbs."


Not much longer, it would seem.
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and the other shoe drops



So, Bush' budget wasn't quite honest about the costs of occupation, now was it. Check out this story from the AP:

Official: Bush to Seek $25B for Iraq War

By ALAN FRAM

(AP) A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter departs the Abu Ghraib Prison after dropping off a fresh group of ...
Full Image



WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration will ask Congress for an additional $25 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a House Republican aide said Wednesday, a change from the White House's earlier plans to not request such money until after the November elections.

White House budget chief Joshua Bolten planned to visit the Capitol on Wednesday to discuss the proposal with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and other top Republicans, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

(snip)

Last February, President Bush's budget omitted any funds for U.S. military and reconstruction activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bolten said at the time that the administration's 2005 request for Iraq could be up to $50 billion.

It seemed likely that the $25 billion proposal to be discussed on Wednesday would be only the first portion of funds that will be needed for next year.
(emphasis added)


Wow, congress must really like getting taken.
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us troops raid Karbala and diwaniya



Apparently, the Army feels they have quieted Fallujah down enough to go back to getting Sadr. They launched an attack on two holy cities that are also strongholds for Sadrist militias. As reported in the NYTimes:

KARBALA, Iraq, May 5 — The American military launched its first major assault against insurgents led by Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, striking early this morning at militia enclaves in this holy Shiite city and in another city in southern Iraq in an effort to retake control of those areas.

About 450 soldiers in dozens of armored vehicles, including M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, rumbled beneath a full moon through a neighborhood here controlled by armed supporters of Mr. Sadr.

The firepower on display was extraordinary. Polish and Bulgarian soldiers, Special Forces snipers, an Apache attack helicopter and an AC-130 Spectre gunship backed up the main strike force.


They killed about 19 militiamen, and captured at least 20, and blew the living fuck out of the governorate palace in Karbala. The media says that the town leaders didn't raise a stink about it. Honestly, I think it's too soon to tell: these guys have just heard about our torture and rape rooms at Abu Ghraib, they honestly might still be in shock. On the other hand, they may want the Mahdists to leave so that the US army will leave. I find it really hard to imagine that we have a lot of support left. One soldier put the conundrum fairly well:

"They think if they keep shooting at us, we'll leave," said Lt. Josey Sandoval, 24, the gunner in an M-113 armored personnel carrier. "They should know it's just the opposite. If they stop shooting, then we'll leave."


Of course, it's also true that if we left, they'd stop firing. The problem is our presence; if we weren't there, there would be no fighting.
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fahrenheit 911 ...



The temperature at which free-expression burns.

From the NYTimes, as reported in Common Dreams:

The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis — including the family of Osama bin Laden — and criticizes Mr. Bush's actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating.

Executives at Miramax, who became principal investors in Mr. Moore's project last spring, do not believe that this is one of those cases, people involved in the production of the film said.


I think it's time we all recognized that censorship is not a purely governmental affair. Free expression and free information require active protection and aid from the government, not just a lack of repression. It's time for an American BBC - an independantly run, governmentally funded media corporation dedicated to reporting the truth in news, and funding artistic expression that corporations don't want to fund.
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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Victory is at hand! sadly, that hand has been blown 30 feet from its body



And just in case anyone thought our military might, oh, I don't know, get to rest anytime soon, here's another story from Reuters:

The United States, faced with growing military casualties in Iraq, announced on Tuesday that it was scrapping a plan to reduce its forces and would keep about 138,000 troops in that country through at least the end of 2005.

The Pentagon said 10,000 active-duty Army and Marine troops and 37,000 Reserve and National Guard troops are being told they will go to Iraq this year as it puts on indefinite hold an earlier plan to cut the U.S. force there to 115,000 in coming months.
(emphasis added)


Does it feel drafty to anyone else?
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those dead iraqis should stop whining ...



After all, it was just a little hazing, right?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Iraqi prisoners were murdered by Americans and 23 other deaths are being investigated in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States revealed on Tuesday as the Bush administration tried to contain growing outrage over the abuse of Iraqi detainees.

(snip)

Army officials said the military had investigated the deaths of 25 prisoners held by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and determined that an Army soldier and a CIA contractor murdered two prisoners. Most of the deaths occurred in Iraq.
(emphasis added)


Oh.

So, I wonder how long it will take Rush and Hannity to apologize for calling it little more than roughhousing.
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New krugman



Read, my pretties!
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the senate grows a pair



It looks like the Senate Armed Services Committee is a little, well, upset about not being in the loop regarding the abuse allegations. Apparently, the report was leaked to the press before it was given to the committee. Oh well, at least Colin Powell has some company in that 'non-loop' area. From the NYTimes:

The furor over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners intensified today as leading lawmakers from both parties demanded answers on the origin and extent of the problem. Some legislators said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should come to the Capitol.

Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate minority leader, said on the Senate floor that Mr. Rumsfeld should appear "no later than the end of this week" to explain what Pentagon officials knew about "this extraordinary disconnect, this unbelievable failure of communication."
(emphasis added)


That's right, even the Republicans are upset. For instance, the head of the committe, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, is quoted as saying "Speaking for myself, I'm gravely concerned about this situation (...) I have been privileged to be associated with the military for over a half-century, been on this committee for 25 years now, and this is as serious a problem of breakdown in discipline as I've ever observed."

And aside from Sen. Warner, there's the simply great and honorable John McCain:

"We need to have a hearing as soon as possible with Secretary Rumsfeld testifying, and other service secretaries, if necessary, as to how this whole situation evolved, what action is being taken, and what further action needs to be taken to prevent a recurrence of this terrible situation," said Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican on the committee.

(snip)

Mr. McCain, who endured more than five years of harsh treatment as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, said he had no way of knowing whether the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were isolated, or whether they represented wider mistreatment, perhaps at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, or in Afghanistan.

"There are so many allegations swirling around this situation, that we must have a public hearing, with the secretary of defense testifying, in order to clear up all of these allegations," Mr. McCain said. "Not an hour goes by that there isn't an additional allegation."
(emphasis added)


Even the Dems don't dare say stuff like this. But that's not to dump on the the Senate Dems. By way of viruous example, I give you Sen. Edward Kennedy:

"We have a great sense of revulsion, not only because of these actions, but we also recognize what the dangers are for American troops if they are ever taken prisoners and the kind of treatment that they would be subject to. And this has been a major setback to our interests in that region."


The general point is, that the committee wants Rumsfeld front and center by the end of the week to answer questions, and the general opinion is that the administration is not taking this seriously enough. If even Congressional Republicans are pissed, then you know it's bad. And every day, jack-asses like Limbaugh and Hannity look worse and worse for having called this abuse 'hazing'.
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