Friday, March 03, 2006


Mike's thrilled that Friday is finally here. He said to "pass on the good news." I'm hoping this is an easier weekend than last. Please make a point to visit Mikey Likes It! for his take on today's news.

"15 Anti-Torture Activists Arrested Outside White House" (Democracy Now!):In Washington, 15 activists were arrested outside the White House Thursday at a protest against torture. The protest was called by Witness Against Torture. In December, the group marched on the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where hundreds of detainees are being held without charge.
Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury: "We wore the orange overalls and a gag that said 'torture' and we walked the halls of congress to awaken their conscience. We're trying to haunt their conscience. We're the ghost walkers today. We're here to say no human being can be tortured under any circumstances. My husband was tortured to death by CIA assets or informants in Guatemala 10 years ago, and after many of my hunger strikes that leaked out. What we found out after it was too late to save his life is, like I say, they were all on the CIA payroll. The Senate intelligence committee held a huge panel discussion and investigation of this, and after my testimony they said quote: 'This is a disgrace. No one should ever have to starve to stop torture. It will never happen again.' Really all of us are just calling them on that promise. There can be no more torture by the United States or anyone else."

Torture. Think about that word, "torture." Think about how many of us grew up being told that's what other countries do and comfortable and smug in the fact that "we" never do that. We've done it. Jennifer Harbury's experience, among others, proves that. But now we have an official policy of torture and it seems to me that most people don't realize how amazing that it. Equally amazing, confounding, is the fact that we can talk about it in a blase, jaded manner.

I know we've been conditioned to accept every discussion on the terms set by the Bully Boy. But while acknowleding that, I'm still struck by the realization that, following WWII, just considering these "options" privately would have outraged the nation. These days, a number of us seem to think it's "not that bad." Not everyone thinks that way, but it does shock me how many people have so easily accepted as a "worthy option" something that goes againt the history liberal democracies tell themselves.

Bush Signs Controversial Nuke Deal on India Visit" (Democracy Now!):In India, President Bush has signed a controversial deal to foster nuclear cooperation between the United States and India. Under the agreement, the U.S. would end a decades-long moratorium on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components to India while allowing the country to substantially step up its nuclear weapons production. India is one of only three countries that has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The deal was criticized by some lawmakers in Washington who said it could lead to the spread of nuclear weapons. House Democrat Ed Markey, co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation called the agreement "a historic failure of this president to tackle the real nuclear threats that we face."

This news didn't surprise me. The reason for that is that posturing, threatening and war are the responses Bully Boy can handle and, pretty much, that's it. For someone who sees war ("long" or short) as the answer to everything, it's not that surprising to me that he would 'wepaonize' India.

I firmly believe we need a nuclear freeze nationally. But I don't see war as the answer to everything.

I received more e-mails on Wednesday's post than on anything I've posted before. I'm still going through them so I'll make some comments on them when I've finished that. On Tuesday, I compared Dick Cheney to Claudine Longet and a number of readers got the joke, but not everyone did.


Originally from France, Claudine Longet was a Las Vegas showgirl when crooner Andy Williams discovered her. In her few TV and film appearances, she was typecast as the innocently foxy mademoiselle. Given a contract by A&M Records, she recorded mostly soft covers of songs by popular rock groups. It wasn't until after she'd left Williams, however, that she really got famous. In 1976 she shot and killed champion skier Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, her long-time boyfriend. After a highly publicized murder trial, Longet was convicted of criminal negligence and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Now, I want to join C.I. in noting Rebecca's opening paragraph last night:

so the cowards (of both parties) in the senate fell over itself to extend the patriot act. army major general geoffery miller won't testify in the case of army sgt. michael smith who was 'creative' with the use of dogs and prisoners. presumably, miller would have either have had to discuss the actual policy or lied. 'cheney urges americans' should save more but you can only stretch a mcdollar so far, dick. in reply, america urged the administration to create some actual jobs and to raise the minimum wage. and bully boy appears to be confessing that osama was part of team bush in 2004! - wonder if karl rove brought him on board?

That's quite a capsule.

I'm yawning. It's been a long week. It's not even eight p.m. (by any means) yet and I'm already thinking about going to sleep.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. Please read Kat's latest musical commentaries:

Kat's Korner: Nina Simone -- Golden"
Kat's Korner: Cat Power's Greatness."

This, by C.I., still makes me laugh: "NYT: The paper sends Linda Lavin to report on the Katrina tapes"

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No quote tonight -- it's already too long

Mike's excited that it's hump day. I'll be excited when the weekend rolls around. But please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's take on the news.

"Over 100,000 Protest President Bush in India" (Democracy Now!):
In other news, tens of thousands of people gathered in New Delhi today to protest a visit by President Bush to India. A police spokesperson said the crowd exceeded 100,000 people. Abdul Hussain, a spokesperson for one of the protest organizers, said: "Welcoming a person like him is like welcoming a murderer and he has become a militant and a war monger... he is a war president. So welcoming a person like him does not make any sense or meaning in a country like India. And welcoming him in the country of the Mahatma will desecrate our land."
Dozens of protests have been planned ahead of President Bush’s three-day visit. During his stay, Bush is expected to sign a controversial deal to sell India nuclear fuel from the US.

Oh, you mean Ana Nicole Smith isn't the most important story in the world? Anyone else thinking about the coverage the former Playboy model goes to Court has gotten and wondered what happened to real news?

It took an outbound plane years ago.

I don't think Bill Clinton was either God or fault-free; however, I can remember a time when we had someone in the oval office who wasn't hated by pretty much the entire world. He's argued, on the port deal, that we have to go through with it because, otherwise, how will it look?

How does it look to the world when he's in the position he's in. More importantly, if he's worried about how things might look then perhaps he needs to apologize rushing through a deal that has so much of the nation and Congress up in arms. If it's causing problems now, the problems are his for not properly vetting. He wanted to be the leader, he disenfranchised voters and went to the Court. When things go wrong, blame comes with the position.

That may shock him because no one got more breaks for 9-11 than he did. There should have been a serious and immediate Congressional investigation into his failures.

"Study: One in Three Iraq Vets Seek Mental Health Treatment" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting an Army study has found that more than one in three US troops who served in Iraq later sought help for mental health problems. According to the report, soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq reported more distress than those returning from Afghanistan and other countries. More than half of all service members returning from Iraq reported that they had "felt in great danger of being killed" there, and over 2,400 reported having suicidal thoughts. Steve Robinson, head of the National Gulf War Resource Center, said: "In Vietnam, there were safe areas where people could go to rest and recuperate. That doesn't happen in Iraq; every place is a war zone."

I see this quite often. I take people who are recommended to me on a pro bono basis. C.I. and Rebecca think that's so wonderful of me. It's not that wonderful. The reality is that there's not money there for most of the returning vets to get the help they need. I'll return to this topic in some form in a bit.

"Former Intel Officials Say White House Ignored Insurgency Warnings" (Democracy Now!):
In other news, Knight Ridder is reporting the White House repeatedly ignored early intelligence warnings that the armed insurgency in Iraq was almost entirely local and growing in size. A National Intelligence Estimate as early as October 2003 said the insurgency was fueled mostly by local conditions, such as the presence of US troops in Iraq. It also said outside forces were playing almost no role in the insurgency. Robert Hutchings, the former chair of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005 said: "Frankly, senior officials simply weren't ready to pay attention to analysis that didn't conform to their own optimistic scenarios." Another former high-ranking intelligence official said: "This was stuff the White House and the Pentagon did not want to hear. They were constantly grumbling that the people who were writing these kind of downbeat assessments 'needed to get on the team,' 'were not team players' and were 'sitting up there (at CIA headquarters) in Langley sucking their thumbs.'"

You weren't a "team player" unless you were willing to toss aside common sense and lie. You can see how many people did just that and you can see that they got promoted for it. This administration has no accountability and appears to judge "failure" only by whether or not they managed to put one over on the American people.

Please check out C.I.'s "NYT: Republicans seek a 'bridge' (Brooklyn, so they can sell it to you?)" from this morning. It addresses yesterday's hearings and it's amazing.

I wasn't able to listen to KPFA today. Sunny was trying to get the stream to work online and couldn't access it. Why was I attempting to listen (or, rather, to get it recorded and listen later)?For this:

Against the Grain
Iraq veteran and conscientious objector Aidan Delgado, whose unit was stationed at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, talks about why he opposes the US occupation.
For resources and further information about topics covered on Against the Grain visit:

I gave up on it because I had a session. But Sunny (I've bragged about what a smart assistant she is and here's the perfect example) thought about something she's read at

The Third Estate Sunday Review (how Kat had set her phone by the radio when she went to take a shower to wake up and we were all able to hear Sunday Salon. She called Kat and asked her if she could put the receiver to the speakers. So thanks to Sunny's brains and Kat's kindness, I did have a tape of the show.

KPFA is supposed to post to the archives fairly quickly. I pointed that out and Sunny responded, "Oh, you'd never listen if you couldn't hear it on your way home" and she's probably correct.

I already have two e-mails on this because C.I. noted that I'd probably be writing about it.

One person's bothered by what Aidan Delgado said and wondered what I thought? (The other just wondered what I thought of the interview.)

Here's the thing, there is no space for many of the veterans returning to speak out. The mainstream media isn't interested. (I know that for a fact from two vets who had to go to the alternative media to get their own stories out. You should know it simply by the fact that the mainstream media acts as though they don't exist.)

Did I agree with everything Delgado said? No. There were two things specifically that I strongly disagree with. (If you heard the interview, you know that two out of all the issues discussed is not a huge number.) At one point during the interview, Delgado discussed how he started speaking out. He said he wasn't a public speaker by nature and that he thought it would be a one time thing which would allow him to discuss what he saw.

He's continued talking. That's part of the healing process. I don't diagnose people I've never met. (I'll make an exception for the Bully Boy and recommend both rehab and serious, daily visits with a therapist to work on a number of issues.) The reason for that is that all of us have our public faces and our private faces.

I hope Delgado is doing what he needs to in order to take care of himself. He, from his own statements, knows what he needs to do. The public face says he is doing it and I hope that's true.

But I didn't get offended by him and that's due to the fact that even the two points I disagreed with were not new to me. Nor were they surprising.

Let's deal with the two points.

First, he doesn't think marches and rallies are working and feels that too much time may be going into those that could be focused elsewhere.

I disagree. Strongly, I disagree. People coming together to work towards something is always a good thing. People mobilizing get attention (even when the mainstream press ignore them). In September, I saw that up close in DC.

So he and I will disagree on this. But his opinions seem similar to what a number of vets have shared with me. This comes from the fact that there are not outlets for them. Delgado found his which is a good thing. But there are vets out there who are wanting to talk and it is not a welcoming environment. Were I returning from Iraq tomorrow and pleased as punch with the work I'd done, I could get on Fox "News" in a snap as well as the other supposedly less right-wing outlets. That's a pleasing story and one the mainstream is fine with telling.

Delgado's opinions did not surprise me. Not every vet shares them, but a number I have treated do. It comes, for them, from a sense that there is no outlet. For some of them, it also comes from a sense instilled by the military of "can do." We "can do" it -- whatever it is. The civilian life and the military life are different. Delgado did not strike me as someone working from a prepared response, but someone attempting to express himself.

I hope he continues to do that. He and others like him need to be heard.

But the peace movement is not about one faction or one person. Cindy Sheehan was a spark to the movement but she would be the first to say that she's not the movement. She is a part of it. So is everyone who participates.

Here's the second point that bothered the e-mailer. I disagreed with this, but I wasn't surprised because I have heard it before. He spoke of some elements in the peace movement being 'too out there' (that wasn't his term) and how they needed to realize that vets were more conservative. If he means politically, not all, but some are. More importantly, they were trained for conservatism. I'm not speaking of political but of the approach to life which is a very orderly one. (Even in Iraq where it's a nonstop war zone. The training teaches you a set of guidelines that you access in situations -- good situations and bad ones.)

For vets I've treated who've spoken similarly, the issue with them was not "too left" or "out there." Those comments did come up. But when we dealt with the issue and addressed it, the usual underlying themes were the order instilled in them as well as a fear that they wouldn't be accepted.

This fear of not being accepted exists because a space has not been created for returning vets to speak out against the war anywhere other than in alternative circles.
I thrive on alternative circles. But I wasn't raised/trained to expect life to be orderly.
People who are leaving a war zone and have issues that the military has not equipped them to deal with are conservative in their outlook and structure. I'm not speaking of politics here. I've treated vets who were politically conservative and politically liberal and this is an issue for both camps.

This is an exposure, for many, to a new way of encoutering people and, often, a new kind of people. In this war, many are going over there either out of high school or a few years after. They're maturing in a war zone. I didn't take offense to any of Delgado's statements because I've understood where others making similar comments to me were coming from.

That's not to suggest that he's right and someone else is wrong. That is to suggest that his actions are about healing and his comments are a form of a "talking cure." He may feel the same way in ten years, he may not. With the ones I treat, we process this and they come to their own understanding. Some alter their opinions, some don't.

But what he was doing was sharing his experience. The e-mailer who was so bothered was bothered most because he felt that Delgado was "going to come off like a friend and didn't." That's not Delgado's role. What he needs to do is to speak about what he feels. There are no rights and wrongs with feelings.

I don't know Delgado but I heard statements that reminded me of the feelings of invisibility that so many vets have spoken to me about. I've said it before this entry (and felt like I was screaming from a soap box but it's an important issue and one that no one wants to talk about) but, one more time, they don't have a space carved out for them.

Delgado's carved out his own space. I think he is very effective as a public speaker. I hope he continues to discuss and explore his experiences.

A space does need to be created for them, both in the peace movement and outside of it. A space where they can speak about what they saw and, more importantly, what that meant for them and what it means to them today.

However, the peace movment is not a military operation. It never was and it never will be. There would be no movement today were it not for the base, including people of all walks of life, that spoke out before the war and continued to speak out during it, even when it wasn't popular.

I think what's bothered the e-mailer is that Delgado's remarks came at a time when "tone" is a talking point. The peace movement can't strip out elements. If it does, there is no peace movement. There is and should be a place for vets in the peace movement. "A place." But it's not a zero sum game.

Nor are our only options to do what Delgado advocated (one on one contact) or to do rallies. They, and many other elements, compliment one another. Delgado should speak out his ideas for one to one contact and, hopefully, work with those who are interested in them. However, the peace movement does not put on the brakes and do anything because he says so or I say so.

His comments about the term "counter-recruiter" offended the e-mailer. He doesn't like the term. He's part of a counter-movement. (Not with the people, we're not supporting the war.) That's not a term that appeals to him. It goes to order and training (which also teaches definitions of "success").

What I thought I heard was someone who had returned from a war zone and been presented with no opportunites to share. He had to carve out his own. I think he's still on his journey back home. I don't mean to imply that he'll feel differently at a later date (he may not). I am saying that there is a lot of hurt over the fact that they return and there's no outlet for them.

The e-mailer wondered whether or not he was supposed to just "blindly cheerlead"? No, you're not. Accepting that others have different opinions does not mean endorsing them. I supported CODEPINK's rally outside the military base in March of 2005. I thought it was wrong that a vet ("We know, we were there") thought he could tear into CODEPINK because he disagreed with their choices of action.

What CODEPINK does is CODEPINK's business. It's not his. There are no marching orders on this. People who have been speaking out have their right to be heard as surely as any vet has. The military credentials do not trump anyone else's. Not within the peace movement. Outside of it, perhaps. But within the movement, no.

It's not the business of anyone not in CODEPINK to tell them what to do. That attempt by Mr. "We Know, We Were There" angered a lot of people. It's still not been forgotten by some. The pathology of that attack was distressing.

But CODEPINK didn't say, "Oh, the big name vet thinks we should stop so let's stop."
Their protest was a success. Maybe he learned something from that? Maybe he didn't. But the movement is not going to be turned over to any one faction.

It's grown too big for that. C.I. wrote a great thing leading up to the September rallies that I'm not going to be able to track down tonight. (When I spoke to C.I. tonight about this entry, I was told to just put in my words and don't worry about noting it but I won't do that.) As the rallies were approaching, C.I. wrote that we were working towards the same goal. You may see someone who's too out there for you or too straight for you but to remember the goal and to remember that the press (mainstream) would cover it if they could get a fight or spat going.

That doesn't mean you can't disagree or acknowledge your disagreements.

But Delgado was speaking from his perspective and it's a perspective that knows they have been shut out of the mainstream media. I understood where he was coming from and was thankful that KPFA and other alternative outlets exist.

That does not mean that we turn over the peace movement (or higher office) to a vet or vets. We live in a democracy. One person, one vote. Not "one vet"="two vote" and "one civilian"="half a vote."

In a democracy, everyone exchanges ideas. If Delgado's ideas turned you off, then those aren't ideas you should work on. If his position on some aspects of the peace movement prevented you from hearing his ideas, I hope you'll think about what he discussed.

What he would like to see more of (and I don't think anyone would have taken offense had it been phrased that way -- "In addition to marches and rallies, we can . . .") is one on one contact. His point was that packages can be sent to vets and, along with other items, you can pass on information. He wants to reach them.

During Vietnam, a coffee house movement existed, a G.I. coffee house movement, and I think that would be the better idea. (My thoughts.) The reason for that is that C.I. regularly sends stuff to friends serving in Iraq and sometimes the package arrives intact and sometimes they pull out the main section of the Sunday New York Times. (The sports section always arrives.) I know those are not isolated incidents. (I'm rushing to get this completed and done. C.I.'s busy dealing with an issue, Ava and C.I. both in fact, and I don't want to bother by calling. But I'm not sure that the issue of packages has ever gone up at The Common Ills. If I've just "outed" something C.I. wanted kept quiet, I am sorry and that was not my intention. In offline life, C.I. has been very active, since the start of the invasion, getting Rebecca, myself and others to correspond with people in units who did not receive much mail. Not in a Baby Cries A Lot/Al Franken kind of way. Besides modesty, I think that would be C.I.'s biggest concern if I'm "outing" here.C.I. does not bandish the slogan "Support the troops!" as a weapon -- nor feel the need to say it or hide behind it as a number of people do. So let me be very clear on that. The troops were people C.I. knew before the war and they know C.I. was opposed to this war before it began.)

But there are packages that will arrive with no problem. Delgado's idea is worth exploring if it's something that you would like to make time to do.

You're not going to know whether the idea is something for you or not if you can't hear it. I don't blame the e-mailer for feeling offended anymore than I blame Delgado for sharing his feelings. In an ideal world, the two would meet, share face to face, and forge some ideas larger than either of them.

But the e-mailer is concerned. He feels that there's a tendency to play cheerleader. Certainly Baby Cries A Lot has done that casting himself as the Bob Hope of the 21st Century and the result has been for Baby Cries A Lot to use "support the troops" to scream and cry that we have to stay in Iraq. That's where the e-mailer is coming from.
I understand that. I also understand that Delgado's comments were surprising in their own right because they're not comments you hear on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, et al.

It's also true that when our leaders (over all) demonstrate so little courage, we look for heroes elsewhere. Delgado does a brave thing everytime he speaks out. It's a heroic act in the times we live in. However, he did not strike me, from his statements, as someone seeking the office of "hero."

His concerns are his experience there and here. That's what he's speaking from. Troops in Iraq are victims of Bully Boy's illegal war of choice. They are not the only victims. Democracy is a victim. Those speaking out here are victims. The world is a victim. Equally important, the Iraqis are victims. (If you're someone who doesn't care for the word "victim," substitute your own term.)

All of those voices are part of the peace movement. They're all speaking from their own perspective and, if they're given space to speak, all of us can come to a stronger understanding.

But I do agree with the e-mailer (on many things, but especially this) that protests are important. The e-mailer noted that one-to-one contact struck him as one more form of isolation. I believe Delgado went on to speak (in a sentence) about the connections that could be forged as a result. One to one is important. So is mass activism. All of it is needed. All of it and much more. We're entering the third year and it is easy to get depressed.

But we have accomplished a great deal. The actions by the part of everyone working to stop the war have helped with public opinion. A war does not end over night, nor from one effort (massive or one on one). Everyone that wants to play a role in stopping the war has a place in the movement. There have been efforts to co-opt it or channel it and they didn't work before nor will they now.

Possibly because there's no space for the movement in the mainstream at all, we may feel a desire to scramble for our piece of what is out there? Delgado shared his story and it, like the peace movement and all the participants, is a story still being told. Reject what doesn't speak to you, I firmly support that. I do not expect anyone to cheerlead blindly or to give greater weight to one person's narrative because they were in Iraq or they were in office or . . . In a democracy, all voices should be equal.

But in terms of Delgado, what I heard was someone attempting to explain his journey from his perspective. I didn't take offense to it. I also didn't lump him in with Baby Cries A Lot or someone attacking CODEPINK.

This is a touchy subject, I understand that. For those not aware of why Rebecca started her website, it was due to something that happened to me. I was a fan of Air America' Unfiltered. I'd grab about ten minutes of the last two hours and usually could catch the first hour. But one day, I posted the apparently "outrageous" suggestion that since they featured a weekly segement with a vet ("Talk to a Vet") they might also consider featuring a regular segment with a peace activist (non-military background). I worded that in positive terms and made a point to compliment Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow's work. Lizz had an on air tantrum. She was so enraged by the comment that she began griping on air at the wrong person. She was so enraged that she got the name wrong and was griping at another woman.

Rebecca was outraged (and only listened because it was one of my favorite shows, C.I.'s as well). That's what gave her the push to finally start blogging.

I was never outraged. I found it humorous. I still do. That a mild suggestion (with compliments) that they might add another segment to each week would enrage Lizz so was funny to me.

I don't question Lizz's politics. I also miss her on the air. But that was the tight rope being walked back then. If I'd posted what I really thought about the segment, she would have had something to scream about.

Since I didn't then, I will now. No one who served in the military is any better than anyone who didn't. The left shouldn't mimic "Dr." Laura with her applause for any woman who calls in that's a mother. (I've only heard "Dr." Laura once. I was waiting in the dentist office.)

I didn't question Lizz's "left-ness" then (nor do I now). But I did (and do) question the need to hide behind the military (ex-military) to make a point. That's not how a democracy works. (That need wasn't Lizz's position. It did seem to be on air policy for a number of shows, however.)

Rachel always put me to sleep (and was a big military jock sniffer, in my opinion). But the only time I ever had a problem with Lizz's comments on the show was when she felt the need to clarify, after Tariq Ali was no longer either present or on the phone, that his appearance on the show wasn't an endorsement.

Other than that, Lizz always amused me and made me laugh (even when she was enraged at me). I frequently would listen to what I'd missed on the show via Air America Place later that night. She and the comedy bits were the reason I enjoyed the show. (Chuck D as well but he was often not on the show.)

That was the tight rope then. How do we speak out? I think the range has opened up. But possibly that's due to the fact that I listen to Pacifica now? I hung in for The Majority Report until Janeane was gone night after night. (And I listen to Laura Flanders on the weekend.) But Lizz was an outspoken voice. She supported reproductive rights and it wasn't lost that as she was "disappeared" the Democratic Party was backing off that support.

Rachel Maddow's sneer/slam at Pacifica is well known to the community. I always found her useless. She seemed to be in it for herself in an NPR sort of way. I'm not at all surprised that Lizz Winstead was "disappeared" and Maddow got not one but now two solo shows. Rebecca dubbed her "big brain" which I found hysterical and true. She always sounded as though she was speaking down to the audience. I often wonder if she still does her "stay the course" nonsense? (Though I don't wonder enough to listen to her bland voice.) The voices who I enjoyed were the ones who spoke in their own voice: Lizz, Janeane and Randi Rhodes. I didn't always agree (I agreed with Janeane the most often). But their public voices were real and approachable. (As is Laura Flanders. I left her off the list only because I still listen to her.)

So I do understand where the e-mailer is coming from. But I hope he understands where Delgado is coming from. I also hope he agrees that the movement has come so far that no one person "owns" it -- it belongs to everyone speaking out against the war.

By the way, Ruth may include the appearance in her report this weekend. I spoke with her to go over what I was going to touch on and to make sure I wasn't poaching anything that she had planned to discuss. I also spoke to Mike and C.I. and I think them and Ruth for their input and for listening.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

". . . providing security for the people of Iraq has never, from day one, been a priority of this occupation"

"Report: Over 1300 Killed in Iraq Violence" (Democracy Now!):
The Washington Post is reporting over 1300 people have been killed in less than a week of violence in Iraq. The death toll is at least four times higher than previously reported, and one of the biggest outside of major US operations since the war began. Violence has increased across the country following Wednesday's bombing of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra. Earlier today, separate attacks in Baghdad killed at least 36 people and injured dozens more. In the biggest attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Baghdad gas station, killing over 20 people and injuring 50 others.

36 dead. What's the purpose? What's the mission? Operation Accomplished What? There's an article by Ron Jacobs that I'll note here instead of repeat myself two days in a row.

"Iraq's Going According to the Plan?" (Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch):
The civil war potential remains great and, from Western accounts, seems to be growing. According to these accounts, such a war would be (or is, depending on the source) between certain Shia factions and certain Sunni factions, with Baathist siding primarily with the Sunni groups. Another perspective is one presented by a US military officer in an article published by the Washington Post on February 25, 2006. I quote: "the hope is that U.S. forces will be able to focus on foreign fighters, while Iraqi security forces take on the native insurgency. But that hasn't happened yet. The hardest fighting, especially in rural areas, still is being done by U.S. troops." Now, if that doesn't sound like a scenario for creating civil war, than I don't know what is. If the makeup of the Iraqi military is primarily Shias, then it might be possible to portray the battle as one between religious sects, but the underlying reality is that the real war would be between those who support the US-installed regime in Iraq and those who don't. In other words, it would be the same as it is now, only with Iraqi forces doing even more of the killing and dying than they are now.

I'll return to Iraq after the "reality quote" near the bottom.

"Bush Approval Rating on Iraq, Presidency At All-Time Low" (Democracy Now!):
In other news, a new CBS News poll has found the number of Americans who approve of President Bush's overall job performance and his handling of the Iraq war has fallen to an all-time low. 34 percent of Americans give the President a favorable job approval rating, while even less -- 30 percent -- approve of the President’s handling of the Iraq war. Meanwhile, less than a third of Americans believe President Bush has adequately responded to the needs of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

As Mike wondered on the phone, "You mean Bully Boy didn't get a 'bounce' from all the killings?" (Mike was being sarcastic.) The glow and luster (created by the press) is falling off Bully Boy. That's bound to happen when you sell an illegal war as a "cakewalk" and three years later it's anything but. Brenda e-mailed to note the only thing worse than Bully Boy was Cheney's numbers. The Claudine Longet of this century's approval ratings stand at 18% so don't expect a forthcoming CD entitled Cuddle Up With Cheney anytime soon.

The hearings today? Sunny had them on in the outer office, courtesy of Pacifica. I was in and out of sessions and only caught about 15 minutes (plus Sunny's recap at lunch). I did catch Orrin Hatch making a fool of himself. (That's kind of hard to miss on any given day, isn't it?) C.I.
captured it perfectly.

"Democracy Now: John Pace, Dave Isay; NSA hearings -- Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo (O. Hatch!)" (The Common Ills):
But let's focus on Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo: O. Hatch! Oh, Orrin. Always there for the comic relief.
In a silly moment, and all of Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo's moments are silly, Miss Priss and James Woolsey engaged in stroke-athon (we can't call it a debate). Miss Priss appeared to lead the waltz of "It's hard work." Getting a FISA warrant is hard work. It played out like this:
Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo: Now Mr. Woolsey, what are your feelings about the food safety guidelines?
Woolsey: As someone who served my time in fast food, let me say that they are just too much of a burden.
Miss Priss: That's correct. I go into a Burger King to order a hamburger. They have to raise the cow. They have to kill the cow. They have to grind it into beef. They have to form a beef patty. They have to cook the beef patty. They have to grow wheat for the bun. They have to grow the tomatoes, the lettuce, the cucumber for the pickle. What about the salt? Do you realize how hard it is to get salt? When they have all the ingredients cooked and assembled on the bun, they have to wrap the bun. With what? Paper. And do you know how they get the paper? They have to do all of that in order to serve me my burger. Who has time for hand washing! We'll never accomplish anything!
Woolsey: It is time consuming.
Miss Priss: That's all I'm saying! Thank you! Do you want to eat or starve? That's all I'm saying.
Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo. Hachet Boy Toys sing "Yodel-ay-hee-hoo" (except John Corny who sings: "Yahoo-uh-what-was-it-again?").
Let's break it down for Miss Priss. All these things he feels are needed for a FISA warrent, these 'cumbersome' things? They should already be on hand. The reason you're requesting a warrant? Well, gee, if you need to do work to figure out why you're
asking for a warrant, chances are you're not ready to request one. It was like that on every thing he ticked off on the 'time consuming' list. All of the items were items you should have already.

"Reality Quote" (Naomi Klein, April 20,2005, Democracy Now!):
NAOMI KLEIN: Those forces are already controlling Iraq. The resistance largely controls Baghdad at this point, a situation where there are between 50 and 60 attacks a day. The militias that Erik is warning about already control large sectors of Iraq, because providing security for the people of Iraq has never, from day one, been a priority of this occupation. We saw the abandonment immediately by allowing the looting to take place and only guarding the Ministry of Oil, and it’s only gotten worse. You know, when I was in Iraq a year ago, this was the most persistent complaint -- was spiraling crime. And that's actually how the militias were created. They were created as a response to the fact that US Occupation never, ever prioritized giving security to Iraqis. The other issue is this idea that somehow US forces are helping to train Iraqi police, and that it's just a problem of training. What's actually happening is that there is -- is that the greatest liability for Iraqis to gain control over their own country security-wise, is the fact that the security forces have been embedded in the occupation itself and are seen as an extension of the hated and loathed occupation. So they get attacked as collaborators and slaughtered. They're not provided with any protection, and so on. So the best way for them to build up their own force and their own credibility, which is really what's needed, is a clear break with the occupation, which means immediately announcing a withdrawal of troops and setting up a transition plan. The first step has to be the announcement of troop withdrawal.

First, let's note that Naomi Klein made these comments in April 2005. For those who are still confused, does it clear things up? There are a lot of people who refuse to accept what's going on in Iraq. Maybe it's because there has been so little reality like Klein's speaking outside of the alternative media?

Saturday, Ruth's Public Radio Report went up and for that one, noting the tenth anniversary of Democracy Now!, Ruth asked us to share a report from the show that had stayed with us. We all just named what first came to mind, more or less. But C.I. kept telling me I needed to check out Jim's pick. I'm sad to say that I still haven't had time. But Eddie did and the quotes from the episode Jim picked (it's actually the report after Jim's pick -- Klein's there for two reports). Democracy Now! is celebrating its tenth anniversary and I'm not sure I've noted that here. I can't imagine anyone drops by this blog and has never heard about Democracy Now!, but in case that is possible, let me urge you to please check the program out.
C.I.'s offered that to celebrate the ten years, we should all make a point to tell ten people about it between now and the end of March. I think that's a great idea. Something we can all do. Get the word out to ten people you've never spoken about the program too. Will they all listen? Great if they do. But raise awareness on the show. If you mention it and then, a week or two later, someone else does it, the person may think, "I need to check this show out." If they never do, at least they're aware it is out there. So I'll join C.I. in urging everyone to make a point to tell ten people about Democracy Now! from now until the end of the month.

Monday, February 27, 2006

"The Universe bends towards justice"

It's Monday. The weekend seemed to sail by, don't they? Please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's take on the news.

"Over 200 Dead in Iraq Since Wednesday's Mosque Bombing" (Democracy Now!):
In Iraq, at least 29 people died on Sunday even though security forces had imposed a rare daytime curfew barring all vehicular traffic in Baghdad and its suburbs. In the deadliest attack, a Shiite neighborhood came under mortar fire in Southwest Baghdad. 16 people died and another 53 were injured. Over 200 people have been killed since Wednesday's bombing at a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra. On Saturday gunmen broke into the home of a Shiite family northeast of Baghdad and killed 13 people. Three people also died on Saturday during the funeral of the Atwar Bahjat -- the well-known Al-Arabiya journalist who was killed last week.

Over 200 dead. In less than a week. I'm wondering how that number was agreed upon. I don't doubt it. I just know that the US government supposedly doesn't track Iraqi fatalities. (Iraqi Body Count does, based upon deaths reported by the press.) But over 200 dead in one week. You think Nightline will read off the names of those people? Probably not. They'll be a number, a large number, and that's all. It's easier for the killing to continue when the victims are nothing but numbers. Even easier when there's no number at all which is why the government maintains that they don't track the bodycount for Iraqis.

But every one of those 200 had parents at one point or another. They may have had children. They may not. They may have had a spouse or a significant other. They probably had dreams. Maybe there only dream was for the madness of the occupation to end? (A position favored by the majority of Iraqis -- they want the US out.) Maybe it was one of those dreams we all have on a routine day? Something like, "At the end of this hideous day, I'm going to treat myself to" whatever. For me, that's a banana split. About three times a year, things get so bad that a banana split is my remedy. Our father used to take my brother and out for them so that's probably why it's comfort food for me.

Whatever they were thinking, I doubt they were dreaming, "Today I die." The occupation needs to end.

"Army to Allow Halliburton Not to Repay Disputed Costs" (Democracy Now!):
The New York Times is reporting the Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.4 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq. Auditors had recommended the Army withhold $263 million from Kellogg Brown and Root, but the Army decided to withhold just $10 million. California Congressman Henry Waxman said "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."

But if the occupation ended . . . how would Halliburton make their billions? War is big business. I'd love to see a report tracking Halliburton's rise/fall each day on the stock market and the deaths in Iraq. A large portion of what they and others do in Iraq used to be done by the military. Such as providing the mess hall/grub. In one instance, soldiers died because of the privatization. The military knew to stagger the meals so that an attack wouldn't result in a large number of injuries and deaths. The company that took over the mess halls wasn't concerned about that. They were concerned about the "bottom line." The easiest way to increase their profit was to spend less time serving meals. So you ended up with the place being packed and, when the attack came, you ended up with more injuries and deaths than you would have had if the "business" had been left, as it used to be, to the military.

"Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler, 58, Dies" (Democracy Now!):
And science fiction writer Octavia Butler has died at the age of 58. She died on Friday night after a fall outside her home in Washington state. Her best-known work included "Parable of the Talents" and "Kindred." Butler was considered to be one of the first African-American women to break into the world of science fiction. Jane Jewell, of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, said "She is a world-class science fiction writer in her own right. She was one of the first and one of the best to discuss gender and race in science fiction." Butler joined us four months ago on Democracy Now:
OCTAVIA BUTLER: "I'm going to read a verse or two. And keep in mind these were written early in the 1990s. But I think they apply forever, actually. This first one, I have a character in the books who is, well, someone who is taking the country fascist and who manages to get elected President and, who oddly enough, comes from Texas. And here is one of the things that my character is inspired to write about, this sort of situation. She says:
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."

Octavia Butler's writing earned her a place in the science fiction world and that's a testimony to her talent. Women have made strides in writing fantasy but less so in science fiction. (I'm basing that on two friends who I have to read nothing but science fiction and fantasy, including graphic novels. They can list a number of women writers whose work is recognized and earns plaudits in the fantasy genre but not a whole lot in the science fiction realm. I wonder if that's also true of race?) C.I. asked Mike and I to note this tonight because she was one of Ty's favorite writers. C.I. had intended for it to be noted. But, as C.I. said on the phone, "Ay-yi-yi."
That entry was dictated and e-mailed with the hope that it would hit The Common Ills. It didn't. Repeated attempts failed. So finally C.I. had to call a friend who has the current password and get them to put it in and then there were problems with "word verification."

In case you missed it, someone apparently lodged a complaint with Blogger (the program we all use for our sites) that The Common Ills was a "spam blog" which is generated by a machine (the way spam e-mails are). This happened on Saturday after C.I. posted a list of stations (radio and television) carrying Democracy Now! (to note it's tenth anniversay and congratulations to Democracy Now! by the way). Since then, no post can go up without "word verification." This means that when you're ready to post, you have to first enter a set of random letters displayed on the screen. Kat attempted to post one of her reviews Sunday afternoon (she has two ready) and she couldn't read the random letters. "I'm not blind, it was in cursive. I thought they were doing a standard "o" the way they linked the tail to the next letter but apparently it was an 'a' because I got an error message," Kat explained to me. C.I. says even when the random letters are printed and not in cursive, entering them correctly still often results in an error message.

So our community lost out on Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts Sunday because of this. Isaiah e-mails those to C.I. as an attachment then C.I. posts them via a program called Hello. "Hello" is an e-mail program. No e-mailed posts would show up on the site due to this "word verification" nonsense. We heard about this while working on The Third Estate Sunday Review because C.I. was attempting to e-mail Maria's rundown of the headlines from Democracy Now! and they wouldn't hit the site. C.I. notified Blogger Saturday night. That on Monday morning they still hadn't done their follow up is pretty sad.

Jim's convinced C.I.'s about to pull the site from Blogger and go elsewhere. There have been too many problems. (Problems that none of the rest of us have. The closest would be The Third Estate Sunday Review which always has a problem around midnight each Sunday.) I don't know. C.I. feels Blogger offers everyone the opportunity to do-it-yourself and that's an important thing. I also know that C.I. has been looking at sites that require payment (which isn't an issue for C.I.). I think it will probably depend upon how many more problems occur.

I know that C.I. thinks it's "unacceptable" and I agree. There's no excuse for all the problems that happen (how about the "broken pipe" less than a month ago that kept refusing entries?). The rest of us don't have those problems. But coming off last week's being sick (I think it was food poisoning -- probably something wasn't cooked long enough or washed before cooking and I say that knowing where C.I. gets take out on Sundays -- overpriced but it's quick and close) and then having the never ending session on The Third Estate Sunday Review. I'm in the eastern time zone. For me, we started pitching ideas at noon because we wanted to get done early. And Dona also told Jim that there was no way they could do an all night marathon session as sick as C.I. had been. So we interviewed Ruth at one. (Ava and C.I. took notes in longhand so that was the easiest feature to redo.) By midnight we had it pretty much all done and were trying to post and started losing stuff over and over. Even the drafts. We didn't pull an all nighter, we pulled an all nighter and two dayer. In "A note to our readers" (which I wasn't involved in), Jim notes that it's 5:00 pm (eastern time). That's 29 hours. Wally had a test and a paper due on Monday so Dona insisted that he bail at 9:00 am. He had given input on the original versions of what posted so Wally helped with all the features (except the TV review that Ava and C.I. always do). But it was hellacious (if that's how you spell it).

It was the night that would never end. We were trying to remember how a joke was worded or how a point was made in the lost versions and it was just a nightmare. For the editorial, the main points had been outlined (by Jess) with pen and paper. But even that was rough. That was the last thing that those of us still helping out were participating on. The basics are from Jim and C.I. with the rest of us modifying them. We were all wiped out and saying things like, "I have nothing else to give." So Jim would grab a point and go with it and then get C.I. to speak on the next point. "Just pretend it's a speech," Jim would say and C.I. would give a five to ten minute speech which we'd boil down to a paragraph. Jim can go on forever and actually thrives on it. C.I. doesn't thrive on it but can pull out second, third, fourth, fifth . . . winds.

As Dona said, "I can't believe that was our entire weekend." That's what it ended up being. Jess pointed out that C.I. still had to do the "And the war drags on . . ." entry in a few hours (and ended up doing that plus an addition entry). And turn around right after and do the Monday morning entry. Jess and Ty are doing the "And the war drags on . . ." this Sunday because C.I.'s got a business/social thing. We were all offering to do last night's entry but C.I. felt that with being off next Sunday, some might be offended if it was two Sundays in a row.

So after the final feature ("A Note To Our Readers") posted a little after five eastern time, C.I. took a two hour nap, then (wisely) went out and killed and hour and a half looking at CDs and magazines (and grabbing take out). Then five hours for those two Sunday night entries, two and a half hours of sleep and then Monday morning's entry. All while having the problems with Blogger. My point here (and three people e-mailed me asking if C.I. was really going to pull the site from Blogger) is that a) C.I.'s probably not in the mood for any more problems with the site this week but b) having gotten through yesterday, I think it would have to be a serious problem for C.I. to end up pulling the site now -- serious meaning major.

Can you tell I'm tired? I am. From the marathon. I probably could have said the above in three to five sentences if I wasn't so tired.

If you missed it, back in June, The Third Estate Sunday Review did a summer reading edition which contained short stories and more. One of them was "K-Boy Tries To Get Back Home." Ty came up with the idea for that. He wrote a large portion of that solo until he hit "a brick wall." (Right after the rotting flesh is where Ty hit the brick wall and others helped him with the ending. I wasn't involved in the writing of that, in case anyone thinks I'm plugging myself.) The point there is that Ty is very talented. Also that he enjoys horror and science fiction writing. So if you read the name "Octavia Butler" and are ignorant of the genre, know that she must have really been some writer because she was one of Ty's favorites.

"NSA Hearings This Tuesday." (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
NSA Hearings Tuesday! So get ready to tune into to NPR! Oh . . . wait. Nothing pulls them from their canned coverage except, possibly, the death of a pontiff. So you're up the creek without a paddle!
Unless . . .
You listen to Pacifica!
As Ruth noted:
From KPFT in Houston:Program Preemption on Tuesday, February 28 - 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Senate hearings on the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program.
I do not doubt that other Pacifica stations may carry this but this morning only KPFT had a note up about it on their main page. Eight in the morning until five in the evening are Central Time Zone times.
Who else will carry it? The Pacifica website usually carries the live events there. The main website, not a site for one of the five stations. In addition, thanks to Kat who's taking a shower to try to wake up and put her cell phone by the radio, we can note that KPFA will carry it. We heard Larry Bensky announce that (starts at six am Pacific time) Tuesday he and Elizabeth de la Vega will be hosting it. C.I. says to point out that this may be only on KPFA and each station may provide their own anchors. (Bensky also announced that next Sunday on Sunday Salon, people from the Africa Peace Justice Tour will be among his guests.) (Kat's cell phone, by the way, comes in better than listening online. It may have something to do with her radio. Will ask her if she ever emerges from the shower and picks the phone up.)
So more NSA hearings on Tuesday. Senate hearings. Translation, you can't count on John Conyers to save the day. (Conyers serves in the House.) Will it be more of the same? Will the Democrats show some spine? (Yes, Russ, we know, you proved your bad, sexy self to be a fighter! We're proud of you. But you can't do it alone. Well, in many ways you did, but it doesn't have the same kind of impact as when you're getting support and backup from the others in your party. Don't say "party" around Feinstein -- she'll go into full "Miss Diane" mode.)
So Tuesday, get thee to Pacifica radio, either via the airwaves, online, or, hey, ask a friend to put the phone next to the radio.

So make a point to listen.

Peace Quote (via second hour broadcast on Feb. 26, 2006):
The universe bends towards justice.
-- Sister Helen Prejean