Saturday, May 29, 2004

Just when Republicans run out of minorities to persecute ...

... give them credit -- they'll just find another group against which to discriminate. The serious part of this depressing story is here, while Gen JC Christian's hilarious sendup on it is here.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The party of law and order?

Yeah, that would be the Republicans.

UPDATE: There was so much possible commentary on the sheer hypocrisy of this article that I thought it was just best to supply the link and let others figure it out for themselves.

But there's one point that might not be that obvious. From the article:

"The pardons released today are those that were issued by the governor but did not go through the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Janklow sealed the most pardons - 91 - in 2002 during his last term as governor, records show. Sixty-one of those pardons came in his last four months as governor.

450 pardons were filed with the Secretary of State during this time period. 232 of these pardons will remain sealed as allowed by law and ordered by the governor who issued the pardon. Those are pardons that followed the proper channels of public notification when they were signed."

Pardons that "did not go through the Boards of Pardons and Paroles"? Under the circumstances, then, doesn't that make them technically worthless? The consequences for the allegedly pardoned could be devastating. Of course, all of this could have been avoided had Janklow not been such an ignorant incompetent:

"I've been a lawyer since 1966, and I had never, ever looked at the (pardon) statutes," [Janklow] said.

What a complete dipshit. I wonder if those folks have the grounds for a class-action lawsuit.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Whose fault is it? Why, it's Saddam's fault!

In the true Republican spirit of blaming someone else -- anyone else -- for the ongoing chaos and carnage in Iraq, we have conservative blogger and consummate whacked-out dingbat Andrew Sullivan who writes of Bush's recent speech here:

"... The critical point that the swift victory over Saddam paradoxically made the occupation more difficult - because Saddam's minions were able to escape, melt into the population and fight another day - was made early on. Bush could have made more of it ..."

So there you have it. It's all that scoundrel Saddam's fault. Why, the absolute cunning of the man to allow himself to be soundly and thoroughly defeated, and in such short order! Does his deviousness know no bounds? Truly, a mad genius.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Ahmed Chalabi -- a true Republican

From this online CNN article, "Chalabi blames Tenet for feud with U.S.":

"Ahmed Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who worked closely with the White House before the Iraq war, blamed CIA Director George Tenet Sunday for recent allegations that have apparently caused his standing with the Bush administration to plummet."

Shifting the blame and passing the buck. Well, you can't say he didn't learn from the best.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

When hard-nosed political investigation crosses over into stalking

A number of other blogs have covered one of the more amusing and recent tasteless Republican political escapades: the virtual stalking of Illinois U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Barack Obama by a videophotographer working for his Republican opponent, Jack Ryan.

According to that initial article,

"For the past 10 days, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama hasn't been able to go to the bathroom or talk to his wife on his cell phone without having a camera-toting political gofer from his Republican rival filming a few feet away ... Justin Warfel, armed with a handheld Panasonic digital camcorder, follows Obama to the bathroom door and waits outside. It means Warfel follows Obama as he moves from meeting to meeting in the Capitol. And it means Warfel tails Obama when he drives to his campaign office."

Eventually, Ryan's campaign got enough heat for this that they finally apologized and pulled Warfel back a bit. But it still makes one wonder -- what would have been the proper response by Obama's campaign? Even though what Warfel was doing was probably technically legal, there comes a point where you really have crossed the line into bad taste. And then what? Well, it seems that there three possible responses from Obama's perspective.

First, he could have arranged for the same treatment for Ryan -- what I call the "tit for tat" treatment, very predictable, very generic and very boring. And it would have given Ryan the ammo to poke fun at Obama: "Whoa, dude, what a clever comeback. Did you think of that all by yourself? Man, talk about a bottomless pit of originality." In short, a pretty feeble comeback and almost certainly not worth the trouble.

The second option would have been the "sort of tit for tat" response, with humor thrown in. Obama could have arranged for close-quarters surveillance of photographer Warfel. Now wouldn't that have been amusing? Warfel stalking Obama, and someone stalking Warfel. It's not clear it would have solved anything, but it would definitely have made the news and made Obama's point in a way that would have everyone chuckling and realizing what sort of dork Ryan was to start this in the first place. But there's a third response, and it's one not to be considered lightly.

Obama could have, as they say, "gone nuclear". Ryan wants to play with video surveillance? Fine, responds Obama, and sets observers to follow Ryan's family members -- his wife and kids. Photographers stake out positions outside the childrens' school and outside the wife's place of work. They film video, they take pictures, they follow slowly along in cars as the kids walk down the sidewalk, and so on. All perfectly legal, and all totally unnerving.

Tasteless? You bet. Frightening? Almost certainly. Effective? Without question. While this is obviously an extreme reaction, its advantage is that there is no rebuttal in terms of a similar but slightly-stronger reply. It's not like a slowly escalating arms race, in which each side ups the ante just a bit each time. Doing it that way just drags things out as one side after the other ratchets the response up a single notch at a time.

Going nuclear, on the other hand, ends it. Immediately. It's an absolutely blunt and unambiguous way of saying, "You want to screw around like this? Let me show you just where this is going to lead. Now, do you still want to play this game?"

It's a drastic approach and, as I said, not one to be considered lightly. But given the Republicans' generally sleazy approach to, well, pretty much everything, sometimes it's the only language they understand.
What an unbelievable klutz

Good God, he really can't walk and chew gum at the same time, can he?

Saturday, May 22, 2004

When, dear Lord, oh, when will the Democrats grow a spine?

So the hot news over at CNN is that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi publicly called George W. McFlightSuit "incompetent".

Well, no, actually, not quite. In the Democratic spirit of dodging, weaving and tap dancing, you can see what really happened in this excerpt from the article:

"The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader," Pelosi said. "These policies are not working. But speaking specifically to Iraq, we have a situation where -- without adequate evidence -- we put our young people in harm's way."

So did Pelosi actually call Bush incompetent? Absolutely ... sort of, kind of, maybe:

Asked specifically if she was calling Bush incompetent, Pelosi replied:

"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."

Apparently, in the Democratic universe, this rates as a real up-front, in-your-face, kick-butt smackdown. Of course, a real smackdown would have been Pelosi coming back with, "Of course he's incompetent! How much more evidence do you need?!?! Failed economy. Failed war. Yeesh. The guy's a moron. Even his own advisers admit they have to summarize anything over two pages long to him."

But we all know that's not going to happen. Even as the Republicans have honed their nasty attack strategies over the years, the Dems are still mind-numbingly incompetent at this game. It's just purely depressing to watch.

Monday, May 17, 2004

"Hypocrisy" doesn't begin to describe this ...

For some eye-rolling, knee-slapping humor, you have just got to read this online CNN article, in which Secretary of State (and, sad to say, house niggah) Colin Powell gets his panties in a bunch about how the Arab world should be showing far more outrage over the videotaped beheading of American Nick Berg.

According to Powell, "I would like to have seen a much higher level of outrage throughout the world, but especially in the Arab world, to this murder", and "What we saw with this horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible murder should be deplored throughout the Arab world."

Uh ... yeah, right, Colin -- this from an emissary of a country that, let's see here, invaded Iraq on totally trumped-up pretenses, killed over 10,000 civilians already and, most recently, has been caught imposing a clearly official policy of abuse, humiliation and torture against Iraqi prisoners, the majority of which even the U.S. military admits were arrested by mistake. And let's not even get into what the "Arab world" (a deliciously racist and condescending description) thinks of the whole-hearted U.S. support for Israel, as that country systematically wipes out the Palestinians, little by little.

One would think that even Powell, the gutless weasel that he is, might have twigged to the fact that he doesn't really have the moral high ground here.

And, in the wake of the seemingly endless evidence of torture of prisoners both in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, try, just try to believe that Powell could say,

"Arab leaders need to look at what's happening in their own societies," he added. "They need to reform their own societies. Torture is torture is torture. It is unacceptable. It is not the way you treat human beings."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Republicans developing a conscience. Aren't they just adorable?

From this CNN piece, we have Republicans opposed to the release of any more images of abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top GOP leaders said Wednesday they oppose the release of hundreds of fresh images showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, saying they could compromise the prosecution of those soldiers implicated in the acts and further inflame tensions in Iraq.

Ah, yes. We wouldn't want any more of these pictures to get out. That might make the Iraqis, like, really mad at the U.S. And we wouldn't want that, would we?

Oh, and let's not forget that these current voices of restraint are pretty much the same ones who, during the Clinton impeachment debates, couldn't leak private details about Clinton's dalliances fast enough. Seems there was no end to the salacious details of what Clinton to whom, where, when and with what, prosecutorial integrity be damned. And now, all of a sudden, they find that box of morals and good taste that's been packed away in the attic all these years? Talk about timing.

Perhaps the funniest part of the article; Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky: "Take our word for it. They're disgusting."

Apparently, Mitch has forgotten that trusting him and his political band of right-wing thugs is what got the United States embroiled in an unwinnable war in Iraq, with 700-plus Americans dead already. One might think that the concept of trust is not something folks like McConnell should be suggesting lightly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

More than we really needed to know

In dissecting the right wing's excuses for the torture and atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Michelangelo Signorile writes:

... That got Limbaugh thinking and making some lurid confessions: "If you look at these pictures, you cannot deny that there are elements of homoeroticism …I've seen things like this on American websites. You can find these if you have the passwords to these various porn sites, you can see things like this."

Added Limbaugh quickly, "Um ... or so I've heard."

Dear George:

Dear President Bush:

Regarding our recent videotaped beheading of American contractor Nick Berg, are we sufficiently "bringing it on" for your satisfaction?

Yours sincerely,
Al-Qaeda and friends

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Unintentional humor, I'm sure

From this CNN piece, we have:

"Our mission in Iraq will continue," Bush said in his weekly radio address... "We have no intention of leaving the nation at the mercy of thugs and murderers."

Please tell me you appreciate the irony.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Calling Tim Russert ... calling Tim Russert ...

At the incomparable Bob Somerby's Daily Howler site, there's an amusing example of exactly what kind of utter media whore Tim Russert can be, and why that's suddenly relevant all over again.

As you can read here, back in 2003, Russert was interviewing then presidential candidate Howard Dean. At one point, Russert sprung a trivia "gotcha" question on Dean, asking him how many troops were actively on duty in the U.S. military. Never mind that Dean was a Democrat, and the administration at the time was Republican. Never mind that Dean wasn't involved in military planning. In Russert's mind, it was somehow unconscionable that Dean didn't have this tidbit of information right then and right there:

DEAN: For me to have to know right now, participating in the Democratic Party, how many troops are actively on duty in the United States military when that is actually a number that's composed both of people on duty today and people who are National Guard people who are on duty today, it's silly. That's like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is.

RUSSERT: Oh, no, no, no. Not at all. Not if you want to be commander in chief.

Russert continued his helpful instruction:

RUSSERT: If somebody wants to be president of the United States, have a sense of the military-

DEAN: I do have a sense of the military.

RUSSERT: -of how many people roughly-

DEAN: I know there are roughly between a million and two million people active duty. I know that we don't have enough people in Iraq.

At the time, there were in fact 1.4 million active members, so one can certainly accept that Dean was accurate, even if he wasn't painstakingly precise. And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Check out this recent CNN online article describing how Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (yes, the Deputy Defense Secretary, and someone who should know) wasn't even remotely close to stating how many U.S. servicepeople had died in Iraq thus far:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Asked how many American troops have died in Iraq, the Defense Department's No. 2 civilian estimated Thursday the total was about 500 -- more than 200 soldiers short.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was asked about the toll at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee. "It's approximately 500, of which -- I can get the exact numbers _ approximately 350 are combat deaths," he responded...

American deaths Thursday were at 722 -- 521 of them from combat _ since the start of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Department of Defense.

Apparently, trivialities like dead American soldiers are just not a big issue with the Department of Defense, who clearly can't be bothered to even count them. And Wolfowitz's subsequent defense of this?

"He misspoke," spokesman Charley Cooper said later. "That's all."

Uh, yeah, I'll say. And we can expect Russert to go ballistic on Wolfowitz ... when exactly?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The "Abu Ghraib Iraqi torture" drinking game

One shot of your favorite alcoholic beverage every time someone says or writes "systematic" when they really mean "systemic". Hic ...
Bill O'Reilly -- spinning hard in the no-spin zone

Would anyone expect Faux News' resident blowhard Bill O'Reilly to do anything but try to spin the current stories of torture of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison? (Rhetorical question, don't answer that.) To see just how desperately O'Reilly is looking for that pony in the pile of manure, you have to read this partial transcript of O'Reilly's interview with New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh.

To give you a taste of just how much of a suck-up apologist O'Reilly is for the Bush administration and the military, I've cherry-picked some of the funnier nuggets from the interview, but you should read the whole thing anyway.

O'REILLY: All right. But there's a difference between being a poor administrator, as this -- your -- and knowing about torture and looking the other way...

O'REILLY: All right. Well, the damage to the country obviously is just immeasurable. But reading your article in "The New Yorker." I just get the feeling that the Army, when they heard about it, started action almost immediately. It wasn't a cover-up situation. Or did I read your article wrong?...

O'REILLY: OK, but Sanchez the commander put him in charge fairly quickly. They mobilized fairly quickly...

O'REILLY: No, there's no question about it. And there's no question. There's no justification for it. But how do you wind up in a prison if you're just innocent and didn't do anything? See, our commanders and our embedded reporters tell me that they're way too busy to be rounding up guys in the marketplace and throwing them into prison.

So I'm going to dispute your contention that we had a lot of people in there with just no rap sheets at all, who were just picked up for no reason at all. The people who were in the prison were suspected of being either Al Qaeda or terrorists who were killing Americans and knew something about it...

And on, and on, and tediously on. Is there a more pathetic excuse for a journalist than Bill O'Reilly? (Again, rhetorical question.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Isolated cases of torture, my foot

After hearing that the atrocities committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were just the result of a few bad apples, no big deal, just some isolated incidents, well, the truth will out, as they say.

From this AFP story,

The US military knew troops had abused Iraqi prisoners for months before graphic, humiliating photographs surfaced last week, a journalist who read a US army report says.
(emphasis added)

Just in case there's any ambiguity:

"Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of 'sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses' at Abu Ghraib," a US-run prison in Baghdad.

Hersh said the abuses went far beyond those portrayed in the widely broadcast photographs of sexual abuse, nudity and humiliation that have angered the Arab world. They were first shown on CBS television's "60 Minutes II."

One is reminded of the comical police chief from the film Casablanca: "Shocked, shocked I am that torture and mistreatment has been happening here. Ah, my cattle prod, thank you."

Monday, May 03, 2004

Oh, look -- like you didn't see this coming

From CNN, the U.S. denies the charges of widespread torture in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. According to the article:

"[Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] said the military's theaterwide investigation has suggested the abuse apparently depicted in the photographs was isolated.

"There is no -- no -- evidence of systematic abuse in this system at all. We've paid a lot of attention, of course, in Guantanamo, as well," Myers said, referring to the U.S. detention facility in Cuba for suspects captured in connection with the war on terror. "We review all the interrogation methods.

"Torture is not one of the methods that we're allowed to use and that we use. I mean, it's just not permitted by international law, and we don't use it."

In other news, Myers went on to claim that poverty does not exist and that homeless people are lucky since they don't have to pay property tax.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Seymour Hersh on the Iraqi torture atrocities

Star investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has weighed in on the recent Iraqi torture reports and, as with the online photos, you might want to steel yourself before reading it. Consider the following excerpt from a 53-page report written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, and obtained by Hersh's The New Yorker; Taguba's report was not meant for public consumption and, given some of its contents, you can understand why as Taguba documents some of the abuse inflicted on Iraqi detainees:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

Just read the article.
More Canadian perspectives on Bill O'Liely ... uh, O'Reilly

And the Globe and Mail continues to beat O'Reilly soundly about the head and shoulders. Just when you think O'Reilly can't possibly make a bigger ass of himself ...
Iraqi torture and double standards

As I mentioned earlier, it's almost impossible to know what to say about the recent revelations of torture of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. In order for anything written about this to make any sense, you absolutely need to see the pictures, as disturbing as they are. You can find them here -- take your time, really burn them into your memory -- the humiliation, the obvious sexual assaults, the glee on the faces of the American personnel as they inflict this abuse, the laughter and thumbs up gestures. So, where to begin?

First, appreciate that the Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib were not necessarily captured on the field of battle. There's nothing to suggest that they were combatants; in many cases, they were simply part of a massive round-up of civilians by the U.S. military when the Americans decided it was time to kick some butt and show some strength. In short, many of these prisoners were guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That should be enough to give you serious pause. But it gets worse.

While these pictures have provoked worldwide outrage and disgust, the reaction in the United States is much more subdued. In some cases, it's almost defensive. In this online article, we have two family members of some of the servicepeople identified in those pictures, and their absolutely jaw-dropping justifications:

The Baltimore Sun's Friday editions identified two other soldiers facing court-martial. The newspaper cited unidentified Army officials in naming Sgt. Javal S. Davis, 26. His wife, who also spoke to the newspaper, defended her husband.

"We really don't know how those prisoners are behaving," said Zeenithia Davis, who is in the Navy in Mississippi. "There's a line between heinous war crimes and maintaining discipline."

A Sun reporter on Thursday showed a photo of one of the nude prisoner scenes to Terrie England, who recognized her daughter, reservist Lynndie R. England, 21, standing in the foreground with her boyfriend.

The alleged abuses of prisoners were "stupid, kid things pranks," Terrie England said. "And what the (Iraqis) do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, does that apply to everybody or just us?"

Let's compare and contrast, shall we, with a story we're thoroughly familiar with -- that of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Lynch, an actual soldier was injured in Iraq when her vehicle overturned in an accident. She was taken, by Iraqis, to an Iraqi hospital, and cared for by Iraqi medical personnel, who risked their lives to return her to her unit. In short, she was treated, by Iraqis, with the utmost respect, even though she was an official military combatant. In exchange, American military personnel are now humiliating, sexually assaulting and torturing, in many cases, innocent Iraqi civilians.

And yet, given the staggering difference in the above accounts, try to believe that anyone can know this and still say something as unspeakably stupid as, "And what the (Iraqis) do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, does that apply to everybody or just us?"

The mind reels. It absolutely reels.

Looking for that American compassion

There's so much to write about the recently-revealed torture of Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. military and civilian "contractors," it's impossible to know where to start (but we'll be doing some of that in the near future anyway). However, a frightening beginning might be to take a quick look at some of the reactions of Americans back home, excerpts from this Boston Globe article.

The article, entitled "Town turns against conduct of the war," contains such delectable excerpts as:

'In the Corner Lunch, John Fox, who joined the Air Force back in 1958, looked at three fellow retirees and said, "They're doing today what they should have done two weeks ago -- take out that whole town, that whole 'Fallu' over there.'


' ... across the room, Sheril Brambach responded fiercely: "You ask me, we should blow that whole side of the map off.'

Lovely -- the kinds of attitudes guaranteed to win hearts and minds. And recent surveys worldwide show respect for the United States and Americans in general to be at pretty much an all-time low. Gee, isn't that a puzzler? Go figure.
That "picture being worth a thousand words" thing

So what exactly is Canadian prime minister Paul Martin thinking here?
Rumsfeld appoints another leader for Iraq

Uncomfortably good satire.