Friday, May 28, 2004

Harrassment, Sexual and Non-Sexual

Both links courtesy of The Angry Arab News Service. This Christian Science Monitor article provides a glimpse of what awaits women who've been detained at Abu Ghraib once they've been released. It's a pretty miserable fate.

Meanwhile, the Guardian UK reports that Israel gave journalist Peter Hounam a lesson in how THEY incarcerate, holding him in solitary confinement in what he described as a dungeon. Excrement was smeared on the walls of his basement cell, and he was allowed all of two hours sleep.

What was Hounan's crime? Speaking to Mordechai Vanunu, the man who shined the light on the Israeli nuclear program. Vanunu spent eighteen years in mostly solitary confinement for this act of courage. Released from prison last month, Israel continues to harass him. Vanunu can't even leave the country.

The United States and Israel: Partners in Crime.
I Got to Work Late, and I Still Wasn't There

It's good practice to start with the basics--now I know why. I just spent fifteen minutes dealing with a printer problem that wasn't.

Three people over at one of the offices got new computers. They called in to report they couldn't print. I actually noticed the tag on the "problem" printer had a different IP address than the one listed in the control panel, but it didn't register until I decided to check a different unit to see if the problem was with the users' computers, the printer itself, or the network. Sure enough, the second printer I checked had about sixty test pages. "Problem" solved.

BTW--you know why we call them users? Because sometimes they act like they're on drugs. And I feel like I had a toke or two myself after realizing it took me fifteen minutes to figure out the error.

The New York Times finally has something to say about the export of scrap metal from Iraq--the new growth industry there. I beat them to the story by a month (scroll down to "The Cost of Doing Business There Just Rose Dramatically").

According to the Times, some folks have a pretty loose definition of what constitutes scrap metal. The Ministry of Trade initially adopted liberal regulations regarding exports, but it looks like they might have to adjust them, as these days everything from oil rig components to water plant parts to whole buildings are being trucked across the border. This stuff will eventually need to be replaced--presumably providing more income for Halliburton. And, who knows--maybe it will give them something to haul besides "sailboat fuel."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Rove: "You campaign as if America was watching TV with the sound turned down"

I'll hand it to Karl Rove on that quote. His strategery for Bush is tied to that essential component. But Rove isn't the first to exploit this.

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber have a lengthy, but worth reading, excerpt of their new book, Banana Republicans in CounterPunch.

Take a look:

The first political-campaign firm in the United States, Campaigns Inc., was also established in California in the 1930s by the husband-and-wife team of Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter. Whitaker and Baxter drew on the culture of nearby Hollywood as they developed techniques for "selling" candidates through the mass media. Incumbent California governor Frank Merriam hired Whitaker and Baxter to defeat a 1934 election challenge by muckraking journalist and social reformer Upton Sinclair. Whitaker and Baxter developed a smear campaign to defeat Sinclair, arranging to have false stories printed in newspapers about Sinclair seducing young girls. To combat Sinclair's Depression-era populism, they worked with Hollywood studios, which controlled movie theaters throughout the state, to place phony newsreels in cinemas featuring fictional "Sinclair supporters" in rags advocating a Soviet-style takeover.

After their victory, Whitaker and Baxter explained the cynical philosophy behind their success: "The average American doesn't want to be educated, he doesn't want to improve his mind, he doesn't even want to work consciously at being a good citizen. But every American likes to be entertained. He likes the movies, he likes mysteries; he likes fireworks and parades. So, if you can't put on a fight, put on a show." In Whitaker's words, they transformed elections from "a hit or miss business, directed by broken-down politicians" into "a mature, well-managed business founded on sound public relations principles, and using every technique of modern advertising."

Things have only gotten more sophisticated since then--if you continue with the article, you'll eventually come across a reaction to a Lesley Stahl story that aired on CBS in 1984. She juxtaposed imagery of Ronald Reagan's style over substance campaign technique with audio suggesting that he was being a bit disengenous--most of the images contradicted his actions. Surprisingly, Reagan's handlers loved the piece, and Stahl later discovered why. In airing the report for a live audience, she was shocked to discover that most viewers thought it was ENDORSING Reagan instead of questioning him.

Rampton and Stauber go into a lot more depth than I will here. They look at a number of political races over the last fifty years or so. If I was working for John Kerry, I'd read the article, buy the book and find people willing to counter the spin and lie cycle that Bush will be playing through Election Day.

Take the goves off--remember, their side is using brass knuckles anyway.
Compare and Contrast

First, there's this Christopher Hitchens article praising Ahmad Chalabi. Just when you thought Hitchens had reached Death Valley like depths, he manages to sink even further. Rotting whale carcasses now share their space with Hitch. In one sentence, he turns a convicted in absentia embezzler into the moral equivalent of Willy Brandt, Bruno Kreisky, Andreas Papandreou, Benigno Aquino, and Kim Dae Jung.

Now, take a look at what Steve Gilliard has to say. Short version: Chalabi is a crook who NEVER could run Iraq--neocons who think otherwise are fantasizing like a daydreaming teenager. Gilliard lends some perspective from an old, but reliable source: Machiavelli.


And it does not appear to me to be foreign to this subject to discuss among other matters how dangerous a thing it is to believe those who have been driven out of their country...

If you have the time, definitely read the entire post.

Hitchens, who I once enjoyed reading, has staked his reputation on Bush's folly, and will pay the price. Oh sure, Slate and other apologists will somehow manage to find a spot for him on the roster, but he's looking more and more like Willie Mays in 1973--a mere shell of his former self. It's embarrassing to watch.

Gilliard, in contrast, did what bloggers do best: he found a good example in the historical record and applied it to present day policy. In doing so, he demonstrates two things--one, there's a reason why history is a worthy pursuit, and two, that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
More on Gore

I can't agree more strongly with the entire post from The Rude Pundit, but I'd like to especially cite this paragraph:

"Almost at his conclusion, Gore says, 'In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president. I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability.' Finally, in that moment, too little, too late, of course, but still, Gore says what we've been wanting to hear: he was honorable towards dishonorable men; he was a mensch to the putzes; he was the strong adult to the petulant children; and he was wrong. "

Memory Lane

Via Atrios, a Martin Lewis article detailing how the modern political process works--or doesn't, depending on your point of view. Spin teams and opposition research combine with aggressive cultivation of mainstream media to achieve the electoral equivalent of carpet bombing.

This type of tactic doesn't work against an informed electorate. However, can you call it an informed electorate when so-called journalists like Tim Russert's producers are relying on "oppo" to fill blocks of time? Besides, few people have time to even watch drivel like Meet the Press, much less truly keep up with the events of the day.

Oh, off topic, but: once again, this might turn into a slow post day. Half of the bandwidth here is down, and I've noticed modem-like connections for some sites, particularly anything graphic intensive. Also, looks like I'll be a little busy over here.

Let's see if this will post...
Because Saddam "Tried to Kill My Daddy"

Via The Angry Arab News Service, this article and website reflect on the work of Devon M. Largio, graduating senior at University of Illinios. It's a chronicle of the justifications for going to war in Iraq. Largio, in perhaps the ONLY systematic study of its kind, counts twenty-seven separate rationales for the war.

Not one of them makes any sense.

Gotta go do some work here. Back in a little bit.
Failure Upon Failure

The New York Times: reports that, unsurprisingly, the torture of prisoners in Iraq achieved basically nothing.

WASHINGTON, May 26 The questioning of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners last fall in the newly established interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison yielded very little valuable intelligence, according to civilian and military officials.

Interrogation "experts," if I can use that term, will tell you the same thing. People being tortured have pretty much one focus: figure out a way to make it stop. Usually that means telling the torturers what they want to hear. Truth becomes irrelevant.

What IS relevant, however, is the collection of photographs. Our soldiers are smiling at their handiwork. Add to this what can only be described as truly gross and disgusting statements from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Zell Miller, and Dan Inhofe, among others, and the circle is complete. Some people in this country have crossed the line and openly endorse the techniques of fascism.

This is, I'm sure, what Al Gore had in mind yesterday when he delivered a strong denunciation of the Bush foreign policy. Here's a transcript, and you can probably find a RealPlayer file over at C-Span.

In difficult times, it's vitally important that those at the top rely upon more than the reptillian part of the brain. Unfortunately, Team Bush locked into "gut feeling" mode--much the same thing--and the end result would have to improve in order to be disastrous. Gut feelings, I'm certain, factor largely into the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Whether or not the detainees talked, the torture seems to have given the torturers--and those who support them--a degree of sadistic satisfaction. They got their pound of quivering flesh.

However, the long term ramifications of this sort of abuse will reverberate throughout the Middle East for YEARS to come. To those who live in the region, we now have all the moral authority of a hammerhead shark. How can we call for rule of law when it's evident that we don't give a hot damn about even the most basic legal safeguards, that is, the treatment of prisoners during wartime?

Here's something Gore included in his speech last night. He cited Israel's Supreme Court, so I'll take this with a mountain of salt, but, in theory at least, it's worth considering:

This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day they (add to) its strength.

In contrast, if all we can say is that we're not as bad as Saddam Hussein, well, forget about it. Arguing the degree of difference means nothing. If that's the case, you might as well call the troops home now, because they sure as hell won't be able to convince anyone of our good intentions--whether or not they're raping female prisoners or sodomizing male prisoners with glowsticks. Because, in the end, even if we aren't technically as bad as Saddam, there are elements of the occupation that make it intolerable for the people who LIVE there.

At a certain point, the human brain must overcome its reptillian tendencies.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Time Flies

Robert Fisk writes in Counterpunch:

The re-writing of Iraqi history is now going on at supersonic speed. Weapons of mass destruction? Forget it. Links between Saddam and al-Qa'ida? Forget it. Liberating the Iraqis from Saddam's Abu Ghraib life of torture? Forget it. Wedding party slaughtered? Forget it. Clear the decks for both 'full (sic) sovereignty' and 'chaotic events'. This is, at any rate, according to Mr Bush. When I heard his hesitant pronunciation of Abu Ghraib as 'Abu Grub' on Monday night, I could only profoundly agree.

Fisk ups the ante and brings in the country no one wants to mention:

And let's cast our eyes upon that little, all-important matter of responsibility. The actual interrogators accused of encouraging US troops to abuse Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail were working for at least one company with extensive military and commercial contacts with Israel. The head of an American company whose personnel are implicated in the Iraqi tortures, it now turns out, attended an "anti-terror" training camp in Israel and, earlier this year, was presented with an award by Shaul Mofaz, the right-wing Israeli defence minister...

But it is clear the torture trail at Abu Ghraib has to run much further than a group of brutal US military cops, all of whom claim "intelligence officers" told them to "soften up" their prisoners for questioning. Were they Israeli? Or South African? Or British? Are we going to let the story go?

The entire article is worth reading, especially in light of the Ashcroft/Mueller "press conference" where they announced nothing. Al Qaeda is threatening to attack us this summer. Imagine that. Any specifics? No--but they're trying--oh, and here are a few swarthy looking characters whose photographs we have. By the way, be on the lookout for "Old Europe looking" types--and maybe even the odd American or two.

That's not intelligence, that's fear mongering. Facing an electorate increasingly skeptical of ANYTHING Bush says regarding Iraq, this looks like more desperation. They're doing everything they can think of to keep Iraq out of the news cycle. Hell, even Tom Clancy (see Matt Lavine at BFOP for the link) thinks Iraq is a lost cause. When you can't get a hack novelist/wingnut to believe your hack wingnut theory, you'd better think about changing the plan, instead of wishfully thinking about the plan that fell apart.

Looks like a long hot summer.
Another Great Individual Passes

Ron Jacobs: Goodbye, David Dellinger is over at Counterpunch today. I'm proud to say that I met Mr. Dellinger as a young man. I was leaving the small theater at LSU--the one below the main stage over at the Student Union. If I remember right, that night I had seen either a live play called A Peasant of El Salvador, leftist political songwriter Dave Lippman, or it might have been a movie called The Battle of Chile.

Anyway, David Klein came up to me with an older looking gent and said, "Mike, this is Dave Dellinger." He shook my hand and greeted me warmly. Being all of twenty years old, to say I was impressed would be an understatement.

He was in town to address a Palestinian solidarity organization on campus. Dellinger ended up joining a group of us for food and drinks, and, while maintaining a bit of New England reserve, made it clear that he was impressed with our small but dedicated group of progressives, lefties, Quakers, liberals--and anyone else ready to make a statement against Ronald Reagan and the GOP's conservative minions.

Dellinger was a lifelong activist--antiwar (he served time for refusing induction in the 1940's), Chicago Eight Defendant, advocate for the rights of the downtrodden, be they here in the United States or abroad, and more--he will be missed.

If there is an afterlife, there'd better be a strong measure of equality--because if there isn't, the forces for good just added another to an already impressive list.
The President is Four Sheets to the Wind

Well, at least he was on October 11, 1973, according to CNN.
On Electing a Used War Salesman

Needlenose has some bumper sticker slogans we might see in the coming weeks. My favorite:

Vote Bush in '04: "I Has Incumbentory Advantitude"
I'm Not as Bad as...

Tom Tomorrow "define[s] deviancy down." Note: this is the Working for Change link, i.e., no day pass required.
Actually, We Don't Discuss the Specifics of Particular Actions--Rumsfeld & Myers

Raed Jarrar publishes a classified document:

Joke of the Day

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to replace a lightbulb?
The Answer is SEVEN:
1. one to deny that a lightbulb needs to be replaced
2. one to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the lightbulb,
3. one to blame the previous administration for the need of a new lightbulb,
4. one to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of lightbulbs,
5. one to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay
Halliburton Industries one million dollars for a lightbulb,
6. one to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the lightbulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag,
7. and finally one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.
Science Wednesday

For every action there's a reaction:

May 23rd, CNN: U.S. troops cross into Pakistan, locals say.

May 26th, Los Angeles Times: Car Bombs Explode Outside School in Pakistan.
From the "It's Not a Bomb, It's a Device that Exploded" Dept.

Link via The Island of Balta. U.S. Emphasizes Intent to Transfer Full Power to Iraqis -- With Limits. The article itself indicates a small fissure in the "Coalition of the Willing." Britain would like it if the new Iraqi government had enough soverignity to "veto specific military operations by the U.S.-led coalition," which, as the same paragraph notes, could be grounds for calling Tony Blair "Monsieur." Of course, this idea was immediately nixed by the US.

As for the new government itself--who the hell with a conscience would want to BE the interim president of Iraq? Doesn't that sound more like a raffle you don't want to win? First prize: one month as interm president. Second prize: a whole year--well, if you survive it.

I keep thinking that Bush is approaching this the way a lazy undergraduate looks at a term paper: five more weeks till it's due=four weeks and six more days of partying. But it's pretty clear Bush won't even make the late night effort. He's paid "Mr. Brahimi" to write it for him.

NY Times--OK, We've got SOME Egg on Our Face

The paper of record grudgingly acknowledges that mistakes were made in their reporting on WMD. A quick scan of their "apology" displays more about the mentality of the paper's management than anything. First, never admit a mistake without a preface bestowing all glory and praise upon the enterprise. Second, admit that the problem goes "beyond individual reporters" (read: Judith Miller)--but provide enough fog to allow those "beyond" time to, uh, cover their asses. Finally, use a lot of "perhaps we should of's" or "maybe we weren't rigorous enough's." And finally, open the door, invite some company in, and tell the world said company looks kind of eggy themselves.

If you can make it through the non-apology apology, check out a few of the legacy pieces they link to--because, among other things, they're free. You can't say that about much of the Times's archive. Keep a bucket handy.
Their Latest Obsession

Bloomberg reports on Amnesty International's 2004 Human Rights Report.

``Callous, cruel and criminal attacks by armed groups such as al-Qaeda pose a very real threat to the security of people everywhere,'' Khan said. ``It is also frightening that the principles of international law and the tools of multilateral action which could protect us from these attacks are being undermined, marginalized or destroyed by powerful governments.''

Amnesty's annual report, which covers human rights issues for 2003, criticizes the ``excessive use of force'' by U.S. troops in Iraq, and their abuse of detainees in the country. It also says that governments have been ``obsessed'' with Iraq, allowing human rights violations elsewhere to be left unchecked. Some of the worst atrocities have taken place in ``festering conflicts in places like Chechnya, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Nepal,'' Amnesty said...

Amnesty's report says people last year were tortured or ill- treated by authorities in 132 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan and South Africa. People were ``disappeared'' by state agents in 28 countries and unlawful killings were carried out in 47 nations.

Welcome to the new world order.

Call me a cynic, but I find the timing of this press release more than a little suspect. George W. Bush simultaneously sees his poll numbers shrinking like the Lusitania, AND faces the cold, hard reality that his exercise in, uh, elocution, I guess, was greeted with a yawn So Ashcroft and Mueller slink out of the darkness to tell us that, hey, the terrorists are REALLY out to get, trust them, they really are.

What was it that Goering said? Something about wrapping yourself in the flag, claiming that the enemy is out to get you, and accusing anyone who opposes you of being treasonous?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Apologies for the slow day here. I just spent the last five hours dealing with Baton Rouge traffic and Baton Rouge Medical Care, HMO Style. Nothing real serious, but I needed to speak to a physician--which I do as little as possible, thank you.

A number of times, though, Baton Rouge traffic came damn close to making my symptoms much more serious. Goddamn. I now once again know why I'd NEVER live east of College Drive in this town. You couldn't pay me enough.

Anyway, I'll be catching up a little later.
Bush as Color Commentator

OK, I think it's finally becoming clear to me now: Dubya is little more than the number two man in the booth, minus the actual insight someone like John Madden occasionally brings to the table. There's no telestrator--hell, if the guy has trouble staying on a bicycle, how could he POSSIBLY handle something like a touchscreen? No, Shrub is reduced to hollering about fifteen yard penalties for "illegal militias."

But even that is, well, pretty simple-minded in light of this New York Times article. Short version: maybe we're not disbanding the militias after all.

Even fighters in the Mahdi Army of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whom American soldiers have been killing in large numbers in recent weeks, may be given a chance for legitimacy. In a recent news conference, the general commanding American forces in Najaf and Karbala said he would be willing to consider taking Mahdi Army militiamen into a new Iraqi security force being set up to help secure southern Iraq...

But one former American official familiar with the issue said that while tolerating militias may lead to greater security in the short term, doing so could threaten the democratic process and risk dividing Iraq along ethnic and religious lines...

[Larry Diamond, former senior advisor to the CPA] said he was worried that the militias, most of which are connected to political parties, would use their guns to intimidate voters, steal ballot boxes and assassinate opponents. "Everything we know from similar situations in other countries tells us that the militias will use their control of arms to create facts on the ground," he said.

I mean, jeez: the commander in chief, after SEVERAL rehearsals, couldn't spit out Abu Ghraib. It's clear that the people running things barely clue him in on the strategic or tactical situation, much less actually rely on his judgement. If I was running John Kerry's campaign, I'd juxtapose images of "Mission Accomplished" with "Abu... ... G...rape." Flight suit, meet space cadet.

Is there any doubt that Bush is simply UNQUALIFIED for the job of president?

Military Intelligence and "Commanders" in Chief

Via As'ad AbuKhalil, I saw this Guardian article and originally posted something at around 6 o'clock. Then Blogger bloggered it. Between that and cache/DNS issues, I've been down for a while.

I guess the best thing you can say regarding the Guardian article--the gist of which is that the Army, like the people running Abu Ghraib, also had as a guide the salacious, shallow, and discredited book called The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai--is that at least we're getting some insight into just how utterly screwed we are. The volume itself, in the words of some academics, is only useful as doorstop.

The entire neocon mindset seems to be infected with this work, except for perhaps the pResident himself, but anyone watching his speech knows that Bush is completely out of touch. Dubya barely seems to inhabit the same universe as the rest of us. I listened to a little of the C-Span call in, and there are a few people out there who share his planet--but a lot less than normal by that channel's standards. Plenty of folks, even in the Deep South, are skeptical. That's a hell of a bad sign for the Shrub. In particular, a surprising number of people calling themselves Republicans are starting to smell the stench.

At the same time, I have to wonder about those who would throw themselves off a cliff "because the president said we should." Did they sleep through the entire social science curriculum in primary and secondary school?

The more I think about the Bush pResidency, the more I draw a parallel to--Saddam Hussein. Saddam was pretty far out of the loop near the end too. Receiving nothing but the best of assessments, it's no wonder Saddam is useless as an intelligence source these days.

Ronald Reagan set the bar ridiculously low when it came to presidents--in the millimeter range--but George W. Bush doesn't even have to bend over when he walks underneath it. He lends a whole new meaning to "Ribbon Cutter in Chief." There's no way Karl Rove would ever trust him with a pair of scissors. Hell, tonight you could see for yourself: Bush Junior almost threw up a la Bush Senior in Japan a few years back. In the former's case, though, it wasn't jet lag and brocolli that caused it, but the simple, if unusual (for him) syllable combination of "AH boo Grāb." What the hell happened there? Did the tape recording get stuck?

As for the rest of the speech, one word: laff.

The Bush "plan" is yet another triumph of wishful thinking over actual policy. The Green Zone itself is barely better off than under siege , violence is endemic throughout most of the country, unemployment's at 60 percent...and Bush has his head in the coulds, if not up his ass, when it comes to actually doing something, aside from making vague references to the "rebuilding of civil society." Saying Dubya is out to lunch is an insult to those who are merely out to lunch.

Some of the pundits are beginning to notice. It'll be interesting to see how Rove responds. I've noticed a renewed effort to blast the media for not pointing out the "good news," like--I don't know, the fact that some people at Abu Ghraib weren't abused? Or that 60 percent unemployment means 40 percent employment? That at least it wasn't a dozen contractors killed in Fallujah, or that we "only" killed as many as a thousand residents of the city during the ensuing battle? That violence is contained to only 15 of the 18 provinces?

Sorry, but that won't fly with a large chunk of the public. This was supposed to be an "easy" war.

The other tack I noticed in Bush's speech is the ongoing justification that this war was necessary as a "battle" in the war on terror. That's a tough sell, and it's evident that the neocons don't really have their hearts in it. Long slogs of wars aren't really part of the battle plan. A "highly mobile" force kind of loses their mobility when caught in a quagmire. And the public has evinced little or no desire to learn anything about the region. That's more bad news for them: people don't like soldiers dying for a place they don't give a shit about.

If I were Bush, I'd be pretty worried. The speech didn't convince anyone but the true believers. They won't, by themselves, deliver four more years. Dubya is going to have to rely on his ultimate stealth weapon:

Osama bin Laden.

There are two ways Osama could help. One would be if he got himself captured. It looks like the US won't let things like Pakistani sovereignty get in the way of making yet another move to bag him. That looks to me like desperation.

The other way bin Laden could help Bush would be--by launching another attack against the US. Let's hope THAT doesn't happen.

But I wouldn't put anything past Karl Rove.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Teaching Values

Via Bad Attitudes, who cites TBogg--and, just wondering--is it just me or is there some sort of trouble with Blogger again? About half the people I read are unavailable, either with a general 404 error or a blogger one. Their new interface also means it's difficult at times to just hit the refresh button.

Anyway, here's a link to a The Daytona Beach News Journal's editorial page. It seems that a New Mexico high school principal was a little too fed up with the idea of free speech, particularly a form of free speech known as slam poetry. Full disclosure: I've slammed--in fact, I used to do so regularly, and have been attempting a comeback, going so far as to put some grievances about Abu Ghraib into spoken form. Hell, I might even post the written version, once I do a rewrite. Last Thursday, I read said poem before a smaller-than-usual crowd at the local event here--for a left-wing j'accuse piece, it was received surprisingly well. But--it was mostly poets listening.

But I digress. Here's an extended lifting from the editorial. Take a look, and consider what sort of message the principal is sending:

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.

The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.

And, if that doesn't make you wonder just what the hell happened to our country, here's the penultimate paragraph of the editorial. I emphasize editorial, because it IS an opinion piece, but if this is true, it's, to be blunt, fucking scary:

Writers and editors who have spent years translating essays, films, poems, scientific articles and books by Iranian, North Korean and Sudanese authors have been warned not to do so by the U.S. Treasury Department under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Publishers and film producers are not allowed to edit works authored by writers in those nations. The Bush administration contends doing so has the effect of trading with the enemy, despite a 1988 law that exempts published materials from sanction under trade rules.

Welcome to America--you're under arrest.


All things considered, I picked a hell of a weekend to take some time off. Just after using a training wheels metaphor in describing the new, as yet unnamed government in Iraq, George W. Bush managed to prove that training wheels aren't just for Iraqis anymore. Hell, what's next? The walking and chewing gum test? Will Scott McClellan make an announcement from the podium in the event of a successful walking and chewing event?

"The pResident is resting comfortably after moving in more or less forward for twelve paces. In addition, we counted four separate instances of his jaw moving in an up and down direction."

"Scott, was that four instances up and down, or four instances total?"

"We're not going to comment at this time."

Then we find out that Ahmed Chalabi seems to have the attitude of "why just lie about WMD when I can double dip and spy for Iran," although he categorically denies the spying charge. What's the old saying? Something about "how can you tell when a politician is lying..."

And you've gotta love this line in the Post story:

Chalabi is not wanted for a crime, although the government in Jordan, where he was convicted in absentia of embezzling bank funds, reiterated yesterday that a jail cell awaits him.

I guess that's their way of handling the whole chickenshit into chicken salad thing. No, Chalabi isn't WANTED for a crime--becuase he's been CONVICTED of one.

Also doing the river in Egypt dance is General Ricardo Sanchez. The lawyer for one of the accused soldiers is publically saying said soldier will testify that Sanchez was present for some of the "interrogations."

The river in Egypt keeps on flowing--the US claims the wedding party they fired upon in western Iraq was no wedding. Unfortunately, videos have surfaced, and they suggest that, indeed, it was a marriage and not a gathering of militants. Well, who are you going to believe: the US Military or your own lying eyes?

Oh yeah--Bush will be speaking to the nation this evening--well, the part of the nation that watches C-Span or the all news channels--about Iraq. Let's see: I'm guessing the theme will be something like "Saddam bad, US good, so sorry about the Abu Ghraib Ass, stay the course, have faith, blah, blah, blah." In other words: River in Egypt--yet again.

On the same subject, the Green Zone is still green, but the border region is at the very least a flashing yellow, if not bright red.

Right Hand Thief sums it all up pretty nicely, so I'll give him the last word:

Recent polls indicate most Iraqis want us to leave, two thirds (!)support boogeyman Muqtada al-Sadr, and the overwhelming majority see U.S. troops as occupiers rather than liberators.

Currently we're bombing two of the holiest cities in Shia Islam, while the man we envisaged as Iraq's first president is functioning as an Iranian spy. Perhaps you remember widely ridiculed weapons inspector Scott Ritter's quote at the start of the conflict (since which he is up 180,000 credits at Punditbook):

Every time we confront Iraqi troops we may win some tactical battles, as we did for ten years in Vietnam, but we will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost.

Tomorrow at the Army War College the President will explain how well things are going in Iraq. Did someone brief him on the report published by the College's Strategic Studies group, describing the invasion as a "strategic error"? .

The United States is going to win every military battle in Iraq and lose the political war. To put it in simple terms for right-wing friends who relish "clarity":

Either you're for world historic strategic blunders or you're against them.

Welcome and Thanks

Finally, I've managed to overcome a level of inertia matched only by a massive block of granite. This morning I've added three blogs to the roll: LSU Blog, who, aside from having a progressive point of view, knows where Chelsea's Cafe is located. Chelsea's has the best music within walking distance for me. I'd also like to note Hubert Humphrey High, who has been stopping by here and there. BTW, ccanary, I've got an Indiana connection via my father, who grew up in Columbus. Trivia: Hubert Humphrey graduated from LSU Law School, and supposedly lived at the old Ghetto Apartment Building on Chimes Street. Until the early 1990's, a student could rent a ten by ten foot room (with kitchenette and bathroom squeezed in) for $100 a month.

Finally, a hello to Oyster over at Right Hand Thief in New Orleans. I'll leave it at that, lest anyone recognize a certain degree of envy--he lives in New Orleans, has a lot of progressive ideas, and writes well. Meanwhile, I'm stuck in Baton Rouge, and have been seeing a steady decline in the quality of my posts--hence, I took the weekend off, hoping for some inspiration.

So, welcome, and thanks for stopping by as well as posting. I'll be hitting your sites here and there, always on the lookout for good writing--and y'all don't disappoint.

Back to regular posts in a bit.